Comments: The Church of England and the draft Anglican Covenant

What a complete and utter waste of time and resources.

Because people want us all to become slaves to doctrine. Their doctrine.

Folly and novelty.

Posted by matthewhunt at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 4:22pm BST

Forewarned is forearmed...

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 4:45pm BST

I hope someone in General Synod will move to add something like:

(d) insist that any proposed covenant should reflect and accept the breadth of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion and should, moreover, not be framed so as to stifle their future development.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 5:47pm BST

I wonder whether the other Houses of General Synod will take issue with all of this happening in the House (or the larger College) of Bishops. One of the important marks, I think, of how we have reflected on this in the Episcopal Church is the effort made to include lay and ordained other than bishops. The Executive Council did that through their Study Guide; and the announced intent of our House of Bishops' Study Guide is that the bishops will use it to dialog with groups within their dioceses. So, will the prelates of the Church of England make any like effort?

Posted by Marshall Scott at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 6:57pm BST

"They hope that it may be possible to bring a draft Church of England response to the meeting of the House of Bishops at Lambeth on 1-3 October, to which members of the College of Bishops (i.e. bishops outside the House of Bishops) ... "

Could someone explain to Americans a matter of polity? Who/what = House of Bishops and Who/what = College of Bishops?

And another polity question - is there any place in this process where lay people and clergy have a say?

Thanks.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 7:37pm BST

Hopefully there is a great deal that will get in the way of a Covenant; a Covenant would itself be so divisive that its best future is no future.

It remains the case that a Covenant satisfying some would be rejected by others either because it is not restrictive enough or because is too restrictive, that it would be a mechanism towards a split and the means to births of other Covenants possibly by those meeting in other world geographic centres with exporting elsewhere.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 8:48pm BST

There are some that seem to forget that the current arrangement of the AC does not trace itself back to Scripture and/or the apostles. It is largely a 19th century creation that has served to loosely bind together a variety of national churches that had their origin in the COE. And, it has led to some problems.

Whether the proposed covenant will be a solution remains to be seen. However, my sense is that the objections at TA have more to do with the fact that a lot of folks believe it could derail, hamper or halt a particular liberal agenda. I believe their reactions would be exactly the opposite if they believed it would promote that same agenda. In fact, I'm not sure my reactions wouldn't be completely the opposite if I believed that.

This is a shame as the matter is too important to be determined merely on the basis of issues that are probably going to prove to be transitory in nature--one way or the other. It's probably just wishful thinking on my part, but I wish it was possible to have a reasoned discussion of the relative merits and demerits of this proposal without having sides determined in advance by whether the issue of the day would be advanced or hampered for one side or another by a covenant. Is there some way we could set that aside and look at this thing from a broader perspective?

Steven

Posted by Steven at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 9:29pm BST

A couple of comments have asked about the "House" and "College" of Bishops.

The college is the gathering of all stipendiary bishops (diocesan, suffragan, assistant and those in episcopal orders but working outside the diocesan system (such as the present Dean of Windsor and the CEO of USPG). The House is a narrower body of, mostly, the 44 diocesans and 7 elected suffragans (the Bishop of Dover and Bishop to HM Forces are also ex officio members). It is a formal House of General Synod and has particular responsibility in matters of doctrine and liturgy.

So when bishops meet synodically they meet as the House, and when they meet collegially they meet as the college (though boundaries can be blurred).

Some have also asked about how we avoid this being a process that excludes clergy and laity. The views of laity and the other two orders will be brought to bear in a number of places: the debate at GS next month will allow points to be made and even put as amendments that would constrain the drafting group; the membership of FOAG contains clergy and laity; the Archbishops' Council contains elected members of the clergy and laity; whatever emerges after this round of international consultation will have to go before General Synod if it is to bind the C of E.

Given there are four stages at which lay and clerical voices and views will play a substantive role, and two of those being GS itself, an additional November Synod meeting would seem OTT.

Posted by David Walker at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 10:25pm BST

"However, my sense is that the objections at TA have more to do with the fact that a lot of folks believe it could derail, hamper or halt a particular liberal agenda. I believe their reactions would be exactly the opposite if they believed it would promote that same agenda."

