Comments: latest on the CCE "covenant"

Andrew Carey's condemnation of Evangelicalism in the Church of England is devastating.

Time to begin to listen to others and to learn from the breadth of theology, arts, thinking, writing, science ?

Change is possible akin to a new birth of spirit....

Posted by laurence at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 9:58am GMT

Rather suave, perhaps insidious, comment from Andrew Carey, reserving its shaft for the end: "Such is the bitterness over the covenant with some evangelicals even likening the so-called ‘Covenant evangelicals’ to Hizbollah that I fear there’s no way back. Bishop Wright will find it hard to take his words back and provide unifying leadership." Words of truth and theological common sense must be taken back for strategic reasons?

"Fulcrum and Bishop Wright ask, why now? I’m surprised that the answer eludes them. The liberal theologies of the 1960s and 1970s did not become the official teaching of the Church of England, whereas the House of Bishops pastoral advice on civil partnerships effectively accepts and normalises ‘gay marriage’ for Anglican clergy and laity." On thist point Andrew Carey misrepresents the Bishop's logic. The Covenant makes a point of saying that its discord is not focused on homosexual issues but on the Lordship of Christ, and the Bishop points out that this was a far more troubling issue in the 1970s -- there is nothing in official Anglican teaching today that contest Christ's role as Savior. So the presenting issue is and remains homosexuality. The blessing of gay unions (which does not amount to homosexual marriage, for these blessings are not sacraments and do not claim for gay relationships the status that marriage has in view, among other things, of its intimate connection of the perpetuation of life across generations) is here made an article by which the church stands and falls. This is over the top. If blessing gay unions is such a terrible idea it will be found to be so in due time. Biblical fundamentalists will see an essential principle of Christianity sacrificed here, but many Christians are hailing these developments precisely on the basis of gospel principles.

"The misnamed ‘covenant’ is as legitimate an act of protest as any to highlight the fact that the Church of England is in danger of sleep-walking toward liberal oblivion." But such noisy protests are not at all a constructive contribution to the welfare of the Church. Any idiot can generate a protest; what all should be doing is working together on the Christian way forward.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 10:41am GMT

Simon - the Andrew Goddard link at present leads to the Andrew Carey essay (it should be NewsID=535). Both are well worth reading.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 10:51am GMT

Andrew Carey writes that the evangelical movement in the Church of England is now probably split irrevocably ... evangelicals can’t agree on the issues ... the number of evangelical parishes in dispute with their bishops is likely to increase.

Conservative evangelicals have driven the issue of LGBT people in the Church of England to the top of the Communion agenda. They have been and are obsessing about it to the exlcusion of almost everything else. Why are the comments on TA so obsessed with gay sexuality? Who's obsession is this?

Is the obession now returning to destroy the attackers? It's a dangerous thing to focus on an obsession, especially when it is founded on such weak pronciples, biblical, theological, spiritual and human.

Andrew concludes that the 'covenant’ is a legitimate act of protest highlighting the fact that the Church of England is in danger of sleep-walking toward liberal oblivion.

If it's a statement of protest, why not call it that? The Church of England sleep walking toward liberal oblivion is another fantasy the conservatives wish to believe. It is as manifestly untrue as the fantasy that lesbian and gay people are unable to construct intimate, loving relationships that are the equal of the best marriages and are blessed by God.

Liberals are proving themsleves to be far more faithful, committed, orthodox, Anglicans who believe in a real, costly, but inescapable desire for unity under God than the ruthlessly dogmatic, seccessionists in England, the USA and parts of the Global South.

Things fall apart - and last week conservative evangelicals fractured their own wing of the CofE with tragic vengeance.

Posted by Colin Coward at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 11:00am GMT

Both articles illustrate that this Covenant by Reform and friends has been a disaster. It has indeed divided the evangelical camp, and the inclusiveness of liberals will be more inviting to some than the Puritanism of other evanglicals.

