The Third and Final(?) Draft of an Anglican Covenant: The problem with 4.1.5 - the Camel's Nose.

The Third Draft of an Anglican Covenant, to be known as the Ridley Cambridge Draft after the place of meeting, is now out. Several readings later I must say it is mostly a fine extension of the nearest thing we Anglicans have as a doctrine all our own, namely the declaration of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ (MRI). The Covenant Design Group has listened well and, as I said, mostly has done a fine job.

But then there is 4.1.5: It states,

"(4.1.5) It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments. However, adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures."

I presume this section is about how new Churches (National or Regional Churches, aka "Provinces") might become parties to this Covenant. For example, a regional church in the Greater Antilles might form, seek to disengage from the Churches to which they are now related and form a separate church. This section suggests that membership in the Instruments of the Anglican Communion (Lambeth, ACC, Primates) would be dependent on those organizations own conditions. But a church could adapt the Covenant and apply by formal request for recognition by those instruments.

Great. Good. However, there is nothing in this section or elsewhere that precludes a church (say the Anglican Church in North America) from signing on to the Covenant and seeking recognition from those instruments. Then it would be up to the ACC to admit them to ACC, and the Archbishop of Canterbury as host (with perhaps close attention to the ACC list of churches) to invite them to Lambeth, and the Archbishop of Canterbury as host, or the Primates in one way or another, to invite them to the Primates meetings.

Right now there would be little chance of this happening, because although it is not spelled out in the Covenant there is at least some sense that the old standard of clear jurisdictions ought to hold. Further, it may be that the Covenant is really about churches as member national or regional churches in the Anglican Communion, aka Provinces.

Episcopal Cafe has noted however that one of the members of the Covenant Design Team, Ephriam Radner, has stated that the word "church" was kept vague so that it might cover a diocese or a church such as the Anglican Church in North America. This makes the problem of 4.1.5 all the more important.

The question becomes serious if, say, The Episcopal Church were to be at some point held at a distance on the basis of a decision by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and ACC recommending to the "Instruments of Communion" that they do so. Then that same Joint Standing Committee might recommend that the petition from a new Church in the area be received positively.

The new draft is clear: the actions of the Joint Standing Committee, the Instruments of Communion, the Primates or even the ACC itself have no force within any Church member of the Anglican Communion. However, their recommendations would have considerable force in the Communion itself. So they could not call the Episcopal Church to account and force it to do something. But it could decide that TEC was no longer part of this or that Anglican Communion "instrument."

The notion that the Joint Standing Committee or any other agent of the Communion could entertain a petition from ACNA to join one or the other groups with in the Anglican Communion, when ACNA exists precisely because it believes that TEC is not "orthodox" is troublesome.

The draft is now in its final form, it appears. Rather than change it by additional revision, it would seem to me that the ACC and the Joint Standing Committee might provide statements of clarification - that "church" means "national or regional church" or "Province," and that the Communion will not recognize two churches who are not in full communion and covenant with one another in the same geographical jurisdiction.

There will be more such clarifications needed. I don't think this stops the Covenant. It means that we need to be clear as to what things mean and why.


  1. In this Draft there is this interesting distinction made between participating in the Covenant and participating in the Instruments of Communion. Looking back at the Preamble, at 4.1.4, 4.1.5, and 4.3.1, one can wonder what the relationships are among “participating in the Covenant;” “recognition by the Instruments of Communion;” and “membership in the Anglican Communion.” That seems very pertinent to clarify, if we are to understand how individual ecclesial bodies (national church, diocese, alternative body) would relate in this Covenant.

    My confirmation code is "color." The definition of relationship would certainly "color" our response.

  2. kahu aloha9/4/09 4:49 PM

    Check over at the Lead at Episcopalcafe to see an interesting discussion of Ephraim Radner's remarks about this with Noll on Titus 9

    Given the history of the Civenant process and the people behind it (eg ++Gomez)why would anyone have any trust, let alone confidence, in the process or the product. Those wanting an imperial church with a magisterium already have a place to go.

