What do we get if we get the Covenant?

Apologies that the papers under discussion here are somewhat dated. I am grateful to my colleague Leonardo Ricardo for drawing my attention to the paper from the Province of South Asia which (with so much else) I had missed.

I blog it now because it continues to be relevant: the terms of signing the Covenant seen from Singapore are not the terms seen from where I sit.

Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory,
and promoter of the Covenant  in Ireland
Ireland subscribes
In May the Church of Ireland "subscribed" to the Covenant.

In doing so the Irish intended to subordinate the Covenant to the Church in Ireland; they were not willing to subordinate the Church to the Covenant (Press Release). Were they conning themselves? Mark Harris pointed out that they didn't really have the option: the only choice on the table was - take it or leave it.

But was something else going on? Did the Irish (or, at least, those in the know) believe that once the Covenant was in place all that would happen would be another round of negotiations?

To put it another way: what do we get if we get the Covenant?

Here the Church of South East Asia (wiki) has been very helpful.

A history of the Covenant
Their Preamble to the Letter of Accession (also May 2011) set out a history of how the Covenant was created. It stresses the significance of conservative Provinces in the creation of the document dating back to the Second South-to-South Encounter Kuala Lumpur Statement in 1997.

I find the historical narrative largely persuasive when seen through conservative glasses,  The story is predicated on the "unscriptural practices in some parts of the Church" and the providential way the 'crisis' enabled the diverse churches of the global south to create a shared identity and structures of consultation

It's not the whole story. (1) It omits contributions from England and other western sources. (2) The Archbishop of Canterbury is mentioned twice (outside quotations): to restate an instruction given to him by the Primates and, second, to disapprove a decision he made. It would seem that the future of Covenanted Anglicanism does not accord primacy to the Archbishop, his heirs and successors. (3) It ignores the listening process that was also agreed at Lambeth 1998. (4) It also leaves the impression that 'border crossing' followed, rather than preceded, the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson.

(l-r) Bishop Albert Vun, Diocese of Sabah)
Bishop John Chew, Diocese of Singapore
Bishop Bolly Lapok, Diocese of Kiching
 Bishop Ng Moon Heng, Diocese of West Malaysia
But for those global south churches which wish to remain within the Anglican Communion it is a persuasive and legitimating account.

The terms of accession
The Preamble "also outlines the raison d'ĂȘtre for the Church of the Province of South East Asia’s agreement to sign the Anglican Communion Covenant.":
Churches that accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant need to subject their common life to the reforming and transforming work of the Holy Spirit, so that the Communion may be built up until all “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4: 13). The Anglican Communion should adopt more uniform processes in the election and appointment of bishops, to ensure that such processes are not held hostage to local politics and to parochial understandings of the episcopal office.
For the Province of South East Asia, therefore, it is perfectly clear that the Covenant does indeed subordinate provinces to its provisions. Local church order must be changed to fit the programme.

our accession to the Anglican Communion Covenant is based on the following understanding:
(a) that those who accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant will unequivocally abide by Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its spirit and intent;
(b) that those Provinces and Dioceses whose actions violate Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as well as subsequent Primates Communiqué statements that have placed a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and the authorization and implementation of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, are expected to rescind their actions, and bring their public doctrine and practice in line with Lambeth 1.10, before acceding to the Anglican Communion Covenant; and
(c) that Churches that accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant should bear authentic witness to the orthodox faith by an unequivocal commitment to the standards of moral and ethical holiness as set by Biblical norms in all aspects of their communal life. (Mt 19:4-6; Rom 1:21-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:16-26; Eph 5:3-14; Col 3:5-14; 1 Thess 4:3-12; 2 Tim 3:1-5; Heb 13:1-5; 1 Pet 4:1-11; 2 Pet 2:13-22; Jude v18-21; Rev 18:1-8).
(d) that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Anglican Communion Covenant in its implementation (Anglican Communion Covenant Section 3.1.4.IV and South-to-South Encounter, Fourth Trumpet, 21).
Thus they sign the Covenant with one pen and with another write: everyone else must meet the demands of South East Asia.

Martin Reynolds (last comment at TA) also noted that, as part of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, the Anglican Church sought to criminalise lesbianism for the first time in the country's history and to sustain harsh punishments for gay men. There is nothing irenic in this Provinces' Covenant.

So what does it mean to sign the Covenant?
Clearly the Church of Ireland either signed a different Covenant, or it must withdraw its decision if these are the terms, or it expects the Covenant to be merely a staging post to further negotiations.

What would the Church of England be signing up to if it voted in favour?

What is the point of a treaty if we all think we're signing up to different things?


Coalition celebrates success

  Lesley Crawley, Coalition Moderator  
No Anglican Covenant Coalition
Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity
DECEMBER 6, 2011

LONDON – After slightly more than a year, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition can point to several  successes, according to Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley.

Four dioceses of the Church of England have rejected the Covenant (Birmingham; St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich; Truro; Wakefield). Where synod members were provided with balanced background material (i.e., material that presented both the case for and the case against the Covenant), the synods have voted it down.

Four dioceses, where little or no material was presented other than officially sanctioned pro-Covenant material, have approved the Covenant (Lichfield; Durham; Europe; Bristol). A total of 23 diocesan synods must approve the Covenant for the matter to return to the General Synod.
  • The Tikanga Maori defeated the Covenant at their biennial runanganui, virtually ensuring the defeat of the Covenant in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
  • The Philippine House of Bishops has indicated they will not support the Anglican Covenant, likely ensuring the defeat of the Covenant in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
  • Individual dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia (Newcastle; Sydney) and The Episcopal Church (California; Eastern Oregon; Michigan; East Carolina; and others) have indicated their opposition to adoption of the Covenant.
“In November 2010, we launched the Coalition to ensure that the case against the proposed Anglican Covenant would be given a fair hearing,” said Dr. Crawley. “Today we are seeing our efforts bear fruit. When fair debate has been allowed, the results have been gratifying.”

Critical to the success of the campaign, especially in the Church of England, has been the support of the Coalition’s Episcopal Patrons, Bishops John Saxbee and Peter Selby, who have encouraged diocesan bishops to allow for a full and open debate. In the coming months, 37 more English dioceses will vote on the Anglican Covenant. Only 18 additional no votes are needed for the Church of England to reject the Covenant.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition continues to provide assistance to those researching the proposed Covenant. The Resources section of the Coalition website is regularly updated with new material and analysis.

In the coming year:
  • The Episcopal Church will consider the Covenant at its General Convention in July in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Executive Council of the church has circulated a draft resolution to reject the Anglican Covenant.
  • The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will consider the Covenant in July at its General Synod/Te HinotaWhanui in Fiji. Given the rejection of the Anglican Covenant by Tikanga Maori, rejection of the Covenant by that church seems assured.
  • The General Synod of the Church of England is scheduled to consider the Covenant at its July session. However, unless 19 more diocesan synods have approved the Anglican Covenant by that date, the matter will not return to General Synod.
“Anglican Communion Office officials have repeatedly responded to criticism of the Anglican Covenant by suggesting that critics have not read the document,” said the Coalition’s Canadian Convenor, the Revd Malcolm French. “Ironically, we find that the more familiar people are with the document, the more likely they are to reject it. The Coalition is committed to ensuring a proper and balanced debate in churches throughout the Anglican Communion.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition is an international group of Anglicans dedicated to protecting the Anglican Communion from the dramatic changes that would be effected by the Anglican Covenant.