Thinking Anglicans

more criticism of the Anglican Covenant

We have linked previously to articles by Paul Bagshaw of Modern Church.

See two recent items here.

Since then he has also written three articles Incompatible with the Covenant, and Incompatible with the Covenant 2 and Incompatible with the Covenant 3.

Modern Church has now issued a press release, the text of which is below the fold. The web publication mentioned in the press release is titled A very un-Anglican Covenant.

Media release: the case against the Anglican Covenant

‘The biggest change to the Church since the Reformation’ is how the proposed Anglican Covenant is described in Modern Church’s new web publication presenting the case against it.

Modern Church, formerly the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, has been arguing against the Covenant since it was first proposed by the Windsor Report in 2004.

‘We have lots of evidence of church leaders and clergy who don’t like it one bit but feel afraid to say so openly’, said Jonathan Clatworthy, the General Secretary.’ ‘We have produced the most extensive account yet of the case against it’.

The main objection is that it will turn the Church from an open one, where Anglicans are free to disagree with each other, into a confessional one where an international committee will lay down what Anglicans are expected to believe.

Arising out of the debate over gay bishops, the Covenant is designed to establish a formal method for declaring Anglican teaching. The immediate intention is to condemn the belief that same-sex partnerships are morally permissible; but the wording of the Covenant allows the same process to apply to any controversial new development.

The authors of Modern Church’s publication, Jonathan Clatworthy and Paul Bagshaw, argue that the intention of the Covenant is to draw a clear dividing line between those who accept the new ‘authoritarianism’ and those who do not. This, they say, has already been pre-empted by the Anglican Communion Office in its decision to exclude the USA from an ecumenical Anglican committee, IASCUFO. Although the USA cannot legally be expelled from the Anglican Communion, the wording of the Covenant implies that churches which refuse to sign it will no longer be treated as equally Anglican.

For the present, the argument runs, proponents are presenting the Covenant as a small matter, in order to persuade provinces to sign it. Once they have signed, the original authoritarian intention will be reasserted, and from then on there will be an international committee with power to suppress genuine disagreement by making official declarations of ‘what Anglicanism teaches’. Modern Church argues that the Church should retain its traditional openness and comprehensiveness and accept differences of opinion as normal.

The text is on


  • chenier1 says:

    Thank you for this, Simon.

    I do wonder whether anyone has considered running this one past the Supreme Governor of the Church of England?

    Her predecessor, the first Elizabeth, is said to have observed that she wished for no windows into mens’ souls; the Elizabethan Settlement has worked well for over 400 years.

    Quite why Rowan Williams apparently believes that neither Queen nor Parliament will take a keen interest in something which may well destabilise a policy which has worked so well, for so long, is a bit of a poser.

    Particularly since it suggests that the reason he seeks this is precisely because Parliament does wish to treat citizens equally, whereas he apparently opposes that…

  • Andrew says:

    It is possible that this covenant will fail, and ABC may have already factored that into his strategy.
    He can then tell the angry Gafcon and other schsimatics, “I tried, it failed, and we must muddle on if you kindly will.”
    The longer delayed, the less chance for a break up of the Anglican Communion.
    He is exceedingly intelligent. He may have thought this through far ahead, a shrewd chess player.

  • Chris Smith says:

    The outstanding article from Modern Church “A very un-Anglican Covenant” should be required reading for all Anglicans who wish to acquaint themselves with the scope and far reaching implications that such a covenant would establish. It would be a twin model of the Roman Catholic Magesterium, which has been the cause of serious dysfunction as well as abuse of power and at times,corruption by certain prelates in the Latin Rite Churches. This system is not working and I am relieved to see such a finely written article as this one make it into print for all to read. It address the inherent problems with such a model of centralization and total power in the hands of a very few. Equal treatment does seem to be at play here. A covenant such as this one would be a dangerous step into the future. Hopefully, this will be stopped in its’ tracks. Thinking Anglicans should be commended for publishing this piece. Hats off to you at Thinking Anglicans!

  • chenier1 says:

    ‘He is exceedingly intelligent.’

    That is unfortunate. It has been my experience that, on the whole, stupid people make stupid mistakes. Disasters of cataclysmic proportions are usually perpetrated by people with brains the size of a small planet…

  • UPDATE FROM LIONEL DEIMEL:…¨We can start by rejecting the proposed Anglican covenant…¨

    ¨The Communion and the Archbishop¨

    ¨Even if we want to do so, how do we dethrone the Archbishop of Canterbury? We can start by rejecting the proposed Anglican covenant. The covenant institutionalizes the “Instruments of Unity” as never before and centralizes power within the Communion. The fight to separate the Archbishop of Canterbury from his special privileges will be long and difficult, however. I hope that our own Presiding Bishop, in her travels to other Anglican churches, is beginning to build a coalition to oppose those who would transform the Communion into a worldwide church on the Roman model. More churches have to learn to just say no.

    And who will lead the Anglican Communion if not the Archbishop of Canterbury? I don’t know. Does the Communion even need a formal leader? To the degree that the Communion needs any centralized administration, a competent bureaucrat should suffice in the role. If we must have a figurehead, that person should be kept on a short leash, not be required to be a primate (or even ordained), and should be elected by the provinces of the Communion—one province, one vote, determined as each province chooses.¨

  • Rod Gillis says:

    The covenant is a really bad idea theologically. no question. However, if the Canadian Church is any indicator about these things,politics will trump theological considerations. I suspect most ‘Provinces’ will sign the Covenant. Although I find it hard to believe that TEC will be one of them. I suspect Canada will cave and sign in the end. When the thing comes to our General Synod in 2013 there will likely be some wishy washy like resolution put forward that about how signing is not really capitulating etc etc. A a lot will depend on what happens in our House of bishops over the next three years. If there are enough bishops who are under pressure from their dioceses not to sign, then that may save us in some way.

