The Anglican Covenant: One Flamingo out of Five (redux -again)

(On April 5,2009 I posted an entry titled, The RC Anglican Covenant Draft: Review of the Whole. It is miserably long, and only received 9 comments. That was then, and the Ridley Cambridge Draft Covenant was just another draft. But now, with some slight revisions of section four, this thing is the Anglican Covenant sent out to the Churches for adoption. Lionel Deimel is in the midst of writing a longish review of the Covenant in several parts over on his pages, and I suggest you go there and read what he has to say.  His posting led me in turn to slightly revise the ending of my review and republish it, since we are now getting on in the process. 

So.  Get a cuppacoffee and take a look.)

 I have scored the Anglican Covenant using flamingo icons...five is best none is worse. Rating for the whole? A miserable one flamingo. Meaning, I suppose, that should it become the normative statement of what it means to belong to the Anglican Communion, I would remain a member of the Episcopal Church, continue being involved with the Anglican Communion, and live with the fact that TEC would from time to time be hauled in to fess up to whatever it is that we have done to disturb the Communion (which we would or would not do), and that we would occasionally be told to wait outside for better days.

This Covenant is fine as it builds to section two, begins to fail in the first part of section three and is from then on very difficult. If the whole consisted of 1,2 and part one of 3 it would be livable. As it is I don't see how any responsible Church in the Anglican Communion could sign without a great deal more conversation and trust building.

In particular the enhanced role of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council (now the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion) undiscussed prior to its invention by any but the big-wigs, gives it power to recommend to its parent bodies the exclusion of member churches. Some body may have to have that authority, fair enough. But we have not discussed this and I see no way to discuss it in less than several years. And, all the assurances to the contrary, it carries implications for the Constitution and Canons of every member church. The implications may not be about changing the CandC of various Churches, but rather be about the press from outside for conformity to the relational control of the whole. One way or another this is about making churches behave. We need to talk, not sign. Not now.

The Review of the Anglican Covenant.

The Preamble
speaks of affirmations and commitments. The careful reader will note that Sections one, two and three following this dual track - affirmations, commitments. Section four does not. Otherwise the Preamble is now cleaner and clearer than in the past. In particular it begins, "We, as Churches of the Anglican Communion..." The entities making the covenant are "Churches," by which is meant "National or Regional Churches."

What is missing throughout the document is a clear definition of just what is meant by various words, among them "Churches." Unless otherwise noted my sense is that "Churches," is meant such National or Regional Churches with synods, houses of bishops, at least three dioceses, and a form of internal governance. Assuming this as the meaning of this use, I give the Preamble four flamingos.

Section One: Our Inheritance of Faith.

(1.1.2) All the thumping about about the "historic formularies of the Church of England" have now been recast as an affirmation that they "bear authentic witness to this faith." They are thus reduced in status as compared with the Holy Scriptures and the Catholic creeds. This is a good move.

(1.1.3-6) These are the elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral simply lifted into the Text. Who can quarrel? I do find the Chicago version of several sections better - "The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testament as the revealed Word of God." The statement "The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith" takes an entirely different slant on just what sort of instrument the Holy Scripture is. I'm for the revealed Word of God, more than the limit, rule or standard of faith. Likewise, I prefer the Chicago statement on the creed, which simply says, "The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith," rather than "The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith." The last two sections are identical. But this is all old water under the bridge.

(1.1.7) concerning common prayer and liturgy, and (1.1.8) the apostolic mission of he whole people of God, are very good additions to the Quadrilateral, which I suppose will become the Lambeth Hexagon.

This section (1.1) is sound and pretty much sums up the Anglican take on the received faith. I would have given it the coveted five flamingo rating, but really wish they had stuck with the Chicago text. So four.

Section 1.2 Commitments.

The pacing here takes a turn. Until this point the Holy Scripture has been mentioned in the Draft Text itself three times. Now in 1.2 speaks five times of Scripture. The whole of section one concerns "Our Inheritance of Faith" and there is no question that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament is central to that inheritance.

The Word of God, however, is not a product of the Scriptures alone but also (or most particularly) the source by which the writings are indeed Holy Scripture. The commitments made in this section, related to our inheritance of Faith, make it appear that what we are dealing with in our "varying contexts" is our understanding of Scripture. It is not. What we have in this Faith, reliant on the Holy Spirit, is the presence of the Word of God, that Word being present from the beginning with God and known in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are instruments of that Word, not the Word itself.

