Who is this “they” you speak of?

Update: The Rev. Grieb has told numerous sources that she did not offer the characterizations attributed to her.

Here is a perplexing little nugget from a report on the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. The Rev. Katherine Grieb of Virginia Theological Seminary, a member of the original Anglican Covenant Design Team, is reported to have said the following:

“The Rev. Grieb noted that no provinces have yet ratified this Covenant. She said that from TEC’s perspective the document has progressed from being very rough to being a draft ‘that they could live with.’ “

If this in fact is what the Rev. Grieb said, it would be interesting to know how she has come to this conclusion. TEC’s perspective can only be articulated by the General Convention, which has said not a word about the final draft of the covenant. Executive Council hasn’t spoken in any kind of conclusive, or, for that matter, even suggestive sort of way on the matter, either. Section IV, the disciplinary section of the covenant, has been referred to the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons to determine whether it conflicts with the governing documents of our Church. But that’s about the sum total of official Church activity on the matter.

Most of the folks who will consider this document at the 2012 General Convention haven’t been elected yet, and even people who keep their large ears very close to the ground aren’t picking up much in the way of rumblings, pro or con. So if the Anglican Church of Canada has been given the impression that the Episcopal Church has decided to “live with” the Covenant, they’ve been given bad information.

The Rev. Grieb is scheduled to brief the bishops of the Episcopal Church on the Covenant at their upcoming meeting in Texas.

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  1. paigeb

    This attempt to create facts on the ground has become a running plot line in the Anglican Communion soap opera. I hope someone in the House of Bishops has the good sense to call the Reverend Grieb on that statement.

    Even more than that, I hope that there is a groundswell–and soon–against the whole IDEA of a covenant. I know I break ranks on this issue with people whom I respect greatly (Tobias Haller comes to mind), but I continue to believe that the Anglican Covenant is a rotten idea. Dr. Grieb has a vested interest in presenting it as a fait accompli, but IMO, the rest of us should be wary of any covenant but the baptismal one.

    Paige Baker

  2. Rod Gillis

    The report in “The Journal” (your link) covers the March meeting of the Canadian Council of General Synod (CoGS). There have been problems with the advancement of the human sexuality issue at CoGs. This group, which governs the Canadian Church between General Synods, was directed by General Synod 2007 to develop an amendment to the Marriage Canon of the Canadian Church to be presented for first reading at General Synod 2010. The direction given was to develop an amendment that would make marriage available to both homosexual and heterosexual couples. CoGs was unable to follow through on the direction given to it by General Synod. The coverage that is emerging about the development of the agenda for the Canadian General Synod 2010 suggests a struggle by CoGS and the Canadian House of bishops to get a handle on the agenda. He who controls the process, has the best opportunities to control outcomes. It will be interesting to see how much unfiltered “floor time” is given to the several Canadian dioceses that have already decided to allow the blessing of same sex marriages. See the link attached here for more information. http://www.anglicanjournal.com/canada/cogs/002/article/cogs-wont-ask-for-change-to-marriage-canon-in-2010/?cHash=811f379a3f

  3. Paul Woodrum

    And if anyone calls Katharine Grieb “The Rev. Grieb” one more time they must wear a hair shirt under sack cloth and cover themselves with ashes for the duration of Lent.

  4. I don’t want to make too much of this issue, nor do I want to overlook it. We don’t know exactly what was said, or whether the Rev. Grieb (it’s AP style, and I make no apologies for using it.) was simply representing her sense of where the Episcopal Church is at. That said, if that’s her sense, I think her sense is wrong, and it worries me because someone of her stature might be seen by other provinces as having her finger on the pulse of our church.

  5. tobias haller

    Let me throw in my two denarii and suggest that while there is significant and vocal opposition to the proposed Covenant, Dr. Grieb did not suggest there was widespread support, but that this was something many have said they could “live with.” I count myself among those, as Paige has noted. I do not enthusiastically support the whole idea of a Covenant, but I note that the GC has officially pledged itself to remain part of the Covenant process — and that includes taking the final draft under consideration. Those who are opposed to the whole “idea” of a Covenant have it seems removed themselves from this process of discernment, and my efforts to pin down what exactly the problems are with the draft on the table are generally met with few details, but just the general opposition to the “idea.” I admit there are some things I don’t like about the document — but none, for me, are poison pills. What is required is some elucidation of precisely how we understand the Covenant document — a testing to see if we are all really meaning the same things by certain words and phrases — and then to see if we can indeed “live with it” — and each other.

    The signs of greater cooperation in the face of disagreements in the Communion — witness the recent meeting of Canadian, English, and African leaders, and the comments of the Bishop of Liverpool on the basis of his own experience of the Listening Process — give me great hope for getting the Communion to a point where we can learn to stay together even in disagreements: which was the goal of the Covenant process.

