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Colorado says no to Covenant

Colorado says no to Covenant

Following is the response by the Diocese of Colorado General Convention Deputation to the Executive Council’s invitation to study, pray and discuss with the proposed Anglican Covenant. They conclude:

Based on our engagement with the text and with each other, our deputation (with one exception) has concluded that adoption of the proposed covenant would not strengthen our relationships within the Anglican Communion or foster our witness to God’s transforming love in the world. We, therefore, recommend to Executive Council that The Episcopal Church encourage members of the Anglican Communion to persevere in strengthening relationships through ongoing conversation and living into those covenants that already bind us in missio dei – the Baptismal Covenant, the Five Marks of Mission and the Millennium Development Goals – while refraining from adoption of the final draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The complete response below:

Members of the Diocese of Colorado’s General Convention Deputation have accepted and faithfully engaged Executive Council’s invitation to study, pray and discuss with members of our diocese the proposed Anglican Covenant. In addition to our own conversations as a deputation, we listened to others in congregations and in other

contexts throughout the diocese, and these conversations also inform our understanding of the proposed covenant and this response. Our fellowship with each other and our desire to be in relationship with sisters and brothers in Christ in other parts of the Anglican Communion have been strengthened by our study and discussions. We give thanks for the collaborative work of the committees and writing teams who have created the successive drafts of the proposed Anglican

Covenant.

Based on our engagement with the text and with each other, our deputation (with one exception) has concluded that adoption of the proposed covenant would not strengthen our relationships within the Anglican Communion or foster our witness to God’s transforming love in the world. We, therefore, recommend to Executive Council that The Episcopal Church encourage members of the Anglican Communion to persevere in strengthening relationships through ongoing conversation and living into those covenants that already bind us in missio dei – the Baptismal Covenant, the Five Marks of Mission and the Millennium Development Goals – while refraining from adoption of the final draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Our concerns with the final draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant include the following:

· The idea for a covenant arose out of the Windsor Report in response to the actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada regarding consecration of a partnered gay bishop and same gender blessings. However, the proposed covenant provides no means of reconciling the relationships broken by responses to those actions. Instead it offers a punitive Section 4 that proposes relational consequences that formalize separation and suspension from participation in the life of the Communion. One member of our deputation suggests that this is an example of proffering a legalistic solution to remedy a relationship problem. Another deputy asks, “How would the events of 2003 have turned out differently had such an

Anglican Covenant been in place then?”

· The Preamble acknowledges that signatories adopt the covenant “in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the grace of God.” However, Section 4 directly contravenes the Preamble by promulgating disciplinary procedures that do not respect those different contexts. The polity of the provinces in the Anglican Communion varies widely, and Section 4.1.3 affirms the “autonomy of governance” of each province.

· Section 3.1.3 elevates “the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, ordained for service in the Church of God” into ministry leadership above the laity, which is contradictory to The Episcopal Church’s theological understanding of the ministry of all the baptized, including the laity who share in the governance and

leadership of the Church.

· Section 3.1.4 codifies The Four Instruments of Communion and their powers in a new way that is not in alignment with how they are perceived, received and understood by all provinces of the Anglican Communion.

· Some experience the proposed self-description of Anglicanism (Sections 1-3) as “too Anglican” while others experience it as “too generically Christian.” This confusion about how a particularly Anglican understanding of Christianity fits within a general

understanding of Christianity may undermine the integrity of ecumenical relationships. Moreover, if the proposed covenant accurately describes Anglicanism’s self-understanding, why is it necessary? If, on the other hand, it does not accurately describe our self-understanding, then how is it helpful? And does it not then

fundamentally change who we are?

· The broad authority proposed for the Standing Committee of

the covenant suggests the “covenant” is really a “contract.” The grace and beauty of the Anglican Communion has always been the voluntary fellowship of provinces bound together by affection. Covenants in the biblical tradition are about relationship, identity, and transformation, and are rooted in models of shared abundance (Eucharistic fellowship). On the other hand, contracts are merely transactions or exchanges for mutual benefit. Contractual arrangements fall short of our vocation to love one another as we have been loved by God.

The Colorado deputation affirms the need to maintain and deepen fellowship within the Anglican Communion as well as within The Episcopal Church. Our relationships are troubled and the members of the Anglican Communion are not of one mind about how to reconcile and restore our relationships. Some would even diagnose the Anglican

Communion as a global entity as being profoundly fractured, our relationships ruptured, and our attention to missio dei compromised. Precisely for these reasons, we must work to intensify our relationships across the communion through engagement with the promises we have already made to care for one another.