Perhaps I have put this poorly. No matter. The reader will understand my concern: This section, which deals with the Faith received, says not one word about The Word of God. It speaks on two occasions of "Scriptures as God's Word," and "what we have received from God's Word." But our faith is not here in any way directly related to The Word, which was with God and was God, that is the source of all creation.

This section is the product of a very different hand than either the Introduction to the Text or Section 1.1.

A helpful comment has come in since the publication of this entry. Mike points out that reason has been demoted, and that "scripture, reason and tradition" has disappeared from the Anglican summary of how we are informed of God's intent.  A quick search of the text of the Covenant indicates that"reason" only appears (as the whole or part of a word) twice in the text, in 1.2.2 and 1.2.3. Mike indicates that this demotion is not an accident. 

For this reason alone, I am reducing Section 1.2 to one flamingo status.  I suppose this gives the whole assessment at the end something like a half a flamingo. But I think I will stick to one flamingo, probably without feathers.

As to the matters to which it commits us, should a church sign off on the Covenant, there is nothing to which we as Christians could not be honorably committed. There is a note of stringent control in (1.2.1) "mindful of the common councils of the Communion and our ecumenical agreements," (1.2.2) "answerable to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the catholic tradition." Those might be construed lightly.

The stress in 1.2.7-8 on Eucharist and common pilgrimage are commendable.

Section 1.2 is oddly written and falls short of expressing the fullness of the Faith that is reliant on the Word of God. It is not convincing and its leaves out reference to reason as an instrument of insight or engagement. One sorry flamingo. (down from three).

Section 2: Anglican Vocation.

The affirmations: (2.1)

"Communion is a gift," the Co says, and indeed it is. There is nothing in the ordering of this section, however, that says anything about the ANGLICAN communion being that gift of communion. But we kind of know what the writers mean. They mean that being in the Anglican Communion the gift of communion is realized, in spite of our being miserable sinners, etc. They are right in that, although it is hard to tell just how or why from this section.

This section speaks of the "work of establishing God's reign." I think that is hokum. God's reign has been established, is established and will be established by God's own presence, not by our work. But again, I know what they mean: Knowing that God reigns and not Caesar, maybe we would do well to act like it.

Section 2.1 is a dud. The affirmations are, if valuable, deeper than these words. These words are not much of an affirmation one way or another. One flamingo.

2.2 the commitments:

The major commitments of this section are the "five marks of mission" which came from the Missio Report of 1999. (see footnote 9 in the text). These are reported out in 2.2.2.a-e.

The commitments section is fine. I note the continuing need to commit with our shortcomings always before us. 2.2.3 "openness to our own ongoing conversion in the face of our unfaithfulness and failures in witness." Even in the midst of commitments we just can't bear not mentioning our sins.

Eucharist again makes it, which is commendable. (2.2.5)

I give this a five, solid and worthy of commitment. It goes well with 1.2, the Lambeth Hexagonal.

The whole of section 2 is a bit of a mishmash, written in several voices. But on the whole OK. Section 2.1 could be struck with nothing lost, but then the rhythm would be broken. So the whole gets four flamingos.

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 that 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. That neither of these receive attention is a real problem.

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 Meeting.

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.

(II) 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, pray 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.

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.

Section 4. Our Covenanted Life Together

Comment on style: Each section has had two parts, a first on affirmations and a second on commitments. Section four breaks with this pattern. Here there are a set of statements that are affirmations and commitments, one or the other or both.

4.1 Adoption of the Covenant.

4.1.1 The Covenant is understood to involve commitment "in submission to God" but not submission to "any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction." At first this appears to allay the fears of those who believed that earlier drafts of the Covenant would require changes in our Constitution or Canons. The fears remain, however. The Covenant shifts the matter of submission to God rather than to a higher level of law. No longer is the relationship among the member churches a matter of agreed on rules, expectations, hopes, binding laws, etc.

In this version of the Covenant, the relationship is like that between Christ and the Church, that is, like marriage. And, where relationships based on law in many countries allow for divorce in which the parties retain full standing as citizens, in this relationship based on the model of Christ and the Church, no divorce is possible and separation is separation from the Christ, i.e. from the body. In this context it matters not what sort of law is invoked, the higher vision of covenant as unbreakable, save by divorce and one person's excommunication, means that the alternative to the covenant is for the party in the wrong (a non compliant Church) to be anathema and the party in the right continuing (the community of compliant Churches.)

We need to look very carefully at the statement, "Each Church adopting this Covenant affirms that it enters into the Covenant as a commitment to relationship in submission to God."