That's your *projection* talking again, Steven.

The very fact that a "majority agenda" one year, could be diametrically opposite in another, is an EXCELLENT reason that the Anglican Communion ***NOT*** be *able* (via a binding covenant) to impose a majority agenda---regardless of which "side" is doing the imposing!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 11:08pm BST

The role of Archbishop Fisher in the post WWII era in setting up the constitutions of independent provinces (and reforming the Canon Law of the Church of England) should not be forgotten - he effectively created the postcolonial structures which we now have. I would suggest that Fisher was the first 'really' international Archbishop of Canterbury.

I have just started trying to read Hooker in detail - I am not in a position to give any properly considered comment, but it would be interesting to hear from a Hooker scholar on the subject of the covenant.

Covenant as a concept also brings us closer to the cost of communion - the New Covenant is made in our Lord's blood. That is stated. The cost of the proposed Anglican Covenant is not stated.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 11:36pm BST

No more reforms please, we're Anglican?

Embedded in rule books an ettiquette justifying the eternal enslavement of all women because of one theoretical female's error how long ago?

No more healing for this world, it's the next world or not at all, at least for the outcastes, females and others who didn't pass the cut at the time that the guillotine dropped down and the bars went up.

Personally, if I am looking for advice on how to find my way around the place that I am in, I am not going to seek suggestions from someone who is reading the street directory for another level of existence and tells me that the one for this level isn't necessary. They might be prepared to write off this planet and its inhabitants, but God isn't as we all still woke up this morning.

My other thoughts is what would God do about marauding wolves? A sensible God, like a sensible shepherd would domesticate the less aggressive ones. They could then help the shepherd protect the flocks, and once suitably trained would even be safe enough to have around children and live in civilized surroundings.

Of course, they would need to learn ettiquette, cooperation, sharing and sufficiency. They would need to learn to leave the choice cuts for their master, cooperate to defend and not scare the flocks, thus safely sharing the harvest whilst not taking so much that the flocks are unable to flourish.

One problems with books of rules, like any other text, is that the cruel and arrogant can interpret any text to justify perpetuating hate and ostracization.

There's not a problem with having "pure" sects who shun the unworthy and have strict codes on how their women should behave. It's just that fanatics should never be allowed to maraud other flocks and women should always have the right to walk away and dwell elsewhere. If they don't, then they are slaves.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 11:47pm BST

JCF, just this once I am going to have to disagree with you. Steven, I think you've made some very insightful comments, for which I thank you.

I too wish we could have "a reasoned discussion of the relative merits and demerits of this proposal without having sides determined in advance by whether the issue of the day would be advanced or hampered for one side or another by a covenant."

At this point we probably can't, but that failure illustrates why we need something like an Anglican Constitution -- not a new Creed or Confession, nor a long set of dogmas and anathemas, but a set of rules for our meetings that will bind all of us equally. Something to give us an agreed-upon procedure to follow when we make decisions -- or change our minds -- about important matters that affect all of us. That's all we've ever needed, and if we were to call it a Covenant instead of a Constitution, I wouldn't object.

Perhaps we might add the Federalist Papers to the reading list? Especially the one on Faction.

Posted by Charlotte at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 1:38am BST

One of the costs of the covenant -- assuming it's written by and for the dissenters (and who else wants it?) -- can be deduced from this: http://www.anglicansunited.com/2007/06/why_we_stand_an_interview_with.html
The convanters preach Geneva but call it Canterbury.

Posted by Steve Lusk at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 2:41am BST

Seeing how fanatically the Global South have exploited the advantage given them by the anti-gay clause wrested from the Lambeth bishops in 1998, it is clear that the Covenant they clamour for would be a veritable arsenal of offence, a battery of selective talking-points in the pursuit of their destructive agenda. If the "extraordinary obsession" with homosexuality, noted by Desmond Tutu, were taken out of the equation, the Global South would have no desire for a Covenant, for it would limit their independence rather than serve as a platform of their bid for power.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 3:31am BST

The problem with an Anglican Covenant - at least one based on the current abominable draft - is that resultant curial church will no longer be, in any meaningful sense, Anglican.

