Wednesday, 7 March 2012

more from opponents of the Anglican Covenant

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has issued a press release, available as a PDF here:

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has added three new Patrons to its special group of eminent Anglicans opposing the proposed Anglican Covenant. The new Patrons are

  • The Rt. Revd. James White, Assistant Bishop of Auckland, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
  • Dr. Muriel Porter, OAM, journalist and author, Anglican Church of Australia
  • The Revd. Canon Dr. Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Cambridge University, Church of England.

…“The disturbing theological vacuity of the Covenant document nonetheless comes with a hidden iron fist: do not be misled by its rhetoric of friendly collaboration between national churches,” writes Prof Coakley. “The Covenant bespeaks a quite different ecclesiology from that of Cranmer’s ‘blessed company of all faithful people,’ and profoundly alters what it means to be Anglican. The deepest theological challenges of our day cannot be answered by hapless bureaucratic manipulations of our theological tradition.”

Diarmaid MacCulloch has recorded a video in which he opposes the Covenant: see Diarmaid MacCulloch Adds To The Video Debate.

And, he also written a covering note Historical Problems with the Anglican Covenant for a learned paper The Anglican Covenant and the Experience of The Scottish Episcopal Church: Rewriting History for Expediencies Sake.

I would like to recommend most highly this historical article by the Ven. Edward Simonton, Archdeacon of Saint Andrews in the Diocese of Montreal. It is a marvelously clear, learned and well-informed introduction to the history and significance of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, which reveals just how shoddy and ill-informed are the historical arguments which have been used to promote the introduction of a so-called ‘Anglican Covenant’. Simonton guides his reader through the history of a Church in Scotland which is a complete contrast to that of the Church of England, yet which is just as ancient in its episcopate. This is particularly important because one of the planks of the ‘Covenant’ is that the Anglican identity, on which its attempt at universal discipline is based, looks to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book. This is simply not so in the case of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which one has to remember was up to 1707 a Church in an independent kingdom, Scotland…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 9:21am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

+James White is an excellent man. Good to see he's bringing his very considerable gifts to the movement.

Posted by: rjb on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 3:35pm GMT

All three patrons are excellent. The 'No' campaign is notching up some heavyweight theologians, historians and commentators. I would be inclined to take them more seriously than the motley collection of bishops in favour.

I do hope that by 'Super Saturday' this week, when six more English diocesan synods vote on the Covenant, the electorates will have taken time and trouble to be really well informed about just what is being proposed. This is really the last chance for pro - Covenant groups to stage a come back. Alternatively, and in my opinion sensibly, most of the six will vote against making the rejection of the Covenant more or less a fait accompli.

If this is so, then perhaps we can get on with the serious business of mending broken fences, re-sewing 'torn fabric' and remaining more or less in full communion with each other despite our differences.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 4:17pm GMT

This ill-conceived "Covenant" is also perhaps the current Archbishop of Canterbury's attempt to form an Anglican Magesterium loosely modeled on the model used by Roman Catholicism. It is an attempt to take us backward in time as if the Reformation itself never happened. It is an attempt to "control" us. The imperial top-down magesterium model is not working in Rome and is being challenged by millions of Roman Catholics as a model that does not reflect Jesus. It reflects Roman Emperors. The Covenant moves us in that direction and it is unacceptable. Shame on Rowan Williams for participating in this debacle.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 6:19pm GMT

Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thank you, finally, yes, finally we get the straight
scoop on the Anglican Covenant and the several CLEAR reasons for NOT
approving it by dioceses at The Church of England!

Watching yesterdays video, the ABC non-spelling out why ¨the Anglican
covenant¨ MUST BE APPROVED doom, seemed plain despotic as he not-so-subtly
scolds those who would disagree with him...him, it´s about him and his well plotted scheme (and specially selected cochairs of the Covenant Design team)...some
even say he had a very mean look in his eyes for being *questioned* about the wisdom of the Anglican Covenant at ALL!

