Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ACANZAP says NO, TEC declines to take position

JULY 11, 2012


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – Two days ago, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia rejected the Anglican Covenant. Yesterday, the Episcopal Church voted to “decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant,” and to continue to monitor the progress of the Covenant until the next General Convention in 2015. No Anglican Covenant Moderator, the Rev. Malcolm French, has issued the following statement:

The wind has clearly gone out of the sails of the Anglican Covenant. There was not even a single dissenting vote when the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia declared itself unable to adopt the Covenant. While our Coalition would have preferred a clearer “no” from the Episcopal Church, the resolution passed in Indianapolis is scarcely more than an abstention – and the commitment to “monitor the ongoing developments” rings hollow when we consider that the same General Convention phased out funding for the Episcopal Church staff position for Anglican Communion affairs. Perhaps they will monitor the situation by following #noanglicancovenant on Twitter.

The next major step in the Covenant process will be at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, this fall. We understand that there will be an attempt to introduce a ratification threshold and a sunset date to the Covenant process. Depending on the details, our Coalition is likely to be broadly supportive of both initiatives.


The No Anglican Covenant Coalition is an international group of Anglicans concerned about how the proposed Anglican Covenant would radically change the nature of the Anglican Communion.

The Rev. Malcolm French (Canada)     +1-306-550-2277
The Rev. Jean Mayland (England)    +44 07966 921247
The Ven. Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand)     +64 3 981 7384
The Rev. Canon Hugh Magee (Scotland)     +44 1334 470446
Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA)     +1-412-512-9087

Note: A PDF version of this news release is available here.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Episcopal Church House of Deputies Passes Substitute Covenant Resolution

Just a little while ago, the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church General Convention passed a revised version of Resolution B005. The resolution states that the church is too divided to made a decision on the Anglican Covenant now and asks for yet another task force on the Covenant to report to the General Convention in 2015. An amendment was defeated that would have removed both provisions about being divided and about creating a task force. When it came time to speak to the resolution itself, which the No Anglican Covenant Coalition opposed, five speakers had spoken in favor of B005 and none against when the question was called. Three of the speakers were from the committee that drafted the substitute resolution. Before the actual vote, one deputy expressed disappointment that no dissenting voices had been heard.

A voice vote only was taken. The ayes were in the majority, but, I think, not by much. It is not at all clear that the will of the majority has been served.

The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops, where passage seems likely, but by no means is a sure thing.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

A clear "NO!" from Aotearoa

A report from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

"rejected the proposed Covenant
based on section 4,
but ... subscribed to 1, 2 and 3
as a useful starting point
for consideration of our Anglican understanding of the church.

We have also affirmed
the commitment of the ACANZP to the Communion
and the Instruments,
and to using procedures
similar to those in Section 3
if another church raises concerns
about what we are doing or going to do.

The whole motion has been passed in open Synod,
with no negative voice."

Official text and links to follow once we have it. No Anglican Covenant Coalition Moderator Malcolm French and the Coalition's Episcopal Church Convenor Lionel Deimel are both blogging regularly (ie, more or less daily) about the state of the Covenant debate at the Episcopal Church's 77th General Convention.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why Not “Maybe”?

The essay below was published today in Issues 2012, a  newsletter distributed by the Consultation at General Convention.

Many deputies are wearing “Yes to Communion/No to Covenant” buttons. Meanwhile, the legislative subcommittee dealing with the Anglican Covenant, chaired by the Rev. Mark Harris, is considering advancing two resolutions, one expressing the church’s commitment to the Anglican Communion and the other saying neither “yes” nor “no” to the Covenant. The first resolution is likely to pass easily; no one is calling for The Episcopal Church to withdraw from the Anglican Communion. A resolution that somehow says “maybe” (or “not now” or “not this one”), however, is not only a bad idea, but a resolution that will invite spirited and possibly divisive debate.

Why is saying “maybe” to the Covenant not a good option? Quite simply, Episcopalians have never wanted a covenant and have no desire to surrender their church’s autonomy to centralized Anglican bodies that include representatives of churches whose theological, ecclesiastical, and moral proclivities differ radically from theirs. Historical ties—often very tenuous ones—do not justify such a surrender to a future Anglican magisterium, which would be the ultimate effect of Covenant adoption.

Episcopalians are understandably queasy about what they should do about the Covenant. They realize that its origin is in the reactionary response to non-“traditional” actions by our church, and they are loath to be seen as defensive or disrespectful of churches in former colonial nations. In short, we don’t like to say “no,” so we accepted the Windsor Report with some grace and passed 2006-B033, though with reluctance and without enthusiasm.

