Episcopal priest Mark Harris writes on three videos produced by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO), which was tasked with offering commentary in support of the Anglican Covenant.
Harris suggests that the videos are focused on stating a need for a framework, and the idea that no one should fear the covenant. Harris focuses his blog post on Katherine Grieb’s brief talk about “false choices”. Grieb says in the third video:
“I’m from the Episcopal Church in the United States. I think that many people in my Province believe that the Covenant is only for theological conservatives. But there are many progressives who are interested in endorsing the Anglican Communion Covenant.
So I would like to identify some choices that I believe are false choices in my view. I hear people saying “if we sign the Covenant we cannot support the ordination of women.” That I believe is certainly a false choice. I hear people saying, “If we sign the Covenant we cannot work towards the blessings of same sex unions.” I believe that’s another false choice. And finally I hear people saying that, “If we sign the covenant we can no longer ordain gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.” That also, I believe, is a false choice. The Episcopal Church was invited to sign the Covenant as we are, and everybody knows where we’ve been and what we stand for. The real question is where we will go from here, how we will work together with the rest of the Communion to work things out in ways that are acceptable to everyone.”
Kathrine Grieb is making an interesting argument here: She sets up “false choices” – Either the Anglican Covenant OR various progressive possibilities. But that is not the argument that I understand holds.
The argument I more often hear is that we in the Episcopal Church will continue to ordain women, work towards the blessing of same sex unions and continue to ordain gay and lesbian persons to the episcopate and because that is the reality we find it difficult to sign a Covenant that will have the immediate effect of both limiting our formal engagement with various CCAB’s of the Anglican Communion structures AND the longer term effect of offering political pressure to limit such actions in the future.
It is almost impossible to envision the Anglican Covenant being less than a restraining order or a means of exclusion.
Professor Grieb is herself now a consultant to IASCUFO rather than a full member precisely because of the “consequences” of The Episcopal Church’s actions, and was done in ways similar to that provided for in Section Four. It is quite interesting, perhaps ironic, that she is in this video at all, what with her relation to a church so questionable that she is reduced to consultant status simply because she belongs to that church.
Harris concludes that the argument for signing is avoiding conflict, which in uncompelling:
The Covenant is not about Companions on the Way, it is about authority and obedience. As one under authority and bound by an oath of obedience I am not without sympathy for such binding. I am, however, without any sympathy at all for a Covenant that proposes in vague terms ways we can walk together and perhaps even come to new decisions and only gets concrete when it comes to ways we will be separated, suffer consequences or be politically pressured.
It is also worth noting that these videos have been produced and distributed by the Anglican Communion Office. This is a misuse of funds. It isn’t up to the staff, or a particular committee of the communion, to take money from the provinces and expend it for political purposes the provinces have not endorsed.