4.1.2 Each church "recognizes these elements (the prior sections of the covenant) as fundamental to the life of the Anglican Communion and to the relationships among the covenanting Churches." To the contrary, only some of the elements of the proceeding sections are fundamental (the Lambeth 4 or 6, and the Five Marks of Mission.). This section is a catch all clause.

4.1.3 "Under terms of this Covenant no one Church, nor any agency of the Communion, can exercise control or direction over the internal life of any other covenanted Church." Again this is an answer to concerns about autonomy remaining from the previous draft. Having established the covenant as relational as concerns submission to God it now notes that "Recognition of, and fidelity to, the text of this Covenant, enables mutual recognition and communion." Nothing suggests that such mutual recognition and communion requires this recognition and fidelity, but the suggestion is certainly just below the surface.

4.1.4 Every Church in the Anglican Communion, as defined by the Anglican Consultative Council is invited to adopt the Covenant. Such adoption assumes 4.1.3 the wholesale affirmation of the whole Covenant. Here the Churches of the Anglican Communion are those recognized by the ACC. The suggestion that this draft does not support the notion that dioceses can sign up.

4.1.5 Here, however, "Churches" has another possible meaning. "It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant." This opens a whole world of complex weavings, not the least of which is the notion that any one of the Instruments of Communion might independently recognize a "church" and that a church can request formal recognition and membership in the body of a particular instrument. You could end up with a diocese recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury as "extra-Provincial," and not by the Primates some of whom would view the diocese as logically related to their own jurisdictions.

Or suppose a majority of the Primates recognized a collection of bishops and religious communities in the US as having signed on as members of the Anglican Communion contrary to what the ACC decides. This is a mess.

All of the above is cause for considerable discussion and some revisioning. If that were all I'd give this section one flamingo, maybe two. But the killer is this:

4.1.6 "This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant." What in the world does this mean? Surely not that that Church (Province, regional or national church, group of dioceses, individual diocese, whatever) is part of the Anglican Communion by being party to the Anglican Covenant? The Covenant begins by saying, "We, as Churches of the Anglican Communion..." The assumption is that the covenant is among churches already part of the Anglican Communion, or perhaps brought in under 4.1.5. Probably 4.1.6 means "This Covenant becomes active for a Church of the Anglican Communion...or just possibly it becomes active for a Church intending union with the churches of the Anglican Communion.

Relationally it the Covenant is active for a Church when it adopts the Covenant, of course, but that opens up all sorts of problems when the other persons (churches) in the covenant community don't appreciate or want that additional group. This relational business is fine until we get to the fine points of sharing the same bed.

As a Covenant of the Anglican Communion it would seem to me the Covenant would become "active" when a certain percentage of the existing members of the Communion buy on. Suppose 4.1.6 were to read, "This Covenant becomes active for the Anglican Communion when 4/5 of the member churches adopt it." At least that would make it a covenant of the Anglican Communion and not a warm fuzzy relational thing that holds just because a church buys on. I give this section (4.1) one flamingo.

4.2 Maintenance of Covenant and Disputes

4.2.1 Things get really strange now. The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion or any body that succeeds it takes on oversight, with the power to appoint and nominate committees and commissions for investigation, visitations, etc. The shall have the duty of overseeing the functioning of the Covenant..." (emphasis mine). Suddenly the Standing Committee has the power to initiate investigation about the behavior of any member Church.

  The Standing Committee (previously the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Executive Council, has not played a part in the Covenant until this point and now, in 4.2 to 4.4 the phrase Standing Committee appears ten times.
The sudden introduction of the SC is very much in line with the Windsor Continuation Group, but at no point is the Windsor Continuation Group recommendations referenced in this section. This is the smoking gun of un-admitted control. If there are grounds for suspicion this is it.

We can now take a look at the powers of the Standing Committee:

4.2.2 SC is the monitor.

4.2.4 SC facilitates discussion of and facilitates reference of questions that are brought to it.
4.2.5 SC can request a covenanting Church to defer action, and appoint committees on relational consequences and can recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences, limitations of participation, or suspension.
4.2.6 SC can declare that an action is incompatible with the Covenant.

4.2.7 SC recommends relational consequences.

While there is no question that individual churches are free to follow SC recommendations or not, the implications of the process outlined is that the SC will act as the agent to recommend to the Churches relational consequences and more forcefully engage the instruments of Communion to limit the involvement of the offending Church in the life of the Communion.

