Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cats and Covenant

November has been a crazy experience: My letter was finally transferred to my new diocese just in time for Convention; I had a second cataract removed; I became a member of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition; I was appointed a college chaplain, and we brought home a 7 week old kitten to our 8 year old main-man cat. None of those events can even hold a candle to having a kitten in the house.

Nothing is safe in our home now. Toes to toilet paper are fair game for a small tuxedoed little bit of fur that loves to snuggle on one’s chest while one is trying to address the serious implications of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s very annoying demand for loyalty at General Synod last week. It is hard to be scandalized by the ABC’s blatant grab for power when sharp little claws or teeth are making mincemeat of one’s recliner or mouse pad. The diocesan convention with all the sturm und drang of renewing the constitution and canons of a diocese regaining our presence in TEC cannot equal the thundering herd of cats’ feet asserting dominance. And no matter what dire consequences about post-operative care necessary, kitten snuggles take precedent.

It is hard to keep focused on what one is writing, thinking, praying when one’s toes are being attacked. It is impossible to think creatively when one notices 3 lbs. of dynamo is flying off the shelf where great grandmother’s china dwells.

I am desperately frustrated with the Anglican Communion after the Church of England voted to give the Anglican Covenant a hearing. The Covenant doesn’t speak of LGBT issues but the fear of dealing with LGBTQ folk is used to fuel a fire that seems in the ABC’s mind the only answer to us queer folk. It is draconian in its development and punitive in construction. It is the worst case of scapegoating that I have seen in church politics.

Of course we all know that this is what +Jack Spong would claim as the last gasp of the white-straight male hegemony. I just find it the same kind of gay bashing that you might find in the dark corners of our cities. I am tired of being blamed for the loss of membership when it is really those who get mad and leave.

In my entire career, I never had a parish that failed to grow. Even in the last 5 years when there were all kinds of threats in both the Lutheran and the Episcopal churches, I never had anyone leave simply because I was lesbian. I had some very rewarding discussion with those who could not get their heads around the idea. I would occasionally have someone who finally realized that they needed another way to express their own faith. I remember one woman who went to a parish that eventually went to ACNA. She was charismatic and she just needed a different way to express her faith. I don’t begrudge that. After all, I had to leave the Roman Catholic Church in order to follow my vocation.

But I find it very frustrating to deal with people who are unwilling to discuss the issue. It is like my senior cat who for several days after the advent of kitten hiding or wanting to go outside rather than deal with too much wiggle or pounce. Finally we have become a household in which senior patrician cat has made it clear what he will tolerate and what he won’t; there is peace. No more hissing; no more growls; no more running to the door and crying to be let out. And once little cat gets on regular food, there will be unity in communion.

Our two beasts can figure out how to work out living together. How is it that the ABC won’t allow us to even talk to other members of the Communion? Why is it that +Gene must not be invited? Why is it that the African archbishops or the Southern Cone are allowed to walk away and still be catered to? Why is ++Katharine and + Ian told not to attend? Now the GAFCON folks say the Anglican Covenant isn’t tough enough on TEC and Canada, no Covenant for them. What does the Anglican Covenant accomplish anyway?

Meanwhile I watch the antics of cats and find their liveliness absolutely thrilling. It gives me hope. I look at the freshness of my new diocese struggling to reclaim themselves as Episcopalians after the abuse of a bishop who was so frightened of talking to LGBT people and women that he would destroy the Church to keep from having to serve with a female Presiding Bishop. I find parishes growing here even though we are still having to fight in courts. I listen to the laity sharing faith and talking about their faith life at coffee hour—something I rarely heard in any other diocese of the Episcopal Church. It fills me with a kind of energy I have not known in the past 10 years and I give thanks.

