Archive for October, 2011

Anglican Church Represented at Sudan Mission Partners Meeting in Cairo

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Photo caption: (From left to right) Canon Jack Lumanog, Bishop Samaan Farjalla Mahdi, Bishop Ezekiel Kondo, Bishop Ismail Gebriel Abu Digin, and Canon Nancy Norton, outside All Saints Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt.

On October 5-6 in Cairo, Egypt, bishops from the Diocese of Egypt and dioceses in the north of Sudan held a meeting of reflection and planning with several mission partners, including the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Relief and Development Fund. This important meeting was held for the benefit of discussing the challenges and needs facing the suffering northern dioceses of the Province of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of Sudan. Upon completion of this meeting, the partners in mission with Sudan released an official communique stating the challenges facing this region, their specific needs, and the top priorities of the partners in mission in order to implement lasting peace in the Sudan.

To read the communique, click here.

Bishop Mouneer Anis invited Canon Nancy Norton, Executive Director, Anglican Relief and Development Fund, and The Ven. Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog, Canon for Provincial and Global Mission for the Anglican Church, to join him in this consultation on mission for Sudan with Sudanese bishops, Bread for the World, Church Missionary Society Ireland, Michael Nazir-Ali, Church of England Bishop and President, Oxford Center for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, and Dean Kuan Kim Seng of the Province of South East Asia.

Canon Jack described his recent trip to Egypt: “As I visited Jesus Light of the World Anglican Church in Old Cairo and word of the clash between Coptic Christians and the military was just getting out, the resident priest made this statement: ‘Canon Jack, pray for us because we are suffering in Egypt physically. And Anglican Christians in Egypt will pray for you as you are suffering spiritually and theologically in America.’ Being able to see our brothers and sisters in Cairo gave me a clearer picture of what it is like ministering as a minority faith in Africa. The challenges to the Gospel are great, but our Lord Jesus Christ is greater.”

The Anglican Church Continues Support of Sudan

Through the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, the Anglican Church in North America has been quick in the past to call for prayer and provide financial relief to the Sudan. There also has been mutual support given between the Anglican Church and bishops in the Sudan.

Through its participation in this consultation, the Anglican Church in North America was able to be with the bishops of Sudan to hear first-hand of their joys and sorrows and to pray with them in receiving the Lord’s wisdom on the way forward for the provinces to work together. The bishops shared projects of relief and development which needed financial assistance. As a National Trustee for ARDF, Canon Jack was able to receive and present these project reports at the ARDF Trustees meeting that took place in Pittsburgh following the Cairo meeting. The ARDF Trustees are working on connecting these projects with the needed financing.

“Our Province has been blessed to be invited to this Missions Consultation by Bishop Mouneer Anis of the Diocese of Egypt. Bishop Mouneer is a good friend of the Province and a supporter of what we are doing in reaching North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ,” said Canon Jack.

“As we have been blessed as a Province, we are doing our part to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters who are facing incredible challenges to survive physically and spiritually. Thanks to Bishop Mouneer, it was a great honor representing the Province with Canon Nancy Norton to our ministry partners in Egypt and Sudan. Our prayers are with the bishops of Sudan and with Bishop Mouneer as he is being used by the Lord mightily in bringing healing and reconciliation to Egypt,” continued Canon Jack.

The Anglican Universe Reconsidered

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Thanks to Stand Firm

Indeed, as anyone who has frequented the various Anglican blogs over the last 9 years can attest, the fights between orthodox Anglicans who consider themselves “Communion Conservatives” and orthodox Anglicans who consider themselves “Federal Conservatives” are often bloodier and more divisive than any between orthodox Anglicans and the revisionist leadership of the Episcopal Church.

“Communion Conservatives” sometimes view “Federal Conservatives” as embittered reactionaries who have chosen schism or, conversely, as cowards who retreat from a fight. “Federal Conservatives” often assume that all who remain in the Episcopal Church lack the faith or courage to leave “goods and possessions” behind for Jesus’ sake or view them uniformly as “collaborationists” who by their mere “belonging” facilitate the heresy of Episcopal Church leaders.


