Thinking Anglicans

Church press on the Anglican Covenant defeat in England

The Church of Ireland Gazette has this editorial opinion: Anglican Covenant, Anglicanism and The Church of Ireland.

It might well be said that the unthinkable happened last weekend, with the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant coming to grief in the Church of England of all places (report, page 1). Yet, that is precisely what happened, and it will surely go down in the annals of Anglican history. The Covenant had been intended as an agreement with procedures that would help keep the Anglican Communion in one piece when facing contentious issues. Undoubtedly, it arose as a result of the inter-Anglican same-sex relationships controversy that has now seen its own fraught manifestation in the Church of Ireland playing out since last autumn and occasioning, earlier this month, a unique Bishops’ Conference on the topic for General Synod members.

One aspect of the Church of England débâcle that no doubt will be the subject of careful consideration in the relevant quarters is the fact that in some of the diocesan synods the voting was very close. In theory, following reflection at the English General Synod on what has transpired, the Covenant could be put back on the table in the Church of England after a lapse of three years, but there are at least two reasons why this is unlikely: first, as the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has pointed out, the Covenant is facing difficulties in some other parts of the Communion and, second, in any case, the passage of time and considerable disagreements about it have left the Covenant unable really to deal with the differences in the Communion over same-sex relationships. Other divisive issues could, of course, arise, but it is difficult to see all the requisite superabundance of energy actually now being summoned to recover and progress the Covenant (perhaps).

The moral of the story has at least two dimensions. First, from a practical perspective, when faced with a divisive crisis, setting up a bureaucratic procedure that is going to take years to get anywhere, if it is to get anywhere at all, is hardly a good idea. If anyone thought that ‘buying time’ would allow the same-sex relationships imbroglio to subside, that was a very mistaken notion, and we in the Church of Ireland do need to take note of that as we face our own difficulties over the issue.

Second, from a more conceptual perspective, we now know, as surely as we can know, that Anglicanism is set to remain a Communion of wholly autonomous Churches, bound together by ‘bonds of affection’. It should be added, however, that such mutual affection is far from a weak ideal; it is, in fact, a considerable calling and it is surely true that at times we do have to work at loving one another. There has been talk about being in communion implying ‘interdependence’ and thus justifying central regulation, however light, but that interdependence argument is actually quite vague because everything in the world is interdependent and, from an ecclesiological perspective, all Christians of whatever denomination, in communion or out of communion, are interdependent. Thus, as Anglicans, we are all, across the globe, now challenged to ponder our affection for one another and, where it is waning, to seek to nurture it carefully and prayerfully….

The Church Times has this leader: After the Covenant.

ANYONE offered a welcoming doughnut and a seat near the projector on arrival at church on Sunday would probably have guessed that it was one of the growing number of Messy Church services. But even if things looked normal, they weren’t. After the diocesan votes on the previous day, it is all Messy Church. The Anglican Covenant — an attempt to introduce order to the Communion — was tipped into oblivion, at least as far as the Church of England goes.

Without the Covenant, it was argued, national Churches had no formal obligation to consider the “relational consequences” (a coinage of the Covenant text) of their actions on other Churches in the Communion. Dr Williams warned that, without the Covenant, he found it “hard at present to see another way forward that would avoid further disintegration”. One of the troubling aspect of the Covenant debates — such as they have been — is the impression given by critics that they can not only live with disintegration but positively welcome it, if it means not having to relate to people with whom they disagree fundamentally.
In the end, Anglicans have discovered what another ecclesial body might have told them from the start: in the present age, a text cannot hold Churches together in the way that a person can. Given that no text will be perfect, a degree of affection is needed to persuade people to subscribe. An individual can earn that affection; a text (poetry excepted), never — especially a text monitored by a standing committee that few understand and none recognise. Time and again in the General Synod, affection for Dr Williams carried members along; but he was absent in the diocesan synods, and the link was broken…

Giles Fraser writes Covenant is dead. Long live unity.

I WILL not disguise my joy at the death of the Anglican Covenant. And death it is — despite the fact that some people will inevitably try to give its corpse the kiss of life. The idea that the Church of England has given it so emphatic a thumbs-down, especially in the face of huge episcopal and archiepiscopal lobby­ing, is evidence of how un­popular the idea is in the pews.

