[Episcopal News Service] The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea has announced that its Provincial Council has “approved and accepted” the Anglican Covenant, according to an article on the Anglican Communion News Service.
The covenant is a set of principles intended to bind the Anglican Communion amid differences and disputes across its 38 provinces.
Papua New Guinea becomes the fourth province formally to “adopt” or “accept” the covenant, the others being Burma, Mexico and the West Indies. The Church of Ireland “subscribed” to the covenant in May 2011, but its General Synod underscored that the covenant did not supplant existing governing documents. Recent Maori action in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia indicates that the covenant will be rejected when it comes before the province’s General Synod in July 2012.
In the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, the Executive Council agreed at its October meeting to submit a resolution to General Convention next year that would have it state that the church is “unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.”
The resolution also promises that the church will “recommit itself to dialogue with the several provinces when adopting innovations which may be seen as threatening the unity of the communion” and commits to “continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion” and dialogue “with our brothers and sisters in other provinces to deepen understanding and to insure the continued integrity of the Anglican Communion.”
The 77th meeting of General Convention July 5-12, 2012 will decide whether to pass, amend and pass, or reject the resolution. Convention is “the only body that can act on behalf of the whole church in this matter,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said during a press conference following the October Executive Council meeting.
The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues. The report came in the wake of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire, a development that caused some provinces to declare broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church.
Some Episcopalians and Anglicans, including the Executive Council, have raised concerns about the covenant, particularly in section 4, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.
The decision in Papua New Guinea, the ACNS release said, was based on the province’s understanding of the name “Anglican Communion.”
Bishop Peter Ramsden of the Diocese of Port Moresby wrote in a letter to the Anglican Communion secretary general that “the covenant might not have been proposed if some Anglican provinces had not acted in the way they did, but recent history has produced it and we believe it deserves our support as a contribution to shaping and strengthening a future Anglican Communion, faithful to our calling to be ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4.3).”
The Anglican Province of Papua New Guinea is made up of five dioceses – Aipo Rongo, Dogura, New Guinea Islands, Popondota and Port Moresby – and includes more than 100 parishes and about 170 priests.