Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Monday, February 28, 2011

Perfect fear casts out love

So much of what has been driving the machinations of international Anglicanism over the past 15 years or so has been rooted in fear—fear of women, fear of LGBTQTS, fear of modernity, fear of post-modernity, fear of the loss of privilege, fear of the loss of power and influence.

People who are fearful do funny things.

As often, they will do scary things.

But the one thing that fearful people will consistently do is attempt to assert control.

For the fearful, every discussion inevitably degenerates into a metaphorical (and sometimes not so metaphorical) street fight.

Eventually, right and wrong become an irrelevance. The only thing that matters is how something affects the street fight, and whether or not it is good for “my side.”

Sadly, that is the point we’ve now reached in international Anglicanism, and in the deliberations on the proposed Anglican Covenant. Full and fair debate is no longer on the table—at least at the Anglican Communion Office, Lambeth Palace, or Church House in Westminster.

For those who surround the Archbishop of Canterbury, no quarter can be shown to those of us who dare to question the ineffable perfection of the arbitrarily “final” draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Today’s news release (warning—.pdf) describes several ways in which those at “the centre” have conspired to ensure that the majority of General Synod and diocesan synod delegates in the Church of England never have the opportunity to hear the legitimate concerns that have been raised about the proposed Covenant.
  • In November 2010, Church of England officials distributed background material on the proposed Anglican Covenant to General Synod members consisting entirely of pro-Covenant material and with no acknowledgement that there even might be contrary viewpoints.

  • When Modern Church and Inclusive Church used paid advertisements in the church press to raise their concerns, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself used the bully pulpit of his presidential address to synod to condemn Covenant sceptics for “campaigning.”

  • Throughout December and January, Church House officials stood firm in refusing to allow any prepared material to be distributed through official channels that was not 100 percent supportive of the Covenant. Indeed, the only concerns ever referenced were part of a document that used vapid “arguments” to suggest that any concerns were completely illegitimate and undeserving of a fair hearing. The one (arguable) exception to this was the distribution of the entire transcript of the Covenant debate at the November sitting of General Synod—and we all know how people love to pour over dry transcripts of debates and proceedings.

  • More recently, the Anglican Communion Office has published a “Study Guide” which is nothing more than an intellectually barren puff piece, again with no serious engagement with any arguments against the Covenant.
The NACC news release did not bother to mention some of the more unseemly tactics coming from “the centre,” including a former ACO official accusing Covenant-sceptics of being fascists or current senior ACO officials claiming that critics had not read the Covenant draft. Round this out with the constant emotional blackmail that somehow to question the proposed Covenant is to be disloyal to the Archbishop and you have pretty much the entire pro-Covenant case, at least from official sources: marginalization, misrepresentation, malicious slander, and emotional blackmail.

Real leaders are not afraid of open debate.

Real leaders are not afraid of being contradicted.

Real leaders do not seek to be surrounded by yes-men and sycophants.

The Anglican Communion is dying for real leadership.

Archbishop Williams, I beg you: show real leadership on this. Call off the sycophants who serve you so ill and tell them you want a full, free, and fair debate on the merits of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

To win the debate any other way will discredit both the proposed Covenant and your legacy.

Call for fair process and honest debate


LONDON —The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has criticized church officials for attempting to suppress honest discussion of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

"Instead of fostering a free and open discussion, church officials are trying to ensure that this radical document is endorsed without serious debate," according to Coalition Moderator, Dr Lesley Fellows. "Unfortunately, this is entirely consistent with what has been happening throughout the process."

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed officially in 2004 as a means of addressing divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft, which has been unilaterally designated as "final", has been referred to the Communion churches for adoption. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms that would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion. The draft must be either accepted without amendment or rejected entirely; no other options are allowed.

A series of decisions demonstrate a pattern of bias and manipulation designed to facilitate Covenant adoption:

November 2010 — When the Church of England debated the Anglican Covenant, official materials prepared for General Synod members made no reference to the concerns of critics or to the case against the Covenant. This was in marked contrast to what happened in 2007, when the House of Bishops agreed that an additional briefing document presenting opposing arguments should be circulated to all General Synod members in advance of the debate.

