3/21/2012

Some Bishops put forward a resolution on the Anglican Covenant

Bishop Dan Martins is a long time blogger. On his blog, "Confessions of a Cairoca" Bishop Dan has been writing about the House of Bishops' meeting at Camp Allan. On Day Four he wrote about two presentations held after dinner.  One of those was on the Anglican Covenant. Bishop Dan writes,

"After dinner, we came back together at our tables for two presentations and brief discussions. The first was by Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut, on possible responses to the Anglican Covenant. He and two colleagues have prepared a resolution, which we saw tonight for the first time, that would affirm the spirit of the Covenant and the text of the first three sections, and call for continued study of all the implications that Section 4 would have on the Episcopal Church, including and especially our constitution and canons. There was brief plenary discussion. The intent of this resolution is to not "just say No" to the Covenant, but to not say Yes either, the end being keeping a place for TEC's delegation at the next meeting the Anglican Consultative Council this fall. My sense is that, even so, it will meet heavy resistance."

Well, we don't have the text of the resolution presented by Bishop Douglas, nor do we have a transcript of the presentation or plenary. 

Bishop Martins make no mention of a conversation including anything about the Executive Council resolution which has been out and about for a while. I wonder if there was any? 


You may recall that resolution: It reads as follows:

" Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That this 77th General Convention express its profound gratitude to those who so faithfully worked at producing the Anglican Covenant; and be it further
Resolved, that The Episcopal Church commit itself to continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion and to continued dialogue with our brothers and sisters in other provinces to deepen understanding and to insure the continued integrity of the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, that The Episcopal Church recommit itself to dialogue with the several provinces when adopting innovations which may be seen as threatening to the unity of the Communion; and be it further
Resolved, that The Episcopal Church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form."

It would appear that the resolution presented by these several bishops is significantly different from the one proposed by Executive Council. There is nothing, for example, in the ExCon resolution about affirming the text of the first three sections, or about the further study of the last section.  
The Douglas et al resolution seems to give the flip side of the coin offered by Executive Council.  Where Executive Council reported, "The Episcopal Church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form," the Douglas resolution apparently proposes acceptance of the first three sections and calls for continued study (concerning the fourth, I presume.)
Such "continued study" is at least in part what a separate proposal from Executive Council to the Presiding Officers that they appoint a task force for study. The text of that recommendation is as follows:
"It has become apparent to this committee in the course of its work that the church requires a new study of the foundations and boundaries of our polity and governance as we seek to deepen our Communion-wide engagement and equip the leadership of the church.
Accordingly, Executive Council recommends that the Presiding Officers appoint a task force comprised of members of the Executive Council, the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons and at least one church historian. Their work would include:
   documenting the specific changes that would need to be made to the Constitution and Canons of the church in order to adopt the covenant;
   providing an analysis of how those changes may alter our identity from theological, philosophical and polity perspectives;
   considering other such matters as the committee believes helpful to our continued engagement with other churches in the communion around issues of unity;
   reporting its findings back to the Executive Council."
That recommendation was made by Executive Council to its presiding officers and the assumption  is that, if it were followed, it would continue our engagement with the Anglican Covenant idea, with the hope that some future form of that Covenant, or something like it,  might be acceptable.
 
So the resolution presented for discussion at the House of Bishops was much more a "not yet" sort of resolution, and the one from Executive Council is an "not this one" document.

Which is best?  We will see. 

I was part of the working group that wrote the Executive Council resolution and I believe it truly reflects the concerns we heard that Parts 1-3 did not say anything more than what we already have said and that Part 4 raises such questions as to make it clear that "The Episcopal Church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form."


At the same time I believe we have not closed the door to consideration of an body of Anglican affirmations that could call us to mutual account and loyalty.  That could be in the form of a future iteration of the Anglican Covenant, it could be in the form of a preamble to the Anglican Consultative Council. And perhaps there is some merit in the notion that a resolution to take action is better than a resolution affirming an inability to do something.  It turns out not saying "no" yet and continuing conversation about unity is different from saying "no" now and asking for conversation about unity later.

So it would appear that two possibilities are now in the pipeline: The Executive Council resolution and one from several of the Bishops. There will certainly be more. 

 









20 comments:

Bishop Daniel Martins said...

The Executive Council resolution *was* mentioned by Bishop Douglas. It was thought by him and his two co-sponsors (whose identities I forget at the moment) to place TEC's presence at the next meeting of the ACC at risk, hence that "not No" options.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I thought the bishops were on retreat. Is passing resolutions generally done at bishops' retreats?

JCF said...

What year is it again? 2003? 2004? 2005? 2006? 2007? 2008?

I am SO OVER the "Do It the Way the 'Instruments of Communion' Want It or Else!" ultimatums.

Done. Finished.

We're happy to meet w/ the ACC as equals, w/ an EQUAL say, just for being TEC ("constituent member of the Anglican Communion---since there's been an Anglican Communion!").

But we're not jumping through any more hoops (esp. when such hoops are designed to exclude&humiliate some of our members, such as the Bishop of New Hampshire).

Kurt said...

I agree with JCF; enough already!!!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Jim Naughton said...

I wonder if it is a matter of fact that provinces which have not accepted the covenant will be excluded from the next meeting of the ACC. There are many such provinces. Or would it only be provinces that have overtly rejected the covenant. There are at least a couple of those.