It will be a church in which all power is exercised by bishops - and only a few of those.

It will be a church which will have abandoned the via media to drive on one of the shoulders of the road.

It will be a church in which foreign prelates have jurisdiction in the internal affairs of national churches.

This draft covenant is one-third bad ecclesiology and two-thirds naked power grab.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 3:40am BST

"... without having sides determined in advance by whether the issue of the day would be advanced or hampered for one side or another by a covenant... "

But that is the one point of this Covenant idea!

Just as Dr Hookers Scripture, Reason and the Voice of the Church (or lay Reason, learned Reason and collective Reason) is being mis-represented as Scripture, Tradition and reason, in order to rein in Reason, which is believed to be automatically pro-Modern ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 8:08am BST

The RC Bishop of Stockton gave an interesting sermon lately (http://www.stocktondiocese.org/english/bishop/homilies/homily19May2007.html). Right wing Catholics have tactics similar to the Global South, and it is great to see a bishop oppose them:

"The juridicist searches out laws new or old to justify personal positions or ideologies in the Church. Especially they like to focus on liturgical practices. They incline to creating unnecessary hoops for people to jump through. The Church, of course, needs law to insure good order. But the purpose of all laws in the Church is the same as for all the works of the Church: “propter homines and propter nostram salutem” - for us, for our good and for our salvation."

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 8:16am BST

Charlotte has made a good suggestion. A code of ethics on appropriate behaviours would be lovely.

But that is not what is being formulated.

What is being formulated is a tool to justify repression and expulsion of unsuitable communion members.

At one level, that would be fine.

One fear is not that there is on a standard of etiquette, but that there being a requirement of passive acceptance imposed on the majority by a minority who are then deemed authorised whatever force is necessary to keep the minions compliant.

Another fear is not that they want to expel us from their communion, but then they want to raid any community that would shelter "unworthies".

A further fear is that they would torment those who would offer redemption and grace to "non-suitables", including Jews, Muslims and other faiths and movements.

I trust that God knew what God was doing when God allowed the Muslim faith to form and evolve. I trust that God knew why there was a need for the secular state. I trust that God would not renounce everlasting covenants, including those of the Jewish traditions. I trust that God attends to the evolutionary needs of other sentient species on other planets without my approval or knowledge. I trust God. Thus I trust that not everything has to be understood by me nor flattered or even known to me to have its place in Creation.

I will dwell with whatever communion trusts such a great God. I will not dwell with those who would attack or deprive any of God's children simply because of rampant aggression or hurt pride.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 9:45am BST

The draft motion for General Synod says: "(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion;"

I wonder how far down the Synodical chain it is envisaged that this will go. As it is, potentially, a matter concerning doctrine and practice, will it go to deanery level? If so, this will take a long time, and everyone will have died of boredom before it gets anywhere. And I will have retired and thus no longer have a vote :-(

Maybe it's the policy- death by inertia:
Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive
officiously to keep alive.

Posted by cryptogram (John Marshall) at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 9:54am BST

badman on Wednesday, 6 June 2007 at 5:47pm BST -- I like that very much, but I question the value of a Covenant which seems to have no purpose except to exclude people from the group (& as others here have pointed out, gives the power to expel members to a tiny handful of high ecclesiastics who have no Scriptural warrant).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 10:04am BST

This is being ploughed very hastily. Hmmm.

When do ordinary members of the laity get a say on this radical re-writing of the Elizabethan Settlement? Are they fully aware of the background to the Covenant, with its origins in Lambeth 1:10? The word "Covenant" is built into our heritage, sounding like a benign Code of Practice. But "a rule book of beliefs that would expel liberals who refuse to abide by it", smacks of the unpleasantness of the Inquisition.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 11:20am BST

In England, the laity will also get a say when the matter is discussed by the British Parliament. Before the CofE can sign up to the covenant as currently conceived, it will have to be dis-Established and that will require an Act of Parliament.

