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Two C of E bishops worry that Covenant debate is rigged

Two C of E bishops worry that Covenant debate is rigged

The following letter, written by two retired bishops in the Church of England appeared in last week’s issue of The Church Times, retirement being the moment at which bishops in the English church are given back the anatomical features necessary to speak. Calm down, I am talking about their tongues. Or perhaps their spleens. At any rate:

Sir, — Whichever side of the argument you are on there are grounds for real concern about the way the debate about it is progressing. It cannot be good to learn, as we do, that many bishops who are against the Anglican Covenant don’t want to say for fear of seeming disloyal, that diocesan synods are “debating” the issue without hearing both sides of the argument equally presented, and that there is so much boredom and weariness about the whole issue.

This is a major proposal with potentially serious consequences for this and future generations of Anglican Christians, and for those ecumenical partners with whom we are in conversation. Nothing will be worse than for the Covenant to be yawned through at a July Synod preoccupied with debating the ordination of women as bishops, passed and then put in a drawer — only for us to discover that those who now brand it “toothless” then use it and propel the Communion into a litigious and factious future.

The Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear in his Advent letter that such is not his purpose. But the proposed Covenant cannot now escape the identity it has acquired as an instrument of exclusion. He also asks what is the alternative; we respond that the alternative to having a Covenant is not having one, and this is a time to hold fast to Anglicanism’s inherited culture of inclusion and respectful debate which is our way of dealing with difference rather than require assent to procedures and words that have already shown themselves to be divisive.

In short, if we can agree it we don’t need it and if we need it we won’t agree it. We believe that the Covenant is to be resisted. But, above all, our plea is for a debate that is candid, even-handed, and open. If it comes to the General Synod, it should do so as its seriousness deserves, as the principal business.




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Jim Naughton

That is a good question, Chris. I think that church geeks have had extensive conversation about the covenant online, and that those involved in Executive Council and on our Standing Commissions have examined the document in great detail. My hunch is that our bishops and general convention deputies have a decent grasp of the issues. But as far as diocesan conversation, I couldn’t say. I supposed that because we don’t have a system of governance analogous to the Church of England, which vests more authority in voting by diocese (as I imagine you know) we may be lacking in that regard.

Chris Arnold

Readers of this article: have you had actual thoughtful and reflective and balanced conversations in your dioceses about the proposed Covenant?

Bonnie Spivey

Just MHO but I think ++ABC’s attitude about inviting +Gene Robinson to Lambeth along with his (foot stamp, foot stamp) statement that there might just be two tiers made his position/motives clear to us quite some time ago. We in MNSHO should just bow out of this silly mess. We are not going to go backward and he can’t seem to move forward.

And ever the cynic I keep wondering how much this has to do with Shell Oil/Nigeria in their stock portfolio rather than a real desire for what they believe will bring more unity.

Leslie Scoopmire

They make completely valid points. Will it make any difference coming from bishops in the CoE rather than from we convenient but troublesome rabble?

Leonardo Ricardo

Ah the sour taste of resentments for being ¨talked down to/ordered around¨ are welling up in not-so-jolly-olde England…really, I think Dr. Williams and his accomplice, the Lord of York, ought step down before losing whatever honest and worthwhile leadership they may have offered up in the past…either that, or, off with OUR heads!

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