US Church cannot sign Covenant, say Wright and American critics

by
09 September 2009

by a staff reporter

"Interdependence": Dr Tom Wright

"Interdependence": Dr Tom Wright

THE Episcopal Church in the United States cannot in conscience sign the Anglican Covenant, a group of con­servatives says. The group includes the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright.

The criticism of the Episcopal Church comes in a 27-page position paper, “The Anglican Covenant: Shared Discernment Recognized by All”, published on Thursday of last week. The signatories are Dr Wright and four US conservatives: Canon Professor Christopher Seitz, the Revd Dr Philip Turner, the Revd Dr Ephraim Radner, and Mark McCall.

The group contends that the ongoing Covenant process, designed to bring some structure to the Anglican Communion, has inter­dependence at its heart. This ex­plicitly involves accountability — defined as being open to correction — to other provinces in matters that affect the whole Communion. The obvious case in point is the debate about the blessing of same-sex couples and the consecration of gay priests and bishops.

The paper states: “Without ac­counta­bility there is no commu­nion, and a Church that is unac­countable by definition has ordered its life outside the Communion of Churches.”

The paper cites the recent de­cisions of the US General Conven­tion to open the door to same-sex blessings, and its statement that “God has called, and may call” gay and lesbian people “to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church”.

The General Convention passed a resolution, D025, which reaffirmed its commitment to the Anglican Communion as an active, partici­p­ating member. There has since been talk of a willingness to study and sign the Covenent when it is finalised.

The authors of the paper take issue with this, stating: “That the actions of the General Convention constitute instead a provisional rejection of the Anglican Covenant is manifest. . . The actions of the General Convention repudiating the teaching of the Communion on human sexuality can only be seen as the repudiation of the Covenant itself.”

The paper argues that the goal of shared discernment, outlined in the Covenant, requires commitment to “joint organs of discernment and decision which are recognised by all”. It cites the “recommendations” given to the Episcopal Church by the Primates’ Meeting, which were “immediately rejected” by the US House of Bishops.

The paper concludes: “An An­glican Church cannot simul­taneously commit itself through the Anglican Covenant to shared dis­cernment and reject that discern­ment; to interdependence and then act independently; to ac­countability and remain determined to be unaccountable. If the battle over homosexuality in the Episcopal Church is truly over, then so is the battle over the Anglican Covenant in the Episcopal Church.”

Only a formal overturning of its recent decisions could place the Episcopal Church “in a position capable of truly assuming the Covenant’s already articulated com­mitments”, the paper says.

“Until such time, the Episcopal Church has rejected the Covenant commitments openly and concretely, and her members and other Anglican Churches within the Communion must take this into account.”

To read the paper in full, click here

To read the paper in full, click here

Can the Episcopal Church in the United States sign the Anglican Covenant with integrity? Vote here

Lambeth summit cheers US 'Windsor' bishops

SEVEN conservative bishops from the Episcopal Church in the United States have described as “encouraging” a private meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace last week.

They represent what are generally described as the moderate or centre-right conservative bishops, those who want to remain within the Episcopal Church and as full constituent members of the Anglican Communion. Dr Williams has described the grouping, also referred to as the Windsor or Camp Allen bishops, as “a significant minority” (News, 24 July).

The seven (from South Carolina, West Texas, Northern Indiana, Albany, North Dakota, Dallas, and Western Louisiana) were among 36 bishops who signed the Anaheim Convention, a declaration made after the US General Convention’s decision in July to remove any bar to the ordination or conse­cration of gay and lesbian candidates and to begin to develop rites for same-sex blessings (News, 17 July, 24 July).

The convention reaffirmed their commitment to honouring the moratoriums on both these developments, as requested by the Windsor report. Some of the bishops have previously argued that the national Church has no power to speak for them, and that individual dioceses should be able to sign up to the Anglican Covenant even if a province as a whole decided not to.

The seven bishops give no details of their meeting with Dr Williams. Nothing has come from Lambeth, either. But the bishops issued a short statement on Tuesday which seeks a groundswell of support for the Covenant from within the Episcopal Church. In what sounds very much like a petition, they urge individuals as well as dioceses and par­ishes to register their support for the Cove­nant, on the website of Communion Partners.