Those of us who are living in cultures that aren´t quite up to
adult-understanding of everyday morality and bigboy church stuff according
to ++RW and ¨Mother Church¨ are growing quite annoyed with this ¨innocents¨ third world tactic!

Please inform Dr. Williams not to speak for us, nor pretend we are
incapable of prayerfully discerning some very important social issues
which have far more to do with ¨including¨ than ¨excluding¨ ANYONE at The
Anglican Communion or down in the center of this tiny/dusty little town at the foot of a volcano in Guatemala. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 6:22pm GMT

Bishop Jim White will bring many gifts into the Coalition. Having been a well-loved parish priest and a theological educator in ACANZP before his elevation to the episcopate, he has many gifts. An advocate of the LGBT community for some time, +James is a most welcome addition to the hierarchy.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 11:48pm GMT

What's any of this got to do with Diarmaid MacCulloch? Yes, a fine church historian, but he no longer identifies himself as Anglican. Indeed, when questioned at a recent lecture series a friend attended, he described himself as "an outside observer of the Christian church".

Posted by: Ben on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 7:56am GMT

It's got everything to do with Diarmaid MacC. His note, and the paper he commends, shows that claims for the C of E to be the unique mother church of Anglicanism, and/or for the 1662 prayerbook to be its founding constitution, are simply false. This obviously matters for TEC, given the Seabury affair, as much as it does for Scotland.

Considering that one of the pro-Covenant documents circulating is a historical travesty from a canon theologian in Norwich, it's an essential corrective.

I hope that non-Anglicans (including me) are not discouraged from reading and posting on this site.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 9:36am GMT

Ben, the fact that Professor Diarmaid McCulloch may consider himself to be no longer an Anglican may have more to do with his negative experience of the Church, than that he might not be qualified to offer an educated opinion on its ecclesiology. After all, he probably knows more about the actual history of Anglicanism than many of the distinguished scholars who write books about it.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 9:47am GMT

Sarah Coakley's comments seems the more significant to me, given both her strong theological commitments as well as her relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury. No one can accuse her of being less than fully Anglican in her identity. Does anyone know the origin of this quote--has she spoken publicly on Covenant matters?

For that matter, what about the current Lady Margaret Professor at Oxford, George Pattison? Has he come out with any views on the Covenant?

From a curious Yankee across the lake.

Posted by: clark west on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 11:55am GMT

Good question about DM. The answer, I think, is that he still partly identifies himself as a 'cultural Anglican'. But I do wish that all those public commentators who defend the C of E (usually against Dawkins or the current Pope) would actually do something useful - like going to church.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 11:59am GMT

Diarmaid received his recent knighthood dressed in clericals and identified by the palace as "The Reverend Professor". So he seems to be half in, half out (the default Anglican position...)

Posted by: Stuart on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 12:26pm GMT

I myself questioned the value of having Diarmaid MacCulloch as a patron, because of the declaration he made at the end of his recent television series.

On the other hand, he doesn't have any other primary church identity (I go every week to the Hull Unitarians; I'm its best attender) and he still uses 'we'.

Gregory Cameron's posting is easily countered point by point, and that's the basis of my latest offering in case anyone should get the wrong idea in the real world. The notion is the new one of 'confessing' that perhaps works in both directions!

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 1:55pm GMT

Diarmaid MacCulloch was ordained deacon in 1987 in Bristol Diocese. Crockford would not list him if he had resigned those orders. So he is entirely entitled to be described as the Revd Professor if he so desires. And given that the Church of England is an Established Church I would have thought that one of our most eminent church historian's view of this business is of great interest to all members of the Church of England however he might describe his present personal position.

