Showing posts with label Jonathan Clatworthy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jonathan Clatworthy. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2012


At Modern Church, Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary to the organization, wrote an excellent response to Peter Doll's inaccurate and downright insulting essay on the Episcopal Church in the United States and its relationship to the Anglican Communion and to the proposed Anglican Covenant. Doll is originally from the US, but he has served in the Church of England since his ordination. Still, Doll claims to know the church which he says nurtured him well. Peter Doll is Canon Librarian at Norwich Cathedral in England, therefore one would expect the fruits of his personal knowledge and research to exhibit a result that paints an accurate and evenhanded picture of the Episcopal Church, rather than the biased views expressed in the essay.

Keep in mind that Clatworthy is English and that it is entirely possible to arrive at a more realistic and balanced view of the Episcopal Church from across the big pond in the Green and Pleasant Land. That Doll's paper was sent to all the bishops in the Church of England with the stamp of approval from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is astounding to me.

Wait! On second thought, as I remember certain of Rowan's statements about the Episcopal Church, I am not so surprised, because Doll and Rowan come to seem more like birds of a feather, which makes me even more grateful for Clatworthy's admirable rebuttal.

I met Jonathan when I was in England, and we had a wonderful, long, chatty lunch in London between his trains, and I speak from personal knowledge when I say that he's all right.

Disclosure: Jonathan and I are both members of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

Jonathan Clatworthy lives in Liverpool and is Modern Church General Secretary. He has worked as a parish priest, university chaplain and lecturer in Ethics.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


From Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of Modern Church in the UK:
When I debated the Covenant with Gregory Cameron in March he said nobody had disputed Sections 1-3, so they were acceptable. My take is that nobody debated them because they are not the sharp edge.

On my reading, the wording is poorly put together, and full of conservative evangelical stances which fly in the face of mainstream theological scholarship.

The Introduction centres round a string of biblical texts interpreted in a ‘conservative evangelical’ manner which no reputable biblical scholar would approve of. Just to take the first example, ‘God has called us into communion in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1.9).’ If you read the biblical text, it doesn’t mention you, me, the Archbishop of Canterbury or any Anglican. It was the Christian congregation at Corinth about 50 AD who were being called. The subsequent biblical references get no better: the only biblical scholars who would approve of the way these texts are used are the ones who repudiate mainstream scholarship in the interests of what some people call ‘literalist’ readings (i.e. readings interpreted according to a tradition that fantasises about taking the words literally).

Intro 3. ‘We humbly recognize that this calling and gift of communion entails responsibilities for our common life’…
Well, is it a gift or is it a calling? If it is a gift we’ve got it. If it is a calling we haven’t. Perhaps it was a gift, subsequently messed up? Yet church historians are quite clear that Christianity was a diverse movement from the start. In the New Testament ‘communion’ is about gathering together for the Eucharist, not international institutions to which local churches belong.

Intro 4. ‘In the providence of God, which holds sway even over our divisions caused by sin’. Are all divisions caused by sin? For example, are differences of opinion about gays and lesbians necessarily sinful? Isn’t this presupposing that all Christians ought to hold exactly the same opinions?

Intro 4. ‘We recognise the wonder, beauty and challenge of maintaining communion in this family of churches, and the need for mutual commitment and discipline as a witness to God’s promise in a world and time of instability, conflict, and fragmentation.’

Maintaining communion is not the same as maintaining unity, unless you define communion as unity; and if so, this is a very unbiblical account of communion. I haven’t come across anyone who thinks maintaining communion is wonderful or beautiful. The language of God’s promises, here and elsewhere, needs to be challenged: on what grounds can we claim that God has promised what, and to whom? Once again we are being invited to accept an anti-intellectual conservative evangelical interpretation of the Bible.

Intro 5. ‘To covenant together is not intended to change the character of this Anglican expression of Christian faith. Rather, we recognise the importance of renewing in a solemn way our commitment to one another, and to the common understanding of faith and order we have received, so that the bonds of affection which hold us together may be re-affirmed and intensified.’

... Pompous cant. this text contradicts itself. The covenant is ‘not intended to change the character’ of Anglicanism, but it is intended to reaffirm and intensify the bonds of affection. Reaffirm okay, but intensify means change.

Intro 6. ‘We are a people who live, learn, and pray by and with the Scriptures as God’s Word.’ Another bit of conservative evangelical pompous cant. Sounds as though you can’t be an Anglican unless you spend a good chunk of your time reading the Bible and praying about it. I guess most Anglicans don’t. Want to exclude them? More importantly, what about ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us?’

So. The Anglican Covenant is poorly written, poorly reasoned, and the scholarship behind the Scripture citations is poor.

And that's just the introduction!

H/T to Ann Fontaine at The Lead.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


The letter below is from Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary to Modern Church in England. The missive was sent to the Church Times but was not published in the newspaper. I thought the letter deserved wider readership, and, when I asked, Jonathan gave me permission to publish the letter here at Wounded Bird. My wee blog is not the Church Times, but the letter follows, unedited:
So neither Ireland nor South-East Asia decided to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant – but neither felt able to just say no. Ireland voted to ‘subscribe’ to it, South-East Asia to ‘accede’ to it. As both provinces know, these are meaningless expressions; the Covenant will only come into force if the provinces sign on the dotted line to adopt it. Why are they pussyfooting about?

There is a good reason. Provincial leaders are under immense pressure to sign the Covenant, but few of them like it. It was originally conceived as a way of threatening the USA with expulsion over gay bishops. The present text makes two changes to that aim. Firstly, instead of directly threatening to expel, it sets up an international system which could respond to complaints by expelling but could decide not to; we wouldn’t know the result until after it had been set up. So GAFCON have decided this is not discipline enough and have gone their own way, leaving the rest of us wondering who still wants it.

The second change is that the Covenant makes no mention of same-sex partnerships. It would be possible for one province to object to any initiative by another and demand a judgement from the newly empowered central authorities. Anglicanism would become a confessional sect where we were told what to believe.

So what do provinces do? If they refuse to sign, they may find themselves effectively expelled. If they do sign, they will no longer be able to run their own affairs without constantly checking whether someone in another part of the world objects. So they opt for a third alternative. There isn’t one, but they act as though there is. Whether ‘subscribe’ and ‘accede’ end up counting as ‘adopt’ will no doubt depend on which side has the cleverer political manipulators.

Jonathan Clatworthy
General Secretary
Modern Church
Liverpool, UK

Provinces who adopt the covenant could still be expelled, so whether to adopt or not puts a province in somewhat of a double bind situation. Jonathan makes an important point about any province being able to report any initiative by another province. What a tangle of tasks the new bureaucracy could be faced with in having to judge the complaints. I can't help but imagine the future operations of the standing committee, or whatever group will judge whether the complaints are worthy of consideration or action, as similar to a teacher having to deal with a stream of tattling children and finally saying, "Enough!"

My guess is that the Anglican Communion Office, or whichever body has decision-making power, will conclude that if the term used by a province remotely suggests adoption, the province will be considered to have adopted the Anglican Covenant.