Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cordial Covenant

Good speech here, by Simon Cawdell, to the Diocese of Hereford Synod. This excerpt deals with the main criticisms directed against the Covenant:

"Thus far there is little or nothing that is not descriptive of the life we already live, and is therefore wholly uncontroversial. Section 4 turns to those moments when, being human, and therefore part of a human institution we disagree. Very often we can agree to differ, bearing in mind the contexts of our mission, but just occasionally an issue arises of such import that it threatens the fabric of the Communion. The last decade has been an object lesson in how not to deal with these, and section 4 proposes a means of enabling an exploration of differences that is Biblical, and careful. It does not lay down restrictions, nor does it impose anything. Indeed it recognises the right of autonomous provinces to carry on regardless if they so wish.

It does envisage a situation in which a church might be asked to delay a decision whilst it is thought through. It recognises that sadly there may be times when a church presses ahead with a change that others cannot accept, and at that point it places upon the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the ACC a requirement to spell out what the relational consequences of such a decision might be. It absolutely does not, anywhere suggest that it can prevent anything. As to the relational consequences, this is nothing new. We have seen relational consequences of unilateral action over the last ten years, and the Covenant merely seeks to bring about some order in discussion where previously there has been chaos.

Think of another Covenant relationship, that of a marriage, where neither party is in fact prevented from any action or decision, but they may hopefully choose to regard the wellbeing of the other before they proceed. If they do not there may be relational consequences varying from the dog eating dinner, to divorce. There is nothing novel in this, but a tidying of how we resolve matters. In essence we are moving to the model of Matthew 18 when we speak with one another, then before witnesses, and only then lay the matter before the church. In marriage preparation it is always my custom to exhort a couple that if they find themselves at an impasse, to seek a mediated conversation. This is healthy, and mirrors real life to us.

I have heard this is the language of pre nuptial agreements. I demur. That refers to contracts, this is a Covenant. Yes it may have moral force, but it is not legally binding. If you doubt it we have the word of the Legal Officers as well as the Archbishop to reassure us.

I have heard it argued that this will cause many unnecessary delays. Let me put it in context. The average life of a Measure’s progress through Synod is three years. In the case of a change thought by some (but not me) to be controversial like Women Bishops it has taken twenty years. The truth is that our own processes are so tortuous that any delay requested from elsewhere will easily be incorporated within the normal progress of our own proceedings. I don’t anticipate many in any case.

I have heard that it is judgemental, and punitive. That is wholly inaccurate. It provides a means of mediated conversation, and in extremis outlines the issues that may arise if, after careful conversation churches decide to walk apart. That merely defines fact existing now, when some provinces members are already excluded from representative functions because of the stance of their sponsoring church. It does however provide a rather less messy route than happens today, allowing for patient conversation and quiet diplomacy.

I have heard people call it unAnglican, which is a strange criticism indeed as it encapsulates our much loved heritage, it sets up no additional structure, but utilises present ones, and has been drawn together in many drafts by careful consultation across the globe, including a substantial contribution from our own church, and the strong endorsement of our own Archbishop."
The whole speech is at Fulcrum.


Father Ron Smith said...

I have read this article, Peter and, although it has some very good arguments in favour, I'm afraid it misrepresents the harm that could come from the side-lining of TEC and the A.C.of Canada. These two Provinces are still within the koinonia relationship of the Communion; while the self-elected GAFCON Provinces - who will not accede to the present Covenant proposal - have already withdrawn from the 'Instruments of Unity'.

This being the case, I and many others in the Communion, do not see any reason for the ACO to 'bend over backwards' to accommodate the demands of those who have withdrawn

The Provinces that are left in Communion with Canterbury do not need any other 'Instrument of Unity' than those we already have. Magisterial Rule was never part of our Communion ethos (a very Roman Catholic institution that the Reformation Churches discarded), so why should we need it now?

carl jacobs said...

You have to feel bad for Fulcrum. They are churning out pro-Covenant material lately and with earnest diligence. They remind me of the workers in the mail room of HMS Titanic moving the mail away from the in-rushing water. Their faithfulness will not be rewarded.


Anonymous said...

