Comments: GS: another view on the Anglican Covenant

Tawdry arguments here about the limits of agreeing to disagree.

The Anglican Communion disagrees about one sexual issue, which the Global South deplores; the issue is one that causes disagreement, on many fronts, everywhere in the modern world.

The covenant idea is designed to delegitimize this disagreement and to make the sexual issue an article by which the church stands or falls. This bullying tactic is plainly failing day by day, leaving the Global South look rather foolish.

It is an utterly illegitimate move to claim that because Anglicans disagree on this sexual topic they therefore have no basis for celebrating their strong agreement on much more important topics and that they need a covenant to enable them to do so.

The Bible (not poisoned by fundamentalist use), the liturgy, the Nicene Creed are strong foci of very substantial agreement. The covenant is superfluous.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 11:17am BST

What sticks most in the craw about this one is the attempt to paint opponents of the "Covenant" as undemocratic (C of E canons are elected?), as in the statement, aimed at opponents of the covenant, that at present disputes in the communion are determined by "the people who run things, the people in power". Of course, as Sugden very well knows, under the covenant, "people in power" will continue to run things - that's the whole point of the covenant, isn't it, Dr Sugden? - it's just that those in power are far more likely to be Sugden's type of person.

The statement that "Bishops and Archbishops throughout the communion (in all but the Church of England) are elected" is hilarious - I trust that Dr. Sugden at least had the grace to blush as he wrote it. So the North American/African, "Cuckoo-in-the-Nest" bishops - Minns and the ever expanding army of Minns knock-offs - are "elected"? The bishops of the Nigerian Church are "elected"? Kind of depends how you define "elected", doesn't it, Dr. Sugden?

In current circumstances, when the most visible cause of this mess is the fact that US dioceses DO elect their bishops, Sugden's drawing on the American experience to justify his position ("the people of the United States revolted against that principle and adopted a constitution which applies equally to all") falls somewhere between between being disingenuous and being flat-out insulting to the US Episcopal Church.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 11:54am BST

FJoL says "The Anglican Communion disagrees about one sexual issue, which the Global South deplores...."

How many times?? It is not JUST the GS who oppose the innovations of a few in the AC.
There are many opponents to the TECinnovations within TEC and certainly there are many strong opponents within the CofE.

We would not have had Dromantine, TWR and Tanzania if it was JUST the GS or "fundamentalists" who did not want to be forced to accept the agenda of a particular group in the AC....

Posted by NP at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 12:46pm BST

'Because some matters are contested, it does not follow that all are.' This is a principle which can scarcely be denied, and which can serve as a commonly-accepterd basis. For if two people contest one another on *all* matters, or even the majority of matters, what are they doing belonging to the same organisation in the first place?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 2:15pm BST

Re: Chris Sugden's article.

Another source for the Communion's standards of belief might be the statements to which the Communion has consented in the Anglican/Roman Catholic statements of the last 30 or so years.

There are also inter-Anglican gatherings in Liturgy and Theology and, I think, in Biblical studies.

None of these, however, have been stated in such a way as to require assent or else removal from the Communion.

Also, remember that we do have one written constitution, that of the Anglican Consultative Council. The primates, however, feel that they can over rule that, as they are attempting to do when they seek to put themselves into membership in the ACC.

The only real energy for a covenant is from those who wish to run the progressives out of the Communion.

Posted by Michael Merriman at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 3:49pm BST

There is a lot of nonsense there about parallels with the constitution and people in power deciding beliefs. As already said, there is much nonsense about elections.

The point about diversity is that Anglicanism is made of several different Church identities and ideologies, and these are handled in a spirit of diversity and compromise.

What Chris Sugden does not refer to is what he means by the standard of teaching.

The fact is that what 'calls people to be there' is interpreted so very differently, and that is, in Anglicanism, how it should be. The spirit of breadth, space and diversity gives much responsibility for actual faith to the person in the pew - which is where it matters.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 4:02pm BST

Aren't CofE bishops elected as well? I mean, don't the Dean and Chapter go through a process of electing who they are told to elect?

The real irony of Sugden's "analysis" is the brazen Orwellianism. The draft Covenant centralizes power in the hands of the Primates - giving these foreign prelates veto power over the internal decision-making process of every Province. And somehow he positions this coup d'eglise as a major democratization and as a limitation on those with power.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 4:22pm BST

"Is the Church of England / the Anglican Communion a confessional church? It confesses the supreme authority of the Holy Scripture and subscribes to the Catholic Creeds. It has spelt out its confession in its formularies, ( the Book of Common Prayer, the Articles of Religion and the 1662 ordinal)."