Here, the majority of bishops have shown themselves to be completely out of touch with the centre of gravity of the Church of England. It is not that we do not care about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Communion. It is simply that we want our Christian solidarity to be expressed through our Anglican heritage, our common baptism, and the development of friendships — and not through a treaty that can be haggled over by church politicians, the purpose of which was always to isolate those Churches that had a different view of sexual ethics…

And there is a news report by Ed Thornton Challenges remain, Primate warns, after dioceses block Anglican Covenant.

…Speaking on Monday, Dr Williams said: “This is, of course, a disap­pointing outcome for many of us in the Church of England and many more in the Communion. Unfor­tunately, the challenges the Covenant was meant to address will not go away just because people vote against it.

“We shall still have to work at vehicles for consultation and manag­ing disagreement. And nothing should lessen the priority of sus­taining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulner­able Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial.”

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, a patron of the Yes to the Covenant Coalition, said on Tuesday that he was “disappointed”; but “we have to trust the mind of the Church. I simply hope that the Anglican Communion can flourish a different way, without what I thought was its best hope.”
The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, who voted against the Covenant in Oxford diocesan synod, said that its defeat in the C of E was an “opportunity to grow up, to take stock, and to get real. It’s very sad that a large number of bishops were out of touch on this one.”

31
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
31 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
Father Ron SmithMarkBrunsonErika BakerjohnLaurence Roberts Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Again there is an overwhelming sense that the Covenant is not just dead in England – but it is DEAD. Now I was asked on an earlier thread in relation as to what should happen now -bearing in mind the Covenant will most likely be pulled at the upcoming ACC. There is a great danger in letting things fester. The Dar es Salaam fiasco and the end of “rule by Primatial edict” – is an example. Look how much trouble people made in the months and years following that debacle – when it was clear the day after the final… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

It seems that, as even the Bishop of Oxford has suggested: ‘The mind of the Church’ has been discerned – at least, in the Church of England. Whatever the upcoming GAFCON prelates may decided in their upcoming London meeting; that will be up to them, whether they decide to opt out of the Unity in Diversity ethos of Anglicanism; or to move their ‘orthodoxy’ Head Office to GAFCON-land. Only they can choose! In the meantime, let the rest of us get on with the important business of ‘preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ’ and the unconditional Love of God… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Dr. Williams said, “And nothing should lessen the priority of sus­taining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulner­able Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial.”

Then why in God’s name, for nearly ten years, did he support a project that would have divided the Communion and sundered relationships?

The Covenant wasn’t about relationships. It was about control.

The Archbishop allowed himself to be distracted from his chief Communion duty.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

“Relational consequences” means SPANK. SPANKING is UN-ANGLICAN.

If African bishops and others want to spank perhaps they’d better find a family where spanking is practiced.

rjb
Guest
rjb

“One of the troubling aspect of the Covenant debates — such as they have been — is the impression given by critics that they can not only live with disintegration but positively welcome it, if it means not having to relate to people with whom they disagree fundamentally.” -Church Times And there, exactly, is the problem. The Covenant may well have been fundamentally anti-Anglican in nature, but many of its most zealous opponents are also the enemies of the tolerance and inclusivity that is at the heart of the Anglican tradition (and of which they profess to be the ardent… Read more »

John B. Chilton
Guest
John B. Chilton

Dr. Williams said any province that rejected the covenant would be an “associate member” of the Anglican Communion, not a “constituent member”. But now that the CoE has rejected the covenant op-ed writers take the view, instead, that if the mother province rejects the covenant the covenant is dead. Why can it not instead be that the mother province has made herself an associate member of her own communion? Absurd, but the covenant always was absurd.

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

What I find especially disturbing about Dr. Williams comments about “sustaining relationships” is that he never made a serious attempt to sustain relationships with those who have been disenfranchised from the Church for so many years: the glbt community and women. He made every attempt to “sustain” relationships with those narrow minds that caused an American bishop who happened to be gay and was in a committed relationship, to be disinvited and disenfranchised from the Lambeth Conference. Rowan stood firmly with the fundamentalist elements within the Anglican Communion. I believe his actions carry great shame when it comes to this… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“The Covenant may well have been fundamentally anti-Anglican in nature, but many of its most zealous opponents are also the enemies of the tolerance and inclusivity that is at the heart of the Anglican tradition (and of which they profess to be the ardent defenders).” – rjb – I’m afraid, rjb, that your logic here is a little awry. It was not the Covenant opposers that have necessitated the erection of a Covenant process – by refusing to ‘live with’ the Dissenters of the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ at GAFCON. It is exactly the opposite. GAFCON and ACNA have refused to live… Read more »

