December 28, 2010

Capitalizing “Catholic”

In the form of the Prayers of the People (Form III) that we used in church Sunday, I noticed that the word “catholic” was capitalized. I thought this odd, as I had been taught that, for example, when we use “catholic” in the Nicene Creed, we are referring to the whole body of Christ, whereas “Catholic” tends to refer to the Roman Catholic Church.

This observation led me to track down every instance of the word “catholic” in the 1979 prayer book. There are 37, as it turns out, and, in 24 cases, the word is un-capitalized. In 6 cases where it is capitalized, the occurrences are in the Historical Documents section. (In one case, the Roman Catholic Church is actually what is being referred to.)

I would argue that the 7 instances of “Catholic” in the main section of the prayer book are simply wrong.

See the full list of occurrences of the word “catholic” and my observations about them in “‘Catholic’ and the Book of Common Prayer” on my Web site.

December 26, 2010

On Pressing the Apostle Paul

I was recently sent a pamphlet written by former Florida appellate judge Robert P. Smith titled “On Pressing the Apostle Paul: Attesting the Pastoral and Prophetic Vision of the Episcopal Church.” According to its author, this curiously named essay, written in 2006, “picks up the response [to the Anglican Communion] where our eminent scholars [who wrote To Set Our Hope on Christ] left it, free of the caution they seemed to exhibit in their answering for the whole Episcopal Church. Smith argues that (1) the Apostle Paul had a cultural prejudice against same-sex relations that was not really based on religion and that (2) modern biblical translations have exaggerated Paul’s anti-gay position.

“On Pressing the Apostle Paul” offers some very interesting arguments, but they are unlikely to move the quasi-fundamentalist “biblical Anglicans,” and they are unnecessary to convince liberals that Paul was either mistaken or has been misinterpreted. But there are, no doubt, many moderate Anglicans who find it difficult to resist the assertion that the Bible condemns homosexual activity, even in the absence of rigorous support of such an assertion. For these people, the Smith essay can be an eye-opener.

Smith contends that Paul’s disapproval of homosexual activity is not justified by an appeal to Jewish law or to “natural” law. Instead, Paul simply assumes that women are inferior to men and that sex properly involves the penetration of a socially inferior person by a socially superior one. A man who assumes a “feminine” role, whether in his general behavior or in a sex act, fails in his duty to uphold the proper masculine domination of women.

Modern translators of the Bible, Smith argues, have downplayed Paul’s misogyny, but, in the process, have misrepresented Paul’s attitude toward homosexuality.

It is pointless to try to restate Smith’s reasoning here. One needs the details provided in the essay to fully appreciate his argument. Suffice it to say that an unbiased reader is likely to come away from “On Pressing the Apostle Paul” with an increased appreciation for the pitfalls of translation and possibly a bit of skepticism regarding the phrase “the Word of the Lord” declared after a scripture reading. Increased skepticism about the notion of “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” is another likely outcome of an unbiased reading of “On Pressing the Apostle Paul.”

Robert Smith’s essay in a PDF file intended to be printed as a 24-page stapled booklet can be found here. A PDF file with pages in sequential order can be found here. The author can be reached at the e-mail address given in the essay.

December 22, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, 2010

I wrote the poem below in 2002 and added it to my Web site, along with a description of its origin. I posted it on my blog last year and have decided to make this an annual tradition. WARNING: This is not the most romantic of Christmas poems.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
by Lionel Deimel

The jingle bells are back,
Ringing jingle-jangle ding-dong-ding
On the street corners and at the mall,
Where the giant Damoclean snowflakes
Hang menacingly from the store ceilings
Over the heads of the make-up consultants,
Displaying their perfect faces, Santa Claus hats,
And belligerent helpfulness.

The colored outdoor lights are back,
Contending with high-pressure, sodium streetlamps
To banish night and veil the pallid twinkle of the stars,
Letting the phosphor-white icicles,
Dripping electrically from the eaves,
Highlight the unnatural landscape
Of rotund, glow-from-within snowmen
And teams of gene-damaged reindeer.

The entertainments are back—
The last-minute, Oscar-hopeful blockbusters
Playing beside cheap trifles luring the momentarily vulnerable;
Pick-up-choir, stumbling-through-the-notes Messiahs
Competing with earnest Amahls and Peanuts Specials;
The cute-but-clumsy, tiny ballerinas tripping through Nutcrackers
Sorely in need of crowd control;
And the latest made-for-TV, hanky-wrenching, feel-good melodrama.

The emotions are back,
With love-thy-neighbor, brotherhood-of-man yearnings
Schizophrenically vying with loathing for the driver ahead,
As we pursue our private quests
For perfect love-showing, obligation-meeting, or indifference-disguising gifts,
Our anticipating the giving-terror, receiving-embarrassment,
The disappointing joy, and the exhilarating letdown assuring us at last
That Christmas is upon us.


December 17, 2010

“Vibrant” Communion

“Ten Reasons Why the Proposed Anglican Covenant Is a Bad Idea” was posted on Thinking Anglicans two days ago, and, although many of the comments it elicited were positive, there was some distress over the No Anglican Covenant Coalition’s characterization of the Anglican Communion as “a vibrant, cooperative, fellowship of churches” in Reason 1. (There was little dissent from what was claimed to be the effect of Covenant adoption.)

I wrote about the new document in my last post. For reference, Reason 1 of “Ten Reasons” is the following:
The proposed Anglican Covenant would transform a vibrant, cooperative, fellowship of churches into a contentious, centralized aggregation of churches designed to reduce diversity and initiative. The Covenant would institutionalize the “Instruments of Unity” as never before and would give extraordinary power to the newly enhanced Standing Committee.
It is true that, in 2010, the Anglican Communion looks like a dysfunctional ecclesiastical family. Nonetheless, there are many good things going on within it, including quite vibrant, cooperative partnerships between dioceses, including arrangements between dioceses in The Episcopal Church and dioceses in Global South churches that, on the whole, seems quite hostile to the American church.

I don’t think the Coalition meant to suggest that all is well in the Anglican Communion now. The characterization was meant to apply to the Communion in past and, one would hope, future times, perhaps when the Communion is smaller. (Reason 10 suggests that unhappy churches should be allowed to depart in peace.) Perhaps the Communion should have been described as “a formerly vibrant, cooperative, fellowship of churches” or “a potentially vibrant, cooperative, fellowship of churches.”

December 15, 2010

Reasons to Oppose the Covenant

There is a lot of material on the Web arguing that the Anglican Covenant is un-Anglican, dangerous, divisive, poorly drawn, or just plain stupid. Curiously, there seems to be much less commentary favoring adoption of the Covenant. I do not have a definitive explanation for this state of affairs, but I suspect that Covenant supporters are counting on sheep-like, go-with-the-flow Anglican politeness to carry the Covenant forward. Of course, the fact that the pact is popular neither with the Anglican right nor the Anglican left may have something to do with the lack of enthusiastic testimonials.

In any case, the quantity of anti-Covenant material can be overwhelming, making it hard, at times, to see the forest for the trees. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has attempted to focus attention on particularly strong arguments against adopting the Covenant by issuing a one-page handout titled “Ten Reasons Why the Proposed Anglican Covenant Is a Bad Idea.”

As a Coalition member, I contributed to the new list, though I didn’t promote what is perhaps my most important reason for opposing the Covenant, namely those who have championed it. (If Bob Duncan is for it, how could it possibly be a good thing?)

Here are some of my favorites—abbreviated here—from the new list, selected as much for their phrasing as for their content:
  • The centralization of authority envisioned by the proposed Covenant is cumbersome, costly, and undemocratic. (Reason 3)

  • The proposed Covenant is dangerously vague. (Reason 5)

  • The proposed "Covenant" seems more like a treaty, contract, or instrument of surrender than it does a covenant. (Reason 9)
You can read the entire list on the Comprehensive Unity blog here.

No Anglican Covenant

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December 14, 2010

Musings on Communion Agreements

My recent post “Two Anglican Thought Experiments” got me thinking about the nature of communion and of agreements concerning communion between churches. My musings, of course, arise in the context of a proposed Anglican Covenant that would, according to the Windsor Report (§118), “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion.”

Curiously, the Anglican Communion has been a fellowship of churches in communion with one another in the absence of explicit agreements defining the nature of their relationships to one another. This situation has led to confused expectations about such routine matters as how clergy can be transferred or the status of deposed clergy. (See my essay of nearly four years ago “The Covenant We Do Need.”) The situation also seems to make it easy for one church of the Anglican Communion unilaterally to declare itself out of communion with another Anglican church, since it is bound in communion only by tradition. The proposed Anglican Covenant hardly improves this state of affairs, although it does potentially regularize the anathematization of churches.

What is “full communion” between churches, anyway? There seems to be no definitive definition of “full communion,” but, generally, it is an understanding between churches that (1) allows for the full participation of members of each church in the ceremonies of the other and (2) provides, to a greater or lesser degree, for the interchangeability of clergy. An agreement establishing such a relationship might also provide for mechanisms to monitor or maintain it. Full communion presumably is predicated on substantial agreement on doctrine and, perhaps, ecclesiology.

We have been told repeatedly, of course, that the Anglican Covenant is “the only way forward,” but that analysis arises out of either a perverse lack of imagination or, as is more likely, a surreptitious desire to transform our Anglican Communion into an Anglican Church, and a reactionary one at that. In any case, I thought it might be instructive to examine other agreements establishing communion between churches.

In particular, I chose to look at the decade-old agreement establishing full communion between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The agreement, “Called to Common Mission,” can be found, along with explanatory text, in “Commentary on ‘Called to Common Mission’.”

The Episcopal–Lutheran Agreement

“Called to Common Mission” contains this description of full communion (§2), which is elaborated upon in later sections of the agreement:
We therefore understand full communion to be a relation between distinct churches in which each recognizes the other as a catholic and apostolic church holding the essentials of the Christian faith. Within this new relation, churches become interdependent while remaining autonomous. Full communion includes the establishment locally and nationally of recognized organs of regular consultation and communication, including episcopal collegiality, to express and strengthen the fellowship and enable common witness, life, and service. Diversity is preserved, but this diversity is not static. Neither church seeks to remake the other in its own image, but each is open to the gifts of the other as it seeks to be faithful to Christ and his mission. They are together committed to a visible unity in the church’s mission to proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments.
Certain elements here, such as the juxtaposition of “interdependent” and “autonomous,” will be familiar to those acquainted with the Anglican Covenant. What is definitely in a different spirit than is evident in the Anglican Covenant, however, is this: “Diversity is preserved, but this diversity is not static. Neither church seeks to remake the other in its own image, but each is open to the gifts of the other as it seeks to be faithful to Christ and his mission.” Uniformity is not the goal here.

In following sections, the churches declare that they “recognize in each other the essentials of the one catholic and apostolic faith,” as set forth in such documents as “the unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism, and The Book of Common Prayer of 1979.” Specific common beliefs previously agreed upon are then cited, though not at length. Significantly, in §22, we find the clarifying assertion that “the two churches declare that each believes the other to hold all the essentials of the Christian faith, although this does not require from either church acceptance of all doctrinal formulations of the other.” The framers of the Anglican Covenant, on the other hand, demand a greater uniformity of “full communion,” or perhaps some Communion churches have an expansive notion of the “essentials of the Christian faith.” (Historically, homophobia has not been an “essential” of the Christian faith.)

Having established agreement on essential doctrine, the Episcopal–Lutheran agreement turns to mission. It begins in §6 with:
The ministry of the whole people of God forms the context for what is said here about all forms of ministry. We together affirm that all members of Christ's church are commissioned for ministry through baptism. All are called to represent Christ and his church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to participate in the life, worship, and governance of the church. … Because both our churches affirm this ministry which has already been treated in our previous dialogues, it is not here extensively addressed.
The passage essentially establishes that each church has the same relationship to its members, which removes any bar to those members moving between the two churches.

