The Skunk under the Hood: The Appendix to the St. Andrew's Covenant

I have spent considerable time looking at the Appendix to the St. Andrew Draft of the Draft Covenant. It is and will be a source of misery. Whatever happens to the idea of a Draft Covenant I profoundly hope that it will not include the material in the Appendix.

The Windsor Report Proposed Covenant died a horrible death, remaining a still born appendage to the Windsor Report. It referred most disputes to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The WR itself has suffered massive hemorrhaging and barely has in it any life at all.

The second iteration, the first product of the Covenant Drafting Group, has come to be known as the Nassau Draft. It included as part of its last section, "Unity in Communion," the seed of a canon law for dealing with issues of contention. Such issues were to go primarily to the Primates. It was terrible and was widely criticized.
The third iteration, called the St. Andrew's Draft puts the process of dealing with disputes in a separate Appendix. Again, the draft has much to offer, but the Appendix is the beginning of a canonical process and is being widely criticized as the beginning of Anglican Communion canon law.

There have been two efforts to provide flow charts for the St. Andrew's Draft Appendix: You can see them HERE and HERE. (Thanks to Thinking Anglicans) The most important thing to say about the St. Andrew's Draft Appendix is that it is so complex that even the flow charts gasp for air.

The skunk under the hood is this: If you look at the current iterations of the Anglican Covenant idea, they all point to an unmanageable and complex process by which churches now part of the Anglican Communion could be kicked out.

So in an effort to provide a more generous and enlightened flow chart for the drafting of a means of settling disputes in the Anglican Communion I offer the following:

1. Assuming that the Anglican Communion (AC) is a "one world" sort of entity, that is an entity that is a world wide church, what it can't deal with is fracture.

2. When Church X in the AC does something that ticks off Church Y or the Instruments of Communion (IC), Church Y or the IC declares that Church X is full of TRASH and the TRASH has to be taken out.

3. Church X can either empty the trash or declare that the trash is what they wish to embrace, following Our Lord's position that lots of TRASH will get into heaven, or California, whichever comes first, before the seemingly good people.

4. If Church X empties the trash, then Church Y or the IC no longer have a case.

5. If Church X does not empty the TRASH, then Church Y or the IC can try to force them to do so. They do so by calling Church X to repentance. The message can be delivered by any of the IC.

6. If Church X does not repent, then Church Y and the IC can state that the AC is broken and Church X is the problem. While they can not make Church X remove the TRASH, they can symbolically burn that TRASH, and they do so by excommunicating Church X.

7. Church X does not have to give a damn, of course, because item 1 that presupposes that there is a world wide Anglican Church, is mistaken.

8. Church X and Y and the IC begin to deal with one another as ecumenical partners. None of the other ecumenical partners can tell the difference between the state of affairs at the start of this process and the state at the end.

9. God will work God's purpose out. Bridge building will happen, and there will be peace in the valley again. The patch up will happen, without there having to be a World Wide Anglican Church.

I hope this helps.


  1. The Brazilian bishops have done a good job of eviscerating this piece of unbridled idiocy known as the Anglican Covenant. Their brilliant a ruthless deconstruction can be found at: http://xicoassis.blogspot.com/2008/04/brazilian-bishops-responds-to-st.html

    My favourite part of the Brazilian statement is "[T]he Covenant is not an essential element to maintain or strengthen our Communion; on the contrary, it risks defacing it."

    In other words, the Anglican Covenant as proposed is nothing less than the end of Anglicanism.

    The pastoral letter was issued in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. In recognition of this, I have declared simplemassingpriest (http://simplemassingpriest.blogspot.com/) to be "Curitiba Statement Compliant.

    [My graphic was blatantly lifted from the Bysigenous Buddhapalian (http://buddhapalian.blogspot.com/), but I'm sure he won't mind further lifting. After all, plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.]

  2. On this Pentecost, I continue to pray for the complete collapse and failure of the covenant process; a bad idea whose time has come.

  3. This is what we already have. So this is your round about way of saying, "Do not fix what is not broken."

  4. Let's see: heaven or California, whichever comes first. How to decide, how to decide??

    Or...will California be an interim stop to heaven? Would All Saints Pasadena know?

    Blessings on this Pentecost!


  5. Well done, especially the reminder that Jesus said the trash will get in before the righteous. A pox on all attempts to provide caveats to that proclamation. And the drawings are excellent - especially the MDG bridge. Love it!

  6. I think you've pretty well nailed it, Mark!

  7. Hey Mark,

    At a Deanery meeting in the Dio. of VA last week, we were told that the Covenant is a done deal. It is not whether or not we want one, it is only that we need to give input if we want to shape it.

