The proposed Anglican Communion Covenant has taken a battering lately in a handful of diocesan synods of the Church of England, thanks in part to an influential, if incoherent, campaign by the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. The coalition’s opposition to the Covenant has principally centered on a sustained disinterest in global Communion structures, funded by an unhappy amnesia (at best, ignorance at worst) regarding the modern evolution of the Anglican Communion. Among other things, prescribed reading for all members of the NACC, and those tempted to follow them, would include the report from the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ, which charted the course for inter-Anglican conversation of the last half century in a visionary, missionary mode.
This same constructive spirit animates the latest sounding from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, members of which sketch a case for the Covenant in three brief YouTube videos. Several of the spokespeople — the Rev. Canon Paul Avis, the Rev. Canon Sarah Rowland Jones, the Rev. Katherine Grieb — are seasoned veterans, and latter-day architects, of Anglican ecclesiology, who have drunk deeply and intelligently from the wells of ecumenical charity.
Perhaps the most powerful voices, however, are those of the bishops from the “southern churches” (as Michael Poon is teaching us to say), who evince a hard-won street credibility when they reflect on the dividends of interdependence — how and why we truly need one another. It’s hard to think of a more edifying exercise in Lent than to listen humbly to the Rt. Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe reflect on the “agony” of Sri Lanka, struggling after its civil war to come to a mature reconciliation, accountability, and respect across difference; or to the Rt. Rev. William Mchombo analogize to the Anglican Communion from the recent experience of developing a constitution for Zambia’s fledgling democracy that may “hold the nation together”; or again, to listen to the Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory of the West Indies observe that to concern ourselves with the Church in Korea or South Africa itself “binds us together” in affirmation and mission as well as in challenge.
Thank God for these holy voices in our midst.
We are also pleased to welcome onto the scene a new group, Yes to the Covenant, given to urging Anglican provinces to make better-informed decisions in this field. Pay them a visit at yestothecovenant.org.