Thinking Anglicans

Anglican Covenant – Bishop of Lincoln's synod speech

The speech made last week by the Bishop of Lincoln has been reproduced in full at RevdLesley.

Read it all at Bishop John Saxbee on the Anglican Covenant.

Here is an extract:

…Members of Synod, the Church of England has a bit of a history of putting in place measures in response to a particular presented issue and then discovering that the proposed cure does not only have unintended consequences (and The Good Intentions Paving Company is still very much in business, I assure you), not only will there be unintended consequences, but the cure can actually make matters worse.

We all know that the process towards the drawing up of this Covenant was triggered by events in The Episcopal Church of a few years ago, notwithstanding the long preamble which was helpfully presented to us by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Those events were by no means trivial, but to elevate them to the status of game changers when it comes to how we deal with each other over time is… well… stepping over a very significant mark in the sand. And I truly doubt whether it will be conducive to long term stability.

The Covenant may of itself not be tyrannical, but there are those in the Communion whose treatment of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers has had at least a touch of the tyrannical about it. And if I ever come to the conclusion that a covenant of this kind would give them comfort then I would be bound to resist it.

Anglicanism has been described as a fellowship of civilised disagreement. Well I leave you to judge whether a two-tier Communion with first and second division members answers to that description of civilised disagreement. It frankly feels like we will be sending sincere and faithful Anglicans to stand in the corner until they have seen the error of their ways and can return to the ranks of the pure and spotless…

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Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

I leave you to judge… it feels like sending faithful Anglicans into the corner…. but I’ll vote for it anyway.

Can someone explain that, please?

Chris Smith
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Chris Smith

Was the recent majority vote (for the Covenant) in the CofE Synod done as a symbol of respect for the request to approve it by the Archbishop of Canterbury or is there something else at play here? I’m still confused after reading all of the threads on this topic.

Charlotte
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Charlotte

@ Chris Smith, AFAIK, different people voted for the Covenant for different reasons. Some are interpreting the Covenant as a neutral, process-oriented document. Others believe its purpose is, or ought to be, to punish the US church retroactively. For the latter group, the Covenant corrects what they see as a “defect” in the Anglican Communion: namely, that in 2003 there was no way to expel the United States church for consecrating a bishop who was in a monogamous same-sex partnership. (A bit of history. Lambeth 1.10 was intended to provide justification for expelling the United States church if and when… Read more »

john
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john

Erika,

I think he didn’t actually vote for it: he abstained.

Otherwise,

I think this is a great statement of a certain sort of Anglicanism, which admittedly is under pressure but which represents a true and consistent thread.

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

My take on this is that the synod was “tabling” the issue, i.e, passing it down to the dioceses to hash out. This seems similar to LGBT studies that were conduct ad nausum in the Episcopal Church in the 1990’s.

Canon Andrew Godsall
Guest
Canon Andrew Godsall

I’m not sure the voting has been declared yet, although one member of the H of B did abstain. I thought the debate was extremely good in the main. The parts that concerned me were the speakers who implied that voting FOR the covenant was a the only way to show loyalty to Archbishop Rowan. There were implications around synod that the vote was THE test of our loyalty to Rowan. But the debate was expressly about the next step – which was the sending of the proposed covenant to the Dioceses, and I think people were persuaded by a… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

What I don’t understand is: the natural process means that after a yes vote the Covenant proposal has to go to Diocesan Synod. Evensongjunkie, this is not “tabling” the issue, this is the process that is laid down. But GS had the choice to ask Diocesan Synods to debate the Covenant unecumbered by any GS vote, but the motion was rejected. So, provided GS voted in favour, the proposal would end up in Deanery Synod anyway, but this time with everyone knowing that a vast majority has already supported it. Diocesan Synods are unlikely to analyse the various speeches at… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Having read his speech to General Synod, I think Bishop John Saxbee made his position on the Covenant pretty clear: As it stands, he is against it – on the principle that it would effectively block any prophetic ministry from being put into practice in any one of the Communion Provinces, that could be considered *unwelcome* by any other member Province. The Covenant as it stands has, rightly, in my opinion, been considered to be proscriptive towards TEC’s and A.C.of C.’s movement towards inclusivity in their Provincial settings – the basic reason given for the GAFCON rejection of TEC and… Read more »

