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Listening: 'Communion in Mission' document tapped for study, litany
Executive Council asks General Convention to act on inter-Anglican initiative

1/13/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  Citing the document's role as "a vision for Anglican faithfulness to the mission of God," Executive Council on January 12 proposed that General Convention join the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in commending "A Covenant for Communion and Mission" for widespread study and response.

Executive Council's Committee on International Concerns, chaired by New York Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam, drafted the resolution that will come before the 75th General Convention, meeting June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio. At its own January 9-12 meeting in Des Moines, Council further used the document to adapt a litany prayed during Eucharist (see text at end of this release).

The proposed resolution affirms the "Communion and Mission" document developed by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism and affirmed by ACC in 2005.

Following is the text and explanation of the resolution proposed to General Convention:

Resolution (A000; number to be assigned): Covenant for Communion in Mission

Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recognize the call of the Anglican Consultative Council at its 13th meeting in Nottingham, England, in June 2005 for all churches of the Anglican Communion to study and apply the document "A Covenant for Communion in Mission" that was presented to it by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention commend "A Covenant for Communion in Mission" as a vision for Anglican faithfulness to the mission of God for study by parishes, dioceses and seminaries; by networks such as the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission, the Global Episcopal Mission Network, and the Companion Diocese Network; by the House of Bishops; and by the Standing Commission on World Mission, the Standing Commission on International Peace with Justice Concerns, the Standing Commission on Ministry Development, and the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention request the Standing Commission on World Mission to gather responses to "A Covenant for Communion in Mission" from groups within the Episcopal Church and include reflections and recommendations concerning application of the covenant in its report to the 76th General Convention.

Explanation

The Anglican Consultative Council established the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (IASCOME) at its 11th meeting in Dundee, Scotland, in 1999. IASCOME is the latest in a series of commissions, committees and working groups with responsibility to maintain a global overview and provide international coordination of mission and evangelism in the Anglican Communion. IASCOME's report to ACC-13 in Nottingham, England, in June 2005 is titled "Communion in Mission." It opens with an introduction, reproduced below, which contains "A Covenant for Communion in Mission":
 
A Covenant for Communion in Mission

The Lambeth Commission in its Windsor Report "recommended and urged the primates to consider the adoption by the churches of the Communion of a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the Churches of the Communion" [Windsor Report, pp. 62-64].

IASCOME has discussed ways to take forward the mission imperatives in the Communion following the Partners in Mission process and the Decade of Evangelism. The idea of a Covenant for Communion in Mission has emerged as a key proposal. We believe that a Covenant enshrining the values of common mission that could be used as a basis for outward-looking relationships among the churches, mission organizations and societies, and networks of the Communion would provide a significant focus of unity in mission for the Anglican Communion.

In Scripture, covenants are central in the Old Testament to God's relationship to Noah, Abraham, Moses and to the people of Israel. Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretell the coming of a new covenant – in which God will give God's people a new heart and new life and will walk with them, and they with him. In the New Testament Jesus inaugurates this New Covenant. It was marked by the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood and celebrated in the central Christian meal of the Eucharist and effected through the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ for all people for all time.

IASCOME considered in depth the nature of covenant. We recognized that within our cultures a covenant is a serious and significant agreement. Covenants are fundamentally about relationships to which one gives oneself voluntarily, while contracts can be seen as a legally binding document under a body of governing principles. Covenants are free-will voluntary offerings from one to another while contracts are binding entities whose locus of authority is externally to oneself. Covenants are relational: relational between those who are making the covenant and relational with and before God.

As Anglican churches, we have a tradition of covenants that help to clarify our relationships with other ecumenical churches, such as the Porvoo agreement between the Church of England and the Baltic Lutheran churches, and Called to common Mission between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

We recommend for consideration by the ACC and testing within the Communion, the following nine-point covenant. We believe it provides the basis for agreements between Anglican churches at the national level – but also may be used by local parish/congregations, mission movements and networks, companion diocese links, etc. We believe the Covenant for Communion in Mission thus provides a focus for binding the Communion together in a way rather different from that envisaged by the Windsor Report.

The covenant is deliberately general in its principles. In its understanding of mission, it builds on the Five Marks of Mission of the 1984 and 1990 Anglican Consultative Councils. It provides a framework within which those entering into the covenant can identify specific tasks and learnings that relate to their particular situations.

