on business from the General Synod at York University Sunday 8 July 2007
There were three items of business to be discussed by the General Synod today.
First business was the proposed Anglican Covenant. This presented some particular problems in that the Covenant could potentially mark a significant change in the nature of the Church of England and many people are concerned about where decisions are being taken. In addition there is a distrust of the process with many believing that conservative Primates will hijack the process and use it to exclude others. Matters were complicated by the presence of a draft covenant whilst people were saying that it is the process not the draft that is important.
Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies and chairman of the Covenant Design Group introduced the Draft and the process. He spent some time explaining the draft whilst stating that it would go through at least two more drafts.
Gomez described the covenant as being based on historical principles - in particular the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Church of England Declaration of Assent. However, both these things have proved entirely ineffective in preventing the present problems and he offered no suggestion as to how they would prove more effective in the future.
The Bishop of Chichester introduced the motion and debate. He highlighted that the covenant is not a confession, that it is going to take some time to put it in place. He characterised the Covenant being a way of saying we don’t have to agree on everything but we will commit ourselves to one another.
Tim Cox moved an amendment which highlighted the danger of the prolonged structural approach envisaged by the Covenant. He called for decisive action now and the use of a clear affirmation of the Scriptures and the historic formularies. A number of Synod members were apparently in agreement with this sentiment but felt it was better to support the Covenant and seek to have it strengthened elsewhere.
Two other amendments also failed. One was intended to ensure the Covenant was not as effective as it could be, the other to give the Synod the chance to consider the response to be drafted by the two Archbishops before it is made.
The Synod voted in favour of the motion but with wildly differing views as to what the purpose of the Covenant was going to be.
Second business was a different covenant, that between Anglicans and Methodists. This was one of an ongoing series of debates on progress following the agreement a few years ago of a joint covenant.
The report attempts to put a positive face on some of the problems emerging. Two in particular were focussed on, differing views of the Lord’s Supper and the lack of women Bishops. In the following debate it was clear that these and other matters were more of a concern to some than the report lets on. Moreover it is hard to see how some of the statements in this report correlate to another branch of ecumenical reports - ARCIC (with Roman Catholics).
The evening session saw a debate on minority ethnic representation amongst the laity, clergy and their synodical representatives etc.