Thinking Anglicans

Anglican Covenant: Manchester Diocesan Synod

Updated Saturday afternoon to add numbers of abstentions
Updated Sunday to correct date of Southwell & Nottingham synod

Manchester diocesan synod voted on the Anglican Covenant motion this morning.

The motion in favour of the covenant was defeated in all three houses.

Bishops: 1 for / 2 against / 0 abstentions
Clergy: 15 for / 25 against / 0 abstentions
Laity: 12 for / 23 against / 7 abstentions

With this result the current figures are 25 diocesan synods against and 15 in favour of the Covenant.

The remaining four dioceses will vote after Easter: Southwell & Nottingham (21 April), Chichester (21 April), Newcastle (28 April) and York (28 April).



Sarah Dylan Breuer writes: Don’t make me Moses: On spiritually hazardous uses of models and metaphors.

Andrew Nunn (the Dean of Southwark) preached this sermon at the Consecration of the Bishops of Croydon and Woolwich.

Peter Price (the Bishop of Bath and Wells) preached this sermon at a commemoration service for Archbishop Oscar Romero: Church ‘obsessed with morality at the expense of justice’.

Paul Brandeis interviewed Elaine Pagels for The Huffington Post: Elaine Pagels’ New Book Offers ‘Revelations’ On The Book Of Revelation.

1 Comment

Comments on an archbishop's resignation

Much has been written about the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his acceptance of the Mastership of Magdalene College Cambridge. Much of this has not been worth reading, but here are some of the better articles.

Benjamin Myers in Times Higher Education: An inclusive mission

Stephen Crittenden in The Global Mail: The Philosopher Priest

Giles Fraser in The Guardian: Rowan Williams was brilliant, but failed to bridge chasm of divided church

George Conger in the Church of England Newspaper: The Rowan Williams years and Overseas reactions to Dr. Williams’ resignation

The Tablet has this editorial: Wanted: Superhuman Anglican.


Consultation opens on the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury

Link to advertisement added

Press release

Consultation opens on the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury

30 March 2012

Announcements in the Church Times, Church of England Newspaper and The Times have started the consultation process ahead of consideration by the Crown Nominations Commission as to who will follow Dr Rowan Williams as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is the first time the process for nominating a new Archbishop of Canterbury has begun with such an announcement, following changes to introduce more transparency in the appointment of bishops.

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams will be stepping down from the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 31st December 2012.

Any person wishing to comment on the challenges and opportunities that should be taken in to account in considering the appointment of his successor or who wishes to propose candidates should email, by Monday 30th April, to .

Comments and proposals can also be sent in writing to one of the following:

Sir Paul Britton,
Prime Minister’s Secretary for Appointments
c/o Honours and Appointments Secretariat
Admiralty Arch
The Mall

Ms. Caroline Boddington
Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments
The Wash House
Lambeth Palace

The linked press release gives more detail on the procedure. The same material can also be found here.

This link shows the advertisement.


Church press on the Anglican Covenant defeat in England

The Church of Ireland Gazette has this editorial opinion: Anglican Covenant, Anglicanism and The Church of Ireland.

It might well be said that the unthinkable happened last weekend, with the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant coming to grief in the Church of England of all places (report, page 1). Yet, that is precisely what happened, and it will surely go down in the annals of Anglican history. The Covenant had been intended as an agreement with procedures that would help keep the Anglican Communion in one piece when facing contentious issues. Undoubtedly, it arose as a result of the inter-Anglican same-sex relationships controversy that has now seen its own fraught manifestation in the Church of Ireland playing out since last autumn and occasioning, earlier this month, a unique Bishops’ Conference on the topic for General Synod members.

One aspect of the Church of England débâcle that no doubt will be the subject of careful consideration in the relevant quarters is the fact that in some of the diocesan synods the voting was very close. In theory, following reflection at the English General Synod on what has transpired, the Covenant could be put back on the table in the Church of England after a lapse of three years, but there are at least two reasons why this is unlikely: first, as the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has pointed out, the Covenant is facing difficulties in some other parts of the Communion and, second, in any case, the passage of time and considerable disagreements about it have left the Covenant unable really to deal with the differences in the Communion over same-sex relationships. Other divisive issues could, of course, arise, but it is difficult to see all the requisite superabundance of energy actually now being summoned to recover and progress the Covenant (perhaps).

The moral of the story has at least two dimensions. First, from a practical perspective, when faced with a divisive crisis, setting up a bureaucratic procedure that is going to take years to get anywhere, if it is to get anywhere at all, is hardly a good idea. If anyone thought that ‘buying time’ would allow the same-sex relationships imbroglio to subside, that was a very mistaken notion, and we in the Church of Ireland do need to take note of that as we face our own difficulties over the issue.

