Last thoughts on B005 substitute and moving on.

None but the true policy wonks and legislative geeks need read this. Actually, no one needs read this, for life moves on.

Someone I greatly respect wrote me shortly after General Convention and asked, "I wonder what your thinking process was about the (Anglican) Covenant - how you went from  No to the wishy washy proposal that came out of the committee - it certainly did not convince any one outside that it was "pastoral"  - Just a way of saying no that was not a no."

I responded saying, "I don't consider it wishy washy and I believe it was a pastoral response to refuse to play the Anglican Covenant game."  I promised an expanded public comment.

Life moves on.

Meanwhile, of course, life moved on. After receiving several comments that suggested that the resolution was cowardly, craven, woolly thinking, the product of some sort of cabal, etc, I was minded to mount a defense of what was done. But life got in the way, thank goodness.

Following General Convention, our granddaughter visited for a week and next 22 of our closest relatives descended on us for a second week, none of them giving a damn about what we did at General Convention. Then the Presiding Bishop wrote a very positive letter to the church concerning General Convention. The best was for last, namely creative time in my studio with daughter Ema and time to think about the future, which strangely has little to do with General Convention.

It made me realize that in the wider context of living, General Convention decision making processes have a place, but it is a fairly small place.

Still, I owe my friend a bit of commentary on why I came to help create and then support B005 Substitute.  Only true policy wonks will give a damn.

So, here it is:

Personal opinion and legislative action:

Regarding the Anglican Covenant, my "thinking process" at Convention was a bit more than a thinking process, it was about being part of a conversation that included people who I strongly disagree with and yet who worked with one another hoping to find common ground. 

By being part of the legislature of General Convention I believe I am committed to thinking things out in community - in this case the community of Episcopalians sent to meet together and express something like the majority mind of the Church on a variety of concerns.  So I was prepared to have my own thoughts on the Covenant be a contribution to legislative recommendation rather than an absolute position. That was certainly put to the test.

At General Convention the World Mission Legislative Committee came together to take in hand all the resolutions on the Covenant and try to find some way to recommend one or another other, amend or join several resolutions or finally to substitute the content of one for new wording (using language and ideas from several of the existing resolutions and even new language from those giving testimony or from the group itself).

The Chairs of the Committee asked for a sub-committee on the Covenant to pull together what it could for the whole group and asked me to chair.

I saw my first job to be to make sure that the resolutions proposed and the people who spoke to us and the people in the group itself were treated with respect and dignity and with the assumption that they were engaged precisely because they were committed to Jesus Christ and to the work of the Episcopal Church as it relates to that commitment. We assumed that these were people doing their best to present a case for what they thought was right.

We also knew, and sometimes talked about, the fact that all resolutions are also political and serve some people better than others. We were not without wisdom in noting that agendas within resolutions, even those made by Christians, are sometimes self-serving.

The level of honest discussion in the group was quite amazing. I have seldom been as aware of the gift that is present in the range of opinions, feelings and concerns of others as I was in this group.

We worked our way through every resolution related to the Anglican Covenant with an eye to choosing one or alternately finding those phrases, comments, ideas, paragraphs that stood out as worth keeping in one or two final resolutions. We finally decided to take those resolves that had to do with continued life in the Anglican Communion and use some of them in the framework provided by D008, and to take those that had to do with the question of adopting or not the Anglican Covenant and use some of them in the framework of B005.

The two smaller working groups continued to form the two resolutions, reporting out their work to the sub committee.

D008 was the easier of the two to craft. Many of the good suggestions of the original author of D008 were retained, with some reference back to the Executive Council resolution A126 and with reference to others of the resolutions presented.

B005 was another matter.  The resolution options concerning the adoption of the Covenant seemed to be "yes", "no", "not in its present form", "not at the present time", "yes, with some work to be done before we can actually sign," "yes to parts 1,2,3 and more study on 4." But none of these concerned the reality experienced in the group itself, namely the desire to act in ways that honored the wide range of understandings as to just what the Anglican Covenant, and for that matter the Anglican Communion, was about and the desire to not too easily push us into a win-lose contest. 

What we ended up with was the resolution on the Anglican Covenant that was introduced to the House of Deputies as B005 substitute. It did not say 'no" to the Anglican Covenant. But it did say 'no' to at least part of the Anglican Covenant game - to that part that said with some urgency "you have to decide for or against the Covenant, now."

