Not surprisingly, the Houses of Bishops and Deputies email list has hosted a number of discussions about the Anglican Covenant among those who will make decisions related to it at the 2012 General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Below is a post made by Dr. Joan R. Gundersen this morning. Dr. Gundersen, a church historian, is, among other things, director of administration for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. I asked for permission to reproduce the post here because it raises some issues that have not been much discussed.I have several problems with the Covenant.
First it is the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent. It is a deliberate step on a path designed to turn a communion into a church. This is not the intent of all supporters, but if needed, I could give you actual citations to statements by original drafters and the ABC [Archbishop of Canterbury] that support this point. Turning the Anglican Communion into an Anglican Church would destroy the very essence of Anglicanism by replacing diversity with uniformity and affection with legalism.
Secondly it is twenty pages long. When the early Councils of the church met, they turned out documents that could be measured in paragraphs, not pages—witness the creeds. The ACC [Anglican Consultative Council] constitution is six pages long. The 1789 Constitution for the Episcopal Church was two pages (three if you add the signatures) and the first set of canons was eight including signatures. The Articles of Religion occupy nine pages of our current prayerbook. The Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral fits on two. The Catechism takes only 18. Eighteen pages is also the length of the original U.S. Constitution (at least that is what it fills in one of my Constitutional History texts. The amendments add another six pages.) So what do we have in 20 pages of the Covenant? Modern legislative bloat. It is all about putting up fences. Should it be adopted, it will be patched here and then there and slowly it will creep up in size beyond the original 20 pages.
Thirdly, a covenant should be something that people embrace positively, not reluctantly. Can you imagine trying to use this 20 page document as a tool for evangelism? Does it describe a faith in a way that is clear or inspiring? Hardly. Documents entered into with caveats and concerns, in a spirit of distrust and a sense of coercion, are dead on arrival.
—Joan Gundersen, Pittsburgh Lay 3 GC 2012 [third of four lay deputies to the 2012 General Convention]