Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Voting Statistics

This week London (Thursday) and Manchester (today) voted on the proposed Anglican Covenant. Both dioceses voted against adopting the Covenant, bringing the total in the Church of England to 15 dioceses for and 25 against. Four more dioceses will meet in April to have their say, but since last week the result has been clear: the Covenant cannot come back to the General Synod for adoption, at least until 2015.

With London's and Manchester's figures, we now have:

Bishops: 77.4% for, 16.7% against, 6.0% abstentions
Clergy: 45.0% for, 50.9% against, 4.1% abstentions
Laity: 48.1% for, 47.0% against, 4.9% abstentions
Overall: 47.5% for, 48.0% against, 4.5% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 46.7% for, 48.8% against, 4.5% abstentions

Total figures now show more against than for overall, even including bishops. Also of interest is that the number of abstentions has been steadily dropping. Overall opposition has been strongest among the clergy. But clearly the membership of the Church of England, assuming that they are accurately reflected by the diocesan synods, do not want to adopt the Anglican Covenant.

We take a break from the horse race until after Easter.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Secular Media Notice

Here is a link to Thinking Anglicans post recap of English media reporting on the defeat of the Covenant in England. This is very handy reporting and when you visit you might consider thanking them.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Voting Statistics

Six more dioceses in the Church of England voted today on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

There was some confusion in the tally of Oxford's votes, which has made the update of the statistics difficult, because I had to decide how to include them. There is no doubt about the end result in Oxford: the Covenant proposal was defeated in the House of Clergy. (Oxford, recall, is the home of the Yes to the Covenant campaign.) In the end, I chose to average the numbers, rounding. So, reported numbers for Oxford are:

Clergy: 14/15 for, 36/38 against, 2 abstentions
Laity: 32/35 for, 24/29 against, 3 abstentions.

I have included:

Clergy: 15 for, 37 against, 2 abstentions
Laity: 34 for, 27 against, 3 abstentions.

Bearing that in mind, total voting statistics now stand at:

Bishops: 79.5% for, 14.1% against, 6.4% abstentions
Clergy: 45.7% for, 50.1% against, 4.3% abstentions
Laity: 48.6% for, 46.4% against, 5.0% abstentions

Overall: 48.1% for, 47.2% against, 4.7% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 47.3% for, 48.1% against, 4.7% abstentions

The overwhelming support for the Covenant by the bishops pushes the total to a slim plurality of support for it, but when their votes are excluded from the counting (as their votes don't actually count in the diocesan totals) the reverse is true. Except amongst the bishops, it is clear that the members of the diocesan synods that have voted to date are almost exactly evenly divided as to whether the Covenant ought to be adopted by the Church of England, though there is a significant margin and a majority against adoption amongst the clergy.

Where the votes actually count, of the 38 dioceses voting to date, 23 have voted against the Covenant and 15 for. Thus, regardless how the remaining 6 dioceses vote, a majority of the 44 dioceses has already voted against the Covenant, and its consideration cannot return to the General Synod during the current quinquennium.

We will continue to monitor voting in the Church of England, and in the other Provinces as results become available.

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Covenant rejected by Church of England

MARCH 24, 2012

LONDON – No Anglican Covenant Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, has issued the following statement on the defeat of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant in the Church of England.

“With today’s results from the dioceses of Oxford and Lincoln, the proposed Anglican Covenant is now dead in the water in the Church of England. This also poses serious problems for the Covenant in other Provinces as it seems nonsensical to have the Archbishop of Canterbury in the second tier of the Anglican Communion and excluded from the central committees.

“When we launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition 18 months ago, we were assured that the Anglican Covenant was an unstoppable juggernaut. We started as simply a band of bloggers, but we would like to thank the hundreds of supporters and our patrons for their dedication to promoting debate. The Covenant needed the approval of 23 diocesan synods, as of today, that result is no longer possible.

“Especially we would like to congratulate people in Diocesan Synods across the Church of England who, despite attempts in many dioceses to silence or marginalize dissenting voices, endeavoured to promote debate, ensuring that the Anglican Covenant was subjected to significant and meaningful scrutiny. We found, as the debate went on, that the more people read and studied the Covenant, the less they liked it.

“Under Church of England procedures , this proposal to centralize Communion-wide authority in the hands of a small, self-selecting group cannot return to the agenda of General Synod for at least three years.

“We are seeing the momentum turning internationally as well. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines has officially rejected the Covenant, the opposition of the Tikanga Maori virtually assures that the Covenant will be rejected in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and we are seeing increasing opposition in other Provinces of the Communion.

“While today’s diocesan synod results are exciting and gratifying, we are well aware that there is still work to do. However, if the proposed Anglican Covenant does not stand up to scrutiny in the Church of England, we are confident that it will not stand up to scrutiny elsewhere.

“We hope that the Church of England will now look to bring reconciliation within the Anglican Communion by means of strengthening relationships rather than punitive legislation.”

