Marilyn McCord Adams: The proposed Anglican Covenant and its implications for the Communion

Posted by Kendall Harmon

TWR’s solution was to give extant pan-Anglican instruments of union legislative and juridical authority. Member churches were to commit themselves to submit innovations in doctrine or practice (especially those concerning whom the Church is prepared to ordain and bless) to the instruments of union for approval, and to refrain from giving such changes institutional expression until such approval was secured. In other words, pan-Anglican instruments were to be given a veto power over any changes of ‘essentials’ by national churches. TWR suggested the mechanism of a pan-Anglican covenant, whose provisions would be given legal force through member churches changing their canons.

Rhetorically, TWR is remarkable for presuming its own legitimacy. It speaks throughout as if TWR polity were already in force and as if TEC and New Westminster had violated covenant commitments. Rhetorically, TWR encouraged the instruments of union to act on this presumption. Rhetorically, TWR was persuasive.

So when TWR went on to suggest ways of disciplining TEC and New Westminster (putting them on probation by asking them to withdraw from participation in pan-Anglican instruments until matters were settled, until TEC and New Westminster had repented and enforced moratoria on ordaining non-celibate homosexuals and blessing homosexual partnerships) and of protecting the faithful in (what came to be known as) non-Windsor-compliant dioceses or provinces, the ABC and the primates at Dromantine took authority and proceeded to do just that.

Read the whole argument

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican CovenantAnglican IdentityWindsor Report / Process* TheologyEcclesiology

Posted August 27, 2008 at 7:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Just to give a little background on Ms. Adams, at the recent C of E Synod, she vocally opposed providing adequate provision to objectors to women’s ordination.  So what she wants is to let the liberals run free while stomping on the consciences and freedom of traditionalists.

I could say more as I saw her in action at Christ Church Oxford a year ago, but I best leave it at that.

August 27, 10:52 am | [comment link]
2. Sarah1 wrote:

It’s interesting to read something that is so full of anger and sarcasm and bludgeoning misinterpretation as this piece from a revisionist activist.

It’s also interesting to see, once again, just how greatly vexed revisionist activists are for GAFCON Primates not leaving the Anglican Communion.  Hopes must have sprung high . . . ; > )

Here’s just one massive bludgeoning, fumbling, clumsy misreading—again, I suspect more a product of anger than of mental incompetence—of the many in her piece.

RE: “For strict evangelicals this was meet and right, because they adhere not only to the Plain Sense Infallibility and Scriptural
Subservience Principles, but also to the Dialogical Doubt Principle, which says that to engage in dialogue about something or to listen to people with whom one disagrees involves opening oneself to the possibility that the opponents’ position might be true.”


I “engage in dialogue” and “listen to people with whom one disagrees” all the time in my vocational and personal life, as well as in my church life.  And I do so often without “opening oneself to the possibility that the opponents’ position might be true.” 

In part, I can do this because I respect the person, and not the idea and I wish to show that courtesy.  In part, I can do this because I trust the person, even if I do not trust the idea.  In part, I can do this because I wish to learn more about the person, because I love the person, and I want to learn more about his [sic—lol] motivations for believing such a false idea.

So the reason that Adams postulates for conservatives not wishing to “engage in dialogue” with liberal activists is amusingly wrong and delusory.

The question for revisionist activists to ask themselves [although they won’t be able to bring themselves to do so] is why is it that conservatives are not willing to engage in “listening processes” with revisionist activists, when they are perfectly capable of doing so with their own revisionist friends, revisionist acquaintances, etc, etc.  The short answer is that they don’t trust them or their “listening processes”, recognizing it for the sham that it is, when run by revisionist activists.

To continue on with this passage:

RE: “Many GAFCONers conclude that to engage in a listening process [sic—the precise wording of Lambeth 1.10 was “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons”] with LGBT activists or liberals generally, would be unfaithful, because God’s Word written declares homosexual activity to be an abomination (Lev 18:22), and Christians should not even entertain the possibility that God’s Word written is false.”

Nonsense.  Beyond the fact that Adams doesn’t think anyone can make an argument against homosexual practice from the NT [she prefers to think that simply quoting the OT strengthens her case, while simplifying her opponents’ case] conservatives in TEC have already engaged in a “listening process” with “liberal activists” . . . and recognized it for the controlled manipulative process that it was—since it was controlled by the “liberal activists” in the first place—and also recognized that nothing new or interesting came out of it, other than the congealed and vacuous belief-statements already written about lo so many decades now.  In other words . . . they had the “listening process” and it didn’t change anybody’s minds or hearts, on either side. 

