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Bishop V. Matthews on Covenant: ‘just plain wrong’

Bishop V. Matthews on Covenant: ‘just plain wrong’

Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland, comments on a speech on the Anglican Covenant made by The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia in which …

She stressed the point that it was not the work of IASCUFO to promote the Covenant, but rather to monitor its reception. “As we have sought to do that,” she told delegates, “I have often thought that the document people discuss and the actual Anglican Covenant are two different documents.

“One is the document that people have in their mind and the other is the Anglican Communion Covenant on paper. So I really want [people] to read the Covenant and be focused on that. Because often, when people start talking about the Covenant, what they describe in their mind as the Covenant is unrecognisable.”

“Remember most of the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ,” she said.

Holdsworth remarks:

Bishop Victoria Matthews is not merely patronising, she is actually wrong.

I have to say that I find the suggestion that we really need to read the actual Covenant quite insulting. No church could have done better at reading the thing than the Scottish Episcopal Church. … We talked about it until people were sick of talking about it. We printed it out so many times that people complained about the environmental impact of the Covenant process.

And then we finally made a decision and the decision was a resounding “No.” We really don’t need to go back and read the text. We read it plenty and we made up out minds very clearly and overwhelmingly.

Bishop Victoria also said, “Remember most of the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ.”

You know, the predominant thing that we said was not that we were worried about the punitive sections. That was true for very many of us. However the thing I heard people saying again and again was, “This just doesn’t represent who we are”.

The claim that the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ is a rather foolish one. The Covenant is an imagined identity which we have firmly rejected.

It is certainly patronising of Bishop Victoria Matthews to imply that we in Scotland just have not read the Covanant enough. More than that though, it isn’t true.


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Gary Paul Gilbert

Benedict, After the Civil War, whites came back together again and supported Jim Crow laws which kept African-Americans down for another seven decades. How lovely that the Episcopal Church was so concerned to kiss up to Southern whites!

This is the same denomination which accepted racial segregation in parishes for decades.

I don’t want to have anything to do with such a theology of apartheid. The denomination still has not come to grips with its complicity in the oppression of African Americans.

Breaking off the relationship with the oppressor makes more sense, as the Reformation tradition taught. The sale of indulgences was reason enough back then to break the visible body of the church.

To sign on to a document which tends to promote creeping centralization and an Anglican Pope is totally unacceptable.

I think, as Luther said, sin boldly.

Lukewarm will not do.

Gary Paul Gilbert


Benedict, I pray for the church and the communion without benefit of the Anglican Covenant.

June Butler

Benedict Varnum

Gary, if you’ll pardon my saying so (and my brief description of the event might not have made this clear in the first place), the “price of justice” was no longer on the table; the war had ended when the convention I’m describing took place.

The question of language, then, had to do with what was to be celebrated. “Union victory” was too hard a term for some to hear. A “cessation of hostilities” was something everyone might soberly affirm. In a moment when deep personal pain was being felt by persons and families on all sides of the conflict, the church altered the language of its united voice to speak only what could be spoken together.

Certainly there are moments where a question of justice would be in tension with that principle, but again, that justice question had been settled (though certainly the descendants of racism still plague American life).

“Sportsmanship” is an impoverished analogy where human lives and deepest moral principles are concerned, but it rests on the same pragmatic psychological foundation: when a “side” has “won” in a conflict, those whose position has not are more likely to find a way to release anxiety and continue in relationship if they are given respect and space to grieve whatever they’ve lost. I’d offer that if the relationship breaks, there often are no “winners.”

To June’s question about how that connects to the Covenant debate, I’d say that while it seems, indeed, that the Covenant does not express the identity many Anglicans believe we hold in common, there are yet some who feel that it does, and those feelings are deeply held and worth according what respect we’re able to. Part of what Anglican identity is for me is an insistence that everyone be accorded space within the church, even when we disagree.

What I’m suggesting is that one way we can interpret the action of General Convention is to say that we have chosen NOT to stand in a relationship of victory-over, but of a quieter acknowledgment that this question has been settling itself.

Is there a “price of justice” to this? I would offer that there is not. And furthermore, it’s possible that part of how we as TEC within the Anglican Communion can continue to offer relationship to our brothers and sisters in other churches is to be as gentle as possible, having acted in ways that they find harsh. (to Gary’s point: “the price of justice” might certainly be a line we’d consider declaring not “possible” to cross.)

Certainly we could ignore our own opportunities to offer space and compassion into dialogue, insisting that the other side hasn’t. We could shout that nobody has altered their demands to allow us the space to seek what we believe to be our true calling as Christ’s Body the Church. We could exercise our loudest voices and greatest powers — be they theological, political, or even economic — to insist that our voice and experience be left un-challenged by the other member churches of the communion, who we believe to be wrong on any number of topics. We could make “absolute victory” the standard of relationship by which we assent to continue belonging to one another. But could any of us defend that as the Gospel of Christ?

So my (non-rhetorical) question is: Does it cost us something to still our voice for a time? To lower the energy in the room so that other voices might do the same? Can we allow that we have, indeed, helped lead the Anglican Communion to a place where the church is experiencing conflict, and that it may take other voices in the communion to lead us where we need to go next together? To me, the GC resolution at the least makes a space where that could happen. It offers us space and time to pause and consider how we respond to one another, and I call those great gifts in this time.

It falls to all the baptized to decide how we’ll use those gifts. Which, to me, is one more good reason to pray for the church.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Benedict, I don’t think the Episcopal Church should be proud that during the Civil War whites in the North made conciliatory gestures toward whites in the South who were defending the institution of slavery. Such a pax romana was a prelude to decades of Jim Crow laws which would make freed slaves into second-class citizens. Unity at the price of justice is unacceptable.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Rod Gillis

+ Matthews told delegates, “I have often thought that the document people discuss and the actual Anglican Covenant are two different documents.”

Actually, it is more the case of the covenant as written and the covenant described by it proponents

are two different documents.

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