Thinking Anglicans

Anglican Covenant has supporters and critics

Updated Wednesday evening

Update Anglican Communion Faith and Order body issues videos on the Covenant

Members of the Anglican Communion with Internet access can now watch three videos produced by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) in which its members speak about the Covenant.

In one, members from Provinces including England, the West Indies, Central Africa and Southern Africa explain why they consider the Covenant important for the Communion.

In another the Church of Ceylon’s Rt Revd Kumara Ilangasinghe, recently retired Bishop of Kurunagala, shares his thoughts on the value of accountability.

In the third, members share their thoughts about the sections of the Covenant.

A group named Yes To The Covenant has been formed, and has a website. As explained here, this is the initiative of two members of the Church of England in the Diocese of Oxford.

The speech given in support of the Covenant at the Salisbury diocesan synod on Saturday by Bishop Graham Kings is available here, or here.

It has attracted several responses, including this detailed criticism from Tobias Haller, Should Anglicans Be Grapes Or Marbles? from LayAnglicana and In praise of Arranged Marriage… from Satirical Christian.

Jin Naughton has raised some more fundamental questions about the Covenant at Episcopal Café in Anglican Covenant: Due process and the lack thereof. He refers to an essay by Sally Johnson which he quotes in part:

In essence, the Standing Committee receives a question, receives assistance from unspecified “committees or commissions” mandated by unspecified authority, takes advice from any body or anybody it deems appropriate and decides whether to refer the question to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. The Standing Committee then decides whether to request a Church to “defer” a decision or action and what relational consequences should result if it does not. It 
then moves on to a determination of whether or not a Church’s action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant.” The Standing Committee does this “on the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting,” not on the basis of a process or procedure in which the Church whose action is in question participates in any way, other than to the extent it has representatives on the ACC (from which it could already be barred) and a primate at the Primates’ Meeting (from which its primate could have been excluded). …

Agreeing to an undefined, unspecified process in which the decision-making bodies have full discretion to act in any manner they deem best–not only as to the process but as to the standard and burden of proof, information considered, and all other aspects of the dispute resolution system–is what the covenant contemplates. In the words of the rule of law, there is no procedural due process and no substantive due process guaranteed by the covenant. The outcome is to be trusted and respected based on the persons/bodies making the decisions rather than a system based on how the decision is made. (italics added.)

Tobias Haller in another article, titled No[t This] Anglican Covenant repeats the argument he has made before, that there is an alternative.

…I am well-set in my mind against the current draft PAC, but I do not in the long run think the idea of a set of rules for the conduct of inter-provincial affairs in the Anglican Communion is in itself “un-Anglican.” We have, I think, a sufficient such arrangement in the by-laws of the ACC, but I am not averse, nor do I think it contrary to good sense or our traditions, to exploring other ways of working together across the Communion. But the current document is not it. As I’ve said in the past, I think the IASCOME Covenant for Mission or the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process much more helpful towards edification; in particular as the PAC explicitly calls for de-edification (i.e., “relational consequences” that will decouple or lessen the “bonds of affection”).

And, Bosco Peters has written CofE Covenant vote 10-5 against. He questions the ecclesiology behind the Covenant:

…The ecclesiology of the Tony Blair-chosen Archbishop of Canterbury has come in for some battering in the women bishops debate. Although no one apparently has yet translated his latest speech into English, Rowan Williams appears unwilling to throw himself fully into the fullness of the catholic church being present in each diocese. The ecclesiology which hankers after an international “universal church” (a sort of international super-church, rather than a communion of dioceses) undergirds the “Anglican Covenant”. It’s a perfectly fine alternative ecclesiology, and has a perfectly fine exemplar in Roman Catholicism…

Finally, Cranmer writes about The death of the Anglican Covenant.


  • Lapinbizarre says:

    Why support the Covenant? “The Church of England has consistently supported the Covenant up to now; why turn our backs on it?” The argument that one has “always” done something, so why change, is a pretty sorry one.

