SOUTHERN AFRICA: Province favors Anglican Covenant; decision to be ratified in 2013

September 30, 2010

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa on Oct. 1 voted in favor of adopting the Anglican Covenant, a decision that will need to be ratified by the next meeting of provincial synod in 2013.

A resolution adopting the covenant was passed by an overwhelming majority of the bishops, clergy and laity meeting Sept. 29-Oct. 3 in Benoni, Gauteng for the triennial meeting of the church's provincial synod.

The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in 2004 as a way for the Anglican Communion to maintain unity amid differing viewpoints, especially on issues of human sexuality and biblical interpretation.

The resolution was proposed by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, and seconded by the Rt. Rev. Paddy Glover, dean of the province and bishop of the Free State.

Before the vote, Makgoba told the synod that he "believed the church in southern Africa needed to try to play a reconciling role amid the current disputes over human sexuality in the communion," according to a press release from the province.

He said the covenant is "not a guarantee of an easy solution to the problems we face in the communion but hoped it would be a way of healing and moving the communion forward," the release said.

Glover said the Anglican Communion could best be likened to a family. "There are no outsiders; we are all insiders... We are all different but we are members of a family bound together by bonds of affection and bonds of loyalty," he said, noting that the covenant sought to reinforce this relationship.

Following years of discussion and several draft versions, the final text of the covenant was sent in December 2009 to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration.

In the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, congregations are being urged to study and discuss the covenant during the next two years in preparation for General Convention in 2012.

Some Anglicans, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, have raised concerns about the covenant being used as an instrument of control, particularly in section 4, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.

Executive Council has predicted that any formal approval of the covenant by the Episcopal Church could not come until at least 2015 should endorsement require changes to the church's constitution.

The Anglican Church of Mexico, meeting in General Synod in June, became the first province formally to adopt the covenant.