  6. Dear Br. Tobias,

    My problem with the “whole idea” of an Anglican Covenant is that it is not consistent with being Anglican. What would Hooker say? Besides… we have the Creeds, we have the Baptismal Covenant, they are more than sufficient.

    The other thing that bothers me about the “whole idea” is that the proponents of the covenant are the same people who opposed the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, demanded that TEC cease to consecrate GLBT bishops, crossed jurisdictional boundaries, defected from TEC and attempted to steal TEC property and tried to get TEC kicked out of the Anglican Communion.

    Most of all, though, I am opposed to the idea of an Anglican Covenant because those who support it are NOT crying out in protest against what is happening to GLBT in Africa as per Desmond Tutu in this article in the Washington Post:


    A woman in our parish believes that gay people are demonic.

    If by approving of the Anglican Covenant, I have to associated with people who do what they are doing in Africa or who think gay people are demonic, then I am tacitly agreeing with these ideas which I find outrageous and far from Christian.

    God tells me to love Him with everything I have and to love my neighbor as myself. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches me that every human being is my neighbor. How can I join in covenant with those who so actively hate and persecute my neighbors?

    I would be guilty by association and that is why I reject the idea of the Covenant.

  7. paigeb

    Tobias–As I was typing my answer to you, Sister Gloriamarie posted her reply. I think she covers a good bit of my opposition to an Anglican Covenant.

    There is also the simple fact that we got along fine as a communion for over a century without one. We prayed together and engaged in mission and humanitarian projects together. Why do we need a covenant to do those things?

    The ONLY reason for a covenant, that I can see, is to create an Anglican version of Roman Catholicism–and to create a curia that will have the ability to punish or isolate those who do not toe the “party line”–and like Sister Gloriamarie, I am pretty certain that those in charge of punishing/isolating will be the gay-haters, not those who would enforce diocesan boundaries.

    So I will take Tobias’ question and give it back to him: I have yet to see a convincing rationale for why we NEED a covenant in order to do the things we have always done with our fellow Anglicans around the world. Can you give me one?


    Paige Baker

  8. tobias haller

    Thanks Sr. G. and Paige.

    I disagree that the “idea” of a Covenant is foreign to Anglicanism. (While it is true that the era of the Articles of Religion is behind us, there was an obvious felt need to say more than the Creeds as part of our historical DNA.) Moreover, having some form of agreed upon basis for working together — which is what a Covenant is — is part of our canonical tradition, as opposed to congregational churches that are all more or less independent. The rapid increase in communication between parts of the world (and Communion) with very different cultural understandings on a number of issues, warrants a new mechanism to deal with these differences, and find a way to move forward in spite of them.

    As to having to coexist with people with whom one might disagree, or who might find me to be less than worthy of their fellowship: I try to model the behavior I would welcome in them, which is to say, I will not seek to expel those with whom I disagree. In short, I will not take the view that fellowship requires or implies approval of behavior I consider bad. Were I to do so, I’d be as pharisaical as it seems are some of those with whom I disagree. One aspect of the Good Samaritan is that he ministered to someone he had every right to hate and despise. I do not wish to become the mirror-image of hatred, but to overcome it, in the manner modeled by Desmond Tutu. I have seen that in action, and I know it is a way I wish to go.

    The Covenant process appears to be heading in a direction contrary from that promoted at the first, which did was addressed at punishment and/or exclusion. It is important to note that change, and not be deceived by the spin from the ACI or Gafcon.

    I do not read the current draft as establishing a curia, or a means of “punishment.” Rather it seems to me that insisting on not being part of the Covenant process in fact will assure the “punishment” described: being excluded from it. I’d rather take a Pascal’s Wager and be part of the process rather than ensure exclusion by not doing so.

    The reason we need to continue in the process (not necessarily adopt the Covenant) is because that is what we have pledged to do. I agree that we do not NEED a Covenant, but it is on the table and the proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube. That doesn’t mean we need to brush. We may choose to floss instead. But I think we are committed, through action of GC, to continuing in the process. As this essay was about “official” positions, that is the official position now, and I think it good to hold to it, look at the Covenant closely, and deal with what it actually says rather than buying the spin from certain sectors of the Right. This is part of the process of coming to a conclusion, whereby we can say, “If that’s what it means, we can live with it,” or “If that’s what it means, it is canonically unacceptable.”

  9. paigeb

    I will not seek to expel those with whom I disagree. In short, I will not take the view that fellowship requires or implies approval of behavior I consider bad.

    And that makes you VERY different from those who demanded that we develop a covenant to begin with.