Posted by Terence Dear at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 12:37pm BST

I recently came upon a sermon preached before the British House of Commons by a senior CofE cleric in 1716. It included the following:

“Tis certainly an affront to the Holy Writings to hold them always to a literal signification as to force them against their wills to put on a metaphorical; and the Scriptures may suffer as much by too strict as by too loose an interpretation. They speak to us in the common phrase of mankind and must therefore be interpreted, as all other discourses are, so as to agree with commonsense and reason. Besides, upon a strict and rigorous interpretation of the text, the Scriptures will be found to contradict themselves.”

This to my mind is the true voice of Anglicanism echoing down the ages. It is important that we continually assert our position as the true and faithful upholders of Anglican teaching and tradition.

Hopefully, if any viable covenant does emerge from the current process, it too will faithfully defend traditional Anglicanism.

Posted by Terence Dear at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 1:04pm BST

The rejection of all boundaries is adolescent and at root self-centred. America's (and her vassals') worship of the great god Freedom is fundamentalist, never pausing to consider whether freedom *of* XYZ might not be a different thing from freedom *from* XYZ.

Nobody really believes in no boundaries at all. Or they pretend they do and change their minds when one of their family suffers brutally at the hands of a psychopath. Consequently no-one can object in principle to a covenant that enshrines boundaries. They can only object, if need be, to its details.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 1:11pm BST

The word "Covenant" ... for TEC, the primarty association is with our Baptismal Covenant, in the BCP 1979, which we all renew each time we baptoze someone. Googling "Book of Common Prayer" will get you to a useful website where you can see this.

A number of responses to the proposed draft have noted that the Baptismal Covenant is the only one we need.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 1:53pm BST

"a lot of folks believe it could derail, hamper or halt a particular liberal agenda."

I am opposed to any kind of covenant because it is contrary to the Anglican ethos, for a start, because it attempts to set up the very kind of central power structure we did away with at the Reformation and which is counter to the Catholic Faith, because it seeks to make a community of the pure, all believing the same thing. It is a bad thing. Period. I don't give a cobbler's cuss about a "particular liberal agenda" and I think it is at best naive, if not more sinister, to cast such aspersions. It is my sense that a lot of objections at TA are based on the fact that a lot of folks see a covenant as designed to forward a particular conservative agenda. Why else would they want it? I submit you'd be as vehemently opposed to it as I am if you saw it as being as supportive of any liberal agenda as it clearly is of any conservative one. I am an Anglican. The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction, neither hath the Bishop of Abuja, Forth Worth, Pittsburgh, or the retired bishop of our diocese either. No Pope, no Curia, no magisterium, we're Anglicans, thanks awfully, and if they want that sort of thing, well Rome is full of it, or are numerous communities of the Protestant pure they can join, until someone decides someone else in the Church of X isn't pure enough, and starts to call themselves Church of X (Reformed).

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 2:25pm BST

Terence: 'In England, the laity will also get a say when the matter is discussed by the British Parliament. Before the CofE can sign up to the covenant as currently conceived, it will have to be dis-Established and that will require an Act of Parliament.'

I see no justification for this suggestion. It may or may not be a good idea for the CofE to be disestablished, buty it is hard to see how disestablishment would be required in order for the CofE to agree to a Covenant.

Nor do I see any reason why the matter should need to be discussed by Parliament. Unless the Covenant requires a Synodical Measure or some other change to the law of the land, there is no reason for Parliament to be involved.

Simon K

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 3:22pm BST

Charlotte:

Thanks. Ultimately, as a conservative, I am nervous about anything that smacks of "big government"--so, an assumption that conservatives approach this matter without reservations would be incorrect. As (I think) George Washington said, "government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a terrible master". Unfortunately, the alternative to government is chaos, so humans generally find some type of authority structure necessary. And, I think your reference to the Federalist Papers is apropos. The present situation seems somewhat similar to the period in American history where the original very loose Articles of Confederation became unworkable. and the Constitution was being drafted. From that standpoint, I would say the same approach might be productive: (1) Only limited designated powers are granted to the overarching "authority"; (2) It is specifically forbidden to interfere with certain areas (e.g., the 1st 10 amendments); and (3) all powers not specifically conveyed are reserved to the provinces.

Christopher Shell:

I agree completely.

