A Response from the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to The Draft Anglican Covenant
Reactions to this section are highly mixed, leading us to ask if this section is particularly necessary to the Covenant. Section 3: "Our Commitment to Confession of the Faith," as it stands, incorporates a wide range of commitments many of which are broadly accepted but some of which imply agreement to as yet undetermined Communion-wide understandings. There seems to be little in this section that cannot be understood as growing from the positive affirmations of our Anglican Christian identity developed in Section 2: "The Life We Share," or in Section 4: "The Life We Share With Others." If Section 3 is to be retained, many believe that it needs considerable reworking.
While the commitments contained in Section 3 are commendable, the language used for some of them is subject to various interpretations and misinterpretations. It seems to many of us unwise to place language of this sort within the Covenant without having a clear and agreed-upon definition of what these terms mean.
For example, what does the phrase "biblically derived moral values" mean and how are such values determined? In the American context, the phrase, "biblically-derived moral values," is fraught with baggage. On the individual level this phrase can convey a facile and judgmental approach to Christian moral ethics and decision-making not in keeping with the best of Anglicanism. Historically, some of the greatest national sins of conquest and subjugation have been defended by appeal to "biblically-derived moral values."
Similarly, we might ask what understanding of human nature is operative in the phrase "the vision of humanity"? Clearly, Holy Scripture contains a very complex and, at times, paradoxical vision of humanity. Using a phrase like this in the context of the covenant seems to ignore these complexities and the difficulties that Christians have had through the centuries in understanding and applying this biblical vision of humanity to their lives and societies.
We would suggest that it is disputes over concepts like these that have led to some of the current challenges before the Anglican Communion. We doubt that using such terms in the body of the covenant without further definition would advance the interest of unity or a common understanding of what the terms mean and how they should be applied.
1. Sir Highmoor wrote:
What does is mean too?
October 28, 5:37 pm | [comment link]
2. Tom Roberts wrote:
It is a “very complex and, at times, paradoxical vision” of how the Communion’s parts should relate to the whole.
October 28, 5:46 pm | [comment link]
3. m+ wrote:
Movements for liberation in the last century have given voice to a multiplicity of new perspectives in our Communion. Marginalized colonial missions of the past are now distinctly realized member churches of the Anglican Communion.
...and we promptly ignore them when they say things we don’t like to hear.
October 28, 5:53 pm | [comment link]
4. robroy wrote:
We commit The Episcopal Church to the effort to perfect this draft so that the resulting Covenant can be a beacon of hope for our common future.
Read: We eagerly look forward to perfidiously weakening the covenant to its final form: “Everyone should be hip with each other. Groovy.”
The TEc has shown remarkable ability to avoid consequences of their seditious behavior, mostly because of the assistance of “I strangled to death the DeS communique with my bare hands” Rowan Williams. How people think that one can push through a meaningful covenant when the TEC is part of the process is beyond me.
October 28, 6:05 pm | [comment link]
5. Red Bird wrote:
. . the language used for some of them is subject to various interpretations and misinterpretations. It seems to many of us unwise to place language of this sort within the Covenant without having a clear and agreed-upon definition of what these terms mean. In other words, we want clarity from others but don’t want to have to give it ourselves.
October 28, 6:08 pm | [comment link]
6. dwstroudmd+ wrote:
This is clearly a Delphi Principle result.
I sent them a quite detailed 10 page response and other members of my parish sent them responses after a 3 month long study of the Draft Covenant (April 22-June 4, 2007 inclusive). We accounted for 7 of the 411 total responses to the Draft Covenant Study Guide. We accounted for 7 of the 210 reported laity responses. Yet you will look in vain for evidence of our response or mention of our views.
“Draft-covenant study guide responses to be outlined
The INC (International Concerns Committee) draft-covenant subcommittee chair Rosalie Ballentine of the Virgin Islands told the full INC committee June 13 that the 411 responses to the study guide’s questions ran four to one against the covenant, although INC and sub-committee member the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas of Massachusetts noted that “the vast majority of the responses were very nuanced.”
Of the responses, 210 responses came from the laity, 100 from priests and deacons, 64 from organizations and groups, 27 from parishes, and 18 from bishops. The stack of responses is about three inches high and they range from one-sentence replies to each of the guide’s questions to 10-page replies.
The comments are meant to help Council create a response to the draft covenant at its October meeting in Detroit, Michigan.
The Rev. Dr. Lee Alison Crawford, Vermont, told the committee that in the responses “over and over again people thanked the Episcopal Church for the chance to respond.”
