Graham Kings: Between the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There have been no such consecrations since 2006, but there is tremendous pressure to repeal resolution B033. The debate on that resolution will, in effect, be a debate on the Anglican Covenant. If it is repealed, TEC will clearly signal its rejection of the Anglican Covenant. It would be a reiteration of ‘autonomy’ alone, rather than the Covenant concept of ‘autonomy within interdependence’. So in debating resolution B033 of 2006, General Convention will in effect be debating the Covenant. It may well be, to the surprise of many, that B033 is not repealed: though even if this were to happen, it would still leave open the specific subject of the Ridley Cambridge draft.

This leads us to the second related resolution which Dan Martins, of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, submitted to the General Convention office on the afternoon of 24 April 2009. It is co-sponsored by Christopher Wells, also of Northern Indiana, and Bruce Robison, of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC not Southern Cone version).

It is entitled, ‘Provisional Acceptance of the Anglican Covenant’, and is causing much discussion already. All three sponsors are involved in the Covenant web site.

‘Communion Partner Bishops’, the positive ‘Communion Conservative’ movement of those who have not split off from The Episcopal Church, representing about 14 dioceses, met in Houston in April. Their statement, very perceptively, set out the grounds for individual dioceses of TEC to sign the Covenant. It has already been the cause of considerable debate.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican CovenantAnglican PrimatesPrimates Meeting Alexandria Egypt, February 2009Episcopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC Conflicts

14 Comments
Posted April 30, 2009 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Eastern Anglican wrote:

I want to get this correct.  TEC is a hierarchial church, the dioceses are not independent, cannot leave, and have to to what GC/815 tells them to do. Thus we show our catholicity.

However, the AC is voluntary, and we can do whatever we want, because we are autonomous.

Mixed messages anyone?  Does this sum up the issue?

April 30, 9:14 am | [comment link]
2. ACNApriest wrote:

I think the bishop elect may have misread the unity that was going on in Alexandria.  The GAFCON primates said that there was clarity on how broken the communion was, not a new unity. It is interesting that participating in a bible study is a symbol that things are moving towards the communon conservative middle.  What the Primates said is that since the communion is so broken it is in someways pointless to get ACNA recognized. The Communion is currently theologically incoherent.  They need to fix that 1st then worry about ACNA.

April 30, 10:06 am | [comment link]
3. TheOldHundredth wrote:

Eastern Anglican has it exactly right. TEC misunderstands the nature of catholicity, which is not submission of a bishop and his diocese to an institution or power structure. Catholicity is submission to the Faith once delivered. This misunderstanding is at the heart of TEC’s insistence on submission from the orthodox dioceses within its jurisdiction, and on autonomy vis-à-vis the wider Communion.

John E.

April 30, 10:37 am | [comment link]
4. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Interesting and constructive insight from Dr Kings navigating through the varied pressures and interests interacting in the Communion and some of the different tensions even within the same churches and organisations.    Prayers for the ACC meeting and those attending.

April 30, 10:48 am | [comment link]
5. tired wrote:

I get the impression that Graham Kings is suggesting that if everyone turns up and someone takes minutes, then all the Anglican Communion needs is a little tweaking here and there - and that state is somehow much, much better than a (cue the scary music) federation.  IMHO, the AC has already been reduced to a federation. 

Over the last 6-7 years, it has become clear that (i) communion is broken among a number of provinces within the AC; (ii) the instruments are collectively unable (unwilling?) to preserve or protect such communion; (iii) the instruments are collectively unable (unwilling?) to preserve or protect a common, Christian faith. 

Just what exactly is the AC today?  It is an historic association of provinces, some of which are in communion and some are not.  It harbors multiple faiths.  Currently, provincial membership says little about communion status or operating faith.

As I have commented before, some may enjoy the history, the opportunities for service, the pageantry (no offense PM), colorful photo ops, appearance of credibility, etc., - but at some point - if that is all there is, then the AC has become the organizational equivalent of an ornate club.

It remains to be seen if the covenant will be generally accepted and if it will be effective to address the presenting issue - all in the context of the same players calling more meetings, discussing the same things, and possibly making some decisions some time in the future.

Even if correction were to happen with alacrity, IMHO, the instruments and the AC have been so grievously injured that it would take a great deal of work, trust building, and time to make the AC something more than the federation it is today.