    It is my hope that as many as possible rip the Covenant to shreds with all the possible wit and wisdom we can muster and to share that wit and wisdom as widely as possible to give our HOB and the other councils of this part of the communion some reasons to say "hell no, we won't go" there.

    Mark, please continue the good work you have begun here--but in all earnest, please do not underestimate the seriousness of this situation. I am so very tempted to believe that a covenant is such a foreign body to this communion that it couldn't happen --but I think that at this point that is wishful thinking.

    I for one, am striving to write a very serious disection of this covenant and share it with my bishops. I hope you will too.

    blessings, --margaret watson

  8. I rather doubt it is a 'done deal.' I think Dr. Williams wants it to be one. But I keep telling myself we cannot have that many stupid bishops! The "covenant" is a bad idea.


  9. Virginia Gal12/5/08 1:37 PM

    Margaret -

    Thank you for passing on that bit of news, I live in DioVA; even those that don't agree with Bishop Lee on certain matters can't deny he hasn't been around long enough to know what's going on most of the time.

    The world is going through a time of tremendous change, and we find out just how different we all are in seconds now via the internet. Perhaps it's time to find out how the majority of churches see the Communion. Stop all the clang of numbers, with one side claiming more individual members, the others more independent churches, and everything in between.

    It's time to allow the "no comment" churches have their voice, and for the two divergent parties to stop claiming them as their supporters. When we find out what is the true majority viewpoint, those that don't see things the same way can have a reason to separate with some grace.

    But for the record - I don't like the idea of a new covenant, but I'm just one voice. Who knows, maybe a majority of churches agree! After all, even the Church of England has stated they can't be bound by certain outside rules because they are the state-supported church. We may end up with a pretty loose agreement after all.

  10. "Do not fix what is not broken."

    I find it hard to believe anyone could seriously contend the AC is not broken! Whether or not this or any other covenant can be the fix remains to be seen, but not even Polyanna would fail to see that the Communion as it has existed to date is on the verge of destruction. Something or several somethings new in our understanding of what it means to be Anglican have to emerge.

  11. I'd agree with Anonymous that the Communion is broken.

    I would say, though, that the proposed Covenant is no cure. It is rather more akin to shoting the injured horse.

  12. Not quite sure why this didn't go through yesterday:

    Even though I am a member of the covenant's Design Group, and might be expected to take offense at the vituperation often expressed here, I actually find Mark's criticisms to be relatively cogent in their grasp of what is at stake (even if not in the evaluation he makes of these elements) and occasionally nicely amusing.

    In this case, the outline is not really off the mark, although the meaning he gives to the details is clearly prejudiced, in the broad sense of the term -- it derives from a prior judgment about certain things that are not in fact argued for in the course of the put-down. One place this becomes clear is in his final note, when he describes the end result of a hypothetical "procedural" pursuit according to the Appendix as being the restitution of a status quo ante: "ecumenical partners", which is what we always were.

    Two things about this conclusion: it is correct with respect to the possible final relationship between two disagreeing churches, that is, that they are no longer members together in the same Communion, but relate to one another rather as "ecumenical partners", along a spectrum, presumably, of intimate to distant. Just so, whatever that might mean -- and it might not mean anything particularly awful. However, Mark is wrong, I believe, to think that this is indistinguishable from what was the case before the dispute among members of the Communion that he is hypothetically describing. And the difference is this: as members of the Anglican Communion we have, in fact, mutually recognized each others' ministries, indeed shared them under most circumstances, and, of course, shared eucharistic fellowship reciprocally. The Covenant is firmly ordered towards affirming and maintaining such mutual recognition in fact (and not just in hypothesis). But this recognition does not actually apply to "ecumenical partners" generally, and certainly need not so apply for such a "partnership" to exist. We (Anglicans in general, TEC in particular) do not mutually recognize the ministries of most of our "ecumenical partners", nor do we share Communion with most of them either in a reciprocal fashion officially (whatever individuals may do). My relationship as a priest in TEC with the churches and bishops and clergy and people in, say, Uganda, is not as an "ecumenical partner". Or at least it wasn't, until recently.

    That is precisely the problem we are now facing in the Communion: we are fast ceasing to be a Communion, and instead are becoming an "ecumenical partnership".

    Now, that may be okay for some; it may be desirable, in fact. But it is not the historical reality of the past 150 years, nor even the past 220 years (taking into account not so much secular law as theology). I suppose one way of understanding the Covenant's proposed goal is that there be a means of allowing for the maintenance of mutual communion recognition for those who desire this, and a means for choosing another form of Christian partnership for those who do not.