Changing the possibilities of answer:

B005 Substitute essentially changed the question of adoption from something requiring immediate response to a question we could answer at our leisure, when we are ready to do so. We changed the assumption of the game plan.

In my mind, the larger Anglican Covenant game involves a sales pitch where the producers of the Anglican Covenant said we needed to buy a particular product (The Anglican Covenant) because we need, or want, or desire, what it can do for us. The product was advertised to make us part of a very special group - the Anglican Communion - if only we would buy and use the product. If we didn't -well the heartbreak of psoriasis is nothing compared to the heartbreak of second tier life - not an outcast, but not a player either. But the choice was ours - buy or don't buy. Every province supposedly gets the same offer - yes or no - and on that full inclusion in the Anglican Communion rests. But who make this game up? 

For some of us on the committee and out there in Anglican land it was clear that it was the product of the same minds that turned Lambeth Resolution 1988,I.10 into a litmus test of Anglican purity, and the Windsor Report into a definitive road map. Both those Anglican disasters made the Covenant the clear strategy of those who were and are opposed to anything like inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the life and leadership of the churches. The Anglican Covenant has been widely disliked as an instrument that serves the wrong ends by the wrong means.

The Anglican Covenant game has been played against the backdrop of a non-game, a reality - the serious work for full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians, and BTW for all of us who stretch the vision of the church. This work is no game and it is costly.  

Over on "Telling Secrets" and "An Inch at a Time" you will find witness to the cost of this particular stretching of the vision of the Church.  Other costs and other issues bear common witness with these that there is a real struggle out there, not a game.

If one played the Anglican Covenant game at all - saying yes or no - one entered the world of the game...accepting either full inclusion in the Anglican Communion with the possible restrictions on vision and movement, or second class citizenship in the Communion with penalties for exercising progressive vision. 

Refusing to jump into play.

There were good reasons to suppose that refusing to play was a useful legislative, political and, yes, pastoral option.

The legislative question:
Most of the resolutions presented to Convention could not, most of us on the committee believed, garner a majority vote in Deputies, particularly if the vote was made a vote by orders. The only possible one was a distinctly clear "no," and even there the crystal ball of prediction was cloudy. If we presented a resolution that failed, what then? Would we have to consider others of the resolutions? If we passed a close "no" resolution, would the House of Bishops, which apparently has a mind, issue a mind of the house statement thereby splitting the two houses in their response?

The political question:
But if a clear "no" passed it would put in question any reassuring statement (D008 or any similar resolution)  of our continued engagement in Anglican Communion affairs - particularly if we also reduced our support of the Anglican Communion Office and its programs. 

Many of us knew that funding for the Anglican Communion work was likely to suffer cuts along with other program support in a tightened budget. While a yes vote seemed impossible, a no vote would be hard to separate from decisions about funding reduction for important and valuable Anglican programs. There are plenty of people out in Anglican land who would gleefully grab onto a "no" vote and reduction in funding and say, "see, they have no need of the Anglican Communion. They have said no to the Anglican Covenant and no to the Anglican Communion."

The pastoral question:
It was also clear, at least in our subgroup and larger World Mission Legislative Committee, that a "no' vote, particularly a slim majority vote,  would be a clear signal to many who both supported the Covenant and a variety of what are called "conservative" concerns that there was no place in the legislative life of the Church where their voice was heard in a positive way.

I believe that the notion that all who were  in favor of the Covenant were doing so because of a distinctly conservative religious agenda is inaccurate.  Some certainly were. But some  were in favor because it is a conserving document. 

Just as saying the Nicene Creed does not make The Episcopal Church gathered on Sunday morning a conservative church, but it does make it a conserving church, so being in favor of the Anglican Covenant was seen by some as an affirmation of conserving Episcopal and Anglican values. Several members of the committee strongly supported such a conserving view. (This is where I see The Living Church's essays coming out.)  On the other hand, Susan Russell in her statement to the World Mission Legislative Committee strongly disagreed, contending that the Anglican Covenant is not basically Anglican at all.

I must say I agree with her. My argument against the Covenant has been that sections 1, 2, and 3, are conserving of the wrong things, or of the right things wrongly stated, and forgetful of other matters also worth conserving, and that section 4 is not about conservation at all, but about bad process.

I have been a consistent critic of the Anglican Covenant and have good friends who see the Anglican Covenant as antithetical to all they hope Anglicanism to represent. Several of these friends have accused the writers of this resolution as weak and lacking in courage. Being among the writers and chairing the meetings on this I of course can read the tea leaves...the accusations are against me as well. Life has its less pleasant moments, I suppose.