    Panic stations, obviously. Lot of professional (read “costly”) time gone into this. Wonder who’s paying. Patron the bishop of Oxford, plus sponsors from the Evangelical (Dailey) and Anglo-Catholic (Harris) ends of the spectrum.

    Had there been a covenant 40 years ago, what’s the betting we wouldn’t have women priests, let alone bishops?

  • The metaphor used by Bishop Graham Kings in his losing address to the Salisbury Synod: ‘Bunch of Grapes or Bag of Marbles?’ might be interpreted thus:

    ‘Grapes of Wrath’ from the GAFCON crowd – at their indignation with the rest of the Anglican Communion for not taking their ‘hissy fit’ seriously enough.

    And the ‘Marbles’ must refer to that reasoning capacity lost by Bishop Kings and his Friends who continue thinking that The Covenant will restore the ‘Sour Grapes’ of GAFCON to the sweetness and light of Communion Fellowship.

  • I would not have been surprised if the new movement called ‘Yes to The Covenant’ had been named, instead: ‘Friends of the Archbishop of Canterbury’ – for that must surely be the true philosophical basis for this new intitiative.

    The sad thing is that many of us who really do admire Archbishop Rowan – for his deeply sincere spirituality, his academic prowess and his desire for unity – must yet oppose him on this one facet of his leadership in the Communion – his desire to see the Covenant, in its present form, accepted by the Church of England and every Province of the A.C. The Covenant cannot but be divisive!

    Sadly, with the GAFCON Provinces irrevocably opposed to Eucharistic sodality with the rest of us, they will never agree to be part of the proposed Covenant. So one really wonders; whatever is the point of it, now that GAFCON has withdrawn behind its cast-iron fence of moral high-ground?

    Those of the Provinces who are non-GAFCON are happy to remain Anglican and loyal to the See of Canterbury. Why can we just not leave things as they are – without a papal-style magisterium?

  • JCF says:

    “A group named Yes To The Covenant has been formed”

    Heh-heh, “sincerest form of flattery” n’ all…

  • Richard Ashby says:

    With George Carey’s new defence of traditional marriage grouping and now a new organisation defending the Covenant some people are going to be busy over Lent. I wonder what they are going to be giving up? Relieving the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners? I bet there won’t be much listening to GLTB people either!

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Well I guess we have to thank those who put this website together.

    I have long argued that the Covenant is nothing more than a document attempting to seal a deal that would exclude gay people from some sacraments of the Church as a quid pro quo for ceasing extra territorial ecclesiastical invasions.

    I realised Rowan Williams had decided on the need for our sacrifice some time before the Dromantine meeting of the Primates.

    But if you follow the tab “Why” a Covenant we find the formula laid out quite clearly.

    I am sure that I know at least two people at the very centre of this debate who will not be pleased at these being the only two bullet points.
    As all journalists will remember, juxtaposition can say it all.

    I am up to see a new web site launched. Something like this:

    “Yes to the Anglican Covenant – Let’s keep these Gays in their place.”

    I can think of a whole list of people we have “invited to be Patrons” some of them with the Ouija Board – but Pastor Fred Phelps from among the living should give the flavour.

    Some of the stuff actually on this new website could be carried with little or no change (sad isn’t it?) – as could the style and format.
    I am willing to start the ball rolling and put up the £200 someone recently sent me after a funeral I officiated at. Any more takers? Any other ideas?

    By the way, congratulations to Andrew Goddard on being elevated to the rank of “Theologian” ….. his appearance on this website should make its episcopal Patron wince.

  • Jeremy says:

    “Those of the Provinces who are non-GAFCON are happy to remain Anglican and loyal to the See of Canterbury.”

    Loyalty or disloyalty is the wrong way to think about it.

    The whole point of this defeat-the-Covenant exercise is that the provinces are, and should be, free to ignore Canterbury’s wishes.

