19 September 2011

Wellington says Yes

Anglican Taonga reports that the Diocese of Wellington, New Zealand, has voted to support the proposed Anglican Covenant. The report states:
The basic feeling of Synod was reportedly: "We must preserve unity, and the Covenant will help us do that. And we don't want to find ourselves no longer in full communion because we have not signed the Covenant".
Whilst I hope the Synod members came to a reasoned and informed conclusion about how the Covenant will help to preserve unity, the second part of the quote suggests to me that they were misinformed about the implications of signing or not signing the Covenant. The notion that failure to adopt the Covenant will result in being out of full communion has certainly been spread abroad as a kind of scare tactic, but it is not supported by the text of the proposed Covenant itself. Consider section 4.1.4:
Every Church of the Anglican Communion, as recognised in accordance with the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, is invited to enter into this Covenant according to its own constitutional procedures.
Note: that's “invited” and not “required”. Each Church's constitutional procedures surely allow for a vote to reject the Covenant.

Then there's section 4.1.5:
The Instruments of Communion may invite other Churches to adopt the Covenant using the same procedures as set out by the Anglican Consultative Council for the amendment of its schedule of membership. Adoption of this Covenant does not confer any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion, which shall be decided by those Instruments themselves.
So, if adoption of the Covenant does not imply membership in the Anglican Communion, neither does rejection of it imply impairment of communion, and certainly not expulsion from the Communion. The fact is that we cannot predict what other Churches might say or do in response to a principled rejection of the proposed Covenant. But each Church must come to its own conclusion about the matter without coercion or scare tactics. If a Church's General Synod (or equivalent) comes to a reasoned, informed conclusion that it is best to adopt the Covenant, then it should do so. But I would hope that any decision, for or against, is based on a thorough study of the proposed Covenant and a clear and well-informed understanding of the document and its implications. And I would hope that misinformation, such as the canard that a vote against the Covenant is a vote against the Anglican Communion, is clearly left out of the equation.

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