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Design Group releases text of draft Anglican Covenant
Presiding Bishop elected to Primates' Standing Committee

By Matthew Davies
[Episcopal News Service]  The text of a proposed Anglican Covenant, intended to affirm the cooperative principles that bind the Anglican Communion, was released February 19 toward the end of the Primates' five-day meeting.

The full text of the seven-section draft Covenant is available here.

The sections address topics including common catholicity and confession of faith; Anglican vocation; unity and common life; and common commitments. Among other suggestions, the proposed Covenant would ask the Anglican Communion's 38 Provinces to commit themselves to "essential matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of autonomy, and to support the work of the Instruments of Communion..."

It also notes that "in the most extreme circumstances, where churches choose not to fulfill the substance of the covenant," such churches may be seen as having "relinquished ... the force and meaning of the covenant's purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches."

The Primates, who have been meeting near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, since February 15, have extended their agenda to include an evening session during which they will continue to discuss the text of a communiqué.

In other business, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected February 19 to represent the Americas on the Primates' Standing Committee.

Each region -- Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania, Europe, and the Middle East -- elects its own representative to the Standing Committee, which operates as the governing board of the Primates.

Other members elected to serve on the Committee are Archbishops Phillip Aspinall of Australia; Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem and the Middle East; Henry Orombi of Uganda; and Barry Morgan of Wales. Five alternates were also elected and would serve on the Committee in the absence of their region's counterpart.

Process yields 'classical Anglicanism'

The Covenant Design Group, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, held its first meeting in Nassau, the Bahamas, in mid-January. Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, who chaired the group, has described the draft Covenant as a document of "classical Anglicanism."

At its January meeting, the design group discussed four major areas of work related to the development of an Anglican Covenant: its content; the process by which it would be received into the life of the Communion; the foundations on which a covenant might be built; and its own methods of working.

The design group noted in its introduction that there had been "a wide range of support for the concept of covenant in the life of the Communion, and although in the papers submitted there was a great deal of concern about the nature of any covenant that might be put forward for adoption, very few of the respondents objected to the concept of covenant per se, but rather saw the covenant as a moment of opportunity within the life of the Communion."

According to the group, all the members spoke of "the value and importance of the continued life of the Anglican Communion as an instrument through which the Gospel could be proclaimed and God's mission carried forward. There was a real desire to see the interdependent life of the Communion strengthened by a covenant which would articulate our common foundations, and set out principles by which our life of Communion in Christ could be strengthened and nurtured."

It also recognized that the proposal for a covenant "was born out of a specific context in which the Communion's life was under severe strain." The Windsor Report, released in October 2004, was first to mention the proposal of an Anglican Covenant as a way in which the Anglican Communion can maintain unity amid differing viewpoints.

"While the group felt that it was important that the strength of a covenant would be greater if it addressed broad principles, and did not focus on particular issues, the need for its introduction into the life of the Communion in order to restore trust was urgent," the group noted.