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

Thank you to Charlotte for clearly explaining the Covenant history and present situation. Now, more than ever, I feel it is wrong to proceed with the Covenant. I do not say this out of disrespect for Archbishop Williams, but I do feel he must certainly not grasp the pain and disenfranchisement that such a Covenant would have on women and glbt people. I guess I am just very disappointed that the Archbishop of Canterbury would even consider such a Covenant if it would marginalize and make second class, certain members of the Anglican Communion. This is truly a sad and… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

There is a legal fiction (or perhaps illegal fiction) at work in so much of this Covenant Process. The fiction is the the Covenant is not about specific issues, but is there to provide a way to deal with issues of disagreement as they arise. (A description far better applied to the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process.) The problem is that the Covenant sprouts in lineal descent from the Windsor Report which just might have been used as a beginning of a neutral process had it not fatally “specified” itself as really being about gay bishops, same-sex blessings, and… Read more »

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

I think it was very unfortunate that the ABC put the Covenant up as a test of loyalty and that synod members accepted that (is there no loyal opposition? – an English turn of tongue I seem to remember…). I wonder if Rowan doesn’t want it so badly to give him and his more clout in ecumenical agreements-negotiations (read: RC). As things are now for example, the committee members in ARCIC can decide what they like, but it starts and ends there. For Anglicans the catholic creeds have been enough and if ARCIC finds a way of saying that Mary… Read more »

david rowett
Guest

Our diocese is going to miss bishop John, and I hope some bright spark doesn’t decide that we need a ‘corrective’ as after he retires. Perhaps the Bishop of Lewes will be hailed as an ideal candidate to ensure that Lincoln doesn’t stay too Anglican??

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

David Rowett needn’t worry. Mr Benn is too old to get a diocese. As Tennyson’s Lincolnshire churchwarden says “He’ll niver swap Owlby an’ Scratby fur owt but the Kingdom o’ Heaven”.

Of course someone might have the bright idea of rusticating Bishop Pete to the Wolds and the Fens which might not be a lot better.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Leading a campaign? That sounds vaunted. I am genunely confused. Are fairness/justice not Christian virtues? Shouldn’t a Standing Committee of the Primates be representational? You make it sound like this is all contrivance/politics, so as to achieve an end. I don’t know what a representational SC would do in respect of TEC; the GS is not monolothic. But the point surely is that a Standing Committee needs to be fairly representative. At present that is not so. I would have thought that liberals would not find this just and would wish for a fair system of representation — not one… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

I think that Christopher Seitz is talking about a monolithic ‘Anglican Communion’ that GAFCON and ACNA could be a legitimate part of. We have already been shown – by the activities of ACNA and GAFCON that there is no such animal. This leaves us with the possibility of a Communion of like-minded conservative biblically fundamentalist Provinces – large as it may or may not be (GAFCON?); as contrasted with a really inclusive Communion of Anglicans willing to be a opart of a diverse and eirenic community of mutually supportive Christians. Perhaps there should be 2 Standing Committees of such a… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: The problem with your “representational” Standing Committee is that too many of the provinces are not “representational” themselves in their leaders. We have no idea if the majority of Anglicans in, say, Nigeria, agree with their primate’s stand on the issues in question. Why? Because they do not elect their primate, he is chosen by the bishops, who are, again, chosen from among the clergy by the bishops. Further, we have no outside source to confirm these primates’ reports on the number of active Anglicans in their provinces. All of this is tantamount to establishing a “representational” parliament… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

@ cseitz:

Nice try at playing the liberal-guilt harp.

But “representative”? Doesn’t that beg the question?

The European Commission has one commissioner per member state. Is it therefore unrepresentative?

Or is it representative, but in a federative way, as opposed to a directly democratic way?

Generally, small entities do not give up their sovereignty to larger entities, in which they might be outvoted, without securing significant institutional or procedural protections.

What you are really urging, in the Anglican context, is that the smaller provinces abandon such protections.