Early on in the present crisis, Graham Kings (now Bishop Kings) proposed four categories, arranged graphically into a square with four quadrants, into which all Anglicans might be arranged and by which they might be measured. Here are those categories as Kings articulated them:

‘Federal Conservatives’, in the bottom right, consists of those who are conservative on sexual ethics but who do not consider highly the ecclesiology of the Windsor Report and especially its warnings against transprovincial interventions. They would not be unhappy with the demotion of the Anglican Communion to a Federation of Anglican Churches.

‘Communion Conservatives’, in the top right, consists of those who are conservative on sexual ethics but have a high regard for the ecclesiology and the recommendations of the Windsor Report. They are keen to hold to the concept of Communion.

‘Communion Liberals’, in the top left, consists of those who are liberal on sexual ethics but have a high regard for the ecclesiology set out in the Windsor Report, if not all its recommendations.

‘Federal Liberals’, in the bottom left, consists of those who are liberal on sexual ethics and have a low regard for the ecclesiology set out in the Windsor Report and many of its recommendations.

At the time I thought Kings’ quadrant was the best way of thinking about the Anglican universe. I’ve changed my mind for two reasons.

First: Notice that in all four categories the real cause of the conflict—the decision of the Episcopal Church to consecrate a non-celibate homosexual man to the office of bishop—is described as a difference of opinion concerning “sexual ethics”; a difference couched in political rather than theological language. Some Anglicans embrace “conservative” sexual ethics. Other Anglicans hold a different opinion and embrace “liberal” sexual ethics.

One might as easily suggest: “Some Americans embrace a conservative view regarding the role of the government and other Americans embrace a liberal view.”

The one writing such a sentence assumes that both the liberal and the conservative are bona fide “Americans” who, while full members of the body politic, significantly disagree over an important but not nation dividing issue.

That seems to be the thrust here as well. Liberal “Anglicans” hold one opinion and “Conservative” Anglicans hold another but both sides presumably belong within the category “Anglican” and within the larger category “Christian”.

But, as I think subsequent history has made manifest, this is not merely a “conservative” Anglican versus “liberal” Anglican dispute. This is not simply a disagreement among believing fellows over the way the Christian faith is to be practically practiced and applied—Christian ethics. It is rather a conflict that goes to the foundation the Faith itself, calling into question the foundational principle of the Apostolic church—the authority of the apostles and the prophets (Eph 2:12). The Episcopal Church, by actions of its most authoritative legislative bodies, has officially rejected of the authority of the bible with regard to human sexuality.

So my first objection to Kings’ quadrant is that it subtly reduces a first tier dispute about essential Christian doctrine to a second tier disagreement over Christian practice.

Second, notice that the Communion is the giant sphere around which each of the four Anglican planets revolve.

Even the “Federalists” are defined by their relationship to the Communion.

Given that Kings and his friends at Fulcrum set themselves within the “Communion conservative” category this is no surprise. But why should anyone else accept their premise that the Communion presently centered in Canterbury is the center of the Anglican universe?

To do so allows those of us Kings would label “Federal conservatives” to be defined as people who throw off legitimate order—or as our “liberal” friends might say, “schismatics”.

And accepting this conceptualization of Anglican relationships makes for very strange bedfellows. People who reject biblical authority are, conceptually, brought close together with those who submit to it by virtue of their mutual desire for institutional cohesion. One can, within the framework of Kings’ categories, expect an easy, pleasant relationship between orthodox Anglicans who consider themselves “Communion Conservatives” and those who consider themselves “Communion Liberals” since both happily agree about what constitutes the center of the Anglican universe–the Communion–and both embrace the “ecclesiology of the Windsor Report”. So the net effect is that, paradigmatically, those Anglican believers who willingly sit under the authority of scripture and uphold the classic doctrines of the Church are bound together with those, who by their rejection of the same, effectually rip the Christian heart out of the Anglican body.

Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church comes to mind here:

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”(2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

So my second problem with Kings’ paradigm is that by setting the Communion at the center of the Anglican universe, Kings superficially exaggerates the divide between orthodox Anglicans who differ over ecclesiology and superficially unites those who promote a false gospel to those who embrace the true one. The categories not only create grounds for a significant rift within the orthodox camp, they also provide strong incentives for those who wish to remain “truly Anglican” to cooperate peacefully with Communion leaders without regard for their theological commitments (or lack thereof) thereby setting up a rationale for disobedience to the New Testament imperative against providing heretics with aid and comfort (2 John 7-11).
I think the broad acceptance by Anglicans of Kings’ paradigm, or at least—recognizing that many have not indeed actually read Kings’ article—broad acceptance of its underlying premises has served to fracture the orthodox Anglican community.

Indeed, as anyone who has frequented the various Anglican blogs over the last 9 years can attest, the fights between orthodox Anglicans who consider themselves “Communion Conservatives” and orthodox Anglicans who consider themselves “Federal Conservatives” are often bloodier and more divisive than any between orthodox Anglicans and the revisionist leadership of the Episcopal Church.

“Communion Conservatives” sometimes view “Federal Conservatives” as embittered reactionaries who have chosen schism or, conversely, as cowards who retreat from a fight. “Federal Conservatives” often assume that all who remain in the Episcopal Church lack the faith or courage to leave “goods and possessions” behind for Jesus’ sake or view them uniformly as “collaborationists” who by their mere “belonging” facilitate the heresy of Episcopal Church leaders.

This is not to say that there are no embittered reactionary schismatics among those who have departed from the Episcopal Church. Clearly there are. Nor is it to say there are no “collaborationists” among those who remain. Clearly there are.

But the truth is that orthodox Anglicans are united at a far deeper and more “primal” level by virtue of the One Faith, One Baptism, and One Lord they, as one Body, profess and serve than they are divided by any ecclesiological difference of opinion or strategic difference of “aim” however significant . Or, to put it perhaps more tritely, what unites us is far Greater than what divides us. We may never be able to be one ecclesial body, but we are One nevertheless in Christ and that oneness should and must be given more significance than any other, more superficial kind of unity.

Why should anyone who believes the bible to be the primary source of authority in the church, the norm that norms all norms, accept any categorization that measures all things by how one relates to the “ecclesiology of the

Windsor Report” if such categorization unites sheep to wolves and divides brother from brother?

Why shouldn’t there be a Copernican rethinking of the Anglican universe?

I believe orthodox Anglicans need a new way to conceptualize the Anglican cosmos that sets revealed truth at the center. Let Jesus Christ and his word be the measure of everything Anglican and the sphere around which everything orbits. And let us find a new paradigm that rejects entirely the false claims and professions of those who deny biblical authority while purporting to be both Christian and Anglican.

There are any number of ways to meet this need and better minds can assuredly give it a better go than I, but the following paradigm is my suggestion for a new way of thinking about the Anglican universe. Anglicans may be set in the following categories

Cooperating: Those who personally hold to biblical orthodoxy but who in small or significant ways support gospel deniers by their financial offerings, political/legal alliances, and verbal affirmations within the Episcopal Church or other provinces.

Resisting: Those who uphold biblical orthodoxy within the present structures of the Communion by refusing to cooperate with or support the policies, actions, and/or words of gospel deniers while, seeking to restore and reform these structures from within.

Replanting: Those who uphold biblical orthodoxy by leaving the present structures of the Communion and beginning anew with the aim of proclaiming the gospel and promoting Anglican Christianity without hindrance from gospel denying leaders in the Communion.

Reacting: Those who uphold orthodoxy and who leave the Episcopal Church, but whose ministry is subsequently more marked by bitterness toward the Episcopal Church than zeal for the gospel.

These categories are not value free. It is not good to “cooperate” or to “react”. And yet “value” is measured by theological rather than by ecclesiological commitments. There is a faithful, honorable and important path for orthodox Christians both within and beyond the present structures of the Communion.

This way of categorizing—if broadly accepted—or one like it, could cut the heart out the ongoing and familiar conflict between leavers and stayers.

