Comments: CofE bishops commend Anglican Covenant

For "necessary material for the Synod," read "propaganda."

The Synod elections become all the more important.

Now is the time for thinking voters to come to the aid of the Church of England.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 3:48pm BST

Hierarchical nonsense! I'm not surprised by the bishops' actions, but will be very interested to see how the rest of the Church deals with this in Synod. I'm guessing that the bishops generally can't conceive of any situation where "jolly old England" would ever be at odds with "the Anglican Communion" ... but just wait.

Posted by Eric Funston at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 3:51pm BST

"(c) not to propose special majorities for its adoption;"

I would have thought such a momentous decision would demand a higher standard of approval than the ordinary. I do not think I am alone in that way of thinking. The adoption of an effective written "Constitution for the Anglican Communion" -- which has worked with an unwritten constitution for so long, seems to me a weighty action, warranting a very clear and overwhelming support, not a bare majority. What became of all that talk about "consensus" -- which is just short of unanimity?

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 4:13pm BST

I would be more impressed had the recommendation come from a group of priests, deacons, and laypeople.

Posted by Lionel Deimel at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 4:30pm BST

So, for those of us outside the Church of England, what are the necessary steps in this process, and the probable timeline? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 5:28pm BST

The process is very similar to that for the women bishops legislation. That is to say, first General Synod has to agree a motion, then it is referred to all the dioceses, and has to be passed by at least 50% of the diocesan synods. Then it returns to General Synod, where it must again be passed.

The constitutional provisions are here (Articles 7 and 8 are both potentially relevant):

See this further explanation issued in January 2009:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 5:32pm BST

So you can fast track the covenant, but not women bishops? Women wearing mitres is a matter of English law, but making the established church subservient to section 4 of the covenant isn't? And ditto Tobias' point: what about consensus? Is this a way for a majority today to block progressive moves in the future?

So many questions. So few answers. But I am a mere American.

Posted by John B. Chilton at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 5:36pm BST

"I would be more impressed had the recommendation come from a group of priests, deacons, and laypeople."

Oh - you mean the little people?

"The process is very similar to that for the women bishops legislation."

Simple majorities for that, too? I'm confused.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 5:45pm BST

1. The speed of the track for the Covenant is the same as for Women Bishops. That is to say, the referral to dioceses takes the same amount of time for each. The only difference is in the requirement for the latter that the final approval vote in synod shall have two-thirds majorities in each of the three houses.

2. There is nothing in English law about anyone, whether or not a bishop, male or female, wearing a mitre.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 5:48pm BST

"I would be more impressed had the recommendation come from a group of priests, deacons, and laypeople."

That's who it's going to, given that the bishops already support it. Synod will go with it or not. It's by no means in the bag, and although the bishops can collectively block anything they choose, they can't force anything through that they want if one of the other two Houses chooses to block it. Interesting that they're showing their hand in that respect; but they've lain down a marker that they will (probably) defeat any attempt to introduce special majorities.

Synod doesn't often get the chance to debate Anglican Communion matters and will want to take its time. The special majorities clause may well get overturned for precisely the reasons argued here.

Fun and games ...

Posted by Jonathan Jennings at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 6:12pm BST

TEC and the ACofC will be out of the Anglican Communion by 2015, kicked out, if the fundamentalists have their way. Where is the Queen, the Defender of the Faith, on all of this? Has anyone asked or is this sort of thing beneath her?

Posted by Richard W. at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 6:24pm BST

The "small" people, Cynthia!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 6:30pm BST

The ++Rowan season of political avalanche and ramrodding of ¨getting what he thinks he MUST HAVE¨...reminds me of securing his own +Duncanlike ¨place to stand¨...unsafe at any speed and a hurricane of self-will running riot that destroys trust and engages in behind-the-scenes doubt all debate amongst the Bishops was ¨off the record.¨

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 6:32pm BST

No good ever comes from meetings of men in pointy hats and purple dresses.

Posted by Reid Hamilton at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 6:38pm BST

A majority vote by bishops, then? Okay, a lot of these fellows - and I am using male references, deliberately? - probably cannot wait to start policing and punishing ... durable mystical marks of their sacramental power?

Until at least some in the house find themselves subject to global covenant policing and punishment?

Alas, the covenant is not godly. I'm clear and getting even more convinced, as things proceed, helped along by Lambeth and York and all that lot getting so big power-for-conformity grabby. We can be so very different along old nasty Anglican fault lines - sacramental theology, baptism, and so forth, but sex has to bind us all, head and foot and conscience? Surely something particular about orgasms and how to have them or not have them must be added to the creeds? Lord, Lord, Lord have mercy, mercy, mercy.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 7:13pm BST

Of course, if the Church of England General Synod ever does adopt the Covenant, it may just be to shore up the different parties within the Church of England. Then, the Church of England may find itself an entity unto itself, alone.

