Archbishop of Wales cannot support Covenant as proposed

According to a press release from the Church in Wales, Archbishop Barry Morgan warns proposed Anglican Covenant could lead to exclusion. According to Morgan, a member of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, a laudable attempt to unite Anglicans is in danger of becoming a contract designed to cut off those who don’t conform.

Church in Wales today, Dr Morgan said that, while he supported the principle of an Anglican Covenant, he could not endorse the proposed version currently on the table.

He fears the draft - under consideration by all churches in the Anglican worldwide community - will lead to one voice on controversial issues, such as homosexuality, which members would have to sign up to or leave.

While the Church of England has said it is willing to “engage positively” with the recommendations, Dr Morgan believes a similar response from the Church in Wales would be seen as an acceptance not just of the concept of the Covenant, but also the draft version. He asked the Governing Body just to note the process taking place to produce a Covenant and invite the Welsh bishops to finalise a response.

Dr Morgan, who will fly to New Orleans tomorrow with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for a pivotal meeting for the Anglican Church, said, “There is no doubt that things have got bitter in the Communion.

“The original intention of a Covenant to affirm the bonds of affection, was good. The indications now are that many see it as a contract, a means of ensuring a uniform view on human sexuality enforceable by the threat of exclusion from the Communion if one does not conform. I certainly do not want to sign up to that kind of Covenant.”

Press release is here.

Full text of his speech is here.

More on the meetting of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council here

Comments (4)

This section of his address is also encouraging, especially the part where he calls out Drexel Gomez for pretending to be the referee, when he is actually a contestant:

[The Primates] have already exercised powers beyond their jurisdiction. The Windsor report asked the Episcopal Church to give reasons for its decision to ordain Gene Robinson and to apologise to the Communion. The primates at Dromantine in 2005 went further and asked it and the Church of Canada to withdraw from the ACC and the Councils of the Communion. It had no right to do so, as the Chair of ACC has pointed out. In 2007 at Tanzania, after General Convention had responded, in the main positively, to the request of the Windsor Commission, according to a group set up to consider the response of the Episcopal Church, the primates were not as convinced and wanted the setting up of a pastoral council and the appointment of a primatial vicar, even though the Windsor Commission had accepted the Episcopal Church’s own plan for delegated episcopal oversight to meet the pastoral needs of those disagreeing with General Convention. In other words, in both of these instances the primates made greater demands than the Windsor Commission and the group with primatial representatives on it. The primates group set up in 1978 to provide time “for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation” has changed to being a body that seems to make recommendations to provinces that have the character of edicts. Canon Sedgwick has drawn attention to the fact that in 1870 when Italian troops invaded the Vatican , by way of reaction, the Roman Catholic Church propounded the doctrine of infallibility. In other words a threat led to centralisation. In a crisis about sexuality the danger in the Anglican Communion is that we will have reacted by setting up a kind of central curia of primates.

Three of the primates have also ordained bishops specifically to exercise ‘pastoral oversight’ in North America, and this has won the approval of a fourth primate, the Chair of the Covenant Design Group who has said that their consecrations could lead “towards a creation of a viable, stable and orthodox Anglican presence in the USA”. To intervene in the internal affairs of another province in this way has hitherto been regarded by the Communion as totally unacceptable. The Windsor report condemns such activities as did previous Lambeth resolutions. Although the primates in Tanzania also condemned these actions, they seemed to accept the fact that some primates did not feel able to refrain from such actions, until sufficient provision had been made, for what are regarded as faithful Anglicans in North America. That totally subverts the polity of the province concerned and Anglican ecclesiology in general, (if it happened in this province, we would not find it acceptable), but the primates seem to give it passive acceptance. The implementation of the Covenant will be in their hands, and they seemingly condone ‘the breaking of the bonds of affection’ in a very substantial way by some of their number. As they said in their press statement at Tanzania , “Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring interventions to an end until there is change in the Episcopal Church”. They then go on to propose pastoral strategies with a pastoral council and a primatial vicar for the Episcopal Church to be in place by the end of September. That would possibly end interventions by individual primates but it would be a massive intervention in the affairs of the Episcopal Church by the primates as a body and all of this before a Covenant is even in place.