A Covenant for Communion in Mission

This Covenant signifies our common call to share in God's healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken and hurting world.

In our relationships as Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, we live in the hope of the unity that God has brought about through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The preamble recognizes that the world is one that has been graced by God but that God's work through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to seek to heal its hurts and reconcile its brokenness. The preamble reminds us that as Christians we are called to share our relationships in the mission of God to the wider world, bearing witness to the kingdom of love, justice and joy that Jesus inaugurated.

Nourished by Scripture and Sacrament, we pledge ourselves to: The nine points of the covenant are predicated on Scripture and the Sacraments providing the nourishment, guidance and strength for the journey of the covenant partners together.

-- Recognize Jesus in each other's contexts and lives
The nine points begin with Jesus Christ, the source and inspiration of our faith and calls for those covenanting for mission to look for, recognize, learn from and rejoice in the presence of Christ at work in the lives and the situations of the other.

-- Support one another in our participation in God's mission Point two acknowledges that we cannot serve God's mission in isolation and calls for mutual support and encouragement in our efforts.

-- Encourage expressions of our new life in Christ
Point three asks those who enter into the covenant to encourage one another as we develop new understandings of our identities in Christ.

-- Meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements Point four provides for face-to-face meetings at which insights and learnings can be shared and difficulties worked through.

-- Be willing to change in response to critique and challenge from others Point five recognizes that as challenges arise so changes will be needed as discipleship of Christ is deepened resulting both from experience in mission and encounter those with whom we are in covenant.

-- Celebrate our strengths and mourn over our failures
Point six calls for honouring and celebrating our successes and acknowledging and naming our sadness and failures in the hopes of restitution and reconciliation.

-- Share equitably our God-given resources
Point seven emphasis that there are resources to share – not just money and people, but ideas, prayers, excitement, challenge, enthusiasm and calls for a move to fair sharing of such resources particularly when one participant in the Covenant has more than the other.

-- Work together for the sustainability of God's creation
Point eight underscores that God's concern is for the whole of life – not just people, but the whole created order – and so we are called to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

-- Live into the promise of God's reconciliation for ourselves and for the world This last point speaks of the future towards which we are living, the hope of a reconciled universe – in which 'God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven' for which Jesus taught us to pray. We make this covenant in the promise of our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.

The conclusion provides a strong reminder that we need each other, are responsible for each other, and are mutually interdependent in the Body of Christ.

IASCOME proposes that the ACC commend the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the churches of the Anglican Communion for study and action and remits it to the next IASCOME for evaluation of its reception in the Anglican Communion. IASCOME further proposes that the ACC advance the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the bodies of the Anglican Communion tasked to continue consideration of covenants for the Anglican Communion as commended by the Windsor Report and the "Communique" of the February 2005 Primates Meeting. To that end, IASCOME presents the following resolution for adoption by ACC 13:

ACC RESOLUTION – This Anglican Consultative Council:
1. Commends the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the churches of the Anglican Communion for study and application as a vision for Anglican faithfulness to the mission of God; 2. Advances the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the bodies of the Anglican Communion tasked to continue consideration of covenants for the Anglican Communion as commended by the Windsor Report and the "Communique" of the February 2005 Primates Meeting; 3. Remits the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the next Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism for monitoring responses to and evaluating effectiveness of the Covenant for Communion in Mission across the Anglican Communion. [ends]

- - -

Prayers of the People, adapted from "A Covenant for Communion in Mission" Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, January 11, 2006

Litanist – In our relationships as Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, we live in the hope of the unity that God has brought about through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nourished by Scripture and Sacrament, we pray:

-- That we may recognize Jesus in each other's contexts and lives: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may support one another in our participation in God's mission: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may encourage expressions of our new life in Christ: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may celebrate our strengths and mourn over our failures: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may share equitably our God-given resources: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may work together for the sustainability of God's creation: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

-- That we may live into the promise of God's reconciliation for ourselves and for the world: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Celebrant – Father in heaven, you call us into communion with you and with one another: Bless and strengthen the ties that bind us in the Anglican Communion, that we may be one as you and your Son Jesus are one, through the same Jesus Christ, who with you is the author and unifier of all creation, and who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.