Thinking Anglicans

Further critiques of the Anglican Covenant

Updated Monday

Paul Bagshaw has analysed the text of the video made on Monday of this week by the Archbishop of Canterbury. His article is titled Archbishop, I beg to differ.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is clearly anxious that the Covenant project is endangered in England. There is still a long way to go and neither side can be confident of victory for a few more weeks.

So, to shore up support, Rowan Williams has had to put out an appeal on YouTube. He has also sent it to those Dioceses which have yet to vote on the Covenant and asked diocesan officers to circulate it…

Andrew Davison has revised his earlier article to include some comments arising from the video, and the revised version is available here.

…In a statement on the Anglican Covenant of 5 March 2012, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote that the legal, fourth part of the Covenant does not erect a disciplinary system to force anyone to do anything. That is accurate, unfortunately, only in the most technical sense. The law of England does not force me not to steal or murder. However, it would impose punishments if I did, and that would be quite a disincentive, were I so tempted. Similarly, the Covenant does not force any Province to act one way or another, in that technical sense. It is, all the same, coercive and punitive: it is difficult to understand the exclusion of Provinces from full membership of the Communion as anything but a threat and a punishment…

And Malcolm French has written this: There was no YouTube in 1867.

…At the end of the day, only 76 of 144 bishops attended the first Lambeth Conference. Archbishop Longley’s assurance that the conference would neither have nor claim the status of a Pan-Anglican synod failed to reassure either Archbishop Thomson or Dean Stanley. Thomson and most of the bishops from the northern province refused to attend. Stanley refused to allow Westminster Abbey to be used for any part of the event. Bishop John Colenso of Natal, prefiguring the eventual unpersoning of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in 2007, was simply not invited.

Of course, Longley won the immediate skirmish. The conference did not claim any synodical authority, and its resolutions were not binding on Anglicans at home or abroad.

But here’s what didn’t happen.

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury didn’t put out a YouTube video essentially calling Archbishop Thomson’s and Dean Stanley’s views “completely misleading and false” – and not only because there was no YouTube in 1867.
  • The Bishop of St. Asaph didn’t bleat on to The Times that critics of the conference idea were fascists – and not only because the term “fascist” hadn’t been invented yet.
  • The Bishop of Sherborne didn’t wander about the country claiming that anyone who didn’t support the conference idea was being disloyal to Archbishop Longley – and not only because the bishopric of Sherborne didn’t exist…

Update
Alan Perry has published Of Archbishops and Videos.

…But the biggest problem, as the Archbishop sees it, is not any quibbles obscure Canadians like me might have with sections 1-3. No, there is apparently some false propaganda circulating. As the Archbishop puts it:

one of the greatest misunderstandings around concerning the Covenant is that it’s some sort of centralising proposal creating an absolute authority which has the right to punish people for stepping out of line. I have to say I think this is completely misleading and false.

I would be more convinced if he were to demonstrate, citing the actual Covenant text of course, precisely why these concerns are “misleading and false.” Without doing so, he engages in unsupported assertions and even verges on ad hominem attacks.

The fact is, as I have already demonstrated, that the so-called dispute-settling process in section 4 of the proposed Covenant is vague, arbitrary and intrinsically unfair by design. And it is designed to determine winners and losers. Either an action by a Church is compatible or incompatible with the Covenant. And the decision is final, with no mechanism for further discussion or appeal.

Oh, says the Archbishop, “what the Covenant proposes is not a set of punishments, but a way of thinking through what the consequences are of decisions people freely and in good conscience make.” Given the vagueness of the process, it’s not much of a way of thinking through anything. We don’t even know how to start the process. It’s that unclear. I challenge the Archbishop to demonstrate where the Covenant text says how a question is to be raised, as it quaintly puts what elsewhere would be called lodging a complaint. It’s simply not there in the text…

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ROBERT ian williams
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ROBERT ian williams

Have you heard Rowan on Vatican radio? What a master of double speak. He was asked about the Covenant(as the interviewer understood that it was being defeated in the dioceses) and said he still hopes it will be passed and he continues to pray for it. He affirms it is not authoritarian. He also affirms that Synod wants the bishops to come up with a compromise on women bishops.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

A very good analysis by Paul Bagshaw. One supposes that the ABC had to do something desperate, in the hope that he could stem the flow against the Covenant. However, he should be mindful of the fact that a vote against the Covenant doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t love him. It might just mean that we think he’s wrong on this issue.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Why isn’t Thinking Anglicans reproducing any strong accounts defending the Covenant, like Nicholas Sagovsky’s article in this week’s ‘Church Times’ (behind a pay-wall for now, but a startling call to catholicity)?

