Comments: Church press on the Anglican Covenant defeat in England

Again there is an overwhelming sense that the Covenant is not just dead in England - but it is DEAD.

Now I was asked on an earlier thread in relation as to what should happen now -bearing in mind the Covenant will most likely be pulled at the upcoming ACC.

There is a great danger in letting things fester. The Dar es Salaam fiasco and the end of "rule by Primatial edict" - is an example. Look how much trouble people made in the months and years following that debacle - when it was clear the day after the final Communique that chapter had come to an end.
Some innovations like the "Panel of Reference" can just be left to fizzle out when they fail .... but the Covenant needs to be stopped now, decisively.

Nothing better than a letter from Rowan Williams to the Provinces:
My dear friends the failure of the Covenant to get approval in England leaves considerable uncertainty as to how the Instruments of Unity will be able to function in the future and so I am asking you to discontinue consideration of the Anglican Covenant.
“We shall still have to work at (other) vehicles for consultation and manag­ing disagreement. And nothing should lessen the priority of sus­taining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulner­able Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial.”

etc etc.....

Let's stop the "slicers and dicers" analysing and spinning us all into a frenzy.
It's over, done with. Let's move on!!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 9:09am BST

It seems that, as even the Bishop of Oxford has suggested: 'The mind of the Church' has been discerned - at least, in the Church of England.

Whatever the upcoming GAFCON prelates may decided in their upcoming London meeting; that will be up to them, whether they decide to opt out of the Unity in Diversity ethos of Anglicanism; or to move their 'orthodoxy' Head Office to GAFCON-land. Only they can choose!

In the meantime, let the rest of us get on with the important business of 'preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ' and the unconditional Love of God for ALL in the places where we are.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 10:44am BST

Dr. Williams said, "And nothing should lessen the priority of sus­taining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulner­able Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial."

Then why in God's name, for nearly ten years, did he support a project that would have divided the Communion and sundered relationships?

The Covenant wasn't about relationships. It was about control.

The Archbishop allowed himself to be distracted from his chief Communion duty.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 11:50am BST

"Relational consequences" means SPANK. SPANKING is UN-ANGLICAN.

If African bishops and others want to spank perhaps they'd better find a family where spanking is practiced.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 1:37pm BST

"One of the troubling aspect of the Covenant debates — such as they have been — is the impression given by critics that they can not only live with disintegration but positively welcome it, if it means not having to relate to people with whom they disagree fundamentally." -Church Times

And there, exactly, is the problem. The Covenant may well have been fundamentally anti-Anglican in nature, but many of its most zealous opponents are also the enemies of the tolerance and inclusivity that is at the heart of the Anglican tradition (and of which they profess to be the ardent defenders).

Posted by rjb at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 2:20pm BST

Dr. Williams said any province that rejected the covenant would be an "associate member" of the Anglican Communion, not a "constituent member". But now that the CoE has rejected the covenant op-ed writers take the view, instead, that if the mother province rejects the covenant the covenant is dead. Why can it not instead be that the mother province has made herself an associate member of her own communion? Absurd, but the covenant always was absurd.

Posted by John B. Chilton at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 2:53pm BST

What I find especially disturbing about Dr. Williams comments about "sustaining relationships" is that he never made a serious attempt to sustain relationships with those who have been disenfranchised from the Church for so many years: the glbt community and women. He made every attempt to "sustain" relationships with those narrow minds that caused an American bishop who happened to be gay and was in a committed relationship, to be disinvited and disenfranchised from the Lambeth Conference. Rowan stood firmly with the fundamentalist elements within the Anglican Communion. I believe his actions carry great shame when it comes to this chapter of Anglican history.

Posted by Chris Smith at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 4:23pm BST

"The Covenant may well have been fundamentally anti-Anglican in nature, but many of its most zealous opponents are also the enemies of the tolerance and inclusivity that is at the heart of the Anglican tradition (and of which they profess to be the ardent defenders)." - rjb -

I'm afraid, rjb, that your logic here is a little awry. It was not the Covenant opposers that have necessitated the erection of a Covenant process - by refusing to 'live with' the Dissenters of the 'Jerusalem Declaration' at GAFCON. It is exactly the opposite. GAFCON and ACNA have refused to live with the rest of the Communion. What does that have to say about Anglican Inclusivity?

