Anglican Communion Institute–The Anglican Communion Covenant: Where Do We Go From Here?

We have learned today from Bishop Mouneer Anis that he has submitted his resignation from the former joint standing committee. Following so closely the release in December of the final text of the Anglican Communion Covenant, this resignation underscores the extent to which the Anglican Communion is at a major crossroads. At this decisive moment, however, substantial doubts have been expressed both publicly by Bishop Mouneer and privately by others as to whether this committee, now the standing committee of the Anglican Consultative Council, is the appropriate body to coordinate the implementation of the Covenant. These concerns point to the steps that we believe are necessary to restore the Communion so badly damaged by actions in North America over the last decade. In what follows, we seek first to outline the current structural challenges to the Covenant’s initial implementation. This will involve some important, if technical, analysis. Only then, however, can we make clear what, in our mind, these necessary steps for implementation are.

In summary, and on the basis of our continued conviction that the Covenant itself as currently formulated is a positive, faithful, and necessary basis for the renewal of the Anglican Communion and its member churches, we argue that:

1. The final Covenant text envisions a Communion of responsibly coordinated Instruments, ordered episcopally, that the current ACC-led standing committee is in fact undermining;
2. The current ACC standing committee is not necessarily the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” indicated by the Covenant text, and cannot therefore automatically claim the authority it seems to be assuming;
3. The current ACC standing committee has little credibility in the eyes of a large part of the Communion and ought not to be claiming the authority it seems to be assuming;
4. Those Churches of the Communion who move fully and decisively to adopt the Covenant must work with a provisional and representative standing committee, continuous in membership with the other Instruments, that will direct the implementation of the Covenant in a way that can eventually permit a Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to be formed as envisioned by the Covenant text.

read it carefully and read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Covenant, Instruments of Unity, Windsor Report / Process

22 comments on “Anglican Communion Institute–The Anglican Communion Covenant: Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. Grandmother says:

    Between the above, and ++Mouneer’s letter of resignation,
    ACNA is starting to look better all the time.

    Grandmother in SC

  2. Stephen Noll says:

    I am hurrying out a quick reply to the ACI paper on “The Anglican Communion Covenant: Where Do We Go from Here?” It contains many good points, and my initial feeling is that the resignation of Bp. Mouneer Anis and the accompanying revelations about the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” will lead to a positive way forward for the orthodox churches of the Communion.

    [b] “We are at a major crossroads.”[/b] I agree completely. This has been the position of the GAFCON/FCA movement since “The Road to Lambeth” statement in 2007. Note also the third “fact” of the GAFCON Statement concerning “the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy.” The resignation of one of the non-FCA Global South Primates is, hopefully, a sign that the orthodox primates of the Communion are coming to agree on this fact.

    [b]The pressing need for the Covenant’s adoption.[/b] I continue to be in favour of the Anglican Communion Covenant as a way of providing discipline and reform of the Anglican Communion. However, I think the issues raised by Mouneer Anis and the ACI itself speak against pressing forward with this Covenant, the one of December 2009. To the contrary, the very problems raised by the ACI suggest that orthodox provinces should not approve the current draft but may agree on approving a non-Canterbury version that corrects the current problems. The ACI seems to want a majority of churches to approve the Covenant and then reform the structures; that is putting the cart before the horse.

    [b]The Central Role of Bishops.[/b] I agree entirely and shall be soon defending this fundamental principle of Communion Governance at greater length. But that is not what we have today. The secret Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council states that “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” shall have “a balance of representation between clergy and laity and between genders” (secret Constitution art. 3.2.1). So the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion ideally should have 5 primates, 2 other bishops, and 7 clergy and laity, and that it should have 7 males and 7 females. This is the group that will oversee Communion discipline. This is the group that Bp. Mouneer just resigned from.

    [b]The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion is not the same as the Standing Committee of the ACC.[/b] It is true that the secret Constitution defines the “Standing Committee of the Council.” This is a place where “the vagaries of UK civil law” actually helps, since the charity being described is the ACC not the Anglican Communion. It is clear that whatever it is, the Standing Committee is seen at Lambeth HQ as the successor to the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates, and this was the Committee which was named as arbiter of Communion discipline in the Ridley Cambridge Draft of March 2009. In minutes from May 2009, the “Joint Standing Committee” met before ACC-14, and then met again afterwards as “The Standing Committee.”

