Anglicans Seek Balance Between Autonomy, Communion

Anglican bishops at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury said Friday that they were positive about the process towards an Anglican Covenant.

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Chair of the Anglican Covenant Design Group, said that the Anglican Covenant was "badly needed" to help reconcile liberal and conservative Anglicans at odds over a number of issues, most notably homosexuality.

"We are seeking to act in such a way that will hold the two together, that we will not seek to act [in a way] that would destroy the [Anglican] Communion or the unity that is a gift to us from God," he told reporters on Friday.

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Relations with ecumenical partners would also benefit, Gomez maintained, if Anglicans were able to "state clearly and unequivocally who we are as Anglicans."

He said the Covenant would attempt to respect and maintain the autonomy of the Communion's 38 provinces, while at the same time "providing breadth and scope for communion."

The Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Rev. Philip Aspinall, said meanwhile that the Covenant expressed a "commitment to hanging together as a Communion and working through things together."

"I think that some of the responsibilities and obligations that attach to being in communion have not been well respected in recent years and we've encountered difficulties as a result of that," he told reporters. "So the Covenant is seen, I think, positively and hopefully as a vehicle for redressing some of those mistakes going forward…Initial signs are positive."

The Episcopal Church in the United States, the church at the heart of the row over homosexual consecrations and blessings, said it could take up to two General Conventions – or six years – before a final vote is made on whether to enter into the Covenant.

Gomez said that the Anglican Communion would have to "make space" for provinces or dioceses that feel unable to sign up to the Covenant, although he said more specific proposals would be drawn up further down the line.

"I believe we will always leave the door open for persons to enter who don't feel they can enter at the particular time," he said.

Meanwhile, Aspinall stressed the voluntary nature of the Covenant.

"Entering the Covenant is a self-limitation in order to remain in communion. The whole idea of the Covenant is that people by consent enter into it," he said. "It is not a stick to whack people over the head with. So if people enter into it voluntarily the expectation is they will observe it."

As bishops at Lambeth got down to discussing the Covenant, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi attacked the instruments of communion in an article in The Times on Friday, in which he dismissed the Archbishop of Canterbury as a "remnant of British colonialism."

Anglican Communion Secretary General Kenneth A. Kearon is expected to mail out letters to the hundreds of bishops boycotting Lambeth in protest of the presence of pro-gay bishops, asking them for their feedback on the Anglican Covenant.

When asked if he thought the Anglican Communion could survive the present crisis, Gomez replied, "I'm an optimist by nature. I believe firmly that the Anglican Communion is going to continue by God's grace."

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