Much of the rest of “Called to Common Mission” deals with ordained ministry, about which the two churches have held different views. Most notably, although both churches have bishops, those of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have not maintained apostolic succession, are chosen for a fixed term, and have not been the exclusive agents of ordination. The basic agreement concerning ordained ministry is outlined in the commentary on §8:
We agree to the common, though not necessarily identical, pattern of one ordained ministry shared between the two churches. The Episcopal Church continues the general, historic pattern of three forms of such ministry—bishops, priests, and deacons. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continues the pattern of one form of ordained ministry. Each church’s ordained ministries remain governed by their respective church body. As we live into the common practices of ordained ministries of the two churches, though not identical, [they] will allow the sharing of ordained ministers.
In what follows, both churches give a little. Dealing with deacons is put off for another day. (The Lutherans have non-ordained deacons and are not required by the agreement to ordain them.) The Lutherans “acknowledge immediately the full authenticity” of Episcopal deacons, priests, and bishops. Episcopalians do the same for Lutheran pastors. A shared episcopate requires a gradual process by which new Lutheran bishops experience the laying on of hands by bishops in apostolic succession and the ordination of pastors with the laying on of hands by bishops becomes normative. The Episcopal Church, changed its canons to allow temporarily (i.e., until the exception becomes unnecessary) Lutheran pastors not ordained by bishops in apostolic succession to serve in The Episcopal Church.

These arrangements lead to this extraordinary statement (§14):
For both churches, the relationship of full communion begins when both churches adopt this Concordat. For the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the characteristics of the goal of full communion—defined in its 1991 policy statement, “Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America”—will be realized at this time. For The Episcopal Church, full communion, although begun at the same time, will not be fully realized until both churches determine that in the context of a common life and mission there is a shared ministry of bishops in the historic episcopate.
The agreement goes on to declare that ministers of each church may serve on a temporary basis in the other, consistent with that church’s traditions and may transfer from one church to another on a permanent basis by making the appropriate declarations to the receiving church. In other words, re-ordination is never necessary when a minister moves between churches.

The agreement establishes a joint commission (§23), accountable to the two churches, for consultation, support, etc. The commission is given no enforcement function.

Rather optimistically, “Called to Common Mission” offers this thought (§24):
In thus moving to establish, in geographically overlapping episcopates in collegial consultation, one ordained ministry open to women as well as to men, to married persons as well as to single persons, both churches agree that the historic catholic episcopate can be locally adapted and reformed in the service of the gospel. In this spirit they offer this Concordat and growth toward full communion for serious consideration among the churches of the Reformation as well as among the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
Finally, the document declares (§25) that it does not affect existing relationships between the parties and other churches, and it does not create new communion relationships with churches in communion with the principals. (This is non-obvious. See “Some Mathematical Reflections on Communion.”) Both churches agree to consult on communion agreements with other churches, to work together on such agreements where possible, and to “not impede the development of relationships and agreements with other churches and traditions with whom they have been in dialogue” (§26).


The influence of the Chicago–Lambeth Quadrilateral is apparent in “Called to Common Mission.” In particular, the requirement for an “Historic Episcopate, locally adapted” has prevented The Episcopal Church from acknowledging immediately a full communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The asymmetry of the relationship came as a bit of a surprise; I have always assumed that if Church A is in full communion with Church B, then Church B must be in full communion with Church A. Of course, in this case, the full-communion relationship is seemingly not symmetric because the two churches define “full communion” differently. By the Lutheran definition, I suppose, our two churches are in full communion with one another.

I have thought it odd that, for example, that the Church of the Province of Uganda could consider itself in impaired communion (i.e., not in full communion) with The Episcopal Church at the same time The Episcopal Church has not declared itself out of communion with the Ugandan church. One might argue that this is possible because the two churches are using two different definitions of full communion. (Uganda apparently defines “the essentials of the Christian faith” differently.) Actually, I suspect that, even by this measure, The Episcopal Church is not in full communion by its definition with the Church of the Province of Uganda, as I suspect that the interchangeability of clergy is substantially impaired in the current circumstances. Of course, Episcopalians are too polite to make a fuss over this.

Remarkably, although the Anglican Covenant is supposedly all about maximizing the degree of communion within the Anglican Communion, it fails to define “full communion.” Moreover, although the Covenant has a good deal to say about required doctrine, it is less forthcoming regarding other obligations, unlike “Called to Common Mission.” Does a church have to contribute funds to maintain the Anglican Communion? Must its primate attend meetings? Can a church issue a blanket prohibition of clergy from one particular Anglican Communion church from preaching or celebrating in its own churches? Of course, Section 4 of the Covenant would allow any church to “raise a question” about such practices, but the Covenant’s silence makes the entire disciplinary process of Section 4 a complete crap shoot. No one can say in advance what is allowed and what is not. The Covenant creates a Communion government of (almost exclusively) men, not of law (canon, or whatever). This is a major reason to reject it out of hand.

“Called to Common Mission” stands in stark contrast to the Anglican Covenant in that it provides no disciplinary mechanisms at all. It is an agreement developed in a climate of love, trust, and hope; not one of loathing, suspicion, and despair.

Another difference in the two documents is one remarked upon above. There is no attempt made in the Episcopal–Lutheran agreement to bind both churches to identical doctrines. Documents specific to each church, as well as documents developed in common, are recognized as acceptable, even though they may not all say exactly the same thing. “Called to Common Mission” is much more generous with respect to doctrine than is the Anglican Covenant.

This raises an interesting point. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is explicitly acknowledged in “Called to Common Mission,” but the Covenant references no prayer book subsequent to 1662. That book was written more than a century before The Episcopal Church came into existence, was compiled with no American influence, and was never used by The Episcopal Church. The Covenant seeks unity on the basis of our churches’ historical roots and seems ignorant of the fact that churches have moved away from those roots, possibly growing in quite different directions. This fact should have led to a generous acceptance in the Covenant, but we see instead quite the opposite: a rejection of differences and an insistence on a reactionary view of what the Anglican churches must be.