    [b]The lack of transparency regarding the new ACC Constitution and Standing Committee.[/b] It is curious that the only links regarding the new Constitution (technically “Memorandum and Articles of Association”) came from the blogs. I think ACI is entirely too charitable to accept Canon Kearon’s explanation that it was not appropriate to reveal the contents of the new Constitution because it had not yet been approved by the UK Charity Commission. At its May meeting, the then Joint Standing Committee minutes read:

    [blockquote]The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion [note terminology!] noted that the new Constitution of the ACC, constituting the ACC as a charitable company under the UK Law, had received the assent of over two-thirds of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. This meant that the new Constitution was now in effect.[/blockquote]

    It is curious to understand how two-thirds of the Provinces could have approved a Constitution they had never seen, but nevertheless it is clear that the (Joint) Standing Committee claims that the new Constitution is now operative, hence Kearon’s citing it from time to time. It is also clear that this new Constitution which transforms the Joint Standing Committee into the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” is the one named in the December Covenant draft, sec. 4. While I agree with the ACI that this rebranding represents a takeover of authority by the Communion bureaucracy and was never approved two of the Instruments, one of the Instruments, namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been consenting throughout the process.

    [b]The Secretary General of the Communion.[/b] The ACI claims that according to the ACC Constitution (art. 6c) the Secretary General is only the Secretary General of the ACC. But according to the secret constitution (art. 9.1), the Secretary General is referred to as “the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.” For some years of course, the Secretary General’s letterhead has read simply “The Anglican Communion.”

    [b]The Role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.[/b] One big difference between the ACI and the FCA has been over the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the reform of the Communion. It seems to me difficult to deny that Rowan Williams has been complicit in the current putsch of Communion authority. So the “lack of credibility” which is now coming out has to be extended to him as well. One simply cannot wait on him to do the right thing.

    [b]The Way Forward.[/b] The burden of these quick comments on the ACI paper is to agree with them that there is a crisis in Communion governance. ACI proposes “convening a provisional committee, drawn from the Primates and the ACC of churches that adopt the Covenant” to sort these matters out. I do not think this idea is a realistic way forward. It would be much more effective for the Primates to constitute a meeting before any provinces act on the Covenant. This meeting should be convened with or without the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and without the presence of the Primates of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. This bishops-only meeting could legitimately review the issues of Communion governance and might even lead to the convening of an emergency meeting of the “Lambeth Conference,” again without the presence of TEC and ACoC and with or without the gathering initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

  3. Br_er Rabbit says:

    I see a valiant attempt by ACI here to salvage the covenant. What is lacking is any degree of mutual trust between the orthodox and liberal provinces, while the ACC has squandered any modicum of trust it may have had as an instrument of the Communion. Lacking this trust, the Covenant proposed by the ACC is a useless exercise as is, sadly, any examination of it by ACI or others.

    The fallback position, apparently, is the Ridley Cambridge draft. I would be interested in an analysis on the repercussions from two or more provinces (or, indeed, the whole of GAFCON) who might refuse to sign the ACC proposal but instead sign the Ridley draft.

  4. Br_er Rabbit says:

    I should say, “the covenant proposed by the SCotACC,” and it is that body that no longer engenders mutual trust.

  5. Martin Reynolds says:

    My first reaction to all this was that many people will miss Anis, but who then will follow him as the representative.

    I think the ACI demean Anis by using him to further their ends.

    What the ACI have to say is not new.

    Surely the Primates Group overreached themselves and visibly fell prey to manipulation by outside groups? A little like this managed resignation.

    Most significantly the Lambeth bishops reacted against the Primates group holding so much power – even if they had twice asked them to pick it up.

    With authority having been so dispersed within Anglicanism, the struggle first to create the sense that there is a power vacuum and then to attempt to centalise that power with this or that group or a collection of individuals and groups has been a real effort.
    I think this present attempt to turn our Communion into a Church is likely to fail. History will show that the ACI have not played a very helpful or healthy role in this.

  6. Katherine says:

    “Managed resignation,” #5? Bishop Mouneer doesn’t need anyone to manage him. He has fought the good fight with the structures as they exist, preaching the Gospel throughout. When the ACO management loses this good and exceedingly patient bishop, they should face the fact that they can no longer manage the non-Western churches as they would like to.

    Dr. Noll’s “The Way Forward” at #2 above seems very sensible.

  7. Athanasius Returns says:

    [blockquote]I think ACI is entirely too charitable to accept Canon Kearon’s explanation[/blockquote]

    NO ONE should ever accept Canon Kearon’s explanation of anything whatsoever.

    That he remains in an official capacity anywhere within the AC is a travesty.

