Saturday, September 5, 2009

“Who Can Adopt This Covenant?”

From the Anglican Communion Institute:

The Anglican Covenant: Shared Discernment Recognized By All

Written by: The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc.
Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

The Reverend Canon Professor Christopher Seitz
The Reverend Dr. Philip Turner
The Reverend Dr. Ephraim Radner
Mark McCall, Esq.

The Rt. Reverend Dr. N. T. Wright
Bishop of Durham

The approved text of the Anglican Covenant is already serving as a lens through which individual Anglican churches are inevitably and accurately being measured in terms of their character as “Communion churches.” Thus, in ways not yet properly noted by all, the text endorsed by the Anglican Consultative Council, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee in May 2009 has already raised and to a large extent provisionally answered the question “who can adopt this Covenant?” It is the purpose of this paper to explain why and how this is so, and to do this in relation particularly to The Episcopal Church, although it should be noted that the Covenant’s defining substance can be applied analogously to other Anglican churches as well.

The substantive sections of the Anglican Covenant, Sections 1-3, are now in final form. They will be sent to the churches of the Communion for adoption within a few months. A fourth section containing procedural provisions will be added to the other three at that time, but it remains subject to further review and “possible revision.” Section 4, however, either as it now stands or as revised, will not change the fundamental substantive commitments given by the covenanting churches. The scope of the fourth section is purely procedural.

This cuts directly against the claim of some “progressive” elements that it would be perfectly possible for The Episcopal Church, as it stands and even with the recent General Convention decisions in mind, to sign the first three sections. Following the recent reflections by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the actions of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, some in the Communion are urging TEC to sign the Anglican Covenant even while continuing to reject the teaching of the communion on same sex ordinations and blessings and the moratoria that now have been affirmed by all four Instruments of Communion:


An Anglican church cannot simultaneously commit itself through the Anglican Covenant to shared discernment and reject that discernment; to interdependence and then act independently; to accountability and remain determined to be unaccountable. If the battle over homosexuality in The Episcopal Church is truly over, then so is the battle over the Anglican Covenant in The Episcopal Church, at least provisionally. As Christians, we live in hope that The Episcopal Church will at some future General Convention reverse the course to which it has committed itself, but we acknowledge the decisions that already have been taken. These decisions and actions run counter to the shared discernment of the Communion and the recommendations of the Instruments of Communion implementing this discernment. They are, therefore, also incompatible with the express substance, meaning, and committed direction of the first three Sections of the proposed Anglican Covenant. As a consequence, only a formal overturning by The Episcopal Church of these decisions and actions could place the church in a position capable of truly assuming the Covenant’s already articulated commitments. Until such time, The Episcopal Church has rejected the Covenant commitments openly and concretely, and her members and other Anglican churches within the Communion must take this into account. This conclusion is reached not on the basis of animus or prejudice, but on a straightforward and careful reading of the Covenant’s language and its meaning within the history of the Anglican Communion’s well-articulated life.

I've included quotes only from the beginning of the document and the conclusion. I did not read the statement in its entirety. I tried, but I did not finish. It is long. I read enough know that those who wrote the document seem to believe that the Episcopal Church cannot sign on to the covenant, even should it choose to do so, unless GC12 reverses resolutions B025 and D056. The conclusion states as much.

The group's strategy is to create "facts on the ground". (Thanks Doxy!) Say something is true, and it will, in fact, come to be true. That this flies in the face of logic did not prevent the transformation of the Windsor Report into the Windsor Law. The Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to buy into the strategy for the Windsor Report, so will he follow suit and come to the same conclusion as the writers of this document? Has he already done so in his talk of a two-track solution? Has he already consigned the Episcopal Church to the out-of-the-covenant track?

UPDATE: Meanwhile, across the pond, Pluralist is busy.


  1. 4 guys and a website stirring up trouble.

  2. And making it perfectly clear that it is about punishing TEC for our stand on homosexuality - and all the sacraments for all the baptized.

    Not "interpretation of scripture" or "rejection of cultural modernity" or "a return to the orthodox faith."

    Make that 4 idiots and a website making it easier for the rest of the communion not to adopt a Covenant which is clearly "two track" and not "two tier" (Read: ecclesiastical apartheid doing spiritual violence to the soul of Anglicanism).

  3. Ann and Elizabeth, I wish I could be as hopeful as you that most folks will dismiss this statement as foolishness.

  4. Oh I am not hopeful - somehow the ABC thinks these guys hang the moon. Jim Naughton picks up the story here

  5. Ann, I'm glad that I posted in the wee hours of the morning, or folks would not believe that I didn't plagiarize Jim.

    These people are troublemakers. Tom Wright perceives a vacuum in leadership and is making his way to the fore, and Rowan sits passively observing the scene.

  6. "Tom Wright perceives a vacuum in leadership" - in the Diocese of Durham, from what one reads. Seems their bishop is far too busy racking up Frequent Flier miles.

    Re the ACI, hate to keep beating this drum (actually, I don't), but I'm much more interested in the beam in their eye than in any supposed mote in TEC's. Check this 2007 link, re their Colorado Springs relationship with Don Armstrong:

    "Timothy Fuller, a former vestry member of Grace, said he served on the ACI's board for three years. Not once in those three years, Fuller said, did the board formally meet.

    "In October 2006, according to Fuller, Armstrong told the vestry that the ACI had borrowed about $170,000 from Grace over several years, and the vestry resolved the Institute would pay it back in $10,000 yearly installments, beginning this year.The vestry meeting was the first time Fuller had heard of the $170,000 the ACI allegedly borrowed. He resigned from the Institute’s board two months later."