On the Anglican Communion front, and internationally, post Lambeth 1.10, Archbishop Carey promptly engaged in the “listening process” formally, as this statement from a letter concerning AMiA consecrations so nicely reveals.  Here is what he said, a mere two years after the passage of Lambeth 1.10, on February 20, 2000.

“Let me reassure those who are deeply concerned at the direction in which some parts of the Communion are moving. I understand your fears, your worries and your frustrations. The Lambeth Conference resolution on human sexuality (1.10) provided a text around which the vast majority of bishops could unite. It reflects the traditional teaching of the Church, and that is where my own belief and understanding rests; and I hope that those bishops who have, by actions they have permitted in their dioceses appeared to reject the resolution, will recognise the substantial difficulties they have raised for many of their colleagues around the world.

Nevertheless, in many parts of the Communion, faithful Christians, some of whom are homosexual themselves, are seeking to engage the Church in a challenging reassessment of its teaching on human sexuality, because they have felt excluded from the Church for many years. I believe that it is wholly in the spirit of the resolution, and that is why the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA and I set up an international conversation between bishops of different views, an experiment which was so successful that it will meet again later this year. I have also sought to encourage such conversations more locally as well.”

Note that by February 20 of 2000, there had already been one “international conversation between bishops of different views” and there was to be another one “later this year.”

Now I can see why liberal activists wouldn’t want to acknowledge that “listening process” since after all it wasn’t controlled by them.  But it existed and it happened. 

In the final sentence of this ham-handed two paragraphs [among many], Adams states something that is inadvertently humorous:

“Such GAFCONers regard liberal readiness to listen and dialogue as proof positive that liberals are incapable of conscientious commitments!”

One has to smile at the self-serving illusions packed neatly into these 19 simple words.

1) “Liberal readiness to listen and dialogue”, as GAFCONers well know, only occurs when liberal activists don’t have the votes or power to prevent conservative voices.  Then all that “readiness to listen and dialogue” flies out the window.

2) “Liberal readiness to listen and dialogue” only occurs when liberal activists heavily control all aspects of the “listening process”, making it a manipulative and ultimately fruitless effort [beyond, of course, its obvious purpose, which is the display of the sham].

3) I don’t know of any conservatives at all who think “liberals are incapable of conscientious commitments” . . . after all, we all know that the blessing of sexual relationships between same genders is one of the sine qua nons of the liberal gospel.  It is one of their essentials of the faith. It is not at all “adiaphora” to liberal activists.  They must have it, so much so that they are willing for the church to divide over it.  It is the gospel for them. As Bishop Mouneer so beautifully pointed out at Lambeth “they push all these sexuality issues so intensively into the conference and then blame us for talking about them too much”.

No, conservatives are quite well aware that liberal activists are capable “of conscientious commitments” and the claim that conservatives are unaware of that is simply bizarre.

I point out all of the delusions of those two paragraphs alone because on the one hand, it’s understandable that a liberal activist wouldn’t want to admit that they want “listening processes” only when they heavily control those processes and only when they don’t have the votes or power to force their Essential Gospel on others.

I can understand not wanting to acknowledge that, along with other home truths.

But fancying that conservatives believe and act as they do for all of the silly reasons listed by Adams in those two paragraphs [among many others]—fancying that conservatives don’t know what I’ve pointed out above, and then fantasizing artificial reasons for conservative behavior—is just the height of ignorance, and again displays just how far astray her anger and bitterness has led her capacities regarding “knowing her opponent.”

August 27, 10:59 am | [comment link]
3. TridentineVirginian wrote:

#1 - to give a little more background on her, this is the woman who owns a suit of bondage gear vestments. Draw your own conclusions about the sort of Christian she is.

August 27, 11:21 am | [comment link]
4. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Well, Hopper, I’m also not open to the supposed possibility that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, that the Bible is not authoritative, etc.  That’s because I’m actually a Christian, as is Sarah. :O

I have no problem with debate on those matters in the marketplace of ideas.  But denial of the basic truths of the faith isn’t an option for me.  Nor should it be.