  8. pendennis88 says:

    There are no instruments of communion or unity in the “Anglican Communion” any more. The present Archbishop of Canterbury has destroyed whatever ability the instruments have to provide unity, and the provinces are operating, effectively, as two communions. I think Archbishop Anis is simply too polite to point out the clumsy duplicity of Williams in all this; not that he needed to do so.

    It seems quite clear that the global south bishops and ACNA who are in actual communion with one another will proceed to create agreements, perhaps a covenant, and instruments to further Christ’s mission.

    I do not think they will formally leave the thing called the Anglican Communion. But TEC may force Canterbury to declare them out of it. It will be interesting to see if the forthcoming CoE synod, in anticipation of this, elects to keep ACNA (and thus the global south) in the communion, or joins the first wave of TEC efforts to force them out. Judging by TEC attacks on Anis mounting already, it will lobby the synod very hard.

  9. robroy says:

    Who is surprised that the revisionists are already exploiting weaknesses in the weak document? Professor Noll’s way forward is more sensible than the ACI’s. ABp Anis already had spoken about the paralysis of the JSC to deal with the present conflict with Ms Schori present. (Who put Ms Schori on the JSC again? Oh, yeah, it was Rowan.)

    There will be a meeting of the Global South where they were to jointly sign on to the Covenant. I view the Covenant as inherently flawed just as the health care legislation. The deficiencies of both arose because of the extremely twisted manner which they were concocted. Both need to be scrapped and start over. I am glad there is a Covenant crisis already rather than having the TEClub and ACoC sign on and making a long drawn out mockery of the whole thing.

    Katherine, [url= ]Sarah Hey is correct about being offended[/url] by liberal racism from the likes of Jim Naughton and from Martin Reynolds, of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement – it is simply to be expected. [url= ]William Witt[/url] points out that ABp Anis was a medical doctor before his calling to the ordained life. Naughton and Reynolds only appear foolish for these cheap attacks. I hope the elves leave up the “managed resignation” remark. The ad hominem is a good reminder of with whom we are dealing.

    [Please be careful of bandying around allegations of racism – we have already deleted one reference to this today and if this warning is ignored comments will be deleted or further action taken – Elf]

  10. Katherine says:

    Agree, robroy #9. The immediate descent into ad hominem insults is to the great discredit of those making these comments. I do the liberal side the courtesy of assuming that they are sincere in making their arguments — when they make the arguments, but not when they are merely insulting.

  11. Jill Woodliff says:


  12. Brian from T19 says:

    I have grown to appreciate the ACI for its insistence that reality is not reality. They encourage us to strongly resist accepting reality. BTW, in the ACNS, ++Rowan said:

    Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement on Bishop Mouneer’s resignation from SCAC

    Posted On : February 1, 2010 3:57 PM | Posted By : Webmaster
    Related Categories: ACC Lambeth

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, today expressed his regret at the decision of the Most Revd Dr Mouneer Anis, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, to resign from the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion:

    “Bishop Mouneer has made an important contribution to the work of the Standing Committee, for which I am deeply grateful. I regret his
    decision to stand down but will continue to welcome his active
    engagement with the life of the Communion and the challenges we face together.”

  13. jamesw says:

    I have grown to appreciate the ACI for its insistence that reality is not reality.

    Actually what the ACI is advocating is for the Global South to stop a breath-taking, Machiavellian power grab on the part of western liberals in the Communion. When it became clear that a Covenant was coming, the decision was apparently taken to sideline the two Instruments of Communion in which the Global South was fairly represented (i.e. the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting). There was a massive power-grab by the western liberal-dominated ACC (which is very unrepresentative of the the Communion – just look at the proportionality of ACC delegates to Provincial membership numbers) in a secretive attempt to create some uber-Committee to oversee the Communion. Think about it, this uber-committee would be dominated by members of the liberal, western, anti-Covenant Provinces, yet it would be charged with implementing the Covenant. What possibly could go wrong with that?!?!?

    The suggestion by the ACI that the Global South counter this action is critical to the future of an actual Anglican *Communion* (as apart from an Anglican Federation that is window dressing to a unilateral TEC). There is no rule that says that the ACC has to be the adjudicating body of the Covenant, and, as the ACI points out, this is a massive power-grab that is not supported by existing Anglican rule or tradition.

    At this point, the Global South needs to sign on to the Covenant and follow the ACI’s suggestion about creating a Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion for the Covenanted churches. They should cease cooperation with any more of Rowan Williams’ shennanigans. Then the GS could offer Rowan Williams the stark choice – either join with the honest, above-board Covenant process, or continue with the liberal, Western Machiavellian attempt to neuter the Covenant through underhanded political maneurvering.

