Monday, 5 March 2012

more support for the Anglican Covenant


The Archbishop of Canterbury recorded this video at lunchtime today, according to a comment here earlier. There is a transcript as well.
Archbishop: why the Covenant matters.

Mark Chapman has published at Living Church an article titled Spatial Catholicity.

Fulcrum has published several articles:
Anglicans and Covenants: A Very Brief History by Benjamin M. Guyer
The Anglican Communion Covenant: Fighting to preserve and enhance something deeply valuable by Stephen Kuhrt
Are we Anglicans or Baptists? by John Watson

Five Reasons FOR the Covenant by Gregory Cameron

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 5 March 2012 at 9:45pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

With allies like Kings telling everyone how Rowan's reputation will be completely blown away if the Covenant fails - who needs enemies?

But hasn't Rowan used up much, if not all, of that magic that enticed so many to fall on their sword rather than see him hurt? Don't many of those who buzzed around now see that he is a busted flush soon to depart and so people just wont vote for this?

Anyway all this sudden support - all this spin - it seems a tad late.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 5 March 2012 at 11:26pm GMT

The complacency has been pricked and the hierarchy is running frit. Their beloved bureaucratic solution, which would privilege an elite in deciding what the Anglican communion will and will not accept, bypassing the membership, is in danger of foundering and this is unthinkable. If it forces the powers that be to redouble their efforts to explain the benefits of the Covenant, then that is to the good. But we have heard all these arguments before and they sound no better now. I nearly switched off the ABC video half way through as I was becoming bored.
Whatever the intellectual case from an academic point of view (spatial catholicity anyone? hardly likely to catch the imagination of the members of the churches who have to finance all this), by their deeds you will know them. And the deeds are clear that despite all claims to the contrary this Covenant is designed to shame and exclude The Episcopal Church along with those who follow prayerfully where they believe the Spirit is leading them, even if it means breaking new ground and challenging received beliefs.

Posted by: Roger Antell on Monday, 5 March 2012 at 11:33pm GMT

Williams believes that the Covenant is necessary for "scrutinising, discerning and discussing" issues in the church. But aren't we doing that already without the Covenant? And how does the Covenant even enhance those things? It actually seems to be intended to cut off "scrutinising, discerning and discussing" things.

Williams also thinks that it's necessary for our "ecumenical discussions, our discussions with other churches, [who apparently are] without any very clear sense of what holds us together" so they can know that they are dealing with "a family of churches that has a common language, a common practice, a common set of standards about how to resolve conflicts when they arise." But how is the Covenant going to do this? Other than being Anglican, there's not a lot in common between, say, St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney and All Saints Margaret Street, London. Is the Covenant going to force Anglicans to choose between one or the other or something in between that throws both of them into outer darkness?

What Williams seems to complaining about here is that we don't have a one-size-fits-all church when talking to Rome. Many think that's a good thing, actually. And the reality is that the only thing that Rome is interested in at the moment is for people to swim the Tiber and kiss the papal ring. It's not going to happen and changing the fundamentals of the Anglican Communion with some pipe-dream that Rome is going to change its fundamental outlook on ecumenical relations is, frankly, absurd.

Finally, there's this bit of disingenuousness -- "But then people say the difficulty comes with the fourth section. But that fourth section is not a disciplinary system. It’s about a process of discernment and discussion. Nobody has the power to do anything but recommend courses of action. Nobody is forced by that into doing anything."

But section 4 does essentially say that, if you don't follow our recommendations, we will kick you out of the communion or, at best, into second-tier status. How does that differ from the teacher who tells the unruly student: "If you don't stop throwing erasers, I will recommend that you be booted out of school." Of course, the student is not "forced" to do anything by the teacher's "recommendations." But if the student does continue to throw erasers, the teacher's "recommendations" will be a bit more than chummy advice.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 5 March 2012 at 11:48pm GMT

I'm surprised to read Mark Chapman of all people writing in favour of the Covenant, even in a nuanced way, and even more surprised to find him writing for 'Living Church'. Something strange is going on there.

As for the others, and especially Archbishop Rowan ... there's a strong whiff of desperation in his video presentation. I feel sorry for him but that's not a good enough reason to vote for what must surely be one of the most divisive ideas for a generation.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Monday, 5 March 2012 at 11:55pm GMT

More of the same tired rhetoric and bland talking points.

Note, however, that the Covenant's apologists never actually want to talk about what the document actually says. They prefer to speak in nebulous generalities and dubious analogies.

Lard that over with the contradictory arguments that:
a. the Covenant really doesn't do anything, and
b. without the Covenant the very space-time continuum is threatened.

And then there's always the part that raises my hackles - the implicit (and occasionally explicit) slander that anyone who doesn't support the Covenant really doesn't value the Communion.

I have yet to read an argument for the Covenant that isn't at least two-thirds self-serving tripe.

Posted by: Malcolm FRench+ on Monday, 5 March 2012 at 11:56pm GMT

" Despite frequent calls for greater centralisation, it was not until the 1960s and ’70s that further structures were established with the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. The seeds of an Anglican doctrine of spatial catholicity were sown."
- Mark Chapman -

So, according to Mark Chapman, there was no coherent doctrine of 'Anglicanism' before the 1960s!

Having been baptised and confirmed before that date, then, the doctrinal faith ethic in which I received my Christian formation was, in some way, under-developed - needing further explication?