The depressing thing about 'Fulcrum', of which Simon Cawdell is a trumpet major, is that while they advertise themselves as 'renewing the Anglican centre', all their wrath has been expended against conservative (i.e., traditional) evangelicals (rather like the way children bemoan their narrow-minded parents), while they have become little more than water-carriers for liberals in the Church of England. All the epsicopal appointments of late (from the smoke-filled rooms of ecclesiastical appointments) have been from liberal ranks and 'Affirming Catholicism'. Graham Kings of Fulcrum was amde a bishop too - but now has Nicholas 'Gay Marriage Now' Holtam as his boss.
The Fulcrum strategy was bound to fail but they couldn't see it coming. Not very prophetic, I fear. A schism can't be averted.


Peter Carrell said...

It is all very well saying the Fulcrum strategy was bound to fail but what strategy was bound to succeed?

Was/is the Church of England going to follow Reform's strategy?

Was/is the Church of England going to follow Affirming Catholicism's strategy?

Ditto Forward in Faith's strategy?

In my view Fulcrum has always offered the better strategy among those on offer. It is not yet proven which is the best strategy ... and (on this bit I agree with you) it looks possible that all strategies other than muddling through to schism will fail.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

what strategy was bound to succeed?

First you have to define "success." If by "success" you mean "holding the constituent parts together in the Communion" then there is no strategy that could have possibly succeeded. You haven't yet come to terms with the fact that there are two distinct religions within that organization, and they are fighting each other for exclusive control. This isn't a 'family fight.' Your insistence that it is a 'family fight' is itself the explanation of why you cannot come up with a strategy that could possibly work. It is also the explanation for why Fulcrum has been such a miserable failure.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I judge the Anglican Communion to be neither a success nor a failure at present. "Success' would be as you define it (and we are not there yet, granted); "failure" would be actual leaving by a member church of the formal ties of the Communion (none has done so).

So I think there is still much to play for in respect of success.

On what grounds do you say there are "two religions" in the Communion? There are a range of views and what is at one end of the range and what is at the other end are pretty much two different religions. But in between there is much more common ground.

For the Covenant to succeed in being adopted it needs to secure this middle ground.

Anonymous said...

I agree Peter that for the Covenant to succeed it must secure the middle ground, but I would add that for the Anglican Communion as a whole to succeed and thrive it must also do so, with or without the Covenant.

The formation in the U.S. of the North American Lutheran Church ( provide a model of the way forward.

NALC is a theologically centrist Church, formed on August 27, 2010, that grew out of the deep disatisfaction in ELCA with the increasingly extreme liberal drift in the church leadership, and the way in which a small minority of unrepresentative liberals had managed to highjack leadership positions in the church and set up systems which excluded the voices of anyone else.

NALC is a confessional church grounded firmly in the Lutheran standards, the creeds, the authority of Scripture, and committed to traditional Biblical marriage. At the same time it allows for a diversity of worship styles and ordains women to the ministry.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in America is another example; centrist and pro WO, but firmly grounded in the Westminster Standards.

Something like this is needed in the Anglican Communion, a re-alignment of centrist Anglicans and the organisational structure to ensure its voice is heard.

Fulcrum has tried this, with varying degrees of success, but something more global is needed.

Peter Carrell said...

I tend to agree, Shawn, that if the Covenant does not pass then a centrist (rump) Communion will emerge with a more conservative grouping of Anglican churches to one side and a progressive few churches to the other side.

Whether or not they have substantive theological reasonings for not supporting the Covenant, I do understand that a number of centrist Anglicans are not keen on the Covenant but this does not mean they are about to embrace the progressive extremes of many vocal opponents to the Covenant.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, as you are now no doubt well aware, the voting in Church of England dioceses on Saturday was 2 For and 4 Against the covenant. That now makes a total of 8 YES ; 16 NO.

This means, that of the number of dioceses that have already voted - more than half - the NOES have twice as many as the AYES. On the law of averages, that should mean that the Covenant is well and truly lost in the Church of England.

However, one must not discount the influence of the Archbishop of Canterbury's 'last stand' on UTube, which may have a retarding effect on the dioceses yet to vote.

I just pray that the Holy Spirit rules on this issue - as well as other issue presently extant in the Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
You need to read your own blog properly! The count (as I have read there) is not the headline 16/8 but (by the bottom of the article) 17/10.

Anonymous said...

Peter asks: 'Which strategy was going to succeed?'

Well, I can't help thinking how poor Jeremiah must've felt after 40 years of largely fruitless preaching. Who wants to give his life for a lost cause? I imagine he lost every vote with the official state church of Jerusalem, certainly after the death of Josiah. But who was right?
Clue: look up the Book of the Prophet Hananiah.
It was going to take a lot of grief and an exile to get things back on track.

My grief about 'Fulcrum' is that they have divided the evangelical community in the C of E because of their obsession with WO as a first-order principle (which it NEVER could be). They were never 'the evangelical centre' as they self-importantly claimed to be. Anyone reading their blog can see they are in fact post-evangelical, moderate liberals (from a mainly evangelical culture) who picked up some 1980s/90s hermeneutics (not classical Reformned hermeneutics) - or "liberals in slow motion" as I see them.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your timely reminder that I am not infallible - a good sign of my Anglican background!
17 - 10 it is - against the Covenant, and still counting. Agape.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

On what grounds do you say there are "two religions" in the Communion?

If you seriously doubt that TEC represents a different religion from Christianity, then go to Google, type 'Stand Firm heresy thread' in the search line, and read for yourself. That thread has existed since 2008, and it exists only to document the words and actions of TECs leadership. And by words, I do not mean "What someone else said they said." It's all there in one easy-to-find location.

Liberal Christianity is an anthropocentric religion that rests upon the twin pillars of metaphysical doubt, and the presumed goodness of man. It sees religious life as an internal process of self-enlightenment, and religions as vehicles to carry that enlightenment. That's why any religion will suffice. The vehicle is not important to the journey. It is fundamentally a religion of deified man.

In the United States, every single major Protestant denomination has divided along this very fault line. There are no exceptions. Whatever the formal theology of the resulting liberal components might be, their functional theology is amazingly uniform. The division is occurring because people like me see the church propagating this false religion, and so they leave. It's not about power. It's not about homosexuality. It's not about WO. It's about Gospel. And it's happening all over the Christian church. It has been happening for quite some time. Decades, in fact.

If your non-negotiable position is "We are all brothers, and we must stay together" then your position is DOA. One side of the argument is leaving precisely because they do not recognize the other side as brothers. They define unity in terms of the True Gospel, and they see the other side preaching a false gospel. They aren't going to be dissuaded by pleas of "Can't we all just get along?" No, we can't.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I am not disagreeing that there are two religions in the Communion. I am raising the question whether the two religions are as clearly distinguishable as you make them out to be, e.g. by identifying TEC with one of them. (I am also trying to make a point about a spectrum across the Communion which means I want to take care not to marshall all into one camp or another).

In TEC's case there are many faithful men and women who do not belong to the false religion at work in TEC. I do not want the Communion organised in such a way as to exclude them from the Communion. Nor do I want TEC expelled when there remaining is an opportunity for orthodox Anglicans to continue to speak the truth to them. (And I do not think expelling TEC will cause them to change their minds).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi +Martin,
I think you are quite wrong about Fulcrum dividing the evangelical community of the C of E. That community in recent decades has included a large section in favour of WO and against SSB and a smaller section against WO and against SSB. Fulcrum gives expression to the thinking of the larger section.

If it had worked harder to join the two sections together would they have come together? Given that the larger section has no particular reason to change its stance to ensure the satisfaction of the smaller section, the question is really about the smaller question and their willingness to work with the larger section!

Further, in thinking about which evangelical approach is best engaged with the realities of social change in Britain, i.e. which section is best geared to evangelise the people of England, my reading of English society is that the larger section is better geared, so Fulcrum have rightly spent time and energy fostering the theology of that section.

Anonymous said...

Peter, if you don't think Fulcrum has been divisive, read their blog and see how much of their ire is directed against conservative evangelicals while almost nothing is said against liberals. That is why I call them 'water-carriers' for liberals (like Tom Butler of Southwark in his campaign against Co-Mission, and now Nick Holtam in Salisbury, with his suffragan Graham Kings). Fulcrum arose in reaction against the evangelical leadership in the CofE. Read what John Richardson has to say about the history of this in his blog.
Tom Wright's verbose fulminations against Gafcon and on behalf of Steve Chalke did nothing to help - while his own diocese continued to decline.
Fulcrum has raised support for WO the level of a first order theological principle (which would have amazed St Paul), while - to judge from the contributors to its blog - is now moving into accepting gay relationships. Read Simon Cawdell himself on the subject. That's why I call them post-evangelical.
You need to consider the Law of Unintended Consequences. The traditional Catholic party has almost died now in the C of E, while many hundreds of pastorally minded but essentially liberal women trained in part-time courses have been ordained to run services in struggling rural and inner city churches (as has happened in some NZ dioceses).
Who is best geared to evangelise English society today? Almost certainly not the Church of England! The growing churches are African or the Hillsong franchise! If English Protestant Christianity is still alive in 30 years, it will have a largely African face. There are more Muslims in mosques in England than Anglicans in church.

Father Ron Smith said...

"If you seriously doubt that TEC represents a different religion from Christianity, then go to Google, type 'Stand Firm heresy thread' in the search line, and read for yourself."

- carl Jacobs -

I've seen it all now.
a Google Worshipper - Carl Jacobs!

Like Shawn, he seems to believe everything he reads - not only The Bible, but everything on the www.

Anonymous said...

I agree that at times Fulcrum has been devisive. It has spent far too much energy attacking other Evangelicals, and at times I believe has descended into blatant anti-Americanism in its attacks on U.S. Evangelicals in particular. N.T. Wrights statements after Sept.11 were theologically unsound and frankly offensive, as are his diatribes against Israel and his replacement theology.

The Anglican Communion needs a centrist conservative/evangelical organisation, but Fulcrum is too narrow for that, and too interested in trying to appease liberals by attacking other Evangelical Christians.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin and Shawn
I do not much frequent Fulcrum (I once used to do so) so am not as in touch with it as would be necessary to defend them (or attack them!) for all their actions.

If they have been divisive then that is so and that is sad.

My point is not that they have perfectly represented the irenicism of moderate, centrist evangelicalism but that they have voiced the commitments of many evangelicals in proposing that it is reasonable to be pro-WO and anti-SSB. To the extent that that is perceived to be a brake on the agenda of other evangelicals I suggest other evangelicals work out why the Fulcrum commitments are so well supported.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I agree that Fulcrum has been, and continues to be important and that it is has, in your words, "voiced the commitments of many evangelicals in proposing that it is reasonable to be pro-WO and anti-SSB." and for that it is to be commended.

Please don't take my criticism as a blanket condemnation. There is much about Fulcrum that is good and positive, and if, as I hope, there is the creation of a global Anglican centrist group, Fulcrum would have a lot to contribute.


"Like Shawn, he seems to believe everything he reads - not only The Bible"

Shocking! A Christian who believes the Bible! ;)

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

It's always a unique experience engaging with you, FRS. Lately it's been a lot of knock-off lines like "You should go taker a cold shower." I never quite know what to do with them, so I let them lie fallow. But this is different. Tonight I feel like a boxer waiting in the ring for my opponent. Suddenly he rushes in, bypasses the ring, exits the area, and start furiously sparring with the candy machine in the lobby. I want to say "Yo! FRS! I'm over here in the ring. You know, the square thing, with the ropes and the canvas."

a Google Worshipper ... he seems to believe everything he reads

Heh. No. If you had bothered to examine the thread (which you clearly have not) you would have discovered that the very first post on that thread was made by me. It was a link to a transcribed sermon on the website of the National Cathedral - a sermon preached at the National Cathedral on April 24, 2005 by Rev. Dr. George F. Regas, then Rector Emeritus, All Saints Church, Pasadena. The sermon contained among other things the following statement:

“I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through me.” The first thing I want you to explore with me is this: I simply refuse to hold the doctrine that there is no access to God except through Jesus. I personally reject the claim that Christianity has the truth and all other religions are in error.

Now, there is one, only one, and no more than one Christian response to this assertion. That response is not "We have the freedom to disagree." No, we don't. That statement is a denial of the central tenet at the heart of the Christian faith. It is a denial of the work of Christ to reconcile God with man. So should I trust the transcript of a sermon on the website of the church in which the sermon was preached? Should I assume there is some terrible conspiracy in the National Cathedral to publicly discredit TEC?

he seems to believe everything he reads - not only The Bible

Yes, far better for me if I just "took it seriously." Why should I possibly believe the revealed word of the Living God?


Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn. I do not 'believe in' the Bible. It is a collection of Books and is an inanimate object. What I do believe in, is the Life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and saviour. I believe in Him - totally. He is 'The Word-made-flesh' and is accessible to all believers!

Anonymous said...

I endorse what Shawn has to say. When Fulcrum has a positive message to society at large, I have tended to agree with it. But Tom Wright's forays into theo-politics were pretty embarrassing, and competence in one field needn't qualify one to speak with authority in another.

Anonymous said...


How do we know about the life, death, ressurection and ascension of Jesus?

Through the Bible.

How do we know what Jesus taught?

Through the Bible.

How do we know to celebrate the Eucharist? Or the right words to use when consecrating the elements?

Through the Bible.

The Bible is the living and active Word of God. It's words, being the very words of God (and therefore of Jesus), have power to convert sinners and bring then to repentance, to teach and inform, to reveal and prophesy, to train in righteousness. Every word of Scripture has been literally breathed out by God.

You cannot claim to believe in anything about Jesus, let alone "totally", if you relegate the Bible. the very words of Jesus Himself, to a mere "collection of books" or a "guide" you can conveniantly ignore when it does not suit you.

Your attempt to seperate Jesus from the Bible is theologically impossible.

Your always telling me to lsiten to my betters. Well, perhaps you should take your own advice. Try reading 'Words of Life' by Anglican theologian Timothy Ward, who has done an impressive job in the book of enunciating and defending a solid Anglican understanding of the nature and authority of Scripture.

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, one last effort, and then my part of your conversation is definitely over. Read my lips:

I do not 'believe in', I do not worship, the Bible. I do believe in and worship, the Living Christ.

The Bible is a guide book, which needs the Spirit of God to bring it alive. Christ is worshipped ' in the Spirit', not 'in the Bible'.

This reminds me of the true story of a member of my congregation who, when confronted with the reality of the need for interpretation of the scriptures; went off to the complain to local Baptist Pastor, who took down a large King James Bible from the shelf and actually stood on it - with the remark - "This, is where I stand"

This seemed to please his worried interlocutor, but did cause a smile to his fellow Anglican parishioners

Unknown said...

On the subject of Fulcrum's strategy, I would say you need to look at its strapline "Renewing the Evangelical Centre" and its history, set up in reaction against a perceived conservative dominance in the run-up to the Blackpool NEAC.

Fulcrum was not set up to transform the Church of Engand into an evangelising body, nor to promote evangelism, rather than a brand of evangelicalism.

That is why it tends to do what it does and why it won't transform the Church's mission.

Father Ron Smith said...

I spotted this Comment, today, on a recent posting of an article on 'virtueonline', headed:-

Re: CHARLESTON, SC: No Doomsday Scenario for Church of England

"Two points for consideration:

1. Jesus Christ is the WORD of God.
The Bible is the word of God.
Everything necessary for salvation can be found in the Bible, but not everything in the Bible is necessary for salvation. The Bible points to JESUS CHRIST. The Bible is a BOOK. It is only one part of our TRADITION. There are no Bibles in heaven. Jesus Christ can be touched and tasted and received every Sunday in the Eucharist. One day we may meet Him face to face. He will not be carrying a bible.

2. Anglicanism is the center point between evangelical and catholic. Two key passages to consider are the Gospel of John chapter 3 and chapter 6. ie Born again versus whosoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life.
Anglicans need to embrace both. That is the genius of Anglicanism - a Sacramental life enlightened by Scripture". - Canon John -

Canon John gives a pretty good summary of what many Anglicans believe - about the Bible & Jesus.

Anonymous said...


"I do not 'believe in', I do not worship, the Bible. I do believe in and worship, the Living Christ.

Nobody "worships" the Bible Ron. That is a silly accusation. But you cannot claim to believe in the living Jesus and the reduce the Bible to a mere guide. The living Jesus has spoken, in Scripture.

"The Bible is a guide book, which needs the Spirit of God to bring it alive. Christ is worshipped ' in the Spirit', not 'in the Bible'."

The Bible is not merely a "guide" It is the living Word of God. While it does need the Spirit to be rightly understood, you reject that as well. You have dismissed the Spirit of God on favour of the flase spirit of Liberal ideology.

Your trying, with franky superficial justification, to have your cake and eat it too. You want to claim to belive in and follow the living Christ, but you have conveniantly seperated Him from His very Words, from His infallible teaching. Because the truth is that you do not belive in the Living Jesus either. You belive in and follow the spirit of the world, or more accurately, the spirit of Western secular liberalism.

As I said, no serious Anglican theologian would endorse your attempt to seperate God from His Word in Scripture.

It is a conveniant trick designed to allow you to ignore Scripture, to ignore God, when His revealed will conflicts with your liberal ideology.