Monday, September 19, 2011

Wellington YES to Covenant

Great news coming out of Wellington and its diocesan synod held over the weekend. As Taonga reports,

The Diocese of Wellington supports all four sections of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

After a lengthy debate at the weekend, the Wellington Synod voted on each of the sections.

There was unanimous support for sections 1 to 3, but a formal division was called for on section 4.

The voting on that section was:

Clergy : 63 for; 41 against.

Laity : 52 for; 44 against.

One synod member said he counted up to 25 abstentions.

The basic feeling of Synod was reportedly: "We must preserve unity, and the Covenant will help us do that. And we don't want to find ourselves no longer in full communion because we have not signed the Covenant".

Late in the debate Bishop Tom Brown shared his own views in support of the Covenant.

Wellington is the first episcopal unit in this church to formally support the Covenant.

The Dioceses of Auckland and Waiapu have decided the Covenant does not fit Anglican ecclesiology, while two hui amorangi – Te Manawa o Te Wheke and Te Tairawhiti – have also rejected it.

It now remains for the remaining three hui amorangi and four Pakeha dioceses to respond to a General Synod request for recommendations by the time it meets in Fiji next July.

The Diocese of Polynesia is expected to bring a recommendation next year.
That will be of great encouragement to Covenant supporters in the dioceses and hui amorangi who have yet to vote on the Covenant or not. Three other points to note:

First, the argument reported here which held sway: Wellington wants to be in communion with a Covenanted Communion, not out of communion with it. Our General Synod in 2012, notwithstanding the views put forward in synods such as Auckland, Waiapu (and now, Dunedin), will have to reckon with whether it wants to put our whole church in the position of being a member church of the Communion not in full communion with other member churches or not.

Secondly, Wellington has specifically faced the question of Section 4, a stumbling block to others and to our General Synod in 2010, looked it in the eye, and proceeded to vote for it.

Thirdly, Wellington's next synod will be an electoral synod to elect a new bishop. Effectively they have now limited the field of viable candidates to those who support the Covenant.


When I wrote the above the Taonga report only referred to the Wellington synod. The report has now been updated to report on the synod of the Diocese of Dunedin which has rejected the Covenant. The report also includes a note on a motion re homosexuality, though I am a little confused by what the final amended motion actually said.


Bishop Kelvin Wright (Bishop of Dunedin) himself offers some comment on his synod. Relevant to my confusion expressed in the previous paragraph, he writes,

We also discussed an issue that has been exercising us for many years now, the ordination of people in same sex relationships. Tony Fitchett introduced a motion asking us to accept that people in such relationships should not be denied ordination because of those relationships. The debate was lengthy, honest and at times illuminating. It was conducted in a spirit which was, for the most part deeply respectful; I had a real sense of people on both sides of the issue listening carefully to each other. In the end, an amendment was proposed which affirmed that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination, but which removed any reference to relationships. That is, the amended motion served to affirm the situation which has been the case in the Anglican Church for many years. The result was not unexpected, and while it was immediately disappointing for some, I think there was a lesson for me: namely that we have been going about this debate in entirely the wrong way. The argument over sexual orientation is in itself unresolvable, given its basis, on both sides of the issue, in deeply held attitudes to scriptural interpretation, human sexuality, the family, the origins of sexual orientation and a thousand other things besides. So, if the argument is unresolvable, let's stop trying to resolve it. Let's work instead on something that is achievable: learning to live with difference. We have, after all, been living, in real terms, with this particular difference for many many years now.


Father Ron Smith said...

I sincerely suspect that the 25 Wellington 'abstentions' from the vote against the Covenant may have been of people who did not want to be seen going against the wishes of the hierarchy. However, one swallow doesn't make a Summer, Peter, so don't count your chickens just yet!

Brian R said...

