July 8, 2012

Observations and Thoughts about the Legislative Progress of the Anglican Covenant Resolutions

The legislative subcommittee working on Anglican Covenant resolutions met this afternoon to continue making progress on perfecting one or more resolutions to send to the legislative floor.

It appears that the plan of presenting two resolutions will be the one ultimately adopted. One resolution will affirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion–the Anglican equivalent of motherhood and apple pie–and the other will, for one reason or another, defer a decision on the Covenant.

The subcommittee continues to believe, in the absence of convincing evidence I think, that an unambiguous rejection of the Covenant cannot pass in the House of Bishops. (No one seems to think that a “no” vote would not sail through the House of Deputies, which seems consistent with Malcolm French’s and my experience talking to folks in the exhibit area.)

Various rationales have been advanced in the subcommittee meetings for not making a decision on the Covenant now:
  1. We cannot adopt the Covenant until we determine the constitutional and canonical changes required to do so and have actually made those changes.
  2. Given the tepid responses to the request to adopt the Covenant, we cannot act until the status of Covenant adoption is clarified.
  3. We cannot adopt the Covenant until certain questions about it are answered, including, but not limited to, the number of adopters needed to make the Covenant effective.
  4. We don’t have to respond to the request to adopt the Covenant now, as there is no time limit for doing so, so we won’t.
  5. We don’t want to make a decision about the Covenant, since we do not all agree, and we don’t want to create winners and losers.
  6. In deference to the participants in the General Convention, we cannot make a decision because they are already being asked to make too many momentous decisions in 2012.
  7. We cannot make a decision for pastoral reasons, as a decision now would further divide the church.
The subcommittee is quite forthright in admitting that it is looking for the most believable excuse it can find to postpone a decision on the Covenant.

All this temporizing seems nothing more than a passive-aggressive response to a straightforward request put to The Episcopal Church. The overwhelming number of deputies who are knowledgeable and concerned about the Covenant have less than no interest in adopting it and would not be traumatized either by being asked to do so or by actually doing so. The remaining deputies either don’t care or are grownups who can see the handwriting on the wall.

I believe that only a handful or two of bishops–the usual suspects no doubt–actually favor the Covenant or would be distressed by its passage. The World Mission Committee should report out a firm “no” resolution, let it pass in the House of Deputies, and send it to the House of Bishops to see what actually happens there.

I have been inspired at this General Convention by calls to us to be “crazy” Christians in imitation of Christ or to be courageous in our decision-making for the church. Indeed, Church of England dioceses voting on the Covenant have been courageous in the face of intimidation by the church hierarchy, and the Scottish Episcopal Church was surely courageous in its lopsided rejection of the Covenant. Alas, it appears that my own church can only find the courage to duck an issue whose proper response is, in the words of the prophet Bob Dylan, blowin’ in the wind.


  1. I so hoped that we would stand in support of the dioceses in the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church with a definite "no" vote. Let you "yes" be yes, and your "no" be no.

  2. I do not see any advantages to avoiding plain speech and saying No when we mean No. To avoid saying No when we mean No for the purported purposes of assuaging those who can't say No doesn't guarantee us anything at all, except chagrin when promises of friendship turn out to be nothing more than promises of friendship and not true friendship.

    Enough time and enough history in other places such as in the Church of England have passed to indicate that it is time now for us to show some integrity about our true thoughts and just say No and move forward to pay attention to other pressing matters in our part of the Anglican Communion -- topics like structure/restructure, budget and budget components, declining membership, development office, evangelism and church plants, Christian Formation, youth and young adult ministry, electronic church services and publications, etc.


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