Conservative bishops deliver blow to Anglican Covenant

November 25, 2010

rowan williamsConservative Anglicans have rejected a proposed landmark agreement designed to prevent splits in the worldwide Anglican Communion, just as the Church of England — the Communion’s mother church — moved a step closer to adopting it.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the 80 million Anglicans worldwide, has invested much personal authority in the proposed Anglican Covenant, which aims to prevent disputes over divisive issues such as gay bishops and same-sex unions. He has said the Anglican Communion faced a “piece-by-piece dissolution” if member churches failed to undertake to avoid actions that upset others.

(Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams opens the General Synod at Westminster Abbey in London November 23, 2010/Dan Kitwood)

The General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body, voted in favour of the deal, although it still has a number of stages to go before adoption, which would be no earlier than 2012.

But the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates’ Council, a group largely led by African church leaders, on Wednesday rejected the proposed Covenant, which would require member churches to settle disputes through discussion.

“While we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate,” the council said in a statement.

The covenant was first proposed in 2004 following tensions over the consecration of an openly gay bishop at the Episcopal Church, the official U.S. member of the Communion. Those Anglicans who supported the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson fear the covenant would impede similar acts in future.

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