Note: A PDF version of the news release can be found here.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Bishop of Liverpool speaks against the covenant

Diocesan Synod Presidential Address : 17th March 2012
The Rt. Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool

I have been very exercised about this Presidential Address; about what I should say and when I should say it within this Synod. For the Bishop to take a Presidential view on the Covenant could be seen by different parties to the debate as exercising undue influence. But I have decided to speak now about the Covenant because I believe that it is right for the Diocesan Bishop to guide the Diocese in its common life and also because by placing my concerns before you ahead of the debate allows others who take a different stance to voice their own views. I have shown the proposer and opposer of the motion the text in advance. I hope this reflection might be a help to all of us as we come to a mind as a Synod.

I should add that I wrote this before the Archbishop of Canterbury recorded his piece for YouTube. I have not altered or modified my address in the light of his comments as I do not wish this to be seen as a personal disagreement with the Archbishop.

Synod will know from my previous addresses that I have consistently expressed concern about the creation of the Covenant. When I was on the House of Bishops Standing Committee I shared my reservations with the Archbishops. Another reason why I hesitate to reiterate my concerns is because I feel the Church demeans itself and undermines its mission when it invests so much in internal conflict. Also, I know that the Archbishop of Canterbury has worked tirelessly, courageously and beyond the call of duty to heal the wounds of the Anglican Communion. I know too that he sees the Covenant as a means of rescuing the Communion. When the Covenant was last debated at the General Synod I deliberately registered an abstention; it was out of loyalty to the Archbishop that I did not vote against it and against him.

However, as we come now to the final vote and to this Synod motion I tell you with a heavy heart that I shall be voting against both here and at the General Synod.
Already a significant number of Dioceses against the wishes of their own Bishops have voted down the Covenant. I will not go over the ground that I have covered in previous Presidential Addresses but will single out a number of reasons why I believe that far from being the salvation of the Communion the Anglican Covenant would seriously undermine it.

Firstly, we live in an increasingly litigious world. Sadly the church is not immune from litigation. Indeed when you add a religious dimension to litigation it becomes all the more fraught with people claiming not only that they are right but also that their cause is right in the eyes of God. This often makes litigation in the Church all the more divisive and destructive. It is my expectation that overlaying the structure of the Anglican Communion with this Covenant and with its explicit threats of “relational consequences” we will be making our Communion vulnerable to those forces that propel people forward in litigation. For the first time the Anglican Communion will have a monitoring body with the authority to declare the actions of Provinces as “incompatible with the Covenant” and bar their representatives from membership of ecumenical dialogues and central bodies of the Communion. This takes the Covenant into areas of judgement and discipline. It will become a field day for the media.

Secondly, the Covenant will introduce to the Anglican Communion a dynamic that will increasingly absorb us with our own internal order. It will take time, money, energy as from year to year we inspect the credentials of different Provinces to see whether or not they should be regarded as true Anglicans having acted contrary to the Covenant. My heartache here is that those precious gifts of time, money and energy should be directed to the mission of God. Legal wrangling only blights an institution and impedes that mission.

Thirdly, the Church has been born for mission. Two thousand years of church history tell us that the mission of God brings with it adventure and risks and takes us to new places that we never dreamed of. Right from the outset when the Jewish disciples of Jesus engaged with a Gentile world they found themselves challenged, conflicted and more importantly changed by those encounters. The Church must be free to go into all the world and to engage with new cultures enabling us all to learn Christ. As we do we will find that we too are changed by this engagement with the world. Such change lies at the heart of repentance as we continually re-think, re-assess what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in a new context. The problem with the Covenant is that it introduces a dynamic which makes the Communion essentially introspective and resistant to change. Instead of setting us free to engage with a changing world it freezes us at a given point in our formation, holding us back and making us nervous about going beyond the boundaries and reaching out to God’s world. Indeed, just at the point that the church needs to be innovative and courageous against the forces ranged against us we will find ourselves constrained by fears as to whether our bold actions might mire us in procedures of dispute resolution.

There are bound to be times in mission when it is right to go out on a limb. If we hold back all bold initiatives until every Province agrees then we shackle the church in chains. The beauty of the Anglican Communion is that each Province can respond uniquely to its own cultural context within the triangle of Scripture, Reason and Tradition.

Fourthly, the partnerships that the Diocese of Liverpool has with the Diocese of Akure and the Diocese of Virginia have proved to me the importance of being in relationship with different Dioceses in other parts of the Communion and of God’s world. Invariably we have seen the Gospel more clearly as we have observed how it is obeyed in these other cultures. The beauty of the Communion is that it allows for such ad hoc relationships to spring up all over the world. In the history of our own partnerships we have had one extraordinary meeting of the three Dioceses together in which the outcome could not have been anticipated by any one of us. The differences between us became the learning points. Indeed, we learn most about the Gospel from those Christians who differ from us.
These Partnerships are about friendship and fellowship in which the bonds of affection can grow and in which difficult topics can be explored within the security of those committed relationships. That is the nature of the Anglican Communion. To overlay it now with a quasi-legal structure and the threat of “relational consequences” for those with whom we disagree changes the character of the Communion radically. It introduces a new element to the Communion with far reaching implications.
Fifthly, the Church of England is characterised by the authority of the Bible, the Creeds of the Church, the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, the Thirty Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. These are sufficient credentials for the Church of England and do not need to have a Covenant superimposed on them. All Provinces of the Anglican Communion who are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury know that he and they are bound by these doctrinal sources.