The fact is, of course, that science, technology, and human development have all been examined more closely in the intervening years - leading to a new understanding of human biology (for instance) that seems not yet to have been understood, or taken on board, by those conservatives in the Communion who have already distanced themselves from the rest of us on disputed matters of gender and sexuality.

The doctrine of God in Christ is the same as was enunciated in the Early Church Councils. What has changed, in the understanding of our human nature - to the extent that even our critical assessment of the Bible has had to be developed, in ways that have had take account of new understanding of the reality of the human condition, as revealed in our day and age.

Section 1,2 and 3 of the Covenant Document give us the doctrinal basis of our Faith as Anglicans. However, as even the ABC himself has admitted. There are other matters that divide us - and one of them (perhaps the most important) is Biblical interpretation. I suggest that this may really be at the root of disagreement within the Communion Churches. This difference can only be bridged by a
common desire to dig deeper into the task of hermeneutical study - without prior reservations about the need to set the Scriptures in stone.

Section 4 of the Covenant would put brakes on any new development of understanding on matters of what nay be understood to be God-given human relationships - in the light of modern science, and the evolving social milieu, which is radically different from the environment of Biblical times.

To my mind, that still presents problems - in the way of equal relationship of Provinces that have radically different ideas on how the Church should relate to people different from ourselves.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 12:21am GMT

Well, I spent 7 minutes of my time listening to ++Rowan's very carefully phrased arguments, and was helped by having a full text provided as well. It is certainly helpful to have the pro-Covenant viewpoint put so clearly.

I think Tobias Haller has dealt well with the first problem in this talk, that it does not discuss the actual text, so I will not go further there.

My problem is that ++Rowan has not persuaded me, any more than other proCovenant advocates have,about what positive good adopting this document would do. Who are these "ecumenical partners" who are so enthusiastic about it? As far as I am aware, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Lutherans or the Eastern Orthodox do not have comparable agreements, or if they do, they do not include every church that uses those respective titles. Rome obviously does, but i would have thought that the Curia in all its complexity could find a way of understanding the messiness of the Anglican Communion. I am just not convinced.

And the one about the "needy and isolated parts of the world" doesn't wash either. Yes, some of these churches have spoken in favour of the covenant, but others have decided to boycott it because they don't think it has gone far enough, and a lot more have not spoken. Tikanga Maori of the Anglican church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is responsible for some pretty needy and isolated areas, and they don't want a bar of the covenant. ++Rowan does not explain how these churches will be helped by adopting the covenant. I can see that they might be helped if we found a way to cease fighting over sexuality, but it is not clear how the covenant will help there either.

Saying something is so many times, and very nicely does not make it so if it is in fact not so.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 1:55am GMT

I live in the campo..way out in the campo...even here, we poor scared to death souls, would prefer to have real discussions about REALIFE topics like human suffering, especially human suffering, than pretend that suffering ought not be discussed in front of us because we ¨need to catch up¨ (no, gracias, to that) and HUMAN STUFF probably doesn´t apply to know, it is very clear that we are the suffering, oppressed, ill-informed, victims of hate-mongers and liars and THIEVES (yes, even at Church)...all in the name of a God who would prefer we learn how to love one another (which requires, we attempt to be our authentic selves I think before others are made miserable with our deceit) for starters...each with our own personal character, or not, as it REALLY´s not embarassing to speak about reality and truth and people with little or no education do it all the time...we are damn good about speaking ¨real¨ down here in the campo of Central America.

It certainly seems the ABC might give it a whirl and quit speaking about us, but, to us! Let´s not get all embarrassed about *it* but let´s talk about REAL LIFE circumstances and even HUMAN SEXUALITy and what happens in everyday life even though some clergy, gangsters and others prefer to deceive. Let´s talk Anglican Covenant, no more twists and turns at the Anglican Communion meant to keep the ¨status quo¨ that is wayyy out of touch with reality.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 2:03am GMT

"Are we Anglicans or Baptists" ... "So an agreement is reached. Certain lifestyle choices will be restricted for the sake of the other. This is the cost of living in communion."

Sorry, I think I missed the part in history class where converted Jews gave up their "lifestyle" choice of being born racially Jewish.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 2:31am GMT

So . . . the heretofore independent churches of the Anglican Communion are now, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, just "particular bits"?

The doubletalk is astonishing.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 3:16am GMT

"Certain lifestyle choices will be restricted for the sake of the other. This is the cost of living in communion"

And there I was thinking that Christianity is about individuals deciding to make sacrifices for their faith, not about imposing them on other people.

Unless we begin to understand that Christianity is about what I do, not about what I make others do, we'll never even get close.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 9:10am GMT

All of this new - and belated - panic about the need to adopt the Covenant seems to have missed the whole point. The main disagreement is about what the Bible says about gender and sexuality - without reserve.

Many provinces of the Church have worked very hard on this matter, and have come up with a radical and yet eminently practical hermeneutic. God in Christ can be discerned as overturning the status quo of legalistic determinism - in favour of the more humane ethic of human love - first of God, and then of one's neighbour - as one's-self.

For the Church to continue to demonise a group of people whose sexual-orientation happens to be different from the majority - or who happen to have been born female - must surely be a denial of the God-give reality of gender and sexual identity

The Anglican Communion lies presently in 2 camps:

One which denies women and LGBT persons their proper place in the life of the Church based on what they discern as biblical determinism;

the other is allowing for the possibility that God had a purpose in creating a variety of gender and/or sexually-oriented human beings - all created in the divine image and likeness.