As things stand, “Cooperating” Anglicans tend to lump Replanting Anglicans together with Reacting Anglicans under the label “schismatic”. And “Reacting” Anglicans tend lump those Resisting Anglicans together with those Cooperating as “Collaborators”. That way of thinking sets an ecclesial institution—either the Episcopal Church or the Communion—rather than Jesus Christ and his gospel at the center of the Anglican universe.

But in this proposed paradigm, the Resisting and Replanting Anglicans—theological allies who differ on the lesser matter of ecclesiology—are conceptually drawn close together, as they should be, while Cooperating Anglicans and

Reacting Anglicans—those who set institutional unity or anti-institutional vengeance above the gospel–are on the extremes, as they should be.

At the center of the Anglican Universe is not an institution, but zeal for the word of God and a willingness to sacrifice all for the gospel.

One caveat.

The four categories are designed to be used, primarily, as vehicles for self-reflection conviction and only second as vehicles for externally measuring and judging the actions of others.

There have been many times during the last three years when Anne and I have acted out of vengeance—reacting against the Diocese of Central New York rather than replanting Good Shepherd. It’s been helpful at times like that to prayerfully rethink our calling—are we ministers of the gospel or are we on a quest for personal satisfaction in the form of revenge?

While we were serving in the Episcopal Church there was, for both of us, a great longing to please our bishop and cooperate with friendly but heterodox colleagues.

Any Anglican follower of Jesus can fall into any of these categories depending on his circumstances and strength at the time.

But if we all strive to remain in the center of the Anglican universe—resisting or replanting—and to avoid the extremes of cooperation or reaction, orthodox

AN INTERVIEW WITH GOD

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonlione.org

VOL: Dear Lord. Things are rough all over.I don’t need to tell you how bad things really are. Can they get any worse, probably, but I would like to ask you a few questions, if you would indulge me.

GOD: Fire away.

VOL: Look, we are losing the culture wars over pansexuality in The Episcopal Church. Heaven knows (if you’ll pardon the pun) but many of us have been hammering home your Word on the subject for quite a while now, but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. In short, we’re losing.

The Episcopal Church has active homosexual and lesbian laity, priests and bishops and, well, it’s a huge mess. TEC is also exporting its culture wars into the Global South. We need help. Throw us a bone here.

GOD: What sort of bone would you like me to throw you exactly?

VOL: You could remove some of these idiots who are destroying YOUR church.

GOD: You mean knock them off…a heart attack here and there, a nasty terminal cancer… that sort of thing.

VOL: Precisely. Out with the old in with the new young orthodox faithful…the real promise keepers.

GOD: And what makes you think that getting rid of the revisionists, as you call them, will automatically mean that the good guys will prevail?

VOL: Can things get any worse…?

GOD: Of course they can. Has it occurred to you that I am letting evil run its course? You yourself publish statistics saying The Episcopal Church won’t be around in a quarter of a century. What about the death of a denomination don’t you understand?

VOL: Agreed, but in the meantime, a lot of people are getting hurt, tossed out of their parishes, losing jobs, salaries, pensions etc.

GOD: I am aware of all that, even more so than you. I never promised anybody a rose garden. In fact, I said if you follow me, you would have to take up your cross and follow me. My Word is full of words like faithfulness, obedience (even unto death), so what about that don’t YOU understand?

VOL: It’s a huge price to pay. Every day I get stories coming into my e-mail telling me of the hardships people and priests are facing. It’s heart-breaking stuff.

GOD: And you don’t think I know this?

VOL: Of course you do. But we are ONLY HUMAN and frankly it sucks.

GOD: Of course pain sucks as you so indelicately put it. And you might clean up your language.

VOL: Sorry, Lord.

GOD: I caught you reading the Book of Hebrews the other day. You read over and over about certain early martyrs of the church who had been “sawn in half” and “suffered unto blood”, but you have not so suffered. The only bloodletting I have seen in your life has been under anesthesia surrounded by doctors and nurses who saved your sorry life in rather pristine conditions…

VOL: Got it. So what do we do?

