Thinking Anglicans

The Church of England and the draft Anglican Covenant

Last Sunday, the Sunday Telegraph carried a report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones headlined Church to impose ‘rule book’ of beliefs.

Here’s what is actually happening, based closely on the so-called “bishops’ paper” to which the Sunday Telegraph refers.

The House of Bishops met at Market Bosworth in May. At that meeting they were asked to agree to a process for the Church of England to respond to the request made for all provinces of the Anglican Communion to comment by the end of 2007 on The Proposal for an Anglican Covenant.

This is only the first stage in quite a protracted process, involving the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the subsequent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council and the subsequent submission of a final Covenant text to all Anglican provinces for synodical approval.

The initial process proposed was this:

  • The General Synod should be asked in July to give some kind of mandate for the preparation of a Church of England response. It is thought that it would be disproportionate to convene a special session of Synod in November 2007 for the purpose and February 2008 would be too late.
  • The text of the response should be agreed by the Archbishops towards the end of the year following discussion in the House in October. The Archbishops’ Council, as the Standing Committee of Synod, should also have an opportunity to comment on the draft response during the autumn.
  • The Faith and Order Advisory Group [FOAG] and the House of Bishops’ Theological Group have been tasked to work together on the first draft of the possible Church of England response. These two groups, headed respectively by the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Rochester, plan to work on this, in the light of the promised minutes of the Tanzania discussion (as soon as they are available), and of the discussions at Market Bosworth and at the York Synod, consulting members of the House as far as time permits;
  • They hope that it may be possible to bring a draft Church of England response to the meeting of the House of Bishops at Lambeth on 1-3 October, to which members of the College of Bishops (i.e. bishops outside the House of Bishops) will be invited to join the discussion;
  • That will allow some time for further revision and further circulation, with clearance in correspondence or submission to the meeting of the House of Bishops Standing Committee at the beginning of December as necessary. It will also give the Archbishops’ Council the chance to be consulted before the response goes.

At the meeting in Market Bosworth, the House of Bishops had before them a draft motion for the General Synod to consider in July, and two further documents intended as drafts of material to resource the July debate. The draft motion was as follows:

That this Synod

(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;

(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion;

(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms for a considered response for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year on the draft from the Covenant Design Group.

One of the two further documents is a personal reflection entitled An Anglican Covenant? written by the Bishop of Chichester. The other is a paper entitled The rationale for the development of an Anglican Covenant written by Dr Martin Davie.

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matthewhunt
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matthewhunt

What a complete and utter waste of time and resources.

Because people want us all to become slaves to doctrine. Their doctrine.

Folly and novelty.

Hugh of Lincoln
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Hugh of Lincoln

Forewarned is forearmed…

badman
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badman

I hope someone in General Synod will move to add something like:

(d) insist that any proposed covenant should reflect and accept the breadth of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion and should, moreover, not be framed so as to stifle their future development.

Marshall Scott
Guest

I wonder whether the other Houses of General Synod will take issue with all of this happening in the House (or the larger College) of Bishops. One of the important marks, I think, of how we have reflected on this in the Episcopal Church is the effort made to include lay and ordained other than bishops. The Executive Council did that through their Study Guide; and the announced intent of our House of Bishops’ Study Guide is that the bishops will use it to dialog with groups within their dioceses. So, will the prelates of the Church of England make… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“They hope that it may be possible to bring a draft Church of England response to the meeting of the House of Bishops at Lambeth on 1-3 October, to which members of the College of Bishops (i.e. bishops outside the House of Bishops) … “

Could someone explain to Americans a matter of polity? Who/what = House of Bishops and Who/what = College of Bishops?

And another polity question – is there any place in this process where lay people and clergy have a say?

Thanks.

Pluralist
Guest

Hopefully there is a great deal that will get in the way of a Covenant; a Covenant would itself be so divisive that its best future is no future.

It remains the case that a Covenant satisfying some would be rejected by others either because it is not restrictive enough or because is too restrictive, that it would be a mechanism towards a split and the means to births of other Covenants possibly by those meeting in other world geographic centres with exporting elsewhere.