The rest of this section concerns participation of churches in these processes and churches making provisions in their own constitution and canons for the monitoring of the Covenant relationship.

4.2.8-9   4.2.9 requests each covenanting church to put in its own Canons and Constitution a relational function to the Instruments of Communion and the recommendations from it (provided one supposes by the SC.) 4.2.8 Oddly here "participation in all of the above is limited to members of the Instruments of Communion who are representative of those churches who have adopted the Covenant or who are in the process of adoption." What does that mean? Does this mean that provisional members (from a church in process) might be included in membership of a body that receives the recommendation to cast out this or that church?

4.2 sets the stage for the long suspected star chamber. The Standing Committee is by election from the Primates and the ACC. That membership is derived by absolute raw power at its worse, or at its best by prayerful consideration of balance, viewpoint, place in orders, laity, etc. In all likelihood is is the product of a mixed experience of political action and prayerful consideration. It is, in other words, a matter of ecclesial politics, subject to the power of words and potentates, but less clearly subject to the Word of God, by which I don't mean the Scriptures but the presence of God, known in Jesus Christ, in the lives of people and in all creation. It is a bureaucratic mess.

Worse, it is the imposition of a fifth instrument, born out of time, the product of the ACC and the Primates Meeting as envisioned by the writers of the Windsor Report and the follow-up Windsor Continuation Group. Without further explanation and careful codification this section is dead in the water. No flamingos flying here.

4.3 Withdrawal. Sure. If a Church withdraws there are questions as to why. Supposedly one could withdraw from the Covenant but not from the Communion. But if the Communion is identified and defined by the Covenant, withdrawal from the Covenant IS withdrawal from the Communion. So the relational catch 22 is now complete. This thing is about submission to God by way of relationship. Mess with the relationship by withdrawal, and the willingness to submit to God will be challenged. There is no free leaving. Leaving is to leave the communion commanded by God, etc. This section is a half mess. I'll save the flamingo for later.

4.4. The Covenant Text and amendment. Well, if it ever gets this far, the SC gets to screen amendments. The text is the received text and the Introduction is what it is... an official unofficial absolutely to be included extra thing attached to the Covenant. We just don't have to argue about its wording. Oh well. 

Our Declaration One supposes that we can be "partakers in this Anglican Communion Covenant" just as we are partakers in this Holy Communion" but the language is just plain silly. The Anglican Communion Covenant is not the basis of communion. Inclusion in the body of Christ is. At the very least we are not here to eat this or that bit or piece of the Covenant. We are not partakers, we are making contract, swear, promise, etc. We do not come here to eat. We come to become one with one another. That is perhaps a slightly different task.

The whole of section 4 and the "Our Declaration" is a bureaucratic use of relational language to produce a star chamber of persons who will enforce the Windsor Covenant and related insistence on the three moratoria, and maybe a fourth, and essentially weed out over time any church that does not comply with the requests that they not act, do or undertake anything that is beyond the existing norms of the Communion, as defined by such things as Lambeth statements, Windsor Reports, etc. This is a particularly difficult section of the Anglican Covenant and I see no way to sign on with new machinery and processes in place that have not been adequately discussed. The whole thing gets a "no flamingo."


What then to make of the whole Covenant? At the beginning of this review I said I could give it no more than ONE FLAMINGO out of FIVE.  What does this mean in reference to General Convention 2011?  Here are some thoughts:

(i) General Convention should shape a resolution that strongly affirms our desire to continue as part of the Anglican Communion, a koinonia of Churches.

(ii) General Convention should vote "no" on any resolution that adopts, affirms, subscribes, or accedes to the Anglican Covenant in its current form because such signing limits the authority of our Constitution and Canons. 

I strongly believe we should maintain our place in Anglican Communion "instruments", boards, agencies, committees and the like, and not remove ourselves from any body. 

Likewise I strongly believe that the implications of Sections 3.2 and 4 of the Anglican Covenant would be to bring into the General Convention a variety of testimony on specific legislation that would claim that voting for or against the resolution would adversely affect our participation in the Anglican Communion. We have seen, and could see again, the presence of senior prelates from England giving testimony at hearings, but this time armed with the Anglican Covenant, claiming that a particular action would lead to "relational consequences." The power of such cautionary statements would be to bend the trajectory of legislation towards the status-quo, if not to the status-quo anti.

Having said all this, suppose General Convention affirms the Anglican Covenant? What then?  Well, we who oppose it aren't going any ware. We stay Episcopalian, yes or no on this vote. As a Church we stay as part of the Anglican Communion, although that is subject to "relational consequences."

