Thursday, 22 January 2009

CofE and the Covenant

The Church of England General Synod will be considering the Covenant again in February.

The two relevant documents are:

GS 1716 Anglican Covenant available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page.

GS Misc 910 The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion by Colin Podmore, available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page.

Last November, Mr Justin Brett asked a (written, electronic) Question, which is reported here:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal Prerogative could not in practice arise.

There is no reference in the new report to the point raised in this Q and A.

The report indicates that the House of Bishops believes the process of adoption of the Covenant should not involve the passing of any Measure or Canon, but rather the passing of a Synod resolution which should then be formally declared to be an Act of Synod. It also considers that such a resolution would most likely be both Article 7 and Article 8 business, and thus would require referral to the dioceses.

The Church of England’s earlier response to the (then) draft Covenant can be found here. The full text is available in html here.

The Church Times reported last year’s debate: Anglican Covenant: New Covenant draft welcomed more warmly.

The voting result at that time was reported here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 9:31am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England
Comments

"it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take."
Similarly, Katharine Jefferts Schori of TEC did not have the authority to permit a committee of primates (the Dar es Salaam recommendation) to provide such direction to US dioceses without TEC's ultimate oversight. In her two New York meetings with the recalitrants, that final oversight was all that was requested. The CofF (Common Cause Partnership) with global south core support, demanded that TEC be removed from final oversight. This demand is absolutely clear in its secret memo to the GS steering committee of November 2007 authored by Bishop Duncan. Bishop Duncan was present and vocal at the Dar-es-Salaam meeting.

Posted by: EmilyH on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 1:21pm GMT

I cannot understand how the legal point has been ignored. In all the convoluted interpretation about procedure, as in going via the dioceses, there is no mention that anything seen as direction from without would be illegal.

It seems there is a lack of authority in the Anglican Consultative Council, but to place authority in say the Primates' hands would be to make direction look like that from without.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 2:50pm GMT

I have to say it:

"it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take."

This is blindingly obvious to anyone who knows how Henry 8th split from Rome after he was granted the fidei defensor title.

You could have a UFO land in your garden, and that would be more credible than the belief that the CofE can delegate any powers to a body outside English law.

Posted by: dodgey_vicar on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 4:03pm GMT

dodgeey_vicar:

"You could have a UFO land in your garden, and that would be more credible than the belief that the CofE can delegate any powers to a body outside English law."

Thanks for the best laugh I've had today!

Posted by: GoSane+ on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 4:49pm GMT

An interesting paper - and from an American perspective, somewhat disturbing. My primary question, however, is this: Dr. Podmore's scholarly credentials notwithstanding, what is or will be the authority of this paper? Will the General Synod endorse especially his perspective on "episcopally led and synodically governed?"

There has been recognition, especially after Lambeth, that within the Anglican Communion it's not true that "a bishop is a bishop is a bishop." How do those differences reflect apostolic authority? And that, of course, raises the question of what it means for the church catholic to be "apostolic," and how do member churches of the Communion reflect that meaning?

While the Communion is made up of separate, if interdependent, national or regional churches, how the Church of England sees itself must cause the other churches to reflect on how they have carried forward the Anglican tradition. So, just how important, how authoritative is this paper?

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 7:27pm GMT

Tobias Haller has commented on this, see

http://jintoku.blogspot.com/2009/01/toothless-covenant.html

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 11:36pm GMT

"And that is, after all, what autonomous means -- self-governing; that is, just to spell it out, not governed by someone else." - Tobias Haller -

Covenant can be a very dangerous concept of relationship - especially under the auspices of what the proposed Anglican Covenant hopes may be possible. This attempt to 'enforce' a covenantal relationship onto the various provincial bodies of the Anglican Communion is even more tricky than the 'One-to-One' Covenant between God and the People of Israel. At least, in that situation there were only two 'independent' entities party to the Covenant. That Covenant failed because of the intransigence of the one party that could gain fronm the relationship.

For an Anglican Covenantal relationship to get off the ground it would be necessary for each of the provincial partners to 'sign up' to the conditions laid down. We all know that "Nothing is impossible with God", but it would need the whole-hearted cooperation of everyone this side of heaven to make it work.

And then, of course, there are the extant legal problems where the Church/State relationship of the Church of England may inhibit the C.of E.'s participation in such a relationship with other ptrovicncial Churches.

The Roman Catholic Church has no such problems within its hierarchical structure - the Pope and the Curia being the sole jurisdictional entity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 8:30am GMT

Pluralist has commented on this at
http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/01/covenant-blues.html

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 1:30pm GMT

The Covenant was always a bad idea & with the de facto departure of the GAFCON alliance, it seems pointless, but it refuses to die. So it seems that something called a Covenant is inevitable & it will have no meaning since it won't be agreed to if it is punitive. I suppose we will end up with another statement (incoherent?) of what "Anglicanism" is.

Meanwhile, the C of E continues in Communion with the Church of Sweden & the Old Catholics who bless same sex unions without any protest, but the Anglicans in Canada & Episcopalians in the US are mediatized.

I suppose Anglicanism has never been supposed to make sense ...

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 9:47pm GMT
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