April 8, 2011

The Covenant and the Archbishop

I continue to hear from friends in England that votes on the Anglican Covenant within the Church of England have less to do with the Covenant itself than with loyalty to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church of England General Synod had earlier rejected Rowan’s plan to offer stronger concessions to opponents of women bishops, for example, which made Synod members reluctant to hand the archbishop a significant defeat on the Covenant last November. Rowan, after all, seems to have put all his ecclesiastical eggs into the Covenant basket, and his church’s failure to adopt the Covenant would be supremely embarrassing.

From this side of the Atlantic, it is easy to deplore the obeisance shown to Rowan, but I can certainly appreciate it. I do feel proud when our own Presiding Bishop is appointed to a presidential commission or shows up in a television or newspaper story. I think twice before writing anything negative about our primate here or elsewhere. Certainly, the reluctance of our previous Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, to act against the likes of Bob Duncan inhibited effective action by others, and his and Katharine’s support for B033 was sufficiently intimidating to achieve passage by a reluctant House of Deputies in 2006.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, however, is a special case. The incumbent in that office is accorded deference not only by his own church but also by the churches and people of the Anglican Communion in his role as primus inter pares.

Alas, Rowan has increasingly become a threat to the Church of England and to the Anglican Communion. He is, in the end, a political appointee of the English government who has exploited the respect given his office to wield power he has not been granted, to interfere in the affairs of churches not his own—rumor has it that Rowan’s was the hand behind B033, for instance—and to press for a Covenant that will change the nature of the Anglican Communion and, some would say, of Anglicanism itself. Moreover, the Covenant in which he is so invested will enshrine his office as an “Instrument of Communion” and give it even more power, since, as an “Instrument,” Rowan can decide by himself whether to impose the ominous but unspecified “relational consequences” that might be suggested by the Standing Committee.

As I asserted earlier, Rowan has acted as a tyrant. Why should we adopt a Covenant that will make him even more powerful? Episcopalians have no say in who occupies the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. Why should we be any less upset than were our colonial ancestors over the Stamp Act? I say, “No vexation without representation!” Reject the Anglican Covenant and hope that Rowan has the good sense to resign.

No Anglican Covenant

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  1. Episcopalians have no say in who occupies the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. Why should we be any less upset than were our colonial ancestors over the Stamp Act?

    Why indeed?!!! I AM upset.

  2. If Dr. Williams gets his "Covenant" and continues on his, "Spank the yanks" path, we shall shortly be "second tier" and then this really won't matter. I wonder why anyone thinks the Anglican Communion will be enhanced by the expulsion of American and Canadian members. Still that is the road on which this obstinate man is embarked.



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