The Anglican Church of Southern Africa voted on Friday October 1 to adopt “The Anglican Covenant”, the document setting out a statement of common “affirmations and commitments” by churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion which has been drawn up in response to disagreements over issues around human sexuality.
A resolution adopting the Covenant was proposed at the triennial meeting of the church’s Provincial Synod by the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, and seconded by the Dean of the Province, the Right Revd Paddy Glover, Bishop of the Free State. The decision will need to be ratified by the next session of the Synod in three years’ time.
Motivating the resolution, Archbishop Makgoba said he believed the church in southern Africa needed to try to “play a reconciling role” amid the current disputes over human sexuality in the Communion. He said the Covenant “is not a guarantee of an easy solution to the problems we face in the Communion” but hoped it would be a way of “healing and moving the Communion forward…” It was a document which, although not a complete statement on the nature of the Anglican Communion, sought to “describe our common identity in the Anglican Church… What is at stake here is to try to articulate our relationship in words."
Bishop Glover said the Anglican Church could best be likened to a family: “There are no outsiders; we are all insiders... We are all different but we are members of a family… bound together by bonds of affection and bonds of loyalty." The covenant sought to reinforce this relationship.
The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority, although some speakers who supported it expressed reservations. The Revd Drake Tshenkeng of the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman asked whether the Church was not giving “centralizing power” to the communion's Standing Committee. The Dean of Grahamstown, the Very Rev Andrew Hunter said the covenant raised the questions: “How far does diversity stretch, who defines diversity and who sets the boundaries?”
The full text of the Synod’s resolution reads:
1. Noting that:
1.1. The Synod of Bishops, meeting in September 2009, agreed that Provincial Standing Committee be asked to support the Covenant and that a resolution be brought to that body to that effect;
1.2. PSC passed a resolution at its September meeting that, “This PSC agrees in principle to support the adoption by ACSA of the Anglican Covenant subject to ratification by the Provincial Synod of 2010.”
2. Resolves that ACSA adopt the Anglican Covenant as approved by the Bishops; and
3. Requests that it be ratified at the next sitting of Provincial Synod.