Lois Keen
Guest
Lois Keen

The first time Abp. Rowan visited TEC House of Bishops, he instructed them to exercise their charism as bishops. From his point of view, what bishops say is what goes, and for TEC bishops to follow the will of General Convention over the will of the bishops is just wrong. It’s a failure to exercise the charism of bishop. Thus, the results, so far, of the voting in the CoE on the Covenant is not about, it seems to me, in the view of Abp. Rowan, having respect or disrespect for the ABC, or loving him or not, from his… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Paul, the site has. Look back, for example, to March 4 and 5.

Prior Aelred
Guest

Thinking Anglicans has linked to any number of articles that have argued in favor of accepting the proposed Anglican Covenant. If Thinking Anglicans has been neglectful in “reproducing any strong accounts defending the Covenant,” it may not be the fault of TA, but rather the incoherence of the arguments of the advocates thereof.

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

Good to be reminded of Bishop Colenso whose alleged heresy triggered the first Lambeth Conference. Although excommunicated by the Archbishop of Capetown, he remained the lawful Bishop of Natal. (The present C.of E.in South Africa does not descend from him). In our latest “frenzy” (to use his word) we could learn much from this gentle but forthright man, one of the greatest of African missionaries, Biblical scholar, translator, defender of the Zulus, and one who suffered much because of his seeking after truth and justice – and from the works of his wife and daughters. Many of his books have… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Why isn’t Thinking Anglicans reproducing any strong accounts defending the Covenant”. – Paul on Sunday –

Perhaps, Paul, because thinking Anglicans really don’t know of any that bear scrutiny.

John
Guest
John

Nick Sagovsky’s piece repeatedly invokes ‘mutual interdependence’. I am a prissy academic and I think that marshmallow English produces marshmallow thinking.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

One of things that is passing strange, and which shows something of the insularity of the No campaigners, is the idea that AB Rowan Williams will find ‘following motions’ and assurances of ongoing charity (‘we love you’) welcome, should the campaign fail. No one twisted his arm to make him give a robust defense of the covenant, and if it is not passed, he will properly be seen as *defeated on something of major importance to him and, as he sees it, to the Anglican Communion as a whole.* Equally, people can opine that he ought not to have made… Read more »

Alan T Perry
Guest

Mr Seitz raises a very troubling point. The Covenant debate has become so wrapped up with the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and depicted so much as a test of personal loyalty to the Archbishop and the Communion, that it has taken on a life entirely divorced from the text and its probable effects. So very little time is spent in anything like a “robust defense” of the Covenant qua text. Why talk about the text if the main selling point is that it’s a test of loyalty? The trouble is, how will that loyalty which leads people to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Considering ACI’s one-time stance of distancing themselves from the Archbishop of Canterbury – on the grounds that he hasn’t been tough enough on the liberals in the Communion, I find cseitz’s comment here less than convincing. My feeling (and I’m sure the feeling of many ‘Thinking Anglicans’) is that that The ABC, because of his love for the Anglican Communion, and because he wants to keep it together at any cost, has been persuaded by the GAFCON Provinces that the only way they will remain within the Communion is to dis-enfranchise TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada – which… Read more »

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

I find myself, to my surprise, agreeing with about 98% of what Christopher Seitz has said here. It would be as silly to vote for this sort of motion so as to make ++Rowan feel loved as it would be to support the Covenant out of loyalty. The reason for supporting ‘following motions’is that they say what needs to be said. it affirms the commitment to the communion that most on both sides of the covenant controversy share. The 2% of Christopher’s post where I absolutely disagree is the line: “But they can’t ask …… that the Communion at large… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“The No movement can work as hard as possible to see to the Covenant’s defeat. What makes no sense at all is offering assurances that all will be w[e]ll.”

I think they’re rather just offering CHRIST’S assurances that all will be well. [That’s True, regardless—but better w/ The Quad than w/ *this* Covenant!]