Moreover the primates at Tanzania went further. They said, “Pastoral needs are not limited to the Episcopal Church alone. Until a Covenant is secured, it may be appropriate for the Instruments of Communion to request the use of this or a similar scheme in other contexts should urgent pastoral needs arise”. In other words, there could be wholesale intervention by the primates in any province until a Covenant is in place and then obviously intervention by them again if any province was deemed to have breached the terms of that Covenant. Not surprisingly the Episcopal Church has refused such requests. In an attempt however to be irenic the Episcopal Church says, “The proposed pastoral scheme is injurious to the Episcopal Church but we pledge ourselves to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the primates compatible with our own polity and canons”. In other words, before a Covenant is even established the primates are imposing deadlines and demands. What will happen if a Covenant were to be in place?

Wales's whole address is well worth a read! And once again kudos to
EpiscopalCafe for providing us context we're not getting elsewhere.

It seems extremely significant and promising that this Archbishop who
will be accompanying +Rowan to New Orleans is choosing to speak so
clearly just now.

What I found most powerful in the address were these two things:

'What I am now going to do is to speak openly about my own personal
position. I am encouraged in my conviction to do so by words of
Archbishop Rowan himself who in a recent address said that “the
Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people
to be honest”.'

and this -

'the Design Group has...shown clearly the kind of Covenant it has in
mind and here the alarm bells begin to ring.
...The fear I quite simple, that this draft Covenant is an
example of the kind of Covenant that might be introduced. Although it
sets out in broad terms how we ought to behave towards one another,
and much of it is unexceptional, it also appears to be a contract
with clear and binding terms, which if we were not to observe, would
necessitate us explaining ourselves to the primates. They could then
censure us as a province or deem us to have put ourselves outside the
Communion by not observing the terms of the Covenant.'

and here is there heart of it -

'In other words, we would have moved from a relationship of grace,
which is the Biblical meaning of Covenant to the concept of a
contract which if deemed broken would lead to the possibility of
putting ourselves outside a Covenant relationship.'

He also does a fine job of arguing his case using scripture (even as
he cautions us against abandoning Hooker's threefold authority of
scripture, reason, and tradition:

'Although in the Bible, it is true that in their relationship to God
his people often let him down and fail him, they are still regarded
as his people. God’s people never put themselves outside his
Covenanting relationship of love. Now this document does not talk
about exclusion but in the penultimate paragraph it says, “In the
most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to
fulfil the substance of the Covenant as understood by the councils of
the Instruments of the Communion, we will consider that such churches
will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the
Covenant, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required
to re-establish their Covenant relationship with other member
churches”. That is a subtle method of excluding people. If we do not
observe the terms of the Covenant, we will be deemed to have put
ourselves outside the Communion and before we can be restored, we
will have to satisfy the rest of the Communion or at least the
primates or the Instruments of Communion. That is a clear indication
of the kind of Covenant this design group and the primates have in
mind. It is more akin to a contract with punitive clauses than a
Covenant which is a relationship of grace.

Pretty soon we will have quoted the whole address in the comments. Here's another bit,

As Richard Hooker put it, “So the church has authority to establish that for an order at one time, which at another if may abolish, and in both do well”. However, as the Modern Churchpeople’s Union has pointed out, there is a move away from this way of doing theology to a position whereby divine revelation is to be accepted without question, a revelation given in scripture, “As revelation is complete and inherited from the past, there can be no new revelation. When a revelation is known with certainty, a person who disagrees must certainly be wrong”. There is no value therefore in creative thinking, or in seeking new information from other sources. ....

There is a difference between taking scripture seriously and taking it literally or as being inerrant or infallible. The books of the Bible are the inspired response to revelation, but the responses are fallible, and responses are not identical with the revelation for the “word of God comes to us through the words of men” to quote one theologian.

The Archbishop served on the Windsor Report committee. He served on the committee that gave the Episcopal Church passing marks for its response to the Windsor Report. In his speech he is critical, point by point, of the Primates' Communique.

Read the whole thing.

How perfectly grand to hear from a true "thinking Anglican"! Those long-familiar voices have been a bit muted over the past year or so, while the screamers and cursers have had their day -- it is so refreshing (and so solidly Anglican) to hear it again.

Do you suppose we can hold any hope that that other Welshman over there in Canterbury might finally fall back on his own Celtic roots and deliver some similar plain speaking?

It more and more seems to be coming down to a contest not so much between revisionists and reasserters, as between the rational and the raving, between the sane and the insane.

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