  14. MichaelA says:

    Thank you, Professor Seitz, Dr Turner, Dr Radner and Mark McCall.

    The article was heavy going, but in the end I had to agree that +Harmon’s urging to “read it carefully and read it all” was 100% justified.

    This whole process raises serious issues about the wisdom of continuing to engage with ABC or ACC, as such respected orthodox figures as ++Gomez and ++Anis have done in the past. Rather, it seems that those like ++Akinola and ++Orombi who advocated taking a strong stand against involvement with liberal sympathisers, were more perceptive.

  15. MichaelA says:

    Stephen Noll at #2,

    Agreed, particularly the process you outline in your final paragraph.

    It is well to remember that at present there are no “Instruments of Communion” – that is a new concept proposed in the *draft* covenant. At present, there are 38 autonomous provinces, each headed by its own bishops and represented by one bishop who is a primate (by whatever name). The ABC has been in the habit of inviting bishops from all the provinces to Lambeth every ten years, and of calling a Primates Council on a more regular basis (lately, every two years). However, none of this has been enshrined in law, it has been essentially a creation of tradition and custom.

    This loose arrangement has enabled bishops and primates from orthodox provinces to respond flexibly and effectively against liberal encroachments into some dioceses – alternate episcopal oversight, public pronouncements, separate councils. This is fortunate, otherwise the election of a liberal sympathiser (Rowan Williams) in 1991 could have facilitated a liberal takeover of the entire Communion. Instead, orthodox bishops and primates, led by their conscience and urged on by orthodox followers, have engaged and checked the ABC’s influence.

    Any covenant must enshrine these rights. They are our ultimate safeguard against the sort of tyranny which has been inflicted on TEC. Without this, we are better of without a covenant.

  16. Ross says:

    #15: The ABC, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and the ACC have been known as the Instruments of Communion for some time, long predating the Covenant draft. Admittedly this was all “tradition and custom,” but the nomenclature is hardly an innovation of the Covenant. Rather, the Covenant drafts have sought — more or less effectively, depending on your viewpoint — to adapt the existing Instruments in one way or another to the envisaged Covenant-based Communion.

  17. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Thanks to Dr. Noll for his incisive, insightful #2. As always, it’s perceptive, clear, and sensible. I myself, however, would be even more critical of the current Covenant than he is.

    I also commend jamesw for his #13, that helps clarify things by calling a spade a spade, i.e., for calling a power grab (by desperate Western liberal colonialists) the deceitful, shameful, manipulative power grab that it is. I agree, the ACI was much too mild, restrained, and polite, but their style is to be conciliatory and noninflammatory, instead of confrontational and polarizing (as I admittedly tend to be). But I’m still grateful, genuinely grateful, that they’ve helped expose such skulldoggery by the despicable Kenneth Kearon and company. Great work, you guys at ACI.

    However, I think it’s high time to turn the liberal’s argument in favor of the ACC being the top dog in the AC against them. They love to harp endlessly on how the ACC is the only group that includes non-bishops and is therefore more “inclusive” and truly representative of the AC as a whole.

    I say, let’s turn the tables on them and insist that the ACC must be restructured so as to be TRULY representative, by making membership in the ACC based on the actual size of the provinces. And by “actual size” I mean Sunday attendance, not nominal membership figures, which in the case of the CoE are ridiculously high. Let the ACC become like the US Congress rather than the Senate, so that the ACC becomes totally dominated by the Global South, and especially the giant provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan. Now that would make it really representative, and worthy of trust.

    Until that kind of structural change takes place, the utterly devastating lack of trust that the ACI leaders have rightly called attention to (and the GAFCON leaders even more forcefully so) will continue unabated.

    {i}”A house divided against itself cannot stand.”{/i}

    David Handy+

  18. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Oops, that’s [i]A house divided against itself cannot stand.[/i]

    I will repeat here the same basic objection to one aspect of the fine ACI statment that I also made over at Stand Firm. I continue to hold that the noble scholars over at the ACI are wrong in assuming that the Covenat is “the only hope” for salvaging the AC. Nonsense.

    Of course, it’s not the only hope. Not even the only practical hope. I presume that the assumption (a very common and natural one, it must be admitted) behind that typical ACI position is that the Covenant is the only realistic way to salvage the AC [b]in anything like its current form[/b].

    But therein is precisely the rub. I hold that the current institutional wineskins of the AC are hopelessly obsolete and that it’s useless and indeed counterproductive to attempt to save those old wineskins, venerable as they may be. As the Master warned us, trying to put patches on an old, non-elastic wineskin is highly likely to backfire and end with a bigger tear than ever when the new patch pulls away from the rest.