Second, from a more conceptual perspective, we now know, as surely as we can know, that Anglicanism is set to remain a Communion of wholly autonomous Churches, bound together by ‘bonds of affection’. It should be added, however, that such mutual affection is far from a weak ideal; it is, in fact, a considerable calling and it is surely true that at times we do have to work at loving one another. There has been talk about being in communion implying ‘interdependence’ and thus justifying central regulation, however light, but that interdependence argument is actually quite vague because everything in the world is interdependent and, from an ecclesiological perspective, all Christians of whatever denomination, in communion or out of communion, are interdependent. Thus, as Anglicans, we are all, across the globe, now challenged to ponder our affection for one another and, where it is waning, to seek to nurture it carefully and prayerfully….

The Church Times has this leader: After the Covenant.

ANYONE offered a welcoming doughnut and a seat near the projector on arrival at church on Sunday would probably have guessed that it was one of the growing number of Messy Church services. But even if things looked normal, they weren’t. After the diocesan votes on the previous day, it is all Messy Church. The Anglican Covenant — an attempt to introduce order to the Communion — was tipped into oblivion, at least as far as the Church of England goes.

Without the Covenant, it was argued, national Churches had no formal obligation to consider the “relational consequences” (a coinage of the Covenant text) of their actions on other Churches in the Communion. Dr Williams warned that, without the Covenant, he found it “hard at present to see another way forward that would avoid further disintegration”. 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.
In the end, Anglicans have discovered what another ecclesial body might have told them from the start: in the present age, a text cannot hold Churches together in the way that a person can. Given that no text will be perfect, a degree of affection is needed to persuade people to subscribe. An individual can earn that affection; a text (poetry excepted), never — especially a text monitored by a standing committee that few understand and none recognise. Time and again in the General Synod, affection for Dr Williams carried members along; but he was absent in the diocesan synods, and the link was broken…

Giles Fraser writes Covenant is dead. Long live unity.

I WILL not disguise my joy at the death of the Anglican Covenant. And death it is — despite the fact that some people will inevitably try to give its corpse the kiss of life. The idea that the Church of England has given it so emphatic a thumbs-down, especially in the face of huge episcopal and archiepiscopal lobby­ing, is evidence of how un­popular the idea is in the pews.

Here, the majority of bishops have shown themselves to be completely out of touch with the centre of gravity of the Church of England. It is not that we do not care about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Communion. It is simply that we want our Christian solidarity to be expressed through our Anglican heritage, our common baptism, and the development of friendships — and not through a treaty that can be haggled over by church politicians, the purpose of which was always to isolate those Churches that had a different view of sexual ethics…

And there is a news report by Ed Thornton Challenges remain, Primate warns, after dioceses block Anglican Covenant.

…Speaking on Monday, Dr Williams said: “This is, of course, a disap­pointing outcome for many of us in the Church of England and many more in the Communion. Unfor­tunately, the challenges the Covenant was meant to address will not go away just because people vote against it.

“We shall still have to work at 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.”

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, a patron of the Yes to the Covenant Coalition, said on Tuesday that he was “disappointed”; but “we have to trust the mind of the Church. I simply hope that the Anglican Communion can flourish a different way, without what I thought was its best hope.”
The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, who voted against the Covenant in Oxford diocesan synod, said that its defeat in the C of E was an “opportunity to grow up, to take stock, and to get real. It’s very sad that a large number of bishops were out of touch on this one.”


Anglican Covenant: London Diocesan Synod

London diocesan synod voted on the Anglican Covenant motion this evening.

The motion in favour of the covenant was lost, being defeated in both the houses of laity and clergy.

Bishops: 2 for / 1 against / 0 abstentions
Clergy: 17 for / 32 against / 1 abstention
Laity: 26 for / 33 against / 2 abstentions

These are the confirmed figures taken from the diocesan website, please ignore earlier incorrect results taken from a garbled tweet.

With this result the current figures are 24 diocesan synods against and 15 in favour of the Covenant.


C of E Group on human sexuality appoints advisers

Church of England press release:

Group on human sexuality appoints advisers

29 March 2012

The group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling to advise the House of Bishops on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality has appointed three advisers. They are the Revd Dr Jessica Martin, Priest-in-charge of Duxford, of Hinxton and of Ickleton, Dr Robert Song, Head of Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion, and the Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney.

Jessica Martin reflected on and wrote about the House of Bishops statement Some Issues in Human Sexuality in her former role as a Cambridge academic. Robert Song is a Senior Lecturer in Christian Ethics and President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics. Rachel Treweek has been an Archdeacon, first in Northolt and now in Hackney, since 2006.

The House of Bishops announced on 1 July, 2011, that it intended to draw together material from the listening process undertaken within the Church of England over recent years in the light of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution. It also committed itself to offering proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. The task of Sir Joseph’s group, announced in January, is to help the House discharge its commitment to produce a consultation document…


Dissolving the Court of Lambeth Palace

George Pitcher wrote an article for last week’s edition of the New Statesman which is now available to the public.