The exclusive nature of GAFCON was already made evident at Lambeth - by the refusal of GAFCON prelates to share the Eucharist with Presiding Bishop of TEC. This did not bode well for the Anglican policy of 'tolerance and inclusivity' at the heart of Anglicanism that you profess here.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 11:53pm BST

rjb - The essence of the covenant was to establish who is in and who is out, and more specifically the structuring of a polity which would discriminate by forcing churches to choose between conscience or membership. Those of us who have opposed the covenant have done so to preserve the tolerance and inclusivity which such measure would have disposed of. Which is preferable, churches which choose to leave of their own conscious volition or thrown out because of the intolerance and unifying vision of a majority? The Gafconners, the homophobes, the sexist and pharisaic will always be welcome in my church. Will I be welcome in theirs?

Posted by NJT at Saturday, 31 March 2012 at 9:55am BST

I'm with rjb, who was talking primarily about relations within England/the UK. People such as us are not committed to accommodating the extreme views within GAFCON or the Nigerian Church: we reject them. Father Ron, 'logic' is not a flag you should uphold: when it is pointed out to you that rejection of the Covenant on the ground of top-down centrism commits you to pluralism (excluding 'vicious' views, etc.), you simply can't see it. If you were one of my students, I would fail you.

NJT and others: of course if you frame the argument in terms of 'inclusivity', you automatically 'damn' those non-homophobic and non-misogynistic Anglicans who nevertheless have conscientious, bible-based, difficulties with homosexual sexuality or WO: but the 'framing' is itself prejudicial and elides the serious arguments.

Posted by john at Saturday, 31 March 2012 at 8:22pm BST


"NJT and others: of course if you frame the argument in terms of 'inclusivity', you automatically 'damn' those non-homophobic and non-misogynistic Anglicans who nevertheless have conscientious, bible-based, difficulties with homosexual sexuality or WO: but the 'framing' is itself prejudicial and elides the serious arguments."

Can you conceive of any situation at all where your liberalism actually makes you come down on the side of those who wish not to be discriminated against?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 31 March 2012 at 9:42pm BST

There is one hopeful aspect which I think may be overlooked; we have been frequently exhorted by our Archbishops to bring the Good News to our fellow citizens here in England.

The difficulty with this is that, as a Christian fundamentalist* who believes that you can't get any more fundamentalist than trying to live your life according to Christ's words at Matthew 35:31, it's really very tricky trying to explain to people why Christ's words are apparently totally ignored by the hierarchy of the Church.

Actually, it's not just tricky, it's impossible.

It may be less impossible now the Covenant has been rejected in this country; I think I can now honestly say to friends that ordinary people in the pews have put the boot into a scheme which ran entirely counter to Christ's teachings.

My personal view is that the Archbishops are going to have a lot of explaining to do when they are finally called upon to account for their stewardships, and fortunately Matthew has also expanded on this a few lines earlier at 35:14 so we have a pretty good idea as to Christ's views on the matter. It's not looking hugely good for them.

On the other hand, having looked at the advert for Rowan Williams'successor it appears that the primate of Nigeria could tick the boxes, in which case all bets are off.

*I'm pretty sure that 99% of the people who describe themselves as Christian fundamentalists would be horrified by my claim to be one but they'll just have to with it. After all, I have to live with their claim...

Posted by Stevie at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 1:15am BST


Millions. That is implicit in everything I write. Sorry you can't see it.

Posted by john at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 8:53am BST

"If you were one of my students, I would fail you".

But would that be a mark of your orthodoxy?

Your statement only goes to prove that, as I am not your student (for which, much thanks) there is still a God in Heaven.

