Thinking Anglicans

Anglican Covenant: further reactions to its English rejection

Bishop Alan Wilson has written Boot and Reboot?

The boot goes into the Anglican Covenant. Time to reboot?

We could try to defibrillate the whole thing hoping that somehow this process that has just split the Church of England down the middle will somehow transmute into a great Focus of Unity. That way madness lies — stupidity that repeats the same mistake over again, hoping for a different result. Another very English option is to pretend nothing really happened, sit on our hands going “ho-hum” whilst, as Covenant supporters sometimes prognosticated, the sky falls in, or not.

Wouldn’t it be healthier to acknowledge reality? Take this as an invitation to look at the painful image in the mirror. Bishops were largely out of touch. In spite of, nay, because of our infantilised “Daddy knows best” culture, Daddy got it wrong. The troops did not buy a well-intentioned attempt to lick us into denominational shape. Much heavy covenant sell failed to persuade. It did not explain why or how bureaucratic accountability would improve on a free relationship of equals. Always start with “why?”

Bishop Graham Kings has written Communion Connections:Web of Mutuality or Fragmentation?

…It seems to me that there are three options for the future shape of the Anglican Communion. First, the ‘web of mutuality’ manifested in the Covenant, which provides autonomy and interdependence with accountability. This is the broad centre ground of those who vote for the Covenant, and includes the leaders of the Communion-minded Global South Anglican movement, based in Singapore.

Second, ‘confessionalism’, gathered around the Jerusalem Declaration of the conservative Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), the follow up group to the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON). Based currently in Nairobi, FCA hosts a conference in London from 23-27 April, at which some members of the Global South Anglican Movement will also attend.

Third, ‘independent autonomy’, following the radically liberal current leaders of The Episcopal Church, in the USA, (TEC).

Following further likely controversial decisions of TEC’s General Convention in July, there may well be more fragmentation between the first two and the third options. These decisions, together with the English vote, may lead to the Anglican Communion declining into a Federation or Association…

Benjamin Guyer has written Defending the Bishops which is a reply to Diarmaid MacCulloch’s article in the Guardian linked here previously.

…MacCulloch’s arguments are weak at best. But there is something more going on here than poor reasoning, for MacCulloch is advancing an idiosyncratic argument in favor of populism. On the one hand, vox populi non vox Dei est (the voice of the people is not the voice of God). The bishops are not now, never have been, and never will be under any obligation simply to follow the laity. The Church of England is the whole ecclesiastical body. To borrow from St. Paul, the body is “made up of many parts” (1 Cor. 12:12). There is no theological reason why one ecclesiastical office should be collapsed into another. Curiously, and in an oversimplification bordering upon historical falsehood, MacCulloch asserts that once upon a time the British episcopal churches “wanted to monopolise every form of religious expression.” But by demanding that the bishops sacrifice their voice, it is MacCulloch and his supporters who desire such monopoly. MacCulloch’s anti-authoritarianism thinly veils his own longing for domination and control.

Since at least the British civil wars of the 1640s, marginal groups with revolutionary intentions have claimed that they alone speak for “the people.” But such totalizing declarations should be met with considerable skepticism. Claiming to speak for the people may be both an act of deception and an act of manipulation. Of course, the Anglican Covenant is about the Anglican Communion, not about sexuality. This is why sexuality is not discussed in the Covenant at all. Only a grand conspiracy theory can hold otherwise. Such theories may appeal to some of the now-aged children of the 1960s, but we live in the 21st century. And today MacCulloch’s writing has been shown — yet again — to be selective, speculative, tendentious and agenda-ridden.

Benny Hazlehurst has written Anglican Covenant – Rest in Peace.

…The fact that so many clergy and lay people voted against their Bishops showed that when they really looked beneath the surface of the proposed Covenant, they found it wanting. And in doing so time and time again, they defeated the platform. And where Bishops had the courage of their convictions and voted against, they found themselves at one with their flock, rather than trying to drag them along in humble submission.

There are those who are still trying to pretend that the Covenant is still alive, desperately trying to breathe life into its limp body, while claiming still to feel the faintest pulse. They are mistaken.

What is needed now is to recognise the will of the Synodical process, and express deep and sincere thanks to those who genuinely tried to find a way forward for the Anglican Communion in the form of a Covenant – and to let it now Rest in Peace.

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MarkBrunson
Guest

Benjamin Guyer is positively shrill, isn’t he? It is amusing to watch him dance around a call for episcopal autocracy without wanting it to seem that bishops are *autocrats*. Wow. The whole feel is “How dare the filthy laity try to tell bishops what God wants of them!” followed by “So, shut up you filthy commies trying to destroy everything!” The final laugh comes – for me – with his almost hysterical bloviating about simplistic arguments (trans.: My God! you anti-covenanters are stupid!) followed by the argument that the covenant isn’t about sexuality because it isn’t mentioned* and only conspiracy… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Benjamin Guyer – ‘Of course, the Anglican Covenant is about the Anglican Communion, not about sexuality. This is why sexuality is not discussed in the Covenant at all’.