That purpose might be that we learn to fast from our tendency to judge our sister/brother; embracing their difference from us, and thanking God for it. Hostility based on judgement of others - as being more sinful than ourselves - was never a good basis for division - which seems to be our problem in the Communion at this present time.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 10:25am GMT

Specifics in support of Chapman’s ‘tepid constitutionalism’:

4.2.1 Simply stipulates that the covenant seeks to express the common faith of the Communion (outlined in sections 1-3) and the mutual accountability provinces have to each other. It also clearly stipulates that by agreeing to the covenant each province recognizes the fullness of Catholic life in the other covenanted Provinces.

4.2.2. Introduces a standing committee, responsible to the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting, whose job is to ‘monitor’ the function of the covenant. It will be supported by various other committees ‘mandated’ to assist and advise.

4.2.3. If there are any questions about particular actions within a Church, then each Church is simply reminded to ‘have regard for the common good (section 3.1)’.

4.2.4. If a shared mind isn’t reached about this question, then the matter will be referred to the standing committee (that is responsible to the Primates and the ACC) to ‘make every effort to facilitate agreement’. In other words, when the machinery kicks in, it is directed, at least initially, towards reconciliation and agreement.

4.2.5. In some cases (presumably when agreement has failed to be reached), the committee can then ‘request’ that the Church defer its action. If the Church refuses, then the committee may ‘recommend…relational consequences’, which ‘may’ entail ‘provisional’ limitation of or suspension from participating in any Instrument of Communion. Note that this is a request and recommendation and the limitation/suspension is only one possible example. Also, the request is for deferral not for cessation.

4.2.6. On the basis of advice received from the ACC and the Primates Meeting, the committee ‘may’ declare an action incompatible with the Covenant. Again, notice the tentative language and the safeguards. The advice must come from the ACC and the Primates and even then the committee doesn’t have to act upon the advice. Note also that this isn’t a declaration that the action is inherently wrong, just that it doesn’t take into account the common mind of the covenanted communion.

4.2.7. Finally, the committee may then act upon the advice of the ACC and Primates to ‘recommend’ consequences for the church that is behaving in a way incompatible with the Covenant. This recommendation ‘may’ be address either to the various provinces or to the Instruments and ‘may’ address how seriously the action breaches the common mind of the communion and the ‘practical consequences’. These recommendations are then taken under advisement by the Instruments and Churches themselves so they can determine individually whether they accept those recommendations.

So, after the whole process has run its course, the end result is a recommendation to the churches and the Instruments on how to respond. In other words, the whole scheme is a process of recommendation to those bodies of the Communion that will make some kind of response in these situations with or without a covenant. Section 4 simply provides an orderly process to help make such responses less chaotic than what we have experienced during the past 10 years.

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 10:31am GMT

How could we want to get any closer to Joseph Ratzinger's 'Rome', so compromised and so disinterested in any kind of truth.

RC clergy and people on the ground are of course, a different matter and no official Covenant' is necessary for those relationships, contacts and life together.

Ratzinger has done great harm to his own denomination with his authoritarianism - let him not damage our reformed anglican traditions too.

Posted by: Mary Marriot on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 1:51pm GMT

If the Roman ("my way or the highway") Church, the only "ecumenical partner" Rowan can seriously be referring to, is "very enthusiastic" about the covenant, then there's yet another ironclad argument against it.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 2:19pm GMT

'- or who happen to have been born female - must surely be a denial of the God-give reality of gender and sexual identity'

So, the in-born gender derived from chromosomes is not God-given, but a mere coincidence. Of course, it would be different, if we reviewed any other natural trait, like inherited skin pigmentation.

No, we are to believe that it's actually the gender assigned after hormone treatments and re-assignment surgery that is the God-given reality. Just as long as it affirms how you self-identify. Never question that. Ridiculous!

Then again, I suppose that if you deify the all-important plastic surgeon, you might indeed call the outcome, however crude, 'god-given'.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 3:07pm GMT

It will be most interesting to see whether the sudden flurry of pro-Covenant polemic has any effect when 6 (six!) dioceses vote on Saturday. It is odd that these bishops - and especially the ABC - are painting themselves into a corner on this one. At this point I would expect to see some bearded authority-figures coming out of the woodwork and saying 'of course we would like the covenant to be approved, but it's not the end of the world, there are other options, paths going forward, rhubarb rhubarb.' But instead of hedging his bets, Rowan is staking the house on the covenant passing. It is curious (and in my view lamentable) that the Archbishop should place so much of his own credibility on the line for the sake of a fatally compromised document, and it can only fuel speculation about his own plans should the covenant fail.

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 3:42pm GMT

Lifestyle choices? Newspeak?

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 3:44pm GMT

Williams is enamored by the Church of Rome's approval and the interest Rome has in seeing an Anglican Magisterium develop within Anglicanism. This is both a misguided and morally bankrupt method of operation. It is not working in Rome as they (the hierarchy), have lost their authority due to the many scandals of clergy sexual abuse and the cover-up by the bishops. It is so disappointing to see Rowan Williams lack of backbone on this and other issues concerning women's admission to the episcopate. He accommodates one segment of the Church that will not accept women as priests and bishops, while throwing the other side of this issue to the wolves.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 4:03pm GMT

Mark Clavier, Lambeth 1.10 was also a set of recommendations, and it is largely the reason we are in the mess we are in, when some provinces chose, after careful study, not to accept the recommendations.