Reading “Called to Common Mission” raises the question in my mind as to what churches Episcopalians would be most comfortable in. Whereas I would feel pretty much at home in a Lutheran church, I suspect that I would feel like an alien intruder attending a church in Uganda, Nigeria, or Rwanda. If so, why should The Episcopal Church be so concerned about its communion with such churches? One can suggest reasons, of course, but not reasons to compromise our own understanding of the gospel to placate the episcopal autocrats of such churches.

We should, I think, dump the whole idea of an Anglican Communion in which each church is like every other church. Instead of bothering with the hopelessly flawed Anglican Covenant, we should draw up an agreement describing how our churches will pursue common mission and what our expectations are of them (including obligations of financial support). Meanwhile, we should pursue bilateral communion agreements with those churches of the present Communion with which agreements analogous to “Called to Common Mission” are possible.

Perhaps after the Anglican Covenant project fails, the Communion will take up that idea.

No Anglican Covenant

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December 9, 2010

A Brief Meditation on ACNA

In checking out developments in the Anglican world tonight, I visited the ACNA Web site, which, at the bottom of the front page, has the notice “©2010 The Anglican Church in North America. All rights reserved.” The copyright notice and the somewhat pretentious domain name got me thinking about the legitimacy of the name of this new church. Its proper name, I decided, should be the following:

An “Anglican” Church in North America

It is not Anglican, in the sense of being part of the Anglican Communion, and it surely is not the Anglican church in North America, since North American hosts, most notably, but not exclusively, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

ACNA banner

December 7, 2010

Two Anglican Thought Experiments

Something to think aboutToday, I offer two tenuously related thought experiments having to do with Anglicanism.

Experiment 1. Anglicanism has made much of apostolic succession, which is a major part of its claim to catholicity. (I should point out, however, that other Christian denominations claim to be part of the “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” in the absence of not only apostolic successions but also of bishops.)

The notion of apostolic succession has a certain romantic attraction, but how important is it really? Suppose some plague wiped out all Anglican bishops, or even all bishops of whatever stripe. (Perhaps some new virus suddenly made purple dye toxic. Anyway, this is a thought experiment, remember?) Would Christianity have been wiped out due to the lack of bishops and the apparent inability to create new ones? Of course not! Not only are bishops not necessary for transmitting the faith, but bishops have often been responsible for heretical movements. Moreover, I refuse to believe that apostolic succession is some sort of magic provided by God. (I’m sure that some will dispute this.) If we feel the need for bishops, we can simply consecrate some more, even in the absence of other bishops to lay on hands. Surely the very first bishop, whoever that was, was not consecrated by three other bishops!

Experiment 2. Imagine a world just like the world today, but lacking an Anglican Communion—a world with 38 churches related historically to the Church of England but with no formal institutional ties. The question is would we feel the need to invent an Anglican Communion, and, if we did, what would it look like?

The answer, I think, is maybe, but I doubt that any resulting communion would look like the present one. To begin with, I do not think the Archbishop of Canterbury would be so central. England could get away with asserting a special place for the archbishop in an age of empire, but I suspect the former colonies would be less deferential these days. (In fact, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s having any real power is a relatively recent—and arguably illegitimate—phenomenon.) There is perhaps some utility in Anglicans gathering to get to know one another, swap ideas, and discuss possible mechanisms of coöperation. In this more democratic age in which both travel and communication are more easily accomplished than formerly, I don’t think a convention of bishops—and certainly not one lasting as long as the current Lambeth Conference—would be the first sort of meeting people would think of.

Actually, I suspect that our churches would see themselves first as Christian churches in the world, rather than as members of an Anglican fraternity. We make much of our ties between diverse dioceses across the world and our ability to channel aid through other Anglican churches in time of need. An Anglican Communion is not needed for this—we have no need even now for an intermediary in London—and the lack of a communion might encourage closer ties with other churches, which might not be such a bad thing.

In any case, we surely would not begin a new communion with some covenant that surrendered our independence.

What do you think?

December 6, 2010

Dark Day for the Republic

Never have I been as disappointed in President Obama as I am tonight after the announcement of the capitulation to the Republicans over extending the Bush tax cuts. Eliminating those tax cuts should have been the President’s agenda on day one. Instead, the administration postponed the fight to the eleventh hour and after the disastrous November elections. How can Republicans rule the country when the Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress?

Perhaps the Democrats should be replaced by a truly liberal party. The immediate future of the United States is, I fear, dark indeed.

Black ribbon

December 1, 2010

Evaluation of the General Synod Events

It has now been a week since the Church of England General Synod voted to move the Anglican Covenant along the path to adoption. Whereas the Church of England has not yet signed on to the Covenant, it has certainly passed up an opportunity to deliver a fatal blow to the adoption process. Pity!

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which had worked hard to prevent the Synod from doing what it did, has issued a reflection on what happened. It has the somewhat unwieldy title “Observations on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address and the Anglican Covenant Debate in the Church of England General Synod, November 2010,” but it contains some pithy remarks about the events of last week.

My favorite part of “Observations” is this:
It is particularly ironic that Dr. Williams painted a picture of a frightening Anglican dystopia should the Covenant fail, as he and other supporters of the Covenant have been quick to accuse Covenant sceptics of “scaremongering.” It is also surprising, both in this speech and in the subsequent debate, that concerns were raised about the decline of the role of the Church of England, as well as references to its being “the mother church” that needs to set an example, whereas Covenant sceptics have been accused of being “Little Englanders.”
The Archbishop claimed to view the lobbying for and against the Covenant as unseemly, yet he engaged in the same practice, and, I must say, was masterful at it. You have to admire his chutzpa in conjuring up visions of the loss of empire, an image that still has a strong hold on the English psyche. In particular, of course, Rowan spoke of “a real danger, the piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion and the emergence of new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly.” Personally, I find that prospect refreshing, particularly the part about a reduced influence of the See of Canterbury.

