Saturday, May 26, 2007

What the MO deputies said...

Melanie Barbarito did a fabulous job of taking notes at the meeting of the Mo Deputies and here are our thoughts on the covenant:

Response to Draft Anglican Covenant
Diocese of Missouri
Deputation to General Convention
The Rev. Jack Fleming, the Rev. Lydia Agnew Speller,
The Rev. Tamsen Whistler, the Very Rev. Ronald Clingenpeel,
the Rev. Melanie Barbarito
Kathy Dyer, Mike Clark, Margie Bowman

Many of us agreed at the 2006 General Convention that the idea of a covenant is not a bad idea. But this is way too fast. Some of us were under the impression that this process could take up to ten years.
We presumed that this type of document would be a jumping off place.

While we affirm the idea of an Anglican Covenant, this seems more like a constitution than a covenantal document. We are not in favor of a constitution.

Responding to the Executive Council by the deadline honors that we are complementary to the HOB—recognizes the participation of laityBut we are disappointed not to have more time to educate members of parishes to get a wider response.

The Document as Written
Document is not historically accurate. Does not represent the evolution of the 4 Instruments of Communion; does not represent a consensus among the provinces about the Instruments of Unity.

This document contains historical inaccuracies that lead to erroneous assumptions.

The beginning of the reports states that: nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be “new”, but this is not true. It recommends previously unknown innovations.

The document speaks with two voices: it begins with relational wording; but later shifts to a list of rules. The Anglican Communion members are not of common mind, and that’s reflected in the Draft Covenant.

The preamble implies a process, but this document is not relational.
Nothing in the document calls for dialogue on even playing field.

While this is called a covenant, it reads more like a constitution.

Instruments of Unity
Some of the Instruments of Unity have existed before, but the Primates Meeting is new as Instrument of Unity.
Primates cannot declare themselves as Instruments of Unity.
Inclusion of Primates Meeting as Instrument of Unity is a “specious innovation”
We do not affirm the Primates’ meeting as a traditionally accepted Instrument of Unity.
Primates are all men but one. We believe it is an unhealthy innovation for a group of male bishops to be passing judgment. If there is to be such a body, then it should include presbyters and be equally represented by lay people and women.

We think it is important that the Anglican Consultative Council not be sidelined.
Anglican Consultative Council has never been asked to pass judgment and enforce and is now being asked to do so.
We don’t accept the idea that Primates are above ACC
Different symbols of unity are not in union with one another. For example, Canon Kieran at General Convention 2006 spoke for Anglican Consultative Council rather than Archbishop of Canterbury.

We are not clear that there is an unbroken tradition that these are Instruments of Unity nor is there a clear consensus that these are the unquestioned Instruments of Unity holding authority over the actions of indvidual provinces.

Paragraph 5, section 3—Archbishop of Canterbury as “first among equals” is ambiguous. 1st among Instruments or among primates or bishops?

These Instruments of Unity are 19th and 20th century developments. It remains to be seen what new appropriate ways can be developed to be in conversation.

There are world-wide gatherings of Anglican women. Maybe in the future the case should be made for allowing them to have the kind of voice that Lambeth has that is not authoritative but is listened to.

We believe that we are bound together by Baptism and Eucharist.
Sacraments as Instruments of Unity not addressed.

Foundational Documents

The tradition of common prayer is foundational but not the 1662 prayer book.

We question the statement that 1662 BCP is foundational. The first American Prayer Book drew heavily upon the Scottish Prayer Book of the time.
The 39 articles are not mandated in Episcopal Church.

Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral is hardly reflected.
Reason needs to be defined, per philosophical debate. Nothing in document refers to or reflects our Anglican three-legged stool.

The 1662 BCP and 39 articles are “touchstone documents” not foundational. Wish to look also to Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
Assumptions have been made, for example when the document refers to the creeds, which ones are being referred to?
As a communion, we don’t even agree on the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist. The document needs to be more tightly written.


The Episcopal Church comes from a strongly democratic tradition. This document seeks to move communion to something more autocratic.

We feel we need to teach other parts of the Anglican Communion about our polity which has been a part of this member church since its inception. We strongly affirm and seek the input of all baptized.

Neither our primate nor our bishops speak exclusively for us. We have a wider participation by all baptized members of our church.

We do not judge the individual polity of other member churches, and we don’t seek to impose our polity on other member churches. It needs to be made very clear that every church is allowed its own polity.

There needs to be a place to say more about our diverse and varied polity.

New technology could allow for virtual gatherings of baptized people.

It would be good not to suggest that these relatively new ways of holding communion together are only ways to do it.

We cannot live by deadlines that are inappropriate to our polity, process and people.

Why This? Why Now?

This seems to have a tone which suggests that “obviously we should have had this in place all the time and we’re doing this in order to say, ‘step out of line and you’re out.’ ’”

Paragraphs 5 & 6 seem to be about creating grounds for exclusion so that they make the entire document suspicious.

This is not the time to be assenting to a document of this type. Much more conversation needs to happen among all of us before we trust one another in the honoring this document.

This document is a rush job on something that should not be rushed. Leads to the result that “you’re out or you’re in.” Says it’s not juridical, but it is.

Our recommendation: The committee needs to go back to the drawing board. This should be a long-term, not a rushed process.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A little humor break

This cartoon about Lambeth invitations is not really germaine to the subject of this blog but I had to post it anyway. It is from the wonderful Dave Walker whose website is to be found here:
He gives people permission to post his cartoons as long as they include a link. For 35 Pounds Sterling you can have a license to use his cartoons all year long in your publications. St Mark's had a Dave Walker cartoon illustrated annual report this year.

Comments from a member of St Timothy's

These thoughtful comments by Gary Stansbery are posted with his permission:

Here are my comments on the Draft Anglican Covenant: The numbered sections follow the numbered questions in the Study Guide.

(1) I do not think an Anglican Covenant is necessary. There is no more need now than in the past. I believe the Anglican Covenant is a device by the conservative Anglican Primates to facilitate coercing the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. (ECUSA) into not honoring the human rights of gays and lesbians, and in particular not allowing gays and lesbians to be ordained bishops. Once the ECUSA is coerced in this area, the coercion will be applied in other areas.

However, since the General Convention has agreed to participate in the Covenant process, I accept the idea of a Covenant but would urge that the language allow us to form our faith and practice in a manner that we think is right , without coercion from the conservative Primates.

(2) It does not accord with my understanding, since it views the Anglican Communion as one unitary body, a kind of “super church”, requiring “mutual commitment and discipline”, rather than an association of related autonomous Churches. I believe the “mutual commitment and discipline” in the text refers to action by the conservative Primates to coerce the ECUSA to do or not do what the conservative Primates wish.

(3) It would be a sufficient rationale if the language of the Covenant itself were appropriate. It is not a rationale for the coercive aspect of the Covenant.

(4) The first four adequately describe the ECUSA’s understanding of our faith, except that somewhere the reference to Scripture should be expanded to include the full formula of “scripture, tradition and reason”.

I recognize that item 2 tracks the language of the Chicago – Lambeth Quadrilateral. Since we are expanding on the Quadrilateral in this and other sections of the Covenant, I believe that there should be a clear reference to “scripture, tradition and reason” for the Covenant.

This is important because the Covenant is trying to force a conservative, literal application of scripture, while the “scripture, tradition and reason” formula broadens and expands how we form our faith and practice.

(5) Item 5 reflects an effort by the drafters to compel us to conform to the Thirty-nine Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book, which we should resist. The ECUSA has rejected these documents as authoritative, and we should not be forced to change our faith and practice. Item 5 should be deleted.

(6) Some parts are not clear and understandable and /or need to be altered.

Para. 1. The words “moral values derived from scripture, tradition and reason” should be substituted for “biblically derived moral values” in order to broaden the criteria for moral values. In addition, the words “the vision of humanity received by and developed in the communion of member Churches” should be deleted. This language is ambiguous. My interpretation is that the only vision that the ECUSA can implement is a vision developed by all the member churches. In other words, all the member churches must agree before the ECUSA can implement a vision of humanity (such as that homosexuality is innate, rather than a voluntary sin, or that women should be admitted to the priesthood and episcopate). This relates to the basic issue of whether the conservative Primates can coerce the ECUSA. This statement may provide a rationale for such coercion.