Such protections, of course, are more necessary now than ever.

cseitz
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cseitz

I can’t follow your hypothetical worries (Gafcon is already a part of the Primates Meeting). Let’s keep it simple, Ron. There are 38 Provinces represented at the Primates Meeting. The present system of representation consists of five regions, but they are of vastly different size; Africa in particular is underepresented. (It reminds me of the New Yorker map of the world in which Manhattan is bigger than China.) You do not understand the GS very well if you keep harping on Gafcon, of which it is but a part. I have no idea what a fair representational system has to… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

My comment was written without reference to the two that proceed it (the timing of postings is not obvious). Jeremy — I think your idea is spot on. Yes, let every region of Africa and other portions of the Global South receive individual representation as in the European Commission. That would serve as a complement to a system that would also give representation to larger regions — much like Senate and Congress. But in any case, it would still result in a massive and overdue overhaul of the system as it presently exists, where Americas is small in total number… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: So, it is “racist” to suggest that any entity might inflate its own numbers in order to expand its influence? The difference here, of course, is that TEC’s numbers (or those of the ACCanada) are certifiable by outside entities. There are regular polls by various agencies on religious denominations in these countries. Can the same be said of the African provinces? And that still doesn’t get to the issue of whether the bishops of these provinces truly reflect the opinions (religious and otherwise) of the laity of their sees. We know they do in TEC and ACC–we see… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Oh, yes: One asks to see the means by which African church membership figures are calculated and is called a racist.

Nonsense. How are they calcluated?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“I can’t follow your hypothetical worries (Gafcon is already a part of the Primates Meeting)” – Christopher Seitz – Another fiction from the ‘A.C.I.’! How on earth can GAFCON be ‘a part of the Primates’ Meeting’ when, manifestly, it declines to attend a meeting to which it has been specifically invited? Is that part of the culture of GAFCON? Doesn’t seem very logical to me! GAFCON may now be considered not even to hold ‘de facto’ membership – simply because it denies the benefit and privelege of belonging. As was the case of the non-appearance of certain GAFCON Primates at… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I was commenting on your confused statement, re: “…is talking about a monolithic ‘Anglican Communion’ that GAFCON and ACNA could be a legitimate part of” and my point was that the primates of Gafcon are already members of the communion, as against ACNA, which may seek to be (I really don’t know). And I was not talking about a “monolithic Anglican Communion,” but the present real one. Do try to calm down.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Those who do not believe that African Provinces accurately represent their memberships should request that the ACC investigate the matter. I have yet to hear one good reason why the Americas and Africa both get a single vote when the size of the latter is exponentially larger. And remember, this is a Standing Committee for the Primates, not a SC for Christians whose Bishops misrepresent them — as it here stated. I conclude that the commentators who defend the present simply do not want anything in the way of their agenda — including a fair system of representation. I also… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz:

There is no such thing as a “fair system of representation” when the people being represented have no voice in their representatives. I suppose you think the old English system of “rotten boroughs” was a “fair system of representation” as well.

Malcolm French+
Guest

Pat said: “TEC’s numbers (or those of the ACCanada) are certifiable by outside entities. There are regular polls by various agencies on religious denominations in these countries.”

Malcolm+ observes: In fact, census data in both countries would suggest far larger numbers of members than either TEC or ACoC would claim.

MarkBrunson
Guest

I wouldn’t have thought that *anyone* would want a system “tilted” toward violence, degradation and ignorance, regardless of the color of the “representation.”

Evil intent can be “fairly” represented, too.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Mr Brunson, then perhaps you can take personal charge of indicating to the ACC the parameters for fairness above the actual realities within the african provinces. Their Primates clearly should not be free to speak for themselves and their constituencies. If you can supply the criterion for representation, then the handicapping of the numerical realities could be deployed. As in any decent fascist system…

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Here, for comparison, is a comment Christopher Seitz+ made on a Stand Firm thread, reposted on TitusOneNine:

“Our view is the GS [Global South] will/ought to covenant and also see to its proper administration. Why concede to the present SC[Standing Committee]? Gafcon appears to be more worried about the SC than the actual covenant text; that is correct.”