However, there might be a price to pay in future: that the findings of Essays and Reviews, Soundings, Honest to God, the Myth of God Incarnate, and so on in theological works, do get a more clearly recognised place in the Anglican Church accepting liberals, open evangelicals, moderate catholics. It is less a case of why now and more what is the effect of doing now. One effect also might be a more theologically based openness to people in society where they are and assistance with where they wish to go, more a service model than a conversion model of outreach. Another effect is to have no discrimination in any ministry on the grounds of sexuality.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 1:18pm GMT

A. Carey is so sweetly eccentric, so fuss-budgety, in his UK rightwing way: committed gay/lesbian couples pledging themselves to care across multiple life domains - in public - oh gee, lions & tigers & bears! - is read as a sign of doom.

Okay then.

Now we get two rightwing dooms. One is the old bugaboo of gay promiscuity (but the more people come out, the more it turns into regular old dating and seems less than screaming headlines material) - the other is the newish bugaboo of gay/lesbian couples who wish to visit one another in hospital and provide for the parenting of their children even if one of them should die.

Funny how so many rightwing believers who believe they are so correctly intimate with eternal truth seem to have completely missed the ethical and spiritual lessons which sheer human aging combined with facing the HIV/AIDS epidemic taught so many non-straight people.

First lesson = we have to take care of ourselves because nobody else in practical truth really gives a hoot about us.

Second lesson = care is possible, even precious, even blessed - under dire circumstances of deadly illness and under dire circumstances of highly charged institutional or economic or political or cultural prejudice.

Third lesson = we are an intergenerational community all around the planet.

Fourth lesson = humans often face death and dying by walking a spiritual path, with or without any available real assistance from any of the world's historic organized religions.

Fifth lesson = we are all in this together, just imagine that, and so, do not send to know for whom the bell tolls. So the clanging death bells eventually wanted to become the clarion wedding bells. Sheer poetry, then, of a doomish sort.

Ah, doom. One supposes any and all of these lessons spell doom for rightwing believers, along with the rest of us, and one must end up supposing - presupposing really - that the Bible tells me so. All the rightwing believers who so carefully walked away from contaminated citizens of all sorts are welcome to keep on keeping all to themselves, I guess. Still, our bells toll for them, too, as part of us.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 4:30pm GMT

The more I think and read about the CCE, the more I think about that other covenant - marriage.

It seems to me that the CCE signatories see their beloved as having been wayward up to the point of unfaithfulness - or been engaged in unreasonable conduct of other sorts. So they have issued an ultimatum to their own bride: "Do things my way or I'll divorce you."

The problem is, the bride has not only changed, but has never been what the husband wanted. They married her hoping she would change, and change she certainly has, but not to their liking. And now she is left, wondering whether she would be better divorced, whether reconcilliation is possible with someone who demands, not asks, whether she was ever loved, or if she was just convenient to further the husband's career.

It happens, of course. There are divorces for just these very reasons all the time. But it cannot be denied that there was a covenant relationship in place, where promises were made for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part.

Posted by Simon Morden at Friday, 22 December 2006 at 5:46pm GMT

Andrew Carey quotes the Bishop of Durham: “On the specific question of oversight, he notes the irony of the evangelical tradition for much of its history ignoring Bishops, and now demanding only ‘Godly’ ones. “Yes there is a crisis over the fundamentals of revealed truth. Yes, there is a crisis over some pressing moral issues of our day. But the new mood of intolerance, and of crying ‘victim’ just because someone disagrees with you (welcome to postmodern culture, refracted through would-be evangelical pietism!), means that now some ‘justifiably consider that their communion with their bishop is impaired’.”

Who ever on the “liberal” side said anything as true and as wicked about the anti-modern late moderns ;=)

Andrew Carey writes: “Evangelicals have often had a purely functional view of episcopacy and an essentially congregationalist outlook.”

and “As a result a number of evangelical parishes are in dispute with their bishops, and this number is likely to increase.”

and finally: “Such is the bitterness over the covenant with some evangelicals even likening the so-called ‘Covenant evangelicals’ to Hizbollah that I fear there’s no way back. Bishop Wright will find it hard to take his words back and provide unifying leadership.”

