Thinking Anglicans

Reform proposes a "covenant"

Updated again Thursday morning

The meeting mentioned in a newspaper report last Sunday took place today at Lambeth Palace. The report had forecast that:

Leading evangelicals will meet the Most Rev Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Tuesday to deliver papers laying out the plans for a restructuring of the Church.

However, according to the Anglican Mainstream website what happened was:

A small group met with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday December 12 and presented A Covenant for the Church of England on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

The Covenant is the fruit of an ongoing process reacting not to a few local or immediate difficulties but responding to widespread concerns in the national and global church.

The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity of the Church of England.

The document that this group presented is published on the Reform website, and can be read in its entirety at A Covenant for the Church of England.

The press release is described as follows:

It is not a Reform press release as such but a press release by a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders.

Update Wednesday evening
It is now revealed that:

The Covenant was drafted by a group under the following leadership:

Rev David Banting, Chair of Reform
Rev John Coles, Director of New Wine Networks
Rev Paul Perkin, Member of General Synod
Rev David Phillips, Director of Church Society
Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbes’ Oxford
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
Rev William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate
Rev Dr Richard Turnbull, Chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council
Rev Dr Simon Vibert, Chair of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit

This list can also be found at the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council where it is claimed that:

“CEEC President and Chairman sign new Covenant on behalf of CEEC

Update Thursday morning

Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph has this report: Williams warned of Church anarchy:

The Church of England was plunged into a fresh crisis yesterday after evangelical leaders representing 2,000 churches told the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow them to bypass liberal bishops or face widespread anarchy.

The group, whose supporters include the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, warned Dr Rowan Williams that the crisis over issues such as gay clerics was escalating fast and could descend into schism.

At a confidential meeting at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, they urged Dr Williams to create a parallel structure to free them from the interference of liberal bishops or risk a revolt against his authority…

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Charlotte
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Charlotte

A classic compendium of Separatist arguments. No bishops, no boundaries, no associating with the unregenerate. Except for the overemphasis on gender and sexuality issues, it might have been written in 1615. (In those days, it was clerical vestments and Arminianism that had everyone tied up in knots.)

Prior Aelred
Guest

Charlotte —
You forget the sign of the cross at Baptism & the ring at the wedding service. 🙂
Someone suggested that “Arminianism” was always a misnomer for the English clergy. They were actually firmly Calvinist in their theology — the word was code for those who liked beautiful music and art and who “never married” (viz., all of the Archbishops of Canterbury between Parker & Tillotson — well over a century).

Fern
Guest
Fern

Shorter Anglican Mainstream announcement – “‘Reform’ plays the money card”. Also noteworthy is the use of the word ‘unreasonably’ – church planting outside the parish will receive support “if official permission is unreasonably withheld”; ordaining of new ministers will take place outside the current structures if the local bishop “unreasonably” withholds authorisation and so on. Who defines what is reasonable or unreasonable in these circumstances? Or is it Reform’s default position that any opposition or even objection to its activities is, by definition, ‘unreasonable’? And who guards the guards? In the rush to get episcopal oversight from bishops thousands of… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

It is not written like a Covenant. It has some terrible phrases, for example: >to making disciples who make disciples of Christwill respect and support those who cannot in good conscience maintain Christian fellowship with neighbouring Anglicans who do not uphold the authority of Scripture.We are aware of those who justifiably consider that their communion with their bishops is impaired, and will support and help them to find alternative oversight.< Who is “we” – the only we should be the Church of England, or Church of England (Reform). Once again I point to my little imaginary effort: but this time… Read more »

Fr Joseph O&apos;Leary
Guest

Another bid for greater influence from the Evangelical wing — why cannot they be content to give their witness and let it be appreciated on its own merits? And of course the presenting issue, hidden in small print, is again the panic about homosexuality: “two churches: the one submitting to God’s revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by western secular culture, and focused on church structures.” An outrageous and schismatic judgment. “We reaffirm the Church of England as a confessing church, built supremely… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