GOD: What I have told Christians of every age and generation to do. Be faithful, stop complaining and get on with the biz. I have laid out my plans for you and my church (and it IS mine not yours). All you are called upon to do is to follow them. Being my disciple means being obedient and to keep fighting the good fight and to press on (with all your might) regardless of what you see on the surface. You don’t see the whole picture. I do. You recently wrote that there were more worshipping Christians in China than in all of Europe put together…could you have written THAT five years ago?

VOL: I guess not.

GOD: Look at what I am doing in Africa and Asia and Latin America. Half of Brazil will be evangelical Christians in a decade or so. My word is going forth in Africa in a way that the early missionaries who went there, ministered briefly and then died of Malaria would be ecstatic over. Tens of millions of Africans have discovered my Son in the last decade…in your lifetime. Whole centuries have gone by with very little witness. You are seeing a veritable explosion of the faith around the world. I have put you in the driver’s seat to watch and report.

VOL: I hear you.

GOD: Good. Then leave the results to me; they’re none of your business. TEC is history, the final chapters are being written. I may even let you live long enough to see it fold. In the meantime I have told you what to do. Do it.

Two communions?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Chris Sugden  Evangelicals Now  November 2011

Are we currently seeing at least two Anglican Communions emerge, one led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other headed by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church based on a different conception of Christian faith?

Members of The Episcopal Church  (TEC) made a presentation at the International Anglican Liturgical Conference at Canterbury in August where they role-played what a blessing of a same-sex union in church would look like.

TEC is courting the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.

The Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katharine Jefferts Schori addressed the Synod of Bishops of ACSA in Johannesburg on 26 and 27 September.  She spoke of the experience of colonialism and the colonial church in North America.  She was asked by the Bishop of Pretoria about consecrating actively gay bishops.  She said it was the in conformity with TEC canons and she was very sorry. She then left for the airport.

Speaking about the colonial history of ECUSA indicates the importance of resisting colonialism.  The Theological Education in the Anglican Communion programme run from the Anglican Consultative Council presents orthodox Anglican theology in Africa as the legacy of colonial theological imposition designed to pacify the natives. Is the implication that TEC is the vanguard of theological independence and liberty now as it was in 1776?

Some in ACSA were offended by this invitation since Katharine Schori has consecrated a Lesbian Bishop, declared Jesus not to be the only Saviour, sold a church to the Muslims rather than to orthodox Anglicans and presides over a process by which orthodox congregations are deprived of their churches and clergy of their livelihoods.

The process of approving Pastoral Guidelines in the Church of Southern Africa for those in same-sex unions has also begun. The Archbishop of Cape Town wrote to his church about “the development of Pastoral Guidelines in relation to the same-gender civil unions for which South African legislation now provides. Following requests to the Bishops for advice in relation to the pastoral care of people in such unions, and their families, the Synod of Bishops has, over several meetings, produced a document reflecting our common mind on this very sensitive issue.”

Here we see, as in the UK, a process by which the law of the state is used by the Church to accept that the fact of same sex couples in parishes changes pastoral policy, while avoiding doctrinal debates and undermining the doctrine of marriage.

Some may ask what is the problem with blessing this expression of love between one person and another?  Surely God is love.  But the question is what is proper and appropriate love, and what is its legitimate expression?

Same-sex partnerships have now become a defining issue for the church. On the one hand is affirmation of the human desire for love and faithfulness in which God is to be seen. This is a contemporary expression of panentheism – “God-in-everything” in which we are to approve of everything that appears to be good.

On the other hand is the need to have an external point of reference by which to judge issues of truth and goodness.  This is witnessed to in the word or text of tradition. We have literally two religions.

The problem we face is that Rowan Williams is trying to hold on to both positions. He is clear on the liberal side but vague about the external point of reference where he needs to have a much higher view of scripture.

Have YOU decided to attend yet?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

FCA Southern Africa is happy to announce that it will

host discussion days:

 

Human Rights, the Bible and AIDS.