See How Rowan took on the establishment – and lost. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, longed to take risks but was thwarted by Church courtiers and cronies more concerned with their own survival.

The article should be read in full, but here is a sample:

…There is now an opportunity for renewal. Rowan has announced his departure at the end of the year. The chiefs of staff at Lambeth Palace and Church House, too, will soon be on their way. The new Archbishop of Canterbury has a golden opportunity to streamline and to make the support structures of the Church of England and, by extension, the Anglican Communion, more effective for and better suited to the 21st century. Something similar has already been achieved in the civil service; it’s high time that the administration of the English Church underwent another reformation.

Here are my suggestions, born of bitter experience but offered without rancour. The new archbishop should sweep away the top-heavy management of Lambeth Palace, discarding the courtly structures in favour of a small personal staff. He probably needs no more than a diary secretary, a chaplain and a junior press officer. All other executive functions would move to Church House in Westminster, where the Archbishop has an administrative office. There would be a single chief of staff, with oversight over both the Archbishop’s and the Church of England’s staff. The next most senior position is another single post that could merge all functions – call her or him, say, director of strategy and communications – to which all public affairs and media functions would report…


What the Strasbourg Court didn't say

Recently, there were claims in the British press that the European Court of Human Rights had issued a new ruling to the effect that “same sex marriage is not a human right”. These claims appeared in the Daily Mail, and in the Telegraph, though the latter subsequently amended its article to remove the errors that had been brought to their attention.

The situation was well explained in this article at The Blog That Peter Wrote titled The Case Against Same Sex Marriage.

…The Mail today reported on the Strassbourg case of Gas/Dubois v France. It relates to a lesbian couple in a French civil union, who complained that they were discriminated against because they could not adopt as a couple. The ruling is in French and is here. My French is no longer fluent, but I waded through it and also looked at the English summary which can be downloaded here if you are interested. The court found against the couple and expressly recognised (as it has done before) that a signatory state has to the right to discriminate against same-sex couples by not allowing them the right to marry if it so chooses.

The Mail, and the Telegraph [See Footnote] in a near virtual copy of the original article curiously reported that “the ruling also says that if gay couples are allowed to marry, any church that offers weddings will be guilty of discrimination if it declines to marry same-sex couples”. That is a pretty startling aspect that would drive a horse and cart through the government’s statement to the contrary.

It is also, as far as I can see, entirely wrong. There is nothing that I can find in the French ruling or the English summary to this effect. It is important to note that if there had been, of course, it would have been obiter in the sense that the court was looking at whether the couple had the right to adopt under a civil union, not considering hypothetical situations that do not exist. Further, the English law doctrine of binding precedent does not apply to ECHR judgements, so it would additionally have provided persuasive guidance rather than hard case law to be followed. But again, let’s get back to the point: it’s not in the ruling…

And he concludes:

Let me summarise: the Gas/Dubois ruling expressly confirmed the right of ECHR states to discriminate against gay people in matters of marriage. It did not discuss what I think is a key question of the interplay of the Article 9 Right of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion with the right of a gay person not to be discriminated against, where a state does have same-sex marriage. The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Belgium all have full same-sex marriage. Any court actions in these countries attempting to force a clergyman to marry against his conscience in these countries would, I am sure, have been widely reported. Certainly nothing has reached Strassbourg.

This is only my opinion, but I think it is widely fanciful to suppose that, in the light of its repeated view that gay people can be discriminated against by their countries, Strassbourg would currently take on the church in this way and rule that the rights of a gay person to get married in church outweigh Article 9 rights. It is scare-mongering, it is conjecture, and it is not based on any jurisprudence I am aware of to pretend it is fact this would be the case…


Court judgment (only in French)

English summary of court judgment

Telegraph article as amended

Daily Mail article (has not been corrected)

And just today, there is a detailed discussion of this case, and its press coverage at UK Human Rights Blog titled Can a homosexual person adopt his or her partner’s child? The case of Gas and Dubois v France.


Anglican Covenant: further reactions to its English rejection

Bishop Alan Wilson has written Boot and Reboot?

The boot goes into the Anglican Covenant. Time to reboot?

We could try to defibrillate the whole thing hoping that somehow this process that has just split the Church of England down the middle will somehow transmute into a great Focus of Unity. That way madness lies — stupidity that repeats the same mistake over again, hoping for a different result. Another very English option is to pretend nothing really happened, sit on our hands going “ho-hum” whilst, as Covenant supporters sometimes prognosticated, the sky falls in, or not.

Wouldn’t it be healthier to acknowledge reality? Take this as an invitation to look at the painful image in the mirror. Bishops were largely out of touch. In spite of, nay, because of our infantilised “Daddy knows best” culture, Daddy got it wrong. The troops did not buy a well-intentioned attempt to lick us into denominational shape. Much heavy covenant sell failed to persuade. It did not explain why or how bureaucratic accountability would improve on a free relationship of equals. Always start with “why?”