Ballentine concurred, saying that “people took it as very, very important to respond” and noting that “they came from all over [including the dioceses of] Fort Worth, Fond du Lac, Albany, Pittsburgh, Long Island, Ohio—all over.”
Committee member Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic said he “would have felt better if we had gotten 10,000 responses,” instead of 411, which he called insufficient. George Frazer Stain of Honduras agreed, adding that when INC reports to the whole Council, it ought to add its own opinions. Holguin said the Church needed more time to respond to the study guide, which was released April 16 and set a June 4 deadline for responses. He also said the study guide needed more promotion to make a larger share of the Church aware of its existence.”
This Executive Council report certifies the truth of the statement of George Frazer Stain of Honduras who agreed to the insufficiency of the number of responses, adding that when INC reports to the whole Council, it ought to add its own opinions. IT CERTAINLY HAS presented those INC opinions.
The opinions of those responding from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Sikeston, MO, have certainly been subsumed into the “many” on the INC. Thus they have been negated and made to conform to the INC version of the response.
There is no evidence of the nuance and supporting-of-the-Covenant viewpoints we expressed. This is but another example of the “inclusive” church at work in precisely the “normative” way which finds no view but that of its own “new thang” acceptable, much less expressible, in public fora allegedly designed for the purpose.
If the viewpoint of the laity is so allegedly important and less than 10,000 responses judged inadequate, why was no effort made to further that inquiry and time course as Bishop Holquin clearly suggestedto achieve a “representative” sample?
Clearly, one was not wanted, especially if it were to be opposed to the “concensus” already determined on the INC. As it stands, contrary views expressed in acceptance of the Draft Covenant have been effectively suppressed. Unamazingly, the results of 50 pages of the 3 inch stack of responses is unaccounted for in this response.
October 28, 6:37 pm | [comment link]
7. TomRightmyer wrote:
I’m glad to read that at least one fifth of the responses to the questions asked by the Executive Council supported the Covenant and the majority of our communion. I sent in such a report, and though I’m not surprised such ideas were not represted in the majority opinion, I’m glad so many people witnessed for the truth of the gospel.
October 28, 6:50 pm | [comment link]
8. Christopher Johnson wrote:
Executive Council to Anglican Communion: F-off.
October 28, 7:56 pm | [comment link]
9. Sam Keyes wrote:
Anybody remember who was on the response group within the Executive Council? (I can’t seem to find that anywhere.)
October 28, 10:24 pm | [comment link]
10. Sam Keyes wrote:
I’m no happier about this than usual. The other statement—the one responding to New Orleans—is most unfortunate, and continues the odd trend of making sexual orientation the center of some sort of Gospel that we keep hearing about. And all this nonsense about letting all the baptized make decisions just makes me long for a crozier smackdown. This baptized confirmed communicant, thank you very much, does not see himself as an autonomous guardian of the faith once delivered. (Not that, alas, my bishop is doing a particularly good job of it; but I’ll leave that to the other bishops to sort out.)
All that said, it strikes me that this statement is truly remarkable in its willingness to admit that (gasp!) the Episcopal Church is of a divided mind about something. Despite the fact that I am apparently in the minority (no surprise there), this report acknowledges that the minority exists, and that it is more than a crazy group of extremists hovering about the margins that should cause no one any thought.
October 28, 10:34 pm | [comment link]
11. dwstroudmd+ wrote:
The Theology Commission of the HOB made a “divided mind” statement about homosexuality immediately prior to VGR. It made no difference to the agenda and actions and intents of the reappraisers. This means JUST as much. Recognition, do you wrong, and listen you into our way.
October 28, 10:51 pm | [comment link]
12. The Lakeland Two wrote:
At our best, we are characterized by a genuine pastoral sensitivity to those with whom we have differences and by a profound respect for all people.
Who are they kidding? Since when are “pastoral sensitivity” and “profound respect” translated “accept what ever we want to do or get the *** out….and leave your building behind. Not to mention TEC’s favorite - LAWSUIT. We’ve gotta get a new dictionary - apparently Webster was out to lunch when he dreamed his up years and years ago.
Agree with #8, except TEC wants to stay at the “table”. Here’s the inevitable dragging of the feet and ultimate stalling device:
...the majority believe that we must work in the hope that the final form of this document will provide a better means of engaging one another respectfully and with mutual regard, as we seek to agree on essential matters of faith and order while celebrating our differences.
It will be somehow be interesting to watch how this will be spun as “compliance”. More kick-the-can.