Speaking of basics of the faith, Ms. Adams can never seem to bring herself to say “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  She always says, “In the name of the Trinity,” whatever her “Trinity” is.

August 27, 3:14 pm | [comment link]
5. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Hopper, I do wish us narrow-minded conservatives had the power to destroy false gospels.  Alas, it isn’t so.

August 27, 7:10 pm | [comment link]
6. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Up to her usual standards of intellectual rigour I see.

August 27, 7:34 pm | [comment link]
7. TridentineVirginian wrote:

Hopper, you seem to be advancing an agnostic understanding of the Christian religion. One of the things about belonging to a revealed religion is that the religion, the contents of the faith, is… revealed. If we are all stumbling about, unable to know what Truth it is that God revealed to us, then it has all been a failure, from Abraham to Jesus and beyond.

No one can make judgments on the definitive state of the soul of another person, or the definitive destination of a soul departed - only God knows that until the Last Judgment - but that is quite a different thing from knowing what the Truth is that has been revealed to us, and whether someone abides by that Truth or does not or worse, distorts it. Admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant are among the spiritual works of mercy (though some should work a little harder at the mercy part, granted).

August 27, 7:55 pm | [comment link]
8. libraryjim wrote:

Fortunately, Hopper, the basics of the faith, and indeed the definition of what makes one Christian, HAS been decided by the Church in councils guided by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. It is concrete, no give and take on the essentials.

The Church also decided what makes one NOT a Christian, that is, heretical teaching.  That has also been made plain.

So, yes, we can tell quite clearly by what one professes to believe (or professes to DISbelieve) whether that person is a Christian or not.

August 27, 11:21 pm | [comment link]
9. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “This is a very telling comment.”

Yes indeed.

RE: “So you are not open to even the possibility that what the other is saying might be true.”

Often that is the case. . . . Of course . . . that is often the case when the parent listens to the child or when the psychiatrist listens to the schizophrenic or indeed for every single honest human being, engaging in the loving, respectful, human act of listening with the mind and the heart.

The opposite is quite telling too.  The opposite is the sheer political malice of revisionists activists turning a grace-filled human discipline into a political act, demanding that all “listeners” must first admit that they could be wrong, in order to be construed as “listening” thus transforming a loving act into a political exercise.

What a travesty.

One of the most gracious things one can do is listen to a person, explore with a person, question a person, engage a person when one knows that person’s particular ideas which he [sic] is discussing are wrong.  Just the act of listening from another can calm a frenzied person’s anxiety, allow them to process their own thinking and sometimes, miraculously, work out that they are wrong with no debate or argument from the listener.  Thankfully, my friends and family have been gracious enough to offer such a service to me, and it is an act of love.

But for revisionists?  “Listening” is turned into a political act whereby they can engage in the manipulative demand that someone “admit they could be wrong” before it’s actually “listening”—a nifty change in the definition of listening, which involves no such thing at all.

Listening—for revisionist activists—is merely a brass-faced, crude power play.

Yes . . . . telling indeed.

August 27, 11:25 pm | [comment link]
10. Ross wrote:

I sincerely hope this is one of those areas where we’re using the same words to mean different things, and therefore talking past each other, because I have to be honest:  the idea that there are people who can’t even imagine that they might be wrong about a particular matter scares the crap out of me.

August 28, 1:51 am | [comment link]
11. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “the idea that there are people who can’t even imagine that they might be wrong about a particular matter” .  . . .

Wow—you can’t even imagine that you might be wrong about the necessity of imagining that you are wrong about every single belief before you engage in “listening”?

; > )

Like . . . . when you enter a discussion with a person who believes that “the moon is made of green cheese” you can only “listen” if you admit the possibility of being wrong that the moon is not made of green cheese?

What a tragic limitation for revisionists.

August 28, 9:10 am | [comment link]
12. Sarah1 wrote:

The more I think about it the worse it becomes.

“Mommy, yesterday I saw a little fairy girl with blonde hair and four silver wings.”

“Doctor, the squirrels are heavily armed—can’t you see ‘em?  They’ve got bazookas, Doc, and they’re throwing the trigger now—coming down the walls.  Help me!”

“I need to stay with him.  I just need to, because I know he loves me.  Oh sure, it took a while for my arm to heal, but he’s always been sorry, and for the last three weeks, he’s been really nice.”