NJT
Guest

rjb – The essence of the covenant was to establish who is in and who is out, and more specifically the structuring of a polity which would discriminate by forcing churches to choose between conscience or membership. Those of us who have opposed the covenant have done so to preserve the tolerance and inclusivity which such measure would have disposed of. Which is preferable, churches which choose to leave of their own conscious volition or thrown out because of the intolerance and unifying vision of a majority? The Gafconners, the homophobes, the sexist and pharisaic will always be welcome in… Read more »

john
Guest
john

I’m with rjb, who was talking primarily about relations within England/the UK. People such as us are not committed to accommodating the extreme views within GAFCON or the Nigerian Church: we reject them. Father Ron, ‘logic’ is not a flag you should uphold: when it is pointed out to you that rejection of the Covenant on the ground of top-down centrism commits you to pluralism (excluding ‘vicious’ views, etc.), you simply can’t see it. If you were one of my students, I would fail you. NJT and others: of course if you frame the argument in terms of ‘inclusivity’, you… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John

“NJT and others: of course if you frame the argument in terms of ‘inclusivity’, you automatically ‘damn’ those non-homophobic and non-misogynistic Anglicans who nevertheless have conscientious, bible-based, difficulties with homosexual sexuality or WO: but the ‘framing’ is itself prejudicial and elides the serious arguments.”

Can you conceive of any situation at all where your liberalism actually makes you come down on the side of those who wish not to be discriminated against?

Stevie
Guest
Stevie

There is one hopeful aspect which I think may be overlooked; we have been frequently exhorted by our Archbishops to bring the Good News to our fellow citizens here in England. The difficulty with this is that, as a Christian fundamentalist* who believes that you can’t get any more fundamentalist than trying to live your life according to Christ’s words at Matthew 35:31, it’s really very tricky trying to explain to people why Christ’s words are apparently totally ignored by the hierarchy of the Church. Actually, it’s not just tricky, it’s impossible. It may be less impossible now the Covenant… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Erika,

Millions. That is implicit in everything I write. Sorry you can’t see it.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“If you were one of my students, I would fail you”.

But would that be a mark of your orthodoxy?

Your statement only goes to prove that, as I am not your student (for which, much thanks) there is still a God in Heaven.

Have a good Holy Week. My prayers for your students.

Bill Dilworth
Guest

John, we reject the views of GAFCON, Nigeria, et al., but not them. And yes, there’s a difference. Part of being in community or in a family is being able to say “You’re wrong” but still show up at the dinner table. You’re not part of a family because you agree with the other members, but because (usually) things over which you have no control, like who gave birth to you or shares a common mother.

john
Guest
john

Father Ron,

I am not personally ‘orthodox’. I would not fail you (I certainly would fail you) by the standards of ‘orthodoxy’ or anywhere on the belief spectrum: I would fail you because you don’t recognise valid procedures of argument. As your last comment illustrated all too clearly.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Again – regarding the dubious claims of “exclusion” of people who are, traditionally, in the majority; First – the basis of the argument is completely wrong: no one is excluded from Christ or Christianity by refusing to cooperate with creating these special places. The anglican tradition has long accepted the legitimacy of other expressions of Christianity as valid. The insistence that people are being “thrown out” of community reeks of religious exclusivism itself and is deplorable. We *are* in community with the RCC’s, with the Orthodox, with the various Protestants, and, if they do not wish to acknowledge that we… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

You may also wish to consider, John, in the midst of your “sacrifice” which costs you nothing:

These are our lives, not a classroom. Perhaps you could reach into that boundless, saintly bosom of yours and dig out some compassion and empathy for those who really *have* been discriminated against?

Erika doesn’t “see it” because it isn’t there. You’re too busy being the liberal “good guy.”

john
Guest
john

Mark, Your remarks are far too general. I have made it clear again and again that I support full women and gay rights. In the state sphere there are no exceptions. Not very hard to ‘see’, surely? In the church sphere WO are here to stay and in the UK there will be women bishops. What is being talked about is minority provision for those who in good conscience can’t accept them – people who I think wrong. In the gay area, things are getting better (they are). I support this process. There is still serious progress to be made.… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