So Wellington is willing to sacrifice principles in order to remain in communion. But with whom? Probably Sydney and many in the Global South but not with TEC nor Canada. I know where my communion loyalties lie. I can only pray it will remain with the Anglicans in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I never count chickens, or swallows!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian,
I am not quite sure what principles are being sacrificed when Anglicans wish to remain in communion with Anglicans. That is a good thing to do, is it not?

It is not at all clear to me that Canada's ultimate position on the Covenant is going to be the same as TEC's position. If Communion via Covenant were with all member churches save for TEC would that be TEC's problem or ours?

Mentioning Sydney is a red-herring. Our communion via the Covenant is member church to member church. Do you expect the Australian Anglican church to agree to the Covenant or not?

Lucy said...

"an amendment was proposed which affirmed that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination, but which removed any reference to relationships."

Peter, could you unpack this (intentions / ramifications / whatever)... in words of one syllable?

The first part is clear, sexual orientation, hair colour and height are all equally irrelevant when discerning the validity of a person's call to ordination.

The seond part is not clear, for me anyway. The reference to relationships appears to have been removed because the issue is unresolvable ... but in actual fact, +Kelvin seems to have resolved it by saying, 'we're going to learn to live with the differences'.

I'm not familiar with Dunedidn diocese, but I would assume within its borders are people firmly opposed to same sex ordinations and others in same sex relationships seeking ordination. This doesn't seem to give affirmation and dignity to the latter; it thus lacks courage, accountability and transparency in my opinion. On the other hand, it is deeply disrespectful to those who are opposed, the message seems to be, 'well, if we think it's right, we'll do it ...learn to live with it mate!'

Lucy Eban

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Lucy
Without the precise wording in front of me (and when I see it I will draw attention to it on ADU), I hesitate to comment. That is, I am not sure if this motion was a "let's get as many people on board" motion so that the removal of reference to relationships was the removal of a matter of contention, or a "let's be cleverly ambiguous" motion by removing words which could then permits the motion to be construed as one sees fit. My guess is the former not the latter. But, really, until the wording is available for scrutiny, there is not much to say.

Karen said...

Greetings, As a member of that Wellington Synod I would like to comment on some previous comments.

Father Ron Smith - in terms of those 'abstentions' for some of which I'm aware of, it was not about about going against or offending hierachy. I believe there were many of those which were or became undecided particularly as many of the speakers of the debate added much more perspective and possibly many would have moved in their orginal postition if not become more open at least slightly.

Brian R - the question that comes to mind is "Whose principles?" We all have them, and they differ & particularly vary in the Anglican family - that's the joy of being Anglican. Also sacrifice is constant, it's about do we recognise it and how do we value what is being sacrificed? Makes me wonder what gets sacrificed if we were to go the other way.

Given the direction it went, and the discussion that occured I believe there is still much to be said & explored. It was a deeply respectful debate, which presented many aspects.

At the end of the day it also showed that this 'issue' isn't & shouldn't be something which holds us back from moving forward. And most importantly being in relationship with God & one another.

carl jacobs said...

The Covenant cannot achieve its objective. It cannot neutralize the centrifugal forces that are caused by two different religions fighting over the same institution. Conservatives don't trust the Covenant. Liberals despise it. Where then is its natural constituency? It's unlikely to be approved in these circumstances, and would be impotent in the unlikely event it received approval.

The Anglican Communion can't avoid the decision. It must choose which church it wants to be - liberal or conservative. It must be willing to absorb the consequences of the choice it makes. There is no easy way out of this dilemma.


Brian R said...

The only time I have worshipped in the Diocese of Wellington was way back in 2006 at the cathedral. At the time I received a sympathetic response from the priest presiding (do not think it was the Dean) when I told him I unfortunately lived in Sydney. I gained the impression that the diocese was Anglican in that it tolerated people of different churchmanships and possibly sexualities. As far as I can see, the Covenant will remove this essential principle of Anglicanism. I know Sydney is a diocese and not a province but sadly that diocese makes it almost impossible for the Province to make any decisions with which it does not agree. I lived 65 years in that diocese and have now fled to a diocese as far away as is practical and feasible.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
I understood you wishing to experience and argue for an Anglicanism that tolerates people of different churchmanships and possibly sexualities.