B005 Substitute came to the floor fully supported by the World Mission Legislative Committee. I spoke for it on the floor

I said what I believed was the sense we had that we were under no obligation to respond to the matter of adopting the Anglican Covenant until we were ready to do so.  Of course we could have put it to a vote and it would perhaps have been"done with."  But I think not.  I supported the resolution because I came to believe it was not time to force a "no" or "yes."  It was time to let it go and let it rest. 

Which is what I intend to do now. I don't know just how other members of the subcommittee or the whole Committee saw what we did. This is my own reflection. 

And life has indeed moved on.


  1. Thanks for the follow up.

  2. Mark, thanks for writing this. It brings a sense of wider reflection to something that left a lot of us with a sense of being in the weeds following GC. It may make me a policy wonk as you jokingly allude, but I was - and I don't use this adverb very often - literally hopping mad when I read of a decision to defer action on the proposed Covenant, which I believe you or one of your colleagues referred to as a chocolate teapot more than a year ago.

    My usual inclination is to want to say things, say them as fully as possible, and be done with them. That can be blunt, I know; especially when surgical precision is desired. I can see how it would make an already tenuous situation worse. If, with respect to the Covenant, an Anglican province really can appropriate the rules for itself in this way and therefore change the nature of what it means to defer, then the subtlety is appreciable and should be shown to other provinces currently giving the Covenant consideration.

    But as an Oklahoma boy schooled in both Will Rogers and the culture that birthed him, there's a bigger part of me that recognizes when we've reached the limits of our ability to be clever and must put aside pretention, or the thought that we can somehow outgame everyone else. I wish for a form of straightforward thought and speech not grounded in deferment but in the exhortation of Jesus to let our yes be yes or our no be no.

    Before I went to seminary I worked with someone who nicknamed me Captain - as in Captain of the Obvious - because I never wanted to leave a conversation with tacit assumptions on the table. I was willing to be thought foolish because of that inclination. It was a habit that occasionally saved us a lot of money and time and energy, and other times might have seemed a little dim. It wasn't a matter of subtlety so much as expedience in the long run. Perhaps these are values that no longer serve the wider church to the degree they might have, but really, it's what I have and who I am. So for all its value, this strategy - though its narrative is clear-eyed and its elements are transparent - leaves me a little dry.

    Thank you again for taking the time to parse and remember. Hope the rest of your summer is fruitful and restful.

    Torey Lightcap
    Irreducible Minimums

  3. Thanks, Mark. I was just thinking about writing to you to ask if you would shed light on the workings of the sub-committee on the covenant.
    I was shocked by B005. I don't see how not taking a stand is pastoral. If you consider disagreement to be cause for not taking a stand, because it would be unpastoral, then GC is all too often unpastoral. As I see it, the subcommittee was tasked to come up with a resolution on the position of the Episcopal Church vis-a-vis the Anglican Covenant and decided, "We're not going to do it. We won't take a stand." So, in my view the sub-committee did not do the job with which it was tasked, however difficult it might have been.

    I know you cannot speak for the entire sub-committee, but do you believe the Church of England and the Scottish Episcopal Church are no longer engaged with the Anglican Communion? Those of us in the No Anglican Covenant Coalition walked with the members of the CofE and the SEC through the diocesan votes and the vote at GC of the SEC and greatly admired their courage in saying "no" to such a poor piece of work as the covenant. We very much wanted to stand in solidarity with
    them, but our hopes were dashed by the we-won't-take-a-stand resolution, which came across as weak and lacking in courage, however well-meaning the intentions of the members of the subcommittee. Surely our engagement with the members of the other churches in the venue of the NACC was communion, though not official Anglican Communion business.

    I'd rather that we'd had a resolution to say "No" to the covenant even if the HoD voted to approve the resolution, and the HoB voted against the resolution, if that was going to happen. I'd rather have seen the resolution put to the test.

    Mark, I must add that I yield to no one in my respect for you as a person, and I am full of gratitude toward you for the brilliant work you have done in and for our church over many years. And yes, there is life after General Convention, and we do move on.

  4. As I said to others AFTERWARD (by email loop)...¨I trust Mark¨. I was confronted on why do I trust Mark? I answered ¨because I´ve been reading his blog for a decade and he ALWAYS leaves lots of space for everyone¨ (in my opinion, everyone means everyone, even if I don´t sometimes like to share space with others with whom I strongly disagree...you, Mark, do)!

