Comments: more reactions to the Anglican Covenant's rejection in England

With thanks to Laurence C:

This is all worthy of an episode of Yes, Prime Minister. Creating an institution that is the only way forward, which, when the Church of England declines to be part of it, becomes a group of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is at one and the same time, the head, and also unable to be part of it because of the decision of the Province which he leads.

Prudence Dailey makes me howl with laughter.

Posted by JeremyP at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 9:36am BST

All this infrastructure accreting power to itself ... who will be paying for it?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 10:30am BST

The grand-sounding 'Anglican Communion Institute', fronted on this site. mainly, by cseitz, sadly adds nothing but confusion to the already confused situation of the present Communion dilemma.

Despite its pretension to guru status on Communion governance, the ACI has absolutely no influence beyond its own little circle of academics in North America who have distanced themselves from TEC's and the Anglican Church of Canada's eirenic movement towards the inclusion of LGBT people in the life and ministry of their Provinces of the Communion.

One wonders what will happen to their small circle of academics when they have to decide, ultimately, whether they remain with TEC, or hop over the fence to join up with ACNA and other GAFCON-sponsored 'churches' in North America.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 11:22am BST

At the General Synod which Prudence says overwhelmingly supported the Covenant, many speakers said they would vote yes at this stage to keep the conversation going but were not at heart supportive of the Covenant - the vote then was to send the Covenant to the dioceses to see what they thought, not to approve the Covenant in toto. Those who so voted have now got the answer back from the dioceses!

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 11:31am BST

Everyone forgets that the Lambeth Conference of 1948 declared the Anglican Communion was "provisional" and that its vocation was to disappear....If the Churches of the Anglican Communion have a vocation ( including the Church of England), it is surely to be in communion with other churches on their own turf on the basis of the Lambeth Quadrilateral as in South India. What sense is there in Nigeria, for example, being in communion with New Zealand and not the Methodists of Nigeria... what witness is that?

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 11:47am BST

The ACI argument is flawed because it treats signatories and potential signatories as one and the same. (Nor will the nonsignatories have the same agendas, if they have agendas.)

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 11:57am BST

Message for administrator: For the last few days I have not been able to see your main web page. I get this "There is no website at this URL" for I can see the current posts at


ED: You need to refresh the page, as explained on several other threads earlier:

You can force your browser to fetch the current version of a web page with a "Force Refresh". Depending on your operating system all you need to do is the following key combination:

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Posted by David at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 1:04pm BST

The ACI argument, flawed or not, shows that the Covenant agenda has always been to co-opt the structures of the Communion for the conservatives, and to take the Communion over.

Perhaps Williams is now realizing this.

Creating a new structure for the imposition of doctrine is of little interest to those who do not want a magisterium, but--surprise, surprise--is of great interest to those who want to impose their doctrinal views on others.

The real question now is whether the "Instruments of Unity"--now Instruments of Disunity--will allow the Covenant to be so co-opted. One rather suspects that with the Church of England in the second tier, "official" interest in the Covenant will markedly diminish.

Kearon hasn't quite figured this out yet. But the Covenant will wither away into insignificance. It's hard to have a family discussion without your mother at the table.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 1:08pm BST

Regarding 'Yes to the Covenant' and their press release. Hold on a moment, you may well find that the laity also end up with a majority rejecting it, there are still six dioceses to go.

I repeat in any case what I've asked before, how can any project or scheme that purports to establish unity and order have any credibility when people are so divided about it.

As for Provinces voting for or against, we aren't half way through yet and there will be at least several more (especially the ones which where to be 'disciplined') who will vote against.

The Covenant can only cement and institutionalise schism, far better to leave things alone and keep us more or less in communion. Come back in ten years' time with the Covenant in place and there will be three Anglican Communions.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 2:51pm BST

Dave - clearing your cache will end your issue. A good thing to do every so often. See your browser tools for doing this.