The problem with the word "may" is that while it seems tentative, it is actually a word of discretionary empowerment. When that power is used, and when the mere "recommendation" is followed by "consequences" for failing to assent through deferral, and those consequences include possible removal from the only formal mechanisms the Anglican Communion possesses -- in short, when the "may" becomes "is" -- the recommendation "simply" has all the formal content of a demand.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 4:15pm GMT


Re. Lambeth 1.10...isn't that the nature of recommendations? One is free to accept or decline them? It seems apparent to me that the same will hold true for section 4 recommendations. We Anglicans have shown repeatedly that if there is no power to enforce, then recommendations will often amount to little more than the paper on which they are written. In the case of the covenant, I can see only some provinces accepting recommendations of consequences while others wouldn't. As for the Instruments, the ACC has not been notable for its authoritarianism. I don't see this changing in the future.

And, again, by my reading of section 4, the consequences are only a recommendation to the Instruments and provinces to exert a 'power' that the past few years have demonstrated they already have: i.e., the power to exclude. In the larger scheme of things, how much does the exclusion from an Instrument of Unity truly affect the provincial church? It's not exactly an interdict!

I see the covenant as allowing us to have our proverbial cake. If a province acts in a way that causes difficulties for the rest of the communion, there is a formal structure of disassociation without impinging on that province's autonomy. That province then has the freedom, with minimal consequences, to pursue its action and allow the Gamaliel principle to determine whether it sticks or not. Heck, given how long the recommendatory process would take to run, the province will have years to do this before facing the possibility of any formal consequences.

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 6:01pm GMT

I agree with rjb's comments. But one reason why they are painting themselves into a corner is surely arrogance. I don't think this applies to RW (or not to the same degree) but he's sunk so much of his prestige into it that it's hard/impossible for him now to withdraw. One result of all this will surely be a collective loss of episcopal authority. Good and bad, but mostly good.

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 6:07pm GMT

"No, we are to believe that it's actually the gender assigned after hormone treatments and re-assignment surgery that is the God-given reality.


And you know NOTHING about my life, DavidS. If you want to know, ask. Otherwise, keep your sweeping judgments to yourself, please.

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 7:49pm GMT

Is John Watson dealing with the first C1 Jerusalem that we find in the NT? I seem to remember a great deal of going it alone, bitterly disputed, with a few figleaves in Acts to cover the row! Surely having blazing arguments about what it is to be faithful is part of the Rich Tradition Of Scripture?

Posted by: david rowett on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 8:18pm GMT

I suppose, if you deify a tradition and its book of myths, you might indeed call the outcome, however crude and destructive, "god-given."

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 4:36am GMT

Who's merely re-assertiing now?

I'll back off as soon as commenters here stop foisting theor own *sweeping* drmands for blind affirmation of their personal choices on the church.

Considering the ease with which you have put the witness of scripture to the sword, I won't spare your 'sacred cow' sensitivities either. The ruthless razor-blade of reason.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 7:11am GMT

One vital question in all of this implied need to sign up to the Covenant in its present form, is this: "Do the Covenant promoters (ACO) really expect the GAFCON Provinces to sign up?"

If not, then there surely is no purpose served in binding the rest of us into a disciplinary Covenant the would expel TEC and the A.C.of C. from First Tier membership.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 7:16am GMT

Clearly, for some, their trite employment of IMAGO DEI as a postscript is really an anagram of they really self-identify: 'i.e. I AM GOD!'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 7:46am GMT

""No, *we* are to believe that it's actually the gender assigned after hormone treatments and re-assignment surgery that is the God-given reality.

I don't know who you mean by "we".
More and more people are listening to those who have gone through the process and their experience sounds convincing. It is supported by psychology and by medical science. It is obvious that previously desperately unhappy people are given a new lease of life.

The "we" most of us here are talking about are people who are willing to take new experiences on board and who will adapt their view of life and of God according to what they have learned.

There is also the group of "we" who dismiss all of this as special pleading. Who don't ever listen to anything someone says they don't already agree with and who dismiss all modern theology if it doesn't fit a preconceived idea. They often shore their views up with bible quotes not ever once realising that every single one of them could also apply to them.
It is actually impossible to have constructive conversations of any kind with those people as they do not accept the others as equal in any meaningful way and as they are absolutely determined to remain trapped in their prejudice.

They are a little like doctors who diagnose a patient with absolute confidence but without once listening to what the patient tells them.

It's not an intelligent approach but "we" know that "we" can never prick the certainties of those people.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. They will not stop the world from moving on. And although it will take a little longer, they will not even stop the church from moving on eventually.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 7:54am GMT

Well said, Erika. Not that it will do anything, but well said.

The inevitable response will simply be a thesaurus segment saying the same thing, covering bigotry and blind bias with mere erudition.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8:24am GMT

Here is a very interesting interview with James Alison:

He notes tensions within the Vatican on gay issues, with Ratzinger on the moderate side. If the RCC liberalized its teaching we could see the same kind of resistance among conservative Catholics as has plagued Anglicanism.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8:39am GMT


No. I take that back. Not mere bigotry or bias - those require passion. You can hate or feel furious attachment, but bigotry and bias require passion.

What we see here is a fireless smoke - a cold, dispassionate writing off of our, JCF's, liberals' personhood, intelligence and committment. A cold, brutal insistence on selfish status quo for mere material profit and the comfort of others. It is loveless, both for itself and for the other. It is absolute zero of faith. "Give me reason, give me logic, give me science. Nothing else will do. Faith and passion have no place." It is also coldly, quite knowingly, used to deflect argument against the same attitude of non-intellectual attachment in the stubborn conservative pseudo-intellectual.