“God could never love someone like me.  I’m just too damned bad for someone like Him to want me.”

God save us from revisionist “listeners.”

August 28, 9:24 am | [comment link]
13. The young fogey wrote:

Once heard her in person talk on original sin but it went over my head.

Based on this quotation…

The liberal position has some weight: Anglicanism’s boast has long been that it’s hardly a church at all and certainly not a confessional church. (sarcasm) Heavens! That’s for Lutherans (nice folk but déclassé) and, ugh, Romans (breeders) and those Baptists on television. (/sarcasm) Theo Hobson has a point: in Anglicanism it was always about going along with what the ruling class wants, from the Henrician schism to clergy who were Masons in the ‘Enlightenment’ to the ageing boomers such as Gene Robinson.

Hobson wrote that conscientious Christians have always felt bad about that compromise; Evangelicalism, Methodism and Anglo-Catholicism were all trying to correct it. Of course the second was pushed out of Anglicanism and is now a separate church and the third is finished in America and terminal in England (IMO its only future in the latter is as RC national parishes). So the battle royale is between the ethnic-Euro liberals and the black conservative Evos.

ISTM what the conservatives are asking for is perfectly reasonable when compared to other churches: to be, well, a church with doctrines and rules and stuff. 

The liberals are into the condescending PC pose of the ruling class today of pretending they’re not ruling. Dress down, ‘call me Bill’, have abba-dabba-dabba groups where you pretend to listen to the conservatives.

But it really is a battle of the absolutes. I’d have more respect for the liberals if they said what they meant, invited the Bishop of New Hampshire to Lambeth and chucked out the conservative majority of Anglicans.

My guess is the Global South will get fed up and formally leave.

Which wouldn’t affect the Episcopalians one bit. They’ll b*tch and call them homophobes who are ‘destroying the church’ then go back to church the next week as usual. There’d be a few court cases with hotchpotch results, keep a building here, lose one there.

(The world according to the Episcopal left: ‘We still lead the culture like when we marched with Dr King so the peace and justice of the world depend on doing what we say. If you don’t the US Constitution will be overthrown and everywhere gays will be murdered in the streets!’ Never mind American law doesn’t depend on a church left or right and there are Americans who don’t know what Episcopalians are.)

Both sides commune all baptised Christians so it wouldn’t affect laity on either side at all.

Life would go on.

And the secular world in Euro-America-Australia, having long passed mainline Protestantism by, would hardly notice if at all.


August 28, 9:47 am | [comment link]
14. The young fogey wrote:

P.S. When the surrounding society was more orthodox in Christianity, like in the 1500s and 1600s, Anglicanism went along with that too (and kept giving lip service to orthodoxy long after, like many American pulpits did until the mid-20th century), which is why Evangelicals think they’re the true Anglicans.


August 28, 10:02 am | [comment link]
15. Ross wrote:

Sarah, now I’m convinced we’re talking past each other.

Since you mention the moon being made of green cheese—I am, of course, quite confident that the moon is not made of green cheese.  It’s not something I spend time doubting.  If someone claimed to me that it was, I would dispute him or her vigorously.

But, and here’s my point—I can conceive the possibility that I could be wrong about that, as about anything else.  I can imagine the possibility that someone could assemble enough facts (and an overwhelming mountain of facts it would have to be) to show that the moon really is made of green cheese… and if that happened I would of course be astonished beyond all measure, but I would change my belief in accordance with the facts.

So to me, when you say that you’re not open to the possibility that you might be wrong, it says that you cannot imagine any fact, any argument, not even any revelation delivered directly from heaven to you by the hand of an angel, that could possibly change your belief… and that means that you’ve turned the White Witch’s wand on a portion of the living fabric of your own mind and turned it into stone, petrified, unmoving, and dead.  That’s what scares me.

But I suspect that your “not open to the possibility that I might be wrong” may be more along the lines of my “I’m quite confident that I’m right, and although I’ll admit the possibility exists that I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m not.”  Perhaps for some people the difference between claiming 100% certainty and 99.999% certainty is insignificant.  To me, that 0.001% is epistemologically vital, because it reminds us that human beings are fallible and all our knowledge is in principle tentative, and even revelation can be misapprehended.

But perhaps some people simply take that as read and don’t feel the need to insist upon it.