I’ve given my answer on the church sphere, as well. They are not “too general,” at all. Classroom pedantics don’t count here, and seem very shrill and defensive. I’ve explained to you why there will be no “loss” of the FiF people – after all, we don’t pretend Dorothy Day, or St. Francis, or Nicholas of Myra don’t exist because they weren’t anglican, now do we? I’ve explained to you the difference between losing a safe place, and being forced to find a place that is more suitable for your platform among a wide variety of choices. That you clearly… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“What is being talked about is minority provision for those who in good conscience can’t accept them – people who I think wrong” – John – It still seems, John, as though you were actually in favour of PEVs – those wing’ed ephemeral creatures that defy the catholic and apostolic tradition of ‘authority’ in the Church. Surely, if the nay-sayers who object to a woman bishop want to be part of a Church that canonically authorises women to minister as diocesan bishops, it is difficult for the nay-sayers to be integrated into the system . This was the problem with… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Mark/Father Ron, I think you both argue too simply. Mark: it might be ‘personal to me’ in one sense: I have FiF friends. Sometimes, I suppose, we’re in communion, sometimes we’re not, mostly we are. (I’ll be acolyting with one on Friday and Saturday, maybe Sunday.) It’s the last bit I care about. They’re not ‘blackmailing’ anybody, they’re pretty anxious; they’re not at heart papists; their options aren’t actually easy; their preferred option is certainly to stay. Considering everything else that is going on in the world, or indeed in the church, I really can’t get worked up about the… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest

I think we need to provide placed for people who disagree with us not because it is good for them, but because it is good for us.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Most of the flying bishops took their name too literally, and flew away to Rome, after causing havoc in the Church of England.

I’m not convinced we need any more…

MarkBrunson
Guest

If you want people to “be happy,” then I have very sad news for you – it won’t happen on this earth. This is not Paradise. Jesus certainly didn’t make any promises about happiness in this life. I’m sorry. I don’t want to hurt you, especially as I am going to be answering for all soon enough, but you can’t force people together who hate one another and hope for peace. Even if you make a place for them, they won’t be “with” you any more than if they were Roman Catholic or Orthodox. Nor, any less. All they’ll do… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Bill, if you can convince me that your life, thought, and the “market of ideas” in the Church Universal is completely unaffected by any denomination other than my own, I’ll buy the argument that there is no place being made for disagreement.

Until then, I’ll say that there is a place made for disagreement. God made it. It’s this planet and the lives we live on it.

If it comforts you, consider that we are in the same church family and I’m disagreeing with you.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, I think you are so sure that you are doing the right thing that you are not seeing the moral choices to be made. Rowan Williams did the same when he weighed up the moral values of unity against the moral values of fighting all kinds of discrimination. He came down on the side of unity. I believe he made a mistake. Maybe it isn’t possible to stay squeaky clean in this debate. Maybe we have to accept that, in coming down on either side, we are doing the other an injustice. The choice, then, is for each one… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Erika, I do think I am doing – and arguing – the right thing – on balance, taking as many variables as possible into consideration, etc. I entirely see the moral choices to be made. There’s nothing remotely difficult about seeing them. People complain that ‘I am missing the point’. I entirely see the point. I see other points. I then make a considered calculus. This way of thinking is repugnant to some – in theory, bet you lots of them behave in similar ways in practice. I certainly observe many Evangelical people making similar practical compromises from their side.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, in that case, I wish you didn’t insist so often that those who make different moral choices are “wrong”. For my liking, your views are too close to arguing that there’s no reason for black people not to sit at the back of the bus, after all, that way we can all travel together and we all reach the same destination. What’s wrong with this is not that black people might want to sit at the back of the bus but that they’re not given a choice. I happily concede that I might like to worship in a church… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

I also would have to question how “kind” it is to basically say to the right-wingers, “Well, your point of view is dying out anyway, so we’ll set you over there, where you can talk amongst yourselves with nothing to do with us, and nowhere to go, and nothing to do until you die and we don’t have to deal with the pain of you leaving – see how nice we are!” Looked at with any degree of compassion, the flying-bishop nonsense, argued for by “moderates” is the equivalent of locking the crazy Uncle in the attic until he dies… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

John, I understand that you are not a priest. Correct me if I’m wrong. That makes absolutely no difference to your membership of the Body of Christ. However, if you are not a priest, then you would not have had the experience of being called by God into priestly orders in the Church. Some women in the Church sincerely believe that they have received a call from God into priestly ministry and the fact that some of these are now ordained into various Anglican communities is a reality. The Anglican Church was, in my opinion, in error in allowing PEVs… Read more »