“Observations” also contains this insight from Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, who participated in the Synod debate:
We are told that the Covenant sets out the framework for family relationships. But what sort of family lives by a covenant, with “relational consequences” for breaches of the rules?
“Observations” has this strong finish:
The idea of an Anglican Covenant was always a means to placate those in the Anglican Communion who were upset by the “controversial” actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The Oxford Statement [from the GAFCON Primates’ Council, available here] makes it clear, however, that that faction of the Communion will never be satisfied with unity without uniformity. Its insistence on the Jerusalem Declaration is proof that not even the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant are acceptable. It is obvious that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglican created by the GAFCON movement is intended as a separate, “pure” Anglican Communion that will include churches, such as the Anglican Church in North America, that are not part of the present Communion.

In these circumstances, the churches that subscribe to a more traditional view of Anglicanism than the Anglican vision asserted by GAFCON should abandon the Covenant, which can only divide them, and re-establish the Anglican Communion as a tolerant fellowship of autonomous national and regional churches.
You can read the entire document from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition here.

November 28, 2010

The Way Forward?

The Church of England moved closer to adopting the Anglican Covenant this past week as its General Synod voted overwhelmingly to send the Covenant to the dioceses in ignorance of the fact that the GAFCON Primates’ Council had just issued a statement embarrassing the Archbishop of Canterbury and dismissing the Covenant. Paragraph 5 of the so-called Oxford Statement declares
For the sake of Christ and of His Gospel we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy and so we join with other Primates from the Global South in declaring that we will not be present at the next Primates’ meeting to be held in Ireland. And while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.
Just as conservative malcontents in The Episcopal Church sought support for the wider Anglican Communion, the Primates’ Council has now reached beyond the Communion in an attempt to press its case within the Communion. Here is Paragraph 6:
We also acknowledge with appreciation the address to the Nicean Society meeting in Lambeth Palace on September 9th of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. We welcome his call to all churches of the Anglican Communion to step back from the abyss of heresy and reclaim the revealed truth that is at the heart of our historic understanding of Christian faith and moral order. We share with him the conviction that failure to do so will endanger our common witness and many important ecumenical dialogues but we would also point out that there are many within the Anglican Communion who have not ‘bowed the knee’ to secular liberalism and who are determined to stay true to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ whatever the cost.
I won’t attempt a complete analysis of the Oxford Statement here, but there are a few additional aspects that require comment. The Council declares the Covenant “fatally flawed,” yet it does not identify the nature of its flaws. From what has been said elsewhere, it is a reasonable inference that Section 4 of the Covenant is, as I have described it elsewhere, insufficiently draconian. In particular, it does not put discipline of member churches exclusively in the hands of the primates.

Rather more interestingly, the Statement makes it clear that the Jerusalem Declaration should specify the doctrine that must be enforced by the Communion as normative. (The Declaration is mention twice in the introduction to the Statement and twice in the Statement itself.) This would appear to indicate that the Primates’ Council (and much of the Global South and the Anglican Church of North America) not only rejects Section 4 of the Covenant, but also is unwilling to accept Sections 1–3.

The timing of the release of the Oxford Statement is interesting, given that the meeting whose sense it purports to reflect actually took place in early October. Bishop Martyn Minns’ insistence, in a BBC Radio 4 interview on the Sunday Programme this morning, that the release of the statement minutes before the General Synod vote was simply a coincidence strains credulity. The Primates’ Council, I suggest, was looking for maximum exposure for its announcement. It achieved that. The lead in most stories was not that the Covenant received an endorsement from the General Synod or that the liberal campaign to prevent such an outcome was a failure, but that Global South primates had rejected what has been described consistently as the only way forward for the Communion. Whether exposing the Archbishop of Canterbury as a gullible fool was an objective or merely epiphenomenal is unclear.

The Oxford Statement contains many hints that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is intended eventually to become an alternate communion, whether actually separate from the present Anglican Communion or a virtual and distinct communion within it. If indeed the current Anglican Covenant is the “final text” to be considered, then the covenant process and the Windsor process of which it is a part is dead. The attempt by some in the Communion to placate the implacable has failed.

It is time to admit that the Anglican Covenant was never “the only way forward” and now is not a way forward at all! That many of the most radically disaffected primates have promised to absent themselves from the January Primates’ Meeting in Ireland, an unexpected opportunity has presented itself. The primates of the more liberal Western churches, presumably excluding the Church of England, should insist on issuing a communiqué at the end of their meeting declaring the drive for an Anglican Covenant at an end. The primates should also repudiate any authority over churches other than their own, a statement that should be applied to all primates, explicitly including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The way forward, of course, is for each Anglican church to preach and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it understands it and to keep its ecclesiastical nose out of other church’s business. The trust necessary to implement this program may be in short supply, given the bad behavior the Communion has experienced in recent years. If we want any Communion at all, however, we need to give such a program a try. If we fail, it will not be a tragedy, even though Rowan Williams may lament any new order “in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly.”

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Blogs haven’t developed many traditions, but I am perhaps starting one here today. Last year on Thanksgiving Day, I offered my poem “Thanksgiving” on my blog. I am doing so again this year. I wrote the poem in 2002 for a family gathering. More information about it can be found on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago here.

by Lionel Deimel

So many holidays for this and that—
But most are just a time for recreation,
Not opportunities for celebration
Or contemplation of their origins.

Who gives a thought to Martin Luther King?
He’s on our minds his day like any other,
When seldom do we think who is our brother
Or bother reaching out to those in need.

We see a baseball game on 4 July—
We sing our anthem, watch the color guard;
But Revolutionary thoughts are hard
To mix with scorecard, chili dog, and beer.

The labor on our minds on Labor Day
Is but our own that we don’t have to do.
We must instead to summer bid adieu
With picnics for a special few, or bed.

Ah, Christmas is a special time of dread—
That deadline of the frantic shopping season
Through which we march for half-forgotten reason
That escapes us fully when the day has come.