Re-writing history already I see. Mr Guyer is either ignorant or deliberately misleading. The Covenant is ALL about homosexuality and a naked attempt to stop the deliberate and thoughtful journey of ECUSA folowed by others towards the full inclusion of LGBT people. It provides a mechanism to exclude churches which are making such a journey. To say otherwise is disingenous to say the least.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

There ought to be a medal for ‘Bishops with outstanding Gifts of Common Sense’. Bishop Alan Wilson would surely be one of its most worthy recipients at this point in Anglican Church History.

One of the very few Church of England prelates to have sussed out the reality that the Covenant could never have replaced the wisdom of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral; the Bishop of Buckingham deserved a new palace. Maybe not the Palace of Buckingham – but surely Lambeth!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“This is why sexuality is not discussed in the Covenant at all. Only a grand conspiracy theory can hold otherwise.” – Benjamin Guyer –

He’s right, of course! Not a word about sexuality in The Covenant! After all, what is happening in the closets and bedrooms is never discussed in polite Church of England (Anglican) Society.

But it really is the Elephant in the Bedroom that most concerns GAFCON & ACNA., for whom it is a subject more worrying than mere poverty, graft, and other endemic troubles in their own patch.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Graham Kings’ offering is so lugubrious! Please note the c.seitz mantra we see here “the ACC cannot stop the Covenant” is picked up in the Goddard and Kings pieces. All from the same stable, of course, and practicing the propagandist trick of making something so because you (and your mates) say it is. Also Kings tries to move from the doubtful “may” in Goddards assessment of the ABC continued role in Communion affairs to a point where it seems the rejection of the Covenant leaves the office unaffected. Amazing. Even the ACI lads see the ABC as hobbled by this… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Third, ‘independent autonomy’, following the radically liberal current leaders of The Episcopal Church, in the USA, (TEC).”

Independent autonomy has been the structure of the Anglican Communion since it was first considered in existence, way back in 1884. Why discuss it as something new?

As for “radically liberal,” gee–I thought radicalism is what Jesus always proposed.

rjb
Guest
rjb

I do accept Benjamin Guyer’s assertion (and there’s a phrase I may never have cause to write ever again) that bishops are under no obligation to pay any mind to the feelings of their clergy or laity. Yet it seems to be an established principle, at least in the C of E, that a bishop should be a “focus of unity”. That, as I recall, was exactly the reason why a number of outstanding candidates who happened to be gay have been conspicuously overlooked for preferment in the last decade. Yet the reality is that our bishops have completely failed… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

Benjamin Guyer: ‘The bishops are not now, never have been, and never will be under any obligation simply to follow the laity.’

Where did Mr. Guyer get this idea? ‘I accept Your Majesty as the sole source of ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal power’ certainly sounds to me like entering into an obligation to follow the laity – provided, of course, that the laity does its leading through the correct procedures of the Queen in Parliament and the Synods to which the Queen in Parliament delegates powers.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Guyer: “Of course, the Anglican Covenant is about the Anglican Communion, not about sexuality.”

Methinks it is this statement that, in Guyer’s words, borders on falsehood.

Counterlight
Guest
Counterlight

“…following the radically liberal current leaders of The Episcopal Church, in the USA, (TEC).”

I’d substitute “radically liberal current rank and file” for “leaders.” Bishops in the Episcopal Church are elected, not appointed. Their authority does not exceed what the General Convention gives to them. We dumped the idea of Prince Bishops back at the same time that the USA dumped the idea of rule by Princes. If anything, the pew sitters are a little less divided about sexual issues and women clergy than are the bishops.

david rowett
Guest

Somehow I don’t think Diarmaid M. will be over-worried by Benjamin G’s accusations of tendentious writing or of pandering to the sixties generation. Anyhow, once BG is as honoured and feted a writer as Prof. M we shall see who’s the real heavyweight. Isn’t it about time someone propounded a Gresham’s Law of the Church – that the the first person to accuse an opponent of being enslaved by the spirit of the 1960’s should automatically be deemed to have lost. It’d work for a lot of the rubbishing of Vatican II as well. As for finding myself described by… Read more »

david rowett
Guest

Hang on – in a comment in an earlier thread Benjamin Guyon said this: “The popular vote *for* the Covenant indicates that support for it will not die any time soon. The victory that the No Covenant crowd celebrates today is much misunderstood if it is seen as decisive or popular, for it is neither – and this is as good an indication as any that what the No Covenant crowd wants is not the voice of the people to be heard” (thereby implying that heeding the voice of the people might be rather important). Now he’s arguing ‘vox populi… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Impossible to take Benjamin Guyer seriously.

