Covenant for the Anglican Communion


The Churches of the Anglican Communion aim to model in their arrangements with one another the unified yet diverse divine life that is the Holy Trinity.
God enabled a calling into communion through convenants made with Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David. Jeremiah looked forward to a new covenant written upon the heart. A new covenant is indeed given to us through Christ Jesus. We are invited into this covenant of death to sin and new life in Christ, and by baptism, to share in the grace of God's communion in Christ with all people and creation on earth.
The body of Christ, the universal Church, is built up through its people in communion. This universal Church is divided into many varieties, and the Anglican Communion, made up from many Anglican Churches around the globe, has its own particular charism and identity. These Churches intend to covenant together to develop the "bonds of affection" that characterise the special Anglican charism and identity in the hope of reflecting the promises of God through Christ coming from the divine relationship of the Trinity. From these bonds, and in growing partnerships with other Christians, comes the Anglican mission to the world through the prayer that God makes this mission effective.
The Churches of the Anglican Communion are the Anglican Churches recognised in the Schedule of Membership of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). At present they consist of thirty four national or regional Provinces, the four United Churches of South Asia and six extra-provincial churches, dioceses or, in one case, a parish, duly recognised by Anglican Consultative Council procedures.


We, the Churches of the Anglican Communion, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, are invited to covenant together in these following affirmations and commitments. As a people from different cultures of the world, we covenant to proclaim the grace of God, to respond under God's love to the needs of the world, to further effect the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to grow towards the full stature of Christ. We do this not exclusively, but in consideration of all peoples of God.