If cats can live in détente, the Anglican Communion can too without Covenants, without dictatorial Standing Committees or Instruments of Unity.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Observations on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address

Observations on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address
and the Anglican Covenant Debate
Church of England General Synod, November 2010
November 30, 2010

In his Presidential Address on the 23 November 2010, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams presented a message of fear and gloom to the Church of England General Synod. He suggested that, if the Synod did not accept the Anglican Covenant, we could witness the “piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion.” The “risk and reality of such rupture [of some aspects of communion] is already there, make no mistake,” he said. “Historic allegiances cannot be taken for granted.” If we try to carry on as usual, he warned, there is a danger of creating “new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly.”

The message came across loud and clear—be afraid, be very afraid. The Covenant is the only lifeboat in the troubled sea of Anglicanism, and doing nothing or being idealistic is not an option. It is particularly ironic that Dr. Williams painted an picture of a frightening Anglican dystopia should the Covenant fail, yet he and other supporters of the Covenant have been quick to accuse Covenant sceptics of "scaremongering.” It is also surprising, both in this speech and in the subsequent debate, that concerns were raised about the decline of the role of the Church of England, as well as references to it’s being “the mother church” that needs to set an example, whereas Covenant sceptics have been accused of being “Little Englanders.”

The interpretation that most people put on the speech was that Dr. Williams saw the Covenant as the only way to keep the GAFCON Primates and their allies in the Anglican Communion. Ironically, even as the 24 November debate on the Covenant was going on, GAFCON issued its “Oxford Statement,” which rejected the Covenant as being “fatally flawed” and insisted on the more conservative Jerusalem Statement as the foundation of international Anglicanism.

The Archbishop asserted that the Covenant is not “a tool of exclusion and tyranny.” “To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands,” he insisted. It is difficult to see, however, how a document that, in the words of the Windsor Report, is to “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion” is not coercive, and it is likewise difficult to see how enforcing “relational consequences” on a church that might take a “controversial action” is not a punishment. Bishop John Saxbee put it like this:

Anglicanism has been described as a fellowship of civilised disagreement. Well I leave you to judge whether a two-tier Communion with first and second division members answers to that description of civilised disagreement. It frankly feels like we will be sending sincere and faithful Anglicans to stand in the corner until they have seen the error of their ways and can return to the ranks of the pure and spotless.

The Archbishop spoke of loyalty and catholicity. Apparently, he believes that belief and practice should be uniform across the Communion. Otherwise, the Church is disordered, and if the Church is disordered, then the faith is disordered and the mission of the Church is compromised. Dr. Williams consistently speaks of the Anglican Church, which, in his mind, must be centralised and rigidly ordered. Personal beliefs and choice need to be sacrificed for the greater good of the Church, and those who refuse are disloyal. In reality, of course, there are only Anglican churches, and many, unlike Dr. Williams, do not want to create a worldwide Anglican Church.

Although Dr. Williams says that the tendency of the last hundred years has been to centralise, increasing the number of “Instruments of Communion,” the No Anglican Covenant Coalition see this centralisation as a radical departure for Anglicanism. The Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meeting have been instituted to discuss and share ideas, not to impose a single view on the whole Communion. The Covenant speaks of the Provinces as being family members, and this is a good metaphor. However, Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes spoke about the misuse of this term in the document:

"As a University Chaplain I see, all too often, the emotional damage done when a family puts conditions on their love, on their support and on the continuation of relationships. “Relational Consequences” sounds very chilling indeed. We are told that the Covenant sets out the framework for family relationships. But what sort of family lives by a Covenant, with “relational consequences” for breeches of the rules?"

During the debate, the vote on the Covenant became a vote of confidence in the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus was the integrity of the synodical process compromised, with speeches that centred not on the document that was being considered, but on how Dr. Williams needed support and how he knew better than the Synod what would be good for the Anglican Communion. This was consistent with Dr. Williams presidential address, with its assertion that the Covenant “represents work done by theologians of similarly diverse views,” a though the activities of theologians were not to be disputed by mere members of the General Synod.