Watch out for a possible new grouping of Churches - formerly 'Anglican' - hence 'Episcopalian'. This will allow non-Covenantal Church to get on with a
Mission to ALL people - around the world. Oh, and yes, there could be an ecumenical outreach to those Churches which do allow women and gays to be part and parcel of the Gospel Team.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 9:35pm BST

Richard W. "TEC and the ACofC will be out of the Anglican Communion by 2015, kicked out, if the fundamentalists have their way." Well, if simply having an official rite to bless same sex unions could get us kicked out of the Communion, your prediction should come true. We have several dioceses that have such. In fact, using that as the criterion we should be in "time out" with neighbors next door. Indeed, a real stand up province would say, O.K. if you are going to punish TEC you'll have to punish us as well. However the recent political strategy deployed at our General Synod seems intended in part to allow evasive answers to pointed questions from prelates off shore. Canterbury, it seems from the perspective of some Canadians, is worth a mass. In Canada, Watch for GS group hug the sequel when the Covenant "study" is complete in 2013.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 12:33am BST

The Church of Sweden has been priesting women since 1960; does Rowan Williams really want to inform the Church that all the stuff about being in the formalized communion with a single interchangeable ministry that they thought they had signed up to in 1994 is not worth the paper it is written on?

He can hardly claim that he didn't know that they had women priests; will he claim that their female bishops have broken the yet unsigned Covenant?

Or do our Bishops believe they can dump the Churches of the Porvoo Agreement in the hope of keeping their, thank you Simon, unmentioned in English law, pointy hats unsullied by being placed on the heads of people with a double x chromosome?

It's at times like this when I commend to you Mary Douglas's great work:

Purity and Danger: An analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo.

The ABs and some of the bishops seem greatly in need of it...

Posted by chenier1 at Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 12:41am BST

"The "small" people, Cynthia!"

Oh dear! I forgot! hunkering down with a glass of wine so as to be small enough!

Seriously - the ongoing damage to the Gulf, its critters and its people is just awful. To have it be minimized by anyone is just hard to take.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 2:29am BST

Do all the bishops speak as one (man)? Not one of them has any reservations, disagreements, hesitations?

Posted by Sara MacVane at Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 6:31am BST

The significant point is that the crucial Synod vote - the first one - will be taken in a newly elected Synod. A newly elected body is less likely to challenge a recommendation from the House of Bishops and the Archbishops than one which has forged its own mind in meetings and debate over the course of a Synod, and found its own feet.

Posted by badman at Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 9:17am BST

Having just returned from a service of Solemn Evensong at the Church of St. Michael & All Angels, Christchurch, New Zealand - where Bishop Katharine, together with the local Maori Bishop, wore mitres - I can report that the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Bishop Katharine, gave one of the most inspiring sermons I've heard in a long time.

There was no provocation - not a word about seuxality or gender - just the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and how the Church in the USA is reaching out to hurting places of the world with resources and support. I felt that she was truly a bishop whose presence shone with the Light of Christ, and whose words were gracious and reflective of the best of Anglican diversity.

Bishopp Katharine was greeted by everyone at the Church - and afterwards at the reception - with warmth and love, qualities which New Zealanders admire in other Churches of the Communion which are intent of bringing the unconditional Love of God to ALL people. May God Bless Bishop Katharine and the prophetic voice of the Episcopal Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 10:22am BST

"There was no provocation - not a word about seuxality or gender - just the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and how the Church in the USA is reaching out to hurting places of the world with resources and support. I felt that she was truly a bishop whose presence shone with the Light of Christ, and whose words were gracious and reflective of the best of Anglican diversity."

Thank you, Father Ron, for posting this. Even the best of priests can miss the mark in a sermon or homily: the combination of love and instruction is difficult. Thank you for telling us that Bishop Katharine did just so.

Posted by Lynn at Monday, 28 June 2010 at 5:50am BST

I don't think I go to worship to be 'instructed.'

Posted by Pantycelyn at Monday, 28 June 2010 at 11:33am BST

I dont know about the Anglican Covenant but cooking the Cottage Pie I suddenly thought, What about the Methodist Covenant?? I cant imagine the Methodist Church in England with its strong commitment to gender equality is going to wear the situation created by the Archbishops Church of England/Methodist unity will be put off to the parousia. The Roman Catholic Church wont wear women bishops at all...seems to me the C of E will be paddling its own canoe for a good while...scope for economies at the Council for Christian Unity at Church House!!

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 28 June 2010 at 1:16pm BST

"I don't think I go to worship to be 'instructed.'"

Really? Then what's the point of having a sermon at all? Or are you interpreting "instruction" as merely "a directive to do something," as opposed to being taught something new?

