Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Covenant - the only way forward

Bishop Graham Kings has written at Cif belief The Anglican covenant is the only way forward. (Another copy here.)

Its detractors say it will stifle diversity, but unless the church votes for the covenant, deeper divisions will be unavoidable.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” is a celebrated line in WB Yeats’s 1920 poem The Second Coming. How that relates to the Church of England and the tensions in the wider Anglican communion, 90 years later, we shall witness next week. On Wednesday 24 November, General Synod will be debating the Anglican covenant.

This covenant of unity seeks to hold the Anglican communion together organically in the face of increasing fragmentation. The choice in this debate is to opt into intensifying our world-wide relationships in affection and commitment or to allow splits to develop further and irrevocably. Do we consider each other and decide we belong together, or do we do our own thing and hang apart?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 4:55pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

What the conservatives in the Communion do not seem to grasp is that the commitment of the American and Canadian churches to our GLBT sisters and brothers is absolute and irrevocable and based on our understanding of Scripture, not a disregard for Scripture. We are not going to turn back or turn away from that commitment. Period. The Communion is important to us, but it is not and cannot be more important than following Jesus.

The Covenant, then, will ensure the fracture of the Communion. Only a decision by the "offended" member Churches to respect the integrity of the North American churches will prevent our hang[ing] apart.

Posted by: Michael Harnois on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 5:21pm GMT

Can anyone make any sense of this?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 5:49pm GMT

I have some difficulty with both Bishop Kings' and Canon Barnett-Cowan's interpretations. I took the good Canon's admonition and looked again at that Covenant as proposed. When I did, I realized that there is no automatic relationship between being a church of the Anglican Communion and a signatory church of the Covenant. It's not really two tiers, but two bodies, one new and one old, with some (perhaps a lot of) overlap. (

One way or another, it's more confused than Bishop Kings or Canon Barnett-Cowan suggest. That confusion should make it harder for any church, including the Episcopal Church or the Church of England, to sign on.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 6:07pm GMT

The parallel with the formula to replace the subscribing to the 39 articles is false. The declaration of assent permits a wide variety of interpretation in the spirit of scripture, tradition and reason. The covenant doesn't. It's as simple as that.

The relevant sections of the Covenant, as shown by many correspondents both here and on other blogs, have provision to disciplne provinces if others don't like what they are doing. It's quite obvious to this observer at least, (if not to those who have a professional interest in the Covenant, either because they devised it or it fits their wider purpose), that the Covenant is there to exercise control. Those who won't agree will be excluded, and thats's what the weasel words mean. It's as plain as a pikestaff and no amount of urging us to read it, and yes we can read thank you, will alter that fact.

I hate to follow the arguments of some bishops recently but there seems to be something totalitarian here. If you don't agree with the words then there is something wrong with you, not with what the document says. Various writers and poets in the former USSR were consigned to asylums and treated with drugs because they didn't read or understand things 'correctly'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 6:10pm GMT

Things do fall apart, however much we try to maintain them. "Tower and temple fall to dust."

The Covenant, far from preventing division, by its own language (read carefully as the Canon of UFO suggests) outlines a process for consequences to the relationships we have enjoyed, in all their messy complexity and variability, for years. The Covenant will provide a way, not to avoid divisions, but to formalise them. Some shall hang together, and others be hanged separately.

The Covenant is a way forward in the wrong direction.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 6:19pm GMT

Re the two recent apologiae [is that the right plural?] for the Covenant - lipstick on a pig.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 7:05pm GMT

As far as the Nigerians are concerned, either the covenant drives TEC out or they leave the Anglican communion. Thus fundamentally, the choice that needs to be made is between TEC and Nigeria. We have to make that choice because Nigeria forces us to. Since no-one seems clear whether the covenant does force TEC out, proponents of the covenant seem to be answering the question with an answer that they themselves don't understand. This seems a strange approach.

Posted by: Leon Clarke on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 7:31pm GMT

"Covenant - the only way forward"

Maybe so---to "Bishop Kings' Communion". Just not for the *Anglican* one.

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 9:48pm GMT

Although apparently more moderate than recent statements by Bishop Cameron and others, Bishop Kings accuses opponents of the Covenant of "false witness". This is surely libellous, isn't it - to say nothing of the Crucifixion-narrative echo.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 9:49pm GMT

"Bishop Graham Kings has written at Cif belief *The Anglican covenant is the only way forward*.
Its detractors say it will stifle diversity, but unless the church votes for the covenant, deeper divisions will be unavoidable."

The only way forward? For Whom? Certainly not TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada - nor indeed any other Province of the Communion that wants to bring justice to women and the LGBT Community - or to any other marginalised part of society that is presently outside of the enlightened and vital *Blessing* of the Church.

And as for the statement that 'unless the Church
votes for the covenant, deeper divisions will be unavoidable' - one gasps at the concept of even 'deeper' divisions than have already occurred. In the proceedings of GAFCON, and its constituents in the 'Global South', the division has already occurred - by an act of self-severance from the Communion's Lambeth Conference and by the excision of any reference to the parent See of Canterbury in the Standing Orders of some of these Provinces; and the piratical schismatic formation of rival churches in the USA and Canada. How much more 'division' can there be?

I do realise that Graham Kings is speaking from his purely English perspective, but what he is advocating here will inevitably have an effect on the Anglican Communion at large. If the Church of England signs off on the covenant, it may well be that it is predicating a separate alliance with GAFCON and the Global South, who are intent on pushing North America out of the Communion. That may not go down well with other Provinces of the Church that want a greater degree of independence from G.S. on theological & humanitarian grounds.