    This is especially so when the Archbishop of Canterbury is an officious intermeddler in the affairs of other provinces.

  • Lapinbizarre says:

    Maybe time for the clique of C of E bishops & Synod politicians driving the Covenant business (or, as seems to be happening, failing them the body of the church) to come to terms with the fact that it can no more hold the Anglican Communion together than a papal bull could hold together the Western Church in the 1520’s. Choice of communion with Gafcon & ACNA will certainly up their credibility with Parliament and people.

  • Deacon Charlie Perrin says:

    Tony Blair appointed Rowan to be the ABC. After finishing up as Prime Minister, Mr. Blair became a Roman Catholic (and if I remember correctly, admitted to having been a closet Roman all along).

    The Archbishop has displayed a disturbing amount of “Rome-ophile” behavior in his office and I would not be surprised to see him also becoming a Roman Catholic at the end of his term. (Although becoming Mr. Williams may prove too big a burden on him).

  • Craig Nelson says:

    I must admit I’m starting to have doubts about the wisdom of the so called Covenant. It either solves the problems or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t solve the problems it has no reason to be even considered.

    If it does solve the problems the question is ‘how?’ and ‘at what cost?’. Turning the entire Communion into one church with a magisterium (albeit poorly defined but would no doubt be quick to assert itself if called upon depending on the Archbishop of Canterbury of the day) is very un-Anglican, a significant innovation on what Anglicanism offers the world.

    Unless I’m missing something very important, this is all about one issue – homosexuality. I don’t think a bureaucratic solution is going to help without addressing the issues at hand rather than engaging in redrawing the whole thing, gafconesque, but guarantees endless sorrow and woe for years to come. That’s without thinking of the dangers of ‘One Communion, One hermeneutic’ which I find very scary and a tentative dipping of the toe into the Middle Ages (this also isn’t going to buy peace for long)

    So, as I say, I’m starting to have my doubts. These weren’t helped by the wedding analogy which I found to be not very helpful and more an argument of desperation than reasoned persuasion.

    Of course, if the Covenant gets put in place then that will be that – doubts or no doubts the whole machinery will then rumble on regardless, with consequences one can only speculate. So at best it’s a doubtful enterprise which maybe necessitates mindless optimism in order to be in favour.

    I could of course be wrong about it all.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    episcopacy- that great sacred cow of the C of E -is bad enough without this synthetic, forced and ungodly homophobic dogs dinner!

    but it won t work ever -whether passed or not

    the church is more of an organism or phenomenon that grows and adapts and stuff — but not the stuff forced by committees and synods!

    Do the Jesus test.

    You just can’t imagine Jesus going along with this stuff– can you ?

    But then I can t see him at Lambeth or the Vatican either.

  • Gerry Lynch says:

    Sometimes, I’m very proud to be an Anglican. This is one of those times. We have Synodical government for good reasons. One of the best of those reasons is that it allows the laity to rein prelates in when they get too big for their boots, and especially when they try and arrogate a whole lot more power for themselves.

    Well done to the good laypeople of the Church of England!

  • rjb says:

    Deacon Charlie – Are you one of those good people I see at Walsingham every year shouting “No Potpourri”? Archbishop Rowan is certainly a Catholic (as, pray God, are we all), but I see no indication that he has any sympathy for the Roman way of doing things, and in fact his remarks about the Ordinariate and about sexual abuse in the Irish Church have been rather sharp, by his admittedly quite gentle standards. Besides, anyone who knows anything about the Archbishop knows a) that he is as little attached to the trappings of his office as anyone could wish, and b) that his heart lies with Russian Orthodox Christianity. Perhaps you fear he is some kind of undercover Russian agent who might at any moment Cross the Dniepr?

  • Erika Baker says:

    “Do the Jesus test.”

    You only need to do the people test. I mean, what do these people think will happen once they’ve declared once and for all that gay people are a problem to be got rid of. That we just go away? That we will no longer go to church, that gay priests will resign, gay bishops leave their posts? That we say “ok, it’s a fair cop”?

    How remote from reality can you get?

    Equality questions only disappear once equality has been granted.

  • For those who have not yet viewed the ‘No Covenant’ video by ‘Mr Catolick’, please do so – it is both refreshing and informative.

    I think it should be shown at every Diocesan Synod meeting in the Church of England – indeed, in the Anglican Communion.

    I you have no other access, just click on my name at the base of this entry. Good viewing1

  • toby forward says:

    Dominic Crouch was 15 years old when he jumped from a six-storey building and killed himself. He was the victim of homophobic bullying. Does the Covenant contribute to climate of opinion and behaviour in which this boy will feel more threatened or less?

    And, a question to Rowan Williams – ‘If Dominic had been your son, would you still support this Covenant?’

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    There is a serious case to answer here.

    If the story we read in the Windsor Report and repeated in this new website is to be believed (and that’s a big if) ….. then the Churches that have shown a Sacramental welcome to Gay people have already experienced the “relational consequences” of their actions.

    If American conservative sources I have read are accurate then TEC has paid a considerable price in every area of it life for offering this welcome.

    I cannot see how the Covenant could prevent a similar event happening, but I can see how – through its dubious mechanisms – a process is being put in place to make those “relational consequences” universal rather than at the whim of each of the constituent Churches.

    If the only result of the Covenant as presently drafted is to insist that we mus ALL send a sister Church to Coventry when the powers that be say they deserve it – and has no authority to work past that position – then I would say we are far better off without it.

  • John Bunyan says:

    Too many of these blogs are what one would expect in the secular world and I think a Moderator should not let them through. I think personal and offensive comments,not least about the Archbishop of Canterbury, are utterly inappropriate for Christians, not least as we come to the beginning of Lent and not least when the discussion is about how we can live in fellowship with another (through our communion in Christ). The 1662 Quinquagesima Epistle is a standing challenge to me and to us all.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    ‘The value of accountability’- don t make me laugh.

    When have Rowan and the bishops ever practised accountability to us ?

    I don t remember ever being invited to be accountable.

    ~No, the C of E leaves people to sink or swim.

    But as protestants we know not to put our trust in structures, whether human or conceptual- don’t we ?

  • Jim Naughton says:

    Why is it okay for the Anglican Communion Office to produce and distribute videos supporting the covenant, when the majority of the member provinces of the communion have not yet decided to support it?

  • Jeremy says:

    “I think personal and offensive comments,not least about the Archbishop of Canterbury, are utterly inappropriate for Christians.”

    Oh, please. Stop clutching your pearls.

    I called the Archbishop of Canterbury an “officious intermeddler.” When he stops officiously intermeddling, I’ll stop calling him an officious intermeddler.

    And as for whether I’m being Christian when I do this, if I read my Bible correctly, Jesus generally did not hesitate to call a spade a spade.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Jim Naughton makes an good point. I think Tobias has argued cogently that the only “Instrument” showing wholehearted and up to date support for the Covenant we are contemplating is – Canterbury.

    Episcopal Cafe picks up an interesting reflection on one of the videos starring Katherine Grieb.

    I have always argued the only Church “home and dry” was TEC and that the Covenant had to “start where each Church is” and consequently they had little to fear from signing the Covenant. When I made that observation some years ago Tom Wright exploded claiming TEC had ruled themselves out of signing the Covenant, his view didn’t gather any support and I believe he was deeply troubled by this.

    My understanding is that TECians are being fed the Grieb line:
    “Yes, you will come in just as you are!”
    While the same loyal Rowanistas are also spinning it to the conservative Provinces in much the same way that Mark Harris reads it. So one is left scratching your favourite bit asking:
    “Just what will happen?”

    My view remains as it is above, TEC should sign.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    “I think personal and offensive comments,not least about the Archbishop of Canterbury, are utterly inappropriate for Christians.”

