19 March 2010

Archbishop of Dublin fears emergence of ‘two-tier’ Anglican Communion

The Church of Ireland Gazette, in this week’s edition [19 March 2010] carries the following photograph and news report on the back page:

Archbishop John Neill with Paul Arbuthnot of the Marsh Society at the meeting in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

Archbishop of Dublin fears emergence of ‘two-tier’ Anglican Communion

By Patrick Comerford

The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd John Neill, thinks that a two-tier fellowship may emerge in the Anglican Communion as the member-Churches debate signing the Anglican Covenant.

Dr Neill, who was speaking recently to members of the Marsh Society in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, said: “I don’t like two-tier fellowships, but it may be a way forward at the moment.”

The Marsh Society is a student-led discussion group in the Theological Institute which invites guest speakers to talk to students on issue of interest.

The Archbishop, who chaired the committee that finalised the Covenant, said he expected it would be presented for ratification to the General Synod of the Church of Ireland in 2011.

Questioned later about his remarks on the likelihood of a two-tier Anglican Communion, Dr Neill said he feared it might emerge if The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada declined to sign the Covenant. However, he added: “I think there is a will there to sign it and they want to sign it.”

He thought both member-Churches recognised the damage that had already been done in recent years and that they would both sign the Anglican Covenant.

Earlier, he said the Covenant was now in its final form and had been sent out to all provinces in the Anglican Communion. He said the Covenant “creates a balance and seeks to create space to recognise individuality and interdependence.”

Dr Neill believed that the Covenant should be seen not as another instrument of communion in the Anglican Communion but as an “instrument of mission,” seeking to identify the level of communion that could be expected in order to “hold us together with freedom to differ.”

The Covenant “requires living together and witnessing together into the future” and Section 4 included an “emphasis on being together to grow together.”

The Archbishop added that “all communion, at its best, is limited and, at its worst, impaired,” pointing out that various forms of limited or impaired communion already existed within the Anglican Communion; for example, not all the Anglican Churches that were members of the Anglican Communion through the four instruments of communion attended the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting or meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Dr Neill pointed out that Lambeth Conference resolutions were not binding; they were simply the guiding opinions of the Episcopal leadership of the Anglican Communion at the time.

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