Suppose we say no?

We stay Episcopalians, yes or no on this vote, although some of the righteous right will claim now is the time to bolt The Episcopal Church and join ACNA.  We continue to take part in Anglican Communion instruments until whenever.

So our yes or no is not about what we will do next.  It is about having greater direct influence in our own governance of outside forces (the Covenant itself and the leaders of its several instruments), or no. 

This is about the long drift and creep towards a world wide Church whose episcopal leadership will bend the trajectory of actions taken by The Episcopal Church. It is about the Archbishop of Canterbury or York, or the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion speaking in legislative hearings for or against legislation, with the power of the Anglican Covenant behind it. This is immense real life power, witness the power, even behind the scenes, of the instrument that is the Archbishop of Canterbury, in reference to the Windsor moratoria, at the 2006 General Convention.

If we vote "yes" to the Anglican Covenant, we ought to change our Canons to require that those who speak at legislative hearings or before the Houses on any matter be members of The Episcopal Church.

But "yes" or "no," it is not the end of the world, of The Episcopal Church as what it is, or the like. Either way there will be struggles in which our regard for other Churches in the Communion will be of great importance, as it should be. 

And yet the assessment is the same: One little flamingo, faint praise indeed.


  1. Mark, Mark, Mark, sigh. 1.2.1 and 1.2.2 demote Reason. Prof Grieb says it was deliberately done. This is the Anglican Communion Institute's revision of Anglicanism and is totally unacceptable.

  2. The Evangelical pendulum swings every 40 years or so. We are in the mist of one of those upswings. In the past, we've been able to contain it because we've had good leadership at Lambeth Palace. The Anglican Covenant is evidence of Extremely Poor Leadership who has caved into misogyny, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia - The Lambeth Quadrilateral of Bigotry.

  3. Poor flamingo! Does this mean we get to reference the flamingo test in the Blue Book report?

  4. Fr. Mark,
    Any document born out of hatred, no matter how "good" it may look, is still born out of hatred. We should ignore this nonsense and get on with that which the Lord has charged us to do, perhaps starting in Florida.

  5. The covenant brings to mind one of my favorite phrases from the years when I worked with mental health agencies that were trying to build community residences: BANANA - Build Absolutely Nothing At or Near Anything. Are we willing to be part of a Communion whose operating principal is "Don't offend any of the other members"? I am not willing to live in a culture of complaint.

  6. Mark,

    Thanks for this post. Your previous analysis was one of the inspirations for my own recent posts.

    You are too kind for crediting the present draft for being an improvement over previous drafts. Only its absolute value in its present form really matters.

    I was particularly gratified that you pointed out the silliness of the adoption process. I was also happy to see you point out the political stupidity of giving power to the “Instruments” but not having them co-ordinate their exercise of it. It is a supreme irony that this document intended to enforce unity within the Communion institutionalizes a polity that could result in each of the “Instruments” going its own way.

  7. This kind of denominational dithering is a significant factor in rendering Christian faith merely absurd and irrelevant to ethically concerned contemporary humans. How dare we be engaging with this?

  8. Mike, Mike, Mike....sigh. You are right. More, I did a search through the whole document and "reason" as a word does not appear except in 1.2.2 and 1.2.3, and in neither of those cases is this "reason" as in scripture, reason and tradition. So I've done a revamp. Section one gets a 1 flamingo.

    Thanks for the correction.

  9. Thanks for the analysis, Mark.

    I've been doing a series of posts (20-odd to date) analysing the Covenant from the perspective of Canon Law. My blog should be linked from my name here.

    Bottom line: the definitions of the faith and mission in sections 1-3 are ambiguous enough that we actually don't need to agree to sign on. This, then, becomes the standard to judge actions of a church in section 4.2, which is an arbitrary and vague process which does not respect the basic requirements of Natural Justice.

    See my blog for more.

    Alan T Perry, LLM (Canon Law)

  10. One sees many diocese in TEC saying firmly No. But others, a smaller group, saying Yes.
    A true liberalism would allow both positions to be represented. If GenConv is determined to be the means for Yea or Nay, one would hope that allowance would be made for those who wish to covenant to do so, at the diocesan level. But every trend suggests: autonomy and independence for provinces/regions, but not for dioceses within them.


  11. Franklin,

    The document as a whole seems to apply to provinces. Dioceses in TEC are not subject to the kind of "accountability" the covenant suggests.

    Respectfully, what is the value of a diocese adoptting the covenant in this form without the acoption by the province in which it resides?