    I might add that, from where I sit, the much maligned and mocked "procedural appendix" is most surely going to be revised or dropped in the next go around. It was meant, really -- much as the Windsor Report Appendix -- only as a thought experiment, rather than as a robust proposal that holds the same status as the Draft itself (this distinction has been apparently poorly explained, and certainly misunderstood). Complicated? Certainly: but as has also been pointed out, the "flow-charts" for most dispute resolution procedures in human organizations, especially those governed by a host of other legal forms, are not only equally, but usually far more, complicated. Take a look at any academic institution's comparables. It would be nice if the Church of Christ could avoid even this. But we are well past that point, it appears.

    I think Margaret is probably right: the Covenant process is probably going through, if only because -- thus far (and we shall see what those bishops at Lambeth have to say soon enough)-- it seems that the majority of Anglican bishops recognize that, not just the "Communion", but the internal life of many anglican churches currently depends on some kind of agreement and sorting out of what we are up to in our identity and relationships. To say that "things are falling apart" is almost a blithe understatement under present circumstances. For those who don't think the Covenant idea is worth the effort or is unfaithful and perhaps pernicious, the most faithful response (it seems to me) is to help frame a process that allows for the Communion/Ecumenical Partnership distinction to be made as peaceably, charitably, and in fact mutually supportively as possible, if indeed it must be made at all.

    Ephraim Radner

  13. Dear Ephraim: Thanks for the fine comment. Very helpful, as usual. Hope you are well in your new digs and challenged in your work.

    For those who follow comments here Ephraim Radner is one of the members of the Covenant Design Group and an articulate voce in the Anglican theological world. While not agreeing with all he says, I find him always challenging. Which is the way it should be, yes?

  14. Thanks for the generous comments, Mark. And things are well. Indeed, if anybody wants a sane, stable, anglican/ecumenical, non-conflictual (albeit relatively conservative) theological education at every level, in the midst of one of the great cities of the world, Wycliffe College is your place! Come and visit.

    Ephraim Radner

  15. We always referred to Wycliffe as "that other place - the one across the street."

    Ephraim, a Covenant per se might be a very useful thing. I'm a Covenant-skeptic, so I'm far from convinced on that score - though I am prepared to concede it as hypothetically possible.

    But a Covenant made in the midst of a crisis is inevitably going to be driven by the politics of the crisis. All the more so when the Covenant Design Group is chaired by an active belligerent. It was nothing short of foolish for Rowan to leave Drexel as chair after the latter's participation in illicit border-crossing consecrations - and it was equally foolish of Drexel not to have offered his resignation at the same time as he accepted the invitation to preach.

    Drexel's unethical behaviour has tarnished not only the work of your committee, but has inevitably tarnished the very concept of a Covenant.

    At the end of the day, the proposed Covenant either will or will not include guidance on how to throw provinces out of the Communion. If it does, it will be unacceptable to at least Canada, the US, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Mexico and Brazil - and probably a violation of statute in England. If it does not, it will be unacceptable to the irreconcilables in Nigeria, Southern Cone, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

    The Covenant process, if not actually DOA, would mark the end of the Anglican Communion and its replacement with an heirarchical and curial institution with the remaining primates effectively installed as a collective papacy.

    It is said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. A post-Covenant Anglican Communion would likewise be a curious beast. But it would no more be Anglican than the camel is a horse.

  16. when/if "the covenant" goes through, will a newly baptized person have to enter into yet another covenant to "be a member" of the episcopal church or church of uganda or church of england? will there now be individual parish covenants also? i was taught there is only One Covenant-- Jesus Christ. i still do not understand what all this is about save sin. both "sides" of the argument seem to me to be anti-Gospel. Could someone, in a nutshell, 50 words or less, tell me what this is about and why i should want to become a member of any "anglican" church anywhere?

  17. "It was nothing short of foolish for Rowan to leave Drexel as chair after the latter's participation in illicit border-crossing consecrations." About the only thing on which Rowan Williams has shown much backbone, Malcolm, was his determination that Jeffrey John not become Bishop of Reading.

  18. I, too, find Dr. Radner's insights helpful and am very glad he is taking part in this discussion.

    My question: Would women have been ordained to the priesthood and episcopate (within the lifetimes of those called to ordination) - and the Anglican Communion kept intact as before - if the mechanisms foreseen by the proposed covenant had been in place in the 1970s and 80s?

    Either way, doesn't the answer to this question mean something about where we might be headed?



OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.