Thinking Anglicans

Lichfield Diocese approves Anglican Communion Covenant

From the Lichfield Diocesan Website

Lichfield Diocese approves Anglican Communion Covenant
Date 19/03/11

The Lichfield Diocesan Synod has become the first in the Church of England to approve the Anglican Communion Covenant with overwhelming votes in favour in all three houses (bishops, clergy and laity).

The vote at today’s meeting in Longton Hall near Stoke on Trent is in response to the General Synod’s decision to refer the matter to the dioceses. All 44 dioceses in the Church of England are being asked to “approve the draft Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant.” Last week the diocese of Wakefield voted to reject the motion; and the diocese of Hereford voted to refer the matter to deanery synods for wider discussion.

An attempt to adjourn the debate in Lichfield diocese so it could be referred to deanery synods was rejected with 47 voting in favour of an adjournment and 60 voting against.

Before the debate, members heard from the Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, lecturer in ethics at Trinity College, Bristol, who introduced the Covenant and outlined some of the arguments for and against it.

The idea behind an Anglican Communion Covenant – the closest thing to a constitution for the worldwide Anglican Communion – was first proposed in the Windsor report of 2004, following developments in relation to same-sex partnerships in North America. It was envisaged that the Anglican Covenant would “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection” which govern the relationships between the churches of the Anglican Communion.

A text of the Covenant was sent to all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion for their approval in December 2009. Each Province has different governance structures and it is expected to be a number of years before all the Provinces complete the process for acceptance or rejection. The Anglican Consultative Council will discuss progress at its meeting expected in November 2012.

In the Church of England, the House of Bishops agreed in May 2010 to commend the Covenant to the General Synod and a draft Act of Synod was debated by the General Synod in November last year and referred to diocesan synods. If a majority of dioceses agree to the draft Act of Synod it will return to the General Synod for final approval, possibly in 2012.

The Anglican Communion is not a single church or a federation of churches but a collection of 44 different churches made up of 34 Provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches, spread across the globe; with an estimated 80 million Christians.

The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality highlighted that there were no formal structures or agreements for handling disputes when they arise. The Covenant is designed to balance the need to define how the churches of the Communion formally relate to each other without creating a formal constitution or federation; continuing to hold the Communion together through mutual relationships.

The Diocese of Lichfield has formal mission partnerships with the Dioceses of West Malaysia, Kuching and Singapore in South East Asia, Matlosane in South Africa and Qu’Appelle in Canada. Churches within the diocese enjoy individual relationships with churches across the Communion.

The result of the vote in the Lichfield Diocesan Synod were:

House For Against Abstain
Bishops 4 0 0
Clergy 39 11 1
Laity 57 9 1
Total 100 20 2

The audio of the Synod debate will be available on the Lichfield Diocesan website on Monday afternoon: lichfield.anglican.org/chadnet/synod.

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Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Lichfield avoided even the appearance of even-handedness by having one speaker known as a campaigner for ‘Anglican Covenant’, and against lesbian and gay people. I notice his talk explicitly linked the ‘Anglican Covenant’ with TEC & gay people. So when it it says Goddard ‘put the arguments for and against’ I do not feel very convinced. It is clear that the so-called ‘Anglican Covenant’ is becoming a way to be anti-gay without coming right out with it. Heterosexual majorities have always sought to connive at this kind of strategy where outright anti-gay attack has to be moderated; or covered over.… Read more »

Lesley Fellows
Guest

Sigh. The Bishop of Lichfield is one of the six who supports Carey in complaining about British Equality law being anti-Christian – it was going to be a tough one.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality”

An opinion not supported by the facts.

One more time: the “tensions in the Communion” were *deliberately instigated, worldwide* by anti-LGBT conservatives, who could not democratically get their way in their own national churches (mainly TEC). Their global agitations began well BEFORE SSBs in Canada, or the election of +Gene Robinson as bishop (the alleged “liberalising actions”).

A repeated lie remains a lie.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Are these ballots completely confidential I wonder ? If not, they are meaningless exercises in the manipulation of power (o’er others).

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Laurence: I have been a member of the Ely diocesan synod for 20 years. In that time I have never seen any suggestion for a moment that any vote be taken by secret ballot. All votes are taken by show of hands, or if necessary by division. On the most formal of occasions (e.g. when the women priests legislation was under discussion in 1991), members of each house queued up to record their vote at separate ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ stations.