    And, yet, Williams has repeatedly justified his unprincipled power-grab paperwork by appealing to the “fact” that the ABC is *not* a “personal” position – that he has to sacrifice (oh! the humanity!) – his personal conscience to the continuation of the artificiality of the Anglican Communion. He shot his parents and now you want clemency for an orphan. Typical.

    I’m with Jeremy – the man has neatly stepped into the role of Caiaphas, and I seem to remember a certain Christian (well, alleged Christian – I’m sure he wouldn’t fit in *at all* with Williams’ ideas) referring to “vipers” and “dogs” and even “children of hell!” and that great eidolon of institutional Christianity, Paul, making threats and referring to people as mutilaters of flesh, and such.

    Williams is an inveterate self-promoter, posing as a martyr to institutional well-being, and niceness is the enemy, not just of fairness, but justice.

  • I do remind posters that the rules of TA do ask people to be temperate in their language and to be polite and courteous. Robust discussion, yes. Unnecessary and ad hominem comments, no. Please everyone, let’s stick to the topic of discussion and not start denigrating individuals, however high or low they might be.

    To do otherwise does not advance anyone’s cause or argument or point of view; it is more likely to enflame the argument and bring everyone into disrepute.

    A little bit of Christian charity please.

    Simon K
    TA administrator

  • Jim Naughton says:

    Martin, I would feel better about this if the Episcopal Church had already recast its canons to permit marriage equality. We haven’t. If we sign the covenant, we will be harried at every step we take in that direction.

  • Well done and perfectly timed, Simon.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Yes Jim, that is a problem.

    I have thought in the past that this would be acceptable, considering the usual Anglican finesse of simply removing any Canonical penalty for solemnizing a same-sex-marriage as enough to allow the appropriate development – but it now feels inadequate in face of the extraordinary speed civil society is moving on this issue.

    On deeper reflection it may well be a mistake for TEC to embrace the Covenant while the canonical position on marriage was still only between a man and woman, but I think this a balanced issue. The benefits to the whole Communion of having TEC at the heart of the process that will inevitably follow the acceptance of the Covenant by the Communion is too important to underestimate.
    I apologise for being so divided and advising both ways!

    But as Gregory Cameron recently confirmed to me:
    “The Covenant is just the first step, the next step is to put a mechanism together that decides what is and what is not adiaphora.”
    It is “the next step(s)” that make me determined to see TEC at the centre of the process.

    Of course, all this may be academic if England fails to endorse the Covenant!
    Though it makes me feel warm inside when I consider the prospect of England in the second tier of Communion affairs and the like of Paul Avis reduced to observer status, while TEC sits on all the governing councils!!

  • Can any one from North America – either TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada (not the schismatics) – give us any idea of the likelihood of either of these two members of the Communion signing on to the Covenant as presently confected?

    One wonders whether they might sign up without the ignominious Section 4; or is the main problem the prospect of magisterial Standing Committee rule?

    If, as seems likely, GAFCON Provinces would not sign up; is there a prospect of a GAFCON-free Communion relationship – without a Covenant?

  • While I hesitate to prognosticate in too much detail, the few runes currently visible suggest the Covenant isn’t likely to meet a groundswell of support in either TEC or ACoC

    The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has, IIRC, issued a draft resolution which gives a polite “no.” The study guide produced by the Anglican Church of Canada is (unlike the dreck from the Anglican Communion Office) reasonably balanced and the report from the national church’s governance task force is scathing in it’s analysis.

    That said, we have not yet been subjected to the emotional blackmail about how rejecting this piece of centralizing tripe would hurt poor Rowan’s feelings. And since most North American Anglicans know next to nothing about the Covenant, they may well fall for it.

  • Well, Malcolm; of it’s any comfort to you, I can tell you that most of us in ACANZP want to remain in full communion with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, whatever happens about the Covenant. I suppose its all part of being Anglicans in the post-Colonial era. We have learnt to stand on our own feet – experiencing the Love of God ‘in situ’.

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