The final draft of the Covenant, the Ridley Draft, has not yet gone out to the provinces for consideration. Disagreement arose at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Jamaica in May over the meaning and implications of wording in section four, which said: “It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant.”

The meeting resolved not to send the draft out until an appointed group had clarified whether this meant that groups such as the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) could sign, and whether it could be adopted by elements within a province (News, 15 May). Dr Williams, who sees the Covenant as the best hope, said he was seeking “a clear answer” to this, in his reflections after the General Convention (News, 31 July).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention does not meet again until 2012, and is unlikely to make a decision before 2015. The seven bishops press for the national Church to adopt the Covenant, with the reminder that resolution D020 at this year’s meeting commended it for study as “a document to inform their understanding of and commitment to our common life in the Anglican Communion”.

In the report issued this week, they also encourage the Episcopal Church bishops exercising jurisdiction “to call upon us for service in needed cases of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight”. They “invite primates and bishops of the Communion to offer their public support to these efforts”.

The seven include bishops who met the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, and the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, at Camp Allen in September 2006, with Dr Williams’s blessing. At that meeting, the bishops accepted and affirmed the Windsor report and endorsed its recommendations for the development of the Covenant.

Can the Episcopal Church in the United States sign the Anglican Covenant with integrity? Vote here

Lambeth summit cheers US 'Windsor' bishops

SEVEN conservative bishops from the Episcopal Church in the United States have described as “encouraging” a private meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace last week.

They represent what are generally described as the moderate or centre-right conservative bishops, those who want to remain within the Episcopal Church and as full constituent members of the Anglican Communion. Dr Williams has described the grouping, also referred to as the Windsor or Camp Allen bishops, as “a significant minority” (News, 24 July).

The seven (from South Carolina, West Texas, Northern Indiana, Albany, North Dakota, Dallas, and Western Louisiana) were among 36 bishops who signed the Anaheim Convention, a declaration made after the US General Convention’s decision in July to remove any bar to the ordination or conse­cration of gay and lesbian candidates and to begin to develop rites for same-sex blessings (News, 17 July, 24 July).

The convention reaffirmed their commitment to honouring the moratoriums on both these developments, as requested by the Windsor report. Some of the bishops have previously argued that the national Church has no power to speak for them, and that individual dioceses should be able to sign up to the Anglican Covenant even if a province as a whole decided not to.

The seven bishops give no details of their meeting with Dr Williams. Nothing has come from Lambeth, either. But the bishops issued a short statement on Tuesday which seeks a groundswell of support for the Covenant from within the Episcopal Church. In what sounds very much like a petition, they urge individuals as well as dioceses and par­ishes to register their support for the Cove­nant, on the website of Communion Partners.

The final draft of the Covenant, the Ridley Draft, has not yet gone out to the provinces for consideration. Disagreement arose at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Jamaica in May over the meaning and implications of wording in section four, which said: “It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant.”

The meeting resolved not to send the draft out until an appointed group had clarified whether this meant that groups such as the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) could sign, and whether it could be adopted by elements within a province (News, 15 May). Dr Williams, who sees the Covenant as the best hope, said he was seeking “a clear answer” to this, in his reflections after the General Convention (News, 31 July).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention does not meet again until 2012, and is unlikely to make a decision before 2015. The seven bishops press for the national Church to adopt the Covenant, with the reminder that resolution D020 at this year’s meeting commended it for study as “a document to inform their understanding of and commitment to our common life in the Anglican Communion”.

In the report issued this week, they also encourage the Episcopal Church bishops exercising jurisdiction “to call upon us for service in needed cases of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight”. They “invite primates and bishops of the Communion to offer their public support to these efforts”.

The seven include bishops who met the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, and the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, at Camp Allen in September 2006, with Dr Williams’s blessing. At that meeting, the bishops accepted and affirmed the Windsor report and endorsed its recommendations for the development of the Covenant.

Forthcoming Events

21-22 February 2020
Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature
For 2020 the Bloxham festival celebrates ‘The Power of Love’. Book tickets

26 March 2020
Theology Slam Live Final
Competition opens in November - more details coming soon. Read about the 2019 final

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)