It is an iron wall of absolute unlove and uncare.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8:39am GMT

The exchange between Mark and Tobias is helpful.

While many here are not against the principle of working more closely together through the Provinces and some have even accepted the concept of a new document building on the Quadrilateral - the consensus has been that what we have seen by way of development since Rowan was bounced into that first emergency Primates Meeting has not been good.

The Lambeth Commission and Windsor Process, the attempt to rule by Primates, the attack on the ACC, the brief life of a Star Chamber, the creation of a new legal structure and Executive, the exclusions and threats and more - has given the Covenant Document an air of confrontation and it has many flaws. I am in a tiny minority that finds section 4 much as Mark describes it - while finding the first three sections not what I would say!

The problem with the Covenant is not just to be found in its recent context, authorship and content. The real problems lie in what it prefigures - indeed in accepting what has (in part) already been put in place in the form of IASCUFO. Just how we ended up with a Faith and Order group at the ACO as a result of Gregory Cameron's departure I am yet to discover, the creation and imposition of IASCUFO was a masterly finesse.

It is as if we are being invited to have a common currency (the Covenant) only to discover that the Central Bank is already in place! But from my perspective the transformation of the Communion has already taken place, for what should stand in the place of IASCUFO should be a beefed up and representative version of the interest group known as the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation. Our liturgy has always been the preeminent way we expressed our Anglican personality, and so it should remain. Our only common currency.

My deep concern are the hidden strategies, the secret long term plans and agendas that are not being discussed or shown the light of day - they exist in the rarefied atmospheres of Ecclesiastical Lawyers Conferences and the like - but nowhere do I see these openly debated.

The bishop of Oxford says that the Anglican Communion has evolved to the point where it needs the Covenant. Not so, what we need now is an Anglican Congress or some such thing, not just to see where we are more clearly but to think out loud where we want to be 10, 20, 50 years from now.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 9:39am GMT

Oh for the want of 'love' that merely affirms the self-appointed TA Sanhedrin.

Clearly for them, the three-legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason has lost its footing. In its place, a new 'bar stool' theology that spins on the single pedestal of self-serving personal experience.

Try imposing your puny march of 'progress' on the worldwide Anglican population. 1400-plus signatures and counting...

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 10:36am GMT

Thank you for the link to this fascinating interview.
James Alison develped this thought in an essay called The Fulcrum of Discovery:

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 10:44am GMT

Thanks for reference to James Alison interview. Very interesting. Personally (but what do I know?), I've always thought it obvious that JR (of Dallas) was himself gay.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 10:45am GMT

Well said Erika.

"They are a little like doctors who diagnose a patient with absolute confidence but without once listening to what the patient tells them."

Indeed, and they presume to be physicians to the rest of us, and demand sacrifice from everyone except themselves.

I think the what drives all of this is supremacism of one kind or another.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 12:09pm GMT


I'm not far off from much of what you say. I would have written parts of the 1st three sections differently--for example, like MacCullough, I'd have liked some nod at the Scottish line of prayer books that shaped, among others, the American tradition--and I've never liked the use of the word 'covenant', given Anglicanism's history with covenanters!

Also, in general terms, I'd have preferred it if the communion had not drifted in a bureaucratic direction in order to maintain some clear degree of communion. But that process began long before the covenant was first dreamt up as older modes of fellowship--not least a narrower spectrum of liturgical practice--were replaced by structures. In many ways, the Anglican Covenant is the logical next step of a process that began early in the 20th century.

But I earnestly believe that during the past ten years or so we Anglicans have proven ourselves to be not grown up enough to handle living together without structural support. We also seem to lack the generosity of spirit now required for us to discern a way forward in living together.

Frankly, I increasingly believe that Anglicanism has largely been reduced to a collection of squabbling interest groups. So much of our rhetoric--left and right--is that of the moral crusade, that sees all opponents as living in dangerous error and portrays each other in the worst possible light. Thank God for the daily ministry of our congregations and parishes where a more attractive form of Anglicanism can still often be seen.

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 1:32pm GMT

Mark (Clavier) this brings me back to the primary question, why make such an effort towards adoption of a document that does little more than formalize already existing capacities, as if it were essential? It provides, as you note, a "formal structure of disassociation," but my point is that this is hardly a churchly thing, at least an Anglican churchly thing, and begins to sound more like something from one of the traditions that advocates shunning as a means of discipline.

The real problem with the covenant is its general thrust towards scrutiny and discernment in the interest of paring down difference, rather than towards tolerance, and even more, celebration of difference. It is essentially inorganic -- failing to recognize that it is the diversity of organs that make for the well being of the whole body. In short, it does not point toward, or support, the very thing it seeks, in its opening sections, to hope for. It is profoundly non-covenantal, and plainly contractual; it is not a marriage, but a pre-nuptial agreement.

It will not serve.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 2:58pm GMT

My real problem with the Covenant is that accusers, judge and jury are the same group of people.
If genuine conflict resolution is the aim, why not follow established principles for mediation and arbitration?

That would include the principle that the arbitrator must not be connected to either party in the dispute, that he must have no personal interest in the outcome and that he is respected and accepted by those involved in the conflict.