If no church had yet rejected the Covenant, we might do well to defer, as we would indeed seem reactive. But England has rejected the Covenant, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding; Scotland trounced a resolution to adopt the Covenant; New Zealand will likely vote it down; and Australia will almost assuredly be unable to adopt it. It is time for The Episcopal Church to say that the Covenant is a bad idea—indeed, and un-Anglican idea—badly implemented, and one that must be discarded quickly if the Communion is to move forward as an effective instrument of mission and not simply a venue for endless and divisive disputes.

We should say “no” to the Anglican Covenant; not only for our own sake, but for the sake of the Communion. “Maybe” is not good enough.

Lionel Deimel, No Anglican Covenant Coalition

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TEC Convenor Lionel Deimel's speaking notes - TEC Committee Hearing re: Anglican Covenant

Check against delivery

I’m Lionel Deimel, from the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I am founder and Episcopal Church Convenor for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.
The Anglican Covenant is a reaction to developments in church understandings in a fast-paced world.
Coming from Pittsburgh, I see in the Anglican Covenant the same dynamics that nearly destroyed my own diocese.  The Covenant seeks to wrest control of worldwide Anglicanism from those who seek to keep their churches relevant to the 21st-century context in which they operate, and deliver it into the hands of those who believe the church should never change. The underlying purpose of the Covenant is not to explicate Anglican theology nor to manage change, but to suppress change and preserve a mythical “biblical Anglicanism” that never was.
Many promote the Covenant in the name of unity. But Anglicanism is not monolithic, and is more of an ecumenical movement in itself. We sometimes have more in common with the Moravians or Lutherans than we do with our Anglican brothers and sisters.
Those who believe that the Holy Spirit has nothing more to teach humanity cannot but embrace the proposed Covenant.  Those who see the Kingdom of God as something in the process of becoming , cannot but be dismayed by the prospect that our church might adopt the Covenant, now or in the future.
Those who study innovation know that change does not simply happen when everyone agrees. It happens slowly, as new ideas are embraced by early adopters, often at great personal cost, and are tested in the real world. Widespread adoption comes only after the more timid see the advantages of innovations and become convinced that embracing them is both safe and advantageous. This applies to personal computers and to institutions.
The Episcopal Church has been an innovator, though not a speedy one by secular standards. Many of our innovations have been a blessing to the church and to the world. We may not always be right, but we do not need other churches punishing us for our modest attempts to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
The Episcopal Church needs to lead on the matter of the Covenant and take a firm stand against its adoption or further development. The Covenant is a bad idea badly implemented, and we should encourage its quick demise.

Moderator Malcolm French's speaking notes - TEC Committee Hearing re: Anglican Covenant

Check against delivery

I’m Malcolm French, a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

The Anglican Communion is a family of churches.  Our “bonds of affection” are a shared history and a desire to be in relationship.  As Archbishop Tutu said, “we meet.”  The reality is, though, that if we are prepared to meet and to worship together, no Covenant is necessary.  If we are not, no Covenant will suffice.

Despite its now global presence, Anglicanism was born in the rejection of centralized authority.  National churches were to direct their own mission, faithful to their own context.  “Foreign prelates” had no place tinkering in the internal affairs of national churches. 

When I was at College, there was a nice little old Chinese lady who often came to chapel.  Florence Li Tim-Oi was the first woman priest in the Anglican Communion.  I consider the progress towards women’s ordination.  Could women’s ordination have happened with an Anglican Covenant?  I look at the current spasms of the Church of England and I find it strains credulity.

Notionally, I could see a risk if the Episcopal Church were the first Province to say “no.”  But that point is now moot.  Scotland has said “no” – clearly and unequivocally.  Events in the Philippines and in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia suggest that a further pair of “noes” are inevitable.  England, despite a full court press by those in authority, has effectively said no.

So I say to my friends in the Episcopal Church, “let your yes be yes and your no, no.”  Whether you propose a resolution accepting or rejecting the Covenant, make it a clear resolution to be carried or defeated.  There are times for Anglican fudge.  This is not one of them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tracking Covenant Resolutions

I am tracking the progress of Covenant resolutions through General Convention. Please check out developments on my blog.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Unfriendliness and Place-at-the-Table Arguments

By the Revd. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams, patron of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition

Some who wouldn’t have proposed the idea of the covenant in the first place, are inclined to feel that--now that the covenant is put before us--it would be unfriendly to other Anglican Communion members to reject it outright, rather than greeting it with some kind of muffled acceptance.

Our reply is that when it comes to the Gospel agenda, it is not unfriendly to disagree vigorously. Disagreement and debate is one tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring all of us fallible human beings closer to the truth. Fog and stalling does not.

Some argue that it is important not to reject the covenant outright, because we need to keep a place at the Anglican Communion table--a place that would be forfeited by voting the covenant down.

We reply with a question: who sets the table? Here the Windsor Report muddied the waters by asserting its presumptive legitimacy. Even before anyone had agreed to anything the Primates were moving to enforce its punitive consequences on TEC and New Westminster.