When we are in Christ, we are in Christ with everybody else who is in Christ and in communion, whether we like it or not - or them or not, whether we agree with them or not. To be in Christ is an act of grace. It is a gift. I believe that whoever calls Jesus Christ Lord is in Christ. I know that for some this is an insufficient definition and down the centuries the Church has been driven by those who have sought to define it more fully. But it is a New Testament maxim of Christian discipleship (1 Corinthian 12v3).
As one who believes in the transforming effect of the encounter with Christ and as I observe the as yet unharvested fields of mission I will work with those who accept this New Testament hallmark of the Lordship of Christ and at the risk of allowing tares to grow alongside the wheat set my face towards a generous interpretation so that all the time, money and energy at our disposal might be directed away from internal preoccupations to reaching out and embracing the world that God loves.
The Church of England and the Anglican Communion have over the centuries developed a generous embrace allowing seekers to taste and see the goodness of God. Within our borders, within the borders of what Cranmer described as that “blessed company of faithful people”, there is a generous orthodoxy. There is space for the seeker to breathe, to enquire, to ask questions, to doubt and to grope towards faith and to find God. That I believe is a space within the Body of Christ worth preserving. The Covenant will change the character of the Communion and, I fear, the Church of England.

© The Bishop of Liverpool March 2012

Note: Video of this address can be viewed here.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Momentum against Proposed Anglican Covenant Continues

In response to today’s votes in Church of England dioceses, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has issues a news release that can be read in its entirety here. The body of the statement is the following:

LONDON – No Anglican Covenant Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, responded to the results of today’s voting on the proposed Anglican Covenant by pointing to the continued momentum against the pact in diocesan synods. “With three of five synods voting against, it is clear that there continues to be limited appetite for a new Anglicanism that comprises first- and second-tier members. Many share our concerns that the Covenant seeks to preserve the Communion by making it into something it has never been and never should be.”

Dr Crawley pointed to today’s comments from the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, which effectively articulated the concerns of many faithful Anglicans in England and around the world. According to Bishop Jones:
“…Far from being the salvation of the Communion the Anglican Covenant would undermine it. … Instead of setting us free to engage with a changing world it freezes us at a given point in our formation, holding us back and making us nervous about going beyond the boundaries and reaching out into God’s world. … When we are in Christ, we are in Christ with everybody else who is in Christ, whether we like it or not—or them or not.”
To date, the proposed Anglican Covenant has been approved by 12 dioceses of the Church of England (Lichfield; Durham; Europe; Bristol; Canterbury; Winchester; Sheffield; Bradford; Carlisle; Coventry; Chester; Norwich) and rejected by 20 (Wakefield; St Edmundsbury and Ipswich; Truro; Birmingham; Derby; Gloucester; Portsmouth; Rochester; Salisbury; Leicester; Sodor and Man; Chelmsford; Hereford; Ripon and Leeds; Bath and Wells; Southwark; Worcester; Liverpool; Ely; St Albans). Approval by 23 diocesan synods is required for the Covenant to return to General Synod for further consideration. Rejection by 22 dioceses would effectively derail approval of the Covenant by the Church of England.

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Growing opposition to the Anglican Covenant in England

Following voting today at five Diocesan Synods in the Church of England, the total voting across all dioceses continues to show a trend of increasing opposition to the proposed Anglican Covenant. Total figures for the 32 dioceses that have voted show the following breakdown:

Bishops: 80.7% for, 11.3% against, 8.1% abstentions
Clergy: 44.8% for, 50.7% against, 4.5% abstentions
Laity: 48.1% for, 47.0% against,  4.9% abstentions

Support continues to drop among the bishops. A majority of clergy is against the Covenant, and less than a majority of laity is for (though a slim plurality of laity is for).

Overall: 47.4% for, 47.8% against, 4.8% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 46.6% for, 48.7% against, 4.7% abstentions

A growing plurality of the overall vote is against the Covenant.

To date 12 dioceses have voted for the Covenant, and 20 against. Twelve dioceses remain to vote.

In order for the resolution to adopt the Anglican Covenant to return to the Church of England's General Synod in July of this year, a majority of dioceses must approve it (23 of 44). If at least 22 vote against the Covenant, the resolution caannot return to the General Synod for consideration in the current quinquennium (i.e., before 2015).

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Norwich Votes for Covenant to Complete Today’s Voting

The final diocese of the Church of England voting today on the Anglican Covenant is the Diocese of Norwich. Norwich voted for the Covenant.

The voting was as follows: Bishops—3 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; Clergy—26 for, 10 against, 1 abstention; Laity—19 for, 15 against, 1 abstention.

The score today, then, is 3 dioceses voting against the Covenant and 2 for it. The overall vote now is 20 dioceses against and 12 for. An additional 12 dioceses have yet to vote. Modern Church is keeping a complete vote tally here, though, as this is being written, the Norwich results have not yet been posted.