And why this adoration of the Articles of Religion? Do members of the C of E regularly read them and make sounds of hearty assent? Do you all regularly hear preaching from the two Books of Homilies [art XXXV]?

As for the 1662 BCP, I have a copy printed in the 18th century which contains a rip-roaring service of thanksgiving for deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot, including some really hot language about Rome and the Pope. Is that part of what holds you guys together?

Are you guys still reciting the Athenasian Creed as a regular thing?

I guess if you take those 'confessional' instruments seriously, you must.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 6:21pm BST

Thanks but no thanks - we have enough to agree about already and this smacks of a power hungry group of dominators - I assume there are no dominatrixes in view of this groups dislike of female priests.

Posted by ettu at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 6:29pm BST

It's a bad plan. Whoever is decieved by it is profoundly duped into a divisive powergrab.

Posted by Curtis at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 6:36pm BST

"They oppose any idea of covenant because they do not wish to be accountable... "

Disrespect for the faith of others, might this be a subtle form of reviling? It isn't because of a desire to maintain the Catholic faith and tradition, no, only a desire for easy willful disobedience. I think that's false witness,no?

"perhaps out of a preference for structures more tied to our imperial past."

You're an Imperialist if you don't let me boss you around! What infuriating doublespeak!

"(the AC)confesses the supreme authority of the Holy Scripture...
If (Scripture and tradition) are in conflict, our polity says that Scripture wins."

Really? Since when?

"Rules are necessary to avoid chaos and conflict"

And this is the crux of the matter, a deep seated fear that some people might just have too much freedom. We need rules, clearly spelled out so we can all agree on the Right Thing To Do. It's all about control and making sure that no-one gets out of control. A quote from the sitcom Friends: "Rules are good, rules control the fun." Well,maybe, but they don't control the Spirit. Courage, this will eventually fail, God always wins out in the end.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 7:15pm BST

yeah, Sugden's arguments are cover-up edifices, and the bottom line is always that HIS sort of believer is the only real and possible believer, and thus endowed/called by God to police any other sort of believer, no matter what. His utter confidence in a written covenant, and utter lack of confidence in the complex web of worldwide Anglican relationships around domains of witness, worship, Tikkun Olam service, and the like strikes me as nearly as embarrassing to his point of view as are the Anglican realignment propensities for bearing false witness against prog-lib believers, and queer folks, too.

I can worship with believers like Dr. Sugden, no problem. I cannot allow them to claim some fantastical intellectual, moral, or apostolic high ground that is so clearly of their own definitional and presuppositional making. The basic frames and terms of our global conversations cannot be limited to just what Sugden allows. One cannot weigh new and old data while hewing to flat earth belief systems which trump everything, no matter what.

I for one didn't become Episcopalian/Anglican so that I could turn my back on my college education, and I object to any and all realignment leaders who keep claiming that turning my back is essential to my being a faithful believer and Anglican.

The issue is not, How many Anglicans can dance on the legacy pinheads of the traditional negative ideas of sexuality and queer folks. But rather, What is true and how do we verify that something is true, given our best practices modern tool kits and our acknowledgement of human fallibility in understanding God's witness to us in Jesus of Nazareth?

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 10:37pm BST

The key concerns about the covenant were well summarised.

Lapinbizarre made an excellent point regarding the nature of electing bishops. One contemplation is that there are some strongly entrenched leaderships with an "us" and "them" mentality vis a vis alternative interpretations. A long-term coterie of a handful of bishops, who have been campaigning and affirming each other for decades will not allow a black sheep into their inner sanctum.

Some make blasphemous claims that Jesus is the complete manifestation of God, so the Old Testament is only relevant to prove Jesus is the new god and earlier players are superceded.

Jeremiah 16:17-21 includes "My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me... Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!"

Daniel 11:36-37 "“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all."

Zechariah 4 which includes "‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! ” ...“Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel...“These are the TWO who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.”

Apparently the second of the anointed was superceded by Jesus so precedents, their opinions or desires are no longer relevant. Similarly, the endorsed sentiments of earlier prophets are irrelevant nor will there be new prophets to clarify or correct. There is no need to worry about the opinions or concerns of the higher realms on whether priests transgress their divine missives, because "Jesus has authority".