  3. Would the therm "Church" not also include Episcopal Dioceses to join if - should that time ever come - General Convention rejects the Covenant?

  4. From Tim:

    Your last sentence threw me. Why do we need this Covenant at all? Can we just vote it down?

  5. If I had a vote, I would vote "no" to the Covenant. No good will come of it. I pray the Episcopal Church does not sign on, no matter what changes or clarifications are made to the document.

  6. To Baby Blues question I would say a clear NO!

    If every Diocese or congregation decided on their own, whatever it would be it wouldn't be a Church, but Pentecostal.

    But that's the Game isn't it?

    (the word is haterout ;=)

  7. I think the whole point of this covenant process is to punish the North American churches for largely political reasons (like appeasing the vindictive passions of certain other regional and national churches). It is also testimony to the well financed clout of a very small and very aggressive minority formerly within the Episcopal Church.
    For these political ends, it means focusing a brilliant spotlight on the North American churches while discreetly ignoring corruption and human rights abuses -- and even some of the same "offenses" attributed to the North American churches (like same sex marriages which are far more common in the C of E than they ever were in the North American churches) in other churches.

    As I've said before, the Covenant is a bad idea whose time has come. Churches that now support it may come to regret it in the future when the "instruments" they expect to enforce their will now are turned on them over some other issue in the future.
    As Kahu Aloha said above, those desiring an imperial church with a magisterium already have a place to go.
    If it was up to me, I'd sink the whole process. But, I'm only a pew sitter, so what do I know.
    (But of course, that's the desired outcome, that we all defer to our primatial betters).

  8. Well, Mark, you seem supportive of the Anglican Covenant. I was, too, after hearing Rabbi Sacks give a presentation at Lambeth on the differences between covenant and contract. Sacks also defines two different kinds of covenant: "fate" vs. "faith".

    I thought to myself, well, if Rowan has invited the good Rabbi to help us define Covenant, and THIS is what it's all about, sign me up.

    I've blogged on it over at Telling Secrets, but I encourage everyone to read Rabbi Sacks' presentation at

    It is pretty clear to me that what we are being offered in the Ridley-Cambridge Draft is more of the same creature of "fate contract". It is so antithetical to the Spirit of Anglicanism, it makes me weep.

  9. Not surprisingly, I think Counterlight has it exactly backward. The whole point of the Covenant is to protect the Communion against the reckless actions of the North American churches, which they are taking for largely political reasons. Naturally, as the document is being proposed by a Christian denomination, it will avoid the absurdity of identifying criticism of sexual libertinism with a "human rights abuse" - and, there won't be any need to do that discreetly, as it's one of the unbroken moral themes of the Church.

  10. Actually Phil, over at The Lead, Dr. Radner, the member of the Covenant Design Group, says that the Covenant is all about inclusion, ecumenism and following Christ's mandate for us all to be one.

    He did not invoke any language about protectionism, morality, or sexual libertinism.

  11. Since my relationship over the last 6 years falls into Phil's extremely wide category of "sexual libertinism," I just won't even bother.

    I'm sure he would prefer to see the ++Akinola endorsed legal policy enacted here, and Michael and I could take up residence in prison. Or maybe he's prefer to see a Jamaican solution where pop stars and clergy both urge people to beat the crap out of people like us.


  12. Elizabeth Kaeton says the covenant is antithetical to the spirit of Anglicanism. Apparently without any sense of irony! For what is 'the spirit of Anglicanism' without some definition? At least of 'Anglicanism' if not of the 'spirit of Anglicanism'! The outcome of various developments within the Anglican Communion in the early 21st century is that 'Anglicanism' lacks clarity, and the 'spirit of Anglicanism' lacks distinction from the 'spirit of the world'. It is time for an Anglican Covenant!

  13. By all means, Counterlight, move right to the echo of violence: after all, there are only two options here: full acceptance and glorification by society of the sexual preferences of each, or Christian thugs in the street, beating, killing and jailing The Different.

