A document prepared for an international group of senior Archbishops that tries to list the fundamental principles of the Anglican Communion – and what might happen to national Anglican churches that don’t follow them - drew little support at a diocesan workshop at St. Catherine’s, North Vancouver, September 22.

Bishop Michael Ingham, who chaired the meeting, is amused by come comments of former Canadian Primate Andrew Hutchison at a workshop at St. Catherine's, North Vancouver, to consider a proposed Anglican Covenant.

“I’m hardly overwhelmed with your enthusiasm for the covenant,” joked former Canadian Primate Andrew Hutchison, towards the end of the meeting. Hutchison came out of retirement for the first time to help facilitate the meeting, which was chaired by Bishop Michael Ingham.

Hutchison and several of the approximately 50 people present were delighted that the covenant was causing Anglicans across the world to discuss the nature of their union – but not happy with the text that resulted so far.

“I am happy with the process,” said Hutchison. “I hope it goes on for several years.

The idea for an Anglican Covenant was first mooted in an international report, the Windsor Report, as a way of helping resolve some of the disputes affecting the Anglican Communion. The report suggested that a common Covenant could “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection” between the 38 independent national Churches which make up the communion.

A committee set up at a meeting of the primates (“Primate” is the title for the head of an Anglican Church) came up with a draft covenant last February. Anglicans around the world were asked for comment. The Canadian church then asked dioceses to study this proposal, hence the workshop at St. Catherine’s.

People at the workshop gathered in groups of six for study, and then the groups reported back to the workshop as a whole. With few exceptions, their response to the draft covenant was negative.

The Rev. Paul Woehrle reads from notes written on newsprint in a small group, which stressed the value of the Anglican Communion.

“It’s difficult to affirm anything in this covenant because we are opposed to the whole idea of a covenant,” said Bill Pearson of St. George, Maple Ridge, reporting for his group.

(People from parishes represented at the meeting did not necessarily work together; parish names are given here for identification purposed only.)

“Is this covenant where Jesus would really want us to go?” asked Erik Miller of St. Anselm’s, near the University of BC.

Drawing much criticism was section 6.5 of the covenant draft, which states that in matters of serious dispute, after all attempts to find a “common mind” fail, the Anglican Communion’s 38 Primates would “offer guidance and direction.”

Hutchison in his remarks said that there were fears that the Primates might be tempted to act as a curia, a body that decides what is theologically correct for everyone. He said he appreciated the independence Anglican Churches have now: some ordain women priests, others do not; some bless same sex unions, others oppose the practice, and so forth.

“Anglican Churches are autonomous and individual provinces across the globe. This is something I cherish, and one reason I am not a Roman Catholic,” he said, and people at the workshop appeared to agree with him.

“If you take primates out of the equation all together, perhaps you would solve the problem,” said Hutchison.

Of concern too at the workshop was that the covenant, as drafted, might lead to a “two tier” Anglican Communion. Section 6.6 suggests that “in the most extreme circumstances” if a national Anglican church fails to accept the decisions of the majority of the rest of the Anglican Communion “we will consider that such churches will have relinquished … their covenant relationship.”

Executive Archdeacon Ronald Harrison, reporting for his group, said it was felt a two-tier church could be “the beginning of the end” of a unified Anglican Communion. “If we are a sacramental church, how can we become a two-tier church,” asked Theo Madeley of St. Faith’s. “Would we be true Anglicans by signing or true Anglicans by not signing?” was the question of the group for which Erik Miller of St. Anselm’s reported.

“I think the section might be called 666,” quipped the Rev. William Derby of St. Thomas, Vancouver. “We kind of felt that the whole thing was a set up,” he said.

The Rev. Christine Rowe collects responses submitted at the workshop for compilation in a report to Diocesan Council.

Despite many rejecting of the idea of the covenant, most agreed with the sentiments of the group for whom Paul Woehrle of St. David’s reported. “It’s an incredible gift that we have a communion. The question is how can we get back to the covenant of love of neighbour?”


The responses were gathered by the Rev. Christine Rowe of St. Catherine’s, the host church, and the Rev. Stephen Rowe of Epiphany Church, Surrey, who will summarize them for Diocesan Council. The council will then be asked to approve the summary and send it on to the national church.

The international covenant design group hopes to receive comments and criticisms on the current text by the end of the year, and to meet early next year to produce a revised text. It may be submitted for discussion at the 2008 Lambeth Conference during the summer, before submission to the Provinces (national Anglican Churches) for further consideration.