Steven
Guest
Steven

There are some that seem to forget that the current arrangement of the AC does not trace itself back to Scripture and/or the apostles. It is largely a 19th century creation that has served to loosely bind together a variety of national churches that had their origin in the COE. And, it has led to some problems. Whether the proposed covenant will be a solution remains to be seen. However, my sense is that the objections at TA have more to do with the fact that a lot of folks believe it could derail, hamper or halt a particular liberal… Read more »

David Walker
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David Walker

A couple of comments have asked about the “House” and “College” of Bishops. The college is the gathering of all stipendiary bishops (diocesan, suffragan, assistant and those in episcopal orders but working outside the diocesan system (such as the present Dean of Windsor and the CEO of USPG). The House is a narrower body of, mostly, the 44 diocesans and 7 elected suffragans (the Bishop of Dover and Bishop to HM Forces are also ex officio members). It is a formal House of General Synod and has particular responsibility in matters of doctrine and liturgy. So when bishops meet synodically… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

“However, my sense is that the objections at TA have more to do with the fact that a lot of folks believe it could derail, hamper or halt a particular liberal agenda. I believe their reactions would be exactly the opposite if they believed it would promote that same agenda.”

That’s your *projection* talking again, Steven.

The very fact that a “majority agenda” one year, could be diametrically opposite in another, is an EXCELLENT reason that the Anglican Communion ***NOT*** be *able* (via a binding covenant) to impose a majority agenda—regardless of which “side” is doing the imposing!

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

The role of Archbishop Fisher in the post WWII era in setting up the constitutions of independent provinces (and reforming the Canon Law of the Church of England) should not be forgotten – he effectively created the postcolonial structures which we now have. I would suggest that Fisher was the first ‘really’ international Archbishop of Canterbury. I have just started trying to read Hooker in detail – I am not in a position to give any properly considered comment, but it would be interesting to hear from a Hooker scholar on the subject of the covenant. Covenant as a concept… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

No more reforms please, we’re Anglican? Embedded in rule books an ettiquette justifying the eternal enslavement of all women because of one theoretical female’s error how long ago? No more healing for this world, it’s the next world or not at all, at least for the outcastes, females and others who didn’t pass the cut at the time that the guillotine dropped down and the bars went up. Personally, if I am looking for advice on how to find my way around the place that I am in, I am not going to seek suggestions from someone who is reading… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

JCF, just this once I am going to have to disagree with you. Steven, I think you’ve made some very insightful comments, for which I thank you. I too wish we could have “a reasoned discussion of the relative merits and demerits of this proposal without having sides determined in advance by whether the issue of the day would be advanced or hampered for one side or another by a covenant.” At this point we probably can’t, but that failure illustrates why we need something like an Anglican Constitution — not a new Creed or Confession, nor a long set… Read more »

Steve Lusk
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Steve Lusk

One of the costs of the covenant — assuming it’s written by and for the dissenters (and who else wants it?) — can be deduced from this: http://www.anglicansunited.com/2007/06/why_we_stand_an_interview_with.html
The convanters preach Geneva but call it Canterbury.

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

Seeing how fanatically the Global South have exploited the advantage given them by the anti-gay clause wrested from the Lambeth bishops in 1998, it is clear that the Covenant they clamour for would be a veritable arsenal of offence, a battery of selective talking-points in the pursuit of their destructive agenda. If the “extraordinary obsession” with homosexuality, noted by Desmond Tutu, were taken out of the equation, the Global South would have no desire for a Covenant, for it would limit their independence rather than serve as a platform of their bid for power.

Malcolm French+
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Malcolm French+

The problem with an Anglican Covenant – at least one based on the current abominable draft – is that resultant curial church will no longer be, in any meaningful sense, Anglican.

It will be a church in which all power is exercised by bishops – and only a few of those.

It will be a church which will have abandoned the via media to drive on one of the shoulders of the road.

It will be a church in which foreign prelates have jurisdiction in the internal affairs of national churches.

This draft covenant is one-third bad ecclesiology and two-thirds naked power grab.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“… without having sides determined in advance by whether the issue of the day would be advanced or hampered for one side or another by a covenant… “

But that is the one point of this Covenant idea!