At least they’re honest: members of the Church of England, but not trying to speak for the Church of England. They are, of course, proclaiming how they think the Church of England ought to be: essentially congregationalist, with dependent bishops; ambitiously competitive for souls, rather than cooperative; and fundamentally Biblical to the point of being Biblicist. This statement is quite interesting: “The group were listened to carefully and as a result of the meeting it was agreed that there would be further discussion of the issues raised in the Covenant to find a way to maintain the unity of the… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

Is it just me, or is their idea for REFORMing the CofE, to make it *congregationalist*? (“Biblically orthodox” congregations, of course: no others need apply!)

With a fearful wonder
We see her sore-oppressed:
By schisms rent asunder [as attempted by REFORM],
By heresies distressed [as proposed by REFORM].

Yet [Truly Anglican!] saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Will be the morn of song!

[The song’s already started across The Pond, with TEC. Hallelujah! :-D]

Cheryl Clough
Guest

The document did not define the theological boundaries. For example: what is unacceptable interpretation of revelation? Jesus, who in Luke 24 foreshadowed there would be more prophets, or modern “propositional whatevers” who say that Jesus was the final revelation. It reminds me of a torturer or sadist, promising not to hurt his/her victims if they stay within boundaries. But the boundaries are undefined and changed by whim – usually whenever you’ve worked out the system and they can no longer find excuses to hurt you with the current rules. Better to be in the wilderness than in bondage to such… Read more »

Simon Morden
Guest
Simon Morden

They should have called me first 🙂 In fact, they should have called someone, anyone, outside their ideological camp to ask them to read it for comprehension. As it is, the proposed Covenant suffers terribly from a severe attack of GroupThink. Fun as it might be to shred it line by line, I’ll pick out a couple of passages. The opening rubric: “At this time in the life of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, faced with a faulty view of revelation, false teaching and indiscipline, we believe that it is necessary to set out where we as… Read more »

Fern
Guest
Fern

Simon, your comments are on the money:-

“Reform only want discipline if they carry the stick………in the end, it’s just a (pretend) fancy way of saying: “Regularise everything we’re already doing, or we’ll do it anyway.”

It is a misnomer to describe Reform’s agenda as “biblically fundamentalist” as some posters here have done for it is only in certain, very narrowly prescribed areas that Reform are keen for biblical writ to run. We are to be as a first century church as far as the subjugation of women and the exclusion of homosexuals are concerned but in no other area.

Erasmus
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Erasmus

‘the Church of England is increasingly polarizing into two churches: the one submitting to God’s revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by western secular culture, and focused on church structures.’
That sounds pretty accurate to me. We need to acknowledge reality before we can decide how we respond to it.

laurence
Guest
laurence

I always thought this creed of liberal protestantism terse and to the point.

‘God is dead and Jesus is his Son.’

I warmly commend to to the consideration of ‘Reform’.

laurence
Guest
laurence

Reform are suddenly in conversation with Rowan Williams. Quite a development! Perhaps his approach bears fruit ?

laurence
Guest
laurence

‘the Church of England is increasingly polarizing into two churches: the one submitting to God’s revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by western secular culture, and focused on church structures.’ That sounds pretty accurate to me. We need to acknowledge reality before we can decide how we respond to it. Posted by: Erasmus on Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 12:29pm GMT ‘ If only you people could see yourselves ! Most of the British public ignore your unethical antics, and those who take… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
Guest
Columba Gilliss

What is the primary language of the writer? If English, I’d like to suggest remedial sentence diagraming classes — if not, English as a second language.I’m glad ++Rowan is adept at many languages as he may have understood when I did not.
Columba Gilliss

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

The beginnimg of the formal split in the CoifE. It can’t come fast enough for me – a church without conservatives would be infinitely better.

Wade
Guest
Wade

What a bazaar proposal for a covenant. They want to establish a covenant that they will disobey their bishops if they disagree with him? That’s not a covenant.