November 2010 — When Modern Church and Inclusive Church placed advertisements critical of the proposed Covenant in the church press, and when the No Anglican Covenant Coalition was launched, Covenant sceptics were criticized by senior church officials for going public and "campaigning" instead of remaining silent.

December 2010 — When the draft Covenant was formally referred to English dioceses, the referral document provided a random list of quotations from the last General Synod debate, with pro
‐ and anti‐Covenant remarks mixed up together, followed by a purely pro‐Covenant presentation.

January 2011 — A request by Covenant opponents to the Business Committee of General Synod to circulate material setting out the case against the Covenant was rejected.

February 2011 — The Anglican Communion Office issued an official study guide and list of questions and answers for international use that neither provide a balanced look at the issues nor fairly represent the views of those critical of the Covenant.
"In the history of General Synod, we know of no instance where such an important matter (designated as Article 8) has been referred to diocesan synods without the case for both sides being clearly set out," according to Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of Modern Church and a member of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. "Both sides were represented regarding the most recent plans for unity with the Methodists. That was the case at every stage of the debate over the ordination of women as priests, and now, as bishops. The material concerning the Covenant falls far short of the ideals of justice, of the Anglican tradition. Even in the House of Commons, all sides of an issue are allowed to be heard."

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition website,, provides a wealth of resources for those seeking to understand the proposed Anglican Covenant. Material specifically designed for use by Church of England dioceses is also available from the Modern Church Web site at

"Diocesan synods in the Church of England deserve to hear all sides of the debate," said Dr Fellows. "We are not afraid of an open, fair, and honest debate. If the supporters of the Covenant had a stronger case, perhaps they wouldn’t be either."

Revd Dr Lesley Fellows (England) +44 184 4239 268

Revd Canon Hugh Magee (Scotland) +44 133 4470 446

Dr Lionel Deimel (USA) +1 412 512 9087

Revd Malcolm French (Canada) +1 306 550 2277

Revd Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Diocese of California Material Added to Resources Collection

The Episcopal Diocese of California is taking the job of responding to The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council call for feedback on the Anglican Covenant very seriously. It is sponsoring 90-minute deanery discussions on the Covenant. We have added the diocese’s Facilitator’s Guide for these discussions, as well as an interesting of collection of facts to our Resources page on the No Anglican Covenant Web site.

Some sample facts from the Diocese of California document:
  • The principle of local autonomy was abruptly generated in the wake of the American Revolution which ended formal ties of church and state between 13 colonies in North American and the government and Church of England [1784 and following.] [sic] Two initial local actions were to acquire bishops—enough to be self-perpetuating—and to craft a “local” Book of Common Prayer.

  • In 1865 the Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada demanded a gathering of Anglican bishops to respond to a “case” involving biblical interpretation in the Province of South Africa. [The Colenso Case.] That gathering evolved into the decennial Lambeth Conference. However, the first gathering of bishops determined that they were not a governing body of any kind. They had neither mandate nor authority to so act and thus affirmed that the Lambeth Conference was for communication, mutual learning and support.
And from the Facilitator’s Guide:
  • The decisions of The Episcopal Church and some other provinces (constituent churches) of The Anglican Communion to ordain women and openly gay persons to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopacy are understood principally as matters of justice rooted in the Gospel. Others in the communion see these decisions in the light of traditional beliefs and scriptural authority. Several of the 38 churches of the Communion have recently broken communion with The Episcopal Church over these differences.
    Will the Anglican Covenant restore the Anglican Communion or cause more division?

  • From the Reformation of the 16th century to the present, Christian churches are by their nature either creedal or confessional (covenantal). The former affirm the ancient creeds of the ecumenical councils of the undivided church as the foundation for belief. Confessional churches regard creeds as limited instruments of a corrupt church and have created their own foundational statements of what they believe. Historically, churches of the Anglican Communion have been creedal in their identity.
    Will an Anglican Covenant change the fundamental nature of the churches in the Anglican tradition? Is that good or bad?
Update, 28 February 2011: Questions have been raised about some of the “facts” asserted in the Diocese of California collection. Because some of the propositions advanced by this document are questionable, the document has been removed from the Resources page of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. We apologize for any confusion that may have been caused by its inclusion.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Anglicans Online Declares Itself Against Covenant

