Covenant Design Group publishes Lambeth Commentary

The Covenant Design Group publish today the Lambeth Commentary, which sets out the responses of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference in their discussions of the St Andrew’s Draft for an Anglican Covenant.

The Commentary was complied by the Covenant Design Group at their recent meeting in Singapore and also sets out some of the initial thinking of the CDG in response to the comments of the bishops.

The Commentary has already been sent out to all Provinces to assist in their discernment and response to the St Andrew’s Draft, and encourages Provinces to submit their responses to the St andrew’s Draft, while contributing to the ongoing thinking on the development of the text.

ACNS spoke to the Chairman of the Design Group, Archbishop Drexel Gomez about the Covenant Process. The full transcript is available below:

The Lambeth Commentary to the Saint Andrew’s Draft – what is it exactly?

At the Lambeth Conference, the bishops spent a great deal of time and attention looking at the Saint Andrew’s Draft for the Anglican Covenant – discussing the principle and the text, its merits and demerits. It is very important that their views are made available to the Communion as the Provinces assess the Saint Andrew’s Draft, and so they have now been published in a Lambeth Commentary which has been drawn together by the Covenant Design Group from the materials produced at the Conference.

And what was the reaction of the bishops at Lambeth?

Happily, it has been positive – and I say that as one who is a firm supporter of the current draft. A number of concerns were expressed about how the idea of a covenant might impact on the life of the Communion, but when the bishops looked at the detail, then there was a surprisingly high degree of satisfaction with many parts of the text.

For example?

Well, the first two sections of the Saint Andrew’s Draft tries to set out the inheritance of faith and the commitment to mission that we all share as Anglicans: there was a very high measure of approval for these parts of the text. The chief concerns arose where the Saint Andrew’s Draft tries to express the interdependence that Anglican Churches share around the globe.

Did the bishops respond then to the role that the covenant offers to the Instruments of Communion?

Well, even there, there was a very high approval rating for the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference. Questions were raised about the place of the Anglican Consultative Council, and there were a lot of questions about the role of the Primates’ Meeting in Anglican polity. These are matters that are going to have to be the object of careful reflection in the period leading up to the fourteenth Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Did the bishops express any other concerns?

There was, I think, a real concern that the covenant – if it was going to work – needed to be relational in character – that is should strengthen the working relationship of the Churches of the Communion – rather than “juridical”. We understood this to suggest a worry that the covenant might be too preoccupied with discipline and punishment, obsessed with procedures rather than the living realities of relationship and mission. The Covenant Design Group takes these concerns very seriously, and in the Commentary we begin to formulate our response to some of these questions, and to indicate the way in which our thinking is developing.

What happens next?

The Provinces have until the beginning of March next year to respond to the Saint Andrew’s Draft. The Covenant Design Group is publishing the Lambeth Commentary now to assist in their discernment, and will meet again at the end of next March to develop a new draft, and to prepare a report to the Anglican Consultative Council.

When do you think the covenant process will come to completion?

Well, if there were a sufficient number of positive responses from the Provinces, the Anglican Consultative Council could take steps to begin the ratification process in May next year. If that happens, we’re talking about perhaps three to five years for the Provinces to sign up. There is a strong feeling in some parts of the Communion that the Covenant, setting out our mutual responsibilities as a family of Churches, needs to be in place as quickly as possible – although there are other voices which still believe we have a way to go before we arrive at a mature text. The responses of the Provinces will give us a clearer idea of what might be possible.

Where can people find out more details?

Well, the Lambeth Commentary and the Statistical Report can be found on the Anglican Communion website in the Covenant section. I would want to encourage as many as possible to take a look, and to contribute to the Design Group’s thinking, if they so wish.

Archbishop Drexel, thank you very much.

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