: - |

April 30, 12:47 pm | [comment link]
6. Stephen Noll wrote:

In the body of his article, Graham Kings refers to a change of attitude toward the Covenant on the part of FCA leaders and attributes much of it to my recent piece on “The Ridley Cambridge Draft: An Appreciation” on my website http://www.stephenswitness.com.

I honestly do not know what impact my views have had on the leaders of the GAFCON movement. What I can say is that my own position has not changed radically. I have always supported the idea of an Anglican Communion Covenant and have tried to make critiques and suggestions as to how to better it. My main critique of the first two drafts, quoted in my recent Appreciation, is this:

In my view, the two essential ingredients of an effective Anglican Covenant involve doctrinal substance and disciplinary efficacy. The Nassau and St. Andrews drafts in my opinion are adequate on matters of doctrine and inadequate on discipline, and both fail to deal with the current context of radical departure from the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

I think that the RCD is improved over the former drafts, especially in the final section 4 on “Our Covenanted Life Together,” improved to the point that I think GAFCON churches and leaders should support its approval as it stands.

My first cheer then is for the doctrinal substance of the Cambridge Ridley Draft. It is orthodox and consistent in the main with the “providential ordering of Anglican history and mission.” While I might wish to express the essence of Anglican Christianity somewhat differently, I do not find myself wincing at glaring deviations from the faith once for all delivered to the saints such as one finds routinely in the speeches and writings emanating from The Episcopal Church. My second “50/50” cheer is for setting forth constitutional principles that might lead to the ultimate reform of the Communion and discipline of those who have thrown it into confusion.

This appreciation, however, comes with a clear caveat:

Whether the Covenant, as currently proposed, will lead to such a reform is contingent on many twists and turns of ecclesiastical politics, including the response of the GAFCON churches and the willingness of the Instruments, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, to allow certain churches to self-select themselves out of the Covenant and ultimately the Communion. For let it be clearly stated, there is no future for a vibrant and coherent Anglican and Christian body that includes The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) as they now exist.

Whether my position represents a move away from “federal conservative” dogma smile, I shall leave for others to determine. Let it be noted, however, that the GAFCON movement has emphatically stated that it intends to remain in the Anglican Communion. While respecting the See of Canterbury as a “governing authority,” as an Instrument of Unity, many in the GAFCON movement do not believe that it is essential to Anglican identity. The Covenant might become the constitutional instrument by which the role and efficacy of the historic institutions and Instruments could be measured and reformed by those who hold the common faith.

April 30, 11:32 pm | [comment link]
7. Graham Kings wrote:

Many thanks, Stephen, for your comments. In the Anglican TV interview after the Primates’ Meeting in Alexandria, it was good to hear of Henry Orombi’s positive statement about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘But, of course, Anglicanism as a Communion, recognises - and we recognise - Rowan as the head of the Communion.’

May 1, 5:23 am | [comment link]
8. Sarah1 wrote:

Stephen Noll, a province not signing on to the Covenant does not allow certain churches to self-select themselves out of the Communion.  In fact, were TEC not to sign on to the Covenant, and every single other Province to sign on to the Covenant, it would still be up to the Instruments of the Communion to decide what to do with that province.

So you’d still be back to 1) a vote of the Primates, 2) a vote of the ACC, and 3) a decision by the ABC.

Not certain how that is any different from the past five years.  Why would the Primates—Wales, Ireland, Canada, TECusa, etc, etc, choose to do anything at all about one province not signing on to the Covenant?  Why would the ACC—flawed as it is—choose to do anything at all about one province not signing on to the Covenant?

And of course, we’ve already seen what the ABC would do as we have recent history with the invitations—after the Primates had spoken at Dar, too—as Exhibit A.

I can’t speak for Gafcon, but as a leader of corporate integrity of a Province, I do not believe that I could sign on to a Covenant that enshrines and seals the present chaos of the Communion.  And that is what it does.

May 1, 8:06 am | [comment link]
9. Stephen Noll wrote:

Sarah (of the black cloud?),

My own preference, as I have said elsewhere, would have been for a transparent process of discipline, like that proposed in “To Mend the Net,” whereby a province could as a last resort be excommunicated.

I have also said that the Covenant by itself is no panacea and can be subverted by more of the same politics, particular by and among the Instruments, that we have seen in the past ten years. I do not have great confidence in the current Archbishop of Canterbury’s commitment to see the Covenant become a genuine instrument of communion and reform, but it’s show time for him now: either he leads and the Covenant moves ahead or he does not and it does not.

