‘Little Englander’ jibe at Covenant advert

by
04 November 2010

by Ed Beavan

A BISHOP has compared two groups opposing the Anglican Covenant to “an ecclesiastical BNP”. They are “latter-day Little Englanders”, he says.

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, formerly secretary to the Anglican Com­munion Covenant Design Group, was responding to the full-page advertise­ment placed in the Church Times last week by Inclusive Church and Modern Church (formerly the Modern Churchpeople’s Union).

In a letter to this paper, he accuses them of using tactics of “misin­forma­tion and scaremongering about foreigners and outside influences”.

The Anglican Covenant was prompted in 2004 by the election of a gay bishop in the United States, the Rt Revd Gene Robinson. It attempts to define the relationship between the provinces of the Anglican Com­munion, holding them to mutual accountability and consensus.

The two groups, both liberal, are part of an international coalition of Anglicans campaigning against the Covenant. They are urging General Synod members to reject the Cov­enant when it comes up for debate later this month (see below). They state that it will “redefine Anglican­ism” and create an “authoritarian leadership of the Anglican Com­munion”. In the advertisement, they argued that it was “an attempt to re-establish a Puritan dogmatism”, “the biggest change to the Church since the Reformation”.

The Revd Jonathan Clatworthy, general secretary of Modern Church, said this week that the Covenant had come out of the debate in the Communion over gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions, but this had been “played down by the Covenant’s proponents”.

He denied the charge of scare­mongering. Conservative bishops “have made it quite clear the whole point of the Covenant is to exclude the United States”, he said.

“It’s really a case of allowing differ­ences of opinions to be heard and explored, and that would be pre­vented by the Covenant as the text says when there is a big controversy you can appeal to the Standing Com­mittee of the Anglican Com­munion, and they will lay down a decision that will be binding for all Anglicans.”

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He said that it would lead to a “centralisation of power” and make the Church of England a “more con­fessional Church”, making “Anglican­ism more like Roman Catholicism with a mighty Magisterium”.

Mr Clatworthy added that the Standing Committee was able to recommend “relational conse­quences”, which effectively meant that it could exclude people from the An­glican Communion.

In his letter, Bishop Cameron defends the Standing Committee, which is “in fact the same Joint Stand­ing Committee that has muddled through the business of Anglican Communion affairs now since 1969” but has a new name. Its most extreme power is “to make recommendations”.

He denies that the Covenant would take power away from the General Synod: the Covenant text clearly states that “each church or each instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recom­mendations”.

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director for Unity, Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office, has also issued a response to the advert­ise­ment, saying that the Standing Committee would only be able to make proposals to the Instruments of the Communion “on steps to be taken to encourage discussion and discern­ment”.

She says that it was wrong to say that non-signatories would no longer count as part of the Communion. They would remain members of the Communion, but “signatories will have made a com­mit­ment to live in that communion in a particularly enhanced way, and to a process of consultation and common discernment.”

The Revd Andrew Goddard, writ­ing on the Fulcrum website, de­scribed the advertisement produced by Modern Church and Inclusive Church as propaganda — an ex­ample of “two of the Church of England groups most associated with an appeal to reason” demonstrating them­­selves “to be incapable of reasoned argument”.

He rejected assertions that the Covenant had been “kept quiet”, and said that drafts had been placed on the Anglican Communion website and sent to provinces for comment. It had been discussed by the General Synod five times.

The former Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, told The Church of Ireland Gazette that the Covenant was the only means of keeping the Anglican Communion together, and provided “a framework within which you can have the discussion in a way which tries to keep all parties at the table”. If rejected by the Church of England, the Covenant, he said, would be “dead in the water”; but he did not see this as a realistic possibility.

Letters

Question of the week: Should the Church of England reject the Anglican Covenant?

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Covenant to be debated by Synod

THE new General Synod will debate the Anglican Covenant when it meets later this month (preview). The draft Covenant is not a piece of C of E legislation; so it will be appended to an Act of Synod. This will state that the Covenant is “the embodiment of the will of the Church of England as expressed by the whole body of the Synod”.

THE new General Synod will debate the Anglican Covenant when it meets later this month (preview). The draft Covenant is not a piece of C of E legislation; so it will be appended to an Act of Synod. This will state that the Covenant is “the embodiment of the will of the Church of England as expressed by the whole body of the Synod”.

The approval of the Covenant has been deemed Article 7 business “touching doctrinal formulae”, which must return to the House of Bishops before being presented to the General Synod for final approval; and Article 8 business, providing for “a permanent and substantial change of relationship between the Church of England and another Christian body”, which must therefore be approved by a majority of diocesan synods.

The approval of the Covenant has been deemed Article 7 business “touching doctrinal formulae”, which must return to the House of Bishops before being presented to the General Synod for final approval; and Article 8 business, providing for “a permanent and substantial change of relationship between the Church of England and another Christian body”, which must therefore be approved by a majority of diocesan synods.

If the draft Act of Synod Adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant passes Synod this month, it is expected to return for final approval in 2012.

If the draft Act of Synod Adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant passes Synod this month, it is expected to return for final approval in 2012.

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