All of us must continue to seek ways to connect our Anglican identity and relationships to God’s mission for the Church. Some believe it is incumbent upon those opposed to this version of the covenant to propose alternative, clear, realistic and definitive strategies by which this global family can weather and address the divergent theological and ecclesial realities in the Anglican Communion.

We look forward to continuing to walk together with all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion and give thanks for our fellowship.

General Convention Deputation of the Diocese of Colorado

Laity:

Ms. L. Zoe Cole, Esq.

Mr. Jack Finlaw, Esq.

Mr. Lawrence Hitt, III, Esq.

Ms. Lelanda Lee – Co-Chair

Ms. Janet Farmer

Ms. Erica Hein

Clergy:

The Rev. Andrew Cooley – Co-Chair

The Rev. Brooks Keith

The Rev. Christy Shain-Hendricks

The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

The Rev. Max Bailey

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L. Zoe Cole

I checked my 1928 BCP, the New Zealand BCP, and the CofE’s Called to Common Worship (CCW). The first two have only the basic commitments rather than the expanded list of the 1979 BCP. CCW has that same expanded style of commitments, some of which are the same and some of which are different: 1) same – “seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbor as yourself; 2) different – CCW “Will you acknowledge Christ’s authority over human society, by prayer for the world and its leaders, by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?”

But what I notice seems common to all is that we take the basic structure of baptism and place it in the context of a liturgy which is specifically “Anglican” in both its common denominational elements and its particular value for enculturation. What better place to remind ourselves of our family resemblance as both Christians and Anglicans?

On the other hand, the proposal to base our commitment to each other within the WWAC on the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (which I’ve heard before) strikes me as expressing confusion about that agreement. It’s purpose is to facilitate ecumenical work by stating our “bottom line” as Episcopalians, in our efforts to build relationships across denominational lines. To suggest that only that minimum unites us within the WWAC is to begin with an assumption that we have less in common with each other than the autocephalous churches of Orthodoxy.

It seems to me that even in their differences, the Baptismal Liturgies demonstrate that we have far more than that in common, while acknowledging our very real differences. That plus the commitments we ourselves (in TEC) make whenever we witness a baptism are what make the Baptismal Covenant unifying, not that everyone does it the way the 1979 BCP does it.

tgflux

Because of Episcopalians’ devotion to the ’79 Baptismal Covenant, I think it’s safe to say that anything like it (e.g. “respect the dignity of every human being”) would never be accepted as a Common Anglican Baptismal Covenant!

JC Fisher

John B. Chilton

During this Holy Week, this conversation on the Baptismal Covenant is especially appropriate.

The CoE priest Kenneth Leach writes in “We teach Christ Crucified”,

…Jesus calls his disciples to follow him in the way of lowly servanthood, and … this is linked to his vocation as a suffering Son of Man. This suffering is redemptive, sacrificial, and to share in his sacrifice is to share Christ’s priesthood. Priesthood in fact is at heart a sharing in the dying and rising of Christ, a priesthood in which the whole body of Christ, not just ordained ministers, is involved. … We are baptised for service to the world. So in the American Book of Common Prayer the candidate is asked: ‘Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons …?’ and is later welcomed to ‘share … in his eternal priesthood’. There will be no renewal of the meaning of the cross in Christian life unless there is a renewal of the liturgy and meaning of baptism.

This theology is familiar to us. Does the communion share it?

Bill Moorhead

“Maybe it’s time to discuss a common Anglican Baptismal Covenant, instead of the proposed Covenant.”

I think you’re on to something there, Luiz!

Luiz Coelho

All Prayer Books include, at least, the Apostles’ Creed as a Baptismal Covenant. So, the statement from Colorado is not really incorrect, I guess.

Also, as I believe, the commitments added in the American Prayer Book flow from a life grounded in the Christian faith. I don’t see them as an extra epiphany, but much more as an outline of how to apply our faith in a way that is true to the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that even in Churches where the Baptismal Covenant is purely the Apostle’s Creed, people have the potential of being close to the heart and mind of Jesus.

I always feel a bit uncomfortable with this discussion about the Baptismal Covenant because more than once I ran into American Episcopalians who seemed to attribute some sort of magical power to their Baptismal Covenant, as if just the fact of having those extra propositions were equivalent to having a certain theological worldview. That’s not always the case, though. Several congregations which left the Episcopal Church used (and still use) the 1979 Prayer Book. Also, most (if not all) Latin American churches (including the Southern Cone) use Prayer Books essentially very similar to the 1979 US one.

I’ve been confirmed and renewed my baptismal vows several times under a very similar baptismal covenant and I agree we have to ponder and shape our lives according to it. Maybe it’s time to discuss a common Anglican Baptismal Covenant, instead of the proposed Covenant.

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