Comments: Anglican Covenant: further reactions to its English rejection

Benjamin Guyer is positively shrill, isn't he? It is amusing to watch him dance around a call for episcopal autocracy without wanting it to seem that bishops are *autocrats*. Wow. The whole feel is "How dare the filthy laity try to tell bishops what God wants of them!" followed by "So, shut up you filthy commies trying to destroy everything!" The final laugh comes - for me - with his almost hysterical bloviating about simplistic arguments (trans.: My God! you anti-covenanters are stupid!) followed by the argument that the covenant isn't about sexuality because it isn't mentioned* and only conspiracy theory can say otherwise (trans.: My God! you anti-covenanters are paranoid loons!)

It's pure tantrum. Just like so many others we've seen in print, and right here, since England said no. Disgraceful.

*(well . . . that *much*, anyway!)

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 8:57am BST

Benjamin Guyer - 'Of course, the Anglican Covenant is about the Anglican Communion, not about sexuality. This is why sexuality is not discussed in the Covenant at all'.

Re-writing history already I see. Mr Guyer is either ignorant or deliberately misleading. The Covenant is ALL about homosexuality and a naked attempt to stop the deliberate and thoughtful journey of ECUSA folowed by others towards the full inclusion of LGBT people. It provides a mechanism to exclude churches which are making such a journey. To say otherwise is disingenous to say the least.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 8:58am BST

There ought to be a medal for 'Bishops with outstanding Gifts of Common Sense'. Bishop Alan Wilson would surely be one of its most worthy recipients at this point in Anglican Church History.

One of the very few Church of England prelates to have sussed out the reality that the Covenant could never have replaced the wisdom of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral; the Bishop of Buckingham deserved a new palace. Maybe not the Palace of Buckingham - but surely Lambeth!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 9:07am BST

"This is why sexuality is not discussed in the Covenant at all. Only a grand conspiracy theory can hold otherwise." - Benjamin Guyer -

He's right, of course! Not a word about sexuality in The Covenant! After all, what is happening in the closets and bedrooms is never discussed in polite Church of England (Anglican) Society.

But it really is the Elephant in the Bedroom that most concerns GAFCON & ACNA., for whom it is a subject more worrying than mere poverty, graft, and other endemic troubles in their own patch.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 9:26am BST

Graham Kings' offering is so lugubrious!

Please note the c.seitz mantra we see here "the ACC cannot stop the Covenant" is picked up in the Goddard and Kings pieces. All from the same stable, of course, and practicing the propagandist trick of making something so because you (and your mates) say it is. Also Kings tries to move from the doubtful "may" in Goddards assessment of the ABC continued role in Communion affairs to a point where it seems the rejection of the Covenant leaves the office unaffected. Amazing. Even the ACI lads see the ABC as hobbled by this outcome.

As I said on an earlier thread, when it first appeared that England was likely to reject the Covenant I started asking those close to the centre of the Covenants formation and dissemination what would happen following a negative vote. The overwhelming consensus was that the ACC would in some way pull the plug later in the year. I didn't make that up or start off with an agenda, I just report the facts.

There is a great deal of twaddle offered up when talking of the Anglican Communion and the instruments of communion etc etc . While Wales sees itself as part of the Anglican Communion, constitutionally it has only recognised the ACC as having any part in its affairs. Under Rowan Williams leadership it dispensed with all residual powers and lawful authority vested in the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Neither do we recognise the Lambeth Conference, or Primates Group. Like many Anglican things "they meet" and have the potential to persuade those who wish to listen, but that is all.

The Covenant would have changed that and given them (here in Wales for the very first time) both recognition and standing. I do not know the Canons of the CofE well enough to know if this is also true there. But rejection here would, I believe, mean rejection of the instruments recently erected.

Putting Kings woeful piece alongside Bishop Alan's says a great deal about the failures of episcopacy over the last decade - and while Bishop Alan seems repentant Kings is not. In the real world after such a crushing failure Kings would be "considering his options" or dismissed. Still I don't expect he will get the sack or do the honourable thing and even though Bishop Alan sees the error of his ways I think an appropriate penance would be to lock them up in a room together until Easter. I always suspected myself of having a Sartrian sadistic streak.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 9:37am BST

"Third, ‘independent autonomy’, following the radically liberal current leaders of The Episcopal Church, in the USA, (TEC)."

Independent autonomy has been the structure of the Anglican Communion since it was first considered in existence, way back in 1884. Why discuss it as something new?