Laurence C.
Guest
Laurence C.

So their Midlands pragmatism and British commonsense deserted them.

concerned anglican
Guest
concerned anglican

One speaker to outline the arguments for and against – hardly balanced.

This diocese is known as something of a ‘backwoods’ sort of place so the vote is scarcely surprising. Will it vote against women bishops next I wonder?

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

The Diocese of Lichfield is spouting some spectacular doublethink. We have always been at war with East Asia: The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality highlighted that there were no formal structures or agreements for handling disputes when they arise. The Covenant is designed to balance the need to define how the churches of the Communion formally relate to each other without creating a formal constitution or federation; continuing to hold the Communion together… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

‘Laurence: I have been a member of the Ely diocesan synod for 20 years. In that time I have never seen any suggestion for a moment that any vote be taken by secret ballot. All votes are taken by show of hands…’

Thank you Simon (K.

I find it very unsatisfactory; and do not see how democracy can be served. Very easy for people to fall in line behind the bishop and his chosen speaker — or else ! (?)

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“An attempt to adjourn the debate in Lichfield diocese so it could be referred to deanery synods was rejected with 47 voting in favour of an adjournment and 60 voting against.” So that movement towards allowing the local Deaneries to examine the consequences of the Covenant was soundly thwacked! By whom? one wonders, besides the Pro-Covenant Diocesan Bishop and his fellow Bishop Graham Kings? These bishops are still pretty powerful in the Church of England, and local clergy – not to mention lay-people – would probably not be too popular gain-saying what these powerful prelates decide is best for them.… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

How the Liberals do squirm when they don’t get their way! Three cheers for Lichfield. Implicit in some of the threads is the idea that the Bishop has somehow coerced the Laity and Clergy into their decision. They simply exercised their right to vote, which Liberals always make so much of when it comes to decisions in General Synod (cf Women Bishops). You can’t have your cake and eat it too!! The coercion, if you ask me, is coming from the direction of so-called Liberals who operate as a kind of thought police. In other words, believe and think the… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

That roughly 45% of those attending favoured referring the issue to deanery synods, while less than 20% voted against the covenant, makes one wonder how many present felt that they were being railroaded. Would be very surprised if there was not a week of very hectic lobbying in the Lichfield diocese after the Wakefield vote. A second narrowly-divided diocesan vote on the Covenant might have precipitated serious consideration of the issue.

Derek Gagne
Guest
Derek Gagne

How long has the present bishop been in office? usually a bishop makes a diocese in his own image by importing clergy supportive of his positions and attracting clergy and lay people who are sympathetic. Those who are not usually go elsewhere of find themselves on the “outs”. Speaking openly or even privately against the bishop’s views can tend to affect one’s career. Benedict’s odious comments about “liberals” are to be deplored. He is hardly impartial and his anger and even hatred is palpable. I am not a “liberal” as he would define me and I don’t wish to be… Read more »

Jeremy P
Guest
Jeremy P

Ron – Graham Kings may be responsible for many things you don’t like – but as a suffragan bishop in Salisbury diocese I don’t really see how he is connected with Lichfield’s vote.

Counterlight
Guest
Counterlight

If the Covenant passes, then no one need ever bother to vote on anything again.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Derek,I think you’ve gone slightly over the top in the terminology you employ. No, I am not impartial, yes I do have a view, but why should my comments be counted as odious, or the accusation levelled at me that I am hateful or angry? Surely I am allowed an opinion? Your response proves my original point!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Jeremy; was Bishop Graham Kings not invited (presumably by the Lichfield Diocesan Bishop) to address the Lichfield Synod on ‘The Covenant’ before the vote was taken? I would say that that was pretty ‘influential’, wouldn’t you?

Gavin Drake
Guest

As the communications director for the Diocese of Lichfield, I am somewhat saddened by the accusatory tone of some of these comments. Before an outside speaker can address our Synod the members have to give their consent (by two thirds) to suspend standing orders. The vote to suspend standing orders so that Dr Andrew Goddard could address the meeting on Saturday (in place of the previously announced guest speaker Graham Kings) was unanimous – a decision by our democratically and legally elected Synod. And I’m struggling to believe that members of the Church of England are seriously suggesting that members… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

Is it just possible, liberal sisters and brothers, for people to come to a conclusion different from ours without it being picked over so as to be dismissed by ‘liberal’ opinion?

