The Diocese of Los Angeles declines to endorse proposed Anglican Covenant:
Thanking the Anglican Communion for “taking this time of discernment” to develop the proposed Anglican Covenant, elected representatives of the Diocese of Los Angeles have issued a response declining to endorse the document.
"We cannot endorse a covenant that, for the first time in the history of The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, will pave the way toward emphasizing perceived negative differences instead of our continuing positive and abundant commonality," states the response, signed jointly by the diocese’s bishops and General Convention deputation.
A video report documenting the process by which Diocesan Convention initiated the response is here. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, and Executive Council member Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine jointly requested that each of the Episcopal Church’s 110 dioceses provide responses by April 24 in preparation for review by General Convention’s 2012 meeting in Indianapolis.
Full text of the response follows below:
The bishops, clergy and laity of the Diocese of Los Angeles, at the request of Katharine Jefferts Schori, our Presiding Bishop, Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, and Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, Esq., Executive Council member and Chair of the Executive Council D-020 Task Force, have actively engaged in discussion, discernment, study, prayer and dialogue concerning the proposed final draft of the Anglican Covenant. The study culminated at our Diocesan Convention, held December 3 and 4, 2010, with round-table discussions in which more than 800 delegates, representing our 147 congregations, participated.
This discernment leads us to recommend that The Episcopal Church not endorse the final draft of the Anglican Covenant but that we patiently continue the conversation out of our bonds of affection and mutual loyalty to the entire Communion, for the following reasons:
One of our chief strengths as Anglicans has been our ecumenical availability to Christians who find in us the essence of the faith once delivered to the saints, along with latitude in “things indifferent.” We have been a tradition of bridges, not walls. Ours is a tradition that has upheld seven Ecumenical Councils, three historic Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and a liturgical heritage blessed by the Book of Common Prayer expressed and celebrated through a wonderful variety of cultural influences. Our tradition holds Holy Scripture as containing all things necessary for salvation, the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds, the two sacraments instituted by Christ himself: baptism and communion and the Historic Episcopate essential to our faith. It is a tradition of reason that values the scholarly pursuit of truth which has allowed our Anglican ethos to be the middle way of a catholic and reformed faith “not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth” (Collect for the Feast of Richard Hooker). Our hope is that our prophetic witness of openness to the Spirit’s actions might not be foreclosed by a desire to stake out too narrow a spiritual turf on which to stake our flag, but rather a desire to continue to be obedient to the Spirit’s call on our church.
The Episcopal Church was founded in democracy and has enjoyed a polity which is free and democratic since 1789. This long-standing course cannot be reversed. We do, however, acknowledge, honor and support the differences in polity and governance that distinguish the various churches of the Communion. We believe respect for those differences is a crucial component of our tradition that should undergird any Anglican Covenant. For that reason, we support Sections One and Two of the Covenant, which positively affirm the foundation of our faith, our common Anglican vocation, and do not challenge our unique polity.
We are concerned about the omission of the laity from Section 3. As St. Paul teaches, we are all of us the Body of Christ and individually members thereof (I Corinthians 12). There are four orders of ministry in the Church – bishops, priests, deacons and lay people, who also minister as members of the baptized people of God. Such an ecclesiology should both undergird the theology expressed in the Covenant and the church structures developed as means of connecting and serving the churches of the Communion. A Covenant to which we could subscribe would need to re-imagine the Instruments of Communion to provide a stronger representation from all the orders of ministry.
Section 4 is of greatest concern. It creates a punitive, bureaucratic, juridical process within the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, elevating its authority over the member churches despite previous affirmations of member church autonomy (see, e.g., Section 4.1.3). It contains no clear process for dispute resolution, no checks and balances, no right of appeal. The concept of mediation, introduced in Section 3.2.6, is not mentioned in Section 4. The covenant’s focus on “maintenance, dispute and withdrawal” bodes of an immobilized church mission instead of one that is flexible and prophetic. For these reasons, we cannot agree to Section 4.
We cannot endorse a covenant that, for the first time in the history of The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, will pave the way toward emphasizing perceived negative differences instead of our continuing positive and abundant commonality. We strongly urge more direct face-to-face dialogue, study, prayer and education before the adoption of a document that has such historic significance in the life of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. Our differences should not be seen as something that must be proved wrong or endured but rather a motivation to dig deeper into discerning God’s purposes for God’s church.
In conclusion, the Diocese of Los Angeles thanks and commends the entire Anglican Communion for taking this time of holy discernment and suggests that the period of discernment continue so that no hasty decisions are made that would undermine the process of conversation and reception by all the churches of the Communion. We pray that the Holy Spirit illuminates our future steps so that we all may celebrate our common bonds of affection while respecting our varying cultures, ethos and polity within the one body of Christ.
The General Convention Deputation and the Bishops of the Diocese of Los Angeles