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
Labels: analysis, Anglican Covenant, Episcopal Church, General Convention