Dear Friends in Christ,
Just last Friday I concluded my Chaplain's Corner article "The Writing is on the Wall"
with an appeal for credible leadership and governance structures within the Anglican Communion, and an appeal for prayer that these would take the place of the obviously discredited Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (SCAC). Saturday morning, I received this paper from the Rev. Dr. Steven Noll, retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University, "Communion Governance: A Revised Anglican Covenant." Is the timing coincidental, or is this perhaps an answer to prayer?
On behalf of the American Anglican Council, we commend this paper for your prayerful study and consideration as potentially the best possible way forward for the Communion at this time, for the following reasons:Revision 1:
Strengthens the historic and normative role of the Anglican Formularies (page 4) by restoring the Nassau Draft's specific inclusion of the Thirty Nine Articles, the 1662 BCP and its Ordinal as the common doctrinal basis for Anglicans worldwide. This may assure evangelical Anglicans that their position is upheld within the Communion.Revision 2:
Affirms explicitly God's standard of marriage and abstinence as stated in Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) as binding on members of the Communion (page 4), thereby addressing the need Global South leaders identified in paragraph 21 of the Final Communique of the Fourth Global South to South Encounter (GSE4).Revision 3:
Constitutes the Anglican Communion under the Covenant (pages 4-6): Adoption of the Covenant is co-terminous with membership and removes the muddled and failed vision of a "two-tiered' membership. It removes the Anglican Consultative Council entirely as an "Instrument of Unity" and replaces it with a revised section on the Primates to make it clear that the primary form of Communion governance is conciliar by bishops meeting in "council" regularly for "deliberations" and not simply fellowship or Indaba. Canterbury remains a "focus of unity" but provides for a "Council of Bishops", archbishops and bishops having actual jurisdiction and meeting regulalrly apart from Lambeth. The Instruments of Unity shall be composed only of those who adopt the Covenant. This too addresses the criticism of the muddled Communion governance structures that were presented in the existing Covenant to GSE4.Revision 4:
Restores the Primates to their proper oversight of Communion faith and order (page 6): See above, Revision 3 and below Revision 5.Revision 5:
Binds the Communion into an accountable union (pages 6-7): by authorizing a Primates' Council (from adopting provinces only) to de-recognize and declare "vacant" those provinces that fail to adopt this revised Covenant in a timely manner, and extends provisional recognition of membership in the Communion to "dioceses, parishes and ecclesial networks" who adopt the revised Covenant from within non-adopting provinces "until such time as the status of a replacement national and regional church is ratified by the Lambeth Council of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury"-thereby addressing the needs of both Communion Partners and the ACNA in North America, and the escalating needs of the orthodox in the Church of England.Revision 6:
Replaces the SCAC with the Primates Council (or "College of Primates") throughout sections 4.2 and 4.4 as the body authorized to administer communion discipline under the Covenant (pages 7-8 and Appendix): thereby addressing the fatal defects that we have witnessed only too clearly in the meetings of the SCAC, while reaffirming the conciliar form of governance in a "council" of bishops who themselves have adopted the Covenant.
In short, "A Revised Anglican Covenant" seems to offer the substantial changes in Communion governance that would satisfy the concerns of orthodox Anglicans all over the world: GAFCON primates and bishops, non-GAFCON Global South primates and bishops, ACNA and Communion Partners. It builds upon Dr. Noll's previous paper that the American Anglican Council released prior to GSE4 in Singapore, and brings forward feedback from discussions at GSE4 and theological reflections on the just concluded meeting of the SCAC and their non-response to continuing violations of Communion moratoria by TEC and its proxies. These proposed revisions are what Dr. Noll asserts: "conservative" in treating the existing draft texts respectfully but also "radical" in directly addressing the anomalies and fatal defects with credible structures of leadership and governance.
Of course, as Dr. Noll observes, "Theologians may propose, but bishops will dispose." Will the heirs of the apostles and martyrs who died in the flames of Oxford and Namugongo find common ground and resolve to break free from the doctrinal cancer and disciplinary disorder that is rapidly infecting our Anglican Communion? Will they seize this providential moment of Gospel growth in their provinces to live into this proposed revised Covenant-or a Covenant that has even stronger and more credible structures of leadership and governance than this revision?
The alternatives are unthinkable. Please pray for godly, Gospel-centered and courageous leadership for our Anglican Communion.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey,
Chief Operating and Development Officer,
American Anglican CouncilThe Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll: COMMUNION GOVERNANCE: A REVISED ANGLICAN COVENANT