Have a good Holy Week. My prayers for your students.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 11:45am BST

John, we reject the views of GAFCON, Nigeria, et al., but not them. And yes, there's a difference. Part of being in community or in a family is being able to say "You're wrong" but still show up at the dinner table. You're not part of a family because you agree with the other members, but because (usually) things over which you have no control, like who gave birth to you or shares a common mother.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 12:56pm BST

Father Ron,

I am not personally 'orthodox'. I would not fail you (I certainly would fail you) by the standards of 'orthodoxy' or anywhere on the belief spectrum: I would fail you because you don't recognise valid procedures of argument. As your last comment illustrated all too clearly.

Posted by john at Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 5:57pm BST

Again - regarding the dubious claims of "exclusion" of people who are, traditionally, in the majority;

First - the basis of the argument is completely wrong: no one is excluded from Christ or Christianity by refusing to cooperate with creating these special places. The anglican tradition has long accepted the legitimacy of other expressions of Christianity as valid. The insistence that people are being "thrown out" of community reeks of religious exclusivism itself and is deplorable. We *are* in community with the RCC's, with the Orthodox, with the various Protestants, and, if they do not wish to acknowledge that we are only responsible for *our* good behavior and upbringing, not theirs.

Second - the basis of the argument is unreasonable. You speak of making, in churches that have become gradually more liberal, a place for conservatives, as if they were an endangered species, when they, we and everyone else acknowledges that they are the rule, rather than the exception, in the arena of religion. I can count, off the top of my head, five easily-available options for conservatives who reject alleged innovations to be "safe" as well as ministered to sacramentally (or lack thereof), with a wide variety of choices. Those of liberals and especially progressives within religion are extremely limited. I have to wonder about how committed to the Great Commission the so-called moderates are when they would run some completely out of the faith, so others wouldn't have to move to a differet denomination that actually agrees, in majority, with their views.

Thirdly - for us, it isn't about convenience. When we speak of discomfort with these *real* innovations of special "pockets of resistance" and tier and layers and all that, it is because we value community - not because we value not having to take the wife and kids two blocks down the street to a different church. It is because we are trying to do Christ's call, and can't while we are having to watch our backs with those who are supposed to support us. When someone claims a special oversight, or tier, community is finished and they are simply a danger to community.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 6:37am BST

You may also wish to consider, John, in the midst of your "sacrifice" which costs you nothing:

These are our lives, not a classroom. Perhaps you could reach into that boundless, saintly bosom of yours and dig out some compassion and empathy for those who really *have* been discriminated against?

Erika doesn't "see it" because it isn't there. You're too busy being the liberal "good guy."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 6:40am BST


Your remarks are far too general. I have made it clear again and again that I support full women and gay rights. In the state sphere there are no exceptions. Not very hard to 'see', surely? In the church sphere WO are here to stay and in the UK there will be women bishops. What is being talked about is minority provision for those who in good conscience can't accept them - people who I think wrong. In the gay area, things are getting better (they are). I support this process. There is still serious progress to be made. In the UK, the established status of the C of E is going to collide with the government's apparently firm intent (which I support) to introduce full gay marriage. The 'best', from their point of view, the C of E will get is freedom of conscience not to celebrate, or bless, these marriages in church. I support that freedom of conscience (though again I think it is wrong). I support these limited concessions because I am committed to liberal pluralism (within limits) and because I think the C of E is in danger of collapse. Only a small percentage of my students know anything at all about Christianity. There is a huge challenge here, which few Christians (except certain sorts of Evangelicals) acknowledge and fewer still attempt to do anything about. Our leadership is - by and large -pathetic, and not for the reasons Fr David thinks. So many of the debates we have divert focus and energy from this large task. I do also think it is an illusion to suppose that if the church gets itself 100% 'liberal', people will come flocking in. Their difficulties/uninterest are far more radical than that.

It is also the case that for historical reasons many FiF churches are in quite deprived urban areas and many keep things going rather admirably and that, apart from their anti-WO views, I find their style of service much more congenial (because it's the same as liberal Anglo-Catholic) than many Evangelical versions (though I'm happy for them within the C of E).

I accept gay people have it more 'personal' than others. I have plenty of gay friends. I've had plenty of gay experience.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 9:05am BST

I've given my answer on the church sphere, as well. They are not "too general," at all. Classroom pedantics don't count here, and seem very shrill and defensive.