Just as Dr Hookers Scripture, Reason and the Voice of the Church (or lay Reason, learned Reason and collective Reason) is being mis-represented as Scripture, Tradition and reason, in order to rein in Reason, which is believed to be automatically pro-Modern ;=)

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

The RC Bishop of Stockton gave an interesting sermon lately (http://www.stocktondiocese.org/english/bishop/homilies/homily19May2007.html). Right wing Catholics have tactics similar to the Global South, and it is great to see a bishop oppose them: “The juridicist searches out laws new or old to justify personal positions or ideologies in the Church. Especially they like to focus on liturgical practices. They incline to creating unnecessary hoops for people to jump through. The Church, of course, needs law to insure good order. But the purpose of all laws in the Church is the same as for all the works of the Church: “propter homines and… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Charlotte has made a good suggestion. A code of ethics on appropriate behaviours would be lovely. But that is not what is being formulated. What is being formulated is a tool to justify repression and expulsion of unsuitable communion members. At one level, that would be fine. One fear is not that there is on a standard of etiquette, but that there being a requirement of passive acceptance imposed on the majority by a minority who are then deemed authorised whatever force is necessary to keep the minions compliant. Another fear is not that they want to expel us from… Read more »

cryptogram (John Marshall)
Guest
cryptogram (John Marshall)

The draft motion for General Synod says: “(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion;” I wonder how far down the Synodical chain it is envisaged that this will go. As it is, potentially, a matter concerning doctrine and practice, will it go to deanery level? If so, this will take a long time, and everyone will have died of boredom before it gets anywhere. And I will have retired and thus no longer have a vote 🙁 Maybe it’s… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

badman on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 5:47pm BST — I like that very much, but I question the value of a Covenant which seems to have no purpose except to exclude people from the group (& as others here have pointed out, gives the power to expel members to a tiny handful of high ecclesiastics who have no Scriptural warrant).

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

This is being ploughed very hastily. Hmmm.

When do ordinary members of the laity get a say on this radical re-writing of the Elizabethan Settlement? Are they fully aware of the background to the Covenant, with its origins in Lambeth 1:10? The word “Covenant” is built into our heritage, sounding like a benign Code of Practice. But “a rule book of beliefs that would expel liberals who refuse to abide by it”, smacks of the unpleasantness of the Inquisition.

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

In England, the laity will also get a say when the matter is discussed by the British Parliament. Before the CofE can sign up to the covenant as currently conceived, it will have to be dis-Established and that will require an Act of Parliament.

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

I recently came upon a sermon preached before the British House of Commons by a senior CofE cleric in 1716. It included the following: “Tis certainly an affront to the Holy Writings to hold them always to a literal signification as to force them against their wills to put on a metaphorical; and the Scriptures may suffer as much by too strict as by too loose an interpretation. They speak to us in the common phrase of mankind and must therefore be interpreted, as all other discourses are, so as to agree with commonsense and reason. Besides, upon a strict… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

The rejection of all boundaries is adolescent and at root self-centred. America’s (and her vassals’) worship of the great god Freedom is fundamentalist, never pausing to consider whether freedom *of* XYZ might not be a different thing from freedom *from* XYZ.

Nobody really believes in no boundaries at all. Or they pretend they do and change their minds when one of their family suffers brutally at the hands of a psychopath. Consequently no-one can object in principle to a covenant that enshrines boundaries. They can only object, if need be, to its details.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

The word “Covenant” … for TEC, the primarty association is with our Baptismal Covenant, in the BCP 1979, which we all renew each time we baptoze someone. Googling “Book of Common Prayer” will get you to a useful website where you can see this.

A number of responses to the proposed draft have noted that the Baptismal Covenant is the only one we need.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“a lot of folks believe it could derail, hamper or halt a particular liberal agenda.” I am opposed to any kind of covenant because it is contrary to the Anglican ethos, for a start, because it attempts to set up the very kind of central power structure we did away with at the Reformation and which is counter to the Catholic Faith, because it seeks to make a community of the pure, all believing the same thing. It is a bad thing. Period. I don’t give a cobbler’s cuss about a “particular liberal agenda” and I think it is at… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Terence: ‘In England, the laity will also get a say when the matter is discussed by the British Parliament. Before the CofE can sign up to the covenant as currently conceived, it will have to be dis-Established and that will require an Act of Parliament.’ I see no justification for this suggestion. It may or may not be a good idea for the CofE to be disestablished, buty it is hard to see how disestablishment would be required in order for the CofE to agree to a Covenant. Nor do I see any reason why the matter should need to… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Charlotte: Thanks. Ultimately, as a conservative, I am nervous about anything that smacks of “big government”–so, an assumption that conservatives approach this matter without reservations would be incorrect. As (I think) George Washington said, “government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a terrible master”. Unfortunately, the alternative to government is chaos, so humans generally find some type of authority structure necessary. And, I think your reference to the Federalist Papers is apropos. The present situation seems somewhat similar to the period in American history where the original very loose Articles of Confederation became unworkable. and the Constitution was being… Read more »

matthewhunt
Guest
matthewhunt

“The rejection of all boundaries is adolescent and at root self-centred.” This is pure flaming. Where is anybody rejecting ‘all boundaries’? Nobody, hence all (who have to any degree rejected anything in this conversation) are thus being smeared by vague implication by the labels ‘adolescent’ and ‘self-centred’. The covenant is a bad thing. The covenant does not equal ‘boundaries’. It equals ‘a bad thing’. ‘Boundaries’ are many and varied. The covenant is a singular thing. Not many things. It is a one thing many of us think is bad. Thinking *a* thing is bad does not mean that a person… Read more »