Here, Seitz+ confirms what I’ve been saying: he is not seeking “fairness” on the Standing Committee; he wants the Global South to control it. Then they will be able to use their powers under the Covenant to discipline the Episcopal Church.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” If you can supply the criterion for representation, then the handicapping of the numerical realities could be deployed. As in any decent fascist system… “ Mr Seitz, I find your suggestions about ‘equal representation in the Anglican Communion Instruments’ disingenuous. Christianity is neither wedded to proportional representation not democratic government. It is a matter of trying to behave justly in a world of many cultural differences. Just as TEC is adult enough to be able to risk the election of Bishops by the whole constituency of it membership; and the Church of England historically has had to rely on… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

As I suspected, “orthodox” morality becomes very flexible in playing for power.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr Seitz wrote:

“Their Primates clearly should not be free to speak for themselves and their constituencies.”

And here, as I keep repeating, is the crux of the matter. We have no independent evidence that these primates speak for anyone BUT themselves. They are not chosen in any way, shape or form by their “constituencies,” so we have no idea if these constituencies actually share the primates’ opinions on these matters.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Charlotte: ACI’s web site can give you any information you need, should you wish. Nothing is hidden from view. We have made our position clear. We want the communion preserved at its greatest length and breadth. 2) We believe the covenant can facilitate that, in this season of communion dissolution. 3) The present SC of the AC is not regarded with trust so that 1) can happen. 4) The SC of the Primates Meeting is not representative of the communion’s numerical reality (it is a different complaint to say that representation is not wanted because the communion’s views at the… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Some TA readers will have no idea at all what the NFL is.

Here’s an alternative criticism of the SC
http://standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/26942#450575

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr Seitz:

“And, Pat, this is a SC of the Primates. That is what it has always been. You can make the claim that the Primates don’t represent their people–I take that to be wrong-headed and condescending–but the SC of the Primates is, well, a SC of the Primates. “

Well, then, why the fuss about “representation”?

Each province has, indeed, equal representation: One primate for each province. In that, it is rather like the US Senate. You are the one who keeps talking about Africa being under-represented by its numbers of Anglicans.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Fine, call it Six Nations Rugby and let their SC be comprised of Wales and France; or Premier League Football, with a SC with a majority from Bolton, West Ham, and Newcastle. The point is not that hard to follow…

Christopher (P.)
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Christopher (P.)

But isn’t the discussion about the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, which is at play in the Covenant and which is most assuredly not a committee of Primates? (Though a minimum of 5 of the 14 members, or 6 of the 15 if the ABC is present, will be Primates.)

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I too am confused at times about what people are proposing I (and others) are saying. 1. There is a SC of the Primates. It is supposed to be representative. It has at present five members. Reports are that it is to be recast to be more fair. (Pat, this is a representative SC for the Primates; I did not realise this was confusing to you). 2. This SC and various ACC reps together constitute the SC of the Anglican Communion (in its latest manifestation). 3. Christopher (P). If the SC of the Primates is more representative, because augmented, this… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Pat–It sounds like you do not understand the Standing Committee of the Primates. It consists of five members, at present. The issue is whether the regions constituting the five are commensurate (see any of the previous notes on this). Africa is a numerically vast region, whether one means church attedance or Bishops or Primates in total. It gets the same number of reps as the Americas, which are much smaller in all of these categories. Reports mentioned adjusting this so as to be fairer. This is a Standing Committee for the Primates in toto, and that each province has an… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: Yes, I see that I misunderstood. Thank you for clarifying. However, I still see a problem…in that we are, again, assuming that the African provinces’ self-reported numbers are real. Or that the opinions of their primates truly reflect the concerns of the vast majority of Anglicans in those provinces. Lastly, isn’t the number of bishops and primates in Africa mostly a matter of the number of nations on that continent? With each nation–just about–constituting a province, with its own primate and episcopacy? And as for number of bishops–well, gee, it seems that any province that wanted to tilt… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

This is not a SC of allegedly inflated individual anglican churchgoers, Pat. It is a Standing Committee of the Primates themselves. No one is saying TEC can’t have a Primate, and Nigeria can, because the former is so small and the latter twenty times its size (to follow your logic). This is about a Standing Committee and its fair representation of the Primates Meeting. The idea that Nigerian churchgoers do not share the views of their Bishops on sexuality is borders on nonsensical, but it is not relevant for the question of the composition of the SC of the Primates.… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: You miss my point entirely. You say that Africa is under-represented in the Primates SC, because it has only one representative, the same as the Americas, even though–by the figures you cite–there are far more Anglicans in Africa than in the Americas. My point is that we have no independent verification of those numbers. To me, it is like accepting any organization’s report of its own membership, without any outside audit. And why is it nonsensical to ask if the Anglicans of, say, Nigeria, agree with their primate on these matters? If he represents them, shouldn’t he? If… Read more »

Christopher (P.)
Guest
Christopher (P.)

