May 21, 2015

More on the Anglican Covenant Resolution

Scott Gunn, who is planning to analyze every resolution in the 2015 Blue Book on his blog, Seven whole days, got around to Resolution A040 two days ago. This, of course, is the resolution responding to the Anglican Covenant, about which I have written recently. (See “End of the Line for the Covenant at the General Convention” and “Further Thoughts on the Anglican Covenant and the General Convention.”)

In “Tangled Up in Blue: Executive Redux,” Gunn discusses resolutions originating in Executive Council committees. After declaring the probable vote on Resolution A022 through Resolution A035 to be negative, he predicts a positive vote on A040.

It is important to note here that Gunn has long favored a lukewarm response to the Covenant, neither rejecting it nor accepting it (or all of it, in any case). In a 2012 post before the 77th General Convention, he wrote in “Resolutely Reading: Anglican Covenant responses
I don’t much like the way the Covenant goes about its project, but I think it would be a mistake to reject the entire enterprise without at least some appreciation for parts of it.
No Anglican Covenant logo
It is not completely surprising, therefore, that he is positively disposed to A040, which affirms “our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the preamble and first three sections of the Anglican Communion Covenant.” Even Gunn admits, however, that the resolution “treads very close to failing on grounds of being too commendy or affirmy.”

I won’t revisit why I dislike the formulation of lukewarm acceptance of parts of the Covenant—see “Further Thoughts on the Anglican Covenant and the General Convention”—but I do find the resolution too commendy or affirmy, and it is worth saying why.

One might argue that, short of actually “adopting” the Covenant, and particularly without saying anything about the disciplinary Section Four, The Episcopal Church will not have committed itself to anything of substance. In any rational world, that would be true, but the Anglican Communion is not such a world.

In the Anglican Communion, merely writing something down, even if the words are never subjected to an approval process, can find those words elevated to holy writ by those who find doing so useful. Thus, the Virginia Report and the Windsor Report, which are only reports never adopted by any Anglican body, are regularly quoted as definitive statements of Anglican identity. And most notoriously, the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I.10, on human sexuality, is repeatedly cited as articulating Anglican Communion policy. Resolution I.10 was adopted by the assembled bishops of the Communion, of course, but Lambeth Conference resolutions have never been considered to be other than the opinion of the assembled bishops at the time.


Because of the Communion tendency to view as official anything that finds its way into print, I am concerned that saying anything positive about particular parts of the Anglican Covenant will be taken as an endorsement of propositions that we will be expected to support wholeheartedly in the future or which will be thrown in our face for past infractions. (If “the Holy Scriptures” are “the rule and ultimate standard of faith,” how can we bless same-sex unions, which, at least to some Communion churches, clearly violates scriptural norms and amounts to endorsing sin?) For this reason, I believe that any General Convention resolution concerning the Anglican Covenant must not suggest that we agree with any part of the Covenant.

I hope that the General Convention will adopt something like my amended resolution or something even stronger.

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