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Ely Votes No; Chester Votes Yes

Results continue to come in from Church of England diocesan synods voting on the Anglican Covenant. (See previous post.) We have learned that we were victorious in the Diocese of Ely, but the Diocese of Chester voted for the Covenant.

The voting in Ely was as follows: Bishops—1 for, 0 against, 1 abstention; Clergy—16 for, 23 against, 1 abstention; Laity—19 for, 19 against, 0 abstentions.

The voting in Chester was as follows: Bishops—3 for, 0 against,0 abstentions; Clergy—22 for, 14 against, 5 abstentions; Laity—26 for, 23 against, 5 abstentions.

As of now, 20 of 44 dioceses have voted against the Covenant, but only 11 have voted for it.

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St. Albans Votes against Covenant

The Diocese of St. Albans has also voted against the Covenant. (See previous post here.)

The voting was as follows: Bishops—2 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; Clergy—21 for, 31 against, 0 abstentions; Laity—17 for, 44 against, 0 abstentions.

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Liverpool Votes against Covenant

Five Church of England dioceses are voting today on whether to send the Anglican Covenant back to General Synod for final approval. Things look bleak for the Covenant at the moment.

We have the first voting results, this time from the Diocese of Liverpool. Liverpool has voted against the Covenant.

The voting was as follows: Bishops—0 for, 2 against, 0 abstentions; Clergy—10 for, 26 against, 1 abstention; Laity—8 for, 28 against, 5 abstentions.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Coalition Statement on the Retirement of Archbishop Rowan Williams

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has issued a statement on the retirement of Archbishop Rowan Williams, which was announced today. The complete news release can be read here. The substance of the statement is the following:

LONDON – The No Anglican Covenant Coalition wishes to thank Archbishop Rowan Williams for his tireless commitment to unity in the Anglican Communion across these difficult ten years. We share with him hope that we will achieve greater love towards one another in the Communion and that we might be enriched by our links across the world.

We wish him every blessing in the next phase of his work as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and will keep him, Jane and the children in our prayers as they make this transition.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Newsletter

March 14, 2012

Dear Supporters,

Since I last wrote to you, developments in the progress on the development of the Covenant have been fast and (occasionally) furious. We had previously assumed that adoption of the Covenant would come before General Synod in York this July, and we were concerned that it might be overshadowed by the – hopefully final – debate on the appointment of women bishops. But this has almost certainly been overtaken by events.

Voting has been continuing in the dioceses, the surprise being that the current state of play is 17 against the adoption of the Covenant, with only 10 in favour of it. If a simple majority of the dioceses vote to reject it, the Covenant will not after all be brought before General Synod. There are 44 dioceses, which means that the pro-Covenanters need 23 to be in favour. Thus to defeat it, we only need to have 22 dioceses reject it. The Covenant could not be brought before General Synod again in this quinquennium, i.e. not before July 2015 (and it is hard to see how it could be revived then).

On 17 March, this coming Saturday, Norwich, Liverpool, St Albans, Chester and Ely will vote; and on the following Saturday, 24 March, they will be followed by Lincoln, Exeter, Blackburn, Oxford, Guildford and Peterborough. You can follow the results on the Thinking Anglicans website and also at Modern Church.

Our experience in the last few months has been that, wherever members of the diocesan synods are briefed on both sides of the question, they have tended to vote against the Covenant. In several cases, synods have refused to allow briefing papers on both sides to be circulated. In Sodor and Man, Bishop Gregory Cameron of St Asaph debated with Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church before the diocesan synod: despite an address by the Bishop of Sodor and Man strongly in favour of the Covenant, it was rejected.

Our team in the Coalition has been strengthened by the recruitment of 5 more patrons: from England, the Revd Dr Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Church History at Oxford University, and the Revd Canon Sarah Coakley, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University; from the USA the Revd Dr Marilyn McCord Adams, Professor of Philosophy at University of North Carolina and formerly Regius Professor at Oxford University; from Australia, Dr Muriel Porter, OAM, a senior Anglican and correspondent for ‘The Church Times’; and from New Zealand the Rt Revd James White, Assistant Bishop of Auckland.

Concentration remains, for the moment, on the Church of England. Professor MacCulloch was interviewed with Bishop Graham Kings of Sherborne by Edward Stourton last Sunday. You can hear it on YouTube, and you can also hear his general comments on the Covenant here. This video was fortuitously uploaded to YouTube the day after the Archbishop of Canterbury’s rather rambling piece - and appeared to be in response to it.

So, to summarise, it is possible that by the end of March we will have defeated the Anglican Covenant, at least in its present form. I never imagined, when we started the No Anglican Covenant Coalition in 2010, that we could conceivably achieve this result. It has not happened yet, so for now our efforts are concentrated on getting at least 5 more dioceses voting our way. If we succeed, the next task will be to keep a close eye on what the Anglican Communion Office do next. Will they try to rescue it in some way or other, or will we have a part to play in more constructive dialogue about the future of the Anglican Communion?

Thank-you to so many people who have been working hard at the local level to enable both sides of the debate to be heard. Please continue your efforts, we still need your help.