  12. Answer: So that the covenant life cannot be withheld due to geography. Some dioceses wish to belong to a communion on the terms of the covenant; they value communion of accountability and believe in conciliar relationship. They also believe it is what TEC has always been.

    Those who reject the covenant will say they are wrong, naturally. They will say TEC is on the forefront of a new understanding of many things (baptismal covenant; communion without baptism; same-sex blessing liturgies). Dioceses that do not wish to accept these new understandings -- what will happen to them? The covenant would at least help clarify to the clergy and laity where their identity remains.

    (The alternative for others has been to form an alternative anglicanism, ACNA, etc.)


  13. Franklin,

    The answer is for them to find someplace . . . someplace else . . . that accommodates this traditionalist view.

    It isn't terribly convincing to cry out about consciences being oppressed, being forced to give up this, that or the other, when others have done it before. I don't see that there is any crisis of conscience is switching to the Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, or Baptist or conservative Lutheran, or ACNA or what-have-you. Go with God. If there is an equitable settlement to be made, repayment of your paid tithes, whatever, that I heartily support - a gift given with stipulations is not a gift.

    Now, I will undoubtedly be told I don't care about you, I'm telling you get out, all this - fine, believe it if you like. I will say that the conservatives have absolutely no difficulty telling the majority in TEC that we are not wanted and to get out. I will also point out that it is not the progressive side of the church who is demanding uniformity or isolation to escape the taint of perceived heresy - we can live with you, but not you with us.

    As for "conciliar," this proposed covenant is only "conciliar" if you have a purple shirt or good reason to expect one. If that is your notion of good governance, again - the Roman Catholics and Orthodox do it already, have done it long enough to have it down pat, and didn't just start doing it within the last century. No foreign prelate hath jurisdiction in this land is pretty much a founding statement of Anglicanism, so we needn't apologize for being the innovators in not wanting a bishops' council making decisions for all of us, the world over, especially when they are so very, very fallible. It's no good arguing the Holy-Spirit-put-them-there-yadda-yadda, because the Holy Spirit, through Baptism, put us here to guide and be part of the Body, too. Colors'n'collars don't get you a special pass, just more responsibilities - that's the cross of those who claim the privilege of episcopacy - and priesthood and baptized ministry, for that matter.

    As for "catholic," if you mean a centralized authority all under one praxis and dogma - nope! That's just government, that's all. If you mean a universality in which we recognize that we worship the same God and persist in actual bonds of affection rather than law - even when we say "I hate you!" and refuse to talk to each other - that is, indeed, catholicity and is, indeed, Church. The rest is the same tired attempts to exercise temporal power.

  14. Sorry about the length of the last post, but these are things that need airing out.

    I'm sorry, too, but I just am not convince by being told how hard it is to leave TEC - of course it's hard; it's a matter of conscience and religious belief. If you thought following Christ would be easy, you chose the wrong God. Believe me, it's not easy for us to be rejected, reviled - however subtly or what face of "brotherly concern" is put on it. It's not easy for us to be slapped down and denied by the Archbishop we have tried to help maintain this communion. It's not easy for us to see the absolutely vile things said about us from the global south and - when they think they're in safe company - by our own conservative "brothers" and "sisters" here and in the UK. We really are suffering for what we believe, too, though I can't expect you to understand or believe that.

    Ah, for the good old days when the strongest, loudest and most violent could just knock a few heretical heads together, bloody a few noses, burn a few opponents and there'd be God's Peace again, huh?

  15. Franklin,

    Could you elaborate on the "communion life" that would be witheld without adoption of the covenant in this form?

    And just for the record, What you describe as "liberalism," allowing individual dioceses to agree to the covenant, is a bit more like "libertarianism." The latter value is, I believe, foreign to churches which follow our model of governance.

  16. The Communion life as described in the Covenant. Probably 12-15 Dioceses in TEC have no problem with that and indeed believe it is as Christ would have them, as consistent with this church in its BCP identity. It also means recognisibility as a communion, instead of a 'World Federation' of national chuches as in Lutheranism (or Calvinism).

    What others see as some radical new thing, others accept as a clarification of where anglicanism finds its identity s a world-wide missional Communion.

    Liberalism is the term I intended. Not libertarianism (condemned in the NT).


  17. I'm not sure that libertarianism is, in fact, condemned in the NT - perhaps you mean libertinism?

    If you wish such a tight-knit, legally-parsed communion, again, the RCC and EO faiths do it better and already have it in place without having to hammer away at and upset the majority of others quite settled in the loose confederation model.