As for "radically liberal," gee--I thought radicalism is what Jesus always proposed.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 11:14am BST

I do accept Benjamin Guyer's assertion (and there's a phrase I may never have cause to write ever again) that bishops are under no obligation to pay any mind to the feelings of their clergy or laity. Yet it seems to be an established principle, at least in the C of E, that a bishop should be a "focus of unity". That, as I recall, was exactly the reason why a number of outstanding candidates who happened to be gay have been conspicuously overlooked for preferment in the last decade. Yet the reality is that our bishops have completely failed to be a "focus for unity." They have instead made themselves a locus of divison.

There are almost certainly no winners from this whole Covenant debacle, but it's pretty clear that the biggest losers include the House of Bishops. With a few exceptions, of course - the splendid Alan Wilson among them.

Posted by rjb at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 12:00pm BST

Benjamin Guyer: 'The bishops are not now, never have been, and never will be under any obligation simply to follow the laity.'

Where did Mr. Guyer get this idea? 'I accept Your Majesty as the sole source of ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal power' certainly sounds to me like entering into an obligation to follow the laity - provided, of course, that the laity does its leading through the correct procedures of the Queen in Parliament and the Synods to which the Queen in Parliament delegates powers.

Posted by Feria at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 12:01pm BST

Guyer: "Of course, the Anglican Covenant is about the Anglican Communion, not about sexuality."

Methinks it is this statement that, in Guyer's words, borders on falsehood.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 12:21pm BST

"...following the radically liberal current leaders of The Episcopal Church, in the USA, (TEC)."

I'd substitute "radically liberal current rank and file" for "leaders." Bishops in the Episcopal Church are elected, not appointed. Their authority does not exceed what the General Convention gives to them. We dumped the idea of Prince Bishops back at the same time that the USA dumped the idea of rule by Princes. If anything, the pew sitters are a little less divided about sexual issues and women clergy than are the bishops.

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 3:38pm BST

Somehow I don't think Diarmaid M. will be over-worried by Benjamin G's accusations of tendentious writing or of pandering to the sixties generation. Anyhow, once BG is as honoured and feted a writer as Prof. M we shall see who's the real heavyweight.

Isn't it about time someone propounded a Gresham's Law of the Church - that the the first person to accuse an opponent of being enslaved by the spirit of the 1960's should automatically be deemed to have lost. It'd work for a lot of the rubbishing of Vatican II as well.

As for finding myself described by +Sherborne (nice town, good cheese shop I seem to remember) as a follower of radically liberal leaders, this crusty old conservative Spike doesn't know whether to sue for libel or to give himself a hernia laughing.

Posted by david rowett at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 3:51pm BST

Hang on - in a comment in an earlier thread Benjamin Guyon said this:
"The popular vote *for* the Covenant indicates that support for it will not die any time soon. The victory that the No Covenant crowd celebrates today is much misunderstood if it is seen as decisive or popular, for it is neither - and this is as good an indication as any that what the No Covenant crowd wants is not the voice of the people to be heard" (thereby implying that heeding the voice of the people might be rather important).

Now he's arguing 'vox populi non est vox dei', which rather seems to suggest we should ignore them and listen to the bishops. Am I missing something here?

Posted by david rowett at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 4:18pm BST

Impossible to take Benjamin Guyer seriously.

Quoting Haigh, Diarmaid's erstwhile fellow Oxford historian and competitor, who reviewed a work by MacCulloch as
“unexamined ... unexplained, selective, speculative.... tendentious and agenda-ridden.” he goes on to reference a Telegraph rehash of a Daily Mail story that was (not to put too fine a point on it) bovine ordure. Pot and kettle .....?

He really must learn to check his sources .....

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 5:23pm BST

Mr Reynolds -- when you speak of the ACC 'pulling the plug later in the year' I take it you mean in 6-7 months time. Surely the provinces considering it in the meantime will be a considerable factor in how the ACC reacts. Kearon certainly said nothing to the contrary and indeed underscored the independence and integrity of the covenant process. Or, are you asking people to adopt an 'insider perspective' at odds with the public statement?

Posted by c.r.seitz at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 6:03pm BST

Can I still be an Anglican if I have serious doubts as to whether the voice of my bishop is the voice of God? I'd still try to be canonically obedient, of course...

Posted by Canon David at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 6:12pm BST

What's the difference between autonomy with interdependence and accountability and independent autonomy when the first isn't written into each province's structure? My sense is that there really isn't a difference between them unless the accountability is hard-wired in. For example the appointment process would need to be altered to require the candidates to be approved by other provinces or communion bodies before the names can be sent to the prime minister or the queen. Additionally, major decisions would need also need to be sent out for approval before Synod could pass them on Parliament or before they could come into effect if they didn't require parliamentary approval. However, the other provinces might want to be able to overrule Parliament.

