Executive Council continues to invite response to draft Anglican Covenant

Bishops theology committee to offer Primates' communiqué study document
May 14, 2007

Episcopalians have begun responding to questions in a study guide aimed at helping the Episcopal Church consider the draft version of a proposed Anglican Covenant.

Congregations, diocesan deputations to General Convention and individuals can all submit comments between now and the June 4 deadline.

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson said May 14 that some General Convention deputations have already met and formulated responses with the help of the study guide.

Responses can be e-mailed to gcsecretary@episcopalchurch.org, faxed to 212-972-9322 or mailed to Draft Anglican Covenant, The Office of the General Convention, The Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Ave, New York, NY 10017.

Prepared by a subcommittee of the Executive Council's International Concerns Standing Committee (INC), the six-page guide in English, French and Spanish is available here. The page includes individual links to each translation, along with links to covenant-related websites.

The draft text of the proposed Covenant, along with the first report of the Anglican Communion's Covenant Design Group, in English, French and Spanish are available here.

The covenant study guide is not the only such tool that members of the Episcopal Church can expect to receive. At their March meeting in Texas, the House of Bishops asked its Theology Committee to develop a study document for consideration of the Primates' Communiqué. The bishops anticipate this guide will be available by early June for use by bishops and dioceses in preparation for the September meeting of the House of Bishops.

Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley, chair of the House of Bishops Theology Committee, reported that the committee met last week in Washington, D.C., and successfully completed a draft for the document "which we hope will be a valuable resource for the church."

At the suggestion of the Presiding Bishop, Anderson has been in touch with Parsley about INC's work. EC008 work group member the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas, a former member of the House of Bishops Theology Committee, is a liaison between the two groups.

When INC's guide was released in April, Sandra McPhee, INC's chair, said she and the subcommittee hoped it would assist Episcopalians in the process of studying this "new idea" of an Anglican Covenant.

The church's General Convention office is collecting the responses for the Executive Council's use in creating a report at its October meeting in Detroit, Michigan.

Prior to that, at the Council's June 11-14 meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey, INC will propose that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Anderson appoint an on-going Covenant Review Group to follow the covenant-development process, enable comments from the wider Episcopal Church and provide comments on behalf of the church to the Communion's Covenant Design Group.

Meanwhile, a task group, requested by the Executive Council (via Resolution EC008) during its March 2-4 meeting in Portland, Oregon, has met twice by conference call to consider the role, responsibilities and potential response of the Council to issues raised by the Communiqué issued at the end of the February meeting of the Anglican Primates. Jefferts Schori and Anderson appointed the EC008 Task Group. Resolution EC008 named Anderson, who is vice president of Council, to chair the work group. (Jefferts Schori is president of the Council.)

Work group members are reviewing a "draft foundational working paper," compiled at Anderson's request by Sally Johnson, her chancellor. One part of the document outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Executive Council and the other contains recommendations for the Council's response to the Communiqué.

The paper will be presented to the Council at its June meeting and it is anticipated that it would form the basis of the Council's response to the Communiqué, which would come during that meeting.

"We will have a foundational document regarding the roles and responsibilities of Council, that, I believe, will be a helpful resource for the Church," Anderson said May 14. "Regarding the Communiqué, the Executive Council and the House of Bishops are working closely together through Council's EC008 Task Group, and the Theology Committee."

The Executive Council's guide and the anticipated review group come in response to Resolution A166 passed by the 75th General Convention in June 2006. The resolution calls for Episcopal Church, "as a demonstration of our commitment to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion," to support the process of the development of an Anglican Covenant "that underscores our unity in faith, order, and common life in the service of God's mission." It also called for the INC and the Episcopal Church's members of the Anglican Consultative Council to follow the development processes of an Anglican Covenant and report regularly to the Executive Council as well as to the 76th General Convention in 2009.

In a letter to the Episcopal Church at the close of its Portland meeting, the Executive Council said "responding to the draft covenant does not presuppose agreement with the terms and principles advanced in the draft."

The Covenant Design Group, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in response to a request of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting and of the Anglican Consultative Council, held its first meeting in Nassau, the Bahamas, in mid-January and wrote a report and the draft text of a proposed covenant.

The Primates received and discussed the report and the draft during their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They then released the report and draft to the entire Communion, asking for comment from of the Communion's 38 provinces by January 1, 2008.

Based on those responses, it is expected that a revised version of the covenant will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the provinces for adoption or rejection.

The Windsor Report, released in October 2004, proposed a covenant as a way for the Anglican Communion to maintain unity amid differing viewpoints.

Sections in the draft Covenant address topics including common catholicity and confession of faith; Anglican vocation; unity and common life; and common commitments. Among other suggestions, the proposed Covenant would ask Anglican Communion provinces to commit themselves to "essential matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of autonomy, and to support the work of the Instruments of Communion..."

It also notes that "in the most extreme circumstances, where churches choose not to fulfill the substance of the covenant," such churches may be seen as having "relinquished ... the force and meaning of the covenant's purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches."