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One-sided Covenant study guide criticized

One-sided Covenant study guide criticized

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition is unhappy with they see as a one-sided and biased presentation by the Diocese of Oxford regarding the Anglican Covenant, describing parts of it as “shallow and superficial.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has released a statement regarding background material prepared and distributed in the Diocese of Oxford in preparation for the coming debate on the ratification of the proposed Anglican Covenant. Canon John Rees’s paper, Introduction to the Anglican Covenant Debate (www.oxford.anglican.org), is described as “shallow and superficial” and criticized for minimizing the significance of the coming debate. “The Covenant is presented as minor tinkering with Anglican Communion governance, yet somehow still vital to the Communion’s survival.”

“That is the essential contradiction of the pro-Covenant argument we are hearing from within the Church of England,” according to the Coalition’s Episcopal Church Convenor, Dr. Lionel Deimel. “On one hand, people claim that the Covenant will have no real effect. On the other, they are told that the Covenant is the only thing preventing the complete collapse of the Communion. These things cannot both be true.”

The full statement is found below the fold.

There is apparently no mention of the Bishop of Buckingham’s description of the Covenant as a “chocolate tea-pot,” although to be fair the study guide does point to the Church Times guide where this statement appears.

Ironically, the pro-Covenant guide does not direct reference the pro-Covenant essays found in the Living Church, which the statement says “offered a far more coherent defence” than any of the official statements emanating from the Anglican Communion Office or the Church of England.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition is disappointed with the two-page introduction to the Anglican Covenant posted recently by the Diocese of Oxford on its website. Introduction to the Anglican Covenant Debate (www.oxford.anglican.org), prepared by Canon John Rees, is intended to inform the debate at the March 2012 Diocesan Synod. The Coalition believes that the paper downplays both the controversy surrounding the Covenant and the risks inherent in its adoption.

The analysis of the Covenant in the Rees document is consistently shallow and superficial. The Covenant is presented as minor tinkering with Anglican Communion governance, yet somehow still vital to the Communion’s survival. Even the observation that conservatives see the disciplinary provisions as too weak, whereas liberals see them as too strong seems designed as a sort of Goldilocks defence of the Covenant’s supposed merits.

The Oxford document is consistent with the general approach to promoting the Anglican Covenant in the Church of England by downplaying its significance while claiming that the survival of the Anglican Communion depends on its adoption. While the Church of England is preoccupied with issues such as women bishops, there is a serious risk that the Anglican Covenant will be adopted without adequate or informed debate about the document and the implications of its centralisation for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The consistent and erroneous depiction of the Anglican Covenant as largely meaningless and harmless only increases this risk. Comparable tactics were on display a few months ago in the Diocese of Lichfield, where pro-Covenant presenters were given extensive time to sell the Covenant prior to a short debate with alternating pro- and anti-Covenant speakers.

Oxford’s Introduction contains links to background material, but many of the references are official pro-Covenant propaganda from the Anglican Communion Office and the Church of England. Some warnings about the Covenant are found in General Synod debate transcript, however, and the Church Times Guide is properly characterized as offering “strong arguments for and against the Covenant.”

Unlike the background material prepared by the Anglican Church of Canada, Canon Rees references neither the No Anglican Covenant Coalition (noanglicancovenant.org) nor its associated blog (blog.noanglicancovenant.org). The Coalition’s website includes all the references cited in Introduction to the Anglican Covenant Debate and more than 150 other articles. Ironically, Canon Rees does not even cite thoughtful pro-Covenant resources, such as the series being published by the U.S. magazine The Living Church (www.livingchurch.org), which has offered a far more coherent defence of the proposed Anglican Covenant than anything seen from either the Church of England or the Anglican Communion Office.

Fortunately, members of the Oxford Diocesan Synod have time to educate themselves in preparation for the forthcoming Covenant debate. Members of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition encourage them to visit our website and search for other materials, both positive and negative, regarding the Anglican Covenant. The decision about the Covenant to be made by the Church of England is too important to be made lightly.

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