Ford:

I don't actually disagree with a lot of what you've said. You may well have noticed that one of my favorite sayings is "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander". I am keenly aware of the fact that an overarching authority of some sort that has power to "baste" liberal goals today may tomorrow be "basting" conservative goals. However, the current situation has proven unworkable. And, whether we like it or not, some type of new governing structures seem to be in the wind. Further, I don't think efforts to create a toothless giant will be accepted--I think there will be some real authority granted. That being the case, what strictures on its actions should exist?

Steven

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 3:47pm BST

"The rejection of all boundaries is adolescent and at root self-centred."

This is pure flaming.

Where is anybody rejecting 'all boundaries'? Nobody, hence all (who have to any degree rejected anything in this conversation) are thus being smeared by vague implication by the labels 'adolescent' and 'self-centred'.

The covenant is a bad thing. The covenant does not equal 'boundaries'. It equals 'a bad thing'. 'Boundaries' are many and varied. The covenant is a singular thing. Not many things. It is a one thing many of us think is bad.

Thinking *a* thing is bad does not mean that a person is adolescent or self-centred. It simply means that the person who thinks that particular thing is bad, THINKS THAT THING IS BAD.

Is it necessary to be quite so insulting because you don't happen to think that one thing is bad?

How does that help?

Posted by matthewhunt at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 4:08pm BST

Simon,

The whole purpose of the covenant as currently conceived is to establish a body such as The Primates' Meeting to govern a new world-wide church in which national churches will be relegated to the status of provinces. The Primates' Meeting will determine, among other things, who can and cannot be a bishop. This alone will infringe upon the Royal Prerogative.

Any covenant that seeks to limit the power of the Crown to govern the CofE in any way would be illegal.

Posted by Terence Dear at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 4:09pm BST

If I wanted a covenant I'd be a Roman Catholic. If all I wanted was to pray, pay and obey I'd be a Roman Catholic. The church should be open to all even un-baptized. If God gets someone to the door and eventually in a pew of the church I'm sure God will get them to do what God wants them to do. Don't need a covenant to help God do God's will.

Posted by BobinWashPA at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 5:07pm BST

What I object to, Christopher, is the notion that suddenly the historic formularies are not sufficient. I assent to the creeds. I assent to - and repeat - my baptismal vows. I assent to - and repeat - my ordination vows. For a bunch of bishops, running scared of the power and money of fundamentalist evangelicals, to decide that suddenly I need to assent to another document, drafted not because of its truth but because of its political expedience is WRONG. And I won't do it. I assume that acceptable provision will be made for me and for people like me, as it has been for other people on other occasions.

Posted by JBE at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 5:25pm BST

I'm curious what the board believes provides the basis for communion, fellowship and unity in the AC.

Posted by Chris at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 5:30pm BST

I suppose a Covenant could also hamper a conservative agenda - wonder how a request for lay presidency would go down under the proposed arrangements?

Posted by Giles Goddard at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 5:38pm BST

Fr Joseph O'Leary wrote:
"Seeing how fanatically the Global South have exploited the advantage given them by the anti-gay clause wrested from the Lambeth bishops in 1998"

I'm no fan of Archbishop Akinola, but let's not re-write history, Father. The clause to which you refer was carried overwhelmingly. If I remember correctly, it was said at the time that it would have been carried if no African bishop had voted. Come to think of it, how did Bishop Griswold vote?

Posted by Alan Harrison at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 6:14pm BST

"the current situation has proven unworkable."

Unworkable for whom? Even though I believe the jailing of sinners to be utterly wrong, it is not an unworkable situation for me that My Lord of Abuja wishes to do so. It is not unworkable that some do not accept the priesthood/episcopate of women. It is not unworkable for me that some have a radically different undertstanding of the Eucharist than I do, even to the point of not understanding why those differences matter so much. It is perfectly workable unless you are of the mind that we allmust agree on everythinng and cast out those who don't agree with us as 'heterodox'. It is only unworkable for those who must assert their rightness, for whatever reason.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 6:14pm BST

As an example of the boundaries we inhabit as Anglicans, just consider our worship.

I could step inside an English cathedral on a Sunday afternoon and be immersed in the sublime beauty of a Solemn Choral Evensong, with Howells and incense enhancing the sensual and spiritual experience.

