November 30, 2011

Rowan’s Advent Letter

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has again used a pastoral letter to argue for the adoption of the Anglican Covenant. His Advent letter is available on his Web site, which also links to a PDF scan of the letter. Anglican Communion News Service issued a story about the letter today, which includes both the letter and a summary of it. The letter was sent to Anglican primates and moderators of the United Churches.

I believe that just everything Archbishop Williams says about the Covenant in his letter is either false or wrongheaded, and I was about to set to the task of debunking the Lambeth Palace propaganda when I received a note from Andrew Gerns alerting me to a post he wrote on his own blog about the letter. He did not write what I would have written, but his post, “Communion does matter; The Covenant is not the same as Communion” is perhaps more interesting.

For example, referring to the archbishop’s comments about his travels and the support offered by the Anglican Communion to particular churches, Andrew writes
To make the argument, Dr. Williams begs the question: since he did all the visits and all these events happened without the Covenant in place, then is it possible to be a Communion without the Covenant? Would these connections cease if the Covenant were to not pass? Would Anglicans stop working together or would our voice be diluted in any way without the Covenant in place?

Put another way, would the voice of Anglicanism be any stronger in Zimbabwe and would it influence Mugabe any more if they had the Covenant in their back pockets? Would having the Covenant stop Polynesian islands from being any more submerged and would the urban parish be any more relevant to it’s [sic] neighborhood with a fully empowered Anglican Covenant?
Andrew’s full post deserves to be read.

After Andrew’s essay was posted, the Rev. Canon Alan T. Perry weighed in on the archbishop’s letter on his blog, Insert Catchy Blog Title Here. His essay is titled “Of Advent Letters and Archbishops.” Here is a sample observation:
Well, actually, it [the Covenant] outlines the rough idea of a procedure, which is so vague that it’s practically useless, to make arbitrary decisions based on unclear criteria whether a given decision or action of a given Province is or is not “incompatible with the Covenant.” And, although it threatens “relational consequences” it doesn’t define them, so the Archbishop is incorrect to say that it indicates any “sorts of consequences.” The process, such as it is, is a recipe for arbitrariness.
This is more in the spirit of what I intended to write. Under the circumstances, however, why should I bother? Read Alan’s post, and, along with Andrew’s observations, you will have gotten a pretty thorough and intelligent critique of Rowan’s advocacy of Covenant adoption.


  1. Thank you, Lionel. I wish I had written what Andrew did. Brilliant, lucid and passionate.

  2. As I said at Tobias Haller's, either Rowan is incredibly stupid, or he thinks we are.

    Note, however, that he regally refuses to address us riffraff in the pews, but always addresses this garbage to the primates - he envisions an Anglicanism in which all power vests in upper-level clergy, and is appealing to the primates' own power-lust.

    If you doubt it, I would say that no one becomes a bishop unless he desires power, and few have any interest beyond that.


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