Robert Christian
Guest
Robert Christian

Please conform. (we’re sorta tellin’, sorta askin’) We all must think alike, be alike and live the same way. The unclean will wind up living on the outskirts of town (demoniacs and lepers). The only thing is that the more they push this agenda the more people get turned off by Christ. This is a harsh assessment on my part but that’s my take on it. My understanding is the CofE is about 50% evangelical and the rest liberal and Anglo-Catholics (Affirming and FIFNA). I guess you have to listen more with those odds.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The best thing about this piece of the amazing British rush to realign is that it is being done in the open. We can all watch the mitosis in which the right defines away everybody else on the actual believer spectrums. Anglican institutions will no longer give offense, owing to all their unconformed broken widgits, and so far as all the penalising goes, everybody knows you need a Hoover when you are dealing with dirt like comprehensiveness. A fine bit of categorical, black vs white thinking; probably would get a failing grade in intro philosophy class, depending; but nevertheless exemplary… Read more »

JBE
Guest
JBE

No, Mike, that’s the tragedy. The C of E is infinitely worse without the conservatives. The call to the church, if it is anything, is to try and make sense of the gospel together. To disagree, yes: to debate and wrestle and think – to try, somehow, to touch the edge of the mystery in all its confusing and bewildering wonder. We can’t do that if we all think the same way. Whether Reform and the rest take their ball home or whether they chase liberals like me off the pitch, the result is the same: a church replaced by… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

Yeah, it reads like a Southern Baptist tract. Or, maybe something thought up in Sydney.

Palamas
Guest
Palamas

Mersey mike,

it will for sure be you and other liberal extremists that will have to form something new. Canterbury seems to become more and more “orthodox”. By the way, I thought you had returned to quakerism?

Martin Reynolds
Guest

From my experience the majority of Evangelicals would have none of the majority of this “Covenant”.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Overnight contemplations. I wonder if they are planning to institionalise authority vis a vis the Roman Catholic church? Maybe in the hope of full reconciliation? Then what are they going to do about Mother Mary – who I noticed in one diocese’s forum they despise. Also what about the idea of saints and intercessionary prayers? I now relish watching them go back to the one true “Catholic” communion. Let’s call their bluff and demand that they go all the way. Otherwise, they are picking and choosing scripture to justify their protestant diversion away from catholicism… And if they do not… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Siblings in England: what would such a disruption (division is entirely too mild a word, I think) do to establishment? And, considering discussions I’ve watched here regarding what law (civil and church) requires in an established church (Southwark, anyone?), how would such massive disobedience, however civil, affect those on each side of the chasm?

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

What are “remedial sentence diagraming classes”?

What strange dialects of English one encounters across the Anglican Communion!

Dave
Guest
Dave

FOLK MIGHT LIKE TO ACTUALLY READ THE LIST OF SIGNATURES FROM THE DRAFTING GROUP, BEFORE ASSUMING IT WAS JUST FROM REFORM. It’s here: http://www.ceec.info/ but, being a helpful sort, I pasted it below too: Rev David Banting, Chair of Reform, Rev John Coles, Director of New Wine Networks, Rev Paul Perkin, Member of General Synod, Rev David Phillips, Director of Church Society, Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbes’ Oxford, Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream, Rev William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, Rev Dr Richard Turnbull, Chair of the Church of England Evangelical Council, Rev Dr… Read more »

Shawn+
Guest
Shawn+

My friends on the other side of the pond…help me, a mere seminarian in the U.S.A./T.E.C., to understand. This division is not new; it must have existed before the surfacing of buried homophobia or the mysogyny that came out with the advent of women’s ordination. What is the seed of this controversy? Why did heads turn away from the initial notion of schism to create this environment in which our communion finds itself now?

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

A problem with Covenants: the spirit gives life and the letter kills. Christ unites, but doctrines divide. The genius of Anglicanism was to have “as few doctrines as possible while yet insisting on those doctrines.” (W. R. Huntington). The effort to enshrine as doctrine a traditional teaching on sexual morality, now no longer the consensus, is a bit late; the arguments against this teaching have proven too persuasive to too many to pretend that there is universal consensus. So the only options are division over this issue, or patient continued dialogue in mutual admission that one side or the other… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Kurt, it certainly wasn’t thought up by 815 – or by Bishops Swing and Spong!