    No new wine often requires new wineskins to hold it. And I remain totally convinced that the glorious wine of classical Anglicanism, now fermenting so slrongly in the Global South, is bursting the old wineskins of the AC (especially at the level of international polity structures). New wineskins are therefore necessary. Nothing less will suffice.

    So what if the liberal provinces won’t go along with it? Who cares??

    I don’t.

    Reformations don’t take place by consensus. And I passionately believe that what is called for in our day isn’t merely the renewal of Anglicanism, but it’s Reformation. In the strong 16th century sense. With all the bitter divisiveness and long-lasting enmity that a New Reformation inevitably implies. And all the hope and promise of new life as well.

    Let’s face it. Schism on a massive scale is inevitable. The AC has passed the point of no return. The resignation of such a stalwart defender of the Covenant process as ++Anis is the latest evidence of that fact.

    But while massive schism is inevitable and even necessary, bitterness, recrimination, and backbiting are not.

    Once again, the divided house that is the AC cannot and will not stand. But that’s OK. The current polity structures of the AC at the international level are only the husk of Anglicanism, and they are dispensable and disposable. The kernel of Anglicanism can and I believe will survive radical reform.

    David Handy+

  19. MichaelA says:

    Ross at #16,

    I don’t think it is accurate to say that there is any “tradition and custom” establishing the concept of “Instruments of Communion”.

    I agree that a report to the Lambeth Cofnerence in 1998 used the expression “instruments of communion”, and it was also referred to in the Windsor Report. So yes, to that extent the term existed before this draft covenant. But it wasn’t in any sense hallowed by tradition and custom. It is an innovation.

    In fact, the ACC in 2005 saw the term as a means of replacing an earlier practice of calling the Primates Council and Lambeth “instruments of unity”. The avowed purpose of the ACC was to make the Archbishop of Canterbury the only “instrument of unity”, with the others downgraded to “instruments of communion”. See

  20. MichaelA says:

    David Handy+ at #17 and #18


  21. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Dr Ephraim Radner has further comment on the ACI site:
    [blockquote] …I do not reject the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is in fact someone whose heart and mind I deeply respect in Christ. I will question vigorously, however, judgments he makes or actions he takes that I think are ill-advised; I will even resist those that appear to be improper, as I would any within the church. But he is someone, quite apart from my personal views, whose role I honor in my very office as an Anglican priest. I do not reject the leaders and members of FCA – among them are individuals I do indeed respect and, out of a similar bond of ecclesial affection and shared ministry, I honor. But I will resist vigorously judgments and actions that seem ill-advised; and I will resist ones that seem improper. I do not reject TEC itself, of which I am formally a member and in whose ordering my ministry is placed. But I do maintain the calling of honesty, necessary dissent, and active resistance where called for.

    None of this is an all-or-nothing proposition, not as I understand the Church in Christ at any rate. In the Church’s life as it travels through the world there is struggle, agon, as Paul says repeatedly. We do not continually have to throw everything away and start over again. We engage continuities of faith and relationship as they are given us and as we are able, we correct them, we strive to reform them, we suffer rebukes and setbacks. But that is what faith engages us in; that is Christ’s life, and the life of His Body. One of the many things I admire about Bishop Mouneer is just his witness to this kind of striving. His resignation from the ACC Standing Committee came only after a long and devoted service within particular Communion structures that most of his theologically-sympathetic colleagues had long since abandoned, leaving him a lone voice within an often hostile context. Further, his resignation does not constitute a rejection of these structures themselves, but a sense on his part that the overriding goal of the Covenant, which he continues to support, is more faithfully served outside of a committee incapable of shepherding the Covenant to its effective adoption….[/blockquote]
    Well I don’t know – so central is the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” inserted into the latest Covenant draft by…the Standing Committee, that signing on to the Covenant and then trying to change it is something I wouldn’t like to bet on given Dr Williams’ wiles and stubbornness. No Williams and Kearon have been caught out pulling a fast one – this needs to be faced and dealt with directly by the Primates of the Anglican Communion and particularly the Global South Primates.

  22. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Let’s face it the only group interested in signing up to the Covenant are the Global South, and if they act together as a group and only sign up as a group together when they are happy with the whole of the Scheme, the Covenant and the structures such as the Standing Committe which is integral to it, that would be wise.

    Would you enter a marriage if you found out your mother-in-law was designing a committee of her friends, who you had not met, to supervise your marriage?