Bishop Graham Kings has written Communion Connections:Web of Mutuality or Fragmentation?

…It seems to me that there are three options for the future shape of the Anglican Communion. First, the ‘web of mutuality’ manifested in the Covenant, which provides autonomy and interdependence with accountability. This is the broad centre ground of those who vote for the Covenant, and includes the leaders of the Communion-minded Global South Anglican movement, based in Singapore.

Second, ‘confessionalism’, gathered around the Jerusalem Declaration of the conservative Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), the follow up group to the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON). Based currently in Nairobi, FCA hosts a conference in London from 23-27 April, at which some members of the Global South Anglican Movement will also attend.

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

Following further likely controversial decisions of TEC’s General Convention in July, there may well be more fragmentation between the first two and the third options. These decisions, together with the English vote, may lead to the Anglican Communion declining into a Federation or Association…

Benjamin Guyer has written Defending the Bishops which is a reply to Diarmaid MacCulloch’s article in the Guardian linked here previously.

…MacCulloch’s arguments are weak at best. But there is something more going on here than poor reasoning, for MacCulloch is advancing an idiosyncratic argument in favor of populism. On the one hand, vox populi non vox Dei est (the voice of the people is not the voice of God). The bishops are not now, never have been, and never will be under any obligation simply to follow the laity. The Church of England is the whole ecclesiastical body. To borrow from St. Paul, the body is “made up of many parts” (1 Cor. 12:12). There is no theological reason why one ecclesiastical office should be collapsed into another. Curiously, and in an oversimplification bordering upon historical falsehood, MacCulloch asserts that once upon a time the British episcopal churches “wanted to monopolise every form of religious expression.” But by demanding that the bishops sacrifice their voice, it is MacCulloch and his supporters who desire such monopoly. MacCulloch’s anti-authoritarianism thinly veils his own longing for domination and control.

Since at least the British civil wars of the 1640s, marginal groups with revolutionary intentions have claimed that they alone speak for “the people.” But such totalizing declarations should be met with considerable skepticism. Claiming to speak for the people may be both an act of deception and an act of manipulation. 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. Only a grand conspiracy theory can hold otherwise. Such theories may appeal to some of the now-aged children of the 1960s, but we live in the 21st century. And today MacCulloch’s writing has been shown — yet again — to be selective, speculative, tendentious and agenda-ridden.

Benny Hazlehurst has written Anglican Covenant – Rest in Peace.

…The fact that so many clergy and lay people voted against their Bishops showed that when they really looked beneath the surface of the proposed Covenant, they found it wanting. And in doing so time and time again, they defeated the platform. And where Bishops had the courage of their convictions and voted against, they found themselves at one with their flock, rather than trying to drag them along in humble submission.

There are those who are still trying to pretend that the Covenant is still alive, desperately trying to breathe life into its limp body, while claiming still to feel the faintest pulse. They are mistaken.

What is needed now is to recognise the will of the Synodical process, and express deep and sincere thanks to those who genuinely tried to find a way forward for the Anglican Communion in the form of a Covenant – and to let it now Rest in Peace.


more reactions to the Anglican Covenant's rejection in England

Yes to the Covenant has issued this press release (not yet on its website):


Supporters of the Anglican Communion Covenant have expressed their deep regret at the decision by the majority of Church of England Dioceses not to support the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant. Although in total more people in Diocesan Synods voted for the Covenant than against it, the rules required a majority of both clergy and laity in favour in each Diocese in order for it to go through. The decisions means that the Covenant has now been officially rejected by the Church of England, and will not be going forward for ratification by the General Synod later in the year.

Prudence Dailey, a member of General Synod and co-founder of the ‘Yes to the Covenant’ campaign, said: ‘I deeply regret what I believe to be a profoundly mistaken decision, especially when the General Synod had previously given the Covenant such overwhelming support. Many in the worldwide Anglican Communion were pinning their hopes on the Covenant as the only way forward, and I cannot help wondering what they—and especially those Provinces that have already ratified the Covenant—will make of us in the Church of England’.

She indicated that she hoped those dioceses yet to vote would still take the voting seriously to enable the mind of the whole Church of England to be reflected, and that many of them would vote in favour. Although this would not affect the outcome, it would be symbolically significant, she explained.

‘At the same time’, she said, ‘it is now necessary to look forwards rather than back. Many Provinces have already ratified the Covenant, and others may well do so; and its provisions will remain in force for those who have signed up to it. The new Archbishop of Canterbury has now potentially been left with an even more difficult and challenging task than his predecessor, but I hope and pray that a way can still be found to keep Anglicans together in a meaningful and coherent sense’. It remained to be seen whether or not it would still be possible for the Church of England to remain in any sense at the heart of the Anglican Communion, she added.