Or I could visit a church in the same city and be entertained by guitars and Powerpoint.

To an alien, they would appear to be entirely different religions. But I would not say one was more worthy of the Anglican title than the other. That's how generous we are, or should be.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 6:17pm BST

Giles:

You've got that straight, though it might be better to state lay presidency as a goal of SOME conservatives. Conservatives are not monochrome any more than, I hope, liberals are. I for one do not support "lay presidency" in the least.

So, from my standpoint you point out one of the good things that could come from this. However, the accretion of power involved is definitely a concern to me. The fact is, anybody's ox could be gored--not just the other guy's. There will definitely be a need for safeguards--and both sides in the "current unpleasantness" need to approach this matter with great caution.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 6:51pm BST

Ford:

I meant "unworkable" only in the sense that the old system was not keeping us together as a communion. Your post goes to what you believe to be the underlying causes (and perhaps the guilty parties in your mind) behind the impending break-up of the AC. I'm merely speaking to the fact that the AC is, in fact, on the verge of a break-up. The existing system has not stopped this.

Will the new proposals succeed n keeping the AC together? I don't know, but the process seems to be proceeding whether we like it or not. Will the changes effected be worth the cost in terms of lost provincial autonomy? I also have my concerns.

Hence, the question of what safeguards could be put in place to moderate the power of the new authority structures that are being formed.

One thing is certain. If something is put into place with no one leaving the table, tremendous compromises will be called for by all parties, and no one will be totally satisfied with the final result. That is inherent in compromise.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 7:43pm BST

Terence: 'The Primates' Meeting will determine, among other things, who can and cannot be a bishop. This alone will infringe upon the Royal Prerogative. Any covenant that seeks to limit the power of the Crown to govern the CofE in any way would be illegal.'

Even if your first sentence proves to be true, this does not infringe on the royal prerogative. The archbishops virtually have a veto on who is made a bishop anyway. All that is required is for the bishops to agree amongst themselves to follow the covenant.

I'm not saying this is or isn't a good thing. All I am saying is that there is a lot that can be done by convention, or by resolution of the House of Bishops, or even by Act of Synod. None of which alters the law of the land or requires parliamentary approval.

simon k.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 7:49pm BST

Perhaps the 39 articles could serve as a description of what anglicans theoretically believe.

Posted by Erasmus at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 8:03pm BST

"no one will be totally satisfied with the final result. That is inherent in compromise."

Steven, you're right, I can fall into the trap of blaming the "right" on this, but I am well aware that the left has played its role. I also do not trust the motives of either side. I am strongly against an imposed uniformity. I also see the diocese gathered round its bishop as the foundational unit of the Church, not some pseudo-curia. We are all children of the only Covenant that matters, and, symbolic though this might be, I wonder what the demand for another covenant says about the attitude of some towards THAT Covenant. If the New Covenant isn't good enough, what will ever be? I think best way forward is for those of us who do not fall onto either side, and I believe that to be the majority, to tell the children to behave themselves, or they'll get no pudding! It's not about who can defend the downtrodden or the Gospel against all comers, after all, though that's how they're behaving.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 8:08pm BST

Simon Kershaw, these are murky waters and I don't claim to see right through them.

However, the covenant would surely be intended to bind, not just current bishops and archbishops, but those in future. I think Terence is right in suggesting that if a covenant submitted the appointment of bishops in any way to a body outside the Church of England, this could infringe the Royal Prerogative.

However, we are really talking about a prime ministerial prerogative, because the Queen follows advice. Gordon Brown is certain to be Prime Minister when all of this comes to a head. I think it has already been hinted that he is happy to reduce Prime Ministerial influence on the appointment of bishops.

It may also be relevant that, remarkably, Gordon Brown has absented himself from every single Commons debate and vote on gay rights that has ever taken place since 1997. Details at http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpid=1997&dmp=826. He is by no means the champion of gay equality that Tony Blair has been.

I doubt that he will want to rock any Anglican Covenant boat on the basis that it infringes the Royal Prerogative, even if it does. The Queen herself is also unlikely to do so.

