A summary of a statement regarding the Archbishop of Canterbury's plan to develop an Anglican Covenant, possibly as soon as the Lambeth Conference in England this summer. It was written by "The Widening Circle," a group of Anglicans that met this year in London, Ontario, who consider themselves "orthodox, comprehensive, and catholic (universal)."

The current position of the Anglican Church of Canada has been stated quite unambiguously by the Council of General Synod, namely that the development of a Covenant must be a process undertaken with the utmost careful deliberation and consultation, and that the timetable that has been proposed is very much too short:

And this need for time and care in the development of a covenant was recognized by the Windsor Report itself, when it saw the covenant as being developed through a "long-term process, in an educative context, ... considered for real debate and agreement on its adoption as a solemn witness to communion. (¶118)"

To our minds this passage of the Windsor Report is not recommending a ten-month process; it is recommending something much more like a ten-year process.

Our present disagreements are deep; they are the result of not listening to one another for many decades. The most shocking allegation of the Windsor Report was that the Church in North America had sprung to its honoring of homosexual partnerships without having done the theological work to back it up.

But this work has been a central engagement of Anglican theology in North America for three if not four decades. The thing is that the rest of the church did not read that work; we did our theology but no one else bothered to read it.

Only in this way can the surprise of the rest of the Communion at Gene Robinson's consecration be explained; to us, at the time, it seemed a perfectly natural development. That is why our disagreements can only be resolved "in an educative context" - there are four decades of education to catch up on, and that cannot be accomplished in ten months.

Given this understanding, a rush to solution of what he calls the "current crisis" without a full discussion about how that solution will address other issues in the life of the Communion could cause far deeper and longer lasting issues from which we might not be able to extricate ourselves.

We have already seen in Canada those who make the 'claim to orthodoxy' speak of possibly re-visiting the role of women in the ordained ministry and the official forms of liturgy in use by the church.  Lambeth must develop a solution to the 'current crisis' in such a way that the outcome of other issues in the life of the church are not pre-determined.

The Covenant will be, as it is currently conceived, at base, an instrument of exclusion. The Archbishop's letter insists that "our identity as Anglicans is not something without boundaries." The Covenant is understood as a device for setting those boundaries.

And of course it is clear that what is on everyone's mind is whether liberalism about homosexual partnerships is inside or outside those boundaries. But what else, that is not yet on the horizon, will be outside those boundaries?

There are those who want to devise a Covenant that all the provinces can sign; there are those who want to devise a Covenant that some provinces cannot sign. In these conditions it really does seem that rushing to devise a Covenant is misguided. We need to learn to think in centuries, or at least in decades.

For more information about The Widening Circle contact the Rev. Neil Fernyhough, St. Hilda's, Sechelt, at 604 993-0095 or sookehills@yahoo.ca, or visitwideningcircle.wordpress.com