As you may know, the Church of England has voted not to adopt the Anglican Covenant that has been sent to all the Member Churches of the Communion for consideration. This does not mean that the Covenant lapses. Nor does not mean an end to the fundamental underlying questions which the Covenant is intended to address. We still need to ask ourselves: who do we believe ourselves called to be by God, and what does it mean to speak of an Anglican ”˜Communion’ ”“ rather than, say, a ”˜Federation’ or other form of association. A ”˜Communion’ is so much more ”“ a true family of churches, within the body of Christ, as so many of us have experienced, for example, through exchanges with link Dioceses. We feel a closeness through recognising our ”˜family resemblance’, even when we are from very different parts of the world, and the frequently used language of ”˜bonds of affection’ resonates clearly.
But how can we order our international institutional life, and the relationships between Provinces, in ways that reflect this experience, and our theological understanding of the unity with diversity that is found in belonging together as members of the body of Christ, as Scripture describes? Provinces have always been legally independent (reflecting their separate Constitutions and Canons); while the ”˜Instruments of Communion’ have only been advisory, rightly respecting Provinces’ status under canon law. But such legal independence can allow, and even promote comfortableness with, a separateness that has not always been sufficiently balanced by more organic and spiritual interrelationships. We have wrestled over decades with how to get this balance right, for example, in commitments to ”˜Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ’ made at the 1963 Toronto Congress. The Communion said then ”˜our unity in Christ, expressed in our full communion, is the most profound bond among us, in all our political and racial and cultural diversity’, and therefore ”˜our need is ”¦ to understand how God has led us, through the sometimes painful history of our time, to see the gifts of freedom and communion in their great terms, and to live up to them.’ The Congress warned ”˜if we are not responsible stewards of what Christ has given us, we will lose even what we have.’