There may then be two versions of the Anglican Communion - 'Sola Scriptura' and Gospel-oriented Scripture, Tradition and Reason, Liberationist.
Is that to be the Future of a once-respected Anglican Communion?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 10:22pm GMT

Having received no answer to my question on the previous post, I'll take the liberty of asking it again on this post. Bishop Kings in some ways might be the ideal person to answer it:

Here is a thought-experiment: I'd be glad to get a response.

Suppose that, following the adoption of the Anglican Covenant, the question is put before the various bodies as to whether faithfully partnered gay or lesbian persons could be ordained priest.

Suppose that (using Canon Barnett-Cowan's language) "the consultative processes of the Anglican Communion" were to result in "the discernment that this was an issue about which Anglicans were free to differ." (This is a discernment already put forward by the Churches in Canada and Wales, and by +Liverpool in the Church of England.)

Would this discernment be permitted to emerge as the result of the discernment process or as the mind of the Communion?

Note: I am not asking for this to be the guaranteed end result of the discernment process. I am asking whether the discernment process would be permitted to continue if this result began to emerge from it.

This is another way of asking whether the Covenant would be permitted to come into effect if it appeared unlikely to exclude the Episcopal Church from the Communion.

I think we are owed answers on these questions.

Posted by: Charlotte on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 10:37pm GMT

Here's a passage from "The Second Coming" far more descriptive of recent scheming and conniving over the so-called Covenant:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.

Posted by: JPM on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 at 11:42pm GMT

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Chair on the Design Group for the Anglican Communion Covenant said:

THE PUNITIVE ANGLICAN COVENANT: Various Provinces will be forced out of the Anglican Family because ¨what you are doing is an offense to the integrity of the family¨ +Drexel Gomez

I think we can trust him at his word on this one:

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 12:49am GMT

"Things fall apart" -- perhaps it is Christendom that is falling apart, despite the desperate effort of the Covenant to put it together again -- and from these convulsions perhaps it is a new and open Christianity that is struggling to be born?

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 3:48am GMT

"The Covenant is a way forward in the wrong direction." -- Tobias Haller

No. It's not even that.

It's a way backward. Plain and simple.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 3:54am GMT

To paraphrase -

"We must move forward - TO THE MIDDLE AGES!"

Anybody else notice how often those vigorously - and viciously - promoting this attempted centralization have "Canon" or "Bishop" attached to their names?

What a desperate, transparent and sad attempt at wool-pulling from a mind like Graham Kings - who should know better.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 5:22am GMT

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold"

The centre always holds. The centre is God.

We are one in Christ.

Just because some provincial leaders huff and puff and threaten to walk out when other legitimate leaders come to meetings etc... does not mean the centre is not holding.

It simply means that some christians are saying to other christians "You must do it my way".

That is the problem. That is what threatens human distances.

Whereas TEC, trying in good faith to lead lives in Christ, are not saying "You must do it our way" to other provinces.

They are simply saying, we have diverse cultural contexts in this world. We have diverse views. Let us each try, in good faith, to devote our lives to God and the service of God.

But let us recognise that, like it or not, we are one in Christ.

God is the centre. And the centre holds.

"From everlasting to everlasting... I am God."

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 1:30pm GMT

Leonardo, could you give us a link to that Gomez quote?

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 2:40pm GMT

The sound and fury of those who dearly desire the covenant to exclude the work of the Holy Spirit, and drive those from the Co0mmunion who understand the inclusive nature of Jesus and his gospel.

Shame on them, confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks.

Fr John

Posted by: Fr John on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 3:26pm GMT

We are in a dark period of Christian history for certain but there are also great rays of light and hope for a new foundation for the Church. By "Church" I mean all Christians be they Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic or Orthodox. Perhaps Vatican II provided the first ray of new light but it also opened windows for all Christians and it is entirely possible that the Holy Spirit is moving us toward building a new foundation which reflects the teachings of Jesus rather than imperial monarchs. Many bishops are indeed shepherds and not monarchs but old imperial models must be left behind in favor of pastoral shepherds (bishops). Women and openly glbt people in the episcopate certainly advance the inclusive love of Jesus. Bishop Kings seems to one of the many bishops who wish to hold on to the imperial model.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Thursday, 18 November 2010 at 5:24pm GMT

"One bishop from Canada used the analogy of the family. Once you belong to the family, you belong [forever],” Gomez* recalled. “But in many families, you remain in the family but you can’t stay in the house because your presence in the home is a bad example to other young people, and so you are forced to move out because what you are doing is an offense to the integrity of the family.”

- Abp. Gomez discussing the Covenant -

If ever there was proof positive that Archbishop Gopmez, Architect of the Covenant, intended it for exclusion of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada (but not the G.S.), it is surely here!

It would seem then, that all that is required for TEC and the A.C.of C. to be left out of member-ship of the Anglican Communion, is for them NOT TO SIGN up to the Covenant.

The interesting fact is that this should apply equally to the Provinces which have invaded the territory of other Provinces to establish their own churches. This is certainly an offence against Family Rules.

This is maybe why Nigeria and other 'Global South' Provinces, which have committed these acts of piracy, are also not willing to sign up to the Covenant! They don't want to be a part of the resulting Body. In fact, they have their own already formed at GAFCON.

Who, then, will be left to sign up?

It seems the only way out of the problem is to allow each Province to follow it's own understanding of the Gospel 'in situ', allowing others to do the same - without prejudice. Just how it used to be done.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 19 November 2010 at 10:27am GMT
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