Revewing the Third Draft of the Covenant, Section 3

This is part four of a continuing commentary on the Ridley Cambridge Draft Covenant (RCDC). Part one is HERE. Part two is HERE.Part three is HERE.

Section 3, Unity and Common Life.

3.1 Affirmations

This section begins with an affirmation of Baptism and Eucharist as the basis of being part of the body of Christ and for working to be together. Quickly, however, (3.1.2) matters turn to the episcopal character of the way we work together.

Here the Anglican Communion is viewed as a "Communion of Churches," and "churches" here mean a collection of dioceses in synod. "Each Church, with its bishops in synod..." All seems well until the last sentence, " Churches of the Anglican communion are bound together "not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference," and of the other instruments of Communion."

The "instruments of Communion" get in the door by way of "bishops in conference" by which is meant, of course, the Lambeth Conference. It is, then bishops who are the basic structural link that makes the Anglican Communion a covenanted community. It is their mutual loyalty tha
t is viewed as the basic linkage that are at the core of the "Instruments of Communion by which our Churches are enabled to be conformed together to the mind of Christ."

3.1.3 Continues the affirmation of the central role of bishops in the Anglican Communion, this time affirming the "historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons." It is they who "call all the baptized into the mission of Christ." The laity are called by the ordained into the mission. Here the notion that mission is to the Mission of God and, as understood as the Mission of God in Jesus Christ, is the purview of the whole people of God falls away. Baptism as the context for call to mission is not mentioned.

3.1.4 Spells out a set of affirmations related to the Instruments of Communion. We are called on to affirm their importance. They are seen as a way of discerning our common life and mission from episcopal synod to local witness. They are the familiar four: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conferences, The Anglican Consultative Council, The Primates

Much has been said about these Instruments and this section at least may be credited with trying to sort out matters of authority and function. But there are some pitfalls.

(I) The Archbishop of Canterbury "gathers ad works with the Lambeth Conference and the Primates Meeting, and presides in the Anglican Consultative Council. Note "gathers and works with" in relation to Lambeth and the Primates. There is no sense here that he determines who is invited or presides. This is a bit of a step down from current practice. When the argument comes for electing the chair of the Primates Meeting or the one presiding and guiding the Lambeth gatherings, there will be no help from this Covenant.

the Lambeth Conference and (III) The Anglican Consultative Council are true to the realities. The ACC description is pretty lame, given that the ACC is the driving force behind very good and important work done in the Communion, and in particular the support of various networks of interest.

(IV) "The Primates Meeting is convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury." Here what was not affirmed by (I) is at least recognized as a fact on the ground. The matter of the PM authority is grounded in the authority each Primate brings as head of church. They are described as
"representatives of their Provinces." ("Provinces" replaces the word "Churches" here.) As "representatives" it could be argued that they are empowered thereby to vote on matters in the name of their churches, subject to the authority granted them by their own synods.

Here an interesting problem arises: several churches, those with Moderators and some with Presiding Bishops, do not grant their heads of church the Metropolitical authority to commit their churches to particular actions or positions. They are therefore not representatives empowered to commit their churches. It may be that none of the Primates have such power, but the matter of representation raises a concern about the decision making possibilities of the Primates.

The last paragraph of this section is the lead in to the matters that will be discussed in section 4. The instruments are all meant to support one another, and any may "initiate and commend a process of discernment and direction for the Communion and its Churches." This is of course the source of power granted the instruments, and affirmation of this section is an affirmation for the instruments to conduct hearings, investigations, etc, at will.

This section which spells out the functions of the Instruments of Communion, would have been a no-brainer, but the very clear stress on unity as a matter of the episcopacy and the jump from there to the authority of the Instruments of Communion as an extension of the centrality of episcopacy, is a reach. The conclusion of the affirmations is to affirm the notion that any of the instruments can initiate and commend, etc.

I give this section only two flamingos. The affirmations will require considerable clarification if they are to be made at all.