I have learned a great deal from the best sermons I have heard in my lifetime--sometimes about the history of the church, or about biblical interpretation, or just about the lives of others around me.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 28 June 2010 at 2:43pm BST

It seems to me that the General Synod in its coming meetings is facing some important forks in the road. If it follows these here today and gone tomorrow Archbishops, it will change the institution for good. It needs to view these Archbishops as temporary and minority opinionated and to have the self-confidence to keep telling them no - that's if it wants ever to be again the broad Church that it once was.

Nevertheless, if the Church starts this road laid out it will continue that way too. Some other Churches will be welcoming a number of dissidents, I would think.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 12:36pm BST


I think it might have been Yogi Berra who said "if you come to a fork in the road, take it."

From one perspective, it matters not which decisions are made with respect to women bishops and the Anglican Covenant. Either way, it is likely that some will leave the CofE. The question is whether the GS will call the bluff of those threatening to leave (and undoubtedly see some of them carry through their threat) or succumb to the threats (and undoubtedly see more disillusioned people simply walk away, shaking their heads.)

A bit of a Hobson's choice. The key in all of this is what kind of Church the CofE wants to become. I think of two key passages of scripture from the last two weeks: Gal 3:28, and last Sunday's Gospel, Luke 9:51-62. The former has obvious connexions to both the question of women bishops and the place of gays in the Church. The latter warns that life as a disciple of Christ will not be easy or comfortable. If the Church, even an Established Church, is meant in some way to lead in society, which may take the form of being subversive, then it will be uncomfortable to say the least. The question for General Synod is: do we join the Global South in playing James and John, scorching the Samaritan village with what we mistake to be holy fire, or do we take the bold step of embracing Paul's radical vision for inclusion of all, risking our own comfort for the sake of the Gospel?

Posted by Nom de Plume at Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 1:58pm BST

We continue to be in a bizarre constitutional situation here, and it hasn't been resolved. Any proposed covenant with enforceable powers cannot be approved by the Church of England - not while it remains Established - as that would mean that an outside agency was taking supremacy over the queen. On the other hand, the whole point of the covenant is to provide a means by which the ideologically pure can purge the Communion of the Provinces that are doing naughty things. I think acceptance of the covenant would need Parliamentary approval, and I do not think that would be forthcoming.

Posted by Justin Brett at Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 4:04pm BST

Are you referring to the current Covenant text when you say that you think it needs Parliamentary approval? Or are you saying that the current Covenant text is already incapable of approval by the Church of England (in which case it won't get to Parliament anyway).

My understanding of earlier official pronouncements is that "they" do not think this action requires a Measure, hence no need for Parliament to express an opinion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 8:10pm BST

"My understanding of earlier official pronounce-ments is that "they" do not think this action requires a Measure, hence no need for Parliament to express an opinion."
- Simon Sarmiento, on Tuesday -

If this is indeed the case, then it becomes more important that other Provinces of the Communion, who may be back-peddling on our opposition to the Covenant - on the grounds of its probable non-admissability on the part of the British Parliament - had better put on our thinking caps about how, proactively, we might more effectively fight the imposition of the Covenant as it is now presented - with Section 4 in place.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 3:10am BST

To elaborate on the earlier announcements to which I referred above.

As explained here, in February 2009 it was said that:

9. The decision whether the Church of England should enter a Covenant together with other Churches of the Anglican Communion would be for the General Synod to take. It is not envisaged that any such decision would require, or be given, legislative authority by means of a Measure or Canon: a resolution of the Synod would suffice.

10. Once the Synod had considered and passed the necessary resolution the expectation is, given the significance of the decision, that it would be invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury or York to solemnly affirm and proclaim the resolution as an ‘Act of Synod’. Once each Archbishop had then ratified and confirmed the Act of Synod for their respective provinces it would come into effect forthwith (or otherwise in accordance with its terms) and would represent “the will or opinion of the Church of England as expressed by the whole body of the Synod”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 4:22pm BST

Have all the PCCs and Deanery Synods debated and passed it, then ?

Posted by Pantycelyn at Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 9:09pm BST

Simon, the excerpt you point to is not persuasive. That excerpt is from a carefully draft and (doubtless) thoroughly lawyered document "agreed" by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

I would have thought it clear by now that one cannot take at face value anything that Canterbury may say about the proposed covenant.

So the archbishops "envisage" that for the Covenant to take effect, no act of Parliament would be required.

So what? Merely because the archbishops "envisage" something, does that make it so?

Who does get to decide whether the CofE, by itself, can approve the proposed covenant?

If Parliament, what does Parliament think on this question? Has Government taken a view as to whether the established CofE can act in this respect on its own?

If Government and Archbishops arrive at different answers to this question, whose answer trumps?

In short, to take what the Archbishops say as the final word in this matter is like taking seriously the proposition that bank robbing is legal, advanced by someone who is passing around marked bills in large denominations that are blotched all over with purple ink.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 1 July 2010 at 12:30pm BST
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