To those who spoke against the Covenant, the assurance was that General Synod members were not agreeing to accept the Covenant, but merely allowing the process of discussion to continue in the dioceses. By voting yes, they could at once be loyal to Dr. Williams while retaining serious reservations about the wisdom of the Covenant in its current form.

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was always a means to placate those in the Anglican Communion who were upset by the “controversial” actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The Oxford Statement makes it clear, however, that that faction of the Communion will never be satisfied with unity without uniformity. Its insistence on the Jerusalem Declaration is proof that not even the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant are acceptable. It is obvious that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglican created by the GAFCON movement is intended as a separate, “pure” Anglican Communion that will include churches, such as the Anglican Church in North America, that are not part of the present Communion.

In these circumstances, the churches that subscribe to a more traditional view of Anglicanism than the “biblical Anglican” vision, should abandon the Covenant, which can only divide them, and re-establish the Anglican Communion as a tolerant fellowship of autonomous national and regional churches.

Comment:  This is the statement of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition of the Cof E.  It addresses many of the issues that deter Brits from the Anglican Covenant.  But there are many more reasons to not sign this backwards document that predicts a radical change in the realtionship and make of the Anglican Communion.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Purtianism and New Puritanism--on the day after Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner and the day after the Church of England’s General Synod you
might think it poor form to attack the Puritans.  And perhaps it is.  But sometimes it is appropriate to look to
our roots to see what is going on and where it came from.
the General Synod (CofE) voted by a fairly good margin to send the Anglican
Covenant off to the dioceses to debate. The Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC), Rowen Williams spoke rather harshly
about those who oppose the Covenant call us disloyal and uninformed.  (In the press lately we were admonished to
read the document by his office, as if we were bumpkins who had not even picked
the document up).  In addition the
Archbishop of York evidently did almost the same. 
I watched the ABC ‘s speech.  From the perspective
of an American, I found it incredibly condescending.  It was as paternalistic as any head of table
telling the children to calm down and eat their peas even if it was
I am told that folk in the CofE take this as the kind of instruction to do what “Father
knows Best” and return after not paying attention to it and voting it forward
without further ado.  In other words, the
Anglican Covenant is a done deal in the UK because they are being loyal to the
ABC.  And in my father’s lingo “that’s no
way to run a railroad!” or a Church for that matter.
As a nation that was founded by the Puritans who were run out of England almost 400 years
ago, this American is not in any hurry to sign onto a document just to be loyal
to someone who does not listen to the people of his Communion and is not ready
to deal with the realities of a world that is no longer modern, no longer a
product of Renaissance and the Enlightenment. 
At the same time, I am unwilling to allow the perversion of Calvinism or Neo-Puritanism
that has taken much of the world by storm to be the kind of faith my Church
promulgates.  Anglicanism came to this
country as an alternative to the close-mindedness of the Puritans and Pilgrims.  It was a faith that was left to its own devices by poor oversight of the colonial system.  It became a faith and practice that welcomed those who came to this country from whatever religious heritage and helped us develop
as a nation.
I once served a colonial-founded parish when I was in the Diocese of Washington,
DC.  It was interesting to read in the Lambeth Archives of the work of this little parish that clung to the banks of
the Potomac in the letters to the Bishop of London by the vicar.  He had been sent ostensibly to evangelize the
Piscataway Indians, but when they did not seem interested he turned his
attention to the growing Anglo/ European presence.  We have often been an Ex-Pat church carrying
our culture and our values to other lands along with a type of Christianity that
did not want a “window into the souls of men.” 
I am thankful for the rich heritage of the Episcopal Church and for its roots in an
Anglicanism that promoted a faith that met the needs of people who were
populating a New World.  Anglicanism gavea wideness of faith to the people who developed the kind of democracy that has marked the modern era.  It has always
provided an alternative to the Puritanism that has reared its head throughout our
Puritanism is a kind of Calvinism that is so rooted in individualism that everything is
based on personal relationships:  with
Jesus, with the Bible, with one’s neighbor and even state or the Church.  Ecclesiologic ally it developed into congregationalism.  During the 19thcentury, the various ecclesiologies ( episcopal,  presbyterian and congregational) fragmented and formed various denominations. In the Southern states, congregationalism formed by puritan theology provided the model for the worshipping community.  And it is this version of Christianity that
has influenced the development of much of the American ethos.   Politically
and economically it has developed into ‘state’s rights’, the protestant work
ethic, and individual rights taking precedent over the good of the common
weal.  Through the charismatic movement
it even infected the UK with its biblical literalism and its moralistic
This kind of
individualistic Neo-puritanism was not generally accepted as regular Episcopal
fodder but throughout the 20th century those seminarians and
missionaries who had been affected by it became the bulk of foreign missionary
effort in Africa and Latin America.  Many
of those nations who now oppose TEC in the Anglican Communion were those who
were evangelized by missionaries who were self-imposed exiles and could not get
positions in the US because of their intense moralistic or their literalist
views.  So in some ways, we in TEC must
take responsibility for some of the popular Christianity we have exported, just
as Great Britain exported Puritanism to the Americas. 
But in this
new age, this time of technological post-modernism, we are being forced to
consider a new way of thinking of faith. We are called to consider a wider-understanding of God by the likes of
Spong.  We are being called to consider a
wider concept of what is moral especially with regards to sexuality.  We are being called to a different kind of ethics with regards to how to deal with medicine, economics and how we support
the common weal.  With the widening globalization we must reach beyond our nationalisms to embrace without limit those whose experience is not ours.  The ABC is trying to do that but with the wrong vehicle at his disposal.  The Covenant cannot do that.  Only a willingness to walk in each other’s shoes can do that. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anglican Standing Committee