    Like you, I do not want to “kick anyone out” of the Anglican Communion. But before certain power-hungry prelates decided that they should play God and judge the rest of us, such exclusion was not on the table. As I see it, the proposed Anglican Covenant is simply a REACTION to those who are threatening to take their marbles and go home because the rest of us have “cooties.” It is the equivalent of offering a toddler in full tantrum an ice cream cone or a lollipop.

    As a parent, I learned early never to give in to toddler threats (no matter how exhausting or embarrassing it was to hold out), or there would be hell to pay for years to come. IMO, that is EXACTLY what happened. +Akinola et al., threw a temper tantrum and demanded a set of rules that would allow them to punish/cast out those with whom they disagree. +Cantaur responded by doing the worst thing a “parent” can do. He gave them the equivalent of an ice cream cone–thereby rewarding their bad behavior and ensuring it will continue.

    The reason we need to continue in the process (not necessarily adopt the Covenant) is because that is what we have pledged to do.

    Tobias, it’s interesting that you take the position that “the toothpaste is out of the tube” and can’t be put back. When a parent makes the kind of major disciplinary mistake I mentioned, the solution (at least if you want a well-behaved child and a more peaceful home) is NOT to continue with the mistake by taking the attitude of “Well, what’s done is done and now we have to live with it.”

    The solution is to say “I made a mistake and I won’t make that mistake again.” Then you have to explain to your toddler that the next time s/he throws a tantrum, there will be no ice cream–and a negative consequence to boot. It is doubly hard to do this after you have messed up before—the child will scream that much harder and that much longer. But continuing to provide ice cream–or Covenants–to tantruming toddlers will only end up making EVERYONE miserable.

    In the end, my position is this: If we don’t NEED a covenant (and it’s clear that I don’t believe we do), then we shouldn’t even be considering one. The dangers–including having people/provinces/prelates turn “reports” into “laws” and covenants into instruments of punishment and exclusion–are clear, while the benefits appear to be negligible.


    Paige Baker

  10. Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

    While not a frequent poster, I have made my own views known on the Anglican Covenant from time to time, and it’s best to start with my premise that I find the present form of the Covenant to be one that I must oppose as well. This is partly for reasons of content but very strongly for reasons of “purpose” that render the real “content” flawed and possibly irreparable.

    From the very first, the problem is not that all “Covenants” are bad, but that the intention of THIS Covenant was to correct the “wrong” notions and actions of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. It has, like all similar documents, some things that one cannot possibly disagree with. It is hard, however, for me to believe that wanting to affirm these wonderful things on which we all more or less agree was the reason for the covenant, but has been advanced rather as “window dressing” to disguise the “real” purpose: to formalize mechanisms for censure where various national churches where the ideas of TEC are in a minority can punish TEC and also secondarily terrorize their own minority members. This flaw of “intent” at the very core of THIS covenant process makes me highly suspicious of any “product” no matter how much it gets worked over.

    The ongoing “smoke and mirrors” legislation coming out of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is more stuff along these lines. Passing resolutions that they affirm the lordship of Jesus and similar non-news serves primarily to “package” or “gift wrap” the more objectionable purposes behind what they are really doing. They also set the stage to “spin” in the negative direction. “ If you are for LGBT full access to all the sacraments and we’re not and we’re clearly for Jesus, then somehow you must be against Jesus too, because after all, we made it clear that were “For” him and being against LGBT full inclusion is part of being “for” Jesus, so you must not be….” This “guilt-by-association” applies not just to our relationships with people but to the relationship between ideas and ideals. In my opinion, it is simply just ecclesiastical mud slinging.

    As for the Reverend Doctor Grieb’s statement, perhaps she really believes that TEC might just be able to “live with” the current form of the covenant. We also know, however, how even the church is filled with people who’ve discovered that saying something is “so” confidently and repeatedly can influence some people to accept it as true. Such a statement may have less to do with fact and more to do with an attempt to influence public opinion.

    One other “idea” that needs to “come out” on the issue of a Covenant is little discussed but extremely fundamental, namely, just really how strongly do we believe that Christianity in the USA/TEC needs to be like the Christianity in Uganda, Nigeria or other foreign places like Texas or Pennsylvania (sorry, I couldn’t resist that). We have an enduring and very western idea that somehow we can “work it out” so that we get it “right” and that that “right” is going to be enduring (one Lord, one Faith, one Truth), but do we really want to affirm that? Should we insist on “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever” or might we not take an opposite view that “Here on earth we have no abiding city” and simply say that disagreement is inevitable and part of creation (and not the product of “the fall”)? Can we find God in disagreement? Don’t we also re-quote Jesus as saying “I came not to bring peace but a sword?” Is it more important that we “agree” or that we agree to have the “courage of our convictions” and order our own houses by the light that we have been given?

