By Zachary Guiliano

The Committee on Structure and Governance had an open hearing Friday night on the Episcopal Church’s response to the Anglican Communion Covenant.

Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut spoke in favor of Resolution A040, which affirms the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant.

“We’ve been at this work a long time,” he said. “This committee worked faithfully on our behalf over the past triennium. In looking at the Anglican Covenant, they do affirm our common identity in the Anglican Communion.”

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He noted that the first section of the Covenant affirms the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the second affirms the Five Marks of Mission, and the third talks about the four Instruments of Unity, all of which Anglicans generally affirm.

“I’m not a big fan of the Instruments of Unity, I’ll be honest,” Douglas said. “But most of what people are worried about is in Section 4. I recommend that we be among those churches in the Anglican Communion that affirm the first three but not four.”

The Very Rev. Neal Michell, dean of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Dallas, also spoke in favor of A040, and against D022, which says the Covenant does not properly describe the Episcopal Church’s “common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion.”

“The Episcopal Church is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion,” Michell said. “There’s a nod about that. But at the heart of our Communion is relationship. Relationships get stretched at times. And at times we have to come back and affirm that we want to be in relationship with each other. And I think the General Convention wants to affirm that relationship. So how do we do that? I would say that D022 is an inadequate way of doing that. It does not say that we want to walk together.”

The Rev. Canon Mark Harris, a longtime veteran of General Convention, offered a potential amendment. Harris said the resolution should be replaced with one that notes the Episcopal Church’s commitment to the Anglican Communion and a note about its engagement with the Covenant.

“We have been faithful to the Anglican Covenant process,” he said

Three speakers opposed his suggestion.

Michael Booker spoke on behalf of deputy Lisa Fox, the author of Resolution D022, who was unable to attend Convention because of illness. Booker said that “while [the Covenant] does seem to find a common core, that’s not the reason it exists. This is not meant to be an instrument of unity. Its purpose is to reign in churches that affirm [same-sex unions].”

But the Episcopal Church “will not accept the discipline of … the Anglican Communion,” he said.

“It seems to me that we don’t really need a Covenant to be in conversation and communion,” said Mary Roric, a deputy from Pittsburgh. “I think that the Covenant process has imposed structure that is unnecessary, and that we have sort of strung people along by saying that we were going to cooperate, when I don’t really have the sense that the church is prepared to commit themselves in this particular way. And therefore I think it is deceptive to commit ourselves.”

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