But then we all know of an archbishop or two who is quite willing to step in…

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 11:09am GMT

Colin Coward sees the key issue as 'Who can be most unifying, eirenic?'. Though this is an important priority, it can also potentially be one that flies in the face of integrity. That is why I advocate taking the academic model of everyone saying outright what they believe, and where they think the evidence points. It is only then that we can be in a position to refine viewpoints, compare and contrast them, jettison the self-contradictory, and (incidentally, if less importantly) discover what actually is 'mainstream'.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 12:12pm GMT

O, but I thought Academia was the place where nobody ever said what they believe, and where they never ever say where the evidence points, but points at their own way only...

:-(

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 1:02pm GMT

What it will show, Christopher, is that there is no logical reason why these diverse views should remain (dis)united in one organisation

You won't manage to gain agreement on what is regarded as self-contradictory, though - there is no common starting point to do so.

What is 'mainstream' in one country is 'fringe' in another.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 1:07pm GMT

"That is why I advocate taking the academic model of everyone saying outright what they believe, and where they think the evidence points. "

Nice idea, Dr S, but one big hole — that someone will choose to play the 'God told me/God says' trump card, after which point the whole edifice collapses.

In a situation where there are plenty of influential Christians who still believe in a 4004 creation date (meaning that the city of Jericho existed before the rest of the universe, an intriguing idea), the ground rules of such a discussion are not in place, not as long as there is a 'Revelation' card which can be used to veto the rest of the discussions.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 3:18pm GMT

Both articles illustrate that this Covenant by Reform and friends has been a disaster. It has indeed divided the evangelical camp, and the inclusiveness of liberals will be more inviting to some than the Puritanism of other evanglicals.

However, there might be a price to pay in future: that the findings of Essays and Reviews, Soundings, Honest to God, the Myth of God Incarnate, and so on in theological works, do get a more clearly recognised place in the Anglican Church accepting liberals, open evangelicals, moderate catholics. It is less a case of why now and more what is the effect of doing now. One effect also might be a more theologically based openness to people in society where they are and assistance with where they wish to go, more a service model than a conversion model of outreach. Another effect is to have no discrimination in any ministry on the grounds of sexuality.' (Pluralist).

I would also wish to mention Objections to Christian Belief, Norman Pittenger's God as Process (anglican theologian, priest & gay man(, and HA Williams' work. To name a few.

I should also wish to invoke the 'social witness' of Industrial Mission and the 'psychological witness' of the Pastoral Care & Counselling movement (often not 'written up' but lived out 'on the ground'). Also the anti-racism of Trevor Huddlestone lived out in S. Africa.


Amen, Pluralist, good to see the evocation of this fine theological tradition. I should also wish to invoke the Doctrine Commission Report (of the 30s or 40s ?-must consult my copy))both for its content and for its method. -- Particularly for its method, which was what I'd call phenomenolgical --or at least descriptive. It clearly and honest destrcribed the beliefs (of the clergy--one must begin somewhere)as then held by cofE clergy, having conducted a survey in depth, among them.The honest and unbiased description of belief as held is very good way of proceeding still.

This was what the CiW (Eglwys yng Nghymru) bishops did recently regarding Civil Partnerships.


Perhaps a group of mixed-Evangelicals and of Broadchurchpeople could get together to carry such a survey for today in this spirit of discovery and description ?


Posted by laurence at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 4:19pm GMT

Doctrine Commission Report

commissioned 1922, published 1938 and should be compulsory reading for all members of the CofE. pp31-33 would bring forth a storm from the ConsEvs these days.....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 6:16pm GMT

Christopher, the key issue as I see it is, how are we being called to behave as Christians who are formed by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I find the most inescapable Gospel message is the personal call to me to behave differently in relationships from my habitual patterns, not to walk away, not to revert to the jealous infant, not to seek revenge.