    Wonder whether Armstrong or Seitz, whose comments ring just a tad evasive to me, is closer to telling the truth. If ACI subsequently addressed these claims more fully, it must have slipped by me. Wonder how that $10,000 a year repayment schedule is going.

  7. I agree with Ann - we dismiss them at our own peril.

  8. They are dangerous, punitive, and playing the devil's game. They are about fear, loathing, and power.

  9. Lapin, I wish the blogger at your link had provided documentation for his statements.

    Paul, yes. Any so-called person of faith who uses fear to grab power is not about the work of the Kingdom.

  10. The blogger on Lapin's link is the newspaper reporter in Co Springs.

  11. If everything in the blog post is true, then I'd have to ask why Christopher Seitz has any credibility left at all? Why does ANYONE pay attention to him?

  12. Are these the same guys that cited a veterinarian as an "expert" on human homosexuality? And are these the same goofy people who send their "top secret emails" out to hundreds of other people by accident and then complain about their privacy being violated? They sound more like Bush-era FEMA workers than church leaders. These guys need to get out of church work and maybe form a comedy troup. They are hilarious! Look at the bright side -- at least they aren't elected government officials trying to manage the bad world economy. Of course, I am a little concerned about their sabotage attempts to make Anglicanism into another fundamentlist club (and anywhere you have fundamentalism in the USA you will find the GOP). But they can't even agree among themselves about ordination of women, hetero divorce, etc. So I don't think they will ever pass the Gamaliel Test (Acts 5:33-39). The best thing we can do is keep telling the truth, proclaiming and living the Good News, and keep on praying for the Church. Ultimately, the survival of the Church is in God's hands, not ours. As long as we are faithful and seeking God's basileia (commonwealth-reign) and God's righteousnes (right relationship) all the other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). I don't see these clumsy and silly people as passing the "Gamaliel Test." My first big clue about this was when they cited a veterinarian as an expert on human sexuality. Bwahahaha! I am a gay man and they are so incompetent that they make me laugh more than they offend me. I remain confident, enthusiastic, hopeful, and encouraged about our beloved Anglican Communion. Oh, just thought I would mention to you that our newest puppy ate the only N.T. Wright book I owned yesterday... He really read, marked, learned, inwardly digested, and tore right through it...

  13. I couldn't read the whole thing either. It makes me both sick and angry. These guys are dangerous.

  14. Mark, in a word, yes. Why does Bp. Wright ally himself with folks of such low credibility?

    Your puppy story is hilarious. I hope he didn't get a bad case of gas.

    What is at play in the Church of England? Is Wright in open rebellion against Rowan, or does he have his tacit approval, or something in the middle?

    Amelia, I cannot concentrate on the piece. My mind drifts away. Did you read Pluralist's satire? It's quite satisfying. The names for the cast of characters are choice. There's one named Roman Williams.

  15. I did like Pluralist's piece. He does such good satire. If only there were a "Head" to reign those boys in.

  16. Mimi, on July 31st Martin Reynolds posted at Thinking Anglicans that

    Blessed Tom was Rowan's first appointment to the bench - in those somewhat less fraught days I challenged him at dinner over this extraordinary appointment.

    I said that it was highly significant Carey had NOT given Wright a big hat and that Wright was a big mouth and something of a bully - Rowan prickled, and after pointing out he had not taken an oath of canonical obedience to me, opined that Wright was "someone I can work with".

    So was Rowan right, or was he wrong? Is Tom Wright still "someone [he] can work with"?

  17. Lapin, I remember that now you mention it. The question remains.

  18. Having referred to Martin Reynolds, the Welsh priest who, with his partner, adopted a disadvantaged child, and was a close neighbour of Williams' when W was bishop of Monmouth, this piece on him from A Church at War - Anglicans and Homosexuality may be of interest.

  19. Lapin, it was of interest. In fact, I read far past Martin Reynolds' story into Gene Robinson's story. How nice that we get to read a good chunk of Stephen Bates' book free online.

    Bates gave up reporting on religion for the Guardian because his reporting turned him into an agnostic. No surprise there.

    What rankled most was the hypocrisy, the fact that the Bible's scattered and random words on homosexuality were uncontestable for all time and yet, somehow, divorce – which Jesus himself appears from the Gospels to have condemned – was somehow only a minor and changeable transgression.

    From his last column on religion. Jesus didn't care for hypocrisy either.

  20. More of the same... : if your only tool is a hammer everything looks like a nail. The ACI see the Covenant as exactly one thing -- and mostly about one thing. The talk about it as if it were already adopted. And go on an on about the "teaching of the Communion" which is also just the latest version of the Big Lie.

    They must be called out on this every time, sadly...

  21. The "teaching of the Communion" part of the statement is where my mind drifts off and won't come back to what I'm reading. The group seems to believe that a multiplicity of words demonstrates their seriousness.

  22. Re "their seriousness". Might "self-importance" be the term you were looking for?

  23. Although I may not have succeeded, I was striving for irony with "their seriousness".

  24. Tom Wright to Rowan Williams,

    I've reached the top,
    And had to stop,
    And that's what's botherin' me!

    Wanna be like you-hoo-hoo!

    With Most Vicious and Unrequited Love,

    Tommy Dunelm

  25. Mark, very good. You should take up writing lyrics.


Anonymous commenters, please sign a name, any name, to distinguish one anonymous commenter from another. Thank you.