Para. 3. I am not sure what is meant by “bishops and synods’ , but I suspect that these words may exclude clergy and lay persons. The words “governing bodies of the member churches” should be used instead.

In addition, this reference to biblical texts is not clear, and could be construed to support conservative literal interpretation and application. A statement should be added that a dynamic interpretation is permitted, whereby the central tenants of Christianity are employed and applied to current situations, even if particular detailed provisions are ignored as being not appropriate.

(7) I believe it is helpful and should be a part of the Covenant. A Covenant should have a section on mission.

(8) No, this section does not adequately describe my understanding. My understanding was that the Anglican Communion was an association of churches and the “Instruments of Communion” existed to facilitate communication and interaction, including analysis and discussion of current problems. This description makes them into watchdogs of doctrinal purity, which is a different role.

(9) No, I do not believe there needs to be a body for resolving disputes, because “resolving” in this context means coercing a Province which takes a minority view to conform to the views of the majority.

If we are must have such a body, the Primates Meeting is badly flawed for this purpose because it is not a representative body. It does not include clergy and lay persons. In addition, not all members were originally elevated to the status of bishop in a democratic manner. Also, women are excluded by some Provinces from the episcopate and from the process of selecting bishops, and so of necessity are excluded from being Primates.

(10) A “matter of essential concern” is a matter that some party believes is important enough to label it “essential”. The criteria of what is essential is very subjective, and will be manipulated by all parties to advance their agendas. A “common mind” means we must all agree. This is accomplished, hopefully first by discussion and discernment, and finally by those in power coercing dissenters. I note that this meaning is repeated by the phrase “common standards of faith”, which mean that standards held by the minority must be conformed to those held by the majority. Otherwise , such standards would not be ‘common”.

I note that, in the same para. 3, “Scripture” is used again without reference to tradition and reason.

In my opinion, Section 6 of the Covenant is the most important section. And the most important subject in Section 6 is the subject of sanctions. By “sanctions” I mean exclusion from the Communion, reduced status in the Communion, denial of voice and /or vote in Communion proceedings, denial of Communion privileges, etc. If the “Instruments of Communion” do not have the power to impose sanctions, then the Covenant will have little detrimental effect. The “Instruments of Communion” will function as advisory bodies, with no enforcement power. If they do have sanctions, then the ECUSA will be subject to them, and the situation will be drastically changed in that the ECUSA will be subject to intimidation and coercion.

In my opinion, the drafters of the Covenant intend for the “Instruments of Communion” to have the sanctions listed above. However, they have obscured this subject by veiled language which conceals this reality. In para. 4 they refer to “respect” for the “Instruments of Communion”. Then in para. 6 they refer to “a process of restoration and renewal will be required”. In my opinion, this veiled language refers to sanctions of some kind. Since the sanctions are not spelled out, in effect what the Covenant does is create an ecclesiastical police authority which is given a blank check as to what it can do to transgressors.

I would respond to this situation as follows: A) I would specifically bar the “Instruments of Communion” from using any of the above sanctions. This would be done in the text of the Covenant with a specific list and a specific prohibition. B) If that fails or is not possible, then I would specifically list all the above sanctions as powers of the “Instruments of Communion”. We will not have lost anything, because the “Instruments of Communion” will assume the power to apply these sanctions. The value of a specific listing is that it will force the deputies and bishops who vote on the Covenant to face the fact that they are voting to make themselves subject to sanctions, and it will at least defeat the effort to obscure this reality.

(11) The “fundamental shape” of the Covenant is O.K. if changes in the text discussed above are made.

(12) The consequences of signing the Covenant would be to facilitate the conservative Primates in their effort to cause the ECUSA to change its policies on gays and lesbians, beginning with gay bishops ands eventually extending to the overall treatment of all gays and lesbians. After the ECUSA is forced to change on this issue, the conservative Primates will apply their new found power to other issues, which will be deemed “essential” for this purpose.

(13) I do not agree because the function of the “Instruments of Communion” as the watchdog of doctrinal purity, with authority to enforce their opinions and decisions, to my knowledge has no precedent in the Anglican Communion. The statement that there is nothing “new” in the Draft is not true.

(14) Taken as a whole, my response is that it is a document designed to facilitate oppression of the ECUSA, and other Provinces with similar views, by the conservative Primates. There is little that is helpful in the Draft. It is wholly unacceptable to me unless it is drastically reworked as described above.

Gary Stansbery

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Question Three: Why are we doing this?

One of the questions I ask a lot is, "Why are we doing this?" When we are planning something at church, especially if we are making some kind of difficult decision, the "Why?" question can be clarifying. Question 3 is that kind of question, asking of the Preamble, "Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?" The preamble is not very long, so I'll quote it.

We, the Churches of the Anglican Communion, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ , solemnly covenant together in these articles, in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the Grace of God revealed in the Gospel, to offer God’s love in responding to the needs of the world, to maintain the unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to grow up together as a worldwide Communion to the full stature of Christ.

In my opinion, this would be a fine reason. Obviously to the extent that the church can live out the gospel by living in unity and by striving for reconciliation in the conduct of our common life, everything we do should help us in this aim. The rationale acknowledges that we are not all proclaiming the Grace of God in the same way or offering God's love to the neds of the world in the same wy but each "in our different contexts." The difficulty I see is that the covenant as a whole does not seem to be an agreement to "stay in relationship" as each of our provinces struggles with what it means to proclaim the Good News faithfully in our distinctive cultural context but an agreement designed to exclude and restrain some provinces from doing that unless the primates of all the provinces (each very different culturally) think it is okay.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


While I was away at CREDO last week, I found myself wondering whether Unity and Wholeness are always the same thing. Just what I mean by this brilliant question, I am not sure. But all this working to hold together the unity of the Anglican Communion, by increasingly coercive means like the Primates' Communique and its deadlines, may preserve Unity but work against Wholeness, since the price of Unity seems to be that people are expected to keep silent about who they truly are, that some provinces are supposed to disenfranchise some believers, that when bishops gather some of them are not welcome. If all the provinces of the communion are willing to make these sacrifices of their integrity and allow the covenant to dictate how disputes are to be settled and to cut some off from communion, the unity we will have will be the opposite of wholeness.

Second Question: What do we mean by the Anglican Communion?

The full text of this question asks us to consider this introduction to the Draft Covenant:

God has called us into communion in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Jn. 1:3). This call is established in God’s purposes for creation (Eph. 1:10; 3:9ff.), which have been furthered in God’s covenants with Israel and its representatives such as Abraham and most fully in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. We humbly recognize that this calling and gift of communion grants us responsibilities for our common life before God.

Through God’s grace we have been given the Communion of Anglican churches through which to respond to God’s larger calling in Christ (Acts 2:42). This Communion provides us with a special charism and identity among the many followers and servants of Jesus. Recognizing the wonder, beauty and challenge of maintaining communion in this family of churches, and the need for mutual commitment and discipline as a witness to God’s promise in a world and time of instability, conflict, and fragmentation, we covenant together as churches of this Anglican Communion to be faithful to God’s promises through the historic faith we confess, the way we live together and the focus of our mission.
Our faith embodies a coherent testimony to what we have received from God’s Word and the Church’s long-standing witness; our life together reflects the blessings of God in growing our Communion into a truly global body; and the mission we pursue aims at serving the great promises of God in Christ that embrace the world and its peoples, carried out in shared responsibility and stewardship of resources, and in interdependence among ourselves and with the wider Church.

Our prayer is that God will redeem our struggles and weakness, and renew and enrich our common life so that the Anglican Communion may be used to witness effectively in all the world to the new life and hope found in Christ.

and to ask "How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the Development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?"

While I would readily agree that the Anglican Communion bears witness to the "new life and hope found in Christ" and to "the great promises of God in Christ that embrace the world and its peoples" I am not sure that all Anglicans would agree about what that looks like. For Episcopalians, it involves not just unity for unity's sake but striving for justice and peace, upholding the dignity of every human being, proclaiming the Good News and so on. Part of the "special charism" of Anglicanism seems to me to be that we are willing to allow some of us to go out on a limb for what we believe the justice and the Holy Spirit are calling us to.

I see nothing here about the development of the communion. It is described as a gift of God's grace rather than as the unfolding of a process in history, a process in which, of course, the Americans were out front creating a problem and the Brits were trying to make it possible for Americans to be distinctively themselves and still Anglican.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

More about the very idea of covenant

One of the problems with the whole covenant process in this time and place is that it seems to be designed to say who is IN and who is OUT and what things we can agree to disagree about and what things we cannot. Now if, one day, during tea break at the 1958 Lambeth Conference someone had said, "I have an idea, chaps, maybe we should have some kind of a covenant among the various provinces" and the other bishops had thought "What a spiffing idea!" and set out to work on it, they might have produced a document a lot like this one minus sections five and six and the Primates Meeting and ACC ... and we might have received it gratefully. We might not have thought "biblical moral values" was a loaded term. We might have thought we all agreed on what that meant or that we could agree to disagree as Anglicans do. They did, in fact, talk a lot about what bases for intercommunion might look like with other faith traditions at that Lambeth Conference. But the whole covenant process in 2007 seems so reactive and as Episcopalians it is tempting to react against the whole process as being deliberately designed to make us second class citizens within the communion or to slap our hands... We can't put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one. But what would it take to create a Covenant that liberal (I am using that word with pride) Episcopalians didn't have a knee jerk reaction to? I can't begin to say how many people I've asked for opinions on the draft covenant whose responses are short angry phrases which are unprintable (by me, anyway).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The First Question: Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary?

The full text is Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?
From one point of view, of course, it sounds helpful. After all, as a colleague of mine points out, we have covenants of agreement with other denominations when we enter into Eucharistic Sharing with them, so it would make sense that we should articulate what we believe that we have in common with other Anglicans. After all, the whole Windsor process seems to have gotten rolling because Episcopalians had one understanding of what it meant to be Anglican and other Anglicans had another understanding drastically at odds with it. So being clear about what our union consists of makes some sense. On the other hand, you could argue that the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral is an expression of what we believe and who we are as Anglicans and that it is un-Anglican to get much more specific than that. Still, at GC 2006 we affirmed our desire to remain part of the communion and our support for the covenant process. So why does this particular draft feel less like a mutual commitment freely entered into, like the covenant of marriage, and more like a list of rules ?

Responding to the Draft Covenant

This is a team blog of the 2006 General Convention Deputation from Missouri. We are using it as a place to write our thoughts in response to the questions posed by the Study Guide sent out by Executive Council. We are to respond to the Study Guide by June 4. I undertook to set up this "virtual meeting" because the time is short and the month of May is very full. We are inviting all clergy and people in the diocese of Missouri to send comments in response to the questions to our deputation chair Jack Fleming who will forward them to the General Convention Office. The deputies are meeting again to formulate, if we can, a group response at 8 a.m. on May 24. We will be trying to make our responses as specific as possible. As the moderator, I'll start us off in the next note, but posters can respond to any question they like. As moderator, I am requesting that Missouri posters identify themselves as such and we'll pass those responses on also. Our goal is to inform the diocese about the draft covenant and to encourage as many people as possible to respond to it, in whatever way they choose.
There will eventually be a list of links, but for now, let me suggest this background reading for joining the discussion:

  • The Report of the Drafting Committee and the Draft Covenant itself can be found here.
  • The Study Guide for Responding to the Anglican Covenant can be found here .
  • Comments on the Covenant Process by the two Episcopal members of the drafting committee. The Rev. Ephraim Radner and the Rev. A. Katherine Grieb

You can google "Draft Anglican Covenant" for yourselves and see the comments of many bloggers, those for and against one or another part of the covenant. This is a place for Missourians to reflect.