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

Simon,

The whole purpose of the covenant as currently conceived is to establish a body such as The Primates’ Meeting to govern a new world-wide church in which national churches will be relegated to the status of provinces. The Primates’ Meeting will determine, among other things, who can and cannot be a bishop. This alone will infringe upon the Royal Prerogative.

Any covenant that seeks to limit the power of the Crown to govern the CofE in any way would be illegal.

BobinWashPA
Guest
BobinWashPA

If I wanted a covenant I’d be a Roman Catholic. If all I wanted was to pray, pay and obey I’d be a Roman Catholic. The church should be open to all even un-baptized. If God gets someone to the door and eventually in a pew of the church I’m sure God will get them to do what God wants them to do. Don’t need a covenant to help God do God’s will.

JBE
Guest
JBE

What I object to, Christopher, is the notion that suddenly the historic formularies are not sufficient. I assent to the creeds. I assent to – and repeat – my baptismal vows. I assent to – and repeat – my ordination vows. For a bunch of bishops, running scared of the power and money of fundamentalist evangelicals, to decide that suddenly I need to assent to another document, drafted not because of its truth but because of its political expedience is WRONG. And I won’t do it. I assume that acceptable provision will be made for me and for people like… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

I’m curious what the board believes provides the basis for communion, fellowship and unity in the AC.

Giles Goddard
Guest
Giles Goddard

I suppose a Covenant could also hamper a conservative agenda – wonder how a request for lay presidency would go down under the proposed arrangements?

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

Fr Joseph O’Leary wrote:
“Seeing how fanatically the Global South have exploited the advantage given them by the anti-gay clause wrested from the Lambeth bishops in 1998”

I’m no fan of Archbishop Akinola, but let’s not re-write history, Father. The clause to which you refer was carried overwhelmingly. If I remember correctly, it was said at the time that it would have been carried if no African bishop had voted. Come to think of it, how did Bishop Griswold vote?

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“the current situation has proven unworkable.” Unworkable for whom? Even though I believe the jailing of sinners to be utterly wrong, it is not an unworkable situation for me that My Lord of Abuja wishes to do so. It is not unworkable that some do not accept the priesthood/episcopate of women. It is not unworkable for me that some have a radically different undertstanding of the Eucharist than I do, even to the point of not understanding why those differences matter so much. It is perfectly workable unless you are of the mind that we allmust agree on everythinng and… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

As an example of the boundaries we inhabit as Anglicans, just consider our worship.

I could step inside an English cathedral on a Sunday afternoon and be immersed in the sublime beauty of a Solemn Choral Evensong, with Howells and incense enhancing the sensual and spiritual experience.

Or I could visit a church in the same city and be entertained by guitars and Powerpoint.

To an alien, they would appear to be entirely different religions. But I would not say one was more worthy of the Anglican title than the other. That’s how generous we are, or should be.

Steven
Guest
Steven

Giles: You’ve got that straight, though it might be better to state lay presidency as a goal of SOME conservatives. Conservatives are not monochrome any more than, I hope, liberals are. I for one do not support “lay presidency” in the least. So, from my standpoint you point out one of the good things that could come from this. However, the accretion of power involved is definitely a concern to me. The fact is, anybody’s ox could be gored–not just the other guy’s. There will definitely be a need for safeguards–and both sides in the “current unpleasantness” need to approach… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Ford: I meant “unworkable” only in the sense that the old system was not keeping us together as a communion. Your post goes to what you believe to be the underlying causes (and perhaps the guilty parties in your mind) behind the impending break-up of the AC. I’m merely speaking to the fact that the AC is, in fact, on the verge of a break-up. The existing system has not stopped this. Will the new proposals succeed n keeping the AC together? I don’t know, but the process seems to be proceeding whether we like it or not. Will the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Terence: ‘The Primates’ Meeting will determine, among other things, who can and cannot be a bishop. This alone will infringe upon the Royal Prerogative. Any covenant that seeks to limit the power of the Crown to govern the CofE in any way would be illegal.’ Even if your first sentence proves to be true, this does not infringe on the royal prerogative. The archbishops virtually have a veto on who is made a bishop anyway. All that is required is for the bishops to agree amongst themselves to follow the covenant. I’m not saying this is or isn’t a good… Read more »

