Back to Work: Who Bothered to Respond to the Covenant Draft?

There are 38 National or Regional Churches in the Anglican Communion. These churches were asked to respond to the St. Andrew's Draft as part of the lead up to yet a third revision of a draft, just out last week. Of the 38, 21 took the time to respond. That is, roughly 55% of the churches responded. One might have supposed that a document that could determine if churches could belong to the Anglican Communion and could limit the autonomy of those churches might get greater attention from the churches. Perhaps the 45% who didn't respond already sense there is not much there worth working on.

The churches responding were:

Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia
Hong Kong
Indian Ocean
North India
South East Asia
West Africa
West Indies

Fifty-five percent of Anglican Communion Provinces sent in something in the way of commentary on the St. Andrew's Draft.

The GAFCON Primates and their Churches are:

The Most Rev Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria
The Most Rev Gregory Venables, Primate of The Southern Cone*
The Most Rev Emmanuel Kolini, Primate of Rwanda*
The Most Rev Valentino Mokiwa, Primate of Tanzania*
The Most Rev Benjamin Nzmibi, Primate of Kenya*
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda

Of the GAFCON Churches only Nigeria and Uganda responded to the Draft, 33% of the group.

The report from Nigeria is one page, the report from Uganda is five pages. The summary of these documents, by the Covenant Draft Committee is as follows:

In Principle Response to Covenant Process? highly qualified Yes
Time frame: no comment
Changes in SAD text? ineffective and slow processes for dealing with conflict and threats to faith; too much responsibility given to Canterbury; need to increase authority of Primates’ Mtg

In Principle Response to Covenant Process? Yes to process and need.
Time frame: 2-3 years, via Provincial Assembly and diocesan synod; constitutional change
Changes in SAD text? Needs greater emphasis on auth. of Scripture, historic formularies; needs more effective enforcement processes; clarification on episcopal/synodical gov’t; concern over role of Canterbury.

The GAFCON Primates, who will be meeting this next week (April 13-18) will not be overburdened by having made promises regarding the Anglican Covenant.

My guess at to what GAFCON Primates will do this week:

(i) They have already had a rather gloomy sense of the whole Anglican Covenant enterprise given the Anglican Communion's slow response to their demands that The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada be drummed out of the corps because of their unrepentant attitudes. Their lack of response to the Covenant Design Committee's questions is significantly greater than the general lack of response. They will mostly dismiss RCDC.

(ii) The strategy for dealing with the ACC and the June start up for ACNA will no doubt be high on the GAFCON Primates agenda. Moderator Robert Duncan of the Common Cause Partnership and Archbishop- designate of the soon to be established Anglican Church in North America will be meeting with the GAFCON Primates at their invitation. Remembering that the Jerusalem Declaration requires the repudiation of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada and by inference anyone who supports either church, and the decision by the Church of Nigeria to recognize ACNA, there is little need to guess where things will come out. The only question is whether the rest of the GAFCON crowd will buy in with Nigeria at this point or wait for a while more.

When the Anglican Consultative Committee meets in a little less than three weeks they will have a crack at the Anglican Covenant third draft, called the "Ridley Cambridge Draft" and less affectionately the RCDC. There they will no doubt be told by the GAFCON representatives that RCDC is so weak as to be irrelevant and so Anglo-centric as to be an insult.

GAFCON will push for the Primates as the governing board of the Anglican Communion as a communion of churches, make the Archbishop of Canterbury a titular head of church and the President of the Primates, elected among themselves, as the de-facto head of Communion. GAFCON leaders will press for a covenant with "teeth."

The press back will need to be quite simply, "No." Those who say "no" will continue to be the Anglican Communion, wonderful and messy as it is (to paraphrase Archbishop Tutu). They will be the Anglican Communion. They will have their reward.

In the end I suspect the good work on the Anglican Covenant (and there has been some good work) will result in a document that will become an expansion of and combination of the Lambeth Quadrilateral with the two additions of common prayer and apostolic mission, the concept of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ (MRI) and the Five Marks of Mission. It will be useful to the Communion. It could be the basis for a relational covenant.

The rest will die a horrible death buried under the verbiage of many meetings, but the upshot will be "no." Those who will use that "no" to justify a new world wide Anglican Church with "teeth" will do so. They also will have their reward.


  1. One thing I might add to any future covenant (or whatever better term might be used) is this: While a particular church should take into account the effect certain actions might have on the rest of the Communion, the other churches need to listen attentively and with charity to the reasons said church is taking such actions.

    That last part seems to be lacking in the covenant drafts so far.

  2. West Africa is also a GAFCON province - although a quiet one :-)


  3. Is this going to be a "covenant" or a treaty? and what would be the difference?

    It looks more like a treaty to me; ie, an agreement negotiated among sovereign entities rather than a legal contract between parties under the same law code.

    If we just have to have this thing, I'd rather have a treaty and let other people call it a "covenant."
    I'd prefer to leave the old Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral alone.

  4. Mark - You don't mention Radner's Instruments of Communion? Whatever will become of them? Will they ever be 'officially' recognized, do you suppose?

  5. Can someone explain to me the notion of interdependence in the Communion? Is not each church’s first responsibility to God, not to, say, the Church of Nigeria? The notion of mutual responsibility is tricky. An action of TEC could disturb—pick any verb you like here—Nigerians, but not acting might disturb Episcopalians. How does one choose? Isn't the primary mission field of TEC the United States? Does Peter Akinola know more about the United States than does the General Convention?

    Frankly, I find the latest draft a total muddle. I cannot figure out what it means or what its operational consequences might be. I am appalled that the Anglican Communion has accepted the notion, advanced by a handful of people, that there is only “one way forward,” namely, creating a covenant. Institutionally, the Anglican Communion has very little imagination. For all intents and purposes, it seems brain dead.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation 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.