Obviously, an unrepentant communion who does not recognise the priests' divine missive must be "brought into submission". At least this way we can testify to God that it was imposed upon but not desired by us.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 28 June 2007 at 10:40pm BST

A briefer, presumably earlier version of Dr. Sugden's observations, dated June 13th, was published by "Anglican Mainstream" as a preface to the "Draft Anglican Covenant" paper of Dean Colin Slee and others. Sugden's "unelected" argument wholly ignores the fact that all five signatories of the paper opposing the covenant are writing not in their "unelected" capacities as Dean of Southwark, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, etc., but as elected members of the Church of England's General Synod, a circumstance which Sugden indirectly acknowledges when signs his preface in that same capacity ("Oxford 183").

In an earlier posting to this thread, I seem to recall using the term "disingenuous".

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 12:42am BST

"It is not JUST the GS who oppose the innovations of a few in the AC.
"There are many opponents to the TECinnovations within TEC and certainly there are many strong opponents within the CofE."

This may be so. The Archbishop of Canterbury has himself expressed strong disapproval of the consecration of Gene Robinson. But he has also said, and I think most Anglicans agree, that this is not one of those issues by which the Church stands or falls. The GS are treating it as if it were. In short, Anglicans disagree on many gay-related issues, but by and large they are able to "agree to disagree". This is what sticks in the craw of the GS and leads them to take separatist steps. They have no hope whatever of dragging with them those in the AC who might share their views on the gay issue but who do not see it as one worth splitting the Church over.

The same disagreements pervade the Roman Catholic Church. If a group were so leave the Church because they found it too tolerant of gays or of gay clergy, or if a group were to leave because they objected to the official teachings as rigorist or oppressive, they would merely be a small schismatic group. I think that the GS is shaping up as just that -- a stubborn minority, discontent not to get their own way, and tempted to harden into a small schismatic sect or sects.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 7:46am BST

Over at Titus 1.9 the Diocese of Virginia's rejection of the covenant proposal has been greeted by a deluge of the same kind of illogical argumentation I criticized above.

The Titus 1.9 people already speak as if the Covenant had a status that obliged all good Anglicans to accept it humbly. The very sensible, theologically grounded critique of the covenant by the Diocese of Virginia is treated as an adolescent tantrum with no theological content.

Have these people ever studied theology? Or has their fundamentalist thinking so dulled their theological ear that they do not recognize theological language when they hear it?

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 12:08pm BST

A paragraph on the doctrines of the Incarnation and Trinity followed by one implying that Lambeth 1.10 is "the standard of teaching to which the Anglican Communion is committed" is disconcerting to say the least, and evidence that the Covenant will be a process of doctrinal authoritarianism, as much as one seeking to heal apparent rifts.

In previous posts, I suggested that Lambeth 1.10 is self-refuting. I was wrong. It is central to the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin thesis. The 'hate the sinner' mob are told to tone down their language, while the 'pink agenda' crowd are told to play ball and shut up about rights and identity in order to protect the institution (which pays salaries, stipends and pensions), or else be shown the door.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 12:29pm BST

“Have these people ever studied theology? Or has their fundamentalist thinking so dulled their theological ear that they do not recognize theological language when they hear it?”— Fr Joseph O'Leary

Right on, Father Joseph!

Posted by Kurt at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 1:25pm BST

Noinstitution can exist and work productively without an agreed set of principles.....this is just COMMON SENSE.

Only the AC has been daft enough to think it can survive (let alone thrive) while trying to contain completely contradictory views, having people assert that they are faithful members while breaking all rules they do not like - this ain't COMMON SENSE for an organisation that wants to grown and reach out.

Why has the AC tried to tolerate contradictory views?
Why has it been too scared to say, "you do not agree with the AC and its resolutions, please go start your own organisation so you do not have to subvert our agreed positions."
Why do some not have the honour to set up on their own but think it fine to subvert the AC, break its rules, even be less than honest about themselves in order to get jobs etc?

Posted by NP at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 1:38pm BST

Fr Joseph

I like your sentiments.

The other thing that is hard to document on editable boards is how the "hate the sinner" camp have had to backflip on other matters such as God caring about justice in this world, the environment, abolishing slavery, Jesus' imagery leading into that fateful passover.