3.2 Commitments:

3.2.1 We have to commit to "have regard for the common good of the Communion in the
exercise of autonomy," meaning that we ought not exercise it under certain circumstances, pay for the work of the Instruments of Communion, and pay attention to their work and counsel, and accommodate their recommendations, i.e. we commit to giving up autonomy for the common good, period.

3.2.2 The same thing said in other ways, this time stressing "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ." (MRI)

3.2.3 The commitment to spend time in discernment is the "teeth" to the notion of moratoria. They are instituted in order to give time for discussion and discernment. (See the Windsor Continuation Group Report.) So in committing to spending time we would be committing to the requests for moratoria when made by any Instrument of Communion.

3.2.4 The commitment to seek a shared mind with other Churches again is a commitment to holding back, to "gracious restraint," based on the possible inconsistencies in understanding of "Scripture, common standards of faith, and canon laws of our churches." Here for the first time the matter of "regard" is extended to the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion. The Commissions would include, for example, the Lambeth Commission on Communion which produced the Windsor Report. That Report has become an idol by not too easily justified political processes within the Primates Meetings, by what is spoken of as unanimous consent, being part of various communiques of the Primates Meetings.

3.2.5 calls for the commitment to "act with diligence, care and caution." This is the call to prudence, which unfortunately trumps compassion or prophetic action at every turn. This is the life for the Church and death for faithful living.

3.2.6 commits the churches to mediation and opens the door to the commitment to Primatial Visitations.

3.2.7 commits to holding the "highest degree of communion possible." It tells us nothing about what that means.

This section reflects the Windsor Continuation Group's work and opens out to commitments to include many of its recommendations. For this reason agreement to the Anglican Covenant now embroils us in the recommendations of the WCG's paper, which paper is not part of the Covenant. This is a Trojan horse. This section commits the churches to moratoria, prudence, mediation and measured process. It does not commit any church to respect the uneven processes as a challenge to new life, although in 3.2.3 there is an observations that "Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God's revelation to us..." There is nothing that commits us in any way to this observation.

This section gets NO flamingos. If this section of commitments were in place, the ordination of women to the priesthood would not have occurred thirty years ago, there would be no women bishops and it would be inconceivable that there would be a woman as Primate.


  1. Wow! I think it's very telling that this covenant doesn't consider laypeople to be ministers at all, except by virtue of the "real" ordained ministers who call them. As if God didn't call all of us.

    I had to go look it up, that this is contradicted by the catechism in the BCP which outlines a fourfold ministry, beginning with laypeople.

    That seems a rather fundamental difference in understanding.


  2. It has occurred to me reading the draft that there is an assumption in it that should be examined.

    After the last Lambeth Conference, the CoE found itself with major debt which to the chagrin of the ABC, the Americans and Canadians (repeatedly put down in his addresses) did not rush to pay. One of the "instruments of unity" or 'communion' or whatever is the conference. Implicit in that usage are two assumptions -- that the Archbishop will call it and that someone will pay for it.

    It may well be that the next ABC can do simple math and wont. There is nothing in the job description for the archbishop that requires the calling of the conference, it costs a huge amount of money and donors are not exactly plentiful.

    So, given the draft's concentration on the 'instruments' as somehow replacing things like love, respect and layity, what happens if 9 or so years from now, no invitations issue because Canterbury is out of money and credit?


  3. Yes.... there are things which are very hard for TECUSA in the covenant..... but just fine for most Anglicans in the world..... do you get what is happening? The dog wags the tail....the tail has failed to convince the dog re its "new thing"

    Of course, TECUSA has the freedom to walk away (rather than compromising its own principles (eg bo33) for the sake of being part of something bigger and having a global stage...) I still bet TECUSA leaders love the big stage too much to choose principle rather than membership of Rowan's club.... based on recent history (GC06), that is. But, the net is tightening... the AC knows all the doublespeaking tricks TECUSA can pull to say one thing and do another.