With very best wishes,
Lesley Crawley


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Coalition News Release

The No Anglican Covenant has issued a news release remarking on the status of Covenant voting in the Church of England and emphasizing that the Coalition is against the adoption of the Covenant but not opposed to the Anglican Communion. You can read a PDF version of the news release here. Below is reproduced the title and body of the news release.

LONDON – With more than half of English dioceses having voted, leaders of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition are cautiously optimistic. To date, a significant majority of dioceses have rejected the proposed Anglican Covenant. Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, welcomes the introduction of following motions at several recent synods emphasizing support for the Anglican Communion. Four dioceses have already passed following motions (Bath and Wells; Chelmsford; Worcester; Southwark) and a further six have following motions on the agenda (St Albans; Chester; Oxford; Guilford; Exeter; London).

“The more widely the Covenant is read and discussed, the more likely people are to see it as a deeply flawed approach to the challenges of the Anglican Communion in the 21st century,” said Crawley. “The introduction of following motions in several dioceses has emphasized what has been our position from the beginning: we oppose the Covenant because we love the Anglican Communion.”

“The proposed Covenant envisages the possibility that Provinces of the Communion may be barred from representing Anglicanism on certain councils and commissions with the clear implication that they are no longer sufficiently Anglican,” said Coalition Patron Bishop John Saxbee. “It is precisely this dimension of the Covenant which renders the Covenant itself un-Anglican.”

“Some have argued that the Covenant is necessary for ecumenical relations to indicate how Anglicans understand catholicity, even though this is already laid out in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Declaration of Assent,” according to Coalition Patron Bishop Peter Selby. “The Covenant adds nothing to these other than a bureaucratic disciplinary regime which denies to Anglicanism a distinctiveness which ecumenical partners might come to appreciate or even envy.”

“I’m very disappointed that some Covenant supporters have tried to turn this into a contest about who loves the Communion more, like self-centred parents in some ugly divorce drama,” said Canadian Coalition member, the Ven Alan Perry. “Our position has always been that ‘No’ to the Covenant really is ‘Yes’ to the Communion. Companion diocese relationships came into being without the Covenant and will continue to exist, Covenant or no. Anglicans from around the world care about their Anglican brothers and sisters in places like Haiti or Zimbabwe, and we will continue to care about them with or without the proposed Anglican Covenant. Our current ecumenical relationships began long before the idea of an Anglican Covenant, and they will continue whether the Covenant is accepted or rejected. We are a family, and we shall continue to be a family regardless of what happens.”

To date, the proposed Anglican Covenant has been approved by ten dioceses of the Church of England (Lichfield; Durham; Europe; Bristol; Canterbury; Winchester; Sheffield; Bradford; Carlisle; Coventry) and rejected by 17 (Wakefield; St Edmundsbury and Ipswich; Truro; Birmingham; Derby; Gloucester; Portsmouth; Rochester; Salisbury; Leicester; Sodor and Man; Chelmsford; Hereford; Ripon and Leeds; Bath and Wells; Southwark; Worcester). Approval by 23 diocesan synods is required for the Covenant to return to General Synod for further consideration. Rejection by 22 dioceses would effectively derail approval of the Covenant by the Church of England.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Yes to Communion; No to Covenant

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition was created by a group of people from across the globe who are passionate about the Anglican Communion. We chose a name cast in the negative to make it clear just where we stood, but everyone should know that we are passionate believers in the Communion. Our opposition to the proposed Covenant reflects our sincere belief that its adoption would be a profound mistake and, contrary to its ostensible goal, would divide, rather than unite the churches of the Anglican Communion.

We rejoice in being part of a worldwide communion, rather than a worldwide church. This fact allows each member church to proclaim the gospel in a manner that is most meaningful in that church’s own cultural context, while maintaining recognizably Anglican practices and Anglican ethos. We believe that widespread adoption of the Covenant would take us far down the road of establishing a worldwide church espousing uniform doctrines. Such a church can be maintained only through impractically complex and expensive consultation and decision-making or through rule by an all-powerful elite. The former has never existed and perhaps never could exist. The Roman Catholic Church is an example of the latter. The Church of England chose a different path from the Roman church 500 years ago, and we believe that the wisdom of that decision is still apparent.

Universal adoption of the proposed Covenant seems increasingly unlikely, assuring that our somewhat fractious Communion faces a split into tiers, communions, or what have you. The resulting fragments  will invariably become hostile toward each other, and those churches bound by the Covenant will become a tentative and suspicious assemblage, more concerned with policing fellow churches than proclaiming the Gospel. One need only review the history of the Communion over the past decade or so to realize that such a future is likely if the proposed Covenant achieves significant acceptance. It will, after all, change no hearts, but it will facilitate the meting out of punishments to sister churches and the further splintering of our once strong fellowship.

The members of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, believe that strengthening the Anglican Communion must be done by fully embracing its unique attributes, not by radically redesigning its structure and circumscribing its beliefs. Anglicanism has been characterized by rich liturgical and musical traditions; by acceptance of the ancient creeds and practice of the dominical sacraments; and by the reliance on scripture, tradition, and reason to guide our actions. This has proven to be a formula for creating vibrant and effective churches everywhere on the planet. We have neither a single world culture nor definitive answers to all theological questions to justify a unified world church that we might call Anglican.