Thanksgiving, though, is different from the rest—
We gather in our family and friends;
We stuff the turkey and each person who attends,
And, in the end, how can we not be thankful?

Turkey and trimmings

November 24, 2010

A New Collect

I wrote a new collect today. You can read about the inspiration for it here. The collect:
Architect of the universe, who endowed us with a thirst for understanding, give us a passion to discover the mysteries of creation and your will for our lives, along with a humble spirit whenever we think we have succeeded, that we may become better stewards of your creation, better neighbors of its inhabitants, and better disciples of your Son, our savior Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sad Day: CofE Synod Approves Anglican Covenant

The Church of England General Synod, voting by orders, passed the Anglican Covenant. The Vote:
  • Bishops: 39 for, 0 against, 1 abstain
  • Clergy: 145 for, 32 against, 11 abstain
  • Laity: 147 for, 25 against, 8 abstain
This will send the Covenant to the dioceses before final approval by the General Synod.

More to follow.

UPDATE, 11/24/2010, 10:38 AM: The Church of England has published a summary of the business that took place this morning, including the vote on the Covenant. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has issued a statement.

November 23, 2010

First Test for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition

No Anglican Covenant logoThe No Anglican Covenant Coalition only announced its advent this past November 3 with this news release. The first real test of the Coalition comes tomorrow, when the Church of England General Synod takes an initial vote on the Covenant. I am sure that our efforts will have an effect on the vote, but that is not to say that we will have helped those opposed to the Covenant carry the day. That this is a new General Synod makes it even harder to predict the outcome. No matter what happens, the work of the No Anglican Covenant will continue, and we hope that, eventually, we will bring the Anglican Communion to its senses.

In any case, the Coalition sent out another news release today. Here's an excerpt:
“A month ago, General Synod and the entire Communion were sleepwalking into approving the Covenant without a proper discussion of the issue,” according to Coalition Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows. “In some places, the Covenant was being presented as a means to punish North American Anglicans. In Britain, the United States and Canada, it was being spun as nothing more than a dispute resolution mechanism. I’ve spoken to many Synod members who were only dimly aware of the Anglican Covenant. An astonishing number of people thought I was referring to the Covenant with the Methodists.”
Read the whole thing here.

November 21, 2010

What will the ‘orthodox’ do?

It is no secret that the impetus for an Anglican covenant came from conservatives, mostly Evangelical, but some Anglo-Catholic. It is also no secret that as draft succeeded draft, the disciplinary aspects of the covenant being proposed have been downplayed, though surely not eliminated, in an attempt to make the document less alarming to everyone else. Nonetheless, liberals find little to like in the draft now on the table, and conservatives would prefer something more draconian. It would be wrong to conclude from this that the current “final text” represents a kind of via media. Actually, the Anglican Covenant is a reactionary document that would drastically redefine Anglicanism so as to make it irrelevant in the West—Anglicans can never do mindless Bible-thumping as effectively as churches unencumbered by Anglicanism’s diverse historical baggage—but not as reactionary as the most extreme right-wing zealots of the Communion would have it.

It is not clear how these facts will play out in practice. The Episcopal Church, for example, has no rational excuse for adopting the Covenant, though it might do so out of a misplaced sense of Anglican solidarity. Likewise, the Church of England has little reason to embrace the Covenant, though it might do so thinking that the Covenant cannot possible harm the Mother Church or to avoid embarrassing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. (Rowan Williams has a plethora of reasons to be embarrassed, but that’s a story for another day.)

What the most reactionary provinces in Africa and elsewhere will do is uncertain. They may well adopt the Covenant with the hope that its mechanisms can be transmogrified into the Anglican Inquisition for which they so devoutly wish. They may try to change the “final text.” They may reject the Covenant, either as a challenge to the Communion or as a declaration of independence for a new Über-Orthodox Anglican Communion. (Alas, there is already an Orthodox Anglican Communion®.) Perhaps the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will become the alternative to a more diverse Anglican Communion.

The Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers Jr.Some insight into the far-right Anglican mind was provided recently by the Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers Jr., a former Episcopal priest who is now a bishop in the Anglican Mission in the Americas, one of the squatter churches in the U.S. sponsored by “sister” Anglican churches. Rodgers’ “The present form of the Anglican Covenant is too weak for the orthodox and too strong for the revisionists” can be found on the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans blog. The author’s overall thesis is contained in his title, but the details are important, particularly for those who assume the whole Windsor Process and Anglican Covenant represent some kind of Anglican centrism.

Rodgers opens with this statement:
It seems to me that the Covenant should be seen to be precisely what the Archbishop of Canterbury has said it is not, a binding commitment to mutual mission and encouragement, to a process of adjudicating differences that threaten to be Communion-breaking, and to a confessional standard of Doctrine to which all who sign are committed and to which they can be held accountable.
Rodgers wants to see two changes to the Covenant: the primates, not the Standing Committee should decide what is and is not acceptable, and the Jerusalem Declaration should be “added to the standard of Faith to which all signers [are] committed and held accountable.” (Recall that the Jerusalem Declaration contains this provision: “We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.” Presumably, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are among the churches referred to here.)

In his conclusion, Rodgers asks, “[I]s it not now time to be explicit about the Faith, the nature of the Covenant and the body that is to oversee the conformity of its members to the covenant?” He then adds, “There need be no worries that we would thereby exclude some of the Communion, they are already outside fellowship with the orthodox in any serious sense and will sign no covenant worth the paper it is printed upon.” He recommends that the Global South modify the Covenant along the lines he has suggested and to send it to Communion churches for their approval. Rodgers clearly does not buy the “final text” label that has been put on the Covenant. Moreover, he only expects “orthodox” churches to sign. It is not clear what this will do to the Anglican Communion, but it is clear that it would not enhance unity!