Andrew Brown has written at Cif belief about The Anglican schism. The international Anglican communion was always a rather ridiculous notion, but liberals may not like what replaces it

Historians know it is difficult to date a schism, just as it’s difficult to point to the precise row when a marriage breaks down. But in his article for the Guardian, Diarmaid MacCulloch might, I think, have pointed out that the end of the covenant also marks the end of the Anglican communion, which was always a slightly ridiculous conception, and more of an idea than an administrative reality. I still think that the single most perfectly comic line that George Carey ever delivered in his previous role as archbishop of Canterbury, was his statement to the UN general assembly that “The Anglican communion, with 80m members, is well placed to be a major player”.

Carey’s grandiosity can be put in proportion by remembering that 30 million of the Anglicans he purported to lead when he said that, were in England, most of them quite unaware of his existence.

But that doesn’t mean the communion was nothing but a comedy act, nor that its end is an entirely good thing. Christians ought to be able to agree without discipline, and for many years it appeared that the Anglican communion might offer a model for how they could do so across huge cultural and national boundaries. What, after all, did the church in New Zealand have in common with that in Nigeria, except for the accident that both descended from British colonies? For nearly 150 years, the idea of the Anglican communion seemed to supply some kind of answer: they cared about each other, and cared to some extent for each other. Once every ten years, their bishops would come to Canterbury to demonstrate this, at a shindig called the Lambeth conference…

The Anglican Communion Institute has published The Communion After Williams.

…Given the current state of the Instruments of Communion – Canterbury, Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC – it is likely that many African and Asian churches will simply choose not to participate in these councils and relationships. The Covenant, precisely in its likely rejection by the Church of England and other Western churches, can now provide an alternative means of Anglican witness for non-Western churches that is nonetheless able to maintain its links with ongoing Communion structures. Saying “No” to the Covenant is something the Covenant itself acknowledges as possible, and churches like England’s are exercising that choice. But no one can say “No” in such a way as to co-opt the choice of others to say “Yes”, and it is for those who embrace the Covenant now to chart its common usefulness, which remains one of rich possibility. In general, the key to the Covenant’s dynamic adaptation to the needs of its adopting members lies in the fact that its ongoing shape and application is under the exclusive governance of those who have adopted it. And key to its potential unifying role in the future are its origins, content, and intrinsic interest in the older structures and membership of the Communion itself.

Three elements now place a wedge between any future covenanting Anglican churches and not only the Church of England, but the current Instruments of Communion themselves. First, the Covenant itself grants a functional role to the Archbishop of Canterbury within the Instruments of Communion (3.1.4); second, after its recent legal reorganization, the ACC is now an English company, whose membership for purposes of English law is the Standing Committee, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is an ex officio member; third, Paragraph 4.2.8 of the Covenant limits participation in the Instruments for purposes of the Covenant to “those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.” It is difficult to see, then, how the current Instruments can function for the Covenant, without the Church of England, in the absence of substantial clarification of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a “representative” of the Church of England. The problem with the current Instruments is only magnified by the near certainty that other western churches, who collectively exercise disproportionate influence over the Instruments, will refuse the Covenant as well.

Fortunately, the Covenant already lays out the procedural means for resolving these difficulties through its amendment provision. Paragraph 4.4.2 provides that any “covenanting Church” (or Instrument) can propose an amendment, which will take effect when ratified by three quarters of the covenanting Churches. A proposed amendment is to be submitted “through” the Standing Committee, which solicits advice and makes recommendations; but the Standing Committee’s role is mandatory not discretionary. It has no discretion to refrain from sending the proposal to the covenanting Churches for ratification. If for any reason the Standing Committee failed to send the proposed amendment out as required in dereliction of its duty, the covenanting Churches could simply deem that procedural step waived. And it must be emphasized that neither the Instruments nor the non-covenanting Churches have any ability either to amend the Covenant or to interfere in the decision of the covenanting Churches to amend. The Covenant now lies outside their control. The Covenant offers a way out of the impasse Williams’ resignation has now exposed. And it does so in a fashion that is continuous with the Communion’s own movement and spirit of counsel – it is, in other words, ecclesially legitimate…


Anglican Covenant rejection in England: various reactions


The No Anglican Covenant Coalition issued this press release.

The Guardian has published this article by Diarmaid MacCulloch The Anglican church can start afresh. The recent vote against the Anglican covenant is hugely significant. But are the bishops ready to listen?

…So now Anglicanism needs to move forward and forget this sorry diversion, into which many perfectly well-meaning people poured a huge amount of energy over a decade when they might have been doing something useful. Woe betide any attempt to revive it, though I notice that the secretary general of the Anglican communion (now there’s an office that sounds ripe for culling) is clearly determined to keep it alive. To judge by a press statement he issued after the votes, he simply hasn’t understood the scale of the catastrophe the covenant has suffered at the hands of ordinary English Anglicans.

