Bishop Victoria Matthews told the ACC today that she thought there were two Anglican Communion Covenants: one in people’s heads, the other written down.
The Bishop of Christchurch, as a member of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), was introducing a session on the history and progress of the Covenant.
She stressed that it was not the work of IASCUFO to promote the Covenant, but rather to monitor its reception.
“As we have sought to do that,” she told delegates in Auckland, “I have often thought that the document people discuss and the actual Anglican Covenant are two different documents.
"One is the document that people have in their mind and the other is the Anglican Communion Covenant on paper.
"So I really want [people] to read the Covenant and be focused on that. Because often, when people start talking about the Covenant, what they describe in their mind as the Covenant is unrecognisable.”
She went on to say that the questions behind the Covenant were: ‘What is the best way?’, ‘Is there a way that will keep us together safely?’, ‘What is our deepest fear when we consider decision-making processes?’.
“I believe that in the original idea of the Anglican Covenant, there was a desire to allow the Anglican Communion to be a safe place for conversation and the sharing of new ideas,” she said.
“The actual document of the Anglican Covenant does not achieve that for all the churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is why some churches have declined to adopt it.
“Nevertheless, as we heard [from the Gospel reading] at last evening’s Evensong, at the core of God’s covenant with us is: ‘I will be your God and you will be my people.”
Bishop Victoria added, “There are those who say [the Covenant] is punitive, and those who say it has no teeth. Both [these comments] tell me that it is not yet perceived, let alone received, as a truly safe way in which to encounter one another.”
In advance of a video shown to delegates on the history and detail of the Covenant, Bishop Matthews asked delegates to reflect on “what there is in the Covenant that offers a possible way for us to talk to each other.”
“Remember, most of the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ,” she said.
Following the video, delegates were invited to join reflection groups to discuss what they had learned from the Covenant process about themselves as Anglicans and about the Communion.
The responses will be brought back to the plenary feedback session on Tuesday, 6 November.