Neither of these things has been said publicly by the ABC or by the Anglican Communion Office to my knowledge.

And I wonder what will happen if the Church of England rejects the covenant. I'd like a public explanation of these facts.

Muthah+ said...

At the rate the CofE is going, the whole question may just be moot.

@Mimi, retreats in the Episcopal tradition can be anything from legislative meetings to silent reflection, so when your bishop tells you he is going on a bishop's retreat just know that there will be lots of scotch.

Mark Harris said...

Jim...good eye! there is nothing out there officially that would suggest that at this ACC meeting any province that has not signed the covenant would be excluded.

As you say, there are a whole group of provinces that have not spoken on the issue yet, including the CofE (although it is getting near time for them to say they are unable to sign it at this time.) I can't imagine ACC deciding that the Episcopal Church in the Philippines should be demoted in status. And, there is nothing in the ACC Constitution (as far as I know) that provides for any such exclusion.

The ACC is not an instrument of the Anglican Covenant, but of the churches that belong to it. My understanding is that if those churches who do sign the covenant were to request of the ACC that they remove a province, and if ACC were so disposed, they could.

Perhaps Bishop Ian Douglas (whose words we have second hand from a good reporter - bishop) was suggesting something else, that if we didn't sign the Covenant and did move more closely to an officially sanctioned blessing service and/ or elected another gay and partnered bishop, not signing the Covenant could be a tipping point. Would it? I am not sure. I'm not sure even that that is what Bishop Ian said or meant. We will just have to see.

If the CofE does reject the Covenant or bringing it forward for full vote in Synod now, it takes considerable pressure off us. But it leaves the matter of our voting our honest understanding of its value and usefulness. I hope we will go and vote for or against the covenant on its merits.

Peter Carrell said...

Might I point out (even as a supporter of the Covenant) that my own church, Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia is showing every indication of rejecting the Covenant at its General Synod in July 2012 ... and it is the host of ACC in November 2012!!

Msgr said...

"provinces which have not accepted the covenant will be excluded from the next meeting of the ACC"

Surely it cannot be a difficult thing to learn how many provinces will have acted on the covenant by the time of the next ACC meeting. My guess is, if the next ACC meeting is in November, most provinces will in fact have adopted or rejected by then.

Msgr

Grandmère Mimi said...

Thanks, Muthah.

Paul Bagshaw said...

The problem with Sections 1-3 is that
(a) it sets out a moderately elaborate credal for the Covenant as the test of Communion, and
(b) if passed it would soon set up a demand for some means of enforcement and we'd be back to another version of section 4.

Perhaps a more constructive approach would be to set up voluntary conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms entirely distinct from questions of belief or membership.

Paul Bagshaw said...

The ACC is a legally constituted body. The Covenant does not impinge on this constitution.

So if a legally ad hoc group sought to exclude members it would, in effect, destroy the ACC from its base.

John Fittall in New Zealand was seeking legal advice on the relationship between Covenant and ACC but I don't believe it was ever published.

Unknown said...

Now that the Church of England has rejected (even if only for now) the proposed Anglican Covenant, it seems to me we should take the briefest, earliest possible moment at GC to succinctly say "NO!" and move on to other business.

-- Reid Hamilton

Jim Naughton said...

The Church of England has now defeated the covenant. One of only two churches to have done so officially at the point. So if we would be excluded for failing to ratify some vaguely pro-covenant resolution, surely the C of E would have to be excluded too, no? And if the C of E, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, no? Or does he have some freestanding authority separate from his church?

Lapinbizarre said...

After today's votes I suspect we will see the "exclusion" rule quietly dropped.

Counterlight said...

I think the sun has set on the Covenant.

Instead of some credal statement, perhaps a better approach might be some means of modus vivendi among churches who never have and never will be perfectly agreed on everything.

As for perfect agreement among churches, how many of us insist upon perfect agreement among all of our family and friends? If we do, then I suspect that we would be very lonely. Blood and affection are thicker than ideology or doctrine, and if they aren't then they should be.

Msgr said...

'Sun has set' -- See Canon Kearon's clear letter. The Covenant is not the property of a single province but of those who adopt. That process will unfold in the months to come. The only way for the 'sun to set' is for those who have adopted now to withdraw, and for no one else to adopt in future.

Msgr

Dallas Bob said...

It is time to say "No" to the covenant, without equivocation. Let the chips fall - we will be in the fine company of the C of E. I am only sorry England beat us to it.

Counterlight said...

Without the Church of England, the heart is ripped out of the whole covenant process. The only way I see forward for the right is ditching the covenant for the Jerusalem declaration, and making the focus of unity, not England, but Nigeria or some kind of Alexandrian patriarchy.

As far as I'm concerned, they can have as detailed a magisterium as they like and institute a curia and a holy office to enforce it, and even keep an index of banned books. Just so long as I'm not compelled in any way to be part of it.

Again a heartfelt thanks to the rank and file of the Church of England for shifting their church from reverse to forward.

Anonymous said...

Why do we continue to have the old and entrenched making rules for the old and entrenched? The Episcopal Church is larger than that and it is time to "throw open the windows and doors" and let some fresh air in --
Why do we continue to hold the "communion" together wwhen the most powerful (arguably) Anglican not only fialed but retired?
Fred