Anglicanism has the chance to rediscover painful lessons from its chequered past. After the 16th century Reformation, Scotland, Ireland and England all had churches with bishops. All three churches wanted to monopolise every form of religious expression throughout the realm. All failed.

In the end, episcopal churches were disestablished in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but even the established Church of England learned that it could not boss around an entire nation, and had to accept that it ministered within a country of many faiths and none. That is a precious lesson to teach its many sister churches worldwide. Try and lay down the law in that delicate, nuanced thing that is religious belief, and you end up damaging or hurting a great many people.

Anglicanism could be seen as a family: in families, you don’t expect everyone to think in exactly the same way. You listen, you shout, cry, talk, compromise. You do not show the door to one member of the family, just because you don’t agree with them. Now Anglicans can start listening afresh. The present archbishop of Canterbury has their warm good wishes, as he prepares to use his many talents and graces in a different setting. They should ask the next man or woman in the job to reconnect with the church and the nation.

Fulcrum has published this article by Andrew Goddard The Anglican Communion Covenant and the Church of England: Ramifications.

Executive Summary

  • The Church of England cannot reconsider the covenant until 2015.
  • Although diocesan votes are quite strongly against, actual votes cast remain marginally for the covenant and English supporters need to continue advocating for the covenant and its vision.
  • The covenant will continue to be considered around the Communion – eight provinces have embraced it and ACC in November will take stock but cannot end the process. * Other provinces should be encouraged to adopt the covenant despite the English decision.
  • The Church of England remains a full member of the Communion.
  • Although the CofE’s representatives cannot now participate in decision-making about the covenant within the Instruments of Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as an Instrument rather than a provincial representative, may be able to do so.
  • There continue to be 3 visions of communion within the Communion – (1) the covenant vision of autonomy and interdependence with accountability, (2) the confessional GAFCON vision and (3) the TEC autonomy-as-independence vision. Only the first vision is likely to get the support of most provinces as, though different, it is compatible with the second but not the third vision.
  • The Communion now must choose between two main paths of significant reconfiguration – (A) A covenant-focussed Communion but with the Church of England outside the covenant, (B) A looser, more incoherent Communion with various networks within or possibly separate from it.
  • Archbishop Rowan’s via media approach of holding the Communion together by enabling conversation within the framework of upholding the Windsor Report, Lambeth I.10 and the covenant now needs major restructuring if it is to survive.
  • Neither the Communion nor the Church of England can remain unchanged by this development which makes it harder for Anglicanism’s distinctive historic tradition and global communion of churches to “survive with all its aspects intact”.

Anglican Mainstream has published Anglican Communion Covenant will not be debated by CofE General Synod.

…Bishop Michael Nazir Ali said that “I am disappointed that the Anglican Communion Covenant, even in its watered down version,has failed to gain the support of the Church of England. This now means that the Jerusalem Statement (2008) is now ‘The only game in town.’”

In which connection, there is this announcement of a GAFCON meeting in London in April.


Here are two more analyses:

Pluralist Analysis of the Anglican Futures

In terms of the Anglican Communion, the balkanisation that was taking place will now obviously continue. There will be those Anglicans who do use the Covenant, which will be like a declaration to each other of being relatively conservative. There will be those Anglicans of the Jerusalem Declaration (who may and may not also Covenant – see below why probably not) who are producing a strongly doctrinal Protestant version of Anglicanism. Then there will be those leaving open a more flexible future outside any Covenant.

Whatever happens, Anglicans of the confessional and doctrinal type are going to be competitive. I can’t see the Covenant as a process being sufficient for them, but then they have additional statements. The real issue for them is how they try on international oversight via their own Primates’ Council and attempt to compete using fellowship structures. Churches ‘taken on’ by them will have to force the GAFCON/ FCA into independence, possibly then forming an Anglican Church of Northern Europe (or similar title) to parallel ACNA (or have one ACN).

The fact is that if an Anglican congregation decides to ignore the diocesan bishop and seek fellowship structures and international oversight instead, the congregation will lose its church building and the parish restored. Those seeking other oversight will have to leave and be self-sufficient, and this is the means by which ‘entryism’ if practised becomes separation. There aren’t the property issues as in North America but there are issues of dioceses and structures.