Posted by: JeremyP on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 1:57pm GMT

An ad hominem attack on Professor MacCulloch seems strong evidence that his factual statements cannot be refuted.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 2:51pm GMT

@Stuart: Yeah. At the opposite end of the academic scale I referred to myself recently as a semi-church person. But I distinguish between "Anglican" and "Church of England". I don't have much interest in or sympathy with many of the trappings of global anglicanism. My attachment is to the C of E as an institution committed to the spiritual welfare of all in its geographical area. Some might call that parochial; I see it as the only realistic approach an institution can take if it wants to engage with more than a small religious minority who happen to value "anglican worship". The Covenant seems intended to lock the C of E into an anglicanism that theologically and practically is alien to most of the population, especially those under 40. I don't want to lose at least the possibility that our institutional expression of Christian religion might rediscover a form that is relevant to mainstream culture. I imagine some in other parts of world might have similar aspirations for their local Church.

Posted by: Dave Marshall on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 2:53pm GMT

“This obviously matters for TEC, given the Seabury affair, as much as it does for Scotland.”— Iain McLean

Quite true, Iain. Archdeacon Simonton didn’t have space to outline the many significant influences that the Scottish Church has historically had upon American Episcopalianism, from at least the time of the Rev. Dr. James Blair.

Dr. Blair came to Virginia from Scotland and was the Bishop of London’s Ecclesiastical Commissary (administrative vicar) for that Province from 1689-1743. Blair came to the New World as part of the “first wave” Scottish clergy who were escaping religious repression at home. A second wave came to America in the wake of the 1715 Rising, and a third after 1745.

These immigrant priests were particularly influential in the Episcopal churches of the Northeast (New Jersey, New York, and the New England Colonies). Many were Usagers who advocated “Apostolic Usages” to the Communion Office, which included the mixed chalice, the prayers of Epiclesis and Invocation of the Holy Spirit, and prayers for the dead. As part of the “Lesser Usages,” they introduced the “received custom” of keeping the Reserved Sacrament for the use of the sick and dying, a practice that later would be promoted by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury who in 1789 inserted a specific clause into the American Prayer of Consecration for the express purpose of providing for Reservation.

Most Non-Juring Scottish clergy—Usagers and Non-Usagers alike—also defended the practice of auricular confession. These priests were upholders of the High Church view of the Anglican system. Like the Caroline Divines before them, they approved of confession as a useful practice to help spiritually sick souls imprisoned by sin. But they opposed making auricular confession obligatory, as it was in the Roman Church. They had great High Church influence on many Colonial American priests, including the Rev. John Wesley, Rector of Christ Church Savannah, Georgia.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by: Kurt on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 3:44pm GMT

Ben, it is irrelevant whether Diarmaid MacCulloch is an 'outside observer' or what his current status is. What matters is what he says and whether it is correct or not.

I believe that he is an authoritative and informed source of information whose views are to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 4:25pm GMT

I have mixed feelings about MacCulloch's intervention. Of course he is welcome to his opinions (doubtless grounded in his immense erudition), but as a non-Anglican surely he cannot expect his views to be regarded as entirely relevant by those of us having this discussion from within the church? I have many views on what I would like to see happen in Muslim communities, based on my academic study of Islamic history and culture over a number of years, but I don't imagine Muslims would take me terribly seriously if I were to start telling them what they should believe and how they should act. I'm an outsider, and should have the decency to act like one.

Posted by: rjb on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 6:04pm GMT

DaveM: interesting, and very well said.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 7:33pm GMT

Glad to see Dr. Muriel Porter on board. She has a good slant on the goings-on of the Sydney Diocese in the Australian Church - a situation that identifies with the disaffected of GAFCON

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 11:01pm GMT

I think that the Church of England is not as exclusive as rjb would like us to be.

Until Prof MacCulloch resigns his orders (or is deposed) then he can participate in the election of his parochial representatives on the Deanery Synod. So in the narrow sense he has a very proper interest in the affairs of the C of E. (Of course if he were a layman he'd have to declare himself a member of the C of E or church in communion, but as a cleric he doesn't.) More generally, as long as we have a church by law established, then its affairs are of interest to all citizens.