“The Standing Committee is not new; it is made
up of elected Primates and elected members from the Anglican Consultative
Council and it co-ordinates work in the Communion.”
Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director for Unity Faith and Order,The Anglican
Communion Office
This quote from the Anglican Communion Office does offer the
kind of assurance that the Rev. Canon seems to want to offer. 
At present, a majority of the Anglican Communion hasn’t the
foggiest how such officials of the Anglican Communion come to have the titles
and positions that they have.  Until
recently I have never paid much attention to such politics.  I have no understanding how Standing
Committee members are elected or who elects them. I have wandered all over the
Anglican Communion website but I do not find their names or where they are
from. But if they have the power to exclude me from the Communion, I damn well
want to know!  I also want to know that
those who represent me can do so without having been relegated to the ‘second
table’ without voice or vote as has occurred recently (without legal support)
and at someone’s fit of pique.
The Anglican Covenant presently uses a governmental process that
is not accessible to the majority of the membership.  It is so removed from the members of our
parishes that it cannot be responsive to the needs of those who fund them or
must abide by their decisions. It smacks of the kind of colonialism that has
fostered the current unrest in the first place. If the Rev. Canon Barnett-Cowan
thinks that a 21st Century Church is going to put up with that kind
of governmental structure, she sadly mistaken. 
If the Covenant is passed in its present form, a whole new
system of oversight will have to be developed. It will require an elections system that is available to those in the
pew.  It will require a whole new set of
by-laws to run it. 
I have always admired the Common Law system of governance---the
idea that less law is better law.  But
the Covenant will demand a much larger and more unwieldy system of governance.  Instead of being an ‘endoskeleton’ it will be
an ‘exoskeleton’ since it has already set up a system of exclusion.  In all exoskeletal species, this would demand that the Communion be constantly in a form of revision and reformulation of its
organizational structures.  In the terms of government, it will ultimately call for “big government” which we as a Communion cannot afford, nor do we want. 