Posted by Ann at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 4:23pm BST

To what extent might the recent female bishop debate & votes in General Synod have played a part in the rejection of the Covenant (clergy, in particular)? The overwhelming rejection of the Archbishops' Amendment by General Synod, followed by the prospect, as I understand it, of the House of Bishops' bypassing the GS vote to make provision for a "pure", male only Succession, and Williams' talk of "fine tuning", can hardly have lessened suspicion of episcopal arrogance.

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 5:18pm BST

From a practical standpoint, it seems quite healthy that a schism would become reality. After all, why would one group of Churches be interested in being in communion with a group (the glbt community and women), that they clearly devalue as human beings? I believe the "schisms" throughout history, serve a practical purpose in that they allow the progressive branches of the Communion to go forward with their belief system while the conservative or right wing factions practice their belief systems and go their own way. In England, as in America, the conservative groups may try to steal or take Church property that does not belong to them, but eventually they will have to return such property to each individual diocese.

Posted by Chris Smith at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 5:52pm BST

Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury has turned in his resignation. Like many a resignation in the real world of leaders, spiritual and otherwise,
he´s announced he will leave at the end of 2012 to give everyone plenty of ¨time.¨

Time out, wait a minute please:

I see NO sign of remorse shown, or even sadness, from Dr. Williams regarding his insisting and demanding that the Anglican Covenant be signed (both at home and abroad)immediately...ASAP!

Dr. Williams and his specially initiated worldwide/communionwide ¨excluding¨ campaign has taken ¨covenant promoters/presenters¨ around the globe lickety split to promote this document.

His design team has spent years setting/writing up a ¨covenant¨ that was always intended to exclude, or punish, various provinces, and real people, at the Anglican Communion. This covenant was never a timely endeavour but merely and slothful/spiteful insiders job.

+Rowan Williams custom commissioned chairpeople,
Drexel Gomez and Gregory Cameron, to travel here and there to write a document with tricky omissions that would become lethal and binding in what it DID NOT SAY. Words of omission.

Later, still on Rowan Williams watch, a brand new/custom reconfigured ¨Anglican Central Steering Committee¨ pushed and pushed until the Anglican Covenant was finished in record time.

An Anglican Covenant document that would, at last, punish inclusive minded Christians who prayerfully determined that ANY Anglican ought be allowed to be a candidate and participate at ANY level of Churchlife. Yikes!

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury has made a mess out of many personal and communionwide
relationships by demanding his version of a covenant be validated and honored quickly.

I´m sorry, Dr. Williams but there has always been a big difference between a simple request and a demand... we all know that.

I have a simple request of you Dr. Williams:

I ask Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, that he please attempts to clean up his ¨covenant¨ promoting mess that before leaving Canterbury in December.

Please lets not pretend that all is ending well in England and beyond just because you, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, thought you must/ought have your ¨covenant¨ way...please don´t leave us in this ¨haste makes waste¨ kind of way.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 9:14pm BST

Watching the unfolding slow motion train wreck of my former church, it is impossible not to agree that at this point a clean break would be the least painful and best option for everyone.

I am troubled however when I read something like "conservatives may try to steal church property that doesn't belong to them." Does church property automatically cease to belong to them because they're conservatives? That seems to be the implication. Now, it seems to me that a better analogy for the coming schisms at all levels is that of a marriage breakup. In a marriage breakup, one spouse doesn't "steal" from the other. Property is divided justly and fairly and in ways that hopefully make practical sense. Why should it not be so in the church? When a small minority leaves, such as the Ordinariate groups in England, then no, it doesn't make sense that they should "keep the house". However, if the liberals were in a tiny minority and a church would simply close if the majority were denied use of it, why shouldn't a deal be worked out? Accusations of "stealing" serve only to inflame. Far better that the church works toward a cooperative and amicable split.

Posted by Clive at Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 11:34pm BST

Clive, tell that to the US courts, which have almost uniformly (and correctly) held that people can leave the Episcopal Church, but they cannot take the land, silver, and endowments.

Why is it only the conservatives who wanted to leave the larger church? I'm sure you can answer that question yourself.

But there is no "implication" about property rights and ideology--there is a historical record.