For me this actually goes to the heart of the row over the "covenant". Some of us actually favour dealing with the messy here and now that is the C of E and the Church in England rather than constructing a beautiful alternative universe. Moreover, in making decisions in the C of E we want to hear what those on the margins of the C of E (MacCullough??) think, and indeed what other traditions who have grappled with the same problems here (McLean??) think. We think that's a more authentic way of being C of E than prioritising the views of those operating in quite different contexts (I do not particularise).

England gave up its Coca Cola franchise in 1549, please let's not imagine that signing up to the Pepsi deal will solve anything.

Posted by: american piskie on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 9:44am GMT

I certainly have no wish for the Church of England - or the Anglican Communion for that matter - to be "exclusive", and I'd certainly agree that there are voices to be heard from the margins (though I'm not quite sure an Oxford professor of Church History can claim to be all that marginal). But Diarmaid MacCulloch has said repeatedly and on the record that he does not regard himsself as a Christian. (I suspect some commenters here are sceptical about DM's claims to not be a Christian at all, which seems a bit presumptuous to put it mildly.) His views, therefore, may be of academic interest but he has very little personally at stake in the argument.

Dragging in the fact that the C of E is an established church and that everyone therefore has an interest in it may be technically true, but is a red herring. If so, why not ask Richard Dawkins or the Chief Rabbi to offer their contribution to the covenant debate? There are good arguments for disestablishment, it's true, but that's hardly relevant here. I'm also wary of arguments that the church should "rediscover a form that is relevant to mainstream culture." I hope the church will always have the good sense to be defiantly counter-cultural. It depresses me that the 'evangelical camp' seems to have cornered the market on the prophetic voice, and we moderates and liberals in the Church of England seem to have little to offer but appeals to 'relevance' and (ugh!) 'authenticity'. When the Gospel is subordinated to a national culture, the inevitable corrollary is that the one holy catholic and apostolic church stops at national frontiers, or at the water's edge.

Posted by: rjb on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 10:55am GMT

I would be perfectly happy to hear the opinions of Richard Dawkins or the Chief Rabbi about the Anglican Covenant, since the two major arguments in its favor are "It is essential for the survival of the Anglican Communion" & "It doesn't really change anything" ("It will hurt Rowan's feelings it is doesn't pass" doesn't really constitute an argument, IMHO). Logically, these are mutually exclusive. If anyone has a good argument in favor of the actual text of the document, I have yet to hear it.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 3:13pm GMT

There's obviously a breadth to both relevance and authenticity. That means they can be thrown around in a fairly meaningless way. But equally, when related to 'the Gospel' they seem essential attributes. Otherwise whatever that means is going to have no value. While defiantly counter-cultural may have its moments, I mostly find a moderate sounding, making sense approach to God and Christian tradition more interesting and constructive. A more creative expression of faith, I guess, that I suspect is ultimately more radical and effective in confronting negative aspects of culture.

Posted by: Dave Marshall on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 4:04pm GMT

The Archbishop of Canterbury is arguing in favor of the Covenant by saying that unspecified non-Anglicans like it.

Given that Williams is arguing from non-Anglican authority, I doubt it matters how Anglican MacCulloch is.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 4:07pm GMT

Far be it to me to speak for Professor MacCulloch, but I recently had occasion to ask him about the matter of how to refer to him.

He has neither resigned nor been deposed from his orders. However, since he is effectively not functioning in those orders, he does not generally use the styles associated with them - ie, "the Revd."

He was referred to with that style at his recent investiture because, as a person in clerical orders, the manner of his investiture and the style by which he subsequently addressed is different. Thus he is not referred to as "Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch," nor was he dubbed a knight by use of a sword.

The Palace, quite rightly, is very particular on these matters.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 3:47am GMT
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