Erasmus
Guest
Erasmus

Perhaps the 39 articles could serve as a description of what anglicans theoretically believe.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“no one will be totally satisfied with the final result. That is inherent in compromise.” Steven, you’re right, I can fall into the trap of blaming the “right” on this, but I am well aware that the left has played its role. I also do not trust the motives of either side. I am strongly against an imposed uniformity. I also see the diocese gathered round its bishop as the foundational unit of the Church, not some pseudo-curia. We are all children of the only Covenant that matters, and, symbolic though this might be, I wonder what the demand for… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

Simon Kershaw, these are murky waters and I don’t claim to see right through them. However, the covenant would surely be intended to bind, not just current bishops and archbishops, but those in future. I think Terence is right in suggesting that if a covenant submitted the appointment of bishops in any way to a body outside the Church of England, this could infringe the Royal Prerogative. However, we are really talking about a prime ministerial prerogative, because the Queen follows advice. Gordon Brown is certain to be Prime Minister when all of this comes to a head. I think… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Gordon Brown very rarely votes in parliament, full stop. There is absolutely no evidence that he has been opposed to any of the reforms, and in fact, many of Stonewall’s suggested amendments to the Civil Partnership legislation required Treasury action, all of which Brown agreed to. His closest Parliamentary colleague, Nick Brown , is gay, so is his Chief Political Adviser, Spencer Livermore But I don’t think that the State should necessarily intervene. The best outcome would be a split and a new Communion led by TEC which we could join rather than continue to cohabit with conservatives, which will… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

When an organisation is spiralling outwards, when it has new cracks that can easily become chasms, the worse thing to do is try and find a formula to restrict to keep things together. All it will do is cause a bigger and more complete split. Producing one Covenant will inevitably dissatisfy and lead to another and another, with different geographic centres and those around the world opting for one, or the other, or the other. Old texts (like creeds) get worn in – the Archbishop of Canterbury has said these creeds, for cultural and historical reasons, no longer do the… Read more »

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

“Perhaps the 39 articles could serve as a description of what anglicans theoretically believe.”

Perhaps the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds could serve as a “sufficient statement” of faith.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Christopher wrote: “Nobody really believes in no boundaries at all. Or they pretend they do and change their minds when one of their family suffers brutally at the hands of a psychopath. Consequently no-one can object in principle to a covenant that enshrines boundaries.” I totally concur that no one wants any of their family members to suffer brutally at the hands of a psychopath. I wouldn’t even want a stranger’s family to suffer this experience. The second sentence is based on two premises. Namely that boundaries prevent psycopathic brutality and that breaking boundaries is ungodly. History tells that the… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

Gordon Brown has participated in 20% of the votes this Parliament – below average, no doubt, but not “hardly ever”. He has voted on such topics as a smoking ban, ID cards, and hunting. So it is remarkable that he has missed every single gay rights vote in the last 10 years. It’s not a subject he has ever appeared interested in or willing to speak out on. Tony Blair, for the sake of comparison, has voted in only 10% of divisions, but voted in 4 gay rights debates. Gordon Brown won’t stick his neck out against any covenant which… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Whether senior members of Government turn up or not depends largely on when the debates are held – indeed, you’ll find that in this government, often Blair is there when Brown isn’t , and vice versa.

I happen to agree that Brown won’t intervene in the case of the CofE but then I wouldn’t want him to – its up to the Church what they do, and if the consequence is that continued establishment becomes infeasible, so be it.

Fr Joseph O'Leary
Guest

“The clause to which you refer [in Lambeth 1.10] was carried overwhelmingly. If I remember correctly, it was said at the time that it would have been carried if no African bishop had voted. Come to think of it, how did Bishop Griswold vote?” I said the clause was “wrested” from the Bishops, not that they did not vote for it. The word “wrested” reflects what I read on the subject, probably on this site, about the way the text was pushed onto the agenda. 146 bishops at Lambeth, including Rowan Williams, issued a statement to gays which apologized for… Read more »