If there is trouble, it will come from General Synod. General Synod has already savaged the House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships. I suspect that is why the process is being structured so that Synod as a whole is not involved except (a) at the start, in the hope that it will be persuaded that it is too soon to engage with a covenant which is so far from a final draft (b) at the end, in the hope that it will be too late for Synod to tinker, and that it will back down from outright rejection of a done deal. But I am not at all sure that Synod will go along with this.

I also respectively disagree with David Walker that an additional General Synod in the middle of the process would be OTT. This Covenant has the potential to be the most important document in Anglicanism since the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 8:12pm BST

Gordon Brown very rarely votes in parliament, full stop. There is absolutely no evidence that he has been opposed to any of the reforms, and in fact, many of Stonewall's suggested amendments to the Civil Partnership legislation required Treasury action, all of which Brown agreed to.

His closest Parliamentary colleague, Nick Brown , is gay, so is his Chief Political Adviser, Spencer Livermore

But I don't think that the State should necessarily intervene. The best outcome would be a split and a new Communion led by TEC which we could join rather than continue to cohabit with conservatives, which will always be the case with the CofE.

Remember, better a secular atheist than an evangelical....

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 9:28pm BST

When an organisation is spiralling outwards, when it has new cracks that can easily become chasms, the worse thing to do is try and find a formula to restrict to keep things together. All it will do is cause a bigger and more complete split. Producing one Covenant will inevitably dissatisfy and lead to another and another, with different geographic centres and those around the world opting for one, or the other, or the other. Old texts (like creeds) get worn in - the Archbishop of Canterbury has said these creeds, for cultural and historical reasons, no longer do the job - but new texts become the focus for sharp disagreements. It won't work and it never would work. More is achieved keeping things loose.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 9:35pm BST

"Perhaps the 39 articles could serve as a description of what anglicans theoretically believe."

Perhaps the Apostle's and Nicene creeds could serve as a "sufficient statement" of faith.

Posted by ruidh at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 11:36pm BST

Christopher wrote:

"Nobody really believes in no boundaries at all. Or they pretend they do and change their minds when one of their family suffers brutally at the hands of a psychopath. Consequently no-one can object in principle to a covenant that enshrines boundaries."

I totally concur that no one wants any of their family members to suffer brutally at the hands of a psychopath. I wouldn't even want a stranger's family to suffer this experience.

The second sentence is based on two premises. Namely that boundaries prevent psycopathic brutality and that breaking boundaries is ungodly.

History tells that the scariest times in history are when there are clear psychopathic boundaries being rigidly enforced e.g. nazi germany, the roman empire, the pharoahs.

The bible also tells us that in messianic periods the boundaries are deliberately torn down e.g. Isaiah 35, God promises no ferocious beasts will be found on the Highways of Holiness. It's also worth doing a word search for "former things" e.g. Isaiah 43:18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past"

The other thing to remember that there are times in history where God bypasses the priestly castes because they have become part of the problem. Jonah saved 120,000 souls in Ninevah, not just the priests. The priests were not evacuated in advance from Sodom or Gomorrah. Jesus referred to his own generation as a wicked generation. Paul spoke wherever he could get an audience, in the synagogues, in the streets, in peoples' homes, in court, in palaces, in a field of pagan statues. Jonah and Jonah also spoke wherever an audience could be found. John the Baptist was found in the wilderness, souls came to him in a public place.

It is the outcaste and downtrodden who often first recognise God's heralding new beginnings. e.g. Isaiah 43:19 and Jeremeiah 31:22. Priests need to accept that God has the unilateral and unequivocal right to choose who is covered by Jesus' atoning sacrifice, and how and when. The same as God has the unilateral right to annoint and send spies, advisers, messengers, angels, prophets, saints, Jesus as and when God is ready or deems it necessary. Jesus was groomed to be a healer and saviour and should not be owned by any human structure because he is required to provide justice for all on this planet, not just the "pure" Christian priests and their approved families.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 11:44pm BST

Gordon Brown has participated in 20% of the votes this Parliament - below average, no doubt, but not "hardly ever". He has voted on such topics as a smoking ban, ID cards, and hunting. So it is remarkable that he has missed every single gay rights vote in the last 10 years. It's not a subject he has ever appeared interested in or willing to speak out on.