We remain, then, enthusiastic Anglicans, delighting in our somewhat messy fellowship of churches united, albeit imperfectly, by bonds of affection and, more importantly, by our desire to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s redeeming work of salvation to all the world. We invite all Anglicans to join with us in saying “Yes” to communion, but “No” to covenant.

Yes to Communion; No to Covenant

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Updated voting statistics

Six more Church of England dioceses voted on the Anglican Covenant today. Two voted to support it and four voted against, bringing the total to 10 for and 17 against. If a majority of the dioceses (23 of 44) vote for the Covenant, the motion to adopt it will return to the General Synod in July. If at least half (22) vote against, the motion to adopt cannot return to General Synod in the current quinquennium.

Across all 27 dioceses, the votes by houses look like this:

Bishops: 82.0% for, 10.0% against, 8.0% abstentions
Clergy: 44.6% for, 50.8% against, 4.7% abstentions
Laity: 50.1% for, 45.2% against,  4.7% abstentions

Comparing against last week's figures, one can see that support is dropping in all houses, opposition is growing, and confidence is growing (judging by the declining number of abstentions) except in the House of Bishops.

The bishops seem very much out of touch with the rest of the Church. Clergy and laity are almost evenly split for/against. It's clear that the arguments for the Covenant are not convincing at all. The clergy are decidedly against, and the laity hardly overwhelmingly for.

Overall: 48.4% for, 46.8% against, 4.8% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 47.6% for, 47.7% against, 4.7% abstentions

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why I Oppose the Covenant -- a link

My brilliant and intensely committed friend Lisa has posted a very well done piece on her blog. It is very much worth your time to pop over there and consider her thoughts.


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Historical Problems with the Anglican Covenant

The brief note below is from the Revd. Dr. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Kt. MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church, and Fellow of St. Cross College, in the University of Oxford, as well as a Patron of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. The article referred to is “The Anglican Covenant and the Experience of The Scottish Episcopal Church: Rewriting History for Expediency’s Sake.” Professor MacCulloch’s summary of this paper communicates the Ven. M. Edward Simonton’s essential points for those who may not have time to read the full paper.

I would like to recommend most highly this historical article by the Ven. Edward Simonton, Archdeacon of Saint Andrews in the Diocese of Montreal. It is a marvelously clear, learned and well-informed introduction to the history and significance of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, which reveals just how shoddy and ill-informed are the historical arguments which have been used to promote the introduction of a so-called ‘Anglican Covenant’. Simonton guides his reader through the history of a Church in Scotland which is a complete contrast to that of the Church of England, yet which is just as ancient in its episcopate. This is particularly important because one of the planks of the ‘Covenant’ is that the Anglican identity, on which its attempt at universal discipline is based, looks to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book. This is simply not so in the case of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which one has to remember was up to 1707 a Church in an independent kingdom, Scotland.

The Scottish story starts with a completely different Reformation to that of England, although it was also a Reformation which preserved bishops. They were ejected from church government in 1638 as the result of – guess what – a Covenant. They were brought back in 1661, but the established status of their Church was removed in 1689 because they were too loyal to the Stuart dynasty to swear an oath of loyalty to the King and Queen of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, William and Mary. Henceforth, the Episcopal Church faithful to its bishops was to fight against government repression, a repression frequently tacitly abetted by the bishops of the Church of England. New bishops were at first consecrated with the consent of the exiled Stuarts and with the help of bishops who had similarly left the Church of England on grounds of conscience, the ‘Non-Jurors’. Gradually some very dark years of repression lifted as the Stuart cause died, but part of the end of repression was the compulsion to subscribe to the English 39 Articles in 1792, the first time that the Scottish Episcopalians had had anything to do with the Articles. The 39 Articles were imposed by a foreign conqueror as a way of subjecting an independent Church body which was then helpless and had no choice but to accept. This requirement for subscription was only abolished in 1977, by then a historic relic. Scottish Episcopal clergy were not allowed to serve in the Church of England until 1864. Meanwhile, in 1784, it was to the Episcopal Church of Scotland that the loyal Episcopalians in the new United States turned for consecration of bishops, because the Church of England bishops refused to help them.

Likewise the use of the 1662 Prayer Book or its Ordinal historically did not apply in Scotland; the Episcopal Church had and has its own Prayer Book, first created by Scottish bishops in 1637 with an eye to the very first English Prayer Book of 1549, and it has to be said that its creation was a major reason why many Scots decided that bishops must go in 1638. The 1662 BCP was imposed on Scottish Episcopalians in the years of repression in the eighteenth century, simply because in their poverty and suspect political state, they were not able to get their 1637 book printed in large numbers.

It is therefore historically dishonest to claim that the 39 Articles, the 1662 Prayer Book and its Ordinal are the basis of Anglican unity. I could say more about the Church of Ireland and its unique historical inheritance, but Archdeacon Simonton’s splendid article is enough to prove that our Anglican historical formularies are much more splendidly varied in their origins than the proponents of the proposed ‘Covenant’ would like to pretend. Perhaps they just don’t know enough Church History.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Diarmaid MacCulloch Adds To The Video Debate

I am not going to write a long introduction to this video. I think it stands on its own merits quite well. Dr. MacCulloch is a professor and a patron of the Coalition. We are deeply honored by his decision to add his voice to our witness for the Communion and against the Covenant. I hope you find as I did his short video very worthwhile.

