THE BISHOP of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, has disowned the “covenant” document presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury two weeks ago. He described it last week as “a significant own goal” for Evangelical Anglicans (News, 15, 22 December).
In a letter to all members of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), on whose behalf the covenant was sent out by the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, and the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, the Revd Dr Richard Turnbull, Bishop Broadbent says that members had not been able to read or agree to the document in its final draft. It had not appeared on an agenda paper, and minutes of meetings appeared no longer to be distributed. He describes the CEEC as in “deep disarray”.
“Sabre-rattling” when the Windsor process — “genuinely a covenant process” — was under way was not needed, the Bishop said. “There seem to be no grounds at this juncture to suggest that any of our liberal bishops have got more liberal, or become more outrageous, than they were six months or a year ago.”
Evangelical bishops would now be “rigorously and ill-temperedly questioned” by their brother bishops at the House of Bishops meeting in January, the Bishop complained. The only responses he had received to the question “‘why the covenant and why now?” were “about various bishops not allowing churches to plant”.
Campaigning on church-planting was “massively stupid” at a time when the draft Mission and Pastoral Measure was going through the Synod. “If you want to guarantee that [the draft Measure] is voted down, you’re going the right way about it.”
Bishop Broadbent criticises the authors’ emphasis on support from retired bishops, while they had not sought support from the 30 current Evangelical bishops, he suggested. “It’s not the retired bishops you need — it’s the active working bishops who can actually achieve things for you.”
Bishop Broadbent did not quibble with the need for a missionary approach and good appointments, having better arrangements for the Common Fund, and good oversight. Action would be needed where these things were not happening or where there was “serious error on the part of our leaders and teachers”, but the covenant document did not provide an adequate framework to achieve that.
“The whole thing has gone off at half-cock,” he said.