Ideally, it should also include the possibility of appeal, a detailed list of what kind of transgressions can lead to arbitration and a schedule of possible outcomes.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 4:27pm GMT


Why formalise already existing capacities? I can think of all sorts of reasons, but I'll just mention two. First, it makes those capacities more transparent. One of the problems of the past 10 years is that we've often disagreed about what capacities various Instruments have. This has muddled the debate itself and created an atmosphere in which people argue for or against an interpretation that will support their own cause. That's unhealthy. Similarly, it reminds the Instruments and other committees themselves of their role and their limits. Both ought also to help depersonalise decisions, to help us be mature enough to recognise when someone is fulfilling their obligations rather to attack them personally for either being overbearing or lacking leadership.

As for shunning...perhaps if the recommendation for disassociation were more all-pervasive. But even if a church is excluded from various Instruments (which may happen anyway without the covenant), that leaves in place all sorts of connections (not least personal ones) that are more meaningful and enduring than being obliged to sit through international meetings!

As for your final point, I simply don't see this. Yes, it will encourage more conversation and perhaps more circumspection when we make decisions, but it won't prevent anyone deciding to do anything they like. At worst, the covenant might result in certain changes coming more slowly than during the past 30 years, which would require a degree of patience we generally can't abide. But, I think the past 10 years have been traumatic enough to convince many to make dramatic changes more slowly anyway.

To put it another way, in the future when another decision is made that causes consternation around the communion, do we prefer another situation of chaotic, ad hoc meetings, hotly contested statements, and a barrage of anathemas (with no one sure how the whole process ought to work) or a more formalised agreement on how to proceed together toward some kind of resolution or response?

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 4:37pm GMT

Mark, my point is that I don't think the Covenant will prevent the chaos, adhocracy, hot talk, or anathemata. All that will be added is the, to my mind, less than transparent workings of the "process" laid out in section 4.2.

Perhaps my Christian Anarchism is showing, but actually I see this as a matter of practicality. I don't see the Covenant actually doing what it claims, or preventing the things it was meant to prevent.

I would, as Martin suggests, much rather we take out time, call a succession of Anglican Confesses for the next decade or so, and try to put together a real Constitution or Code of Canon Law. (This is why I'm not part of the "No Covenant" crowd --- I'm not opposed to good government, it is that I don't see this draft as either.)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 5:16pm GMT

PS (That should be "Congresses" not Confesses! -- something in the air... ;-)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 5:27pm GMT

Frankly, I increasingly believe that Anglicanism has largely been reduced to a collection of squabbling interest groups. So much of our rhetoric--left and right--is that of the moral crusade, that sees all opponents as living in dangerous error and portrays each other in the worst possible light. Thank God for the daily ministry of our congregations and parishes where a more attractive form of Anglicanism can still often be seen.

I agree with that last sentence. But surely it is precisely that form of Anglicanism, which involves rubbing along and allowing very considerable differences, that the Covenant does NOT represent? But there is of course a further point (which I constantly labour): that sort of tolerance, transposed to the macro level, requires liberals NOT to press their agendas to all-out victories.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 5:35pm GMT


I can certainly accept that as I don't claim to have the wisdom of Solomon! Frankly, I don't know if the covenant can accomplish what it's meant to accomplish either. I suppose where you and I differ is that I see it as being at least a step in the right direction, perhaps because I'm not given to anarchism...except in the case of administration!

I too would welcome a series of congresses, though the practicalities and costs are probably prohibitive. But I don't see that the covenant would preclude this from happening.

For my part, I think it a shame that we didn't have these kinds of conversation 30 or more years ago. We might have developed something wonderful in the days before we had become so entirely polarised. Because one thing my move to the UK has taught me is how amazingly ignorant Anglicans can be of each other.

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 6:17pm GMT

Interesting to see Gregory Cameron speaking up.

Posted by: c.r.seitz on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8:07pm GMT

No, I am struggling with some of this, Mark.

There are some very serious power plays going on here and I am not sure that any structural support will stand in the way of those determined to create an Anglican Communion in their own likeness.

The Internet can tend to give the impression "Anglicanism has largely been reduced to a collection of squabbling interest groups" but I would see that as a completely false. You quite rightly point to the fact that the genuine image lies in the parish life - but behind those groups there are some real theological movements that are part of the shifting power relationships within churches and across the Communion. I must say that no Covenant is likely to dissuade these passionate sectarians who have been part of or around Anglicanism since its inception from further muddying the waters.

So, here, I am with Tobias - the Covenant will not sooth the symptoms - there is reason to believe in this environment it will cause more distress or deeper illness.

But Mark is correct about there being problems with being "grown up" - anyone who has watched with care the receptions processes associated with the Windsor report and the subsequent versions of the Covenant will realise that many, if not most of the Provinces were not equipped to consider these documents in a way that could be reported.

My most pressing problem with the Covenant is that it is premature, by several decades.

If the failure of the Covenant in England consigns it to a footnote and the Global South goes it alone what do our commentators think would be the long term outcome?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8:44pm GMT

If you were trying to personally wound me, DavidS, congratulations.

I know my Vindicator liveth. I just wish I didn't have to be vindicated *from* the slings&arrows of other Christians.

...then again, it's possible you're lashing out from a place of deep pain. In which case---and whatever its source---I hope you find the relief you need. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 9:49pm GMT

The heresy is that "Anglicanism is" anything or that the only valid anglicans are people like us. This has always been false, but we have lived together, allowing each other to think we're on our own for a dangerously long time. Now various groups have discovered the power of self-definition against everyone else, and somehow that seems to have felt necessary in a way that it was not before. The answer is not to maintain the fantasy that "Anglicanism is" or that "we are all the same. The question is whether any of us can acknowledge difference and live with it. And because the right question has not been asked, we don't have even the pretence of an answer.