Wednesday, November 10, 2010


During the very heady
days following Vatican II, the hope for a “one world, one church” in Roman
Catholicism was strong.  Much was made of
the ‘scandal of denominationalism’ in catholic circles, but the reunion was always
understood to be under the Vatican.  I
was swept up, as a new Christian and a new Roman Catholic with those
sentiments.  At that same time, the
charismatic movement was raising its head in the Church.  That ‘fresh wind’ took the staid practices of
Romanism, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism and set the Church on its ear.  Glossilalia, and prayer meetings brought a
liveliness to a religious practice that had grown stuffy and stiff.

For me, there was no
more powerful commentary on the changes of Vatican II than Leonard Bernstein’s
“Mass”.  To the conservative, this
tribute to John F. Kennedy, was a disgrace. But I found in this remarkable musical drama such an icon of the whole
liturgical attempt of humanity’s attempt to seek God that I think it has marked
how I have perceived the creeds’ call to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic
Church.  Bernstein had caught the
incredible spirit of the age to bring the simple but current into the faith
life.  But unlike, the myth of Eden, the
Church, has never been a single unity—a simple place where perfection began.  From Pentecost, we have been an assembly of
disparate peoples trying to find commonality in Jesus Christ. Years ago Raymond
Brown’s little book, The Church the
Apostles Left Behind
captured the struggles that faced the early Church
that the NT seems to gloss over.

If we read the Acts of
the Apostles rightly we find various groups of Christians abounding in the
early church.  And if we study the
history of the 2nd through the 4th centuries, we cannot
help but see how the issue of orthodoxy has plagued us.  We will never be one.  And I do believe that it would not be well
with the soul of the Church for us to be so. After pastoring an ELCA congregation for several years, there is no
reason at all I would want the significant parts of Lutheranism to be part and
parcel of Anglicanism.  It is unique and
appropriate for Lutherans.  Each
denomination expresses something that is unique and important to the worship of
all that is Holy—the worship by different human beings of a singular and
indescribable God.

The same thing applies
for the Episcopal Church and the Church of England.  TEC is not a national or state church as is
the CofE.  It cannot be in the light of
the US Constitution and in the light of how TEC understands itself in
relationship to the people of the United States.  I have never quite understood how TEC works
in those nations that are part of Province X but I would hope that their
understanding of the relationship between church and state are appropriate to
their national milieu in the Philippines, or Honduras or the Virgin Islands.

As someone said, all
theology is local—it all has to do with ‘how it plays in Peoria’-- because
ultimately all theology is relational no matter how much the systematic
professors would try to drain relationship from it.

I have often listened
to some Anglo-Catholics bemoan that women’s ordination or consecration will
threaten the reunification with Rome.  I
have NEVER thought of reunification with Rome as a laudable goal for
Episcopalians or for Anglicans. The uniqueness of the RCC’s response to
reformation in the 16th century marked that denomination with a
character that cannot consider a world-view other than its own. Its emphasis on
obedience and order does not emphasize the liberation and the charisma of
personal responsibility that I find in Episcopalianism. All of these
characteristics are important but not compatible one denomination.   Neither
would I look for a reunification with the Greek or Russian Orthodox churches. Their
forms of spirituality are not, lamentably,  the stuff of the Western minds. Enough time
has gone past for each denomination to have brought their ‘peculiar honors’ to
the Faith of Jesus Christ.  This does not
mean that we cannot glean the greatness of those denominations, but we cannot
regain the fullness of the histories of their traditions.  They can garner from Anglicanism some of the
uniqueness that characterizes us, for the future of the living of
Christianity.  If there is to be any
meaningful reunification, it will come at the local level and most likely due
to economics, however, it will come at the loss of much of the charisma of the
individual denominations.

With the reorganization
of my diocese, I am seeing an interesting trend:  Those churches that left the Iker régime to
stay with TEC but were forced out of their buildings are much more willing to
vision a new way of being Church.  Those
churches that were able because their clergy were willing to stay with TEC with
their buildings, are less likely to care about creative change.  In other words, the status quo has held with
their building. It has always been said that we have an “Edifice Complex” in
the Episcopal Church.  Holy place is
valuable to us.  But a changing world
calls for more flexibility.

