April 24, 2015

End of the Line for the Covenant at the General Convention

As a representative of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, along with the Rev. Malcolm French, I worked hard at the 2012 General Convention to get the convention to reject the Anglican Covenant outright. We were unsuccessful, and the General Convention served up a big warm pot of Anglican fudge:

Resolution Number: 2012-B005
Title: Continue Commitment to the Anglican Covenant Process
Legislative Action Taken: Concurred as Substituted

Final Text:
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention express its gratitude to those who so faithfully worked at producing and responding to the proposed Anglican Covenant (www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm); and be it further
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention acknowledge that following extensive study and prayerful consideration of the Anglican Covenant there remain a wide variety of opinions and ecclesiological positions in The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That as a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church, the General Convention decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention ask the Presiding Officers to appoint a task force of Executive Council (Blue Book, 637) to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation; and be it further

Resolved, That the Executive Council task force on the Anglican Covenant report its findings and recommendations to the 78th General Convention.
General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of...The Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, 2012 (New York: General Convention, 2012), pp. 241-242.
The report from the Executive Council Task Force on the Anglican Covenant is now available here. That report doesn’t really report any “findings,” but it does contain a “recommendation,” namely, a proposed resolution. That resolution is the following:
A040: Affirm Response to the Anglican Covenant Process

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the preamble and first three sections of the Anglican Communion Covenant; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention direct The Episcopal Church's members of the Anglican Consultative Council to express our appreciation to the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC16, Lusaka 2016) for the gift of inter-Anglican conversation and mutuality in God's mission engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.
Pursuant to the charge given the B005 Task Force, we monitored Anglican and ACC activities regarding the Anglican Covenant process and believe this resolution to respond appropriately to the current status of this process in Anglicanism generally and the ACC specifically. This resolution has no budgetary implications.
No Anglican Covenant Coalition logo
At the outset, I should say that I would have The Episcopal Church reject the Covenant categorically. In my heart of hearts, I would like to see something like the resolution I proposed in a post on September 21, 2011. Admittedly this is a rather angry resolution that attempts to name every indignity visited upon The Episcopal Church by its sister churches of the Communion. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition proposed a more temperate resolution on April 27, 2012.

Although I would prefer to see the resolution from the Executive Council strengthened, I would not be especially upset were it to be passed as proposed. No doubt, however, there will be those at the convention who will seek to have the church offer a more conciliatory response to the Communion.

Here are some reasons for opponents of the Covenant to be satisfied with A040:
  1. Neither the Introduction nor Section Four is mentioned in the resolution.
  2. The resolution does not accept, adopt, affirm, or subscribe to the Covenant Preamble or Sections One, Two, and Three. Instead, it “affirm[s] our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion” as set forth in those sections. It is not completely clear what this means, and it is likely to be seen as partial adoption by the Anglican Communion Office. It isn’t, however.
  3. The resolution does not even thank the Communion for its work on the Covenant. Instead it says that we are appreciative of  “the gift of inter-Anglican conversation and mutuality in God’s mission engendered by the Anglican Communion Covenant process.” The process has been useful, but, implicitly, the product is not so good.
  4. The resolution in no way suggests that The Episcopal Church will have anything more to do with the Covenant. The implication is that we are done with this project and will have no part in the implementation of the Covenant.
I am not completely satisfied that the resolution suggests some significant value in any of the Covenant, but the resolution appears not to commit The Episcopal Church to anything significant. I expect to say more about the sections of the Covenant referred to in the resolution later

Update, 5/15/2015: In my May 14, 2015, post “Further Thoughts on the Anglican Covenant and the General Convention,” I offer and justify amendments to Resolution A040 that I believe would make it more honest and acceptable.

Update, 5/21/2015: In my May 21, 2015, post “More on the Anglican Covenant Resolution” I suggest another reason that any resolution about the Covenant should not be construed as endorsing any part of the pact.


  1. I have three issues with the proposed resolution.

    First, it does not scream "no!" which means regardless of what it says,l the ACO will announce it endorses the Covenant. Singapore's experience, a resolution that violated the "no amendments" rule quite intentionally, adding a prefix that completely changed the document is instructive. The ACO simply counted it as an endorsement.

    Second, it treats the Covenant as a living document. After England(!) and a number of other leading communion members said no, it is clear that the thing is a dead letter. For TEC of all of us to attempt to breath life in it defies reality. The, "Anglican Church" Rowan Williams attempted to impose on the communion is dead.

    Third, does anyone on Executive Council know about GAFCON? There is no reason to try to keep the communion together, because it is not together. The refusal to face reality, in this case schism, will be what kills out communion.

    I hope it simply dies in committee.


    1. Jim,

      Do you think that not passing any resolution on the Covenant is preferable to
      A040 as presented? I do think my proposed amended resolution in my post of yesterday is fine. It says, “Thanks for the conversation, but your Covenant sucks.”


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