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The Anglican Covenant and the Bishop of St Asaph’s comments

10 November 2010


From the Revd John Plant and Canon Giles Goddard

Sir, — To use the sort of language that the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, uses (Letters, 5 November) in no way reassures us about the purpose of the An­glican Covenant. The problem for its sup­porters is that the arguments for it have never been persuasively made.

Those close to the process are, perhaps, unwilling to see its im­plications. The advertisement placed by Modern Church and Inclusive Church (Church Times, 29 October) simply expresses those implications. We have not yet heard any argu­ments that undermine our view, which is set out in more detail on the Modern Church website.

Whatever the original intentions of the Covenant, it will undoubtedly be used to resist change and develop­ment in the Communion, and as an instrument to exclude those prov­inces that wish to allow progress. To deny that this is the case makes an abrupt U-turn after six years of talk, by Primates and others, of “discip­lin­ing” the United States and other provinces if they take action not universally agreed.

Provinces — especially the Church of England, given the part that it plays in the Communion — will be required to move at the pace of the slowest province or face “relational consequences”. The main supporters of the proposed Coven-ant are those who have been at the forefront of resisting greater inclu­sion; this is not an accident.

The Anglican Communion has four Instruments of Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Anglican Consul­tative Council. After a fashion, they work. Why do we need a fifth?

Chair, Modern Church
Chair, Inclusive Church
1 Secker Street, London SE1 8UF

From the Revd Jean M. Mayland

Sir, — In his scurrilous attack on the advertisement issued by Inclu­sive Church and Modern Church, the Bishop of St Asaph misses the real heart of the concern that many of us feel.

Underlying our opposition to the Covenant is the fear that, if passed, it will limit even further the pos­sibil­ity for mission in these islands. What is appropriate in the culture of Nigeria is not appropriate in Great Britain and Ireland, and we need to be free to act differently but with mutal respect.

If the Church of England signed the Covenant, we would not be able to make progress in affirming the equal rights of all people in the UK; and, if we do not do that, then our mission fails.

It is no use the Bishop of Wake­field’s urging us to sit down and listen to gay people and respond to their desires (Comment, 29 October), or my being desperate for us to con­vey a more meaningful gospel to my granddaughters and their friends. If we have signed the Covenant, we will not be able to do so without being relegated to the “second level” of membership of the Anglican Communion.

Can anyone really envisage the relegation of the Church of Eng­land, led by the Archbishop of Canter­bury, to level two of the Com­munion, barred from certain committees and membership of international ecu­menical dialogues? On the other hand, to remain in level one would indeed “create new obstacles to mission” (words of the advertisement).

5 Hackwood Glade, Hexham
Northumberland NE46 1AL

From Dr Alan Sheard

Sir, — The Bishop of St Asaph notes that a recommendation by a Stand­ing Committee of the Anglican Communion would be subject to acceptance by “each Church or each Instrument”.

The Windsor report (Appendix 2, Article 21) requires, however: “In essential matters of common con­cern, each church shall in the exer­cise of its autonomy have regard to the common good of the Anglican Communion . . . through . . . agree­ment with the appropriate Instru­ments of Unity.” This was written in 2004, and if the “Instruments of Unity” have since declared their acceptance of gay or women bishops as a “common good”, I think we should be told.

I don’t think we should accept the Bishop’s intemperate denigra­tion of the Inclusive Church and Modern Church statement in the previous week’s Church Times with­out some facts.

7 Northfield, Swanland
North Ferriby
East Yorkshire HU14 3RG

From the Revd Trevor Donnelly

Sir, — If the Anglican Covenant is really the powerless, toothless non-entity described in the Bishop of St Asaph’s letter, why does he bother to defend it? And why defend it with cheap insults? Comparing those who oppose him to the “ecclesias­tical BNP” and calling them “latter-day Little Englanders” reveals the spirit behind the Covenant. As our Lord said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

I was brought up in the Baptist Church (in Northern Ireland, where Baptists are old-school), and after a varied spiritual journey I arrived at Anglicanism. Coming from Northern Ireland, where Roman Catholics and Protestants were killing each other, I was amazed to find a broad, generous Church where Catholic and Protestant spiritualities were welcome.

Not only were Catholics and Protestants welcome, but also con­servatives and liberals. Our diversity, which can make our life to­gether difficult at times, is also our beauty and our strength. It is why I forsook my Nonconformist heri­tage and was confirmed and then or­dained in the Church of England.

The Anglican Covenant will redefine what it means to be an Anglican, threatening the generous diversity that has inspired so many of us for so long. To insult people who share my concerns is cheap and beneath the Bishop, who should consider a public apology.

The Vicarage, 40 Dartmouth Row
London SE10 8BF

From the Rt Revd Michael Doe

Sir, — The proposed Anglican Covenant has always raised two fundamental questions.

First, do we need more than the Lambeth Quadrilateral, and, if so, does the addition of this Covenant restrict historic Anglicanism? Second, do we need more than the existing Instruments of Unity, and, if so, does the Covenant, and its ultimately juridical powers, en­danger what should hold us together in the Communion?

Recent events increase those concerns. First, it is evident that some Primates — by no means all of “the South”, but supported by powerful lobby groups in the North — will use the Covenant to make Lambeth 1.10 the touchstone of Anglicanism.

Second, they are also saying that it should be the Primates’ Meeting, not the Standing Committee, that decides who can stay in the Com­munion; and their first use of the Covenant will be to oust North America from that Meeting.

I write this in a personal capacity, but I am pleased that USPG, work­ing with partner-Churches on all sides of this debate, remains com­mitted to a Communion where all its members stay travelling to­gether.

General Secretary of USPG:
Anglicans in World Mission
200 Great Dover Street
London SE1 4YB

From the Revd Alan Crawley

Sir, — It might perhaps be easier to accept Bishop Gregory Cameron’s assurances about no external inter­ference if he were a bishop in the Church of England rather than the Church in Wales.

23 Oakfield Close, Amersham
Buckinghamshire HP6 5TA

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