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The Bishops' Covenant: An Analysis and Evaluation
The Anglican Communion Institute ^ | 3/18/2005 | unknown

Posted on 03/19/2005 7:58:52 AM PST by sionnsar

The recent ECUSA House of Bishops meeting follows the publication of the Windsor Report (TWR) from the Lambeth Commission, an earlier response by the House of Bishops in January, and finally the February Communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting in Newry. In their ‘covenant statement’, reproduced below with commentary, the House of Bishops offers their current response to the main concerns of the Windsor Report and the Primates.

The House of Bishops “Covenant” comes at an “extraordinary” time in the life of ECUSA and of the Anglican Communion, a time when clearly some “extraordinary action” is required if both the church and the Communion is not to divide irreparably and the witness of these Christian bodies become maimed beyond recognition.  That the House of Bishops grasps the “extraordinary” character of this “moment” represents a certain progress in her, until now, irresponsible foot-dragging and denial.  And given the divisions of the church at this time, the house is to be commended, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has done, for at least attempting to engage the challenges that threaten our common life in Christ. 

The Covenant agreed to, however, is deeply flawed and, we believe, more likely to increase the risks of schism than to alleviate them.  The best that can be said is that a little time has been bought in which conflicting commitments can be more clearly articulated in terms of the practical and ecclesial consequences that they will demand.  We have been given a few months now to order our respective affairs.  The worst that can be said is that this respite has been won at the price of undermining the calling and public image of the episcopacy, holding hostage the process of our church’s pastoral leadership to the aggressive demands of a party already disciplined by the Communion’s theological and ecclesial judgment, and implementing a time-table aimed at producing a divisive outcome under the brazenly disingenuous and false premise of canonical obedience. 

As the commentary below will show, the bulk of this Covenant constitutes an avoidance, misconstrual, or outright denial of the requests and theological rationale presented in the Windsor Report and the Primates’ Communiqué.  The shape of the agreed “moratorium” follows the lines of “protest” adopted by proponents of gay marriage within the church who have, given their failure to gain permission, responded by a refusal to perform all marriages and blessings until granted their demands.  Apart from the sly petulance implied in this response, the perversion of justice this embodies – by which those under legitimate scrutiny are allowed to undermine the purposes and functioning of the entire body – is indefensible.  That the House of Bishops should take such an approach, apply it to the very need for, character and exercise of episkope, and justify it in terms of the humility of “forbearance” is ethically inappropriate and pastorally depleting.

Added to this the repeated claims by the bishops that they themselves have no authority to discipline their own decisions and their own priests in compliance with the consensual teaching (unmentioned in the Covenant) of the Communion of which they are a part and which they have vowed to serve, and we are left wondering whether a church that has, out of a sense of obedience to the Christian truth, ordered herself around the episcopal calling exercised in council has not now abandoned her own raison d’être.  Such actions simply do not maintain integrity in the face of the apostolic call to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church”, to be “faithful pastors”, and to “share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world”, vows taken by each member of the House.  The many conflicts suffered by the Apostles of our Lord demanded of them humility before God and man;  but not the deferral of their vocation to teach and to lead.   Finally, the fact that this deferral has been made, within a complete vacuum of theological rationale, to a General Convention that itself has proved unable to gather, sustain, and lead this church in a manner consistent with her own Constitution, indicates a deep confusion on the part of some bishops, and invites the deep suspicion of the motives of others.

It is to be hoped and pleaded before Almighty God, therefore, that He will use the small window of time that this Covenant has at least afforded us, to stir the consciences and wills of our bishops to renew their commitment to lead their flocks within the guiding fellowship, teaching, and discernment of the Communion to which they have pledged the ordering of their ministries.  This is the form of the “substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church”, “incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all” (Chicago Quadrilateral, 1886).   

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: angpost

1 posted on 03/19/2005 7:58:53 AM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 03/19/2005 7:59:29 AM PST by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?)
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To: sionnsar
Since there is no "final authority" in the Anglican Church, there will only be continued quibbling, equivocating and delay.
Taking a stand on either side will irrevocably and irrefutably widen the schism. It always does when there is no ONE leader to make the decision, right or wrong.

The Bishop of Canterbury is no pope. He was never meant to be. Thus, Henry's folly continues to bear its fruit.

Perhaps the delay will put off the schism for a while, so that cooler heads will prevail. I hope so.

3 posted on 03/19/2005 8:34:30 AM PST by starfish923
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To: Professional Engineer


4 posted on 03/19/2005 10:14:10 AM PST by msdrby (Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen and defended by its citizens.)
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To: starfish923

I hope the schism does go forth. Some of us are tired of the revisionists highjacking our religion. The split is already there.

5 posted on 03/19/2005 2:58:44 PM PST by secret garden (Go Spurs Go!)
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To: secret garden
I hope the schism does go forth. Some of us are tired of the revisionists highjacking our religion. The split is already there.

Do you really hope so?
I don't, but it IS probably inevitable, sooner or later.

6 posted on 03/19/2005 4:21:12 PM PST by starfish923
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