  5. Thank you, Mark, for your thoughtful account of what I can accept as a thoughtful Convention resolution. I am a lifelong (infancy to near-geezerhood) active Episcopalian and grew up with a strong sense of the Anglican Communion. I remember hearing and meeting as a young person such Anglican heroes as Joost de Blank, Ambrose Reeves, and Trevor Huddleston. From the beginning I thought that the "Anglican Covenant" was a Bad Idea and Not Really Anglican. But some arguments are lose-lose propositions, and the best response is simply to refuse to play.

  6. What I said at Episcopal Café:
    Hedging your bets is not a good way to live in truth IMO. It is sort of like not going out with someone of the "out" group, hoping you will get a better offer - giving some poor excuse about feeling ill or having to visit you sick aunt and then having a miraculous recovery to go with someone else.

  7. Mark, thank you for sharing the process and your thinking on the Anglican Covenant. I too was dismayed when you backed the subsequent response. But it is easy to understand the way that the Church should go when you are not in the 'bowels of community'.

    Most of us have lived through the divisive last fifteen years carrying a banner. Perhaps it IS time to consider what compromise is really about in the Church. By not taking a stand, we are perhaps taking a stand about what it means to be a community of churches rather than, as you say, playing the Yes-No game of the Anglican Covenant.
    I so appreciate you willingness to share your process in coming to this decision and the behind-the- scenes work of the committee that got us to where we are.

    In some ways I agree with Leonardo--I have been reading you for years and respect what you have given to the Church.

  8. As a policy wonk as regards the Covenant, though from the other side of the pond and utterly ignorant of the ways of GC, may I also say thank you for this exposition.

    1) You refer to the 'game' as being about the urgency of decision. I suspect that that particular game has significantly faded (not least with the absence of Drexel Gomez and the impending departure of Rowan Williams).

    And in fact you talk about a related but different game: who's in, who's out, who's a player and who's second rank.

    You may have sidestepped the urgency game, but you've merely failed to reveal your hand for the in-or-out game.

    This may be wise given that it is possible, but by no means certain, that the Covenant will be given a lethal (if lingering) blow at the ACC meeting this autumn in NZ. In that case any action would be otiose and no blood will be on TEC's hands.

    Or if, instead, the Covenant is given a shot of some energy-enhancing drug, TEC will still have the option of playing the in-or-out game on a later occasion.

    2) You began your apologia reflecting on the potential, constraints and, I think, emotional zest of working collaboratively with people with whom you disagreed.

    Yet the denial of the validity of this experience is itself one of the motivating themes and a structuring game of the Covenant.

    Unity, in the Covenant, is defined and created in affirming credal-like statements with a guillotine mechanism to stop debate drifting on. Process is thus rejected as a basis of unity.

    (This was not least so that 'we' might say to other churches not so far from Rome: here is a settled statement of what Anglicans believe and we are now all dressed in a matching ecclesiology.)

    Your experience may have challenged the assumptions of this 'foundations' game, but your decision did not. In fact I suspect that avoiding the issue will give hope to those who still want and work for a credal, as opposed to a lived, conception of faith, community and Christian belonging.

    This issue remains, Covenant or no Covenant. I think TEC will only have an opportunity to find a way out, round or through this dilemma once the Covenant is dead and buried. Delay is not enough.

    Paul Bagshaw

  9. Grandmere Mimi wrote:
    As I see it, the subcommittee was tasked to come up with a resolution on the position of the Episcopal Church vis-a-vis the Anglican Covenant and decided, "We're not going to do it. We won't take a stand."

    I think the actual response to the question of the position of the Episcopal Church on the Anglican Covenant is: "We don't have one."

    We don't have a position on the Anglican Covenant. It isn't worth voting against, because that hands ammunition to those who wish us out of the Anglican Communion. It certainly isn't worth voting for. I liken it to requesting one's spouse sign a pre-nuptual agreement on one's twentieth anniversary. We're already in the Anglican Communion. The only body that can eject us from the Anglican Communion is the Anglican Consultative Council, and even they can only eject us from the Council. We will continue to be a member of the Anglican Communion and, like any family, there are members who won't talk to us. Makes for a strained Thanksgiving meal (Lambeth), but there it is.

  10. It can make sense to "step out of the game." Often enough folks have seen an analogy in the Covenant effort and in Communion conflicts to family system theory. Often what makes a difference is when a healthy person simply chooses not to participate. That might seem to suggest a "No;" but if both "Yes" and "No" have been structured into the game, "stepping out" would indeed suggest rejecting both.