Quoting Haigh, Diarmaid’s erstwhile fellow Oxford historian and competitor, who reviewed a work by MacCulloch as
“unexamined … unexplained, selective, speculative…. tendentious and agenda-ridden.” he goes on to reference a Telegraph rehash of a Daily Mail story that was (not to put too fine a point on it) bovine ordure. Pot and kettle …..?

He really must learn to check his sources …..

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr Reynolds — when you speak of the ACC ‘pulling the plug later in the year’ I take it you mean in 6-7 months time. Surely the provinces considering it in the meantime will be a considerable factor in how the ACC reacts. Kearon certainly said nothing to the contrary and indeed underscored the independence and integrity of the covenant process. Or, are you asking people to adopt an ‘insider perspective’ at odds with the public statement?

Canon David
Guest
Canon David

Can I still be an Anglican if I have serious doubts as to whether the voice of my bishop is the voice of God? I’d still try to be canonically obedient, of course…

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

What’s the difference between autonomy with interdependence and accountability and independent autonomy when the first isn’t written into each province’s structure? My sense is that there really isn’t a difference between them unless the accountability is hard-wired in. For example the appointment process would need to be altered to require the candidates to be approved by other provinces or communion bodies before the names can be sent to the prime minister or the queen. Additionally, major decisions would need also need to be sent out for approval before Synod could pass them on Parliament or before they could come into… Read more »

4 May 1535+
Guest
4 May 1535+

@ Pat O’Neill: Just to underline a point I’ve made before, in American English “independent autonomy” is a redundancy. “Autonomy” in the sense in which it has been used by Brits involved in the Windsor/Covenant process is (so far as one can tell from over here) the standard UK usage, but American high school social studies used to mock the claimed “autonomous” character of “republics” under the thumb of Moscow, precisely because they weren’t truly independent, and one can find quotations from Americans (even conservative A-C Bishops) back in the 1960s that they construe “autonomy” in that strong sense. @Feria–Yes,… Read more »

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

As previously posted, I believe it is better for each group of believers to “go their own way” and I believe the sooner this happens, the healthier the situation for the future. We will never be able to understand the dynamics of homophobia and misogyny that have been so evident as this debacle has unfolded. In America, The Episcopal Church has chosen INCLUSIVE theology as it pertains to both women and the glbt communities. To me, this best represents the path Jesus always took. It also represents the direction that the Council Fathers of Vatican II hoped for in a… Read more »

Joe
Guest

The response by Graham Kings points to a huge part of the problem. His vilification of the Episcopal Church (or of its supposed option) is based on his presumption that the Episcopal Church espouses a notion of independent autonomy that entirely rules out mutual accountability. I’m not sure how or why anyone would even want to dichotomize or ‘trichotomize’ the options so starkly: it’s hardly the fairest or the truest way of characterising the options. Indeed, it is this hard sell that has turned many of us off. We just don’t see the Spirit working through such tactics. Again and… Read more »

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

Entirely leaving aside the rank stupidity of the ‘individual autonomy’ comment (another word is ‘autocephalous’ and it has always been the case in the AC), what on Earth can Dr Kings possibly think the Communion is NOW, temporally speaking (of course it is theologically speaking the Church Militant, with all that that entails), if he is concerned about it ‘deteriorating’ into a federation or association?

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

“….borders on”, Jeremy?

John Thorp
Guest

Bishop Alan Wilson is the one with a real grip on the situation — not just the local English ecclesio-political situation but the situation in the wider world of Anglicanism.

ABC stuff, I’d say. And refreshingly unstuffy stuff.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Again and again, we’ve been told that the covenant is the only game in town. I respect those who seem so committed to it, but I can’t help but think that, if it is the only game in town, it is because we have made it so.” – Joe – But now there is a ‘newcomer on the block’, Joe. It goes by the name of GAFCON. And it it championed by no less an ex-Anglican bishop than The Rt.Revd. Michael NAZIR-ALI; who calls IT ‘The Only Game in Town’ in a recent press release! This Rt.Revd. prelate is going… Read more »

William
Guest
William

“It also represents the direction that the Council Fathers of Vatican II hoped for in a future model of being Church.”

The “being churchers” of the 1970’s and 80’s are all elderly now, and their movement is dying. Young Catholics are orthodox, dynamic and tremendously positive about their faith. Why on earth would they choose the radical option of Christianity and then want to water it down? It makes no sense. If someone wants to be secular no problem – the Church offers something different.