If the Anglican
Communion is going to hold together it cannot be with so-called covenants that
are designed to make action by one church an expellable offense.  In order for any Church, national or regional
to be vital means that it must be able to meet the needs of its people.  I have no problem if the Church of Nigeria
needs to make exceptions to the western understanding of marriage to bring the
Gospel to a people who have deeply woven clan issues.  I do not have a problem with those places who
cannot yet embrace the ordination of women because the education of women is
not on a par with men in their societies. But I do have a problem when those local churches tell our church that
they cannot accept us or be in communion with us because we are seeking to
minister to a group that has been excluded from the Church or to ordain those
who are called by Christ to serve in our local churches. I have a problem with
those churches who would bully other churches into compliance simply because
they refuse to be in relationship with us. I have a problem when the lack of education for women is sustained by
the Church as a way to control women or various minorities simply to sustain
male power.  And if numbers of members
are all that is to direct who has say rather than education and reason, there
is no point to church at all.

If the Global South
churches wish to go their own way and not be a part of the Anglican Communion,
I would be very sorry, but I would wish them well. If their history must be on
a track that is different, incorporating more animistic theologies or
syncretism with Islam, or different social customs into their understanding of
what it means to be Christian, I have no problem with that.  But at least acknowledge those social needs
rather than getting outraged at some other Church’s mission to advance the

I do not deny that much
of the kerfuffle in the Anglican Communion at present is a product of the
colonialism that formed us, but we need to be willing to address that as a part
of our discussion with member churches, not pick up our marbles and flounce off
simply because we have not addressed that before.

There will be no
two-tiered Anglican Communion.  We will
either choose to be one or we will choose to walk apart.  It is as simple as that.  I, for one, would choose to be Anglican—but
not one with the present covenant.  It
would be a tremendous loss to Anglicanism if +++Rowan’s legacy would be the
fracturing of the Communion completely.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The So-Called Anglican Covenant

With the rereading of the St. Andrew’s Draft (final draft) of the Anglican Communion, I am still struck with the heavy handedness that this document exhibits. It speaks some interesting things about covenant, but it does not contain the elements that I believe necessary to be covenantal. The purpose of this Covenant is contractual at best. It is an instrument of power, not relationship. The purpose is to rein in any of the national Churches that might find a need to follow Christ into new and important expressions of what walking in holiness might require. Covenants are made between God and humanity in the Bible. Covenants are not made between groups of people, treaties or alliances are made between nations, but nowhere is there an model of covenant being used between groups of humans.

This ‘Covenant’ is more of a constitution than it is a covenant. Perhaps it more emulates the American Articles of Confederation than even a constitution because it outlines an ecclesiology that does not exist for a collegiality that does not exist. As the Rev. James Stockton has commented, it is a “litigational document”. It is trying to develop a pattern that does not work for any of the constituent churches in the Anglican Communion. It certainly is not at all workable for The Episcopal Church with our sense of the egalitarianism of orders. One thing that the Anglican Communion does not need to be is a “litigational” body. We have enough difference among ourselves as constituent regional churches. These differences do not need to be highlighted by a legal constitution.

This Covenant is a bishops’ document. Nowhere in it does it provide a clear place for discussion and presentation of any action to the laity or the clergy. The Covenant seems to assume that the Communion is to be led by bishops and ruled by bishops to the exclusion of anyone else. The Instruments of Communion— funny, I always thought that was a chalice and paten ---are now the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC, and the Primates meetings. What about our Synods, our General Conventions, the discussions of lay and clerical theologians, etc?

The Covenant provides for a Standing Committee but provides no mechanisms for how that Standing Committee would be constituted. Who would choose the members so that said Standing Committee could be acceptable by constituent churches? The proposed Covenant makes no provisions.