They claim to be the same as us as they co-opt our paradigms when they realise they are theologically robust and relevant to the collective consciousness. They have no shame in pretending that it is what they stood for all along. TA stands as a forum that provides the audit trail that proves their backflips.

The underlying theme is they idolise a God who puts conditions on salvation. That is not the message of unconditional love, nor is it a message of salvation despite our (or their) inadequacies.

They can have their god, and their god can remain to succour them. But their god has no right to complain if the God of gods annoints others to care for those who are "beneath" them and do not have the wherewithall to pay the price for their elitist salvation.

I hope their god enjoys his marriage to his career and pure priests and flocks. He can be rest assured that he has the authority to expel the unworthies from the midst of his peoples. If he finds his peoples still forced to mingle with us unworthies, then he will need to take that up with big "G" god as no one else has the authority or ability to explain reality to him.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 2:50pm BST

Kurt and FJOL - yes, Canon Dr Sugden and Rev Dr Andrew Goddard have studied theology - maybe with more distinction than you?

Posted by NP at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 4:12pm BST

NP asked Why has the AC tried to tolerate contradictory views?

wot? like the Real Presence versus sundry heretical views on the Sacrament....?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 8:10pm BST

The Titus 1.9 people often act as if they have not studied theology, NP.

Posted by Kurt at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 8:31pm BST

I get seriously ****ed off with this 'my degree's bigger than yours' nonsense.

It is perfectly possible to take a higher degree in an area of theology (or even an affilated area) without once addressing the nitty-gritty problems of hermeneutics. I have no idea where the illuminati of Reform took their doctorates, nor for what those doctorates were awarded. I do know that a doctorate per se says much about an individual's intelligence in terms of raw proicessing power and their ability to deliver a reasoned argument on their chosen theme. But a PhD in (say) divergent readings in the Peshitta would not qualify me to pontificate on NT ethics except as an intelligent amateur.

Then again, I refuse to wear an academic hood in church. As CK Barrett (or was it CEB Cranfield) used to say, 'to be a minister is a sign of God's grace and calling; to wear academic robes risks advertising one's sense of superiority' (or words to that effect).

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 9:53pm BST

One thing the process of earning a Ph.D. taught me is that there are plenty of fools with Ph.D.s. They are usually the ones who try to win every argument by pointing to their doctorates.

Posted by JPM, Ph.D. at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 11:13pm BST

I have a PhD in sociology, focusing on sexuality, but I'm sure that wouldn't mean you would accept my views, NP!

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 29 June 2007 at 11:44pm BST

This is so pathetic. I'm sure everyone is aware of the technique, which is to raise the matter of qualifications, and then repeat over and over again the same point as a kind of spoiler to argument.

I didn't even rent an academic gown. I went to a photo session, put one on, snap, and took it off. I have never been to one degree ceremony.

As for a gown in church, my mum got some good material from a shop in Mansfield and for £50 made one. It put symbols on it I wanted at the time, I've used it, including for the New Holland wedding I took in 2001, and I have still got it. Oh and I wore it when I did a church eucharist, one of the few lay people outside of Sydney to perform a eucharist (but not in an Anglican church!) - and I wrote it as well.

Posted by Pluralist, Ph.D, MA, BA, CSE at Saturday, 30 June 2007 at 1:18am BST

When I said they seem to have forgotten their theology, I was not referring to hermeneutical nitty-gritty but to their claim that the Virginia statement had no theology in it; in fact it has a solid theological perspective to which the GS, whatever their theological formation may be, have rendered themselves blind, or so it seems to me.

The statement perfectly well addresses NP's remark: "No institution can exist and work productively without an agreed set of principles.....this is just COMMON SENSE." It points to the deep grounds of theological unity that have held and still hold the Anglican Communion together.

NP believes the Communion cannot afford to tolerate contradictory views. But every church has always had to tolerate contradictory views. The question is whether you choose to take one of those views as something whereby the church stands or falls. The GS have decided that development of more intelligent and mature attitudes to homosexuality is incompatible with the Bible, and have stubbornly erected this flimsy claim into an articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae. But from the point of view of contemporary common sense it is not such thing.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Saturday, 30 June 2007 at 4:00am BST

As far as I know, Jesus and the first disciples had no paper qualifications

only hearts and minds opening to the unfolding present moment

'Heaven of such imperfection made'

(RS Thomas)

Posted by Laurence Roberts CSE Maths , grade 4 at Saturday, 30 June 2007 at 7:41pm BST

articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae

Sorry, I'm a bit thick. What does this mean?