Maybe I missed something, but those changes sound like they would need parliamentary approval, and I doubt it would be forthcoming since those changes are rather ultramontane (sp?).

The thing is TEC is already doing just about all it can to hear from the other provinces and our ecumenical partners short of giving them a vote or a veto at General Convention.

Posted by Jonathan at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 6:14pm BST

@ Pat O'Neill: Just to underline a point I've made before, in American English "independent autonomy" is a redundancy. "Autonomy" in the sense in which it has been used by Brits involved in the Windsor/Covenant process is (so far as one can tell from over here) the standard UK usage, but American high school social studies used to mock the claimed "autonomous" character of "republics" under the thumb of Moscow, precisely because they weren't truly independent, and one can find quotations from Americans (even conservative A-C Bishops) back in the 1960s that they construe "autonomy" in that strong sense.

@Feria--Yes, precisely. What's _Anglican_ about Anglicanism is the insistence (1) on the independence ("autonomy") of national churches and (2) on Lay Supremacy.

Posted by 4 May 1535+ at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 6:22pm BST

As previously posted, I believe it is better for each group of believers to "go their own way" and I believe the sooner this happens, the healthier the situation for the future. We will never be able to understand the dynamics of homophobia and misogyny that have been so evident as this debacle has unfolded. In America, The Episcopal Church has chosen INCLUSIVE theology as it pertains to both women and the glbt communities. To me, this best represents the path Jesus always took. It also represents the direction that the Council Fathers of Vatican II hoped for in a future model of being Church.

Posted by Chris Smith at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 7:04pm BST

The response by Graham Kings points to a huge part of the problem. His vilification of the Episcopal Church (or of its supposed option) is based on his presumption that the Episcopal Church espouses a notion of independent autonomy that entirely rules out mutual accountability. I'm not sure how or why anyone would even want to dichotomize or ‘trichotomize' the options so starkly: it's hardly the fairest or the truest way of characterising the options. Indeed, it is this hard sell that has turned many of us off. We just don't see the Spirit working through such tactics.

Again and again, we've been told that the covenant is the only game in town. I respect those who seem so committed to it, but I can't help but think that, if it is the only game in town, it is because we have made it so. Just as in elections here in the UK, I'd quite like to see some better options – certainly not the caricatured options the bishop has presented. I might even suggest that, next time, the various churches in the communion decide amongst themselves who ought to draft any alternatives. This process has not been owned by the Communion, so it is no surprise that not everyone has rushed to embrace the product either.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but something seems to have gone wrong a few years ago, perhaps even prior to the Windsor Report. It might have had something to do with the Kanuga/Windsor language of ‘instruments of unity/communion'. The terms are far from poetic, but they point to a shift in ecclesiology, a shift in favour of (probably mildly) centralising forces. That said, it is hard not to notice the virtual shift of Lambeth Conferences from a consultative meeting to an almost juridic doctrine-defining body. Again, I don't think we have actually owned that shift. It feels as though things have been done to the Communion.

Coming up with an alternative to the covenant (and I think we now need to agree to something) will take time, quite a bit more prayer, loads of hard thinking, much more honesty, oodles of generosity, and a much greater degree of spiritual freedom than has yet been seen in the debate. Whenever the debate identifies winners and losers, we're arguably more in the zone of politics than discernment.

Posted by Joe at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 7:28pm BST

Entirely leaving aside the rank stupidity of the 'individual autonomy' comment (another word is 'autocephalous' and it has always been the case in the AC), what on Earth can Dr Kings possibly think the Communion is NOW, temporally speaking (of course it is theologically speaking the Church Militant, with all that that entails), if he is concerned about it 'deteriorating' into a federation or association?

Posted by Nathan at Wednesday, 28 March 2012 at 10:20pm BST

"....borders on", Jeremy?

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 1:23am BST

Bishop Alan Wilson is the one with a real grip on the situation -- not just the local English ecclesio-political situation but the situation in the wider world of Anglicanism.

ABC stuff, I'd say. And refreshingly unstuffy stuff.

Posted by John Thorp at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 2:12am BST

"Again and again, we've been told that the covenant is the only game in town. I respect those who seem so committed to it, but I can't help but think that, if it is the only game in town, it is because we have made it so." - Joe -

But now there is a 'newcomer on the block', Joe. It goes by the name of GAFCON. And it it championed by no less an ex-Anglican bishop than The Rt.Revd. Michael NAZIR-ALI; who calls IT 'The Only Game in Town' in a recent press release!