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I think c.r.seitz that the polity of the Church of England is important here. Archbishop Rowan says that there has been wide consultation throughout the Anglican Communion on this covenant proposal. This Diocesan referral is the first time in the process that the proposal has got anywhere near the grass roots of a church which believes itself to be synodically governed and to have a grass roots clergy and lay franchise. So many of us do not believe that we are being asked to support the results of a consultation process – we have not been engaged. Rather we are… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

“Why isn’t Thinking Anglicans reproducing any strong accounts defending the Covenant, like Nicholas Sagovsky’s article in this week’s ‘Church Times’ “ That reminds me of the people who keep saying that TEC hasn’t “done the theology” for acceptance of gays and lesbians. You show them the works, the arguments, the years of discernment and they say, “No. No. You haven’t done the theology.” “Yes. Yes, we have. Look. Here are the titles.” “No. You haven’t done the theology.” “Okay. Here, physically, are the books, the reports, the transcripts, the musings. Right here. In front of you. Solid material.” “No. You… Read more »

Malcolm French+
Guest

Archbishops of Canterbury have been defeated before. Somehow the Anglican Communion survived. Archbishop Ramsey, as I recall, was defeated on some matter regarding the evolving relationship between Anglicans and Methodists in England. He was not destroyed.

But if wee Christopher thinks that the following motions are about making Archbishop Williams feel better, it demonstrates a very limited capacity for strategic thinking.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr French: Could I ask you to refrain from using my Christian name as if we knew one another? This now common blog discourtesy is not one that needs to occur at Thinking Anglicans. Hence, your proper referring to ‘Sarah’ and ‘Diarmaid’ and others by their titles and surnames. Thank you.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr French: Can you restrain yourself for a moment from the 4th former insults? It belies the seriousness of your endeavour. As for AB Williams, I was responding to: “However, he should be mindful of the fact that a vote against the Covenant doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t love him”. Mr Bennet: my point above was to do with the effect in the wider Communion on an/the chief Instrument. I accept the CofE context and its parameters. That was not my point. If the covenant is defeated, and it appears it will be, the CofE context will not be the… Read more »

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr Prebble–you are quite right that a No campaign can ask for a positive appraisal of a defeated covenant. What they cannot simply assume, expect, or demand is that a defeated covenant not be taken as a defeated ABC and a defeated Communion insofar as they judged the Instruments valuable and necessary. The ABC as Instrument of Unity asked that the covenant be the means for a particular vision of Communion to take hold. Within the CofE, his narrower ecclesial location, that covenant notion has been or looks likely to be defeated. That redowns to his own diminishment, as his… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

Thanks for the links and comments. Just to clarify, I do read TA regularly and love it. My query reveals no preference for or against the Covenant; it was a simple query since there does seem a disproportion between pro and anti article links. My overall impression of the debate on both sides (including these comments) is an overwhelming reliance on invalid assumptions, ad hominem attacks, and theological cross-talk. It’s proved a disappointing failure in Christian charity.

john
Guest
john

I don’t think it will be ‘life as usual’ within the C of E if/when the covenant is defeated. I think the collective bishopric and archbishopric will have suffered a bloody nose. Most of me (not all of me) thinks that is a good thing, both because the covenant in my view is a bad thing and because by their arrogance and failure to communicate (by no means restricted to this issue) they have asked for it.

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

“That redowns to his own diminishment, as his office as Instrument is part and parcel of the Communion articulated by the covenant.” Well, Mr (sorry, Dr)Seitz, I do take the point you are making, but as I reflect on it, I believe you are wrong. it only redowns to his diminishment in comparison with the enhanced role that would be assigned to his office were the Covenant adopted. Even if this is not made explicit in the text, the effect of the new structures that would be created must give an increased responsibility to the only one of the Instruments… Read more »

david rowett
Guest

Why, he wondered, should a Christian object to being known by her/his Christian name on a Christian site to which he/she contributes? Strikes me that an entirely reasonable distinction between contributors and third parties might be made here (though I can’t imagine that Diarmaid/Revd. Prof Diarmaid. MacCulloch, Knight, would give two hoots about it: he’s got far bigger things to consider than exactly what soubriquet is awarded him here, like his next TV series.) And given the umbrage that some folk can take when they’re addressed as ‘Dr’ when they should be ‘Prof’, or ‘Revd’ when they prefer ‘Fr’ or… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Despite cseitz’s comments above, I still maintain that Archbishop Rowan is doing what he thinks is best for the cohesion of Communion solidarity – without perhaps recognising the fact that GAFCON has already ‘walked away’ from the Instruments – having absented themselves from both Eucharistic Fellowship with progressive Provinces at Lambeth, and also havgin refused the ABC’s invitation to a Primates’ Conference. The present Covenant document – even with Section 4 in place – will likely not entice GAFCON back to Eucharistic Fellowship with TEC and the A.C.of C. This would still leave the Covenanted Communion short of either GAFCON… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

It is unrealistic to think the Covenant will move forward without England and Canterbury.