    For ages I have been telling revisionists that the ABC is never going to choose to lose about 70% of the AC by insisting that tiny TECUSA and Canada must be free at will to go against scripture and what he calls the "mind of the Communion" - that would be stupid and he ain't stupid. He gambled with Lambeth invitations to test the strength of opposition to revisionism in the AC.....GAFCON showed him how serious most of the AC is, now he now knows how small reviisionists are in the AC (very embarrasing that 1/4 bishops in Lambeth were from tiny TECUSA - we have churches in England with more people than some of your bishops have in their dioceses) .....

    Sorry revisionists, you lost.... because so few in the last fifty years, even if you just look in America, are convinced by the "new thing" ..... ultimately, this is why revisionists are losing out in AC politics - it all comes from unconvincing revisionist theology which has led to empty pews in TECUSA, people voting with their feet.... you know, that much vaunted American laity which is not turning up on Sundays in TECUSA..... revisionists have failed to convince many Americans re the "new thing" and have failed to convince the AC to accept it.... the covenant is being drawn up so that the vast majority of Anglicans in the world (not all) can sign, if they follow their principles - revisionists should walk away on principle.... but there are fewer air miles for leaders outside the AC....it's always nicer to play on a big stage..... so, I guess TECUSA will take its usual stance and show its "integrity" which allows it to sign but not intend to comply(you know, the "long game" requires saying one thing but doing another in order to gain "an inch at a time".....that is what some will argue in GC09)

  4. I think it's time to revive the ancient and venerable practice of posting witty recipes in order to feed the trolls.

    Any suggestions?

  5. Kevin, think of it this way.

    Every vein-popping minute that the reasserters spend, er, asserting themselves on progressive blogs is basically a minute that keeps them out of serious trouble. Or rather, it keeps them from causing serious trouble and working (in a productive way) toward their (destructive) causes. It's a bad habit on their part: pointless, really, and in fact, more likely to galvanize their rhetorical opponents than to sway us.

    Similarly, every minute we waste re-re-re-re-reading their version of reality puts us a minute closer to the grave.

    At some point, you calculate your risks:

    1. I'm seeing a familiar signature line, and I'm about 99% sure that it is 100% the same old, same old. So it's not worth reading.

    2. I'm seeing a familiar signature line, and I'm about 99% sure that it's the same old same old. But I can't bear the risk of missing out on that precious 1% of thought-provoking good sense. So I'm going to read it all.

    Frankly, I think attending to such stuff is a lot like the lottery, a sort of tax on people who lack a basic grasp of probability and statistics.

    And, actually, it seems to also be another form of taking the bait, as though being progressive means that you don't have a life, and that ignoring some people's bad behavior is sinful.


  6. Mark,

    Thank you for all the thoughtful effort you have put into analyzing this latest version of the covenant.

    I agree with the many people who have commented that this has become an mangled and unclear document. I don't think we can fault the framers too much - we have asked so much of them. How can the provinces agree on a covenant, when there are such polarized views on what it means to be an Anglican? And why must we be asked to approve a document that needs so much work? It needs a good editor now, since there isn't even agreement on how to define the term "church" in this latest version.

    For the record, I think the "majority of Anglicans" define what it means to be an Anglican by - surprise - what it means in their particular parish church.

    BTW, Observer, why are you still so angry if you think those that agree with your definition of "Anglican" have won? If uniformity of religious thought is what you need to feel comfortable with the label "Anglican," I suppose you should get everyone in the Church of England in agreement before you start working on the rest of us. I wish you luck in Synod, then in Parliament.

  7. Well, the only thing that I learned out of all that seagull excrement (to quote St. Paul) was that Observer is CoE.

    BTW Observer, I think that there are a few TEC parishes that are larger than a few TEC dioceses as well. What does that prove? Nada.

    And lucky for the CoE that 25% of the bishops at Lambeth Conf were TEC bishops, paying their full share of the costs, or you lot would be that much more financially in the hole!

  8. Observer speaks, as has Rowan Williams, of the mind of the Communion. When used as a description of Lambeth Conference resolutions, it strikes me as being the sort of misstatement that one hopes will be believed if you repeat it often enough. Lambeth resolutions only reflect the mind of the Bishops who were there, and perhaps only those that voted in the affirmative, and certainly may not reflect the mind of those Bishops years later - even Bishops change their minds. To elevate the thinking of a very small part of the Communion to the mind of the Communion is a disservice to the largest part of the Communion, the laity.