I am finding it very difficult not to react as I am tempted - I am very tempted to write far more intemperate responses!

The academic model you propose won't change what needs to be changed. It will help understanding for those willing to engage, listen, and learn, on all sides. But change only happens in the context of changed relationships as well as better understanding.

No surprise, either, that I don't agree with Mike's perspective. There are certainly groups which are determined, in an utterly un-Christian way, to abuse others in the church, manipulate the structures and authority of the church, and pursue an agenda for utterly selfish ends which hangs on the abuse and exclusion of LGBT people from the church (or makes us, at the most generous interpretation, very second class citizens). This is not what Jesus wants.

We won't gain agreement with those who differ from us, but that doesn't stop us from maintaining dialogue and relationships and an open house. I am not threatening to walk apart or destroy the unity of the church. However hysterical others become when their schemes are not working, I don't see any Christian alternative but to maintain my place in the church, faithfully open to and loving and respecting others. They are trying to diminish my presence in the church. I am trying to remain faithful to God, a faithful Anglican, faithful to God's full inclusion of me in the church at my baptism in 1945, faithful in calling me to ministry, faithful now as a rabble creates chaos in the church around me.

Posted by Colin Coward at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 6:33pm GMT

It's a good approach Colin Coward and I would prefer a loose federation as the best wasy to ease tensions and have some conversation over fences - but others might not want to talk. This might be something understood: we are all members of the same Anglican family: we just are in different places and no longer talk to one another. What's new?

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 8:19pm GMT

Doctrine Commission Report
commissioned 1922, published 1938 and should be compulsory reading for all members of the CofE. pp31-33 would bring forth a storm from the ConsEvs these days.....

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Saturday, 23 December 2006 at 6:16pm GMT

Many thanks for this reference. I agree with you completely. It is first rate...now I must see where mine lies waiting !

What I wonder do pages 31 --4 contain ?!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE !
NADOLIG LLAWEN I GYD !

Posted by laurence at Sunday, 24 December 2006 at 11:14pm GMT


May I point out that the signatories of the "Covenant" state that they are not prepared to have fellowship with those who teach false doctrine and morals ( marriage is specifically stated). like the specific Covenant of Reform ( see their web site) they carefully leave out the issue of divorce.

Yet within that list of names there are those who teach that marriage after divorce is adultery ( we shall call group A )and others who accept it ( group B).

Yet group a and B are in fellowship with each other!!!

The fact is ( as with female ordination) they are divided and have no coherent theology of heterosexual marriage.

They look for inspiration to African provinces, which were given a dispensation from disallowing polygamy for converts, and the Church of england in South Africa ( from whence comes Episcopal help) is riddles d with divorce. Have you read its presiding Bishop's book on the subject. ( Divorce by frank Retief) Interestingly at Lambeth 1867, Bishop Colenso was criticised for the very same policy!

Furthermore contraception is not even an issue with them. Condemned by Lambeth 1908 and 1920 and reversed in 1930. The late Lord Runcie cites this decision as why he could with a clear conscience ordain practising homosexuals.

Andrew Carey feels that the Church of England did not give into the liberal revisionists of the sixties...well guess he would say that. Did not his own father bless the second marriage of his own divorced children and tell Prince Charles to marry his Mistress, a divorced woman!

Robert Ian Williams

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Wednesday, 27 December 2006 at 8:17am GMT

Further to RIW's comments, I recall that Keith Ward maintains that fundamentalist evangelicals (as opposed to evangelicals in general) do not have much of a coherent theology of anything, including Scripture. A recent TA contributor who offered a laudatory defence of Goldman Sachs megabucks earners must have an interesting hermeneutic to be able to dismiss biblical unease about the wealthy while arguing so persuasively from a handful of passages for God's eternal opposition to the gays....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 27 December 2006 at 8:26pm GMT

We have often lamented on this site this misuse of the word mainstream. Yesterday The Times (p41) provided a classic example. Of American Christians, we are informed that 34% are evangelical protestant, and 22% mainstream protestant.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 9:05am GMT

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-2519752.html
is an interesting article, thank you for that.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 9:11am GMT

Colin Coward writes: 'change only happens in the context of changed relationships as well as beter understanding'.