I've explained to you why there will be no "loss" of the FiF people - after all, we don't pretend Dorothy Day, or St. Francis, or Nicholas of Myra don't exist because they weren't anglican, now do we? I've explained to you the difference between losing a safe place, and being forced to find a place that is more suitable for your platform among a wide variety of choices. That you clearly don't understand the reality that enshrining prejudice is an act of violence against those at whom the prejudice is aimed indicates that you really do not have any understanding at all of the depths of the damage done for centuries. I've seen your argument that these people argue from real conviction and prayerful understanding and I can tell you that that does not magically make it something other than bigotry. It doesn't matter if the fire comes from an enemy or your own troops, the bullet still does damage. See?

You are too bright not to know all of this, so, we all find ourselves asking why you insist on this provision.

I think this is very "personal" for you. You simply won't admit it, because whatever makes it personal for you is excessively distasteful to your benevolent self-image. The right-wingers, you know, won't leave the faith - they believe they own it, and will find a happier pasture from which to prognosticate our deaths, with great glee. However, you will have to deal with the fact that, if this gesture of contemptuous disregard for those who are just finding their place in Christ is carried out, you will be driving people away from Christ for right-wingers' (and your own?) convenience, nothing more.

And you are fine with that.

Having all the gay friends in the world doesn't change that. All the cries of "poor argument" and "too general" and "fail!" won't change it.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 10:20am BST

"What is being talked about is minority provision for those who in good conscience can't accept them - people who I think wrong" - John -

It still seems, John, as though you were actually in favour of PEVs - those wing'ed ephemeral creatures that defy the catholic and apostolic tradition of 'authority' in the Church.

Surely, if the nay-sayers who object to a woman bishop want to be part of a Church that canonically authorises women to minister as diocesan bishops, it is difficult for the nay-sayers to be integrated into the system .

This was the problem with 'flying Bishops in the first place. they created a 'ghetto' of nay-sayers within the koinonia of a catholic episcopate. Where is the organic unity in that situation?

On the other hand, the Pope's Ordinariate, gives the nay-sayers precisely what they want: a quasi-Anglicanism - without Women Bishops! What could meet their particular demands better than that?
Does that not sound reasonable to you?

We don't mind the nay-sayers' objection to women bishops - as long as they just humbly accept their authorised ministrations. That is the legitimate way to belong to a joint male/female-episcopally -ordered Church. After all, if Rome were to begin to ordain women, do you think they would make
special provision for anti-women congregations?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 12:20pm BST

Mark/Father Ron,

I think you both argue too simply.


it might be 'personal to me' in one sense: I have FiF friends. Sometimes, I suppose, we're in communion, sometimes we're not, mostly we are. (I'll be acolyting with one on Friday and Saturday, maybe Sunday.) It's the last bit I care about. They're not 'blackmailing' anybody, they're pretty anxious; they're not at heart papists; their options aren't actually easy; their preferred option is certainly to stay. Considering everything else that is going on in the world, or indeed in the church, I really can't get worked up about the fact that we haven't/wouldn't have 100% episcopal commonality. I just want them to be happy. I even want you to be happy. I want to be happy too. I want us all to be happy in the C of E or the Anglican communion. TA is a difficult place to be happy in.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 3:57pm BST

I think we need to provide placed for people who disagree with us not because it is good for them, but because it is good for us.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 4:46pm BST

Most of the flying bishops took their name too literally, and flew away to Rome, after causing havoc in the Church of England.

I'm not convinced we need any more...

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 3:58am BST

If you want people to "be happy," then I have very sad news for you - it won't happen on this earth.

This is not Paradise. Jesus certainly didn't make any promises about happiness in this life. I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you, especially as I am going to be answering for all soon enough, but you can't force people together who hate one another and hope for peace. Even if you make a place for them, they won't be "with" you any more than if they were Roman Catholic or Orthodox. Nor, any less. All they'll do is hurt others who've had a lifetime of being hurt and who get enough of it from those other institutions.

Will these FiF friends be any less friends if they are RC or Orthodox or Baptist? If so, are those really friends? Why do *those* friends count more than the gay friends? These FiF friends have the preferred option of staying. Others have the preferred option of not being devalued. Which is the greater call on your Christian duty?