August 28, 1:01 pm | [comment link]
16. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Wrong, Hopper (#18).  I put much much more weight on what scripture, the fathers, and the church through the centuries teaches than on what I think.

You confuse faith in revealed truth with excessive trust in one’s own opinion.  The two are very different.

August 28, 2:23 pm | [comment link]
17. TridentineVirginian wrote:

Ah, I see where you are coming from. *whoosh* All that thinky stuff about Truth and revelation flew right over your head and it’s down to your feelings. We haven’t a thing more to say to each other.

August 28, 4:13 pm | [comment link]
18. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “and many on this website would love to silence her . . . “

I can’t speak for others, of course, on this website, but I adore people like MMA speaking and certainly don’t wish to silence her.  On the contrary, I think a voice like hers needs to speak more often and more loudly than ever before.

I am pleased with the clarity that she offers, as well as the ease that others have in pointing out where they disagree.

August 28, 8:51 pm | [comment link]
19. Sarah1 wrote:


RE: “But I suspect that your “not open to the possibility that I might be wrong” may be more along the lines of my “I’m quite confident that I’m right, and although I’ll admit the possibility exists that I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m not.” Perhaps for some people the difference between claiming 100% certainty and 99.999% certainty is insignificant.”

Right—and I think those “some people” would be revisionist Anglican activists. 

Face it, if I toddled up to a group of revisionist activists and pronounced that, though I was 99.999% certain that I was right, I was willing to admit as much a possibility that I was wrong as I admit about the possibility of the moon being made of green cheese, and that I am also willing for a “revelation delivered directly from heaven to you by the hand of an angel” to reveal that . . . and therefore I am well qualified to “listen” . . .

You know and I know that that wouldn’t be an acceptable “opening oneself to the possibility that the opponents’ position might be true” for a revisionist activist TECian.

No, at the end of the day, my listening to a person, exploring with a person, questioning a person, engaging a person . . . all without trying to change the person’s mind, and as an act of love and self-discipline and gaining further knowledge about that person . . . doesn’t measure up to the cold, hard, crude, manipulative, political, power-play that revisionist activists have demanded of their conservative counterparts in the act of . . . “listening.”

August 28, 9:03 pm | [comment link]
20. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “Such certainty of one’s correctess is, of course, delusional.  Sadly, such certainty is the greatest threat to peace in this world.  This kind of certainly—without just cause—is truly evil.”


RE: “Such certainty of one’s correctess is, of course, delusional.”

Are you certain of that?

RE: “Sadly, such certainty is the greatest threat to peace in this world.”

Are you certain of that?

RE: “This kind of certainly—without just cause—is truly evil.”

Are you certain of that?

; > )

August 28, 9:05 pm | [comment link]
21. Dr. William Tighe wrote:

I agree with Sarah, re: “I adore people like MMA speaking and certainly don’t wish to silence her.”  Such a raving lunatic “theologian” holding such a prestigious academic chair offers numerous delights, rather analogous to seeing a drunken brawl at an inaugural ball, or a staid matron stripping off her clothes at a wedding reception—it is the theological equivalent of listening to Prof. Ward Churchill on American History.

On the other hand, the Regius Professorship was erected by Henry VIII, and for it to be held by such a faithful “running dog” of the Zeitgeist shows at least a consistency in the Erastian Spirit of the Establishment over nearly 475 years, if in no other way.  Just as Charles II was faithful “in my own way” to Catherine of Braganza, so she is faithful in her way to Our Founder Henry, and to that Geist which inspired his acts.

August 28, 9:11 pm | [comment link]
22. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Hopper, I found your language toward me in your last post extremely demeaning and offensive.

August 28, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
23. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “Am I certain? Why of course not.”

Well then, might I suggest alternate wording for your formerly certainty-phrased comments?

“Such certainty of one’s correctess [may be, perhaps], delusional—[or maybe not].  Sadly, such certainty [could be—perhaps]—the greatest—[or maybe just a really really big]—threat to peace in this world.  This kind of certainly—without just cause—[could be] truly evil, [or maybe simply somewhat bad taste . . . or at least really really irritating to revisionists].

Just trying to help you live into your own stated philosophy there . . . wouldn’t want anyone to accuse you of hypocrisy there.

; > )

August 29, 12:36 pm | [comment link]
24. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Apology appreciated and accepted.

August 29, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
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