Scottish Episcopal Church votes against adopting Anglican Covenant

By ENS staff
Posted Jun 8, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church on June 8 voted against the adoption of the Anglican Covenant, a document which supporters say offers a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.

The Scottish synod was asked to vote on a motion to agree in principle to adopting the Anglican Covenant. The motion was voted down by 112 to 6 votes, with 13 abstentions.

“Our decision not to adopt the Anglican Covenant is not a decision to reject the Anglican Communion,” the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, told synod following the vote.

“Nor are we indifferent to deeply held differences of view which are held across the Communion,” he added. “For those differences are also present in this church and they are part of our daily life and relationships. We hold a range of views. They are expressed with integrity, listened to with care and we are committed to living creatively with our diversity.”

The decision comes three months after it became clear that Scotland’s neighbors to the south in the Church of England could not adopt the covenant in its current form after a majority of its dioceses voted the document down. The Church of England’s General Synod cannot consider the covenant again until 2015.

The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues. The report came in the wake of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire, a development that caused some provinces to declare broken or impaired communion with the U.S.-based Episcopal Church.

The covenant also was a response to some church leaders crossing borders into other provinces to minister to disaffected Anglicans and a decision by the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada to authorize a public rite to bless same-gender unions.

Following five years of discussion and several draft versions, the final text of the covenant was sent in December 2009 to the communion’s provinces for formal consideration.

The document’s fourth section, which outlines a disciplinary method for resolving disputes in the communion, has largely been the covenant’s sticking point. Some critics have warned that adopting the covenant could result in a two-tier communion.

“Our decision not to adopt the Anglican Covenant says that we think that this was not the right way,” Chillingworth said. “We needed to recognize that what brings division and difficulty to our life as a communion is a number of inter-related issues, not just one – not just the single complex of issues around human sexuality.”

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention will consider its response to the covenant when it meets July 5-12 in Indianapolis, Indiana. At present, seven resolutions have been proposed to convention, each calling for different responses to the proposed covenant.

Throughout the Anglican Communion, the seven provinces that have approved or subscribed to the Anglican Covenant are Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Southern Cone of America, and the West Indies.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa has adopted the document pending ratification at its next synod meeting later this year.

The Church in Wales in April gave the covenant “an amber light, rather than a green light.” The church’s governing body said it feared the recent rejection of the covenant by the Church of England jeopardized its future and clarifications about that were now needed before a decision could be made. It sent questions on the matter to the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policy-making body, which meets later this year.

Episcopal Church in the Philippines bishops have formally rejected the covenant although the Anglican Communion Office confirmed that it has not yet received a formal notification from that province. Maori action in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia rejecting the covenant last November means that it may be rejected when it comes before the province’s General Synod in July.

The Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee agreed at its recent meeting that “no timeframe should yet be introduced for the process of adoption of the covenant by provinces,” according to a release from the Anglican Communion Office.


Comments (11)

  1. Robert Graves says:

    Any of the 38 autonomous provinces that comprise the Anglican Communion, which refuse to accept the Anglican Covenant as intended, understood, and written, should be designated Non-Conforming Provinces within the Anglican Communion. Clergy – including bishops and primates – within the non-conforming provinces should be designated Non-Conforming Clergy. Communicants within non-conforming provinces should be designated Non-Conformists.

    Those who feel so strongly about rejecting the Anglican Covenant will wear their designations as badges of superior understanding, sohistication, sensitivity, and moral authority.

    1. Anne Warrington Wilson says:

      Why need we all agree about this Covenant? The original Quadrilateral had few requirements for membership and a lot of room for different expressions of practicing Christianity. I don’t believe that unity needs to be defined as uniformity. In our daily following of Jesus Christ there is more that we have in common than that we disagree on.

      1. Robert Graves says:

        The Anglican Communion isn’t the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Anglican Communion is a human construct. As such, it has – and will always have – limitations and defects. To one degree or another, the Anglican Communion will always disappoint.

        Like any organization that seeks to survive and thrive, the Anglican Communion must clearly define its beliefs, purpose, focus, values, and priorities, as well as the expectations of the provinces that comprise it. Anything goes isn’t an option.

        Let’s put it this way: The Episcopal Church of the USA will welcome you. But will you accept the Episcopal Church of the USA and its basic beliefs, purpose, focus, values, and priorities, as largely defined by the Anglican Communion, of which the Epicopal Church of the USA is but one body?

      2. Ruth Franke says:


  2. Peter Meyers says:

    The Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicea, not because he was a pious man who cared deeply about the Christian church, but because he was sick and tired of the constant bickering between and among different factions of Christians. The Council achieved a number of good things, among them agreement as to the nature of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the Father, the Nicene Creed, and the naming of Mary the mother of Jesus as the Theotokos, the Mother of God; and for a time, as least, an end to the squabbling that so annoyed the Emperor.

    The peace was not to last. For all the earnestness of Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one,” pride, stubbornness, deceit, lust for power, dirty politics, and perhaps here and there a touch of unmedicated insanity fractured the Body of Christ, and Christianity ultimately split into many factions.

