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

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.

November 16, 2010

Problems with Netgear DSL Modem/Router/Access Point

More than a year ago—I don’t recall exactly when—I purchased a Netgear DGN2000 wireless-N router with built-in DSL modem. The unit was replacing a simple DSL modem supplied to a client by Verizon. Last May, the DGN2000 was replaced by Netgear under warranty because the modem failed to work reliably. DGN2000The exchange went smoothly, although it took a while to convince Netgear tech support that the DGN2000 was toast.

Today, I called Netgear about the replacement router. The router, now less than six months old, had three of its four Ethernet ports fail. A quick check by the support person led to the response that the unit was out of warranty—I had purchased the first modem more than a year ago, even though the replacement unit was only half a year old.

My telephone call was then transferred to someone who offered me a year of technical support for $100 ($99 and change, as I recall) or support for a single incident for $40 ($39 plus). I asked what would be my options once we determined that the Ethernet ports had indeed failed and was told by the lady on the other end of the line that she couldn’t say until we had gone through the troubleshooting steps, and we couldn’t do that until I paid for support. After a few harsh words, I was reluctantly told that, if the unit was indeed bad, I would have to buy a new one. At that point, I hung up.

Netgear has lost a customer, one who has often purchased Netgear products for clients. I’m sure that Netgear’s perspective is that a one-year warranty simply guarantees the customer a working device for 365 days and that repeated failures of a product could extend the manufacturer’s liability indefinitely. No manufacturer wants to take on an unending financial risk.

As a customer, my perspective is that a one-year warranty implies that the manufacturer genuinely expects a product to remain defect free during one or more years of use. If I received a new DGN2000 in May—I cannot prove the replacement unit was new, of course—it was a reasonable expectation that, a year later, it would still be working. Given my experience—based on a small sample, to be sure—that all DGN2000s fail after about six months, it is reasonable for me to conclude, perhaps wrongly, that the DGN2000 is either badly designed or badly manufactured.

Had Netscape been willing to replace my device a second time, I might instead have concluded that my experience was a fluke and that the manufacturer could easily afford to give me a new unit, since it seldom needed to do so. Apparently, Netscape cannot afford to do that, however.

Trick Table

Trick tableI took a friend to an appointment at a physical therapy rehab center this morning. Since I hadn’t had any coffee yet, I stopped at a store attached to a service station and picked up a large cup of coffee . When we arrived at the rehab center, we were given forms to fill out, so I sat down next to my friend and put my coffee on a nearby table. That was a mistake.

At the right is a picture of the table. I didn’t really study the table before placing my coffee on it, and, since there was a large box on the table for collecting surplus cell phones, I placed the coffee near the edge. Immediately, the coffee cup fell to the floor and emptied its contents on the carpet. Only then did I notice that the table had a curved edge.

I felt silly, but I also felt deceived by a trick table.

November 14, 2010

A New Blog

NEW!I have been embarrassed lately that my new colleagues in the No Anglican Covenant Coalition have been busily posting interesting things about the Covenant on their sites, and I have written very little. (I do have a half-written post on the Covenant, but it has been half-written for about a week.) The reality is that I am Webmaster for the No Anglican Covenant Web site, and that has kept me busy. Moreover, Jim Beyer (of Jim’s Thoughts) and I have been building a new blog that is just now being announced. That task, too, has been keeping me busy.

That new blog is Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog. This blog is an adjunct to the No Anglican Covenant Web site. We will use the blog to highlight content on our main site, to call attention to other material related to the Anglican Covenant, to post new material related to the Covenant, and, I hope, to provoke some discussion about the Covenant.

Do visit the new blog and offer your own ideas about how it can be helpful in the campaign against the Anglican Covenant.

In the meantime, perhaps I can get around to finishing that post I’ve been trying to complete.

November 6, 2010


I attended the 2010 National Episcopal Cursillo Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, last week. It was held at the Springmaid Beach Resort, which offered excellent facilities at a very attractive rate.

A feature of the resort I had not expected was a long fishing pier (see picture below). The day I arrived, I took a late night walk down the pier. It was a cloudy night with a full moon and few people actually fishing. I wrote a modest poem about this experience called “Pier.” You can read it on Lionel Deimel’s Farrago.

Springmaid Beach Resort fishing pier

November 4, 2010

On the Organizational Proclivities of Anarchists

From a report on Greece this morning by Sylvia Poggioli, NPR’s senior European correspondent:
The anarchist movement in Greece is very fragmented.