This document seems to be concerned with immediacy. It requires the whole of the Church to consent to theological, justice or mission demands by a specific member church. This means that the peculiar character of Anglicanism is lost. Perhaps the most endearing quality of Anglicanism is its ability to be a national, or a regional church addressing issues as they present themselves in the local community. Unlike the global Roman church which cannot act until the whole world understands the Copernican centrality of the sun, Anglicanism has always been free to address the needs of mission in a particular area without needing to get a consensus world-wide. What works in San Francisco does not have to work in Timbuktu and vice-versa.

The immediacy that this document calls for is for the slowing down of addressing global concerns. It would require the same understanding of Scripture, the same theological premises, the lock-step thinking that has paralyzed the Roman Church for centuries.

But it is in 4.2.5”If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.” that this document fails to be a covenant. It is here that this document shows itself to be what it was set up to be—an instrument of coercion. Covenants are the result of gratitude and grace. This document has one purpose, to force constituent churches to be whatever the persons in power want them to be. There is no call to discernment; there are no provisions for the gathering to discuss except for bishops. This document allows for power politics to ultimately settle the issues of the Anglican world. This document is based upon expediency and coercion, not the relationships that are necessary to share the mission of Christ.

It is scary to me that the Church of England would consider passing this legislation in their General Synod simply because they were being nice to the Archbishop of Canterbury. And then go on to ignore the legislation in the long run. But other churches would not be that sanguine about such legislation. In true common law practice, we try to minimize law rather than try to legislate for every work of the body. In this case, the legislative principle of the Covenant is not in keeping with the purpose of the document. The purpose, as has been pointed out, is disciplinary, not for greater sense of community. It will ultimately be used by those who find the letter of the law more important than the will of God. And if the past ten years in the Church are of any indication, we cannot afford to repeat that scandal.

A new Spirit is blowing in the world in matters of faith. We cannot embrace a backwards document for the sake of unity if it does not promote important processes for listening, discussion and compassion. We cannot settle for expediency when we need to do the hard work of relationship. The Anglican so-called Covenant cannot be the way of a future Anglican Communion.

Anglican Covenant Coalition

Anglican Covenant Coalition

Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity






LONDON – An international coalition of Anglicans has been created to campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant. Campaigners believe the proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would prevent further development of Anglican thought. The Coalition’s website (noanglicancovenant.org) will provide resources for Anglicans around the world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican Communion would not wish to endorse this document,” according to the Coalition’s Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows, who is also the Coalition’s Convenor for the Church of England. “Apart from church insiders, very few people are aware of the Covenant. We want to encourage a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the Covenant will cause.”

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in 2004 as a means to address divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft of the Covenant, which has been unilaterally designated as the “final” draft, has been referred to the member churches of the Communion. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.

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Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant, including members of the new Coalition, believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small number of bishops. Two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, ran anti-Covenant advertisements in last week’s Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper aiming to make more members of the Church of England aware of the dangers of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

"If the Anglican Communion has a problem, this is not the solution,” according to former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby. “Whether those who originated the Covenant intended it or not, it is already, and will become even more, a basis for a litigious Communion from which some will seek to exclude others."

The launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website coincides with the commemoration of the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker. “Hooker taught us that God’s gifts of scripture, tradition, and reason will guide us to new insights in every age,” according to the Canadian priest and canon law expert, the Revd. Canon Alan Perry. “The proposed Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a particular moment. Anglican polity rejected control by foreign bishops nearly 500 years ago. The proposed Anglican Covenant reinstates it.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition began in late October with a series of informal email conversations among several international Anglican bloggers concerned that the Covenant was being rushed through the approval process before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new structures would affect them.



Revd. Dr Lesley Fellows (England) +44 1844 239268

Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA) +1-412-512-9087

Revd. Malcolm French (Canada) +1-306-550-2277

Revd. Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384