I so agree. And that is precisely the problem. We will agree with people who are nice to us. Even if (and this is the crux) even if those people are actually wrong. (Remember, love bombers are very 'nice' too.)

That is why most of us end up saying the same as our friends are saying, as opposed to being more objective and concentrating on the evidence. That is why theology is often nothing but autobiography and psychology. That is why one can to some extent predict beliefs & denominational allegiance based on sociological circumstances.

Anyone would think that we individuals were the centre of the universe, and all worldviews begin and end with us. Pure solipsism.

And the common factor of most heresies and/or inaccurate beliefs is (in accord with the above pattern) that we treat the (very local and transient) culture we are used to as a cosmic matter, and intermix it with the cosmic to produce our worldview.

A test of integrity is that people are capable of disagreeing with their friends and agreeing with their enemies. (The trouble is that the same thing can also be seen as a test of autism and/or psychosis. Which it is not. Friendship and academic integrity are both utterly precious. But they are separate matters: let's never let them affect one another.)

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 28 December 2006 at 1:18pm GMT

theology is often nothing but autobiography and psychology. That is why one can to some extent predict beliefs & denominational allegiance based on sociological circumstances.

An interesting observation (akin to spirituality types derived from astrology for the middle classes, aka Myers-Briggs— but it applies equally (I would have thought) to all Church groupings and traditions, and that it's a long way from being a knock-down argument in favour of ANY Christian perspective.

Unless, of course, in some theologies God is so free to be at work that the human no longer applies: some observers have suggested that some ConsEv Chrisians fall foul of Anselm's observation on the seriousness of sin, by imagining their own bit of the Church to be free from error.

An interesting discussion could be had on whether monochrome congregations — which seems to be the way (eg) ++Abuja is pushing — are a good thing....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 29 December 2006 at 4:39pm GMT

Monochrome congregations are an exceptionally bad thing. They are one unacceptable pole; 'anything goes' is the other.

Each monochrome congregation would remain in its own infantile blissful semi-ignorance, without the continuous discovery facilitated by interaction with other perspectives.

That is why I advocate the round-table 'federation of regiments' academic model.

The monochrome option is a real danger in today's tribal age. Everyone can achieve significance, and their ideas be viewed as important, within their own little world. But oh, how little those worlds could potentially be.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 30 December 2006 at 1:08pm GMT

'...Yet within that list of names there are those who teach that marriage after divorce is adultery ( we shall call group A )and others who accept it ( group B).

Yet group a and B are in fellowship with each other!!!

The fact is ( as with female ordination) they are divided and have no coherent theology of heterosexual marriage.

They look for inspiration to African provinces, which were given a dispensation from disallowing polygamy for converts, and the Church of england i

Furthermore contraception is not even an issue with them. Condemned by Lambeth 1908 and 1920 and reversed in 1930. The late Lord Runcie cites this decision as why he could with a clear conscience ordain practising homosexuals.

Andrew Carey feels that the Church of England did not give into the liberal revisionists of the sixties...well guess he would say that. Did not his own father bless the second marriage of his own divorced children and tell Prince Charles to marry his Mistress, a divorced woman!'

Robert Ian Williams


Very well said, and relevant in pointing to the lack of onsistency among the covananters. No wonder they cannot be trusted/--not even with the Bible --let alone marriage, relationships, divorce and Civil Partnerships.

The point about Robert Runcie's justification, for ordaining gay pople to the priesthood of the Church is very telling and shows he could act with integrity.

Posted by laurence at Tuesday, 2 January 2007 at 5:08pm GMT
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