    Two can play at that game. I'm sure you would prefer to see the activists' endorsed legal policy enacted here, and I and other mainstream Christians could take up residence in prison. Or maybe you'd prefer to see the California solution where pop stars and activists urge people to beat the crap out of people like us and destroy our livelihoods.

  14. Phil, if the shoe fits wear it.

    I can count those I've known who were maimed and murdered for just being gay here in the good ol' USA like beads on a dark rosary of blood.

    As for those who advocate discrimination, yet try to distance themselves from the violent acts of people who take their trivialization and dehumanization so very seriously, they remind me of the old days in dear old Texas when true Bible believing segregationists would regularly deplore the violence of the Klan. That protest rang as hollow then as yours does now.

  15. Phil, are you arguing here that the "criticism of sexual libertinism" has no bearing on the ant-LBGT crimes that take place almost daily now or are you arguing that those crimes don't take place at all?

    A little humility and Christian charity might make the arguments of those who oppose the normalization of same sex relationships a lot more palatable and seem less like a call for the extermination of all LGBTs that it is often perceived to be.

    The irony is that most LCBT people wouldn't step foot near a church after surviving the abusive language and attitudes of their opponents for most of their childhood and young adult lives. They just go along with their lives outside of the church and give it little thought unless and until it intrudes into their public sphere.

    It's certainly a valid and common view that it is better for LGBTs to stay outside of the church altogether rather than try to be accepted as full members of the Body of Christ with access to all the sacraments.

    If that is your position then say clearly that you would rather exclude them all instead of pretending that you would welcome those who accept your untenable offer of completely denying who and what they are for the rest of their lives as the key to entry through the sanctuary doors.

    Imposing on brother and sister Christians unasked for celibacy and unending repentance for their natural state through canon law, decree, communique, and pronouncement hasn't worked for lo, these few thousand years, but keep at it anyway.

    It all seems a bit ironic, however, in a discussion about the ACs latest incarnation when that very document seeks to heal such breaches and create a space where those who disagree can come together at the Lord's table in peace with each other and learn to walk together despite their differences as Christ commanded us to do.

  16. Here-in, in one sentence, the reason the entire covenant idea is a bad one. "The whole point of the Covenant is to protect the Communion against the reckless actions of the North American churches, which they are taking for largely political reasons." Phil nailed it -- and it is a bad idea.

    Bad because his ascribing a motive comes under "you shall not be a false witness" bad because it is about protecting what should not be protected -- the smug assumption of correctness so often observed in the behavior of the wrong wing and bad because the church is not called to protect male privilege or ambition.


  17. The amazing thing about this "crisis" in the Anglican Communion is that it far too often gest us thinking about people as defined chiefly - or even solely - by their sexual orientation. Saints preserve us from that! We are far more than our sexuality.

  18. Happy Easter to all! Christ is Risen!

    Nonsense, IT - for shame to you and those such as Counterlight that would brand anyone disagreeing with your sexual ethics as violent. That was the point of the comment, as is clear, so spare me your false outrage.

  19. Nothing false about my outrage, Phil. You clearly did not read, or digest, anything that I said.

    Nothing new there.

  20. "We're not violent!" says Phil, as he wantonly does emotional violence and continues support for Akinola who endorses political violence and thuggery!

    It speaks volumes that Phil compares real-life violence and repression to a bizarre paranoid fantasy of what the "liberals want."

    Christ is risen, but Phil and those like him are still in the tomb.

    Let the dead bury the dead. Let that be our Easter cry, our true covenant.

  21. {{{IT}}}

    I know it's hard, but try to pity Phil. You and I know what LOVE is (whether Love's a "what" for you, or also "Who" for me).

    Poor Phil doesn't. Ergo, he can only project a concept (of his own self-righteousness) for his god, or project "sexual libertinism" for what happens between two people.

    Pity him. Real compassion, if one can force one's heart to be so moved...

  22. Your responses speak for themselves. As IT would say, "nothing new there."

  23. I can just see Phil now tossing a Bible at someone and shouting, "I am filled with God's love!"


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, 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.