  11. revsusan

    One can “live with” a whole variety of things — migraines, toothaches and ingrown toenails come to mind. But one does not go seeking them OUT, for pity’s sake.

    Looking forward to hearing from Kathy Grieb what she actually SAID rather than what the Canadians thought she meant.

    Susan Russell

  12. Rod Gillis

    Susan Russell’s post of March 15 is wise advice.

  13. JasonC

    Tobias–I’m with you on many things, and if anyone could articulate reasons for a covenant with which I might agree, it would be you.

    But I have to say, I don’t find the two reasons you gave above very compelling.

    First, does “increase in communication” “warrant a new mechanism”? I would say, only very weakly, and certainly not the mechanism proposed. If a new mechanism (and that could have taken any number of non-juridical forms, it seems) could increase the likelihood of building relationships, maybe. But the solution proposed seems hell-bent on tearing relationships apart. And as for having “some form of agreed upon basis for working together,” I think we have that already in the Lambeth Quadrilateral and the heritage of the Prayer Book. Anything else, and especially the proposed covenant, seems superfluous to me.

    As far as continuing to engage the process (because we promised and “the toothpaste is out of the tube”), I think Paige stated my feelings pretty well. Anyway, this isn’t an argument for the covenant, but an argument that we should continue to engage the process. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that GC ignore a proposal. But I do pray that GC will reject what is currently on the table.

    Jason Cox

  14. The huffing and puffing above is really outrageous. The Rev. A. Katherine Grieb (not Katharine–that’s the PB’s spelling) is a professor at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA, just across the river from Washington, DC. Unlike the critics of the Covenant venting here, she has made a meticulous effort to listen to non-North American Anglicans and find a way to express some common understanding of our common faith for the present time. If Jim Naughton wants to check what she actually said in Canada, why doesn’t he phone her and ask?

    And as for the Cafe’s egregious “the Rev. Grieb,” that most certainly is not AP style. AP style is to use just the unadorned surname after the first reference. I refer him to the entry “religious titles” on p. 240 of the 2009 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook.

  15. My bad. The Rev. Grieb is New York Times Style. I’ll fix the spelling. As for the rest of your post from up there on your high horse where you assign the rest of us work, Bill. I don’t see what anything you wrote has to do with the issue at hand. Either she misrepresented the position of the church to another church in the Communion, or she was herself misrepresented on the Web site of that Church. Either way, the position of our Church is misrepresented. Somebody involved in the misrepresentation needs to fix that before it causes harm.

  16. paigeb

    “The Reverend” is also Chicago Style–or at least it was as of the 14th edition. I just realized I probably should look into getting the 15th edition…

    The huffing and puffing above is really outrageous.

    What’s REALLY outrageous is that so many of us stayed silent for so many years and let the +Akinolas and Bob Duncans of the Anglican Communion determine how the issues and the conversations were framed. As I noted in my first post on this thread, we allowed people to create facts on the ground merely by asserting that things were so.

    We aren’t going to make that mistake anymore.

    Paige Baker

  17. revsusan

    What Jim Naughton said.

    (See also John 8:32)

    Susan Russell

  18. William R. MacKaye

    Okay, Jim, challenge accepted. I have dismounted from my horse, which is really more of a aging nag than a spritely thoroughbred, and am prepared to go at it mano a mano.

    First, as to style on Episcopal Cafe. I like the multiplicity of clerical titles that Anglicanism has spawned and preserved, and I hate to see them trashed on church-related sites.

    “The Rev. Grieb” is most certainly not New York Times style, which is to title ordained women on second reference as Miss, Ms., Mrs. or Mother as they prefer. It’s not Chicago either. It’s just plain wrong, and you should stop doing it and tolerating it. My guess is that “Reverend” will disappear in another decade or two–it seems to be on the way out now, replaced by +Mary and Ann+ and so forth–and its misuse will then disappear along with it.

    Now as to the more important question, I rather doubt that Kathy said what she is quoted as saying, because she is normally extremely cautious in her public statements. But whether or not General Convention has voted on the Anglican Covenant is really beside the point. Kathy or you or I or any other reasonably well informed observer of the Episcopal Church should feel free to describe what we believe to be the “mind of the church” concerning the Covenant before any vote is taken.

    My guess (perhaps because at present, at least, I think it should) is that at the appropriate time General Convention will affirm the Covenant. The Anglican Communion may not be a church, but it’s certainly more than a federation, and the governing bodies of its provinces ought to be able at least to attempt to say for the 21st century what normative Anglicanism teaches and practices. If such an attempt is not made, how can we say with any credibility that Peter Akinola and Henry Orombi and Bob Duncan have taken themselves out of the family?

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