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 1 July 2007 at 12:47am BST

Come on Pluralist; with so many letters after your name I would have expected you to know ;-)

PS. Thought academic hoods were not worn at Eucharist - when we're all equal, but allowed at Morning and Evening Prayer.(???)

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln, 'O'Level RE at Sunday, 1 July 2007 at 8:47am BST

articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae

an article by which the church stands or falls

Much talked of the in Reformation period, and contrasted, I think, with adiaphora (matters of less moment).

Today's reading from Galatians points to a Church whose one law is love. It warns against abusing the glorious freedom Christ has given us by letting it be an occasion for the flesh, but it in no way sets up iron laws to reduces consciences to bondage. Those who want to make strictures against particular expressions of sexual love articles by which the church stands or falls are very opposed to Pauline Christianity, very opposed to the heart of the New Testament, despite their claims to be faithful to Scripture.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Sunday, 1 July 2007 at 11:42am BST

Calm down chaps.... point is that too often on TA when people do not like the views of others we get comments questioning their academic credentials (as above) or saying ideas are "pagan-rooted" or implying that it is mainly Africans who do not get the sophisticated ideas held by TEC....some people here get irritated when such attacks on people's conservative views are challenged by the facts!

I know some wish that the opposition to TEC's innovations could be written off as a small, ignorant group in the AC....but I am afraid that event he liberal ABC admits that there are strong reasons from many scholars which keep the AC to the standards outlined in Lambeth 1.10

(including, by the way, "listening" - but most of us define that to mean listening and not necessarily agreeing as it seems to be defined by some)

Posted by NP at Monday, 2 July 2007 at 9:12am BST

Sugden's formula is the Bible alone.

He believes that it is perfectly clear on moral issues.

Yet his own evangelical constituency cannot agree what the Bible teaches as regards divorce and re-marriage...hence "his" Covenant and the Reform Covenant deliberately sidestep this issue.
( look at the clauses)

He also knows that the " orthodox" in the USA including bishops are riddled with divorce and re-marriage.

To the extent when I tried to raise this on a conservative blog web I met with criticism and threats.

Any reference to marriage in the Anglican Covenant must explicitly deal with divorce and re-marriage and then it will fail at the first hurdle, for lack of consensus.

Some of the orthodox ( if you incluse Anglo-Catholics) bellieve marriage is a sacrament)..others like Sugden would reject that...the evangelicals cannot agree wether it is indissoluable or breakable by adultery.

So the people who are in the front like condemning gauy unions caanot agree as to what constitutes heterosexual marriage and what constitutes adultery?

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Monday, 2 July 2007 at 10:37pm BST

Let's see, NP, who was it who recently poo-pooed Pluralist's academic credentials? And who persists in tearing phrases out of context - "Pagan-rooted"; "mainly Africans" - to imply that those disagreeing with him are racist? As to Lambeth 1.10 - as I asked the other day (not that you replied; answering the uncomfortable not, it seems, being among your stronger points) - what about Lambeth V.13, or Lambeth '88 Resolution 72 (both titled "Episcopal Responsibilities and Diocesan Boundaries")? Are we to assume that only such Lambeth resolutions as serve your ends have "ex cathedra" status?

ps Unlike Pluralist, who seems to have had a bellyful of this one, I am not in on the "TEC Global" thing. ??

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Wednesday, 4 July 2007 at 3:57pm BST

Dear Lapin - since pluralist felt he was in a position to question the credentials or assumptions of others, I think it is perfectly legit to have a look at his website and see what his are.

Boundary crossings - addressed many you notice that there is no Tanzania Communique on the issue? DO you notice the thousands of Americans who REQUEST oversight from their heretical leaders? Do you not see that if an area has been taken over by a subversive leadership, it is always going to be necessary for faithful Anglicans to seek faithful bishops from outside....and yes, judgments have to be made about who is and who is not faithful (see 1 Cor 5:12) and yes, many in the AC do not consider the current leadership of TEC do be faithful Anglicans.....even though some here would (bizarrely) argue that no such judgment should ever be made.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 5 July 2007 at 11:51am BST
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