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

That’s where we disagree, JBE. I don’t think that conservative and liberal Christians have anything much in common except the title

And there have always been subdivisions – if that is what is most important to you, actual mechanical unity,then there’s a simple answer, and its called returning to Rome!

rebel
Guest
rebel

Count your blessings. 1) at least they crawled our from under their rock and one knows what they want. 2) the American Church is probably headed for a breach of communion (thanks be to God)..if one wanted a chuch covenanted like that one could become an American Southern Baptist

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Those percentages are all wrong. I would put it nationally (actual dioceses vary wildly) at about 15% Anglo-Catholic, 25% Evangelical (in its many flavours) 10% Aff Cath, 10% neo-Baptist, and the rest as undifferentiated Anglicans, mostly accustomed to the Parish Communion as their standard Sunday fare. That reveals Evangelicals as the largest party, but well short of anything like the driving seat, since there are so many varieties within the category: “quot homines, tot sententiae”. Enough to have influence, not least because of the disproportionately massive contribution they make to diocesan funds through the Quota system, but not so many… Read more »

Fr Joseph O&apos;Leary
Guest

As an outsider, I hesitate to comment much on this. But in the Roman Catholic Church we have similar groups who loudly proclaim that anyone perceived as more liberal than they are is not Catholic at all. They have been a huge headache, blocking and obstructing pastoral progress. Moreover, such groups are allied with disgusting social policies, as seen in their tolerance of Nigerian homophobic legislation. So a mere outsider may be permitted to comment, I hope, on this document which shows the mentality of these people in the raw. Erasmus wrote: “‘the Church of England is increasingly polarizing into… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I think the Covenant idea must now be a dead duck as an instrument of unity; it can still obviously take place as an instrument of division. As a triad (three parties) doing minimal things, shouters used to shout but get nowhere. Now with the Anglo-Catholic traditionalists somewhat off on their own, the dyad (two parties) doing big changes end playing tug of war. The old inclusive liberalism that went well beyond its own borders seems to have lost all those beyond as they all grab the rope, but the rope is heavy and there are some people who are… Read more »

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

“two churches: the one submitting to God’s revelation, Gospel-focused, Christ-centred, cross-shaped and Spirit-empowered; the other holding a progressive view of revelation, giving priority to human reason over Scripture, shaped primarily by western secular culture, and focused on church structures.” “Thank you, God, that I am not like that sinner over there.” I’m amused that reason is set up in opposition to Scripture. Reason enhances Scripture. It enables our understanding. It allows us to take the examples from Scripture and apply them to our own situations. It is this false opposition which is presented as a demand to choose one over… Read more »

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

“I’m an orthodox Anglican. I’m pretty certain that most of us here, liberal, anglo-Catholic, open or conservative Evangelical – whatever label we feel most comfortable with – would call themselves orthodox.”

Why?

“As it stands, Reform are claiming orthodoxy, and excluding those who disagree with them. Good start.”

Bad start. It’s not Gospel-like behavior.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Palamas: “it will for sure be you and other liberal extremists that will have to form something new”

Or, as Laurie Anderson sang, “when justice is gone, there’s always FORCE”

🙁

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest
Leonardo Ricardo

Bah Humbuggers!

Robert Christian
Guest
Robert Christian

Alan, Thank you. I had read something that was a bit dated and not quite so specific on the divisions. In TEC I would be considered an Anglo-Catholic in worship and a liberal/progressive in Theology so, I guess even the general catagories and then there are subcatagories. Personally I wish we could still worship together and talk and work on saving the church. There has to be somewhere that we start working toward peace. If we can’t do it with Christ as our Lord and the Example then I find there is little chance we will do it in society… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

And what, pray, is Dave’s point with howling?

