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Dioceses ‘can adopt Covenant,’ says Archbishop of Canterbury: CEN 10.01.09 October 1, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Covenant, Archbishop of Canterbury, Central Florida, Church of England Newspaper.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Dioceses and other ecclesial bodies may endorse the Anglican Covenant, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams said this week, but noted the current process is geared toward adoption of an inter-Anglican agreement by the provinces of the Anglican Communion.

In a Sept 28 letter to the Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Rev John W Howe, Dr Williams welcomed Central Florida’s endorsement of the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant.

Dioceses ‘can adopt Covenant,” says Archbishop of Canterbury
On Sept 17 the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee adopted a resolution stating, “We affirm Sections One, Two and Three of the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Covenant, as we await the final draft of Section Four.”

The diocese also asked Dr Williams to “outline and implement a process by which individual Dioceses, and even parishes, could become members of the Anglican Covenant, even in cases where their Provincial or Diocesan authorities decline to do so.”

Dr Williams responded that “as a matter of constitutional fact, the ACC can only offer the Covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies, (the provinces).”

“But I see no objection to a diocese resolving less formally on an ‘endorsement’ of the Covenant,” he said. Such an action would not have an “institutional effect” but “would be a clear declaration of intent to live within the agreed terms of the Communion’s life and so would undoubtedly positively affect a diocese’s pastoral and sacramental relations” with the wider communion, he wrote.

The resolution was offered to the diocesan board by the Dean of Southeast Central Florida, the Rev. Eric Turner, rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in Melbourne, FL. Originally entitled a ‘Resolution in Response to General Convention’, the first two clauses backed Bishop Howe’s endorsement of the Anaheim Statement issued at the close of General Convention, and reaffirmed the “teaching of the Anglican Communion” on “matters of human sexuality.”

Dean Turner’s resolution was divided into two motions, and the second half drew upon the Sept 7 call by the Bishops of Albany, Dallas, North Dakota, Northern Indiana, South Carolina, West Texas and Western Louisiana for “dioceses, congregations and individuals” to “pray and work for the adoption” of the covenant, and asked they “endorse [its] first three sections.”

Objections to adopting the second resolution came over the question whether it was wise to endorse the Covenant absent completion of its final section. However, when put to a vote, there were only two objections among the diocesan board, while it was passed unanimously by the Standing Committee. Bishop Howe told The Church of England Newspaper that as “Chair of the meeting I did not vote, but I fully support those who did.”

He stated that he was aware that some believed that “only the General Convention can decide whether or not to ‘opt into’ the Covenant, but there is nothing in the Covenant itself, and nothing in our Constitution or Canons that stipulate this. If a given person, parish or diocese agrees with the Covenant, what is there to prevent saying so?”

Bishop Howe added that “should it be that the General Convention were to ‘opt out’ of the Covenant while some of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church have endorsed or adopted it we will have a number of interesting questions to address.”

“Will it be possible for individual dioceses and perhaps even parishes, to remain full ‘constituent” members of the Communion, in communion with the See of Canterbury, while other dioceses move into some kind of ‘associate’ membership, no longer in full communion with Canterbury? The Archbishop’s comments have seemed to suggest this,” he said.

The Central Florida committee resolutions will now go to its January convention for further action.

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