Anglicans Online logoAnglicans Online, one of the oldest and most respected Anglican destinations on the World Wide Web, has declared itself opposed to the adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant. Anglicans Online is not noted for taking political stands, but its weekly home-page essay posted last night characterizes the Covenant as out-of-touch with the 21st-century world:
The very looseness of the Anglican Communion (at least until the Tedious Years of the Anglican Covenant Discussion) is what will give it strength to move with relative ease in this new world. The gentle, unlegislated bonds of affection and the tolerance for variances of custom, behaviour, churchmanship, hymns, divorce, prayer books and the like are far more aligned with the way we live now. The old-speak of the proposed Covenant hearkens back to a world that is passing away, one of rigidity, structure, and complex mechanisms of governance.
Anglicans Online goes on describe the Covenant as, in many ways, un-Anglican and offers this chilling analysis:
That it could be adopted is, to our mind, one that will signal the death knell of the Anglican Communion as we have known it. (And frankly we don't want to know any other kind.)
Read the whole essay here.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Good and Not So Good Additions

Some important materials have been added to the Resources page of the No Anglican Covenant Web site today. You can read the list of updates here. I want to say a bit more about the new material in this post.

The most valuable additions are four essays by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, priest-in-charge at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California, and a former board member of Integrity. In her relatively short posts, Hall has provided an excellent introduction to the covenant, including where it came from, what it says, who is for it, and who is against it. A forthcoming essay promises to evaluate the pluses and minuses of the Covenant. The essays now available would make an excellent and concise introduction to a discussion of the Covenant for those who have little or no familiarity with it. If you are preparing such a discussion in your parish or diocese, you should definitely consider using the Hall material. It is very even-handed.

Hall reminded me of the importance of the Dallas Statement of 1997. This document, which originated at an international conference of conservative Anglican bishops and archbishops, set out a strategy for the 1998 Lambeth Conference and (most importantly) beyond. It makes very interesting reading.

Finally, the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order has issued a Study Guide and collection of Questions and Answers about the Covenant. Whereas Hall’s first four essays are very objective, these Anglican Communion documents are pure advocacy for Covenant adoption.


Monday, February 14, 2011


I have been thinking about the way the so-called covenant is being advanced and opposed. I think it is telling and I wonder if you see what I see.
  • On the blogs of the members of the No Anglican Covenant Campaign, on the Facebook page and Internet site of the group (see the links to the left here) and on various other blogs you will find carefully constructed arguments against the document.
  • On various "traditional" or "Orthodox" sites you will find arguments against the thing on an "effects basis." That is, the reason to oppose the so-called "Covenant" is that it does not permit the self-defined holy people to smite the evil ones (the progressives). So it lacks a desired effect.

    While I can only welcome the opposition, the argument is weak. In fact section four does permit the archbishop of Canterbury with a few cooperative primates to impose sanctions (neatly called something else, "relational consequences") on those he chooses to persecute. Without ratification, he and Canon Kearon have already attacked two provinces. The effect may not be what the "orthodox" want but it exists none-the-less.
  • In the discussion of the document at various meetings (cf. General Synod) it is advanced not on merit (Well that is fair - it has none!) but as a matter of loyalty to Dr. Williams, or the whole communion.
Nowhere I can find is there a group analogous to this one that wants to claim the document should be endorsed on merit.

No one is advancing serious arguments for it: instead one hears about "holding the communion together." How that is to happen when as is likely a great many provinces refuse to endorse and some have effectively withdrawn now it is never explained.

I find this fascinating as we could expect its authors to form such a support group quite naturally. Unless as they should be they are somewhat ashamed of it. I would be.

There is an historic parallel. When the Treaty of Versailles was written, John Maynard Keynes, Sir Winston Churchill and a number of others attacked it as the horrible mistake it was. Almost no one defended it on an intellectual or logical basis. Rather they attacked the former German government for starting WWI. The treaty went into general effect (note that the USA did not ratify it) and we saw the rise of WWII. One thing is clear: relational consequences happen.