If the majority of provinces had signed on to the covenant, then it would be reasonable to suppose that only covenanters have a place at the table. But it is not the case that most provinces have signed on. Not even the Church of England has signed on. So it cannot be right to think that TEC will have a place at the table only if it accords the covenant some measure of acceptance. In advance of a covenant landslide, the criteria for Anglican Communion membership should be what they were before.

Perhaps +Ian Douglas will say that in fact the powers-that-be will deny TEC a place at the table if we reject the covenant outright. This hypothesis presupposes that the powers-that-be will apply exclusionary procedures unevenly. The Church of England’s refusal yet to accept has not excluded it. The Church of Scotland’s rejection has not denied it a place at the table.

But if the powers-that-be would do that, why would TEC want to collude with such unjust procedures? Why shouldn’t TEC rather join the Church of Scotland in rejecting the covenant and roll up its sleeves to work for fresh expressions of Anglican Communion around the globe?


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Primus of Scotland on not adopting the Covenant

From the Most Revd. David Chillingworth, Primus of The Scottish Episcopal Church:
At our recent General Synod, the Scottish Episcopal Church decided by a clear majority not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. In 2011, Synod had discussed the Covenant in Indaba session. It was clear then that a decision to adopt was unlikely.

We tried hard to keep the issue open. I believe that the Anglican Covenant is an honourable attempt to heal our brokenness. But some time ago, as I set out to address yet another meeting in my diocese, I confided to my blog that I was going to listen to the most committed Anglicans on the planet telling me why they didn’t like the Anglican Covenant. Put simply, they believed that the Covenant is un-Anglican.

The Scottish Episcopal Church holds tenaciously to its commitment to the Anglican Communion. I see three reasons for that.

First, it’s our size – to a small church, it matters that we belong to something bigger. Then there is a reason which is proprietorial and slightly presumptuous - we invoke the memory of Samuel Seabury, consecrated in 1784 by the Scottish bishops as the first bishop of the church in the United States of America. We like to believe that we were in at the beginning. We want to be part of the bringing to birth of a new phase of Communion life. Finally and more subtly, our particular attitude to authority - rooted in the collegiality of a College of Bishops – finds an echo in the Anglican Communion’s aspiration to dispersed rather than centralised authority.

We approached this decision with great care and with some apprehension. We too are a diverse church. We have congregations who see the Anglican Covenant as important and necessary for their security within our church. This decision has called on our reserves of internal trust. Those congregations needed to know that, whether or not we adopted the Covenant, we intend to take a measured and respectful approach to our diversity. But therein lies the first of the problems. The Covenant addresses what it sees primarily as inter-provincial disagreement. But its effect may actually be to heighten intra-provincial tensions.

Provinces will continue to consider the Covenant and come to their own decisions. The Anglican Communion will continue to seek unity in an astonishing diversity of culture and context across the world. It already has structures and processes through which we build communion life. There are the four Instruments of Communion. There are networks - family, environment and others. There is the Anglican Alliance. There is Continuing Indaba - for which I serve as Chair of the Reference Group. There are Diocesan Companionship Links.

But we need a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges. We also need to recognise that no single measure can address them all.

The genesis of the Anglican Covenant lay in the Windsor Report – which arose from the development of conflict around issues of human sexuality. In my experience, conflict is almost never ‘single issue’. It is a complex of issues which sometimes don’t quite match in a directly adversarial way. And the passion with which those conflicts are experienced tells us that other issues are in play. It’s about more than the ‘presenting question’. Let me suggest two other issues which are part of this.

The first is one to which we are tangentially linked through the Seabury story - it is the legacy of history. The sharp word is colonialism. People assert independence of thought and action more strongly - challenge authority more resolutely - when relationships are shaped and conditioned by the legacy of history. In the Anglican Communion, that history affects interactions between the New World and the old world and between the developed and the developing world. The challenge is to build an Anglican Communion which transcends its history – a post-colonial Communion.

At the Primates Meeting in Dublin last year, I learnt that another of the great diversities of Communion life is in our understanding of authority. A bishop in the Church of England does not exercise authority as we do in Scotland - different again in America and in Nigeria and in Hong Kong. That diversity enriches – but it has led to misunderstanding and disappointment in one another.

I believe that a new understanding of the problems we face is needed. By challenging the legacy of history, new axes of relationship will be encouraged. We shall be better able to address the deeply adversarial divisions which gather around the human sexuality issues. Communion grows when we share together in mission, grow together as disciples and act with a self-discipline which is the foundation of unity in diversity.

Our Communion is a gift to the world - a global institution which aspires to exist largely without centralised authority and to celebrate its rich diversity. Such a Communion models things which are important for the world community. Such a Communion is attractive in mission because it has learned to transcend conflict. I believe that we now have a historic opportunity to reshape the Anglican Communion so that it may become an instrument of God's mission to the world in the next generation.

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