Nov 30, 2010

THE NO ANGLICAN COVENANT COALITION: Observations on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address...

...and the Anglican Covenant Debate in the Church of England General Synod

In his Presidential Address on 23 November 2010, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams presented a message of fear and gloom to the Church of England General Synod. He suggested that, if the Synod did not accept the Anglican Covenant, we could witness the “piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion.” The “risk and reality of such rupture [of some aspects of communion] is already there, make no mistake,” he said. “Historic allegiances cannot be taken for granted.” If we try to carry on as usual, he warned, there is a danger of creating “new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly.”

The Archbishop’s message was clear—be afraid of rejecting the Covenant. It is the only lifeboat in the troubled sea of Anglicanism, and doing nothing or being idealistic is not an option. It is particularly ironic that Dr. Williams painted a picture of a frightening Anglican dystopia should the Covenant fail, as he and other supporters of the Covenant have been quick to accuse Covenant sceptics of “scaremongering.” It is also surprising, both in this speech and in the subsequent debate, that concerns were raised about the decline of the role of the Church of England, as well as references to its being “the mother church” that needs to set an example, whereas Covenant sceptics have been accused of being “Little Englanders.”

The interpretation that most people put on the speech was that Dr. Williams saw the Covenant as the only way to keep the GAFCON Primates and their allies in the Anglican Communion. Ironically, even as the 24 November debate on the Covenant was going on, GAFCON issued its “Oxford Statement,” which rejected the Covenant as being “fatally flawed” and insisted on the more conservative Jerusalem Statement as the foundation of international Anglicanism.

The Archbishop asserted that the Covenant is not “a tool of exclusion and tyranny.” “To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands,” he insisted. It is difficult to see, however, how a document that, in the words of the Windsor Report, is to “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion” is not coercive, and it is likewise difficult to see how enforcing “relational consequences” on a church that might take a “controversial action” is not a punishment. Bishop John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln, put it like this:

Anglicanism has been described as a fellowship of civilised disagreement. Well I leave you to judge whether a two-tier Communion with first and second division members answers to that description of civilised disagreement. It frankly feels like we will be sending sincere and faithful Anglicans to stand in the corner until they have seen the error of their ways and can return to the ranks of the pure and spotless.

The Archbishop spoke of loyalty and catholicity. Apparently, he thinks that belief and practice should be uniform across the Communion. Otherwise, the Church—he consistently speaks of the Anglican Church—is disordered, and if the Church is disordered, then the faith is disordered and the mission of the Church is compromised. If necessary, personal convictions need to be sacrificed for the greater good of the Church, and those who refuse are disloyal. In reality, of course, there are only Anglican churches, and many, unlike Dr. Williams, do not want to create a worldwide Anglican Church. read it all, by The Reverend Dr. Lesley Fellows, HERE  and The No Anglican Covenant Coalition. HERE

· Thanks to The Reverend Dr. Lesley Fellows, sidebar
· Thanks to No Anglican Covenant Coalition, sidebar
· Thanks to Comprehensive Unity Blog, sidebar
· Thanks to Dr. Lionel Deimel, sidebar
· Thanks to Modern Church  HERE Church of England

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