Thinking Anglicans

Another Anglican Covenant roundup

Paul Bagshaw has written another article about the Anglican Covenant: Doors slammed shut! Windows blown open?

…I stand by my description of how I see the Communion shaping up (centralised in the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion and their respective officials, clericalised, women and laity further marginalised, the distance from centre to edge getting ever greater).

But I will make a significant qualification.

A kairos moment
The end of the civil war gives a brief moment for debate on what the Communion might look like. The idea of changing it has been very widely accepted. Significant changes have already been made. But we no longer need to look at the Communion through the lens of civil war or the foci of sexuality, biblicism and accusations of colonialism. These remain important issues but, fairly abruptly, the steam has gone out of them and the engine driving them has departed on a side-line…

From Peter Carrell we have The Anglican Covenant’s future.

After the change to the life of the Communion marked and underlined by last week’s Primates’ Meeting, it could be fantasy to think the Anglican Covenant now has a future, other than as a piece of paper read by fewer and fewer people and signed up to by even fewer member churches (three to date). But as the days have gone by I have been thinking that the Covenant has a future, and that future could be along two lines (or more)…

Jim Naughton has written The Anglican Covenant is not as dead as it looks and the comments on this thread are well worth reading.

I am wondering if the proposed Anglican Covenant is as dead as many Episcopalians think it is. It seems to me that Rowan Williams is making slow but significant progress toward assembling a notional center that he can then play off against the left (constituted by us, the Brazilians, the Scots and maybe the Welsh) and the right (constituted by Nigeria, Uganda and the Southern Cone.)

Consider: The Churches of Mexico, Myanmar and the West Indies have approved the covenant, and the Churches of England and South Africa have embarked on a process that seems almost certain to end in its approval. Mexico and South Africa are two of the provinces that opponents of the covenant within the Episcopal Church hoped might keep us company if we declined to sign up.

The Australians and Canadians are in the midst of processes whose likely outcomes are not clear to me. But both are members of the British Commonwealth, and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia is a leading figure among the Primates, so covenant opponents would be foolish to presume that these two provinces won’t follow where Canterbury leads…

Lesley Fellows got this reply by Joanna Udal to her letter that she had sent earlier to Rowan Williams.


  • Stephen says:

    One small footnote to Jim Naughton’s article but it does re-set the context: it hasn’t been the “British Commonwealth” for some decades now.

    It is the Commonwealth of Nations. UK influence in that body can be over-stated. The UK has often been a minority voice in its deliberations and has, quite rightly, been out-voted on some issues. As long ago as the 1980s Mrs Thatcher was well out of step with other Commonwealth leaders on sanctions as away of bringing pressure on apartheid South Africa.

    I wouldn’t presume the Canadians and Australians will follow where Canterbury leads simply because of cultural and historical ties.

  • Jim Naughton says:

    Not for those reasons alone, Stephen. But I’d bet a nickel that they will follow.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    As I see this Paul Bagshaw says that things have not changed much, if at all. The attempt to seize power from Canterbury and the two (competing) secretariats has failed … The “dispersed” authority legend within Anglicanism sees itself somewhat diminished

    The Covenant remains a real issue beware those who say otherwise.

    As Marshall reminds us, no matter what it says presently – those who sign up get the opportunity to
    1. Interpret what the present Covenant means!
    2. Those who sign up get the opportunity to rewrite it!

    Rowan Williams remains Archbishop of Canterbury, despite the attempt of the ACI/Fulcrum and others to undo him – in fact his influence remains very strong. The ACNA and their allies have failed to supplant TEC and that now seems unlikely to change. Williams will do all he can to build a strong alliance around the Covenant and the Faith and Order Group within the ACO will become ever more influential.

    The policy to isolate those “on both extremes” will continue to push forward – but now on a long term agenda, an agenda that sees those who no longer share the faith and order of the others as separating themselves off as they remain excluded from communion committees.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    Still, the Covenant only has the reality we give it.

    Even if all the world should sign on to the covenant, and we in TEC stand apart . . . what will that in practical terms?

    What does it mean, in practical terms, if everyone else refuses to call us Anglican or even Christian?

    If we do, in TEC, sign the Covenant, what will it mean different, in practical terms? Who can *force* us to do anything?

    It’s what’s done, in this case, that shows if the values we profess are true. And, if we follow the path of the technocrat, the path CofE has taken, we will be viewed by an increasingly savvy and jaded generation coming up, to be simply “another church” that is atrophied, stagnant, and blind. Without the dynamism of the more evangelical branches or the history and resources of Roman Catholicism, we will soon fall into the reliquary of mediocrity.

    Because, that’s what Anglicanism will be – a mediocrity, always wringing politician-hands over the concerns of the mass, the lowest-common-denominator, and never daring to stand and say, “I will risk for what I believe! I will risk for *you*!”

    What no one seems to be willing to discuss is that this covenant is a convulsion of terror. We know we are fading into irrelevance and a gray morasse of societal indifference, but, rather than energizing ourselves to stand for what we profess – tolerance, diversity, and intellectual exploration of our theology – we are trying to retreat behind gates of the past, rigid ceremony, just as the Byzantine Empire did, back, back to Constantinople – and yet it is still now Istanbul.

    Running isn’t the answer, and that’s what the Anglican Covenant is.

    If we in TEC fall into that panic, we may as well begin looking for new church homes now.

  • Edward Prebble says:

    Brilliant and inspiring post, Mark.
    thank you

  • I do not share the spirit of despair that seems to be creeping in to the discussion here. If the Communion looks forward to alignment on the old basis of Scripture, Tradition and sweet Reason, then nothing ought prevent forward-looking Provinces – e.g. TEC and the A.C.of C.(and the rest of us who believe God is calling us into a new Inclusive era of the Church) from signing up to it. Whether that need a Covenant, or not, we will have to decide amongst ourselves.

    What ever the Covenant may have meant – in terms of disciplining the inclusive measures taken by the North American Provinces; it probably will be quietly reoriented towards the inclusion of those Provinces which really want to get on together, while yet retaining their own distinctive marks of mission within their own provenance.

    I do not personally see this as a great problem for forward-looking Provinces who were willing to meet at Dublin, and who are not willing to peel off from the Communion on acount of differences on the issues of sexuality and gender. These are important issues that are still to be worked out in some Provinces, but while there is a willing-ness to work together on a new hermeneutic that addresses these ‘problems’ there is HOPE.

    We need to ‘forgewt the past’ and look forward to what the Holy Spirit may be saying to Anglicans in this modern day and age of enlightenment. Let us ‘Press on together’ in Faith and Hope and Love

    (Perhaps my replenishment of energy comes from having a new bionic hip at the age of 81. I see only hope for the future.) Deo Gratias!

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    Fr Ron so glad to hear of the hip and to know you are 81 – I had no idea ! 81 not out !

    Long may it continue.

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