You can't always get what you want: on the Anglican Covenant and other matters

Readers of Preludium may have noticed that there have been few posts while at General Convention. This is because I have been working almost non-stop on the Anglican Covenant resolutions with a remarkable small group within the World Mission Legislative Committee. The sub-committee on the Anglican Covenant has had the task of working through the resolutions presented and coming up with resolutions to bring to the General Convention floor. Yesterday morning at about 11 AM we finished that work.

Readers of Preludium know that the assessment here of the Anglican Covenant has been pretty grim.  If I were going by what I want, I'd say no.  But in our work together in the small group I began to realize that the words of the song are right:

No, you can't always get what you want
you can't always get what you want 
you can't always get what you want 
But if you try sometime, 
you just might find  
You get what you need.

What I wanted was an end to the long process of considering the Anglican Covenant. I wanted it to be dropped. But what I discovered in the working group was what I needed was time with the people round the table, some whose theological and ecclesial passions are quite different than my own.

Regarding the Anglican Covenant we ended up proposing a resolution that was not about our wants, but about what we believe are the needs of the Church at this time.  We may want our particular proposal about the Covenant to go forward, but what we need may be different. What we need may be each other, across the wide divides of this church and the Anglican Communion.

What we realized in the small group, and later in the whole of the Legislative Committee on World Mission, is that we are under no compulsion, save our own, to give an answer to the question of adopting the Covenant. Why, in particular, must we provide an answer now?  Now, when we are in the midst of massive efforts to re-structure and re-vision the life of this Church?  Why now when we do not need more division?  What we may want is definitive answers, what we may need is time to be together at the table.

The resolution on the Anglican Covenant at its core says, "as a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church, the General Convention decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant."
A second resolution, having to do with our life in the Anglican Communion is a generous declaration of our desire to be part of the Anglican Communion. It says Yes to Communion.
Well, there it is.  The work of the Legislative Committee is out there. The matter now goes to the floor and who knows where it will go from there.  It is all in the hands of a loving God and a sometimes cranky but often surprising community of people who love the Church, the General Convention.  The resolutions go to the House of Deputies first, and if past, they go to the Bishops. We will see.

Here are the two resolutions:

B005, substitute:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 77th General Convention express its gratitude to those who so faithfully worked at producing and responding to the proposed Anglican Covenant
(www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm); and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention acknowledge that following extensive study and prayerful consideration of the Anglican Covenant there remain a wide variety of opinions and ecclesiological positions in The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, that as a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church, the General Convention decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this convention; and be it further

Resolved, that the General Convention ask the Presiding Officers to appoint a task force of Executive Council (Blue Book, 637) to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation; and be it further

Resolved, that the Executive Council task force on the Anglican Covenant report its findings and recommendations to the 78th General Convention.

D008 Substitute:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring that The 77th General Convention express its profound gratitude to those who so faithfully work at encouraging dialogue within the diversity of the Anglican Communion, and be it further

Resolved, That we celebrate the great blessing of the Anglican Communion in its diversity within community as autonomous churches in relationship bound together in our differences in service to God’s mission, and be it further
Resolved, That we hold fast and reaffirm our historic commitment to and constituent membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church maintain and reinforce strong links across the world-wide Anglican Communion committing itself to continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion, and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church deepen its involvement with Communion ministries and networks using where applicable the Continuing Indaba process: conversations across differences to strengthen relationships in God's mission (http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/continuingindaba and www.continuingindaba.com); and be it further

Resolved, That The 77th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations and individual members of The Episcopal Church to educate themselves about the Communion as well as promote and support the Anglican Communion and its work.

Pray for the work of the General Convention. We could use it.


  1. I'm so very proud of y'all. I've been so polarized, I never thought of this outcome, which is so very gracious. Thank you, all, for your work, Mark.

  2. Thanks to you and the thoughtful deliberations of the WMLC. While I join you in just wishing the AC would be filed in a folder labeled "Irrelevent to Mission", the proposals set an honest and pastoral tone, one that keeps in conversation and (hopefully) a Christ-centered communion. I pray that the HoD receives the proposals with openness and grace.

  3. I am surprised and disappointed with the resolution from the World Mission Committee. TEC will gain nothing by a wishy-washy response. "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." I so hope that, in the end, our church will have the courage to take a polite but firm stand with our sister churches, SEC, ACANZP, and the Church in the Philippines against adoption of the Anglican Covenant. To delay the decision on the odious document will accomplish no good and will rather make our church appear weak.

    June Butler

  4. Sorry, I see it as just more fudge. ACANZ&P, Scotland and the CoE have said NO, why can't TEC?

  5. Among other things, denies the Gafconites & their handlers the use of TEC as a focal point in attacks on the provinces that have rejected the Covenant, David. If it's fudge you're after, check the varied antics in recent months of the Church of England's bishops.


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.