COVENANT & the Global South – a TEC Perspective

Parsing the latest from the GAFCON Primates

A few weeks ago, the primates of the Global South Anglican group released a statementfrom their meeting in China.

We didn’t jump right on it for two reasons: the first is that there didn’t seem to be much news in it, but the second may be worth remarking on.

We’ve decided to forego posting items that serve more or less exclusively to give folks who are sympathetic to our pro-LGBT point of view the chance to say negative things about folks who are opposed to that point of view. We don’t expect people to stop making critical comments, and we don’t intend to refrain from criticizing what we consider to be destructive points of view, but some of the arguments in Anglican land are so well rehearsed that they are no longer worth having unless there is something immediately at stake.

That said, there were two intriguing elements in the Global South communication.

Paragraph 14 reads as follows:

We have devoted much time to discuss the Anglican Communion Covenant and the Preamble by the Province of South East Asia documenting the historical events leading up to the Covenant and insisting that the Primates should be the proper moral and spiritual authority for the monitoring of the Covenant. The Covenant with the Preamble have been commended to our respective Provinces for further study and decision.

It is difficult to tell whether the primates’ decision to commend the covenant to their provinces constitutes a significant development. Several of the primates who signed this document have already rejected the covenant. Are they backtracking? And if so, does that give the covenant new momentum? My sense is that it does not give the covenant new momentum because the covenant these folks envision makes the primates, rather than the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, the arbiters of covenant compliance, and that simply isn’t in the current document. But perhaps I am missing something.

Second, while this statement is featured prominently on the homepage of the Global South Anglican group–which is now led by the pro-covenant, anti-gay Primate of South East Asia, John Chew, it appears no where on the GAFCON site. Those of us outside of the Global South have a tendency to conflate these two entities, and not without reason. But it seems somewhat clearer these days that Chew’s people are willing to maneuver toward their ends within the Communion, whereas the GAFCON group, led by the folks who recently instituted the Anglican Mission in England are not. What gets confusing, is that the cast of primatial characters frequently overlaps.

Which leads to a recurring reminder: don’t read too much into the list of names on these documents. After all, Albert Chama, primate of the Province of Central Africa, left the meeting that produced this document and flew more or less immediately to Quito, Ecuadar, for a meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

Posted by Jim Naughton on September 26,


This posting by The Revd Jim Naughton, on the ‘Episcopal Cafe’ web-site’, draws our attention to the subtle demarcation between the entities ‘Global South’ and ‘GAFCON’. They are not the same,  though, in some Provinces of the Anglican Communion, they have become inter-changeable – depending on the leadership of the particular Primate.There are differences, for instance, on the matter of whether or not to sign up to the proposed Anglican Covenant.

It would appear that the Province of South-East Asia, under Archbishop John Chew, is supportive of the Covenant – but with its own prescription of certain elements. For instance: they recommend that the Primates be the governing body that controls the ‘moral and spirituality’ ethos of the Covenant – rather than any other statutory body (such as the A.C.C.) in the Communion.

Some other Global South Provinces that are also members of the ‘GAFCON’ contingency, are totally against the Covenant – because of their belief that it does not contain sufficient teeth to discipline those Provincial Churches (TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada) that have authorised Same-Sex blessings or/and the Ordination of Gay Clergy and Bishops.

It would seem that several Provinces – like South East Asia – are hoping to present their own model of the Covenant to the world-wide Communion. The disparity of their claims for a ‘perfect Covenant’ may however work against the intentions of the original authors.  Where this leaves the implementation of the Covenant Process within the Communion as a whole is anybody’s guess – except that, with the continued inclusion of the proscriptive Section 4, those Provinces wishing to include the LGBT community in their life and ministry may not be willing to sign up to it. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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