Names dropping? “Obedience”?

JBE
Guest
JBE

Mike, I don’t think conservative & liberal Christians have a whole lot in common either. Nor do I believe in ‘simple mechanical unity’ – certainly not at the price Reform and their fellow-travellers are asking. If it came to a choice, I’d have to leave rather than sign either that Covenant or any other. But I still think that for the *Anglican church to divide along this faultline is a tragedy. Turning one broad church into two (or more) narrow sects doesn’t strike me as doing anything other than making us even more irrelevant in the eyes of, well, everyone.

NP
Guest
NP

Cheryl – these nast bible-believers all over the AC ain’t going anywhere, least of all Rome – but they will be relegating TEC to associate status (at best)

Rob Hall
Guest
Rob Hall

Martin Reynolds has made a rather important point, that no-one should lose sight of, when he noted that “the majority of Evangelicals would have none of the majority of this ‘Covenant’.” I happened to meet someone the other day who knows the situation in Oxford – where at least one of the signatories is based – well. They commented that, during the appalling Jeffrey John saga, they knew many people in Oxford evangelical churches who disagreed with the self-appointed “evangelical leaders” opposing Jeffrey John’s appointment. What was needed to enable these people to speak out against the bigots – and… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

It is amazing how different people can read and quote scripture, but apparently only one is “divinely” inspired.

Oh for the days of the Sanhedrin where majority and minority opinions were acknowledged, because often the minority turned out to be right or to contain an element of truth.

Shades of the spies coming back to report to Moses on the promised Holy Land here…

Colin Coward
Guest

I’ve been predicting all week that if any bishop were supporting Anglican Mainstream’s attempt to restructure Anglicanism, it would be Michael Nazir-Ali. At General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, he was keeping company with the Martyn Minns and the secessionists from the Episcopal Church, breakfasting with them, preaching to them. I found his constant presence with them an extraordinary alliance for a senior Church of England Bishop to be making. But if I know which group Bishop Michael was hanging around with at General Convention, then so do those in senior positions above him, one of whom also attended GC.

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

Dave kindly lists the signatories of the recent manifesto to demonstrate that “it wasn’t just Reform”. Maybe not, but all the signatories look on Anglicanism through the same window. Does he think that *any* conservative Anglo Catholic would have signed such a neo-Calvinist document?
But of course that’s the point, isn’t it? WE are the chosen few: all others will be damned…

Andrew Carey
Guest
Andrew Carey

Colin, I understand that +Michael Nazir-Ali was invited by the AAC to be with them at Gen Con. It would have been mighty strange for him not to associate with them. Then there’s your use of the word ‘secessionist’. The Windsor Report is pretty clear about who is doing the ‘walking apart’. I guess we have different ideas about who are the real secessionists. Finally, I don’t get the impression that Bishop Michael was secretive about his visit to Gen Con and under whose auspices he was invited. I would guess the Archbishop of Canterbury was well aware – after… Read more »

Simon Morden
Guest
Simon Morden

Ruidh – “Good start” was ironic! And claims of orthodoxy are ten-a-penny. We all individually and corporately believe we are following the teachings of Jesus as best we understand them, to the best of our abilities (well, sometimes). The conservative evangelicals believe they are orthodox? Good. But is the orthodoxy they claim inclusive or exclusive? Just because they are, no one else is – which is an entirely human reaction, but I don’t think it’s God’s. Rob Hall wishes for a new evangelical alignment to counter the perceived authority of Reform/Anglican Mainstream. To quote Jim Wallis: “We are the change… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Simon and Rob both look for an emerging open evangelicalism, and if there are any signs of hope in all this mess, this is one of the few. But they should not underestimate the magnitude of the task — there were enough cries of ‘traitor’ going round in the Catholic wing back in ’94 when some of us felt bound to support the priesting of women, and those who were shouting had little money to back them up. Would-be open evangelical leaders are going to have to take on the might of US conservative cash and the entire Sydney/Abuja axis.… Read more »