Lest one think that Rodgers is out of the “orthodox” mainstream, I offer this item from the Trumpet (communiqué) issued by the Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter held last April in Singapore:
Global South leaders have been in the forefront of the development of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ that seeks to articulate the essential elements of our faith together with means by which we might exercise meaningful and loving discipline for those who depart from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
In anticipation of the Singapore meeting, Rodgers had written an essay for VirtueOnline in February complaining that the Covenant was too weak, that the Jerusalem Declaration offers a clearer standard of doctrine, and that the primates must have a stronger role in enforcing discipline. He began his conclusion with this clear statement of how the Anglican Communion should operate:
We must not waste the present crisis and opportunity. Now is the time to move to organize the Anglican Communion as a Church governed by a Council with clear standards to which all in the Communion are bound.
In the body of his essay, Rodgers repeatedly attacked the concept of provincial autonomy, against which he offered a theological argument, though one not very credible if applied only to Anglican churches. “It is a fatal flaw in this proposed Covenant that it continues to assume and speak of the autonomy of the Provinces,” he wrote.

With attitudes such as this, there seems little hope that the Anglican Covenant will achieve (or even strengthen) unity within the Communion. The Anglican Church wars are destined to continue. The battlefield may be relocated, but the hostilities will continue. There will be casualties.

November 17, 2010

If it looks like a duck…


In my reading recently, I was reminded that this item is part of the Anglican Covenant:
(4.1.3) Such mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance. The Covenant does not grant to any one Church or any agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church of the Anglican Communion.

A similar statement was made recently by the Rt. Rev. Gregory Cameron, who was secretary of the Covenant Design group, which was responsible for drafting a covenant, and is now Bishop of St. Asaph in Wales. Cameron, was in a BBC debate with the moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the Rev. Dr. Lesley Fellows. The interview began with the question of whether the Covenant wasn’t about controlling what Anglican churches believe. Cameron denied that the Covenant was about control:

The Covenant is quite clear that each church continues to make its decisions for itself. But when one church acts in a way which can cause offense or division to other churches, then the Communion has to be able to have a way to express what it feels is going on, and the Covenant does allow for that. But it’s quite clear no one can actually govern the church from the center.
In her thinly veiled defense of the Covenant published by Anglican Communion News Service yesterday (“I am not arguing here for or against the Covenant, merely pointing out that it should be debated fairly, with an accurate reading of the text.”), the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director for Unity Faith and Order and member of the Lambeth Commission whose Windsor Report recommended a covenant, also quoted paragraph 4.1.3 as reassurance that individual churches will not “become subordinate” to a central Anglican Authority.

In a sense, paragraph 4.1.3 may be strictly true—more on this point later—and it is included in the Covenant because it is not difficult to see the overall document as intrusive, coercive, and destructive of provincial autonomy. Covenant proponents clearly do not want us to read the text that way.

The Covenant supporters doth protest too much, methinks.

A Deeper Look into the Covenant

The crux of the Covenant, the place where its true intent is exposed, though veiled, is to be found in section 3.2, which begins, “Acknowledging our interdependent life, each Church, reliant on the Holy Spirit, commits itself.” Here is a summary of the commitments, stripped of their Anglican smoke and mirrors:
  • (3.2.1) To pay for the Instruments of Communion and attempt to do what they say.
  • (3.2.2) To respect the autonomy of other churches, even as they restrict it.
  • (3.2.3) To agree that new and controversial issues “need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.” In other words, individual churches do not have the freedom to act on such matters until everyone agrees.
  • (3.2.4) To seek agreement with other churches of the Communion.
  • (3.2.5) To do nothing to upset other churches of the Communion.
  • (3.2.6) To keep talking and meeting when conflicts arise until consensus is reached, even if that is until hell freezes over.
  • (3.2.7) To keep in mind that bonds of affection and Christ’s love “compel”—interesting word choice—“us always to uphold the highest degree of communion possible.” (This is, of course, firm but gentle Anglican intimidation.)
In other words, the real purpose of the covenant is to get churches to agree to “shared discernment” on any matter that any church thinks is important and to not act until the shared discernment produces consensus. (The Covenant fails to give any operational definition of consensus.)

Recent Anglican Communion history does not augur well for a future of “shared discernment.” The 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10, for example, has produced a good deal of angry rhetoric, but little true discussion or listening “to the experience of homosexual persons,” at least not by those churches unsympathetic to homosexual persons to begin with. In fact, “shared discernment” is a poor model for decision-making in most human societies in most times. Women’s suffrage, civil rights for blacks, and even the removal of the Church of England from under the Pope were not the result of “shared discernment.” Instead, like most societal changes, especially big ones, they resulted from the insight and passion of a few who were willing to argue against the conventional wisdom and take actions that risked grave personal consequences. Anything looking like “shared discernment” usually comes after the revolutionaries have done their work and, sometimes, lost their lives.

In fact, “shared discernment” is all about arresting change, not facilitating or regularizing it. What we have seen in the Communion, and what we will continue to see, is innovation by some churches followed by an immediate reactionary response by other churches that are likely not only opposed to the presenting change, but averse to change in general. And yet, change has happened in the Communion, in part because there has been no global check on it. The lack of such conservative mechanisms has led to the ordination of women, new prayer books, and changed attitudes toward divorce and remarriage.

In an article published today, Graham Kings, in defense of the Covenant, argues
This covenant of unity seeks to hold the Anglican communion together organically in the face of increasing fragmentation. The choice in this debate is to opt into intensifying our world-wide relationships in affection and commitment or to allow splits to develop further and irrevocably.
This is a very naïve and optimistic viewpoint. It isn’t clear how pressuring churches into signing on to a document perceived as limiting their freedom of action and promising “relational consequences” when their actions make others unhappy will increase affection among churches. It is more likely that it will foster wariness, suspicion, defensiveness, and distrust. Already conservatives are saying that The Episcopal Church cannot, in conscience, adopt the covenant because its beliefs have deviated from the doctrines spelled out in Sections 1–3 of the Covenant. Further, they are saying that if Episcopalians do adopt the Covenant, that will only be a cynical ploy to avoid consequences. Yes, the Covenant will increase something, but affection is surely not on the list, and even the proponents of the agreement are skeptical about commitment.