The Church of England will have competition within from outside as one faction but it will also have those who dream of Covenanting. These hopefuls (of reintroducing legislation) will include diocesan bishops who can behave as if they are Covenanting. They might even declare themselves ‘Windsor Compliant bishops’, but some would do so knowing they didn’t carry their own dioceses with them. But dioceses cannot join the Covenant, and it was invasive of Rowan Williams to suggest that some American bishops could escape their own province. Only by being competitive, can they: canon law is by Church, not Communion or Covenant. One could only see such an outcome of ‘Windsor Compliants’ popping up within the Church of England if the Conservative Evangelicals were invasive in terms of competition and nothing much was being done about them…

Paul Bagshaw A personal postmortem

…The Church of England

  • The defeat will echo round the CofE’s structures of governance for some time to come.
  • It puts a question mark against the relationship of bishop to diocese (or, at least, to diocesan synod). Some will draw the lesson that new ways must be found to reduce opposition to the leadership; others, that better – more open, more 2-way communication – working relations between leadership and the rest of the diocese is needed.
  • Synodical government itself came under great strain. Win or lose, the tactics used by some bishops, and the Covenant’s inherent overweaning character, was designed to marginalise voters and thus, to diminish the whole system of synodical government.
  • This was possible because it had been steadily weakened over years. The normal tone of deference, the occasional note of ‘fear’ of opposing the bishops, the appeal to loyalty as a motive to vote, all undermine rational and prayerful decision making.
  • The premium placed on the univocal character of the House of Bishops in recent times may either be reinforced or called into question.
  • Will liberals feel emboldened again (after 20 years of Evangelicals making the running)?
  • If so, will an increasingly liberal Church of England move further away from the churches of the Global South, schism or no schism?
  • Establishment will be untouched by this – though it might have been had the Covenant been implemented…

Peter Carrell The Anglican Association and the Anglican Communion

Ideas have their time and some ideas find their time does not come according to their supporters timetable. The Anglican Covenant may prove to be such an idea as a proposal for the Anglican Communion. (It has clearly proved in the last few days to be an idea whose time has not yet come for the Church of England). As the Living Church editorial I pointed to yesterday says, we can look back to 1963 and the Toronto Congress to see that the notion of mutual responsibility and interdependence has charted the evolution of the Communion for nearly fifty years:

“The [No Anglican Covenant] coalition’s opposition to the Covenant has principally centered on a sustained disinterest in global Communion structures, funded by an unhappy amnesia (at best, ignorance at worst) regarding the modern evolution of the Anglican Communion. Among other things, prescribed reading for all members of the NACC, and those tempted to follow them, would include the report from the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ, which charted the course for inter-Anglican conversation of the last half century in a visionary, missionary mode.”

Will future historians look back and see that the Anglican Covenant’s rejection by sufficient member churches to prevent its effective implementation was just a hiccup on the way to fulfilment of the Toronto vision? Were that to be so then the next period of Communion life will likely show signs of the situation being a hiccup rather than a dead end. Here is how our global life might play out over the next few decades…


Anglican Covenant: analysis of the voting so far

Alan Perry has been keeping tally of the voting statistics in English dioceses, and following last Saturday’s six further results, he has issued the following report:

…There was some confusion in the tally of Oxford’s votes, which has made the update of the statistics difficult, because I had to decide how to include them. There is no doubt about the end result in Oxford: the Covenant proposal was defeated in the House of Clergy. (Oxford, recall, is the home of the Yes to the Covenant campaign.) In the end, I chose to average the numbers, rounding. So, reported numbers for Oxford are:

Clergy: 14/15 for, 36/38 against, 2 abstentions
Laity: 32/35 for, 24/29 against, 3 abstentions.

I have included:

Clergy: 15 for, 37 against, 2 abstentions
Laity: 34 for, 27 against, 3 abstentions.

Bearing that in mind, total voting statistics now stand at:

Bishops: 79.5% for, 14.1% against, 6.4% abstentions
Clergy: 45.7% for, 50.1% against, 4.3% abstentions
Laity: 48.6% for, 46.4% against, 5.0% abstentions

Overall: 48.1% for, 47.2% against, 4.7% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 47.3% for, 48.1% against, 4.7% abstentions

The overwhelming support for the Covenant by the bishops pushes the total to a slim plurality of support for it, but when their votes are excluded from the counting (as their votes don’t actually count in the diocesan totals) the reverse is true. Except amongst the bishops, it is clear that the members of the diocesan synods that have voted to date are almost exactly evenly divided as to whether the Covenant ought to be adopted by the Church of England, though there is a significant margin and a majority against adoption amongst the clergy…


Little Gidding Pilgrimage

Saturday 19 May

For nearly 400 years pilgrims have been drawn to Little Gidding in the north of the diocese of Ely, ever since the saintly Nicholas Ferrar and his family lived there in the early seventeenth century.

You are warmly invited to join the annual Pilgrimage to Little Gidding
commemorating the life and example of Nicholas Ferrar.

This year’s pilgrimage is led by Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely and President of the Friends of Little Gidding.

Join the celebration of Holy Communion in Leighton Bromswold Church
whose restoration was funded by George Herbert and directed by the Ferrars

Share lunch with fellow pilgrims

Enjoy the gentle walk through the Huntingdonshire countryside
from Leighton Bromswold to Little Gidding
(about five miles along the country roads, with three short stations for prayer and rest)

Gather round the tomb of Nicholas Ferrar for prayer

Sing Evening Prayer at Little Gidding ‘where prayer has been valid’
(preacher: Bishop Stephen; choir: the Hurstingstone Singers)

Delight in Tea and conversation at Ferrar House

For more details see or see below the fold.



