September 28, 2011

A Revised Proposal for General Convention 2012

I recently proposed, for consideration by the 77th General Convention next year, an omnibus resolution on the Anglican Communion, the primary purpose of which was to decline to adopt the Anglican Covenant. (See “A Proposed Resolution for General Convention 2012.) Based on the feedback I received both on the form and substance of the resolution, I offer below a revised proposal in, as I understand it, the proper form for consideration by the General Convention.

General Convention 2012 logoAs was the case with my original proposal, this resolution is stronger than anything the General Convention is likely to pass. I believe in the wisdom and pragmatism of every provision of my draft, however. Further, I must point out something that the President of the United States apparently does not know, namely, that successful negotiation is not facilitated by putting forth a proposal at the outset that incorporates all the compromises you are willing to make. As before, I encourage comments. I acknowledge that many will think my proposal too broad, and that the General Convention should simply and politely say that it chooses not to adopt the Covenant.

Title: Relation to the Anglican Communion

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 77th General Convention desire and intend that The Episcopal Church continue its membership in the Anglican Communion, understood as a fellowship of autonomous, autocephalous churches having historical ties to an independent Church of England; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention believe that The Episcopal Church, is properly described as “Anglican” by virtue of its history, theology, and polity, irrespective of its status with respect to the Anglican Communion, and that neither its existence nor the performance of its Gospel mission in the world is contingent on Communion membership; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention declare that no person, committee, commission, church, or ecclesiastical body associated with the Anglican Communion and not part of The Episcopal Church has any authority over The Episcopal Church, its dioceses, its clergy, its parishes, its missions, or its members, except insofar as such authority has been granted by the General Convention in accordance with its Constitution and Canons; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention, believing the so-called Anglican Communion Covenant to be contrary to Anglican theology and tradition, as well as not required for Anglican Communion membership, decline to adopt said Covenant and urge other churches of the Anglican Communion to do the same; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention consider the admission to the Anglican Communion of any church claiming jurisdiction over any area within the geographic boundaries of a diocese of The Episcopal Church to be incompatible with Episcopal Church membership in the Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention provide no more than 4% of the administrative expenses required for the maintenance of the Anglican Communion, which limitation does not include funds required to support travel of Episcopal Church members for participation in Anglican Communion meetings; funds directly supporting evangelism, relief, and development; or other expenditures as may be authorized by the General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That nothing in this resolution is intended to modify or to abrogate any bilateral agreements made by The Episcopal Church, its dioceses, or its parishes insofar as such agreements are consistent with the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention.


Although The Episcopal Church, over most of its history, has experienced the Anglican Communion as a useful vehicle for consultation and coƶperation, it has, in recent years, been subjected to injustices and indignities at the hands of Anglican Communion churches and bishops. Among the abuses our church has suffered have been declarations of impaired or broken communion, jurisdictional incursions by foreign bishops, the attempted alienation of church property and criticism for opposing same, the making of improper demands affecting both the internal governance of our church and its relations with the Anglican Communion, and the encouragement and recognition of a church whose claimed jurisdiction overlaps that of The Episcopal Church. Communion churches have failed to support Episcopal Church against the perpetrators of these various insults, have failed to recognize properly adjudicated depositions of Episcopal clergy, and have advocated the removal of The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion and its replacement by a church whose physical assets and membership have largely been obtained at the expense of The Episcopal Church. Additionally, the Presiding Bishop has not been properly acknowledged as a bishop and has been ostracized by certain Anglican primates. Not all of our bishops have been invited to participate in the Lambeth Conference, and members of our church have been removed, without consultation or recourse, from Anglican Communion bodies to which they had been duly appointed. Despite these many injuries, The Episcopal Church has continued to pay substantially more than its fair share of the administrative expenses of the Anglican Communion bureaucracy.

The effort to establish an Anglican Communion Covenant is largely intended to punish or ostracize The Episcopal Church for its “innovations.” Given that those “innovations” led to the injuries and indignities enumerated above, it is clear that adoption of the Covenant by The Episcopal Church will only sanction additional interference in the internal affairs of our church and severely curtail its traditional autonomy.


  1. Lionel,

    1) What is the Church of England independent of?

    2) The opening of the paragraph on the Covenant doesn't (to my English ear) read quite right. Perhaps:
    Resolved, That the General Convention, believing the so-called Anglican Communion Covenant to be contrary to Anglican theology and tradition, and not necessary for Anglican Communion membership, ...?