I expect the ACC meeting later this year will shelve the whole process.

Then there will either be a period of calm reflection leading up to the next Lambeth Conference with intensive behind the scenes diplomacy from the new Primate of All England or I guess things could get a little chaotic. What has been happening at the AMiA being just a taste of things to come.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Fr Reynolds

“It is unrealistic to think the Covenant will move forward without England and Canterbury”

Why would that be so? The Covenant is to be considered by the Provinces of the Communion.

The idea that the ‘ACC meeting’ decides these matters is precisely what is now at stake. Or are you suggesting that Provinces will now be halted in their consideration processes? I sincerely doubt that, and I also doubt that the ABC would decide that the CofE’s determination is somehow the Communion’s determination.

MarkBrunson
Guest

redounds

The word is redounds.

And praise God for the diminishment of Bishops. They need diminishing. It’s amazing that there’s fabric enough to make miters to fit their heads.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Paul, I apologize for the snappishness and snarking – it comes of long battle-weariness and shell-shock (see above “doctoral” comments, among others). I believe the disproportion – to this point – comes from the shock on the part of Williams and Co. that anyone would actually question their authority. They took it as read that the Covenant would be a done deal. This isn’t sarcasm, simply observation – there’s a real disconnect between the expectations of CofE episcopacy and the rest of us. I, personally, believe that this is the end of the Anglican Communion. The so-called Global South has… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

David’s comments are very appropriate (albeit ironically phrased). Let’s be clear about this. We at TA intend to host a Christian discussion. We expect it to be conducted with charity and courtesy on all sides. That means no name-calling. It means referring to others appropriately: for people who frequent these pages it is generally acceptable to use their Christian names (and we encourage all commenters to use their real names; we will treat requests for anonymity individually). Using Christian names is itself a form of Christian respect. If people are acting in an official capacity then it may be appropriate… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Well, I did ask around (as anyone can) and the consensus I got was that the next ACC would likely kick the whole thing into touch. If it did so then I cannot imagine that happening with Rowan in opposition – especially as it might be his last outing as ABC. The matter is still being considered by the Provinces, our Province is considering it next month irrespective of the English outcome. I am not sure what influence the English vote will have on ours, but come October I think this will “be suspended”. As to who “decides these things”,… Read more »

Frank Douglas Blanchard (aka Counterlight)
Guest
Frank Douglas Blanchard (aka Counterlight)

This is as much name as I have. I use a moniker, but not to hide. My personal email is always attached to my posts.

Frank Douglas Blanchard, lowly pew-sitter of St. Luke in the Fields with no seminary education, resident of Brooklyn, undistinguished professor of fine art at an ivy league community college in the Bronx

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Thank you very much, Mr Kershaw. If I wished to be called by my Christian name I would use it. I do not know the people at this site and I prefer not to call people by first names unless I know them. And I would not refer to Fr Rowett as ‘wee David.’

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Fr Reynolds writes: “The matter is still being considered by the Provinces.” Quite right. There are more than thirty yet to go.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Mark,
That’s fine 🙂 While raised in the CofE, I spent many years in TEC while at college in the States and have an abiding love of it. I am saddened to see the fraying of bonds of affection.

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

Mark
Thank you for your correction of my (though borrowed from a previous posting) spelling of redounds. Even in New Zealand, you are quite correct. I had a feeling that something was wrong, but in my efforts to respond to arguments strongly but with appropriate respect, I neglected to question the spelling.

I guess part of my mediocrity as an Anglican (no, not Episcopalian in this outpost of the Communion) is some mediocrity in proofreeeeding and speling.

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

Regardless of the Archbishop’s feelings, for which I have due respect, under article 4.2.8 of the document, should the Church of England not adopt it, the Archbishop will not be eligible to participate in decision-making of the [Joint] Standing Committee [of the Primates and the ACC] when it comes to Covenant matters. That might be all to the good, as it will allow him to preserve the neutrality becoming of an Instrument of Communion.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Fr Haller

“might be all to the good” — certainly not for the ABC. I accept that is not your own concern.