This Rt.Revd. prelate is going to be one of the key-note Speakers at the FCA/GAFCON conference to be held in London at the end of April. The Chair of that conference will be the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, the Rt.Revd. Eliud Wabakula, who recently ordained a few UK indigenous deacons to begin GAFCON's underground 'church' in England: AMiE (the Anglican mission in England).

Hanging on to their coat-tails will be yet another Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, of Sydney, whose 'orthodox' credentials include the promotion of Lay-Presidency at the Eucharist in Australia.

If this really is The Only Game in Town' as Nazir-Ali predicts, it will be a sad day for the Church of England. Someone should get these overseas visitors their visae cancelled!

Despite all of this - the Covenant in no alternative to GAFCON, indeed, it could have helped conservatism to thrive in the Communion.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 9:47am BST

"It also represents the direction that the Council Fathers of Vatican II hoped for in a future model of being Church."

The "being churchers" of the 1970's and 80's are all elderly now, and their movement is dying. Young Catholics are orthodox, dynamic and tremendously positive about their faith. Why on earth would they choose the radical option of Christianity and then want to water it down? It makes no sense. If someone wants to be secular no problem - the Church offers something different.

Posted by William at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 9:58am BST

Why would any sensible Anglican in England think that the Covenant came into being chiefly because of issues in human sexuality? Not that someone of my colleague Prof MacCulloch’s standing needs defending but let's think about evidence. I draw attention to the official briefing paper produced by the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England and commended by the two archbishops to the members of General Synod (GS Misc 966) to frame the debate on the Covenant for the November 2010 session. This is the very first sentence of the briefing paper:

‘1. The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in The Windsor Report of
2004, which was written in response to tensions within the Anglican Communion
which came to a head following the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New
Hampshire’ (GS Misc 966).

I thought at the time that made things pretty clear. This is precisely the sort of evidence I’m sure Prof MacCulloch had in mind. And just to footnote properly, here’s the link:

Posted by Judith Maltby at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 10:15am BST

I am a bit shocked to discover the text of the oath of loyalty sworn by C of E bishops -- "I accept Your Majesty as the sole source of ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal power". Disestablishment would get rid of this theological embarrassment.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 10:35am BST

Bishop Alan really is the voice of sanity! so pleased to have discovered his blog. Fortunately church life goes on... here in Canterbury I have yet to meet cleric, canon, synod reps etc who seem particularly steamed up.
We could do with some patience I think, surely. Comments have been rather shrill! London ( my old diocese ) votes tonight...intelligence suggests a rejection, we shall see. By the end of April we will have the full C of E picture and in about 9 months we will have a clearer picture of the effect of the C of E's rejection on other Provinces considering the Covenant.. it seems likely to go down in NZ /Australia /Canada /the US and prob Scotland... no doubt Martin will keep us informed about Wales. Anyone able to comment from those "quiet" Provinces...Japan /Melanesia /Hong Kong/ Korea??
In the meantime lets all concentrate on a devout Holy Week and a joyous Easter!

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 11:01am BST

the FCA/GAFCON conference to be held in London at the end of April. The Chair of that conference will be the Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, the Rt.Revd. Eliud Wabakula, who recently ordained a few UK indigenous deacons to begin GAFCON's underground 'church' in England: AMiE (the Anglican mission in England).'

WILL they even be granted entry visas, as they are terrorists and entryists hellbent on subverting the state church ?

Maybe the Home Secretary will sit in or the Metropolitan Police ?

Posted by Mary Marriot at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 5:27pm BST

YES, Spirit of Vatican II, you can see how bishops having made that oath are finished really.

So spiritually debilitating - surely ?

Some have even joined the Ordinariate but how can such an oath be expunged ?

And it is clearly untrue. The throne of England has and bestows nothing of the sort.

Rome is no better.

Posted by Mary Marriot at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 5:49pm BST

Surely the "text of the oath of loyalty sworn by C of E bishops" quoted is an invention of Tony Benn in a speech made during the 1998 Commons debate on Lords amendments to the Crime and Disorder Bill dealing with the age of consent. No earlier references seem to be "out there" - but that is not conclusive, of course.


28 Jul 1998 : Column 196

Conservative Members know very well, Labour Governments have four years in office and Tory Governments have five, because the Lords can always turn its power of delay into a veto. I have sat in Cabinet many times; as I mentioned in an intervention, I have heard a Labour Leader of the House of Lords say, "I do not think that we should proceed with that--the Lords will delay it and that will wreck our legislation." I have a marked objection to that.
I also have an objection to the authority of the second Chamber. Although I was brought up as a member of the Church of England and should have due respect for the bishops, I know what a bishop has to say to become a bishop. He does not only take an oath of allegiance, like us; he says, "I accept Your Majesty as the sole source of ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal power." Bishops thus declare that they do not believe in democracy in order to become bishops. That was imposed on them by Henry VIII. When I hear a bishop talking about consent of any kind, I bear in mind the fact that the man got where he is by swearing that he did not believe in what this whole place is about--although, of course, there are good bishops and bad bishops.

