The Irish Take on the Anglican Covenant

Here is the Irish take on an Anglican Covenant. There is much to recommend it, provided of course that one thinks an Anglican Covenant is a good idea at all.

Major improvements over the existing draft: (i) It is short. (ii) It tries not to be punitive, mostly. (iii) It stresses Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence. Major failings: (i) Using unclear language it still is open to the interpretation that the instruments of unity must somehow be heeded, have moral authority, etc, while denying that they have any power. (ii) Very unclear how member churches become part of the Anglican Communion and how they are removed from the covenant circle.

I still have serious reservations about covenant language in the context of finding some common ground for a fellowship of churches. Covenant language makes it appear that what is sought is a marriage, but we are not married to one another, we are fellow travelers with Jesus Christ and are actually the same goofy lot that the first followers were. We are not in covenant with one another, we are in covenant with God in Jesus Christ through our baptism. At least that is how I see it.

This is a vast improvement over the Draft Covenant. More work to be done, but thanks to the Church of Ireland.

Here is the text. I have put the text of things I think are pretty good in dark green, those that present some problems in purple and those that are really in need of change in red. No reason not to be opinionated at this late date!

1. Preamble
We, the Churches of the Anglican Communion, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, solemnly covenant together in these articles, in order to proclaim more effectively through our communion in our different contexts the grace of God revealed in the Gospel, to offer God’s love in responding to the needs of the world, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to grow together in our commitment to communion in the full stature of Christ.

2. Each member Church affirms

  1. that it is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
  2. that it professes the faith which is uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures as containing all things necessary for salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith, and which is set forth in the catholic creeds;
  3. that it holds and duly administers the two sacraments ordained by Christ himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with the unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him;
  4. that it participates in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God;
  5. that its mission is shared with other Churches and traditions not party to this covenant;
  6. that, led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons;
  7. the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church and the central role of bishops as custodians of the faith, leaders in mission, and as a visible sign of unity.

3. Each Church commits itself

  1. To answering God’s call to share in his healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken, hurting and fallen world, and, with mutual accountability, to share its God-given spiritual and material resources in this task.
  2. In matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, and to support the work of the Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it.
  3. To spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and enquiry, listening to and studying with one another, in order to discern the will of God.
  4. To ensure that biblical texts are handled faithfully, believing that scriptural revelation must continue to illuminate, challenge and transform all cultures, structures and ways of thinking.
  5. To seek with other members, through the shared councils of the Communion, a common mind about matters of concern, consistent with the Scriptures, common standards of faith and the canon law of the Churches.
  6. To acknowledge a moral authority in the current Instruments of Communion, while recognizing that they have no juridical, legislative or executive authority in the respective provinces.
  7. To seek guidance from the Instruments of Communion where there are matters in serious dispute among Churches that cannot be resolved by mutual admonition and counsel.
  8. To take heed of the Instruments of Communion in matters which may threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness of our mission.
  9. To acknowledge that in the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfill the substance of the covenant, such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose.

4. Declaration
With joy and with firm resolve, we declare our Churches to be partners in this Anglican Covenant, releasing ourselves for fruitful service and binding ourselves more closely in the truth and love of Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.


  1. As I said elsewhere (http://simplemassingpriest.blogspot.com):

    If the Provinces are willing to meet together as members of the Body of Christ, then no Covenant is necessary. If they are not, then no Covenant can force them.

  2. If the provinces merely accept each other's communicants and orders, no covenant is needed, and absent that acceptance, there is no communion to have a covenant. Meeting still allows the Iker heresy, refusing to commune with the others. ;;sigh;;


  3. And - again - why exactly should there be a different standard for full communion between Anglican provinces than there is between those very provinces and other Christian churches?

    The Anglican vision - and standard - for Christian unity is expressed in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. We do not need to - indeed we should not - develop something that serves primarily to enforce particular viewpoints and interpretations above and beyond the Quadrilateral.

  4. Like many others here, I'm not sure a covenant is a good idea, but I think this one is a very good piece of work. I especially like the way they've handled 2.vi., describing the 39 articles and 1662 prayer book not as currently binding but as "historic" (by which I understand "within their time and context") witnesses to Christian truth.

    Mark: can you suggest language for 2.ii that would get around your concerns about "the rule and ultimate standard of faith, and which is set forth in the catholic creeds"? If scripture contains all things necessary to salvation, what's the problem calling it the ultimate standard?

    3.viii and ix are pretty vague, and I worry about language that's intended to let different people agree to different things ("take heed" and "most extreme circumstances", for example, are clearly intended to let someone like me and someone like archbishop Venables say we mean the same thing while in fact meaning something completely different). On the other hand, if I ruled church, I would certainly want to "take heed" of the instruments of communion, and I could probably imagine circumstances so extreme that I would understand that some other body in the AC no longer shared the same faith as TEC.



  5. christopher+,

    I have been thinking about this. Maybe we need a "Quinta-lateral?" That is, add one point for the 'covenant' to wit:

    In addition to the Chicago / Lambeth Quadrilateral, all member provinces recognize each other's orders, and unique local culture.

    It seems to me that if we are talking about a real fellowship that should do it. I fear it wont, because in the case of the hierarchs, we are talking about something very different. Sad.



OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.