Anglican Covenant in question after conservatives withdraw support

Just as the Church of England General Synod was giving its backing to a mechanism to preserve unity in the Anglican Communion, conservative Primates were issuing a statement declaring that they can no longer give it their support.

In a statement issued by the Primates Council of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) today, they said they could no longer accept the Anglican Covenant as a means of resolving disputes within the Anglican Communion despite originally being some of the main drivers behind the measure.

“While we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate,” they said.

The statement was signed by Archbishops from West Africa, North America, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya.

In it, they also confirm that they will not attend next year’s Primates’ meeting in Ireland. Instead, they plan to hold their own meeting in the latter part of 2011, followed by an international gathering dubbed GAFCON 2 sometime in 2012.

The announcement threatens to scupper the Anglican Covenant process, as the measure cannot be implemented without the approval of all 38 Provinces in the Communion.

Just this morning, the Church of England General Synod agreed to send out the draft Anglican Covenant for consideration by diocesan synods.

The measure is backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and is due to come back to Synod for a final vote in 2012.

It was first proposed in the Windsor Report in 2004 as a response to the crisis brought on by the consecration of the openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire the year before.

The Covenant seeks to preserve unity by formalising the process by which Provinces that act in a manner contrary to Anglican tradition are dealt with.

During this morning’s debate, a motion in support of the Covenant was overwhelmingly approved by Synod members although there were some reservations raised even by its supporters.

The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Michael Perham, expressed concern that it could be used to take “punitive action” against certain Anglicans although he added he would vote in favour of it out of loyalty to Archbishop Rowan Williams.

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev John Saxbee, said the Covenant represented “factory farmed religion rather than free range faith” and would only lead to a two-tier Communion.

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