I think it arguable that such tolerance is an "essential principle of Anglicanism." Anglicanism over the years has taken various stances on essential principles. In my own lifetime it has been a quite intolerant church in respect of people from other denominations, only recently embracing them without requiring further formalities re reception.

I do not see what in the Covenant "will remove" tolerance. A post Covenant Communion will have extraordinary diversity, only occasionally giving rise to one member church querying whether some development in another church is, in fact, in keeping with Anglican teaching and practice. Is there nothing an Anglican church could do which is beyond question?

Lucy said...

Thanks Peter, I'll look forward to reading your further comments.

in regard to: a "let's get as many people on board" motion.

I'm not sure I was inferring deliberate ambiguity; in fact I'm reasonably persuaded that your interpretation is correct. However, I'm fast losing enthusiasm for getting on board a bus bound for ... who knows where. If I were on holiday and it were a freebie, it might be fun.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you've suggested, in your response to Brian's initial post, that it is not a bad thing for Anglicans to want to remain in communion with Anglicans. certainly that is true for those of us who want to remain in communion with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

I'm not so sure I want to throw in my lot with Nigeria, Uganda or Rwanda, with their policy of endemic honmophobia, though. That does not seem to be the sort of Anglicanism I want to be part of.

I'm very keen of properly exegeted Scripture and Tradition; but I also thirst for Gospel Reasonability, based on a modern understanding of gender and sexuality - in tandem with modern scientific discovery .

Peter Carrell said...

Ah, well, Ron, that's the difference between you and me. I am looking for a big tent Anglicanism, the more belonging to it the merrier. And in that tent we have a chance to talk to each other.

I wouldn't be keen to be a small tent Anglican with just ACANZP, TEC and Canada in it. Sounds a bit narrow to me!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Sorry this is a bit off topic, but did we miss this bit of news from May about the Province of SE Asia's accession to the Covenant, with the following preamble? I did a quick look through your archives for May but couldn't find it. Sorry if I didn't look hard enough.

It's an interesting way to adopt the Covenant - not just a straight Yes/No but a detailed explanation of context and what they mean by their adoption. This could be a way forward for dioceses with reservations about the Covenant but who want to stay inside the tent.

Which reminds me, I must ask when my Province (Jerusalem and the Middle East) plans to respond to it. I don't think they're due to meet until next year and I'm not sure if each diocese has responded as yet. Given insignificant side issues like revolutions in a number of the countries of the Province, it may not have been discussed as yet.

Alan T Perry said...

Sorry, but being in communion with the other churches of the Anglican Communion does not depend on nor follow from adopting the proposed Covenant. That is a gross misunderstanding of the document, and asserting that failure to sign on is in any way a withdrawing of communion or a vote against the Communion is a scare tactic.

Let a "yes" or a "no" to the Covenant be well informed and not a reaction to fear or misinformation. Synod members have a responsibility to research and study the matters they are being asked to vote on.

Kurt said...

Brian R: You are always welcome to come to Brooklyn. Here in the Diocese of Long Island you will find that the typical liturgy is not unlike that of St James King Street, except that priests here generally celebrate the Eucharist in a chasuble. Most parishes that I know of use incense at least on important Feast days, if not always every Sunday. Calvinistic theology in our parish churches is not only unknown, it is unwelcome. Women and gay men, however, are welcomed as full members of the parishes they attend.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

I missed that Andrew: thank you! Will likely follow up in a subsequent post.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alan,
I understand the Covenant to include a question of "full communion" and connecting the Covenant to that question is not a scare tactic. Non-Covenanting members of the Communion would remain member of the Communion and in communion with other members of the Communion, but not in the fullest Communion possible. The distinction may be a fine one; and for some, not worth worrying about. But I commend the Wellington synod for acknowledging it, and for linking it with the preservation of unity in the Communion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