  • Chris Smith says:

    So, The People of God must keep the pressure on one important unit of the People of God, the BISHOPS. If lay people and clergy keep pressure on the bishops to NOT adopt a covenant, then the likelihood of its’ passage is doubtful. It’s this factor of the Spirit that will most likely determine the outcome. It will be revealing to see just how far various Anglican prelates will go in pushing the covenant down the throats of the Church communicates. It will certainly show Anglicans and other Christians just where each bishop stands and that in itself would be telling. It would be a wonderful idea to have a lay person lead the Anglican communion instead of a nominal head such as The Archbishop of Canterbury. I hope this happens. It would bring balance and hope to the table.

  • drdanfee says:

    Millions of thanks, thanks, thanks – to Bagshaw and to Modern Church. Somebody is finally doing the Anglican homework (other than the specious and self-serving guys at the nicely put, Anglican Communion Institute?). Bravo, bravo, bravo. The links to several other essay pages are essential reading, too. See, What would the communion be like? and also, the page about costs/budget?

    Read, understand, raise questions, disseminate, publish, discuss widely?

    So far as Rowan Williams being so clever that he risks out-foxing even his own huge self, well? I see no signs that he is ever, behind the scene, encouraging folks in England or elsewhere to look carefully and critically at the covenant. Any more than he supports a wise critically-informed shift to permit women bishops in England. He natters on about the alleged high integrity of English Anglicans who preach absolutely horrid things about women and about queer folks (and often, about almost all the rest of modernity, for that matter); and this in no way actually helps hold up an English or global Anglican Big Tent.

    Other smaller strategy dust-ups along our hot button way – JJohn, GAFCON, ACNA, PB KJS, border crossings, and of course the silly-cagey positioning towards Canada that is still shifting about – not one suggests that we can count on him being an immense, thoughtful, master mind at work behind the scenes. At this point, I’d take even the ghost of Elizabeth I over Rowan Williams any day of the week. Where is that ghost whisperer when we need her or him?

    Instead, we are mostly getting just what Modern Church summarizes, a two-faced, forked-tongue approach. To conservatives, the covenant is police/punishment. To others, the covenant is simply a mild call to gather together again despite our hot button differences. None of any of that stands any reasonable thought experiment so far about intended and UN-intended consequences. It is, then, clearly NOT big tent Anglican stuff.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    The problem, of course, is that the raw idea of an Anglican Covenant as broadly proposed in the Windsor Report is not necessarily an inherently bad thing. Thus, to the average Anglican who doesn’t follow these things closely, it seems entirely reasonable for the Communion to codify its processes in this way.

    In other words, one has to be paying attention to realize what an odious coup attempt this Abominable Covenant really is.

    If we have any chance of defeating the Covenant in any Province, then we need to take a page from our opponents’ manuals and start working: organizing, educating, agitating.

    In other words, Rod, if we aren’t prepared to take coordinated action against this destructive Covenant, then it will be our own damned fault when GS2013 saddles us with the Yoke of Abuja.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Malcolm I share your opinion that stopping the Covenant requires work and effort beforehand. So, with regard to Canada, just how exactly do you see that playing out?

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Rod, I’m working on a post for Simple Massing Priest outlining what I think are the main elements of a strategy to defeat (or at least hinder) the progress of the Covenant. My thinking is not fully formed yet.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Thanks Malcolm, I could have been more clear in my post. I’m wondering how you see the Covenant process being handled by National Church office from the present up to the actual presentation at GS 2013. Which of the Standing committees of ACC are going to be handling the covenant process? Do you know? The matter of the resolution that will eventually be put in front of GS is also of interest. Will we need a church version of the “Clarity Act”? If GS 2010 is any indicator I expect that there will be a well managed process to stick handle the Covenant issue towards a pre-determined outcome. So, do you think that defeating the Covenant begins, not with the text itself, but with a strong effort to make sure the process is open and a clear yes or no, no political fudge, resolution comes to GS 2013?

  • copyhold says:

    One way to work for their views would be for +Malcolm to put their names forward for election to teh 2013 General Synod which will be considering the Covenant.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Been there, done that copy hold. But will the delegates to GS 2013 actually get to debate and vote on a clear yes or no resolution?

  • copyhold says:

    Correction to previous post—it should read:

    One way to work for their views would be for Rod and Malcolm+ to put their names forward for election as delegates from their respective dioceses to the 2013 General Synod, which will be considering the Covenant.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    I think Malcolm is quite right in his assessment of the dangers of the Church of England being led, blind-fold, into acceptance of the Covenant argument.

    To the average Church-goer in the U.K. Church politics are rarely a matter for parochial debate (as also in the Church of Rome – except where one’s personal way of life is in some way threatened – matters of contraception excepted).

    Allegiance to the Person and Being of God-in-Christ rarely evokes very much in the way of rebellion against one’s own Church hierarchy. “We know what’s good for them” might be the guiding light of the Church’s bishops on most issues.

    However, there is a great danger of a Covenant becoming de rigeur simply because of a lack of theological knowledge and competence on the part of the laity, who have been encouraged to remain ignorant of matters surrounding such as gender and sexuality – aided and abetted by am inbuilt clericalised authority system that tends to keep such matters under wraps for the majority of the Church’s membership.

    Open debate on Gender and Sexuality is long overdue. We need to dispense with the current *not-niceness* of any Anglican openness to public debate on these important matters

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