  9. Mark, it's a sh*t job, but someone's got to do it. Thank you for being the one. I don't expect you to allow this comment through. I just wanted you to know.

  10. Bear Foot Stew

    2 bear's feet, rinsed and skinned

    3 yellow onions skins removed coarsely chopped

    8 - 10 carrots peeled and cut into chunks

    10 or more large red potatoes, washed not peeled, cut into chunks

    1 head of garlic crushed, paper skins removed

    2 rutabaga peeled and cut into chunks

    thyme, dill, salt and pepper to taste

    In a large kettle, place all ingredients in water to cover. Put bear paws and one onion over medium high heat and cook for 3 to 4 hours adding water as needed. Strain retaining the liquid. Cool paws, remove all the bones. Add the vegetables to the broth and return to heat. Cook over medium high until the potatoes are soft about 1 hour. Taste and adjust seasoning, add meet, stir ans serve.

    Note: if you got the whole bear, double the recipe.

    Note 2: also reputed to be good with troll feet but the author has no experience.


  11. Thank you, JimB, this is a great help. I tried it out and realized that all these years, what my own recipe had been lacking was the rutabaga! Who knew?

  12. Jim, I can't thank you enough for the recipe. We've been wondering what to do with those bear feet in the freezer!

    (Verification word, "undwoo" - and it's twoo we have a lot of harm to - well, you know).

  13. Well, if I am mistaken in the company of the ABC re what is "the mind of the Communion", so be it..... perhaps he is being honest about that despite his personal views being out of line with that "mind" on certain issues.

    Why post here? Because I like reading Mark Harris' posts and because anyone is free to post here...... freedom of conscience and expression is clearly respected by the blog owner (if not all posters) so I feel free to post. If Mark Harris tells me to get lost, I will.

    As to who has won....pls wake up and smell the coffee. I note Lambeth 1.10 stands.....after all these years of concerted attack on it and the fait accompli TECUSA tried to give the AC in 2003.... I note Akinola was invited to Lambeth but not all bishops were invited by the ABC (who is not a conservative!). I note TECUSA sold its soul and gave BO33 to the ABC to stay in the AC club. I bet another compromise of principle from TECUSA is just a couple of months away..... I note the covenant is coming along nicely despite TECUSA trying to pretend it is not happening or not necesary...... you think revisionists are winning?

  14. Observer, you are terrible witness for whatever belief system it is that you claim.

    If you truly want to do the Lord's work, you should give your computer to charity and take up a hobby that keeps you far away from decent people.

  15. If one side wins and the other side loses, don't we all lose? Isn't that a cliche', sort of, and the point of the attempt at a Covenant?

    Undwoo - would that be like breaking an engagement?

  16. Mara Clara,

    I am glad to help. The rutabaga really does help. You need some strong vegetable flavors with bear feet. The other thing worth trying is some garlic.


  17. Gawd Jim, that caldo is a bit on the sweet side; onions, carrots, potatoes. You will need more than garlic and salt to balance that out.

    I am sorry Father Mark that they are calling you names. I am sure you knew that could happen.

    BTW, were you at General Council?

  18. nlnh - I guess you think being a good "witness" is not making constructive posts and not addressing issues raised?

  19. Observer, you are not in love and charity with your neighbor.

  20. nlnhh..... you know my with my neighbours?? None of them want to be ordained despite rejecting the authority of scripture - we get on just fine! Re protecting church doctrine, order and discipline, please read 1 Cor 5-6 (in fact, read the whole letter) and you will see why I am not rolling over and saying we must accept all teaching and views in the church....we were never supposed to do that....and someone once warned us that there would be wolves pretending to be sheep in the church and he did not say we should respond with "love and charity"! In fact, He responded very harshly to false teaching in his day..... I doubt you would have liked his certainty and morality!


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.