Just a few quick notes from Wellington - as it's quite late/early in the morning!
1 - There was a strongly held desire from those supporting the Covenant to remain in unity and Communion with other Anglicans around the world. Having attended the common life Anglican Mission's conference a couple of months ago and seeing the vibrancy of Anglican expressions of faith from around the world - particularly Africa and Asia - I too would support "big tent Anglicanism" over "just the people who think like me" Anglicanism

1b! - Contrary to some places, the inherant "Anglican-ness" of the covenant was affirmed, with it being pointed out that we are pretty used to covenants, codes, and canons governing our common life together as a church

2 - The lack of logic in supporting sections 1-3, but not 4 was highlighted. Either there is an understanding to being Anglican that has some bounded defintions - or there is not!

3 - most objections to the Covenant seemed quite fear based - a fear of "what it might mean" It was felt overall though that Covenant was the best way to allow people to remain "in the big tent" together and have respectful conversations that might lead us forward rather than some of the unhelpful actions of the past decade that have effectively stalled relationships.

4-I have seen it suggested here and elsewhere that there were a large number of people choosing not to vote and a fear that they might have feared voting against church leaders. Firstly - there were a large number of people who COULDN'T vote (invited under 35 reps, St John's students, etc), and secondly I only know of 1 person who could vote, but choose not to as her vicar and elder rep were both voting against the Covenant.

5 - I was impressed by Bishop Tom's leadership - allowing the debate to run, then giving his views candidly, reminding people of key points (such as the fact that the Wellington Synod had approved the Covenant in theory 2 years ago), and letting the process run as it did. Given that, and the clear decision in all 3 houses it does someewhat limit our choices for a new bishop in 6 months time (yes folks we do it all again voting for a new bishop, with the same synod reps - but have booked in twice as much time!) But I think that's a good thing too in many ways :)


Peter Carrell said...

Ben, you are an encourager. Thank you!

Alan T Perry said...


Can you quote anything from the Covenant text which leads you to believe that failure to adopt it affects the level of communion possible among the Churches? I don't see it, but maybe I have missed something.

Incidentally, Canada (my Church) and ANZP are already in a state of impaired communion with certain other Churches since we ordain women to all three orders. Happily there is no impairment of communion between us. Would that that were the case with all others.

Also incidentally, anent the SE Asia option: by "acceding to the Covenant" (whatever that means) with an explanatory pre-amble of what they understand the Covenant to mean, they have in effect adopted a customised version of the document. I don't recommend that at all. If every single Church did so there would not be one Covenant but 38. The apparent need to add a hermeneutical lens to the document indicates its lack of clarity, which raises the question of what exactly we would be agreeing to in adopting the Covenant. This is a serious problem.

Father Ron Smith said...

Ben, you are also purveying the myth of the present Covenant document being the most 'catholic' procedure to contain the elements of the Communion. It will, in fact, under section 4, exclude TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada from its innermost Fellowship status. That is not what I call 'catholic'.

The Communion has stood together through many a decade - accepting controversial actions such as divorce, the ordination of women, etc., what is so repugnant about the inclusion of the LGBT community that makes you want to rush into a marriage of convenience with only those partners you select as ritually pure? We are all sinners, none of us is qualified to poke the finger at another - or to select our own calculated degree of self-righteousness - such as the Covenant seems to want to do.

Sections 1 - 3 are catholic - they talk about essentials in the Gospel. Section 4 concerns matters that have already been considered (e.g. by St. Michael's Commission) to be 'adiaphora' - not essentially Communion-breaking. Why break the fellowship with TEC and the A.C. of Canada on issues the are not of core significance? This covenant is not of 'all the redeemed' but of the self-righteous.

liturgy said...

”Non-Covenanting members of the Communion would remain member of the Communion and in communion with other members of the Communion, but not in the fullest Communion possible. The distinction may be a fine one; and for some, not worth worrying about. But I commend the Wellington synod for acknowledging it, and for linking it with the preservation of unity in the Communion.”

You are going to need to clarify what you understand by full communion concretely, Peter. Communion has been impaired since the ordination of women. The “Covenant” may save the downfall of Western civilisation as we know it and help to cure cancer along the way, but until you can assure me that following signing it our bishop can preach and preside in Sydney’s cathedral, or even in every parish church in her own diocese, I suspect that the fullest communion from which you say non-covenant-signing will be lacking isn’t as dramatic as you or those Wellington speakers indicate.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alan,
I am in the fullest communion with another when I enter into a relationship of accountability with that person. According to the text of the Covenant, covenanting churches are in such a relationship with each other; non-covenanting churches are not. Other aspects to consider are that (as I understand it) only covenanting churches can subsequently propose changes to the Covenant.

There is impaired communion within our communion; but as I understand this impairment it has not prevented bishops attending Lambeth or primates attending the Primates Meeting.

I think the Covenant is clear. I am sorry some Anglicans around the world do not think so. Interestingly it may be common ground between some pro and some anti-Covenant Anglicans that the text is clear: the pros thinking it a text worth adopting and the antis thinking it a text to be rejected!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I think it worth working for greater communion in a Communion in which some impairments exist. By continuing to focus on that work, and seeking the fullest communion rather than settling for less, we could, in the end, get to a better place than we are in.

Incidentally I do not take invitations to preach and to preside as a sign of the fullness of communion between me and others. Being able to participate in communion with others is sufficient for me. Otherwise I could run round and say I am in impaired communion with the parishes that do not or will not invite me to preach and to preside (as you know some think I am a homophobic bigot and others think I am a woolly liberal etc so I am not waiting for invites from them). As far as I know Bishop Victoria is most welcome to communion at any Sydney parish and I have never heard anyone from Sydney say they would not receive communion from her.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I am confused about what you think about the LGBT community: are its folk living in righteousness re their relationships or living in sin? If they are not living in sin then the question of poking fingers does not arise. If they are living in righteousness, shouldn't that claim be able to be tested by processes of discernment and testing by the whole church? The Covenant would facilitate that testing and discernment, presided over by a Standing Committee dominated by voices of Western Anglican churches. Just what is it about the Covenant that you are so opposed to?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you say you are not aware of the reasons I am against the Covenant Document as it now stands. But I have already, in several places on this blog, indicated what is my primary objection. If you have not understood what I've been saying, then is it because you may not have 'eyes to see or ears to hear'? Because, certainly, others on the blog do understand.

While section 4 advocates the exclusion of certain Provinces - simply because they cannot, in all conscience, go back on their commitment to the ordination of Gay persons and the blessing of same-sex unions - I cannot subscribe to that ethos of puritanical conservatism, which, to my mind, subverts the Unity in diversity message of the Gospel.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
What are the actual words in Section 4 which "advocate the exclusion of certain Provinces - simply because they cannot, in all consicence, etc"?

For that matter, what are the words in the Covenant which ask you, or me, to subscribe to an "ethos of puritanical conservatisim etc"?

Alan T Perry said...

Sorry to keep hammering, Peter, but I don't see what you are saying in the text of the Covenant. Eventually I may be asked to vote on that document, and if you and I can't agree what it says, that doesn't say much about the possibility of it leading to anything like "communion," whatever that might mean.

One of the problems is that the text uses the word "communion" in several different ways without once defining it. The text is not clear at all. It is incredibly vague, which is likely to lead to disputes over the meaning of the text. Already SE Asia has tried to clarify it with their hermeneutical lens. If it were clear, there would be no need to clarify it.

Again, can you please back up your claims from the text?

Incidentaly, if you were to show up in my Church on Sunday you would certainly receive communion. No question. And I would come forward in your church to receive. But, important though that is, I think Communion with a captial C means something beyond that. Too bad the document that tries to promise it never tells us once what it is.

Brian R said...

"As far as I know Bishop Victoria is most welcome to communion at any Sydney parish and I have never heard anyone from Sydney say they would not receive communion from her."
Bishop Barbara Darling of Melbourne who grew up in Sydney said at a dinner I attended, that she boards the plane in Melbourne as a bishop and alights in Sydney as deacon. While at St James, King Street we had a number of visiting women priests preaching, none of them were permitted by the bishop to preside. Bishop Victoria would probably be allowed to preach in the cathedral, though not in a number of Sydney parishes, but she would be acknowledged as only a deacon. Bp Gene Robinson worshipped as a communicant at St James, when I had the great privilege of meeting him. I am sure both he and the rector knew it would be useless to apply for him to preach or officiate in anyway, when the Primate, Archbishop Aspinall of Brisbanem was roundly criticised by Peter Jensen for even meeting with Bishop Robinson.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
It is indeed true that Sydney's particular polity on women in orders, and on men and women in same sex partnerships in orders, means all you say above is true.

I am interested, however, that you think a woman might be invited to preach at St Andrew's Cathedral: I had not realised that.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alan
I think that 'communion' is defined in Section 1, properly making reference to the fact that our communion together is anchored into the divine communion itself.

On deepening our communion through mutual accountability I cite, e.g.,

"4.2.1) The Covenant operates to express the common commitments and mutual accountability which hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another. Recognition of, and fidelity to, this Covenant, enable mutual recognition and communion. Participation in the Covenant implies a recognition by each Church of those elements which must be maintained in its own life and for which it is accountable to the Churches with which it is in Communion in order to sustain the relationship expressed in this Covenant."

If a member church did not want to be in mutual accountability with other churches it should not sign to the Covenant. If a member church enters into such mutual accountability it will, I suggest, be entering into a greater communion than those avoiding such accountability.

Father Ron Smith said...

One does wonder in all of this talk of 'communion' and 'community', Just who is the authority that is going to guarantee the Covenant signatories of both? or will it be just a sort of 'gentlemen's agreement' - such as already exists in the present situation?

We can all talk about communion and community (relationship), but it has to be lived out in trust to be real. As for the 'Communion' that Peter was guaranteeing Bishop Victoria would be welcomed to in Sydney - presumably he means the Eucharist - as this is the real Dominical sign of unity - in Christ - which is the basic degree of unity that all Christians are happy (in their own little tents) to subscribe to. That does not need a written Covenant. The Covenant is 'en Christo'.

This unwritten Covenant - in Christ by Baptism and Eucharist- actually joins together all Christians who participate in it, no matter what their political or spiritual affinity (or their phobias).

liturgy said...

“I do not take invitations to preach and to preside as a sign of the fullness of communion between me and others. Being able to participate in communion with others is sufficient for me.”

In that case Anglicans in this country are in the fullness of communion with Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Church of Christ, and so on. Certainly you are using “fullness of communion” quite differently to the way I do. And possibly differently to the way the so-called “Anglican Covenant” uses the term – but as has already been pointed out: who can tell with that document.



Alan T Perry said...

Sorry, Peter, Section 1 doesn't define Communion. A statement that our communion is grounded in the communion is at best circular.

A statement like: "communion is understood to mean...." would be a definition. There's no such thing in the proposed Covenant.

I invite you to check my comments on this point here.

And as to accountability, what does that mean? No less than the Governance Working Group of the Anglican Church of Canada has concluded that the proposed Covenant is so vague that it's not clear what commitments are implied in adopting it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alan
I won't promise to do this, but I may attempt a better, fuller response some time via a post on the Covenant and its details.

Alan T Perry said...

Thanks, Peter.

I'll look forward to it, but won't hold you to it.

Best wishes.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
A very sharp observation!
Perhaps I need to distinguish between levels of fullness of Communion.

Communion, recognition of orders, and freedom to exercise orders.

Communion, recognition of orders and limited freedom to exercise orders.

Communion, quasi-recognition of orders (e.g. co-operating parishes), and limited freedom to exercise orders


I think I'll stop before the day is over :)