    The Anglican Communion is at a crossroads. Either we do the expected thing and further split into ever smaller and less and less significant pieces or we say, “Enough! The splintering stops with this generation.” Can we not find a way in humility and in agape love to celebrate our diversity, so that when a friend or a stranger feels rejected by one denomination or another, we can say, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you! We’re a big tent, big enough to include you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We don’t expect you to check your brain at the door.” Can we not look at sisters and brothers in Christ and trust that God is working in their lives as God is in ours, even though we have different opinions, at least for now. United is the way Jesus wants us, and when united then, truly, we will know in no small measure that peace that is beyond our understanding.”

  3. The Rev. John Crist says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Meyers: “Can we not look at sisters and brothers in Christ and trust that God is working in their lives as God is in ours, even though we have different opinions, at least for now.” The Anglican Communion has survived many tests and controversies since the first Lambeth Conference precisely because we have been a big tent which tolerates diversity. I see the current draft of the Covenant as an undesirable effort to circumscribe that diversity.

    I also think it is important to remember that Church of England leaders in the 16th and 17th Centuries fought very hard against the idea that Church bodies are “infallible.” Neither the Bishop of Rome nor the Anglican Consultative Council can make infallible doctrinal statements!

  4. thomas mauro says:

    In response to Robert Graves I would say that the only badge that I wear is one that acknowledges that I know far less about the relationship of one person to the next than does God.

  5. Ruth Franke says:

    This morning I was listening to some contemporary Christian music and a song came on that specifically addressed our need to be in relationship even with our differences – To respond to Jesus prayer “that they all may be one” by gathering together under the umbrella of faith in God in Christ Jesus. I thought of ‘us’ and prayed that the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, could continue in it’s mission of inviting everyone into the knowledge of Christ’s love, setting aside our differences, growing into our commonalities, and remembering that the God we serve is too big to be put in a box that would leave anyone out. Let’s continue the conversations about our differences – all of them – in that respect and love and faith that can truly make us all one.

  6. Alecia Moroz says:

    Somewhere along the way, I received a “Litany for the Churches”. According to the copy given to me, this litany was shared through ecumenical community services in Hartwell, GA in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Litany opens with:

    LEADER: Let us give thanks for the churches that together form Christ’s world-wide church.
    PEOPLE: There is One Body and one Spirit, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.

    Among other things, the Litany thanks God for the Roman Catholic Church’s stirring pageantry, for Baptists’ insistence on the freedom of the Holy Spirit, and the Friends’ commitment to non-violence. It also thanks God for the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion:

    LEADER: We thank you for the Anglican and Episcopal Churches.
    PEOPLE: For their inclusiveness, their flexibility, their unfaltering commitment to reconciliation and reunion.

    In the not too distant past, the most unique and defining aspect of the Anglican Communion (including the Episcopal Church) was its inclusiveness, flexibility, and “unfaltering commitment to reconciliation and reunion”. That’s why the author of this litany, Rev. Harry Hannah, chose to celebrate this characteristic above all others. My prayer is that we all remember this spiritual DNA that God has gifted us with as we seek His will for the future of our church.

  7. Paul Garrett says:

    I feel that the proposed covenant is misguided at best. Whatever the intention if adopted it will be used as a foundation to begin to ape the worst of Roman legalism and be used to classify and bully. A more meaningful approach would be to make use of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a measure of our practical and common commitment in Christ to the welfare of those whom Christ loves both within our Communion and in the world. After all the UDHR has been repeatedly affirmed at Lambeth since its inception so it could easily become the metric for our determination to be one body.

  8. Emily Nell Lagerquist says:

    I was baptized a Christian at the age of 4.5 years old in the Episcopal Church in what was then the Missionary Diocese of the San Joaquin in California. (an irony since that diocese went through so much turmoil) At the age of 7, I joined the Girls Friendly Society. The motto of GFS is “Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens” We had a candlelight service where we all stood in a circle and we passed the light. As we turned to the girl next to us to share the lit candle, we said “I bear your burdens and I share your light.” Then each of would turn to the next and it would be repeated till the whole circle was in light. Over the years in GFS, I met girls from all over the USA and from other countries and we shared with each other the light of Christ in each of us. In all of this conversation that is occurring about the Anglican Covenant, may we remember that each of us carries the light of Christ. May we honor it; may we respect it. It is the common ground of Jesus’ love that we all share. He died for all of us. May we in turn reach out and be Jesus’ presence of love. Whenever I find myself in a space of righteous indignation or judgment, I remember Mark 10:21 and before Jesus replied to the rich young man, Jesus “looked at him and loved him.” (knowing full well what the rich young man’s response was going to be.) May we be able to let ourselves diminish so that the Christ in each of us can increase and look with love on all those whom we meet and with whom we worship and interact on a daily basis.
    Your sister-in-Christ Emily Nell Lagerquist

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