People disagree! It’s called ‘life’!

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

I would pretty much guess, not knowing Lichfield in any detail from across the pond, that Lichfield is solidly antigay. How can a vote not embody real Lichfield flat earth beliefs about queer folks? … we are instructed this should ever be the case among all right-minded and big-hearted believers, often by the likes of speakers/leaders like Andrew G.? So far the divisive change in Canada and TEC? … what JCF said, ditto, ditto, ditto. Three sacks full. With a fourth sack containing Rowan Williams for all the usual reasons. Stay away from the children, then, please. So far as… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

So Gavin, was it presented “TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada acted to empower the sinful sodomites, and the Covenant will stop them (or anyone else): Vote Yes!”, *OR* “TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada acted to empower the sinful sodomites, but the Covenant is insufficient to stop them (or anyone else): Vote No!” Do you see my concern? It’s not, strictly speaking, pro or con on the Covenant, but ***how the Covenant is framed***. I’m sick and tired of the Big Lie 1) re LGBTs in general, and 2) re LGBTs in churches (eg. TEC/AngChCanada) that affirm… Read more »

Hannah
Guest
Hannah

I disagree with the Anglican Covenant on principle. I think it is unAnglican to design structures intended to exclude. I don’t think it will be effective, and – though not a natural conspiracy theorist – I am concerned that it is simply a means of kicking TEC out of the Communion. However, I too am very disappointed by the tone of some of these comments. The Lichfield diocesan synod are as entitled to conclude that the Covenant is a good idea as their Wakefield counterparts were to conclude that it is a bad idea. If we believe in a broad… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Dr Dan Fee’s comments represent all that is wrong with the debate about the Covenant. The truth is that Liberals, progressives, whatever we wish to call them, are making a monopoly of the gay issue in this discussion. The covenant is about wider unease than that; it concerns a determined effort to ensure that provinces of the Anglican Communion retain at least some semblance of Christian teaching over a whole range of doctrines. Surely there must be a line somewhere, or are some seriously suggesting that the dictates of society ought to be the norm by which we frame Christian… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Nobody who welcomed the decision at Wakefield should now question why Lichfield did not send it to the deaneries, though in my book and in both cases, the Covenant constitutes such a profound change, it deserves to be debated in the most thorough form and agendas should be cleared to facilitate this. I think what I and some others who regularly comment here would question is where there is a single speaker then one might hope that that person has a reputation for even handedness, both Kings and Goddard represent the Fulcrum/ACI axis. While Kings might be able to hide… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

I was a bit surprised see see the following in a post: ‘I would pretty much guess, not knowing Lichfield in any detail from across the pond, that Lichfield is solidly antigay. How can a vote not embody real Lichfield flat earth beliefs about queer folks?’ No detail at all? Then on what would this deduction be based? I don’t understand how someone can ‘guess’ from that distance and build such a huge assumption on the back of that guess. English dioceses rarely have an overall ‘flavour’ as is more often the case in TEC. Anyway, Lichfield is a huge… Read more »

Cornelius
Guest
Cornelius

Two brief comments – one on Lichfield, one on the matter at hand. Lichfield: is and remains a hub of church growth; the former Archdeacon of Walsall literally wrote the book (and the study course) on it; the suffragan of Shrewsbury is a former canon missioner who introduced Night Church in Exeter; the Bishop of Lichfield is Jonathan Gledhill, in post since 2003 – from 1997 he has chaired the Anglican-Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council and has been the chairman of the Governing Body of the National College of Evangelists. He has written “Leading a Local Church in the Age… Read more »

Derek Gagne
Guest
Derek Gagne

Benedict said “Surely I am allowed an opinion? Your response proves my original point!” What point would that be? That he supports the vote in Lichfield? That is clear enough and this is his right. That would have been enough. But his real “point” was to rejoice and triumph that “liberals” are unhappy. So his point has litle to do with the actual issue and everything to do with taking the opportunity to indulge in liberal-bashing. If that’s his real point. what’s the point of discussing the issue if the real point is mocking and bullying those he doesn’t like… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

What Martin said.
I do think that Lichfield has the right to do whatever it wants (which is part of why I think the Anglican Covenant is such a very bad idea).