 

This will include four presentations with questions and discussions.
  1. Philosophical questions that arise around these issues and there connectedness.
    1.  Dr Vinay Samuel.  – Oxford center for Religion and Public Life.
  2. Biblical Questions that arise.
    1. Dr Chris Sugden.  Anglican Mainstream International.
  3. AIDS in Africa.
    1. Dr Dermot O’Callaghan – (Chair of the Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship)
  4. Sexuality – Nature or Nurture?
    1. Dr Dermot O’Callaghan – (Chair of the Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship)

These will be held at:

St Martin’s, Bergvliet on Wednesday 2 November From 9am to 4pm.       for planning purposes please register here.

and

St Agnes Kloof on Friday 4th November 2011, From 9am to 4pm.             for planning purposes please register here

The Christian Family.

 

A Morning of Teaching on “The Christian Family”  – Dr Vinay Samuel and Dr Chris Sugden.

Saturday 6 November at Durban North. 9am to 12 noon.                         for planning purposes please register here

 

SPEAKERS 2011

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Praises Presbyterian Church (USA)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Luke Moon

Abandoning biblical sexual teaching is an “act of justice”

On Oct 12, Nobel Laureate and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa defended the Presbyterian Church (USA) decision to accommodate the ordination of practicing homosexuals. In an open letter to Stated Clerk Rev. Grayde Parsons, Archbishop Tutu wrote: “It is incumbent upon all of God’s children to speak out against injustice. It is sometimes equally important to speak in solidarity when justice has been done. For that reason I am writing to affirm my belief that in making room in your constitution for gay and lesbian Christians to be ordained as church leaders, you have accomplished an act of justice.”

 Archbishop Tutu is no stranger to controversy. His willingness to pick sides on every major hot button issue today has won him a host of friends and enemies. Most people perhaps remember him for his courageous and unequivocal fight to end apartheid in South Africa. But he has more recently weighed in on everything from climate change to Arizona’s immigration law. Despite his accomplishments over the last 80 years, he has routinely promoted with the Religious Left ideology whether it be as the vice-director of the Theology Education Fund at the World Council of Churches or as a patron of the anti-Israel Sabeel International. It is, therefore, no surprise to see him supporting the radical LBGT agenda. He is unlike the vast majority of African church leaders who affirm orthodox Christian teachings.

TEC Executive Council submits General Convention resolution saying church is ‘unable to adopt Anglican Covenant’

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011


Decision is up to 2012 meeting of convention

By Mary Frances Schjonberg,
Episcopal News Service
October 24, 2011

Salt Lake City, Utah] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council will submit a resolution to General Convention next year that would have it state that the church is “unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.”

The resolution also promises that the church will “recommit itself to dialogue with the several provinces when adopting innovations which may be seen as threatening the unity of the communion” and commits to “continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion” and dialogue “with our brothers and sisters in other provinces to deepen understanding and to insure the continued integrity of the Anglican Communion.”

The 77th meeting of General Convention July 5-12, 2012 will decide whether to pass, amend and pass, or reject the resolution. Convention is “the only body that can act on behalf of the whole church in this matter,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said during a post-meeting press conference.

The unanimous decision to submit the resolution to convention came Oct. 24, on the last day of council’s four-day meeting here.

A covenant task force, composed of six council members, based its recommendation to council in a report that is available in English here and Spanish here.

Jefferts Schori said the proposed resolution “goes on at significant length and with great care to remind Episcopalians and other Anglicans that we continue in solidarity, building missional partnerships, across the communion and that that is the way in which we understand our relationship – that we are bound to our brothers and sisters across the communion and we will continue to respect that.”

Just after council’s action on the covenant, the members passed a 2012 budget for the Episcopal Church that includes $1,178,066 in money to support missional work in the Anglican Communion and to help support the communion’s administrative work.

Jefferts Schori noted that the reasons given in the report for being unable to adopt the covenant in its present form have to do with the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons. The task force’s report noted that the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons has said that to adopt the current version “would significantly alter our current understanding of what it means to be an autonomous province.”

The presiding bishop said that the task force was also concerned “that all people of this church might be included in the life of the church.”

