Over on KANTINHO DO REV, a blog of the Rev. Francisco Silva, General Secretary of the Anglican / Episcopal Church in Brazil, he has written a wonderful piece, which asks the question, "Could human rights be a criteria for being a part of the Anglican Communion?"
Francisco's blog is always thoughtful, always interesting. But with the Anglican Covenant coming back into conversation as the new draft makes its way into the public arena, it is increasingly important to look at comments on the Anglican Covenant.
We are expecting a new draft very soon, but Francisco's comment is not about the content of this or that draft of the Covenant, but about the need to affirm the Communion's commitment to human rights. He says,
"Those who advocate the creation of an Anglican Covenant should perhaps think about considering respect for human dignity as a pillar of that Covenant. The adherence to the Covenant should include an unrestricted commitment related to the duty to respect the dignity of all people within the the regulatory framework of human rights.
But I think the conservatives would not accept that addition because human rights are not specifically Christian doctrine. The question that I raise therefore here is: Can a church that becomes connivent with human rights violations can be part of the Communion?"
This question was raised specifically because of the Church of Nigeria's support of Nigerian legislation limiting rights of assembly and advocacy. But the question is broader. It raises the concern that the Anglican Covenant makes no reference to any understanding of the rights of persons in the Communion or the Communion's commitment to human rights in the world.A great deal has been written on the matter of Church autonomy within the Communion, but very little about the expectation that all churches will honor the inclusion of members baptized in other member churches. Nothing is said concerning the reception of communion. In those churches requiring confirmation prior to receiving communion, is there general agreement to honor confirmation by a bishop in another church? Of course nothing is said because this is about the church rights of lay persons, not a hot ticket item usually.
Nothing is said about all Anglican churches pledging to support members of the church in exercising their human rights as defined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The support of human rights IS a hot ticket item, but as Fr. Silva notes, it is not central to the church's position because human rights are not doctrinal in all Anglican churches. They certainly are implied in the baptismal covenant that The Episcopal Church and some others now include.
Fr. Silva raises an interesting question: If it becomes clear that a member church is closely supporting limitations on human rights, can that church be held accountable by the Communion? But there is a wider question:The Anglican Covenant in its final form may not address some of these matters. Is there a way to "append" by way of ACC resolution some commonly held assumptions that underlay the Covenant - assumptions about transferability of baptismal commitment, about support of human rights, etc?
Is there common covenant by the churches of the Anglican Communion to respect the dignity of every human being?