Tony Blair, for the sake of comparison, has voted in only 10% of divisions, but voted in 4 gay rights debates.

Gordon Brown won't stick his neck out against any covenant which the Church of England may decide upon, Royal Prerogative or no Royal Prerogative, liberal or illiberal. He's not interested in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in Scotland is not established anyway.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 7 June 2007 at 11:46pm BST

Whether senior members of Government turn up or not depends largely on when the debates are held - indeed, you'll find that in this government, often Blair is there when Brown isn't , and vice versa.

I happen to agree that Brown won't intervene in the case of the CofE but then I wouldn't want him to - its up to the Church what they do, and if the consequence is that continued establishment becomes infeasible, so be it.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 1:24am BST

"The clause to which you refer [in Lambeth 1.10] was carried overwhelmingly. If I remember correctly, it was said at the time that it would have been carried if no African bishop had voted. Come to think of it, how did Bishop Griswold vote?"

I said the clause was "wrested" from the Bishops, not that they did not vote for it. The word "wrested" reflects what I read on the subject, probably on this site, about the way the text was pushed onto the agenda. 146 bishops at Lambeth, including Rowan Williams, issued a statement to gays which apologized for the “sense of rejection” created, and pledged to “work for your full inclusion in the life of the Church”.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 5:11am BST

In constructing a global Anglican Covenant, the absence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or anything resembling it, is worrying.

The Proposal says "At such moments when a church faces pressure from its host State(s) to adopt secular state standards in its ecclesial life and practice, an international Anglican Covenant might provide powerful support to the church, in a dispute with the State, to reinforce and underpin its religious liberty within the State."

My fear is that a Covenant would be carte blanche to oppose civil rights for gays, or to reverse them.

More locally, power given to the Primates Meeting appears to flout the 1559 Supremacy Act:

"no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate, has, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preeminence, or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm."

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 12:53pm BST

"to reinforce and underpin its religious liberty within the State.""
I wonder where this came from. This drips of fear mongering. Sounds like some people are really desperate for an altar on which they can refuse to burn incense. Of course there are parts of the world where Christianity is threatened, but come on, people telling you not to be so obnoxious and think you can ram your religion down every body's throats and insult them let alone blatantly disobey what your religion teaches while condemning everybody else to Hell, that's not oppression, that's people defending themselves, and calling hypocrisy where they see it. I'd suggest to the framers of this that they consider that the world hates them, not because it also hates the One they follow, but because they don't actually follow Him all that well, and if they actually lived up to the principles they try to force on everyone else, there might not be such a need to "reinforce and underpin its religious liberty".

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 1:42pm BST

Fr O'Leary wrote:
"I said the clause was "wrested" from the Bishops, not that they did not vote for it. The word "wrested" reflects what I read on the subject, probably on this site, about the way the text was pushed onto the agenda. 146 bishops at Lambeth, including Rowan Williams, issued a statement to gays which apologized for the “sense of rejection” created, and pledged to “work for your full inclusion in the life of the Church"."

I think most people would construe "wrested" in this context as overcoming some difficulty in ensuring the passage of this resolution, but the voting figures indicated no such difficulty. Apologising for a "sense of rejection" need mean no more than being sorry that someone is offended by a course of action which you nevertheless believe to be right - e.g. a member of parliament regretting that s/he is unable to concede to a constituent's request to vote against a bill restricting access to abortion.

Indeed there was at least one case of an American prelate voting for the Lambeth motion and then seeking to distance himself from it when he encountered some flak back home. (On reflection, my earlier recollection that Dr Griswold did so may well be mistaken.)

Posted by Alan Harrison at Friday, 8 June 2007 at 6:56pm BST

Alan is right - people need to be honest about the huge majority for Lambeth 1.10.....it was not even a close vote - not indicative of a house being forced to accept a view it did not want or of a minority calling the tune.

The "revisionist" "history" of Lambeth 1998 would make sense if it was a close vote.
I trust ++Carey and +Benn on what actually happened - not those who are bitter about losing the vote badly and so want to claim bullying and manipulation as an explanation of their clear loss.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 5:07pm BST
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