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson suggested during her closing remarks to council that the communion could be better bound together by a commitment to the Five Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990, and the Covenant for Communion in Mission based on those “marks” and developed in 2005 by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism and endorsed by the ACC. At Anderson’s behest, the General Convention in 2009 called for the church’s 2013-2015 budget to be centered on the Five Marks of Mission.

“I share with all of you a deep commitment to our sisters and brothers across the Anglican Communion and to the mission that binds us together,” Anderson told the council. “I believe that the Five Marks of Mission are the covenant that will endure and strengthen our communion, and I am eager to continue the dialogue to which we have pledged ourselves and in which many of us are actively involved.”

The task force’s rationale for advocating the resolution, according to the report, begins with the fact that the Episcopal Church believes “when the church is faithful, the unity of the church is reflective of the unity that is in God, divinely ordered and discernable on the earth.”

The Episcopal Church seeks to be faithful to that unity, the report continues, “by honoring the diversity of ministries in the Episcopal Church in multiple forms: our tradition of empowerment of all orders of ministry in governance; our identification of the interpretation of Scripture as the work of all Christian communities; and our heeding of the work of the Spirit in new understandings of how we are called to be in community and relationships.”

The church’s unity is “best expressed in our efforts to a church that fully welcomes those who have not always been welcomed,” the report said.

“This understanding of who we are as a church does not allow the Executive Council to support any covenant that might jeopardize this vocation,” the task force members said in the report.

“The covenant consistently ignores the importance of the role of the laity and their full expression of ministry in all spheres of the life of the church,” the report said.

The task force members included those who were on the “extremes” of opinion in the church about the covenant, as well as people in the middle of that spectrum, Rosalie Ballentine, chair of council’s committee on world mission and the task force, told the council Oct. 24.

“We have looked at this as more of a process of discernment, not just a matter of ‘should we adopt a covenant’ but, also looking at who are we as the Episcopal Church, what does it mean to live into our baptismal covenant, what does it mean to live in community, what does it mean to be a part of the Anglican Communion,” Ballentine said.

She said that the task force purposely used the language of “unable to adopt in its present form” rather than suggesting that convention “reject” the covenant or “refrain” from adopting it.

“We still have hope for our continuing relationship, our continuing conversations, our continuing efforts to live in community and for us to move forward as part of the Anglican Communion,” she said.

The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues. The report came in the wake of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire, a development that caused some provinces to declare broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church.

Some Episcopalians and Anglicans, including the Executive Council, have raised concerns about the covenant, particularly in section 4, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.

The 2009 meeting of General Convention asked, via Resolution D020, that the church’s dioceses study the proposed covenant and report to Executive Council, and that council report to convention with proposed legislation. Council formed the task force to help council respond to D020’s requirements.

In September 2010, the task force asked dioceses to study the final text of the covenant and respond by Easter 2011. The group said in its report that the “vast majority” of the respondents are not in favor of adopting the covenant in its entirety.

The task force also recommended to convention a “new study of the foundations and boundaries of our polity and governance as we seek to deepen our communion-wide engagement and equip the leadership of the church” and to document changes in the Constitution and Canons that would be needed to adopt the covenant and analyze “how those changes may alter our identity from theological, philosophical and polity perspectives.”

Previous to the current task force, a council committee, also chaired by Ballentine, reviewed and responded between 2007 and 2009 to the first three drafts of the Anglican Covenant. The response to the first draft is available here. The response to the second draft is here.

Council’s October 2009 response to the so-called Ridley Cambridge draft is here. At that time, a small group appointed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was considering whether the draft’s fourth section needed further refinement. In December 2009, the final version of the section was released and the covenant was officially opened for consideration and adoption by the communion’s provinces.

Council member Lee Crawford, who served on both groups, told the council Oct. 24 that the last six years have been a “long, long journey of reading, listening and praying.”

“We pray that as we move forward between now and General Convention that the same prayerful, heartfelt discussions will continue,” she said.

Some Anglican Communion provinces have adopted the covenant or are in the process of considering it. One chart of provincial action is available here.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by provincial synods for six-year terms, plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.