THE Scottish Episcopal Church has rejected an agreement backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury that could have seen sanctions imposed on them if they diverged from the Anglican Communion’s rulings on issues such as the ordination of gay bishops and same-sex unions.
The church’s General Synod, currently meeting in Edinburgh, overwhelmingly rejected the covenant, stating that it threatened its independence and went against the spirit of the communion.
It had been asked to sign up to the Anglican Covenant, an agreement intended to bring unity to the worldwide communion by introducing a measure of discipline and accountability into relationships between its 38 independent churches.
It would set up a Standing Committee of the Communion, which would consider whether controversial issues were compatible with Anglican teaching. Those signed up to it would be expected to abide by the Standing Committee’s decisions or face disciplinary sanctions.
The concept grew out of fears that disagreements over the gay issue between different provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion would lead to irreconcilable divisions within it. The issues centred on the appointment of bishops in non-celibate gay relationships, and the blessing of same-sex unions, in Anglican churches in the US and Canada. Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Synod yesterday criticised the covenant as unnecessary and unwanted.
David Bain, a member of Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod, characterised the covenant as a “blancmange with shards of glass in it” that was “completely unexceptional until you come to that awful crunch”.
However, fellow member Jim Gibson called for the Synod to accept the covenant, saying that the Church needed to look at it from worldwide perspective. He said the agreement offered a set of “basic ground rules” for “members of this club”, and that the alternative was potentially a “free- for-all” that could create more problems in the future.
The Church of England cannot sign up to the covenant after half of its 44 dioceses voted against, while conservative global church leaders, whom it was intended to placate, have already rejected it.
Speaking after the rejection of the covenant, the Scottish Episcopal Church’ Primus, the Right Rev David Chillingworth, raised a resolution affirming its continued membership of the Anglican Communion, and the “development of bonds of shared mission, respect and mutual support”.
He said that the decision created the opportunity for a “re-founding” of the Anglican Communion: “Our decision not to adopt the Anglican Covenant is not a decision to reject the Anglican Communion.
“Nor are we indifferent to deeply held differences of view which are held across the communion.”