There is no happiness to be found in dishonesty with ourselves, or others. No happiness to be found in pretence. You will sacrifice one for another just as surely as the other side will, just more permanently.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 4:58am BST

Bill, if you can convince me that your life, thought, and the "market of ideas" in the Church Universal is completely unaffected by any denomination other than my own, I'll buy the argument that there is no place being made for disagreement.

Until then, I'll say that there is a place made for disagreement. God made it. It's this planet and the lives we live on it.

If it comforts you, consider that we are in the same church family and I'm disagreeing with you.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 5:03am BST

I think you are so sure that you are doing the right thing that you are not seeing the moral choices to be made.

Rowan Williams did the same when he weighed up the moral values of unity against the moral values of fighting all kinds of discrimination. He came down on the side of unity.
I believe he made a mistake.

Maybe it isn't possible to stay squeaky clean in this debate. Maybe we have to accept that, in coming down on either side, we are doing the other an injustice.

The choice, then, is for each one of us to work out which injustice we can live with and which is the more repugnant of the two.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 8:44am BST


I do think I am doing - and arguing - the right thing - on balance, taking as many variables as possible into consideration, etc. I entirely see the moral choices to be made. There's nothing remotely difficult about seeing them. People complain that 'I am missing the point'. I entirely see the point. I see other points. I then make a considered calculus. This way of thinking is repugnant to some - in theory, bet you lots of them behave in similar ways in practice. I certainly observe many Evangelical people making similar practical compromises from their side.

Posted by john at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 12:08pm BST

in that case, I wish you didn't insist so often that those who make different moral choices are "wrong".

For my liking, your views are too close to arguing that there's no reason for black people not to sit at the back of the bus, after all, that way we can all travel together and we all reach the same destination.

What's wrong with this is not that black people might want to sit at the back of the bus but that they're not given a choice.

I happily concede that I might like to worship in a church where people live and let live.

But until we have such a church in which I can make that decision freely without it being imposed on me by others, I'm afraid, I see an intolerable moral imbalance.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 4 April 2012 at 3:48pm BST

I also would have to question how "kind" it is to basically say to the right-wingers,

"Well, your point of view is dying out anyway, so we'll set you over there, where you can talk amongst yourselves with nothing to do with us, and nowhere to go, and nothing to do until you die and we don't have to deal with the pain of you leaving - see how nice we are!"

Looked at with any degree of compassion, the flying-bishop nonsense, argued for by "moderates" is the equivalent of locking the crazy Uncle in the attic until he dies so that we don't look bad in public . . . or feel that we've failed.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 5 April 2012 at 4:51am BST

John, I understand that you are not a priest. Correct me if I'm wrong. That makes absolutely no difference to your membership of the Body of Christ. However, if you are not a priest, then you would not have had the experience of being called by God into priestly orders in the Church.

Some women in the Church sincerely believe that they have received a call from God into priestly ministry and the fact that some of these are now ordained into various Anglican communities is a reality.

The Anglican Church was, in my opinion, in error in allowing PEVs to intervene in those dioceses where women were installed as clergy, or where the local Diocesan Bishop was known to be favourable to, or had taken part in the ordination of, women priests. This set up a two-tier level of priestly ministry in the Church of England.

You now have the situation where this distinction is being further institutionalised by the threat of a continuation of discrimination (by a small but vocal group) against the jurisdiction of a Woman Diocesan Bishop. This is neither catholic nor just to the local Woman Bishop. Nor is it helpful for the collegiality of the Bishops of the Church. Either the local bishop has jurisdiction of all that goes on in his/her diocese, or the whole system of episcopal authority breaks down.

Those who will not accept the authority of a female bishop are ipso facto 'out of communion' with the Anglican Church's episcopate. How can that be 'catholic'?

The real 'conscientious objectors' have left - for the Ordinariate, which allows ex-Anglicans to pretend to remain Anglican while being spared the perceived indignity of a woman bishop. You can't have it both ways!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 6 April 2012 at 11:27am BST
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