November 3, 2010

The Announcement

A few days ago, I posted this graphic on my blog without comment, though I did offer a few words on the front page of Lionel Deimel’s Farrago:

WATCH FOR AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT COMING NOVEMBER 3Since today is November 3, it is time for the promised announcement.

Richard HookerA new international group has been formed to oppose adoption of the Anglican Covenant. The group is called the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, and its advent is announced officially in this news release. The Coalition has a new Web site, which you can find at

I encourage visitors to read the news release and browse the Web site, which offers a collection of resources related to the Anglican Covenant, with an emphasis on arguments against its adoption. The collection should be helpful as the various churches of the Communion consider what they should do with the Covenant.

November 3 was chosen as the rollout day for the Web site, as Anglicans celebrate on that date the quintessential Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, who died November 3, 1600, 410 years ago today.

Permit me a pause for prayer before continuing:
O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 2000

A Brief History

More than a year ago, I wrote a post titled “No Anglican Covenant” in which I introduced the No Anglican Covenant logo. In that essay, I said, “I am, however, ready to suggest that Episcopalians and other moderate and progressive Anglicans must begin now a campaign against any Anglican covenant, lest our churches approve whatever comes along out of simple but misguided Anglican civility.” All I had in mind at the time was plastering the logo all over the Web, primarily on blogs. In fact, a number of blogs did pick up the logo and display it to this day.

On October 10, a bit longer than three weeks ago, I woke up with the idea that a No Anglican Covenant campaign could be more than a logo scattered across the Web. Before going to church, I registered the Internet domain That same afternoon, I sent e-mail to a select group of Anglicans around the world, most of them bloggers. I said, in part,
This morning, the idea of building a standalone No Anglican Covenant Web site occurred to me. This could be a site promoting a No Anglican Covenant campaign, with links to blog posts opposing the covenant, along with other resources. The latter might include a chart showing the current status of covenant adoptions in all the Anglican churches and perhaps even links to some material favoring a covenant. In any case, the objective is to put a large collection of anti-covenant material in one place. This should be especially helpful as parishes and dioceses discuss the covenant. Before heading off to church today, I registered the Internet domain for the purpose.
I received my first enthusiastic reply 24 minutes later. More positive responses soon followed. What we began calling the No Anglican Covenant Coalition soon grew to nearly two dozen strong. (Their names can be found here.) Although I had been thinking primarily in terms of providing resources for Episcopalians as they consider the Covenant, as requested by the 2009 General Convention, the most enthusiastic responses came from England, where the Covenant is to come to a vote before the General Synod this November 24.

A campaign was quickly planned and the construction of a Web site undertaken. It did not take long to realize that November 3 would be an appropriate day to announce the Web site, and the corresponding deadlines seemed only mildly unrealistic. As I write this, the task of putting together a campaign has required approximately 900 e-mail messages, a few meetings and telephone calls, and unbelievable dedication by all concerned. Would that the Anglican Communion itself could operate with such dedication and concord!

The No Anglican Covenant Web site, I think, looks very good. We will be polishing its content in the coming weeks and adding more information. Suggestions for improvement and additional material will be greatly appreciated. Go to the Contact page for appropriate e-mail addresses. Feel free to leave comments here, where they can be seen immediately by anyone.

Finally, I want to thank all my colleagues of the Coalition for their dedicated work. Special thanks must go to the Rev. Dr. Lesley Fellows, Moderator of the Coalition and our Convenor for the Church of England, who took on the unofficial roles of manager and cheerleader.

You will find that other members of the Coalition will have written posts similar to this one. Surf the Web and see what they have to say. Thank each one.

November 1, 2010

Thought for the Eve of Election Day

Like many Americans, I have found the campaigning for tomorrow’s mid-term elections sickening. I would like to be able to say that it is the Republicans who have been deceptive in their advertising, but the Democrats have been equally dishonest. Some Democrats have even sounded like Republicans, touting how they have voted consistently against bills supported by the Obama administration. It is nonetheless clear that, although the Democrats may not take us boldly into the twenty-first century, the Republican are surely determined to return us to the nineteenth. I don’t wish to go there.

Voting tomorrow will be easy. I have had no incentive to agonize over whom I will vote for; if Jack the Ripper is running as a Democrat, I will vote for him over any Republican.

While doing some work in support of The Episcopal Church, I came upon a perfect quotation apropos of tomorrow’s elections. It comes from the quintessentially Anglican theologian of the sixteenth century, Richard Hooker. Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Hooker’s magnificent, though unfinished treatise, begins with these words: “He that goeth about to persuade a multitude, that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favorable hearers ….” More people should read Hooker.