Have eight provinces adopted the Covenant?

The Secretary General writes: “I have received notifications from eight Provinces…” but this is not the whole story.

The promoters of the document have insisted that it has to be adopted exactly as it stands, and that adopting it only in part, or with amendments to the text, is not an option.

Item: he lists Southern Africa, which has not yet completed its process.

Item: he lists Ireland, which insisted that it had “subscribed” and evidently thought that it was important not to have used the word “adopted”. This may be an Irish subtlety too far for the rest of us to understand.

Item: he lists South East Asia which can only be said to have adopted the existing text by the application of Humpty Dumpty logic. Here is the link to the full text of their Preamble to the Letter of Accession.

So I would say that at the present time the number of adopters is really only six (including Ireland).


English Covenant votes – press reports

A few reports have already appeared in the press about the rejection of the Anglican Communion Covenant by a majority of Church of England diocesan synods.

Avril Ormsby for Reuters English church votes down pact to unite Anglicans

BBC Half of the Church of England’s dioceses reject unity covenant including Analysis by Robert Pigott

The Independent CoE votes against covenant on divisive issues

And there is a mention towards the end of this article by Cole Moreton and Edward Malnick in The Telegraph Twitter users invited to help choose the new Archbishop of Canterbury.



Rachel Held Evans has written 15 Reasons I Left Church and 15 Reasons I Returned to The Church.

Bart Ehrman asks in The Huffington Post Did Jesus Exist?

1 Comment

The Secretary General on the Anglican Communion Covenant

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has just issued this press release.

The Secretary General on the Anglican Communion Covenant
Posted On : March 24, 2012 3:58 PM | Posted By : Admin ACO
Related Categories: ACO

In the light of today’s news about the decisions of the dioceses of the Church of England about the Covenant I wanted to clarify the current situation across the Anglican Communion.

In December 2009, as requested by the Standing Committee, I sent the text of The Anglican Communion Covenant to all the Member Churches of the Anglican Communion asking that they consider it for adoption according to their own internal procedures.

I have received notifications from eight Provinces that they have approved, or subscribed, the Covenant or, in the case of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have approved pending ratification at the next synod which is usual procedure in that Province.

These Provinces are:
The Church of Ireland
The Anglican Church of Mexico
The Church of the Province of Myanmar
The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea
The Church of the Province of South East Asia
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America
The Church in the Province of the West Indies

What next steps are taken by the Church of England is up to that Province. Consideration of the Covenant continues across the Anglican Communion and this was always expected to be a lengthy process. I look forward to all the reports of progress to date at the ACC-15 in New Zealand in November.

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon


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Commenting has now been re-enabled.

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(TA techie)


Anglican Covenant: six more Diocesan Synods

This Saturday six more diocesan synods voted on the Anglican Covenant motion: Blackburn, Exeter, Guildford, Lincoln, Oxford and Peterborough.

Three Synods voted against (Guildford, Lincoln and Oxford) and three in favour (Blackburn, Exeter and Peterborough). With these results the current figures are 23 diocesan synods against and 15 in favour.

It is therefore impossible for a majority of the 44 dioceses to vote in favour. Consequently the proposed adoption of the Covenant cannot return to the General Synod in this quinquennium (ending in 2015). After that any consideration of the Covenant would have to start again and include a new reference to the dioceses.

Blackburn: covenant accepted

Bishops: 2 for / 0 against / 0 abstentions
Clergy: 40 for / 7 against / 1 abstention
Laity: 33 for / 16 against / 1 abstention

Exeter: covenant accepted

Bishops: 3 for / 0 against / 0 abstentions
Clergy: 28 for / 8 against / 1 abstention
Laity: 30 for / 20 against / 2 abstentions

Guildford: covenant rejected

Bishops: 2 for / 0 against
Clergy: 14 for / 22 against / 1 abstention
Laity: 23 for / 18 against / 2 abstentions

Lincoln: covenant rejected

Bishops: 0 for / 3 against / 0 abstentions (corrected figures)
Clergy: 6 for / 28 against / 3 abstentions
Laity: 2 for / 34 against / 2 abstentions

Oxford: covenant rejected (some uncertainty in exact figures, apparently the tellers did not agree, but definitely lost in house of clergy)

Bishops: 3 for / 1 against
Clergy: 14 or 15 for / 36 or 38 against / 2 abstentions
Laity: 32 or 35 for / 24 or 29 against / 3 abstentions

Peterborough: covenant accepted (please ignore earlier figures to the contrary)

Bishops: 2 for / 0 against
Clergy: 22 for / 19 against / 1 abstention
Laity: 28 for / 13 against / 7 abstentions