But of course we don’t really know what covenant adopters might extend in the way of associations, even for the ABC.

And, given the obvious centrality of the ABC office, one doubts that we now have the whole story. This is what it means for the Covenant to be defeated (as No people want and others expect) in the CofE.

Malcolm French+
Guest

Indeed, Dr. Seitz, I shall be more formal in future. However, I did find much of your commentary to be a load of tosh. Archbishop Williams will decide for himself, ultimately, whether a defeat on this issue in the Church of England constitutes a vote of non-confidence in him as Archbishop of Canterbury. Certainly no one speaking from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has ever suggested that it should be so interpreted, and indeed, the spontaneous offering of following motions affirms that. Archbishops of Canterbury have seen their positions rejected before and have somehow managed to survive – Archbishop Ramsey’s… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Actually, Edward, it was a (former) Episcopalian who insists on being a “doctor” and institute head who misspelled it to begin with. I’m sorry you’ve chosen to be hurt by assuming that my reference to Williams as a mediocre Anglican was a reference to you. However, I believe Simon Sarmiento did say you were all mediocre Anglicans. My insistence that I am an Episcopalian, not Anglican, is an insistence that we realize we are *not* the same. We are different. If such a reality is hurtful, it is the reality that is hurtful, not its acknowledgement. It is odd that… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

“While I am drawn to Mark Brunson’s assessment in his third paragraph above, I think he miscalculates the residual power of Canterbury and his apparatchiks in Lambeth and Westbourne Park . . .” My point is that Canterbury and Co. are limited in that residual power to their own milieu. The ACC is gone and done, as a fact. The power that will be exercised by a Canterbury of the future with the hard-right groups of America as the official representatives will be operated only with those representatives constantly interfering, threatening, and manipulating, and will mean nothing, either to the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“This is what it means for the Covenant to be defeated (as No people want and others expect) in the CofE.” Or maybe this is what it means for the Covenant to be so sloppily drawn up that there isn’t even a clear pathway for what happens if a large minority doesn’t adopt it or if the CoE doesn’t adopt it. I must say, I am absolutely astonished that people have to speculate what happens to the role of the ABC if the CoE should not adopt the Covenant and that this crucial question has not been anticipated. To me,… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

c.r.seitz – is it your suggestion that the Church of England has to sign the “covenant” to remain a full part of the Anglican Communion? That does rather suggest that the reconfiguration suggested by the “covenant” has already taken place and that the “instruments” already have power to exclude, and that the Church of England has somehow committed itself to being excluded if there is a no vote. And that seems rather cart before horse to me. Though some people do suggest the “covenant” is the only game in town, and that “no” is not an option, this is not… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Mark
Dr Seitz is an Episcopalian, on the staff of Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas, as shown here
http://www.incarnation.org/staff/

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I now understand there is a move afoot to suspend discussion of the Covenant at the upcoming Governing Body here in Wales.

I did say (and it was the key phrase), in any event that “come October I think this will “be suspended”.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr. Bennet, in a word, No. Kindly re-read what I wrote. (In addition, the Covenant in any event does not determine AC membership). My remarks are about the role of ABC as Instrument inside the covenant Communion vision he himself promoted.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Thank you Mr Sarmiento, and for avoidance of doubt, I remain an Episcopal Priest and Canon of the Diocese of Dallas though I am also Research Professor at Wycliffe College in the University of Toronto where I direct PhD students; I remained an Episcopal Priest when I held a chair for ten years at the University of St Andrews in the UK; and when I was Professor of Old Testament at Yale (a non-episcopal school). I do not insist ‘on calling myself doctor.’ I do not prefer to call people I do not know by first names, as I was… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Again, I find much to nod at in what MarkBrunson says – but the Anglican Communion is not going to vanish as he suggests, There are significant networks below the radar that don’t divide as easily as he writes.

TEC itself remains a complex set of networks and what once may have been seen as vulnerability – its lack of cohesion – is now going to be a significant advantage.

Those who favour firm lines and clearer boundaries are in for a hard ride.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

c.r.seitz – Thanks for clarification, Glad to separate reality from rhetoric. Too much rhetoric, too little reality so far, I think.

And just to note that I am not MarkBrunson – Christian names are all very well, but ambiguity is confusing. I do tell baptism parties that I didn’t write the Gospel – to avoid confusion, but my mother is still hoping …

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr Bennet–you are welcome.