If “shared discernment” is a sham, what is the alternative? Perhaps it is found in the fifth chapter of Acts, where the Pharisee Gamaliel says,
“Fellow-Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:35b–39, NRSV)
The Anglican Communion should consider the Gamaliel model of how to deal with innovation.

The Ugly Stuff

Most observers have declared Sections 1–3 of the Covenant to be relatively innocuous. I don’t really agree, but, save for Section 3.2, I can see their point. Then there is the notorious Section 4, a section toned down from earlier drafts but nonetheless very scary indeed.

If Section 3.2 exposes the real purpose of the Covenant, Section 4 provides the means by which that purpose is to be carried out. The heart of Section 4 is Section 4.2. It begins with this gem:
(4.2.1) The Covenant operates to express the common commitments and mutual accountability which hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another. Recognition of, and fidelity to, this Covenant, enable mutual recognition and communion. Participation in the Covenant implies a recognition by each Church of those elements which must be maintained in its own life and for which it is accountable to the Churches with which it is in Communion in order to sustain the relationship expressed in this Covenant.
“Recognition of, and fidelity to, this Covenant, enable mutual recognition and communion.” This badly punctuated sentence suggests that lack of recognition of or infidelity to the Covenant destroys mutual recognition and communion—not good news for non-signers or Covenant miscreants. (Am I the only one who finds the idea of “recognition” to be rather strange? “Recognizing” suggests “perceiving as,” but it really means “acknowledging as.” A cat with a missing leg or with extra toes is normally recognized as a cat. That is not what is meant here.)

Next, we get to the part of the Covenant where people’s eyes glaze over:

(4.2.2) The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, shall monitor the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion on behalf of the Instruments. In this regard, the Standing Committee shall be supported by such other committees or commissions as may be mandated to assist in carrying out this function and to advise it on questions relating to the Covenant.

(4.2.3) When questions arise relating to the meaning of the Covenant, or about the compatibility of an action by a covenanting Church with the Covenant, it is the duty of each covenanting Church to seek to live out the commitments of Section 3.2. Such questions may be raised by a Church itself, another covenanting Church or the Instruments of Communion.

(4.2.4) Where a shared mind has not been reached the matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee shall make every effort to facilitate agreement, and may take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate to determine a view on the nature of the matter at question and those relational consequences which may result. Where appropriate, the Standing Committee shall refer the question to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting for advice.

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.

(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.

(4.2.8) Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.

(4.2.9) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.

I tried to explain what all this means nearly a year ago in my post “Section 4 Decoded,” which, helpfully, included the diagrams below (click on each for a larger view.)

Institutional Relationships Specified by Section 4 of Anglican Covenant
Issue Handling Specified by Section 4 of Anglican Covenant
In “Section 4 Decoded,” I raised issues I will not repeat here, but I recommend that you review that post. Terry Martin (“Father Jake”) has also done a good job in a recent post on his blog of assessing what Section 4 means . I will only say a few additional words.

First, I know that the Standing Committee’s function has been widely criticized, but it is really the function, rather than what body carries it out, that is the problem here. The point is that some international Anglican body determines, at the behest of any church that wants to make a point of it, what is and is not acceptable to the Communion. Whether it is the Standing Committee, the Anglican Consultative Council or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wife is hardly relevant. As it happens, this job is given to the Standing Committee, which, if it cannot achieve consensus, recommends “relational consequences” to the churches or to the “Instruments,” each of which can follow these recommendations or not, apparently.

In actual practice, it is unclear what will be done with Standing Committee recommendations. They could, it would seem, result in complete chaos, as each church and each Instrument could act differently on them. We could conceivably have one Anglican Communion for the Archbishop of Canterbury, another for the Anglican Consultative Council, another one for the Primates, and yet a different one for The Episcopal Church, the Church of England, or the Church of Uganda. This is nothing so much as simply stupid. Graham Kings’ vision of decreased fragmentation is hard to imagine.

Likely, however, the bold will carry the day. Relational consequences have already been imposed on The Episcopal Church and the Province of the Southern Cone with absolutely no authority, and yet no one seems to question the matter. If such tyranny is possible now without the Covenant’s being in place, imagine what can happen after it’s been adopted!

Back to the Bottom Line

Returning to where we started, let us again consider the statement in Paragraph 4.1.3 that adopting the Covenant “does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction.” The Covenant, we are told, does not limit autonomy or grant to any church or institution control or direction of an Anglican Communion church.

All this is true in the same sense that I cannot make you reveal to me the PIN for your banking card. I can, of course, threaten you with a gun or knife, or I can strike your head with a cricket bat—notice how I am being international here—but I cannot actually make you divulge the information. My incentives may, on the other hand, motivate you to give me the information I am seeking voluntarily.

Likewise with the Covenant, the Communion will not be able to force The Episcopal Church to change its canons or to begin or cease doing something in particular. It can, however, provide significant motivation. “Relational consequences” sounds rather innocent, but relations can be vital. The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, had relational consequences. The U.S. and the Empire of Japan went from being at peace to being at war with one another.

It is no secret that there are a number of churches in the Communion that would happily remove The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion and replace it with the Anglican Church in North America. This would be nothing more than a relational consequence imposed because of, for example, the Episcopal Church’s continuing to consecrate partnered homosexual bishops. Imposition of such a penalty would certainly harm The Episcopal Church’s standing in the world and could harm its position in ongoing litigation. It could also subject it to additional poaching from other Anglican churches. I’m not sure if “orthodox” provinces have considered what would happen if The Episcopal Church withdrew its rather substantial financial support of the Anglican Communion. (Relational consequences can work both ways!)

So, is the Anglican Covenant the innocent agreement it is alleged to be? Consider the picture at the top of this post. Is it really a picture of a cow? It asserts that it is. Is the Covenant really not about forcing compliance with some least permissive Christianity upon which all Anglican churches can agree? The Covenant declares its innocence of imposing strong-arm discipline. But, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

No Anglican Covenant

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