    Do keep in mind, Franklin, that the Great Commission was to Christians, not Anglicans, so, if you are going to take the view that all must be doing the same thing with the same understanding to do that Commission, then you have little hope, as all the various Christian denominations are never going to be one legally-distinct entity again. It is the nature of a living thing to grow and divide; this is why I can tell you, in love, you'd be better off elsewhere - I can't say to the foot or the hand "I don't need you," but I can tell a foot trying to type a novel it's not where it needs to be. I believe we are in Communion, no matter where you go, or which denomination you join, as that Communion is through Christ, not Canterbury, Rome, New York, Constantinople, or Atlanta, GA! In the meantime, this is a meaningless and unnecessary fight. I can speak as one who submitted to the perceived majority without demanding a special dispensation for my sexuality or theology in TEC. There are still things I disagree with, but I don't demand to be allowed a pocket church which still calls itself Episcopal.

  18. Some believe the covenant protects the anglicanism that has heretofore been tacit. It conserves what is.

    Others believe the covenant creates a new thing.

    The first group believes that TEC has created a new thing, precisely because they themslves say so!

    So the first group simply does not wish to join in the new thing experiment of TEC, and prefers a covenant which conserves the status quo ante, now giving it proper form. Indeed that is why it was requested.

    So, a genuine liberalism would grant that because it seeks to do a new thing, it also wishes to guard the consciences of those who want to preserve the anglican communion via a covenant. I simply doubt such a genuine liberalism exists.


  19. Franklin,

    I think I understand some of what you say regarding liberalism, and I find soemthing new to think about in your words. Thank you.

    However, I am still unclear about the "communion life" that would be witheld without adoption of the covenant in this form.

  20. POO--with all respect, please read the covenant itself. It describes communion life. This consists of mutual submission in Christ. It also enables recognizibility for ecumenical work. Communion life means life in communion with one another in an 80 M member body. At present that is incapacitated.

    Does this help at all?


  21. Sorry, POO does not look like a polite way to shorten 'Point of Order.'

  22. Franklin,

    It's like talking to a recording.


    You do realize that simply repeating pat phrases and unexplained beliefs is not conversation, yes?

    Again, in love, I tell you, you'd be better off elsewhere. I don't care if we are in an Anglican Communion or not - it's a completely made-up, man-made thing that has no meaning anymore, if it ever did. It does nothing practical that a social service organization couldn't do more efficiently and with broader appeal, and, at present, blocks the ability to work with others in seeking Christ and working out our own salvation.

    Now, I understand that you don't feel that way - so, you're really not an Episcopalian, are you? You may be Anglican, if the ABC-in-office chooses to call you such, but you're not part of this church. Why stay? You hurt yourself, you hurt us. There's no good in it. No God in it. Go. Call yourself Anglican. Walk through the snow and sit outside Canossa, or Lambeth or wherever. I bless you! Really, I do!

    But this communion has no power we don't give it, and we choose not to give it that power. This isn't love that holds us in ransom to others' desires, mere legalism, and, thus, not of God. We want no part of that. Why would we, when actual communion through Christ is hampered by giving it that power?

    We will always be in communion with you, regardless of your decisions to exclude us or this allegedly-new thing (a tired and facetious expression I wish you folks would examine before continuing to use). You can't block us from Christ, you can't claim the copyrights on the Holy Spirit, you can't take blessings away from us, and those things are all that matter.

    A powerless church is a full blessing to all of us, because then it truly takes on the nature of Christ, the Incarnation of God Who chose powerlessness. It is a blessing because then it can't make change by mere fiat, but must earn that respect and obedience, speaking - as our savior did - as one with authority, not simply assuming it's own authority. I praise God for a church that can no longer demand secular law to intervene against those it judges wrong. I praise God for a church that cannot deny a legal burial or marriage, or birth!

    Now, we must earn peoples' attention and goodwill, as our savior did. We must prove our wisdom, as our savior did. And, not being God ourselves, we must admit when we are wrong and those traditions and words in which we placed our all-too-fallible hope and faith in are wrong.

    That is a blessing, not a sign of decadence, weakness and failure. Any weak fool can survive surrounded by power, but the powerless must have real strength and wisdom to survive.

  23. "I don't care if we are in an Anglican Communion or not - it's a completely made-up, man-made thing that has no meaning anymore."

    I do and so will hold to the view that TEC always has as well, until recently.

    I am not going anywhere.