Whereas the Canons of the Church of England state

C 13 Of the Oath of Allegiance
1. Every person whose election to any archbishopric or bishopric is to be confirmed, or who is to be consecrated or translated to any suffragan bishopric, or to be ordained priest or deacon, or to be instituted, installed, licensed or admitted to any office in the Church of England or otherwise serve in any place, shall first, in the presence of the archbishop or bishop by whom his election to such archbishopric or bishopric is to be confirmed, or in whose province such suffragan bishopric is situate, or by whom he is to be ordained, instituted, installed, licensed or admitted, or of the commissary of such archbishop or bishop, take the Oath of Allegiance in the form following:
I, A B, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law: So help me God.

Perhaps a Canon Lawyer or Rt Rev commenter could enlighten us.

Posted by John Roch at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 6:08pm BST

I do not know if this is true in England, but it is certainly not true here in California, where the child sexual abuse scandal has destroyed the trust of Catholic laity. Not one regular communicant of that denomination that I know will leave his or her child alone with a priest. Not one will fail to use birth control, and very few have objection to abortion. They all believe priests should be married, and most think women should be ordained. They are attached to the liturgy but not to the clergy, much less the hierarchy. It is a very sad situation.

Posted by Andrew at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 7:57pm BST

Spirit of Vatican II,

There's nothing embarrassing about it. Indeed, I'd say the Church of England can be very proud of the fact this oath, along with the other structures of the establishment, mean that its Episcopacy is accountable to the people - _all_ of the people - through their elected Parliament.

Posted by Feria at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 8:44pm BST

Much as I am against the Covenant, I really wanted to back Guyer in this comment thread. Principally, because I hate the all-too-familiar arrogance of the usual TA tag-team bullies.

Nevertheless, the reality is that 80 per cent of our episcopate has endorsed a position that has only 50 per cent lay support. It would have been better for Guyer to claim that the lay vote was unrepresentative of the wider public who oppose redefining marriage.

A majority of bishops hold to a position that only represents half of our lay voters. You are are either in touch, or out of touch. You can't then extend the opinion sampling to include the wider society's views on redefining marriage (which is about sexuality) after claiming that 'the Anglican Covenant is about the Anglican Communion, not about sexuality.'

So, I can't, in fact, I don't want to defend Guyer. He'll have to wipe his own bloodied nose.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 10:20pm BST

"I, A B, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law: So help me God."

That's much better.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 8:27am BST

John Roch,

I don't think Tony Benn has much influence at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but they confirm the text of the oath as he quoted it, in the "Religion" and "Monarchy" documents in their "Insight UK" series, which are dated April 2001 and January 2003 respectively. I'm guessing that candidates for the Episcopacy have to take _both_ this oath and the one in Canon C 13.

Spirit of Vatican II,

I'm not convinced that the text in Canon C 13 on its own would be "much better", because it would fail in the objective of reminding candidates for the Episcopacy that the people, through the Queen-in-Parliament, are in primary control of the doctrines and liturgy of the Church of England.

Posted by Feria at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 6:38pm BST

Quite so.

As I said earlier - perhaps a Rt Rev commenter could comment.


Posted by John Roch at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 8:17pm BST

I thought Joe captured the issue with delicacy and Anglican gentility.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 31 March 2012 at 8:32pm BST

My previous attempt to shed some more light on the wording of the oath administered to new bishops disappeared due to excessive length. Apologies for that; I'll try to be be briefer this time.

First, the reason we don't all already know: section 11 of the Clerical Subscription Act 1865 moved the oath from the public consecration ceremony to a private audience with the Home Secretary (now the Justice Secretary), so only Bishops and Home/Justice Secretaries ever get to hear it administered.

Second, the actual wording: in the same parliamentary debate where Tony Benn made his comments, the then Home Secretary Jack Straw clarified that the wording in use at the time (1998) was not quite that quoted by Mr. Benn, and hinted that it was instead the same as that in the Act of Supremacy 1558.

Third, a puzzle: whatever the exact wording of the oath, how did it avoid being abolished by schedule 1 to the Promissory Oaths Act 1871?

Posted by Feria at Monday, 4 June 2012 at 3:50pm BST
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