October 28, 11:05 pm | [comment link]
13. Sam Keyes wrote:
#11, don’t get me wrong: I don’t see the acknowledgment of a divided mind as a particular sign of hope. (And the other statement on New Orleans is confirmation that indeed it is not.) But forgive me if I simply want to point out one good aspect among the bad.
October 28, 11:10 pm | [comment link]
14. Connecticutian wrote:
This is sadly typical. It’s not that they’re technically wrong, but that they’re being technical. Yes, there is a lot of ambiguity in the draft covenant. Isn’t ambiguity a core value of TCGC? Perhaps some areas could be tightened up a bit, that’s why it’s a draft. But perhaps it would be reasonable to specifiy: “Such and such means whatever the Church—meeting in council—discerns that it means when applying it to a particular circumstance or controversy.” That affirms both TEC’s desire for ambiguity AND the conciliar nature of the Church. It requires faith, mutual submission, and an acknowledgment of the unity of the Body in submission to her Head. It refrains from an overly legalistic approach, and instead says “we are members of one Body, and we will submit to the discernment of that Body when controversies arise.” Just a thought…
October 29, 12:42 am | [comment link]
15. Craig Goodrich wrote:
The most blackly amusing thing about both this statement and the EC’s reaction to the HoB is their utter predictability. At this point many of us here, asked “What will the EC say about ...”, could simply have sat down and written a reaction indistinguishable from these documents except that it would probably be better organized and more gracefully written. Once it is clearly understood that these are not church people, they are BoBo political hacks trying to use churchy language, these idiotic, transparently manipulative pieces follow more or less automatically.
Bear in mind that these are at least nominally the current “powers that be” in the Episcopal Church. +++Rowan must be made to understand that any solution which does not involve ejecting TEC as a Province from the Communion will not heal but exacerbate the Communion’s current sickness.
October 29, 3:25 am | [comment link]
16. Larry Morse wrote:
Why should we read it all and read it carefully? TO what end? It is wholly predictable, and in keeping with the mass of programmed chatter that we see from the left here, day after day. Is there anything newsworthy in it? No, not a jot. LM
October 29, 7:32 am | [comment link]
17. pastorchuckie wrote:
The “Response” makes some valid points. The Draft Covenant isn’t perfect. There are a lot of phrases like “biblically derived moral values” that mean whatever they mean to the person using them. Is the purpose mainly to promote unity, or mainly to discipline one province for a particular departure from the Church’s doctrine and discipline? And having lived without a Pope or a Magisterium for 500 years, it is right to be prickly about who gets to referree the disputes.
My main complaints about this “Response” are…
1) It nowhere acknowledges TEC’s schismatic actions that created the atmosphere of distrust that led us to the point now where we feel as if we need some kind of Covenant.
2) All the protest about the authority of the 39 articles and the 1662 Prayer Book just illustrate the price we’re paying now for decades of doing “theological reflection” without any doctrinal norms.
3) All the protest about diminishing “the role of the laity in discerning the truth in God’s word” derives from TEC’s assumption that truth is discerned democratically—that is, the democracy of whoever happens to be a deputy to this or that General Convention of TEC, not the democracy of a longstanding Ecumenical Consensus or the Vincentian Canon, or Chesterton’s “democracy of the dead.” TEC Bishops no longer take a vow to “banish and drive away from the Church all strange and erroneous doctrine contrary to God’s word.”
I have other criticisms of the Response, but a lot of you other contributors are better writers, and anything else I might say would sound a lot like what I’ve said already.
October 29, 2:03 pm | [comment link]
18. Mike Bertaut wrote:
# 17—Right on, right on, right on! And fear not, you’ve expressed yourself admirably.
The truth is, the AC had better get its act together quickly and kick TEC the heck out in a hurry, else they will get a “Covenant” that looks a lot more like a “Non-Binding Memo of Common Agreement and Understanding”. Our leadership only seem to have the ability to pervert the process, not uphold anything like Christianity. We are SO far off the path now, well, see Lewis below, if there is still time.
I’m getting tired, boys, throw me a bone, willya?
October 29, 2:28 pm | [comment link]
19. Philip Snyder wrote:
I would say that the terms mean what the communion (or at least the Bishops/Primates) say they mean. For example, “biblically-derived moral values” excludes homosexual sex in all its forms because the Church has always taught that and Lambeth reaffirmed that and neither the Church nor Lambeth nor the Primates have ever said anything different than that. Polygamy has the same answer - it is against ““biblically-derived moral values” to have multiple wives. I would say that serial monogamy (faithful to one wife at a time, but having several wives due to divorce) is also outside of “biblically-derived moral values.”
October 29, 5:11 pm | [comment link]