Jim Beyer

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Why the Covenant Matters: A Dialogue

As the prospects fade for having a majority of Church of England dioceses vote to return the proposed Anglican Covenant to the General Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is intensifying his effort to portray the pact as important and beneficial. Yesterday, he released text and video of a talk titled “Why the Covenant Matters.” The video is reproduced below. It is remarkable how sober—one might even say grim—the archbishop looks throughout this clip. Never is there a hint of a smile.

There is a good deal one might say about this talk. It is remarkable, for example, that we are, for once, not told that the Covenant represents “the only way forward.” Indeed, the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to acknowledge that the Church of England might not submit to the Covenant, which—in his opinion, of course—would be unfortunate.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is the insistence that, as we have been told many times before, the Covenant is not about punishment, “not a disciplinary system.” He observes that, under the Covenant, “nobody has the power to do anything but recommend courses of action.” But does anyone really think that recommendations for disciplining Anglican churches will not be acted upon after procedures of Section 4 have been carried out? Surely not!

Louie Crew, a prominent advocate for LGBT persons in The Episcopal Church, has responded to the archbishop with his own video on YouTube on the subject of punishment. I will let him speak for himself.


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Coalition Adds Three New Patrons

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has added three new Patrons to its special group of eminent Anglicans opposing the proposed Anglican Covenant. The new Patrons are
  • The Rt. Revd. James White, Assistant Bishop of Auckland, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia  
  • Dr. Muriel Porter, OAM, journalist and author, Anglican Church of Australia  
  • The Revd. Canon Dr. Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Cambridge University, Church of England.
The Coalition’s seven Patrons now include members from the Church of England, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

The news release announcing the latest Patron appointments can be read here.


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Monday, March 5, 2012

Response to Mark Chapman's defense of the Covenant

Reason and First Order Issues
by Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary, Modern Church.

I was very sorry to hear that Mark Chapman, one of the most distinguished of Modern Church’s members, has written the article “Spatial Catholicity” for Living Church in support of the Anglican Covenant. I am even sorrier to see some of the arguments he puts forward.

I shall focus here on two. First, the authority of reason. Chapman writes:

Anglicans schooled on the threefold understanding of theological method of Scripture, tradition, and reason might well raise objections about the absence of any discussion of reason in the Covenant document. While there is some ambiguity about the use and status of reason, I think that the key point is that reason fills in the gaps where Scripture is silent.

Does anybody really believe this? Despite his words I cannot bring myself to imagine that Chapman does. It does cohere with many 16th century documents, but nobody could seriously defend it today. To take one example, Leviticus 20:13 states that men who engage in anal sex are to be put to death. We do not put them to death today. Choosing not to kill them is not a matter of filling in a gap in scripture: on the contrary it is a matter of deliberately choosing to disobey a biblical text. We think we know better. In other words, we are using our reason to reject some biblical texts. Nor is this a stray text: it would be easy enough to provide hundreds of examples of biblical texts we routinely disobey.

Secondly, the distinction between first order and second order issues does not help. In the recent debates it has usually been applied, as Chapman applies it, to distinguish between doctrines on which all Christians (or all Anglicans) must agree, and on the other hand issues on which differences of opinion are legitimate. Often first order doctrines are described as ‘necessary for salvation’. Granted this distinction, it then becomes possible to argue about whether the immorality of same-sex partnerships, or whatever else, is a first order doctrine or whether, instead, we can agree to differ.

However this whole discourse has its origin, and its natural home, not in seeking to defend the Church’s unity but in saving souls from hell. Since the focus today is on preserving the Anglican Communion from schism, the relevant distinction to make is a different one: between beliefs and actions which cause schism, and those which do not. You may not go to hell for approving of border crossings, but they do mess up the Anglican provincial system. On the other hand, we can and do disagree with each other on the truth and meaning of the Trinity without expelling each other.

Jonathan Clatworthy
General Secretary
Modern Church
9 Westward View
L17 7EE, UK

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Another Good Saturday

There were three Church of England dioceses voting on the Covenant today.  Bradford approved it while Chelmsford and Hereford rejected it.

In order to return to General Synod, the Covenant must be approved in 23 of the Church of England's 44 dioceses.  The Covenant's supporters need to win in 15 of the remaining 23 dioceses.

Today's results:

Chelmsford - defeated
  • Bishops: 2 for, 1 against, 1 abstention
  • Clergy: 27 for, 29 against, 7 abstentions
  • Laity: 31 for, 30 against, 3 abstentions
Hereford - defeated
  • Bishops: 2 for
  • Clergy: 15 for, 15 against, 1 abstention
  • Laity: 21 for, 23 against, 1 abstention
Bradford - passed
  • Bishops: 1 for
  • Clergy: 15 for, 9 against, 2 abstentions
  • Laity: 16 for, 15 against, 3 abstentions
As I understand it, if the Covenant fails to achieve the necessary 23 diocesan approvals, the matter is concluded and cannot be reintroduced during the life of the present General Synod.