Where are the voices for this thing, the arguments that section four makes sense? There are not any and that is perhaps a logical consequence of what it is. Why are no defenders or proponents as engaged in the discussion as we opponents? I can think of some reasons, but beyond elitism ("we are the archbishops and we say so!") I suspect there is little enthusiasm for discussion where one can only look silly.

The proponents really do not have much of a case and so silence and fear, "let's hold things together" are in play instead. Or so it seems to me.

jim B.
Jim's Thoughts

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

FREE Rowan: oppose the covenant!

New from Mr. Catolick - script below video:

Well hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to my little video putting together some thoughts about the Anglican covenant.

Firstly let me say that I am saddened by the idea of this document and whilst I can fully understand why many learned men and women have got behind the ideas contained in it I can also clearly see that it is an idea forged in a furnace of unnecessary desperation.

The most significant proponent of the AC is Rowan Williams, a good archbishop. Unfortunately it is during rowan’s time that the nature of the Archbishops post has changed radically and the AC is part of that change. Rowan now labours under the new responsibility of being a ‘focus for unity’ as heralded by the Windsor report.

The Anglican communion has never given this explicit responsibility to one man and it is something that generations of Anglicans have criticised the roman catholic church for over and over again, pointing to the inevitable abuses of power and the tendency towards punitive styles of leadership that may accompany such a singular expectation.

Poor old Rowan has been duped and is now desperately trying to do his best to be that focus for unity. Well that’s all well and good whilst we have rowan at the helm, but what of future archbishops, will they downplay the punitive elements that lie within the AC?

We need to reject the AC and its un-Anglican drive to centrality, we need to free Rowan from the unrealistic and un-Anglican responsibility laid upon him in the Windsor report and return to the values that Anglicans have held dear and indeed fought and died for, that is independence and freedom to worship as conscience dictates.
Apart from the basic Christian understanding that the bible along with the creeds, and the Lord’s prayer contain the essentials of faith and indeed the essentials that tell us that we all belong to the family of humanity, the very use of the word covenant is misleading.

The word covenant is reserved for an agreement between people and God. The New Testament heralded the new covenant between humanity and God as revealed in Jesus Christ and we believe that in it is revealed fully the nature of the relationship between God and humanity that exists in truth, that through it we achieve salvation and that by it we know that God is a loving and indeed a forgiving God.

To broker a new covenant that is aimed at more forcefully requiring us to live together nicely may be to show some disrespect to the completeness of scripture. Clearly we can benefit from people helping us to understand the Bible, the creeds and indeed the Lord ’s Prayer. However this is something more, much more and it can be argued that it attempts to supersede scripture.
The AC offer us a new way of relating to one another and tells us that if we do not adhere to this new way then there will be relational consequences. We are fully adult and fully able to think independently, that is the Anglican tradition. We are able to work out for ourselves that if we fall out over matters in church life, in family life, in general, then there will be relational consequences. Why is it included in this document? It is because of the desperate desire to put unity before independent thought.

One of the consequences of independent thought is that other things arise. Were it not for independent thought the c of E would not exist, we would all be RC’s. Were it not for independent thought the Methodist movement would not have come about and were it not for independent thought e would not be created in the image of God; in other words, God has given us our spiritual and moral independence which of course brings with it moral responsibility, but moral responsibility cannot demand that we give up our inheritance as independent people.

So you see that the AC is wrong and misguided. The proponents, Rowan amongst them, mean well and are struggling to achieve unity in a divided world. Yet they are misguided, and in Rowan’s case I think he has been forces into a place he should not be by the Windsor report.

So let us free the church and free Rowan, let us continue to be the Anglican Church we are and accept that our forefathers have relied on the Holy Spirit, prayer, the bible, the creeds and the Lord ’s Prayer, and that we should continue to do likewise.
To seek a holy grail, to clutch at straws in the teeth of ad adversity is to forget your core values and your founding documents, in them lies our salvation and to be called to other shores will lead to a rocky and disastrous outcome.
Support Rowan, support the Anglican tradition, keep your independence, resist centrality and let Jesus Christ be the focus of our unity, which is what the Windsor report should have advocated in the first place.
Bye bye for now.

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