At the risk of seeming cavalier–or naive–the Primates Meetings are themselves one of the independent instruments of communion. According to the AC website, they were concieved of as an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” Why should anyone other than those ~38 primates care how they put together their own steering committee? Why should anyone other than those ~38 primates lobby for anything different? — unless the group is meant for purposes other than “thought, prayer, and consultation.”

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Pat–you are joking, surely. Do you mean seriously to question whether on the African continent there are only as many anglican Christians as in the Americas region? This would be fraud of an enormous proportion and would have been the news story of the century for Anglicans. Christopher (P). And that is exactly what they are doing: calling for an overhaul. What is being questioned is whether that is deserved or whether the fraud attending their numbers means there are far too many provinces and far too many bishops, given their true size, for them to have proper representation. I… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: Yes, I do question it. Why? Because I have only the word of those who benefit from inflating the numbers for the veracity of the numbers they give. OTOH, TEC and ACC willingly disclose numbers that do NOT benefit them, even sometimes when those numbers are at odds with census and polling numbers by outside parties that indicate a higher membership than either church advertises. Sorry if this makes me a skeptic in your eyes. In this matter, I suggest it is better to stand with Thomas the apostle than accept what I am told with blind faith.… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Pat–anyone serving as a missionary, as a visitor, as a long term educator or business owner, in the African provinces, will attend services that confirm the numbers. Wycliffe College in Toronto has contacts throughout the African context. Your comments, if not offensive, are severely ill-informed. May I ask, have you any personal experience of anglicanism in the Global South? Why would you claim that a Bishop in Tanzania has wrested control of that office without any consent of the people? I really do not understand your mindset or the factual concerns that ought to govern your comments. ‘Mr Seitz’

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: My experience with the Global South is through members of my parish here in the US who are immigrants from it. They tell stories of being not the largest Christian denomination in their homelands but the smallest (RC and pentecostal groups far outnumber them); they tell stories of being persecuted within their own parishes for holding beliefs more liberal than their vicars would approve. It is my understanding that bishops throughout Africa–and especially the most vocal, as in Nigeria and Uganda–are not chosen by the laity but are “elected” (a perversion of that word, IMO) by the bishops… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

In very very few places in Anglicanism are the ‘bishops elected by the laity.’ Not in the Church of England, not in the Scottish Episcopal Church, not in SE Asia, and in reality, not in TEC — at least as you imply. You also appear to think that most Christians in Anglican churches in Africa believe they are not being represented properly by their leaders — a view that is groundless. And yes, the millions of Christians who are anglican are often outnumbered by pentecostals and RCs, or even Lutherans. But they are still exponentially greater in number than in… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

In TEC, no bishop can be elected without the approval of the house of laity of the diocese; and the Presiding Bishop must have the approval of the lay house of the entire national church. Yes, the other houses have a vote, too–but it does not override the vote of the laity. If my view of the beliefs regarding representation in the African provinces is “groundless,” then produce the grounds for your view. Is there any outside organization which has polled African Anglicans in the pews regarding these issues? As for your third paragraph: Greater in number, yes…after all Africa… Read more »

Kennedy
Guest
Kennedy

Cseitz says “In very very few places in Anglicanism are the ‘bishops elected by the laity.’ Not in the Church of England, not in the Scottish Episcopal Church, not in SE Asia, and in reality, not in TEC — at least as you imply.” For the SEC, if you mean that only (and all) the laity in a diocese elect the bishop then that is the case. But the lay reps from each church in the diocese vote to elect their bishop in Synod along with their clergy brothers and sisters. (See Canon 4 of the SEC Code of Canons).