  2. Paul,

    I meant independent of the Pope. I used this phrasing, as I wasn't sure that the Scottish Episcopal Church was properly described as a daughter church of the Church of England. Even now, it is hard to define Communion membership, and the Covenant will make that even harder. In principle, every Instrument could have a different list of who is in and who is out. This is insane.

    In the paragraph about the Covenant, an extra “that” was left in by mistake. (I have now removed it.) Perhaps something like the following would read better, however.

    Resolved, That the General Convention, believing the so-called Anglican Communion Covenant to be contrary to Anglican theology and tradition, and understanding its adoption to be inessential for Anglican Communion membership, decline to adopt said Covenant and urge other churches of the Anglican Communion to do the same; and be it further

  3. Lionel, I have a lot of problems with this resolution, but I think you are wedded to the things that I think create muddy water. I prefer clarity, and as you say, a simple "we don't adopt it." I think this resolution actually plays into the hands of the dissidents by opening their cans of worm.

    But as I think you are unlikely to heed my counsel on that score, let me just wonder why you have inserted autocephaly into the mix? Autocephaly is inferior to autonomy in our usage -- not in E O usage -- and in our case is assumed by it.

    It is confusing to bring it in as I don't think people know what it is, and it isn't traditionally part of our vocabulary -- and in the traditions in which it is part of the vocabulary pertains to matters irrelevant to our situation. TEC is completely self-governing, including electing our own leadership. (From an EO perspective we would be autocephalous.) So I'd suggest dropping that language as plagued by ambiguity -- or just say "self-governing." (Noting that McCall plays games with the meaning of "autonomy" in international affairs. Why is it that folks like him don't realize that words have contexts and you can't jump from one to another without confusion!)

  4. Tobias,

    I am not wedded to anything other than defeating the Covenant. I would not oppose a simple “no” resolution, though I think some of the other matters should be said. I like your suggestion of using a phrase like “completely self-governing.” The point about Mr. McCall is well-taken.

    I do feel strongly that, in a time when we are talking about additional cutbacks in the church budget, we cannot afford generous support of the Anglican Covenant, irrespective of whether one believes we are financing our tormentors, as I believe we are.

  5. Thanks, Lionel. I am really trying to be helpful in reaching the real goal. Your feeling that certain things need to be said is understandable, but I cannot tell you how often a resolution has foundered in GC due to precisely this urge to say more than is absolutely necessary. This is true of both progressive and reactionary legislation.

    One practical matter is that the money issue would need to be addressed separately, and by a different committee -- it belongs to the budget process. It simply could not be adopted as you phrase it here -- it is, for one thing, entirely too vague (what are "expenses required for the maintenance of the Anglican Communion"? If what you are talking about is the Anglican Communion Office, that needs to be cleared up -- but know that it is that office that coordinates the "evangelism, relief, and development" operations of the Communion! You would really need to take a look at the last triennium budget and tag a line or two specifically for your limitation -- and then, in dollar, not percent, terms.

    But as I noted last time around, even if this is stewardship, it will be seen by some as blackmail, and strike a sour note.

    Resolve 2 is unnecessarily defensive. We are "constituent members" of the Anglican Communion, and if we were to be kicked out of it the Communion would be utterly changed. That's what constituent means. It also sounds like a threat to leave the Communion, even it that's not your intent.

    Resolve 5 is not, to my mind, necessary, since such admission would be a violation of the Communion's own rules -- as long as we are part of the Communion. It also puts us in the position of having to leave the communion should the rules be broken, and I don't think that is a bluff I want to call -- nor do I think it will fly on the floor of Convention.

    So that's my two cents. Maybe even a nickel! Take it as you will, offered in good faith in a desire to see the primary goal accomplished.

  6. "Financing our tormentors" true.

    I would support a drastic cut in AC funding, as long as every cent cut was spent directly on mission and evangelism.

  7. I believe sometimes silence is deafening, and that it can leave a void to be filled in by others. The Episcopal Church has politely taken a beating for years from an extemist group. This resolution calmly and clearly states the wrongs inflicted upon our Church as well as rejects the covenant. Both are important here. We have the right and the duty to state what has happened, to show we are offended, and to demonstrate we will not go quietely into the night.

    I say submit it as is and thanks to Dr. Deimel for writing such an intelligent, important resolution.

  8. The shorter the resolution, the better chance it has of getting through without having a vote by orders on specific resolves. I should be able to remember where and when but right now cannot of a resolution on human sexuality of which six of the seven resolves made it through but the last resolve, the main point about getting the church to take action on equality got shot down.


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