Indeed, throughout the US, any appeal for a "cooperative and amicable split" is years too late. Much water is already under the bridge.

If you haven't noticed that in many US dioceses the departing conservatives tried to take the silver with them, then please do a little research before you ask why some posters, myself included, call it stealing.

We have good reason. And the courts have agreed with us.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 1:27am BST

Is it just me or does Prudence Dailey's scolding of many CofE dioceses seem odd? Who is this lady that she scolds bishops, clergy and lay people for not agreeing with her favored plan to shut down acceptance of LGBT persons in the life of the Churches or to reduce to second class status those who disagree with her?

And what of this, "Many in the worldwide Anglican Communion were pinning their hopes on the Covenant as the only way forward." Who are these people who clung desperately to the Covenant, a mere proposal? Certainly not the conservative Primates who dismissed the Covenant a long time ago. Indeed, Ms. Dailey thinks that it would be a good idea for other provinces to vote in favor of the Covenant, evidently leaving out the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England. What a mess has been hatched by Rowan Williams and company.

For Rowan Williams, the chickens are coming home to roost and that is never a pretty scene. Are we to believe that this ill-conceived plot by conservative and homophobic Primates to divide the Anglican Communion is now of great value in our effort to work and worship together?

I sincerely hope and pray that the CNC will firmly groud itself in the reality of the current situation rather than let themselves be process driven. The FCA, GAFCON, AMiE are at the door, planning to divide the Church of England. The government is planning to pass same sex marriage and the question must soon arise, "How can the established Church wholesale refuse to bless these marriages, when thorougly non-religious opposite sex couples can resort to the local parish for a Church marriage ceremony and Blessing merely for the atmospherics?"

You need an ABC with a backbone or this mess will just grow like spilled water.

Posted by karen macqueen+ at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 2:28am BST

It never belonged to them, Clive, any more than church property belongs to liberals.

You don't "buy" your way into church, still less "buy" church, itself. If you want that route, go independent churches without bishops or presbytery.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 5:26am BST

Is Anglicanism really collapsing? The Covenant McGuffin has kept Anglicans talking for the last 7 or 8 years -- and has neatly substituted for an endless rerun of divisive gay v. homophobe polemics. So maybe it served a purpose in shoring up church unity after all??

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 6:46am BST

Could I please pile on in support of Clive's position if anyone is still reading this thread? The opposite strategy was followed in the United States, and it led to really terrible feelings and the near-bankruptcy of one diocese I know of because of the legal expense. They got to keep their property, but at what cost? My position is not popular amongst the leadership of the church in the US, but I think that the CofE and its lawyers are probably already gearing up for a fight that no one will win. They should learn from the experience of others and should act consistently with Rowan Williams' statements in the past discouraging unnecessary litigation about property. (Also, the legal precedents here in the UK are not as favourable as they are in the US...)

Posted by Scot Peterson at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 7:18am BST

The massive Methodist Church in America had to split in the early 1800s over the issue of slavery, with the southern Methodists believing that scripture endorsed it.

It took I think about 100 years for reconciliation: time for the pro-slavers to die, and residual bureaucratic stuff to be worked out, for reunion.

Hands up all those who REGRET that the Northern Methodists in the US took a stand for human rights, even though it caused a split for a time.

I thought not.

As a Canadian, I'm proud that England is taking a stand with the North American church in moving us forward in human rights and understanding. It's only fair after all: we had your back in two world wars; time for you to cover our back.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 7:40am BST

Scot, I really don't think the Church of England is going to be massively concerned for possible property alienation by departing dissidents. The Established Church has been around for a long time now - and is not 'owned' by anyone but the constitutionally-governed church authorities.

Certain R.C. converts still maunder about what they see as the Established Church of England 'stealing' their (R.C.) property. But that argument has never held any water. The Church of England is still the catholic Church of England.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 9:37am BST

It should be noted that the amendment process to the Covenant involves and requires the full Standing Committee and Primates and ACC -- not just the signatories. The signatories have the last word on amendments once passed through this digestion process, but they have no capability to amend on their own.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 3:16pm BST

The situation in the US is special, not least because both sides pursue their agenda there with considerably more aggression than we have seen in other provinces, and because the US is by nature a litigious society. There is a level of spite and vindictiveness in ECUSA that has for the most part been avoided in the Church of England.

