Big question is: who cares?

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

That we all may be one…or two, or three. This seems to be the uncertain conclusion of the HOB reflections on unity via the Anglican Covenant after they met this week in Atlanta.

The discussion got so controversial that bishops who were tweeting the event were told to shutdown so deliberations and controversies could be done in privacy. Liberal bloggers went ballistic accusing the Presiding Bishop and the HOB of a lack of transparency.

Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta and former seminary professor, delivered a paper on Anglican/Episcopal ecclesiology and raised the question as to whether this proposed Covenant would substantially alter Anglican ecclesiology, specifically by inaugurating – for the first time – a more centralized authority than we have ever seen before.

The irony is delicious. TEC’s General Convention has voted to give metropolitan powers to PB Katharine Jefferts Schori, thus tying a silk chord around their own [bishops] necks. Yet, here they are having fits about a Covenant that Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wants in an attempt to draw us altogether in one big happy, undivided Anglican family.

According to various bishops’ blogs, three Primates of the Anglican Communion – Archbishop Henri Isingoma of the Congo, Archbishop Paul Kim of Korea, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz of Canada — delivered responses to Bishop Alexander’s paper. Surprise, surprise, all three had serious reservations about the Covenant and whether it will indeed be of any use at all in resolving some of the conflict in the Anglican Communion.

Wrote one bishop, “There seems to be general agreement that Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Covenant are an acceptable description of Anglican history and ecclesiology but that Part 4 really does not accomplish its goal of providing a way constructively to manage or respond to disagreements across the Communion and may even perpetuate them.”

TEC doesn’t want to be disciplined for its bad behavior by snubbing its nose at Lambeth 1:10, the Windsor Report and pleas from the Archbishop of Canterbury not to ordain openly non-celibate homosexuals to the episcopacy, so they take umbrage for even suggesting that it be smacked on its ecclesiastical bottom for disobedience as section 4 demands.

Now you know why there is a NO COVENANT movement coming, not from orthodox archbishops and bishops in the Anglican Communion, but from the communion’s left wing. The latter sees any disciplinary move as a form of hierarchical power grab by the ABC as well as victimization. Never mind that the ABC totally controlled the agenda and the teaching of Lambeth 2009 to which they did not object, because he made noises no one understood and never upset the liberal status quo.

At this gathering of TEC’s HOB, the Primate of Korea expressed his House of Bishops concern about the vestiges of “colonialism” in this section of the Covenant, as it calls for decisions being made about a local church (Province) outside that local church over its internal decisions.

He has a point. Is this Covenant about unity or uniformity?

“Everyone present seems prepared to continue to discuss and work with the proposed Covenant but a number of bishops suggested finding a ‘third way’ forward since many of us in the West, in Latin America, and Asia are having trouble voting for it and since we have heard that the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) bishops in Africa have signaled that they will probably not sign on to it because it does not go far enough in ‘disciplining’ churches such as ours and the Anglican Church in Canada with whom they do not agree”, said Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith, before shutting down his twitter. So much for transparency.

The Archbishop of Canada, Fred Hiltz reported that he felt “uneasy” about the possible two-tiered system proposed in the Covenant. He said he does not see any mention of reconciliation and mediation for those who might be disciplined by Section IV of the Covenant.

The Archbishop of Congo said he did not feel that there has been adequate discussion of the Covenant among the Primates.

Bishop Alexander asked can catholicity be expressed other than locally? He argued that changes in polity would result in changes of ecclesiology.

Concluded Bishop Smith, “My experience back home is that most folks in our pews either don’t know or care about the Anglican Covenant.”

And that’s the truth.

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