(1) Covenanting together, each constituent Anglican Church actively upholds and:
(a) Affirms its communion in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
(b) Professes the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures (New and Old Testaments), which is set forth in the catholic creeds (Apostolic and Nicene);
(c) Inherits the historic formularies (the Preface to the Declaration of Assent, Canon C15 of the Church of England; the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888; the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion; the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons) and makes Christ known to the societies and nations of the constituent Churches in this generation in how they can understand the truth;
(d) Administers the sacraments of Baptism to new believers and the Supper of the Lord, ministered with Christ's words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him;
(e) Uses and develops broad patterns of worship that reflect Anglican liturgical traditions;
(f) Develops theological and ethical reasoning and reflection on the basis that the truth shall make us free, assisted by the teachings of bishops in synods, and discerns what is taken as truth and what is declared to be in error;
(g) Works in common pilgrimage with other Churches of the Anglican Communion;
(h) Undertakes peaceful Christian mission and dialogue with non-Christians inclusively and in co-operation with other Christians;
(i) Proclaims the Good News of the Kingdom of God, assists in the reconciling of the blessed yet broken world, seeks to transform unjust structures of society, and helps maintain the interdependent web of life;
(j) Recognises the autonomy of each Anglican Church and the monopoly of each bishop in his diocese within the jurisdiction of each Church, whilst this autonomy is the basis of developing the interdependence of the whole Communion;
(k) Maintains and advances its own episcopally led and synodically governed Anglican Church (of the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, ordained for service in the Church of God, as they call all the baptised into the mission of Christ) ordering and regulating its own affairs, and also participating in and upholding a voluntary Communion that is not bound together by a central legislative, executive or judicial authority but by Instruments of Communion of spiritual friendship by which our Churches are assisted towards developing a common outlook and shared views on matters of Communion concern;
(l) Commits itself to meet other Churches of the Communion, as necessary, informally and/ or formally, and in the manner they see fit, and also to use the various Instruments of Communion, for discussion, mediation and consultation over matters they consider enhance or threaten the integrity of their own Church when affected by the action of another Church or by one of the Instruments of Communion;
(2) The Instruments of Communion are these:
(I) The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is accorded a primacy of honour and respect as first amongst equals (primus inter pares). As a focus and means of unity, he gathers the Lambeth Conference and Primates' Meeting, and presides in the Anglican Consultative Council;
(II) The Lambeth Conference, which gathers the bishops for common counsel, consultation and encouragement, usually every ten years, thus expressing episcopal collegiality worldwide. This helps guard the faith and unity of the Communion and is to serve all the people of the dioceses;
(III) The Primates' Meeting, which is called by the Archbishop of Canterbury for mutual support, prayer and counsel. The Primates and Moderators act as representatives of their Churches to bring to the Communion level matters for consultation that affect their Churches
(IV) The Anglican Consultative Council, which is comprised of laity, clergy and bishops representative of Church synods. It most actively facilitates the co-operative work of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, co-ordinates aspects of international Anglican ecumenical and mission work, calls the Churches into mutual responsibility and interdependence, and advises on developing provincial structures
(3) There are situations where a Church may regard the actions of another Church as a threat to the integrity of itself or to the Communion. The Churches covenanting together are encouraged to undergo this process of reconciliation when such a dispute is identified:
(a) With a co-operative intent among other Churches and the Instruments of Communion, where a dispute occurs between Churches that is difficult to resolve, the leadership of any Church that is a party to the dispute contacts the Archbishop of Canterbury in the first instance to state that additional assistance is required for resolution. The other Church (party or parties) to the dispuute must be named by the contacting party.
(b) In negotiation with the parties the Archbishop of Canterbury helps set up mediation, drawing upon the other Instruments of Communion as seen to be fit.
(c) If mediation is deemed by the main parties together, or by any involved Instrument of Communion, to have become unsuccessful in resolving the dispute, Instruments of Communion can then arrange a Consultation to arrange to make an Explained Opinion known. At this point, even if having been involved in setting up this process, the Anglican Consultative Council should remove itself from the working of the Consultation process.
(d) The Consultation takes place through meetings and other communication. There can be written or electronic communication with all bishops, unless the Lambeth Conference is meeting. All parties in dispute should be consulted. The Consultation works towards an Explained Opinion at the pace deemed necessary by the characteristics of the dispute.
(e) The outcome of an Explained Opinion (and there has to be explanation), must be agreed among the Instruments of Communion involved in the Consultation. It is delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury in writing (this can be electronic). Discussions must continue until an Explained Opinion can be given.
(f) If a party to the dispute cannot accept the Explained Opinion, and act upon it consistent with it, then the Anglican Consultative Council must meet at least once in order to give Another Explained Opinion. This can be to affirm, adjust or change the previous Explained Opinion. The Another Explained Opinion is by majority of those present. If it cannot agree, it must send the process back to the Archbishop of Canterbury to begin again, for another or repeated Explained Opinon.
(g) If a party to the dispute - a Church - cannot accept the Anglican Consultative Council's Another Explained Opinion, and act upon it consistent with it, then it must declare that it has rejected the Impact and Meaning of the Covenant. This does not mean it is no longer part of the Anglican Communion. However, discussions are opened about the Church's membership of the Communion and grounds for compatibility.
(h) At all times Churches no longer accepting the Impact and Meaning of the Covenant should be invited to discuss the basis of once again accepting the Covenant.
(i) A Church can be excluded from the Communion, or the Covenant can be changed, only by agreement of all Instruments of Communion, but this can be vetoed by any one of them (the Archbishop, a majority of bishops, a majority or primates, a majority of the Anglican Consultative Council). This is an extreme measure and should be avoided.
(j) A Church that voluntarily wishes to leave the Communion should write to the Archbishop of Canterbury to this effect and he must ask the Church to enter into negotiations with any Instruments of Communion about why it intends to leave and the basis on which it could retain membership.
(k) Churches that remain outside the Covenant but inside the Anglican Communion are invited to discussions on levels of participation in the various institutions (including Instruments) of the Anglican Communion. A reduction of participation can be decided unilaterally by the Church concerned, but can only be forced to reduce membership against its will by agreement of all Instruments of Communion, and yet this can be vetoed by any one of them (the Archbishop, a majority of bishops, a majority or primates, a majority of the Anglican Consultative Council).


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful