Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Friday, October 28, 2011

Eastern Oregon Weighs In

The negative response to the Covenant continues to come in. This resolution was passed by the diocese of Eastern Oregon, TEC, USA. It is brief, entirely on point and continues the bad news month for Dr. Williams and his hierarchical church project. I commend it to your attention and comments.

jim Beyer


Subject: The Anglican Communion Covenant

Submitted by: The Rev. James Mosier and the Rev. Kathryn Macek on behalf of the Clergy Collegium meeting in Cove, September 9, 2011


WHEREAS: The churches of the Anglican Communion are held together in an indissoluble spiritual bond as members of the body of Christ and are called, individually and collectively, to "be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us" (Ephesians 5:1-2); and

WHEREAS: Within that indissoluble bond of love, each member church must discern where the Spirit of God is calling them as they live out their promise made in baptism "to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves," ever mindful of their primary call to further the present-and-coming reign of God; and

WHEREAS: After prayerful consideration of The Anglican Communion Covenant, the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, in Province VIII of The Episcopal Church, believes that the Covenant does not further the reign of God; and

WHEREAS: We believe that Section Four in particular by its adjudicatory nature -introduces an adversanal element that could wound the Communion;


NOW, THEREFORE: We recommend that The Episcopal Church respectfully decline to ratify The Anglican Communion Covenant as proposed.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Bad News for the Covenant

We have received word that the synod of the Diocese of Newcastle, in the Anglican Church of Australia, has voted against adoption of the Covenant by a large majority. Dioceses in the Australian church are to comment on the Covenant by December 2012. The General Synod is scheduled to make a decision on the Covenant in 2013.

Perhaps more significant is the news, reported by Episcopal News Service, that the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church will submit a resolution to the 2012 General Convention to the effect that the church is “unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.” The resolution pointedly avoids words like “reject.” The following paragraph from the ENS story suggests how the resolution will be framed:
The resolution also promises that the church will “recommit itself to dialogue with the several provinces when adopting innovations which may be seen as threatening the unity of the communion” and commits to “continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion” and dialogue “with our brothers and sisters in other provinces to deepen understanding and to insure the continued integrity of the Anglican Communion.”

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Diocese of California Resolution Against the Covenant

Resolved, That the 162nd Convention of the Diocese of California disapproves the proposed Anglican Covenant.
Explanation: Our opposition to the proposed Anglican Covenant grows out of a lengthy listening process that involved all six of our deaneries. More than 200 lay and clergy members from across this diocese participated in this process. Those participating in this conversation were well prepared, demonstrating both familiarity with issues and a deep affection for the Anglican Communion. They placed a deep value on the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church's constituent part in it, and the common heritage shared by all Anglicans. They voiced a deep desire to continue in the Communion’s common life. They spoke of the importance of our developing diocesan companion relationships as well as the inter-provincial relationships a number of our congregations enjoy. A summary of these discussions as compiled by the General Convention Deputation of the Diocese of California is online here.

Working from these discussions, we affirm our tradition holds Holy Scripture as containing all things necessary for salvation. We hold fast to our responsibility to interpret scripture to meet the needs and challenges of living in our time and place. We affirm the value and importance of the Anglican Communion in our life and work. We affirm our Communion is founded on The Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. We believe the current instruments of communion are adequate to heal today’s wounds if all parties are willing to accept and live within a communion that has room for divergent views and differing understandings of how Holy Scripture speaks to us today.

We must also disapprove a proposed Anglican Covenant that creates a means for creating second class Anglicans instead of building bridges between Anglican Churches with different traditions for understanding scripture. God does not make second class people, how could our church now endorse making some people second class Anglicans?

We cannot accept an Anglican Covenant that seeks to replace our democratic decision making process with a process that allows foreign bishops to extend their jurisdiction into the Episcopal Church as well as other provinces around the world.

We must not support a proposed Anglican Covenant that risks converting our Communion into a confessing denomination enforced by a disciplinary process detailed in Section 4 of the proposed covenant.

We oppose a proposed Anglican Covenant that seeks to build a church on division rather than inclusion, legalism rather than prophecy, inequity rather than justice.

SUBMITTED BY: The Rev. Katherine Lehman, Rector, St. Bede’s, Menlo Park, The Rev. John Kirkley, Rector, St. James, San Francisco, The Rev. Br. Richard Edward Helmer, Rector, Church of Our Savior, Mill Valley and The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson, President, Oasis California.

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Covenant Not Biblical

The Revd Mark Bennet, a priest in the Church of England, has recently written an opinion on the proposed Anglican Covenant, which he has kindly given permission to be published here.

A Covenant for the Anglican Communion: Not a Biblical idea

Remind yourself of all the ways in which the word “Covenant” is used in the Bible. The dominant idea, seen from Noah and Abraham through to Jesus is of a God initiated plan to bring sinful human beings back into relationship with him. The prophets, speaking in God’s name, refer to “my covenant”.

Then think about the prophetic commentary on the content of those covenants, including the extensive legal commentaries or penal provisions, which indicates how easily human beings revert to the letter of the law, rather than honouring its spirit – and apply that law to others, rather than applying it to themselves. We say that we are saved by grace, not by law, and yet it is so easy to act as if the opposite is true. What did Jesus say about such things?

I am reminded of Tony Hancock’s reworking of the film “Twelve angry men” – “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” Is this document with which we are faced worthy of being put alongside the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, of which we remind ourselves at every eucharist?

If legislation or formal documentation had been sufficient to restore relationships, our Biblical narrative would be very different, and have a different trajectory. In fact our salvation in Jesus points us in a wholly different direction, and reminds us that we cannot legislate for good relationships, only to mediate the arguments which happen in bad ones.

Because the direction of this “covenant” does not match the Biblical plan for restoring relationships, it will not work, and in fact will draw us away from the true Biblical path which we need to follow if we are to follow Jesus.

The Revd Mark Bennet
22 October 2011

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jonathon Clatworthy's Response to Carrell

Jonathon Clatworthy, who is General Secretary of Modern Church in England has written a post discussing the Matthews article and Peter Carrell's post about it. I have edited it very slightly to fit it into the general template of this blog. Jonathon is very busy this weekend and I have undertaken to get his response published. Any errors are mine.



This is a response to Peter Carrell’s fascinating article on his blog.

Carrell quotes his bishop, Victoria Matthews:
Section 4 of the Covenant exists precisely to ensure the kind of listening, communication, and relationship that is presently missing in the Anglican Communion. ... the Anglican Covenant will act as a midwife for the delivery of a new Anglican Communion, a Communion that has its gestation in relationship and deep listening.
Carrell, explaining that he has not checked his views with her but thinks he is supporting her case, enlarges:
The Covenant provides a way for communication to be renewed, that way is to force those who claim to be in Communion to actually listen to one another and thus to be in relationship with one another (that is, an actual working relationship). Some member churches will choose not to be placed in the position of having to listen to others (i.e. continue according to the present status quo). Those who choose to commit to real (i.e. actual listening to each other) fellowship will form a new Anglican Communion. The Covenant is the founding document of a (re)newed Anglican Communion.
Thus Carrell makes it quite clear that he wants to replace the present Anglican Communion with another, consisting only of those willing to listen.

So what would enforced listening be like? Campaigners and oppressors choose their words to emphasise what they want to emphasise, but also to hide what they want to hide. What does ‘enforced listening’ affirm, and what does it hide?

The infamous Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference not only referred to ‘homosexuality as incompatible with Scripture’ – the bit endlessly quoted – but also called for a process of listening to gays and lesbians. An official Anglican ‘listening process’ was set up. At the same time British and North American Anglicans have been endlessly reminded that they are outnumbered by the Global South and should therefore listen more to their views.

If you think white and I think black, we can listen to each other without changing our minds, though the process of relating to each other may help us demonise each other a bit less. If you are very anxious to reach agreement and I am just a little bit interested in reaching agreement, we may end up compromising on dark grey. If we do, we will both feel dissatisfied – and we will have gone way beyond just listening.

The absurd notion of ‘enforced listening’ is therefore being used as code for something very different. What? In these texts neither Matthews nor Carrell spell it out; they simply expect the Covenant to achieve it. What the Covenant proposes to achieve, however, is quite different. It offers a formal process for one province to object to actions by another, and gives power to the Standing Committee to decree the answer. In performing this task the Standing Committee will of course have to listen to both sides, but any final judgement it makes is bound to dissent from at least one of the positions, thus excusing Anglicans from listening to it.

If we look at what has been happening in the Anglican Communion over the last 15 years there has indeed been quite a dialogue of the deaf – a failure to listen – but there are substantial theological reasons for the failure. World Anglicanism contains radically different theories about how we should resolve our differences. According to one, Scripture is the supreme authority. Being directly revealed by God it is known with certainty, whereas human reason is flawed. In recent debates the appeal to scripture has been used to insist on biblical statements about gay sex and how the Church should be governed. From this perspective, no amount of personal experience or psychological research measures up to the certainties contained in scripture: true Christians may listen to liberals, provided that they are not influenced by them.

According to another account, often described as ‘Classic Anglicanism’ because it has characterised the Church of England through most of its history, reason is a gift of God as well as Scripture, and has a proper place in discovering new insights in doctrine, ethics and church government. Personal experience, psychological research and critical scholarship of biblical texts all have a proper place, and the Church’s public discourse weighs up the arguments for and against the beliefs under dispute.

This explains the failure to listen. World Anglicanism contains two contradictory theories about how to resolve disagreements. According to one we look up the answer in the Bible; according to the other we use all the resources available, including the views of Anglicans we disagree with. Because the two sides have different accounts of authority, each side listens to the arguments of the other but thinks it lacks authority.

Given these differences, how can Anglicanism survive?

Because this is a disagreement about how to resolve our disagreements, we have no common foundation upon which to go about deciding how to resolve them. This leaves two possibilities. One is to side with one or the other. The Covenant as envisaged by the Report would have turned Anglicanism into a fundamentalist sect, suppressing all dissent from the views taken by the most litigious churches. Or Anglicanism could side with the Classic Anglican tradition, insisting on open debate as normal and inviting churches to leave if they find it unacceptable. The Covenant as it stands could in theory produce either of these effects – all would depend on the Standing Committee’s ‘recommendations’ – in practice I think its resolutions would turn out to be inconsistent.

The other alternative is to emphasise that Anglicanism is a communion of churches, not a church itself, and leave each province to determine its own theology. This would mean Americans putting up with African archbishops supporting legislation to imprison or execute gays, and conversely Africans accepting American gay bishops. And being equally tolerant with whatever new issues the future throws up.

For church leaders to think they can enforce listening, while making no attempt to address the theological causes of disagreement, merely reveals that they are operating like bureaucrats only interested in the smooth running of their institutions, without any regard for the more substantial questions about how humans can and should relate to God.

Jonathan Clatworthy
General Secretary
Modern Church

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sydney Opposes Covenant

Responding to a report by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney, the diocesan Synod has gone on record as opposing adoption of the Anglican Covenant by the Anglican Church of Australia. The report objected that the Covenant is “fundamentally concerned with maintaining structural and institutional unity rather than biblical faithfulness.”

The motion opposing adoption of the Covenant was put forth by Dr. Mark Thompson, Head of the Department of Theology, Philosophy and Ethics at Moore College. According to Dr. Thompson, “Those who have created the problem [within the Anglican Communion] won’t sign it; and if they did without repenting of the departures from the teaching of Scripture it would only demonstrate the uselessness of the covenant itself.”

According to an October 13, 2011, report on the Sydney Web site by Russell Powell, Dr. Thompson advanced GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as offering a better approach to resolving conflicts within the Communion.

Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen is the General Secretary of GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

A final decision on the adoption or rejection of the Anglican Covenant will be made by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Enforcing Nice A Response

Peter Arnett, a legendary TV and print news reporter famously wrote
“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town, regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong. [“Major Describes Move,” New York Times, February 8, 1968.]
It awakens my sense of irony to note that Mr. Arnett is a New Zealander. I have no idea if he is an Anglican, but his description of the US (failed, we now all know) strategy in Vietnam is apt for the defense of the Anglican Covenant mounted by Peter Carrell and his boss, Bishop Victoria Matthews. They stand willing destroy the communion to save  it. While Matthews’ defense of the Covenant achieved only incoherence, Carrell peels down the layers and give us clarity. The picture is really, really ugly.

Matthews intends the Covenant to do exactly what I have said in my posts it will do: destroy the Anglican Communion. The difference between us is that, as Carrell explains, he and Matthews anticipate a new Covenant-based Anglican Church that will take on the role of the Communion and exclude bad people, thoughts, originality—and this is key—pesky North Americans, with their liberal ideas, and annoying Africans who think they should have a say in Communion management. I see disaster, a church that replaces Anglican comprehensiveness with exclusion.

In his key paragraph, Carrell says
If I am correctly interpreting +Victoria’s argument, then the Covenant is a sheep-and-goats moment for global Anglicanism. To one side will be those member churches who choose to not commit in this new way, churches which will not stop listening to others, but which will always listen when it suits and not when it does not.
This new “Anglican Covenant Church,” a name that I think has just been invented by Carrell, will be all the things we who oppose the Covenant have been arguing against. It will impose a supra-church canon law, an utterly arbitrary decision process, a curial “Standing Committee,” uniform unyielding confessional standards, and above all, terminally bland niceness.

Somewhere in Section 4, Matthews and Carrell find an enforceable requirement that the churches listen to each other. If I understand their somewhat opaque reasoning, “listening” means limiting progress to the least common denominator.

Carrell describes the “new way” the Covenant will, he thinks, create.
... that way is to force those who claim to be in Communion to actually listen to one another and thus to be in relationship with one another (that is, an actual working relationship).
Somehow, forcing someone to listen creates “relationship,” although Carrell does not say how.

My sense of irony is also awakened as I consider Dr. Williams, who would not let +Robinson, or any LGBT voice, be heard at Lambeth, and who will not treat our presiding bishop as a bishop, enforcing this “listening” they describe.

But force may not be required. Both Matthews and Carrell seem quite content to visualize this new bland-leading-the-bland replacement as a small, but nice, church. Indeed, excluding most of the Global South, most of North America, and parts of the UK (Scotland, Wales, and perhaps Ireland) won’t leave much. And, in case England finally wakes up and declines to adopt the Covenant, Carrell is even willing to consider a new, small church without fellowship with Canterbury! Lest anyone forget, fellowship with Canterbury is the standard definition of membership in the Anglican Communion. Not so, it appears for the new “Anglican Covenant Church.”

If this vision actually prevails, will some of those who have said they are in stay in? I can imagine Mexico reconsidering. Did the Mexican church really sign up for the “Anglican Covenant Church?” Do its members, recently independent from TEC, really want an international Curia (sorry, “Standing Committee”) forcing them do things? Are their bright, educated, and pastoral bishops really prepared to submit themselves to required niceness?

Paul called us to curtail our liberty in God to support the weak among us. Many in TEC, Anglican Church of Canada and other churches have been willing to do that. They also, however, hear Jesus calling them to do justice. It is all a delicate balance. But it not in Matthews’ and Carrell’s anticipated   new church: one is told what is nice and one had best do it.

The thing is, I agree with Carrell and Matthews. Section Four, indeed the entire Covenant if adopted, will kill the Anglican Communion. Despite my doubts, it may give birth to an, “Anglican Covenant Church.” And that new body will be a church, not a communion, with canon law, a Curia, a ruling archbishop, and homogenized, bland, and static theology.

I predict that if this vision turns into reality, at least initially, it won’t be all that nice. For a shrunken church without most of the Canadian and American money that now sustains the Communion, I can only see politics—politics that determine, eventually, what Section Four means, how much of the Anglican Communion Office staff is retained, and who is in and who is out. In short, I predict the new “Anglican Covenant Church” will be a copy of the ever fragmenting, ever schism-ridden “Continuum.*

What is amazing is that anyone thinks this is a good idea!


* The “Continuum” is the collective name for the pseudo-Anglican churches that emerged from the “St. Louis Declaration, ” crafted after TEC began to ordain women. That document pledged unity, and failed utterly. The most current listing I know of the many churches in the Continuum is in the “Not In Communion” section of Anglicans Online.

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