    You are, as you clearly state above.


  24. I hear your anger and hostility.

    It's misplaced.

    Whether you wish it or not, the Episcopal Church you knew, or believed to be, is no longer. You simply are not an Episcopalian. TEC has not always held to this view, and to say otherwise is simple misunderstanding. There was no Anglican Communion when the Episcopal Church started. There has never been a world-wide Anglican church.

    You may continue to remain in the Episcopal Church, but you are going to continue to be unhappy and angry and feel betrayed. There are denominations that believe what you espouse who would welcome you.

    You have to realize for yourself what it means that you refuse to go to one of them and stay here declaiming your anger and pain. I understand - for the years that TEC held to the understanding that homosexuality was disordered, I - and many others - accepted that burden and shouldered it with great pain and regret, but did so willingly, without trying to whip up a church-within-a-church to accomodate me. I was not one of those active in changing that view, though I welcomed the change and saw that it reflected my own understanding, thought deviated from it in many particulars, as well. Still, I stay. Not to demand a pocket of "my way," but because I chose and will it. Not to agitate or revolutionize, but to bear witness. If I am right, the general mood will bear me out, if not, I will either stay and accept the changes or lack thereof, or leave if it becomes unbearable to my conscience.

    I also bear the pain, as most of us do, of being accused of apostasy, or heresy, or betrayal. That's something that you are doing, right now, whether you mean to or not. I bear the pain of hearing you and those like you declare that you will stay and continue to berate and humiliate and belittle us, which you do, whether you mean to or not. I could turn my back on the whole mess - no one needs to be Episcopalian or even a church-goer to belong to God. Yet, I feel that God still calls me here and so makes me better off, spiritually.

    You are worse off, you and your conscience suffering and no return for it, apparently. So ask yourself why you really are staying - is it devotion, or merely pride?

  25. Bless your heart, you do live in a funny world of your own making!

    I am in a thriving diocese. Big churches and growth. A diocese which will not accept SSBs or a BCP which mainstreams them. This is also the position of the vast majority of the Communion (you know, that fake reality). The diocese is not going anywhere, and neither am I.

    So it will have to be excised, thrown out. Good luck.

    Angry? Not in the least. Grateful.


  26. Franklin,

    I don’t know if I’ve made myself clear. I’m not looking for the definition of “communion life” found in the proposed covenant, I’m trying to understand what would be withheld if a province declines to sign on.

    I think, regardless of ones view on this document, a covenant IS a new idea in Anglican thought and should be given the most serious consideration. But, I think that what should be two steps (consideration of a covenanted relationship, followed by a proposed covenant) has been conflated into one step (approve this covenant).

    I don't think the "Windsor Process" was the kind of consideration of a new idea I have in mind. In any event, they didn't think very long about it and certainly didn’t include the variety of views such an idea would merit.

    Anglican tradition would suggest a two step approach to permit scripture, tradition and reason a chance to find voice. The process to date has felt hurried (hustled?) without adequate consideration to the voices that suggest a change this significant requires restraint, rather than haste.

    I accept that some of these terms are indefinite, but that’s no reason (there’s that word again) to adopt such a radical change in what feels very much like a one step process.

  27. Point--

    Re: Two step. The covenant is not a new document in the sense you imply. It describes what the Communion has understood itself to be based upon its own formal statements. Fully in the public record and part of a social discourse that can be consulted and sifted and given proportion.

    What is new is attempting to state this in summary form at a time when the Communion is broken and trying to determine whether its has a future public form.

    Re: what would be withheld. I suspect for many like Mr Brunson nothing whatsoever. A great many American Episcopalians would reflexively describe themselves as belong to a denomination. They believe this is both true and desirable. With this understanding, nothing is withheld and everything is to be gained by autonomous life.

    If one wants to belong to a Communion (where orders, communion itself, missionary work, and esp ecumenical progress is part of that) then the covenant offers a modus vivendi those in Anglicanism and ecumenical partners want and need.

    But one can easily decide that these are not important things or not high priorities or can be pursued in other, better ways.

    So, e.g., if one believes that there are TEC priorities that give it a special identity (e.g., open communion; a unique baptismal covenant notion; SSBs; BCP revision) then this could be worked out together with likeminded friends throughout the world and in likeminded ecumenical discussions. The covenant would probably be too slow and constraining--or even roadblocking--if such is ones understanding of the goals of a TEC denomination.

    A true liberalism would accept that change is being called for and allow those dioceses which wish to covenant on the terms of the present document to do so.



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.