The "covenant" feeds the fantasy rather than asking the real question.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 10:09pm GMT

Mark, I agree it a great shame we were so late to this conversation. My own trips across the Communion, including to Southern Africa, have revealed s similar lack of understanding across the borders. This provides two more reasons not to adopt the Covenant: 1) it will tend to forestall the real conversations that need to happen, as people will think it is "done" and 2) it is those conversations we need to have. I agree that a series of Congresses will be costly and time consuming, but the quick fix will not, in the long run, prove effective.

Peace and all good, Tobias

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 10:52pm GMT

"But even if a church is excluded from various Instruments (which may happen anyway without the covenant), that leaves in place all sorts of connections (not least personal ones) that are more meaningful and enduring than being obliged to sit through international meetings!" - Mark Clavier -

I agree with Mark, here - and this is precisely why a Covenant may not be of any practical use. The ones who really miss out at the moment (although they would never admit to it) are GAFCON and those who have already left the existing 'Instrument of Communion' to form their own (narrow) constituional fellowship.

Anglicanism is 'Messy Church' - a Church that admits it is still searching for the grace of Christ to 'live together in Unity. But intentional separation - on grounds of self-righteousness - is always inimical to intentional Communion. The real question is: Does the Covenant actually provide the ideal environment?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 12:14am GMT

Anglican Congresses? Are you people crazy?

The entire point is that Anglicanism is a family of churches.

A family cannot and should not legislate for its members.

Family members will do their own thing. If this causes complications for the (say) Nigerian members of the family, then perhaps they should do a better job of clarifying that Anglicanism is a family of churches, not a single church.

If other members of the family see little point to attending the family reunion, well guess what: That happens in the best of families. It may happen for a little while in this one too.

Why is everyone assuming that Rowan's centralisation programme is a good thing? It's not. It is profoundly ahistorical and unAnglican. It ought to be rejected, whether it takes the form of the Anglican Covenant or some other document.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 3:59am GMT

Now, comes the hysterical cries of "You are all just alike and you're so *mean*! Double standard! You wont' *accept* my bigotry and bias and the harm I'm causing!" Followed, of course, by threats of "my friends are bigger'n yours!" which belies, of course, any attempt to appear reasoned and rational - and compassionate. Still, the cold, selfish willfulness (reflected onto others) makes every attempt to ignore its own irrationality to preserve its comfort and privilege.

In the light of analysis, the right-wing reaction is far from threatening - rather funny, actually, if it weren't for the real damage being done to real people for petty, pompous, superstitious reasons. Indeed, given that the improvement of living-standards, in general, makes psychological and communal reactions correspondingly more important to individuals' ability to live, it becomes the 21st Century equivalent of burning witches or throwing children into a fire in order to secure your god's approval.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 5:08am GMT

Dear Tobias, Martin, et al.,

Thanks for your replies and comments. I'm rather pleased that in some general terms we're much in agreement. It seems we all would like a communion that is a little less dysfunctional and for an opportunity for the communion to grasp a richer and grander vision. Our disagreement, then, seems largely to be over whether the covenant will facilitate this or obstruct it. With respect to this, Tobias, my opinion is the opposite of your's: I sense that if the covenant fails after all the time and energy put into the process then lots of people will simply throw up their hands and give up.

In the end, as I suspect none of us has a crystal ball (though this may be an assumption within our church!), we don't know what the results will be. The next few weeks, though, will determine whether this is even an issue any more.

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 5:35am GMT

Gregory Cameron, it seems, is incapable of discussing this matter without stooping to insults.

Hysterical, are we? Yet the constant claims that the space - time continuum will be destroyed if we don't pass the Coveant is calm to the point of somnolence?

Well, at least he didn't call us fascists this time.

(And yes, I recall his phony politician's non-apology for that piece of over the top visciousness.)

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 6:20am GMT


Come on. TA is the Anglican version of the Guardian's CIF. Your brightest and best liberals here are happy to employ vicious sarcasm, ad hominens and tag-team tactics to ensure opposing arguments are despatched with the contempt they believe they deserve. One commenter even lauded such snide remarks as 'delicious'. I still don't see them as a personal affront.

If I cried 'foul' at any of the summary character attacks levelled at me, it would only prompt a TA feeding frenzy. Fortunately, I joined this blog to engage in 'no-holds-barred' moral discussions, not for solace and companionship. Christian, yes, but no 'ick' too icky to debate.

My most vocal critics may question the sincerity of this, but I'm sorry for any 'un-Christ' in my remarks towards you. The last was gratuitous word-play.

I differ from them in that none will issue a similarly specific apology towards an enemy. They would rather they believe that *any* collateral damage caused is marginally regrettable, but necessary, given the cause. The Christ I know will never let me off the hook so easily.

Even Paul had enough respect under provocation to withdraw his 'God shall smite thee, thou whited wall' (Acts 23:3) retaliatory retort.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 8:56am GMT

I have followed the discussion between Martin, Mark and Tobias with interest.
On balance, I would side with Tobias.

Leaving aside the undemocratic way it was conceived, without the full participation of all members of the Communion, I am still appalled at the uneven way it is being presented and discussed in the Dioceses here in the CoE. There is a huge bias in its favour in the way it is being presented to the Diocese, the adoption process is by no means even handed and conciliatory.