Judith Maltby
Guest
Judith Maltby

Why would any sensible Anglican in England think that the Covenant came into being chiefly because of issues in human sexuality? Not that someone of my colleague Prof MacCulloch’s standing needs defending but let’s think about evidence. I draw attention to the official briefing paper produced by the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England and commended by the two archbishops to the members of General Synod (GS Misc 966) to frame the debate on the Covenant for the November 2010 session. This is the very first sentence of the briefing paper: ‘1. The idea of an Anglican… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

I am a bit shocked to discover the text of the oath of loyalty sworn by C of E bishops — “I accept Your Majesty as the sole source of ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal power”. Disestablishment would get rid of this theological embarrassment.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Bishop Alan really is the voice of sanity! so pleased to have discovered his blog. Fortunately church life goes on… here in Canterbury I have yet to meet cleric, canon, synod reps etc who seem particularly steamed up. We could do with some patience I think, surely. Comments have been rather shrill! London ( my old diocese ) votes tonight…intelligence suggests a rejection, we shall see. By the end of April we will have the full C of E picture and in about 9 months we will have a clearer picture of the effect of the C of E’s rejection… Read more »

Mary Marriot
Guest
Mary Marriot

the FCA/GAFCON conference to be held in London at the end of April. The Chair of that conference will be the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, the Rt.Revd. Eliud Wabakula, who recently ordained a few UK indigenous deacons to begin GAFCON’s underground ‘church’ in England: AMiE (the Anglican mission in England).’

WILL they even be granted entry visas, as they are terrorists and entryists hellbent on subverting the state church ?

Maybe the Home Secretary will sit in or the Metropolitan Police ?

Mary Marriot
Guest
Mary Marriot

YES, Spirit of Vatican II, you can see how bishops having made that oath are finished really.

So spiritually debilitating – surely ?

Some have even joined the Ordinariate but how can such an oath be expunged ?

And it is clearly untrue. The throne of England has and bestows nothing of the sort.

Rome is no better.

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

Surely the “text of the oath of loyalty sworn by C of E bishops” quoted is an invention of Tony Benn in a speech made during the 1998 Commons debate on Lords amendments to the Crime and Disorder Bill dealing with the age of consent. No earlier references seem to be “out there” – but that is not conclusive, of course. Hansard 28 Jul 1998 : Column 196 Conservative Members know very well, Labour Governments have four years in office and Tory Governments have five, because the Lords can always turn its power of delay into a veto. I have… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I do not know if this is true in England, but it is certainly not true here in California, where the child sexual abuse scandal has destroyed the trust of Catholic laity. Not one regular communicant of that denomination that I know will leave his or her child alone with a priest. Not one will fail to use birth control, and very few have objection to abortion. They all believe priests should be married, and most think women should be ordained. They are attached to the liturgy but not to the clergy, much less the hierarchy. It is a very… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

Spirit of Vatican II,

There’s nothing embarrassing about it. Indeed, I’d say the Church of England can be very proud of the fact this oath, along with the other structures of the establishment, mean that its Episcopacy is accountable to the people – _all_ of the people – through their elected Parliament.

David Shepherd
Guest

Much as I am against the Covenant, I really wanted to back Guyer in this comment thread. Principally, because I hate the all-too-familiar arrogance of the usual TA tag-team bullies. Nevertheless, the reality is that 80 per cent of our episcopate has endorsed a position that has only 50 per cent lay support. It would have been better for Guyer to claim that the lay vote was unrepresentative of the wider public who oppose redefining marriage. A majority of bishops hold to a position that only represents half of our lay voters. You are are either in touch, or out… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

“I, A B, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law: So help me God.”

That’s much better.

Feria
Guest
Feria

John Roch, I don’t think Tony Benn has much influence at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but they confirm the text of the oath as he quoted it, in the “Religion” and “Monarchy” documents in their “Insight UK” series, which are dated April 2001 and January 2003 respectively. I’m guessing that candidates for the Episcopacy have to take _both_ this oath and the one in Canon C 13. Spirit of Vatican II, I’m not convinced that the text in Canon C 13 on its own would be “much better”, because it would fail in the objective of reminding candidates for… Read more »

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

Quite so.

As I said earlier – perhaps a Rt Rev commenter could comment.

JDR

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I thought Joe captured the issue with delicacy and Anglican gentility.

Feria
Guest
Feria

My previous attempt to shed some more light on the wording of the oath administered to new bishops disappeared due to excessive length. Apologies for that; I’ll try to be be briefer this time. First, the reason we don’t all already know: section 11 of the Clerical Subscription Act 1865 moved the oath from the public consecration ceremony to a private audience with the Home Secretary (now the Justice Secretary), so only Bishops and Home/Justice Secretaries ever get to hear it administered. Second, the actual wording: in the same parliamentary debate where Tony Benn made his comments, the then Home… Read more »