LAMBETH: Covenant Proponents Optimistic as Communion Falters
By Hans Zeiger in Canterbury
August 1, 2008
CANTERBURY-Amid a potentially permanent schism within the Anglican Communion, leading advocates for an Anglican Covenant today expressed their optimism that the Covenant process will go forward.
Canon Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council and secretary of the Covenant Design Group, said at a morning press briefing "the idea of the Anglican Covenant is to talk about the sort of committed relationships that hold churches together" and "to express explicitly the glue that holds the Anglican Communion together."
The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, Archbishop and Primate of the West Indies, added his hope for the Covenant in an afternoon press conference. As chair of the Anglican Covenant Design Group, Gomez said that the Covenant is intended as an expression of shared Communion beliefs while "respecting and maintaining autonomy" in each of the provinces. A Covenant will also "help our ecumenical partners if we can state clearly who we are as Anglicans."
Relaying the guidance of the Windsor Continuation Group, Gomez said that the current divisions in the Anglican Communion over sexuality are separate issues that "should be dealt with by the Communion as we move toward a Covenant." As to whether the Communion can even survive its present crisis, said Gomez, "I'm an optimist by nature, and I believe that the Anglican Communion is going to continue by God's grace."
Among the issues comprehended within the Covenant, Cameron said it will express "our interdependence," which includes a commitment among Anglicans to keep the "instruments of communion ... alive and fresh."
Meanwhile, critics of compromise involving homosexuality raised doubts about the validity of the instruments of communion. Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi wrote in the Times of London on Friday that the structure of the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion is "a remnant of British colonialism."
Responding to Orombi, Cameron said, "I'm saddened and disappointed that that is the understanding of Archbishop Orombi at the moment. In the end, the Covenant will only work if it is liked by all the churches....We can't force the Covenant on anyone."
As for the bishops who chose to stay home from Lambeth as a matter of conscience, Cameron said that Anglican Communion Secretary General Kenneth A. Kearon will dispatch letters requesting their feedback. Cameron expressed his confidence that the Design Group can get "an authentic account" of the Communion's beliefs from Lambeth as well as the absent bishops.
Nevertheless, Cameron admitted, "It's obvious that we're living in a time of tension, and in a time of tension people slip back into ways of relating that are probably not the best."
If a province fails to sign on to the Covenant, Cameron said "it doesn't cease to be Anglican, but it will clearly live in a different relationship than those that do sign on to the Covenant." Asked what specific responses will be made to non-signing provinces, Gomez said that such a discussion will have to wait until later in the process. The Covenant Design Group is now deliberating an appendix to the Covenant that will address some of these concerns. Yet the Covenant is "not a legalistic document, not a punitive document," he said.
After bishops discuss the Covenant in their Indaba groups or send their ideas into the Covenant Design Group, the Design Group will discuss the input at a meeting in September. The Group will forward the Covenant on to the Anglican Consultative Council for further refinement. But ultimately, said Cameron, the adoption of the Covenant depends on the Provinces.
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