Only this week the Archbishop of Canterbury released a video in favour of the Covenant without engaging with a single factual criticism the no Covenant Campaign makes.

It's interesting that those who want the Covenant as an instrument to scrutinise proposals for change from Communion partners are themselves completely opposed to the Covenant proposal being scrutinised.

If the whole public Covenant debate had been as polite, mature and informative as the conversation Martin, Mark and Tobias had here, I might even support it. As it is, the style of engagement by those who do support it leaves me with very little confidence.
It is nothing but a continuation of the “no gays” campaign by other means.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 9:08am GMT

"all would like a communion that is a little less dysfunctional and for an opportunity for the communion to grasp a richer and grander vision" says Mark Clavier.

I don't think there is a grander or richer vision than the Kingdom of God, Mark. The invitations to the banquet are out and we always get into a terrible mess when we tell people they are unwelcome or they have to sit lower down, as Fr Ron Smith points to in his posts above.

Am I an advocate of closer cooperation, working more effectively together so that the Kingdom might thrive - certainly!

I reach out to the idea for a Congress because in a large way what has recently come together as the "instruments of communion" came from such meetings. As Mark says they represent rather a legalistic bureaucratic development and my view is we need to go back to drawing board.

Indeed the Covenant is more than the next step, this document (for the first time) gives some standing to a couple of Instruments and recasts others, so it is foundational.

All the more reason for me to want to see this Covenant halted and to press for a total rethink of where we are and need to be, perhaps Jeremy's vision of a family without boundaries would prevail at the Congress or Congresses I would see called - perhaps we would all like to see the "centralisation" reversed. I would like to see a more coherent and cohesive approach to liturgy ..... who knows?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 12:41pm GMT

Why the bishop of St Asaph? Taffya?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 1:24pm GMT

Thank you, Martin. I want to echo the reasoning for a series of Congresses is not necessarily to come up with a more centralized government. The issue is finding effective ways of working, and the reliance on Lambeth, for instance, which might have been of use a hundred years ago, is not helpful. The Primates is even worse -- the notion that one person can speak effectively for an entire nation-church is a bit absurd. I would if anything see a beefing-up of the ACC as a mission-oriented body more concerned with facilitating relationships between the provinces -- not governing them. The point is that the world is moving away from pyramidal or hub and spoke orientations to networks -- and the Anglican Communion is ahead of the curve as an essentially networked structure to start with. We could be the Christian Polity of the future and not even know it -- or squander it in a premature grab at a dazzling prize -- a golden apple of distraction in the race towards the higher goal!

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 2:49pm GMT


Again, we're not a million miles apart. I believe deeply in a church that is welcoming and embracing. One of the problems, I think, is that our vision of the Kingdom of God is not rich or grand enough really to know how to go about this. I've rarely met people on either side of the divide who are very good at being inclusive...they just 'include' different people! And I certainly struggle with this myself.

(My own opinion is that part of the reason for this is that our sense of identity and wholeness has been too affected by the consumerism in which we are nurtured from the cradle, but that is another story...)

I would also love for us to develop a less bureaucratic approach to communion, both internally and externally. But, except for a few bright spots at the parish level, I fail to see the well-springs for this anywhere in our common life. We've drunk too deeply and long the poison of vituperation, suspicion, and moralism to go very far down that road. Until we can begin to articulate our longings with more humility and charity, but with less overt righteousness (none of which is easy for those of us who comment on blogs!), then I think we deserve a bureaucracy. ...if only for our own protection.

So, no matter how the covenant process turns out, I would fully support any attempt to move us in that direction. I think Anglicanism as a whole is long past due a reforming movement that resisted the temptation to become just another lobby group.

Posted by: Mark Clavier on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 3:32pm GMT

The reaction of Glasgow and Galloway diocese to the Covenant in the Scottish Episcopal Church is outlined by Kelvin Head:

Posted by: Jim on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 11:11pm GMT

Yes, Mark.

Radical inclusion is not something to be believed in it has to be lived out. All too often - even here! - there is a tendency amongst angry commentators to cast the other into outer darkness!!

Sadly, the Covenant does this strategically - with both a second tier and a naughty corner - not really my cup of tea I'm afraid.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 10:15am GMT

What bothers me - and it was evoked, but not directly caused by, nor directed at, your comment, Martin Reynolds - is the idea that suggesting that another denomination is "casting others into the outer darkness." It implies that we are severing all ties from these individuals, for all time, nyah! So there!

More than that, it implies a belief that, to be other than Anglican is to be *gasp* UN-SAVED!!!!!

It really does. Seriously. Look at it.

Personally, I mix everyday with Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Catholics, - even, if you credit it, some non-Christians. Imagine. Being in different churches doesn't keep us from being friends and even family! To that end, I have no problem believing that it is absolutely valid to suggest to the disgruntled that departing another faith or denomination is an expression of Christian Charity.

Now, whatever Anglicanism *was* - or was thought to be - this is what it *is*. Moreover, it is one of the few places allowing tolerance of questions, liberal outlook, and theological speculation. The overwhelming majority of mainline Christian expression is both increasingly centralized (I laughed at "are we Anglicans or Baptists," as Southern Baptists have clamped down the central authority of the Convention in a way exactly mirrored by the proposed covenant) and right-leaning, so there is far more opportunity for those who choose right-leaning, authoritarian Christianity to depart and find fulfillment than those who prefer loose confederation and "the questions" to do so. This is reasonable and rational.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 8:09am GMT
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