Malcolm+
Guest

Benedict / Lister: I call Horse Hockey. If the Lichfield debate been conducted in a manner that was fair and above board, I would have no issue with the results however much I may be disappointed. But Gavin, perhaps you could explain why Lichfield flatly refused to distribute any material that was not 100% supportive of the Covenant. Perhaps you could also explain why, of the 60 minutes alloted for the Covenant discussion, the first 20 were given to an adamantly pro-Covenant guest speaker, followed by an additional five minute intro by an internal pro-Covenant speaker. Fully 25 minutes of… Read more »

Nat
Guest
Nat

When Benedict says, “Surely there must be a line somewhere, or are some seriously suggesting that the dictates of society ought to be the norm by which we frame Christian truth? If that is so, we are in great danger of peddling heresy” he is making an important statement which should be pondered by advocates of both sides. Speaking from the liberal side, I would like to posit that Christian truth needs to take in the discovery of “new” ideas, rights and/or abuses as they arise, be these women’s rights, labor relations, a solar-centric planetary system – or the recognition… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“The covenant is about wider unease than that; it concerns a determined effort to ensure that provinces of the Anglican Communion retain at least some semblance of Christian teaching over a whole range of doctrines.”

Benedict: Please specify these other doctrines that are a subject of controversy…what are they? What provinces have adopted or threatened to adopt policies, procedures or liturgies that invoke controversy, other than those involving sexuality?

The right wing always makes this argument…but when asked to specify what other issues are involved, they never have an answer.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

It is worth reading Malcolm+ (Oh! do dislike that addition!) on this matter. Click on his name above and be taken to his blog.

Interesting additional information on the other diocese where there is some information. I sat and listened to the bishop of Hereford’s testimony in the Reaney case …. I am glad he was stopped in his tracks …..

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Derek Gagne, I neither rejoiced nor triumphed, nor am I hateful or angry as you put it. You are simply just too sensitive and seem to have a persecution complex. I stand by my comments, and I ask the question why it is that I can be accused of lambasting liberals, when the tone of your own comments is hardly respectful, given the extremity of the language you choose to use?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Nat; thanks for your comments – both wise and pertinent – especially in the present situation, where ‘status quo’ might just be insufficient to proclaim the Gospel to ALL people, at all seasons and in all places. We need to live in the present – not the past, glorious though it may once have been.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

What will happen about Sydneys Diaconal celebration under the Covenant?

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“What will happen about Sydneys Diaconal celebration under the Covenant?”

Probably nothing…despite it being a far more radical change in liturgy than blessing a same-sex relationship.

Derek Gagne
Guest
Derek Gagne

I guess it is a bad thing for someone to be “too sensitive” when they are maligned, not for their views on a particular issue, but for who they are and how they think. It’s not you, it’s me. You know you are not speaking rationally, but emotionally. Personal (ad hominem) attacks are the last refuge of someone who must win. If you are not hateful and angry (extreme language, I agree, but you will understand it), I would not want to encounter someone who is. You may think that you are the voice of sweet reason, but you know… Read more »

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

Nat: Thanks much for your comment. Once again, I quote the former Presiding Bishop of TEC, Frank Griswold, who said that we are “situated in a universe where truth is progresive.”

