Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Final Text of the Anglican Communion Covenant: Clear Consequences

The Final Text of the Anglican Communion Covenant:

Clear Consequences

copublished, with permission, with The Living Church, and Covenant, 22 December 2009

By Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop of the Province of Kaduna, Nigeria

The final text of the Covenant is the result of hard work by the various carefully selected sisters and brothers from several parts of our Communion. We appreciate and thank them for all the sacrifices made during the course of their assignments.

In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Covenant “is not going to solve all our problems, it’s not going to be a constitution, and it’s certainly not a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply.”

Members of this Communion need to be reminded that the 1998 Lambeth Conference took a position on the question of human sexuality which was revisited at the 2008 conference and reaffirmed. That position has therefore not changed. For individual dioceses that have gone against this agreed parameter we drew for ourselves, sections 4.2.5 and 4.2.8 of this final text of the Covenant are very clear on the likely consequences of their decision.

What section 4.2.8 recommends is already operational, in an analogous way, in some parts of our Communion. In the Church of Nigeria, for example, polygamists and the divorced are not officially accepted as leaders at any level and not even allowed Holy Communion. In addition, all women who are not willing to accept the discipline of this Church in holy matrimony cannot be members of the Mothers’ Union. To give them a sense of belonging, they are provided with an alternative: the Women’s Guild.

The proposed role of the Standing Committee in the Covenant (section 4.2) is an improvement on the liaison officers suggested in the Windsor Report (article 25). I hope the Standing Committee will be given all the necessary freedom and assistance to function effectively.

The Covenant gives non-Anglicans an idea of who we are and how we agree to resolve our differences as a family. I hope that bishops in every province will encourage robust debates and discussions of this final text of the Covenant. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, “We hope to see people agreeing to these ways of resolving our conflicts.”


The Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon is Archbishop of the Province of Kaduna, Nigeria.

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