Nevertheless, although it might be legally achievable for ECUSA to cling on to a church building after the vast majority of its congregation has left, I don't believe it's *necessarily* morally correct to do so or to rule out any kind of cooperation, sharing arrangements, negotiation or possibility of amicable parting of ways. In some cases, it's proven to be a total dog in manger situation, where there isn't an ECUSA remnant to use or maintain the building. Who is served by a building rotting because ECUSA won't engage with congregations who leave?

I don't see the US as a good model to follow. Nobody is happy on either side, and only the lawyers get rich.

Posted by Clive at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 3:53pm BST

In fact, Ron, the Established church as a central body does not own the property. Parishes themselves own their parish churches. Representation is usually vested in churchwardens (an office dating back to the reign of Edward the Confessor pre1066), but closing down a parish and its church is an extremely difficult thing to do unless everyone in the parish agrees with this course of action. The possibility of any group who want to walk away from the C of E being able to take the parish church and other assets is, frankly, nil.

Posted by JeremyP at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 7:33am BST

Thanks, JeremyP, for your up-dating of my (mis)information about 'who owns the property of the Church of England'.In view of the fact that, as you say, the local parish owns the property; is it possible that an almost totally F.i>F. parish could alienate the property in favour of the Ordinariate?
That would seem rather drastic!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 9:55am BST

The biggest issue here is that church buildings are, despite most people's intuitive understanding, liabilities, not assets. If a large enough group in a village, town or city (quaere: are these different?) wants to walk away and keep a church, my position would be that they should be allowed to. Quitclaim it to them. I'm not sure that I agree (as an American lawyer) with Clive's characterization of the US as litigious--for example, it's much easier to get compensation from the government here than in the US. But I heartily agree with the last point in his post about only the lawyers get rich. Irrespective of the legal formalities of the situation, my own take would be that failure to negotiate a compromise is simply un-Christian. But try convincing a diocesan bishop in the US of that!

Posted by Scot Peterson at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 10:09am BST

Isn't all this talk about sharing property a little premature when at present it is impossible for dioceses to sign up to the Covenant on their own and to leave the CoE?
Wouldn't it be more sense to wait and see which diocese, if any, will eventually make any moves towards this?

It seems a bit early to accuse each other of mean spiritedness and intolerance when no-one is even talking about doing anything.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 11:41am BST

Ron: the legal situation is complex (surprise, surprise). Although the freehold is vested in the incumbent it is inalienable and is essentially vested in the office-holder not the person. So as soon as the incumbent decides to leave the Church of England then they are by definition no longer the incumbent, no longer the office-holder, and no longer possessed of the freehold. The property vests in the (diocesan) bishop during a vacancy, and is conveyed to the new incumbent by the archdeacon at the Institution.

Something like that anyway, I think. And presumably 'freehold' is affected by the introduction of common tenure for incumbents taking office in the last 14 months (since Feb 2011).

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 1:31pm BST

"But try convincing a diocesan bishop in the US of that!"
I agree with much of what you write, but in fact, diocesan Bishops in Central Florida, Dallas (and others), and recently NJ and SC did just that, carefully and prayerfully, with result. We have it in the record that +VA was also following this trajectory in the case of Northern Virginia parishes (though some dispute the details of this). +Griswold indicated that he had no intention of interfering in dioceses and in the diocesan Bishops' considerations re: negotiation. That changed when the present PB took office. It was somewhat heartening to see the comments/footnotes in the published 2013-15 Budget that they expect fewer litigations and Title IV excursions. Against the backdrop of severe budgetary problems, it appears this method of dealing with diocesan Bishops' discretion vs '815 litigation' can no longer be sustained. As noted, only the lawyers got rich, and also, property is a liability as much as an asset (see N VA, Pittsburgh, GA).

Posted by c.r.seitz at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 1:39pm BST
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