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

When someone wants to destroy an enemy, they dehumanize them. Soldiers are trained not to think of the “other side” as people with lives and families, but as a collective group to be called by a demeaning name and to attack them as a whole. There is no feeling or emotion when destroying the enemy “other”. They are not real people and they are a threat. So Benedict refers to “liberals” (and he is not alone) as the collective “other”-faceless ones, different than “we” are, who pose a threat and whose elimination would benefit humanity (or the Church.)Thus any attack… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I note that, despite responding to other posts here, Benedict has not answered my question as to what doctrines are subjects of controversy other than sexuality.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Pat O’Neill, let’s think about some of the excesses of TEC: blessing of same sex unions, denoting God as “Our Mother . . .”, and other feminine slants on the bible, deviation from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity or maleness of Christ, and so the list goes on. And there will continue to be more, though if, as seems apparent, the Anglican Covenant is put in place, it may just stop such excesses. And Derek, again you have accused me of several things in your thread. I have not maligned you, nor have I used… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Benedict of course we’re rattled at the Lichfield vote. Giving the supporters over 40 minutes to present their case and the opponents 5 minutes hardly constitutes the democratic process you talk of. And I believe your first comment started with “How the Liberals do squirm when they don’t get their way! Three cheers for Lichfield!”… hardly a dispassionate analysis of the vote or anything betraying any kind of understanding of anti-covenant concerns. God as Mother is an ancient concept, Julian of Norwich, anchorite and mystic of 14th century, talks of God as mother in her Revelations of Divine Love (www.vatican.va/…/spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html).… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Benedict: Are any of the “deviations” you cite official stances of the The Episcopal Church as a province? Were any of them even officially adopted within a diocese? Not to my knowledge. And since when is it a doctrinal error to acknowledge the fact that God has no gender? That it is just as correct to refer to the divinity as female as male? Maybe it is among some on the extreme conservative end of Christianity, where the idea of a non-male God causes masculine leadership to tremble, but it should not be so among Anglicans. So, how DO you… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

In response to Benedict — TEC hasn’t authorized any rites for blessing same sex unions (although it has authorized study of same) & neither the BCP nor The Book of Occasional Services nor Enriching Our Worship calls God “Our Mother” — apparently the list of misrepresentations goes on and on …

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

I had no idea that ‘Christ’s maleness’ is a Christian doctrine. I have never, ever heard it suggested till now. Part of the story of Christ, yes of course. Maybe necessary for the mission at that time and place – but hardly a doctrine. May be we need to re-tell or even, re-vision this great story for our times ? But a well-rounded inner femininity and fullness, in order for Incarnation to be complete or perfect -surely ? The more we contemplate that ‘fullness of being’or are ourselves contemplated by it, the more earthed we may feel, and yet less… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Erika, The theme of divine love recurs frequently in Julian’s visions, but she compares these to motherly love, she does not claim God to be our Mother. His tenderness, concern and gentleness, rather, are so great that they remind us, pilgrims on earth, of a mother’s love for her children. And, anyway, would you rather claim Julian of Norwich’s teaching as the norm for Christians, or that of the Bible? Three cheers for Lichfield, indeed, that the Synod members independently held their nerve and refused to bow to the demands of an increasingly liberalising agenda which sees everything in terms… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“God as Mother is an ancient concept, Julian of Norwich, anchorite and mystic of 14th century, talks of God as mother in her Revelations of Divine Love (www.vatican.va/…/spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html).”

And the Pastorals (not by Paul)in 1 Tim 2:7 (trofós).

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I have now listened to Dr Goddards offering.

It is a travesty.

The main function of the Covenant is to give standing to these so called Instruments and all the juridical baggage that comes with them, they presently have no standing (with the possible exception of the ACC).

But these Instruments are not fully formed – they are in a state of flux and now is far too premature to recognise them.

Considering the bankrupt and diminished state Andrew believes they have all descended to under Rowan – the amazing thing is he can be advocate for the Covenant at all!

Malcolm French+
Guest

1. Martin, thank you for your kind words regarding my blogpost. 2. For another example of maternal language regarding the first person of the Trinitu, see Gregory of Nyssa, whom Orthodox East and Catholic West both regard as a Doctor of the Church. Extrapolating from his entirely orthodox view that “the divine nature totally transcends male and female and every other category of human thought. That, he believed, is why Scripture uses so many different names, titles, parables, analogies and metaphors when speaking about God.” (For All the Saints; ed. the recently deceased Revd Dr. Stephen Reynolds) The Prayer over… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“denoting God as “Our Mother . . .”, and other feminine slants on the bible, deviation from traditional church teachings” – Benedict – You really are behind the times here, Benedict. Quite apart from Dame Julian’s “Father, Mother God”, have you not read the gospel acount of Jesus saying, of his fellow Jews, that he would treat them as a mother hen would her chicks? The essence of the feminine is part of Creation, why not therefore, of the Creator? Do read a little more of the early Church Fathers and mothers on this very important topic. In any speculation… Read more »