    It seems to me, though, that we have not been the first to try to change the rules of "the game." Both Southeast Asia and Ireland did something that they said was acceptance of the Covenant; but each did so with specific redefinition of "adoption." They also both added (mutually exclusive) signing statements. Even the Church of England hasn't been relieved of that. The diocesan synods were clear; and yet the leadership interpreted this as "we're just not ready yet," and implied that if could be introduced again.

    The committee, and the Convention majority, wanted to find a way to step away from the Covenant and explicitly not step away from the Communion. This effort at compromise (not with the Covenant-ophiles, but among ourselves) won out over explicit rejection.

  11. As the bishop, who read from the wrong page of the Prayer Book and made Brigid a Bishop rather than an Abbess, said, "What I have done, I have done." Brigid was never given the authority of a bishop in the church. The Anglican Covenant, please God, will not be given the authority it seeks in the Anglican Communion.

    We live in sure and certain hope.

    Where I disagree is that B055 is pastoral. It is not. It may have been in its intent but misses the mark by a long, winding country mile in its impact. It is not pastoral - except, perhas, to the committee who felt that they tried - they really, really, really tried - to listen to "all sides". It stands as much a political tool as was B033, thinking itself able to give us some leverage at the next ACC meeting. It won't. B033 didn't. B055 won't.

    Where we agree is that it is time to move on. What was done is done. My only concern is that, if a "conservative" like Sentamu or Cocksworth is elected the next ABC, that can that we kicked down the road in B055 will come back to kick us in the face. Time will tell. It always does.

    Meanwhile, relationships and friendships go on. If we allow B055 to tarnish or destroy them, then it will have more destructive power than the Anglican Covenant ever could. We are, hopefully, mature adults. We can hold in tension our dislike for the actions of the people we love and respect and continue to love and respect them.

    Meanwhile, life goes on. We ought not disparage the enjoyment of the giggles and incessent querries of grandchildren, or the sipping of a good cup of coffee at small cafes on the Big Water by friends who disagree.

    I take solace and comfort in this: There will be no General Conventions or resolutions or Anglican Covenants in heaven. If there are, I'm not going. Some will say that's a given, anyway. To them I say, won't you be surprised by who all is there: those who passionately wanted the Covenant and those who didn't. We'll be male and female, homosexual and homophobes, saints and scoundrels, and people from every nation, tribe, color and creed, all together laughing about our human follies and foibles.

    We'll be pefect. We're not now nor shall ever be in this life. And so, as Mark says, we move on. Older, without choice; wiser with hope. Still, move on we must lest we kill each other's spirit in the name of Jesus.

    We live in sure and certain hope.

    One last thing: Mark, could you - would you - kindly turn off the "robot" feature of the comment modifications? Blogger has done a good job of making sure this annoyance has been reduced to a minimum. You can still moderate the comments without the "robot" feature. This is the third time I've written this comment which has been foiled by the "robot" feature. Thanks, love.

  12. Thank you, Mark. It seems to me that the resolution accomplished what the diocesan synod votes did in the CofE. There are questions which should not be answered, which should be set aside as illegitimate. I think that "Will you adopt the Anglican Covenant?" is one of those questions because of the way the Covenant came into being. What I have found since the GC met is that the Covenant is no longer something which gets much of my attention. I thnk that would not be the case if there had been a yes or no vote at GC.

  13. I'm sure I'm missing some extraordinarily subtle and important nuance, which is probably glaringly obvious to someone more familiar with
    the arcana of Episcopal Church polity and praxis, but in what way is B005 an improvement on not having had any resolution at all?

    Surely a stronger statement could have been made by simpy adopting D008 and leaving it at that. If the idea were truly to refuse to play the game, that would have
    been the correct strategy.

  14. From Lionel's web log:

    The committee did not refuse to play the game - they thought they played it more cleverly.

  15. Mark describes well the process that went into the composition of B005s. While I was peripherally part of the subgroup (being secretary to the legislative committee ate up more time than I realised), I was privileged to be part of the opening conversations where all the members spoke honestly of their attitudes concerning the proposed Anglican Covenant. Mark did an excellent job of providing a safe and respectful space for all of us such that even those of us with diametrically opposing views felt OK expressing them without fear of someone jumping down our throat. Personally, my thought was that no matter what we generated, we could not please everyone.


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.