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Voting Statistics

To date 21 dioceses of the 44 in the Church of England have voted on the proposed Anglican Covenant. If a majority vote for it, then a motion to adopt the Covenant will be put before the General Synod. If at least half vote against, the matter cannot come before the General Synod in the current quinquennium.

Thus far, analysis of voting indicates the following percentages.

Bishops: 84.2% for, 10.5% against, 5.3% abstentions
Clergy: 45.8% for, 48.9% against, 5.4% abstentions
Laity: 50.3% for, 43.9% against, 5.8% abstentions

Overall: 49.1% for, 45.3% against, 5.6% abstentions

Other than the bishops, who seem to be overwhelming in favour of the Covenant (or in favour of voting for the Covenant), the clergy and laity seem to be roughly evenly divided.

Overall, 8 dioceses have voted to date for the Covenant and 13 against.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Sodor and Man Vote Against the Covenant

The Church of England Diocese of Sodor and Man has just voted on whether to send the Anglican Covenant back to the General Synod for final approval. As 10 English dioceses have done before it, the diocesan synod voted against the Covenant. Of the 44 dioceses, 11 have voted against the Covenant, and 7 have voted for it.

Recall that majority votes are required both of clergy of laity for the measure to pass. The voting was as follows: Bishops—1 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; Clergy—5 for, 12 against, 0 abstentions; Laity—21 for, 15 against, 1 abstention.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Challenge Declined

Yesterday, I challenged the leaders of the Yes to the Covenant group to:

join us in calling on the remaining 27 diocesan bishops to ensure that balanced material is provided to their synods and that appropriate speakers are invited to present both sides of the question when their synods meet.

As a courtesy, I sent an email through the group’s contact page to advise them of the published challenge. I went so far as to offer, should they take up our challenge, to coordinate a joint news release calling on the bishops of the 27 dioceses remaining to ensure a full and fair debate.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I should expect any response at all. Fortunately, they proved too mature for that sort of gameplaying, and there ensued a polite exchange of emails with the group’s founder, Miss Prudence Dailey. Miss Dailey has acknowledged by her final email that she had expected I would report on our correspondence. Rather than try to put words in her mouth, I will let her speak for herself. (I’ve edited out the polite pleasantries.)

The ‘Yes to the Covenant’ campaign was set up when we became aware that there was a good deal of anti-Covenant activism taking place, and no pro-Covenant activism; in that context we wanted to balance the debate. Beyond that, it is for each Diocese to decide for itself how to organise its deliberations.

Fair enough. But to avoid any confusion, I wrote back asking for clarification.

Given your suggestion that the debate has been unbalanced to date against the Covenant, I´m wondering if you could point to any example of diocesan synod delegates being denied pro-Covenant material, or where anti-Covenant speakers were given disproportional opportunity to sway the debate. Certainly I´m not aware of a single case like that.

I am aware of at least five cases where only pro-Covenant material was distributed and where only pro-Covenant speakers were designated to introduce the debate. I am not aware of a single diocese where the case for the Covenant has been disadvantaged.

Our position on this matter is clear. We want a full and fair debate where all sides of the question are set before synod members. Should you have evidence of a case where the pro-Covenant position was in any way disadvantaged, I can assure you that the No Anglican Covenant Coalition is more than ready to call for balance.

To which she responded:

Our initiative had the objective of offering an alternative perspective to anti-Covenant propaganda which seemed to be doing the rounds in public space. I really do not know in detail how the 44 dioceses are organising themselves and am taking the view that it is for church people in the dioceses to take up whatever local organisational issues may concern them.

Now, I agree with Miss Dailey’s words that members of diocesan synods need to make an informed decision about the Anglican Covenant. And I certainly agree that the debate to date has often failed synod delegates in this regard.

However any suggestion that the imbalance of the debate has been due to the small band of anti-Covenant campaigners is, frankly, dishonest. Neither Miss Dailey nor anyone else can point to a single diocesan synod where pro-Covenant material has not been provided or where pro-Covenant speakers have been put at a disadvantage.

By contrast, there have been several diocesan synods where members were not provided with anything but pro-Covenant propaganda. There have likewise been several synods where the debate was set up with a lengthy speech by an ardent Covenant supporter with no corresponding presentation by a Covenant critic.

It rather appears that Miss Dailey and her astroturf movement are quite happy to have a debate where only their side is presented. Their idea of fairness and balance could have been dictated by Rupert Murdoch, their idea of informed decision making by Karl Rove.

The reason, of course, is obvious. Every single time that delegates have been provided with balanced information, the Covenant has gone down to defeat.

The only hope for the Anglican Covenant in the Church of England is for members of at least 16 diocesan synods to be stampeded into a hasty decision with limited information, hand picked by its advocates.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition will continue to press for a fair and balanced discussion of this issue in the remaining 27 diocesan synods. Should the matter return to General Synod, we will continue the struggle there. Over the next few years, as other provinces of the Communion consider the matter, we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that all sides are heard before decisions are taken.

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