If the Covenant in its current form is approved, it may change the dynamics of the Communion in this respect. Many of the non-GAFCON Global South bishops have deferred to Canterbury and the Windsor/Covenant process as a careful way out of the current chaos. If the revisionists scuttle the Covenant or if the Covenant is approved and the traditionalists sign on and TEC opts out, the balance of power within the Instruments may change.

Even if nothing changed at the level of the formal Instruments and TEC stays in doing its thing, the Covenant would reunite the Global South coalition to further the work of the Church around the world.

May 1, 9:35 am | [comment link]
10. Graham Kings wrote:

Many thanks, Stephen. Very perceptive.

May 1, 11:16 am | [comment link]
11. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “If the revisionists scuttle the Covenant or if the Covenant is approved and the traditionalists sign on and TEC opts out, the balance of power within the Instruments may change.”

How’s that?

How would the “balance of power within the Instruments” change?

The answer, of course, is if “the Instruments” choose to change.  If the Primates Meeting or the ACC or Canterbury *decide* that it matters if TEC didn’t sign on to the Covenant, then the Primates Meeting or the ACC or Canterbury may *decide* that something might happen.

But then . . . it didn’t matter that TEC violated all sorts of doodads—Windsor, Dar, Lambeth 1.10, etc, etc, etc, . . . back over the past five years.  And the Instruments “decided” nothing in particular over the past five years except—oh wait, yeh, Dar did, but then another “Instrument” decided to do as he pleases, and so what the Primatial Instrument did and decided didn’t matter any more.

So I don’t understand why it would matter now?  Furthermore, you’re actually signing on to a body through the Covenant that is incoherent, and making promises of more unity to an organization that is absolutely proven to be corrupt and fragmented.

It’s a bit like a board being asked by the CEO of a company to sign “this special covenant here that unifies you even more thoroughly” with a company that is under investigation for SEC violations, and whose shareholders are either selling their shares or suing the board, and whose CFO is in jail for embezzlement, and whose secretary and treasurer of the board believe the company should be manufacturing automobiles rather than leading corporate safaris.

Any reasonable board member would say “I am sorry, but we’ll need to straighten out the company first—deal with the lost CFO, settle the suits, investigate the SEC issues, create some additional protocols and checks that prevent this from ever happening again, figure out what we’re supposed to be selling or producing as a company—and then I’ll consider signing on to this further-unifying Covenant document.  And by the way . . . my lawyer will need to review it as well.”

I simply can’t imagine a leader of a Province saying “yes—this is a great idea, let’s enshrine the state of our Communion by signing on to this document, despite the fact that the Communion’s members share entirely different gospels.  And then stand back and see what happens.”

A healthy and functional system would reverse the process.  “Let’s deal with the horrible issues that are fragmenting our Communion, and then let’s all recommit ourselves to it in a wonderful and renewed fashion.”

Ah well—it should be an interesting coming 12 months as all of this unfolds.  As it stands, I can think of no reason at all for either the Southern Cone or TEC to sign on to the Covenant.  There are no consequences for not doing so.

May 1, 3:43 pm | [comment link]
12. Ephraim Radner wrote:

The consequences of ignoring the covenant are the ongoing dynamics of disintegration within the Communion.

Covenanting churches commit themselves to forms of life and witness together, commitments that do not now exist.  Once made, if there are questions or disputes about it, only those who are covenanting churches will engage in the sorting out of these disputes, so that, vis a vis the Covenanting fellowship at first, it will indeed be very different from the present.  If enough churches do indeed covenant with one another, the notion that the Instruments themselves will not take account of this new make-up of their membership and its expectations through the redefinition of their parameters seems unlikely.  Everything is not always the same;  when some things change, others things are likely to change too.  There are no guarantees in this case, but there are good grounds to think that just such connected changes are reasonably to be expected.  I share some of Dr. Noll’s sense of what might be better;  I also share his sense of what might nonetheless be realistically hoped for.

May 1, 4:05 pm | [comment link]
13. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “If enough churches do indeed covenant with one another, the notion that the Instruments themselves will not take account of this new make-up of their membership and its expectations through the redefinition of their parameters seems unlikely.”

I understand that some people believe that.  I personally believe that it is highly likely that the Instruments themselves will not take account of this new [grouping of provinces committed to the Covenant] and its expectations.

May 2, 12:07 am | [comment link]
14. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Psalm 146:3
Prayers for the ACC meeting and the Communion.

May 2, 6:40 am | [comment link]
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