Thinking Anglicans

Ireland and the Anglican Covenant

The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:

Recommended terms of C. of I. response to Anglican Covenant explained at colloquium meeting

At a recent special colloquium in Dublin on the proposed Anglican Covenant, the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, told participants that the Church of Ireland General synod’s standing Committee had decided that the General synod next May would be asked to “subscribe” the document, but not “adopt” it.

Bishop Burrows distinguished between the two terms, commenting that “the difficulty with the word ‘adopt’ is that you make the thing you adopt part of yourself”, and pointed out that the Covenant would be “a freely entered into regulation of our external relationships”, but that the Church of Ireland could “walk away”.

He said that, while it had originally been felt that a special Bill would be required, the standing Committee had now opted for a simple motion for next May’s General synod in Armagh. Bishop Burrows quoted the text of the scheduled motion: “seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.”

There is also an Editorial comment titled Approaching the Covenant. Scroll down the same link to read it in full.

The recent colloquium sponsored by Search and the TCD church of Ireland chaplaincy on the proposed Anglican covenant (report, page 1) heard excellent addresses on the subject, but it was Bishop Michael Burrows’ explanation of the procedure being followed in the church of Ireland regarding a formal response to the text that gave rise to most discussion. Indeed, semantics were to take centre stage, with the implications of the words “adopt” and “subscribe” being explored.

Bishop Burrows, hotfoot from this month’s Standing committee meeting when the procedure to be followed had been decided, referred to the three options for the General Synod: a Special Bill, an Ordinary Bill and a motion. A Special Bill, Bishop Burrows reminded everyone, would involve a two-year process and two-thirds majorities at every stage, unlike an Ordinary Bill or a motion, either of which would be taken within one meeting of the Synod and would require only simple majorities. The motion procedure had been chosen, he reported.

Then came the semantics. Bishop Burrows explained that the term “subscribe” had been preferred to “adopt”, as to adopt something involved taking it into one’s being. From a legal perspective, the term “subscribe” apparently is weaker than “adopt”, leaving the Church of Ireland more able, as Bishop Burrows put it, to “walk away”. Nonetheless, Bishop Burrows insisted on the “honourable” use of the term “subscribe” in the Church of Ireland, but that did not prevent the semantic distinction still making the planned motion sound rather like a highly nuanced pre-nuptial agreement arising from doubts about the contract in the first place, or a kind of arms’ length embracing of a loved one. Fine words of commitment may be uttered, but signing on the dotted line is carefully managed in order to try to avoid over-involvement. Bearing all of this in mind, one could be forgiven for wondering to what extent, if the covenant is considered unsuitable for the General Synod to “adopt”, there is any real heart on the part of those concerned even for “subscribing” it…

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13 years ago

The scriptural advice to let your yes be YES and your no NO does come to mind– as does Bill Clinton saying something like – it depends on what is is – or words to that effect – oh well, must have been a sparkling meeting discussing subscribe vs adopt.

Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

Are we saying all the Primate of all Ireland will have to do is type “unsubscribe” in an email to the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Deacon Charlie Perrin
Deacon Charlie Perrin
13 years ago

How deliciously Anglican: a nice rousing “maybe.”

None of that Puritan (and Roman) certainty.

13 years ago

“Subscribe” means to “write under”–that is, to sign on the dotted line.

Good luck maintaining a distinction between “subscribe” and “adopt.” Laughable, really.

13 years ago

In contrast, the Primate of All Nigeria would send the “unsubscribe” e-mail to the whole list.

Father Ron Smith
13 years ago

Perhaps one answer to the conundrum about the difference between the words ‘subscribe’ and ‘adopt’ – with reference to the C.of I.’s attitude towards the Covenant – might be that:

You can subscribe to the Daily Mail, but you don’t have to read it – much less adopt it’s policies! You may buy it to please your partner!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x