The debate on the Anglican Covenat is going to hot up from here.
This morning I decided to write to the General Synod Representatives (both lay and clerical) of the Diocese of Portsmouth. They are clearly not fashionable or popular views, but I feel they should be heard; which of course will not be permitted if the Anglican Covenant goes through. I have debated whether I should make known these misgivings about the Covenant, and the threat it poses to the Communion itself. Members of the Parish have supported this position, and so in a spirit of open debate, I make this available.
To the Portsmouth Diocese Representatives to General Synod
Dear Lucy, Philip, Sue, Tim, Debbie and Fr. Bob,
I understand that at the November General Synod there will be a motion advocating that the Church of England adopts the Anglican Covenant currently under discussion.
Although I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to vote according to the will of God, I feel I should represent to you the misgivings of my parish and myself over this process which I believe threatens to undermine all that is good and Godly about the Anglican Communion whilst searching for an uneasy peace between Traditionalists and Progressives which can never be resolved, and certainly will not be resolved by this unwieldy and blunt instrument of hegemony.
The misuse of the word “Covenant” is, I believe, at the heart of this initiative, seeking to establish an improper authority over others which is unbiblical and inappropriate. The Anglican Communion seeks to be a community gathered by a common heritage and a liturgy: it is not a confessional or congregational church: fidelity to the Church has been based upon geography, tried and tested formularies, Creeds and of course Holy Scripture, not by assent to an ever-changing list which is blown about by the winds of modern fashion or fundamentalist pressure. Corinth was not Jerusalem, which was not Phillipi or Antioch: autonomy in ecclesial authority was and remains important.
The only Covenant is that which exists between humankind and God, sealed by the blood of the lamb. This document, however, seeks to cut across the structures of each member of the Anglican Communion in order to impose some kind of supposed Order and Discipline. If the Holy Spirit calls one of the Churches of the Communion to act in one way, who are we to seek to overrule that? The Covenant therefore appears to be an instrument of politics, of home-grown rabble rousing by some who need to be seen to rattle their sabres at overseas churches rather than deal with issues on their own doorstep and break the fundamental purpose of episcopal pastoralia which is to be a focus of unity in their own see and province rather than anyone else’s.
I do not see any sanctions being threatened against the Diocese of Sydney for their promotion of Diaconal-led Eucharist and their use of Baptism by testimony rather than water which is entirely contrary to the spirit and historic formularies of the Church. Although I personally find that as offensive as some find the Inclusion of LGBT people or Women in the life of the Church, it cannot be my prerogative to override their Synod, no matter how contrary to what I personally hold Anglicanism to be.
Although I may have the reputation as an unrepentant liberal with the kind of progressive views (especially on matters of the Proclamation of the Gospel, Sexuality and Inclusion) which the Covenant seeks to fillet out of the Anglican Communion, I hold that the via media of Anglicanism can and should represent a diversity of views, both Traditional and Progressive at the same time: to enter into dialogue, not adversarial combat. The Covenant will put an end to that opportunity to debate.
I pray therefore that these reflections might be of some use to you all as you enter that debate: a lot is at stake, and if we are to continue to productively debate matters of Sexuality, Gender, Soteriology and Ecclesiology in an open manner, then the Church of England needs to challenge the hegemony that is at the heart of this Anglican so-called Covenant.
My prayers are with you.
Fr. Simon Rundell
Vicar, Parish of S. Thomas the Apostle, Elson
Bishop Tom Wright suggests that the Covenant is the “only way of keeping the Anglican Communion together”, but I would counter that if it plasters over debate, difference, diversity and the working of the Holy Spirit, then we should be prepared for a different form of Anglican Communion because if this is the price of a supposed Unity, then I’m not buying it…
The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.
Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1945-1961
Comments on “Anglican Covenant – My appeal to my General Synod Representatives”
Hi there. Just came across your blog. I was wondering what ‘baptism by testimony’ is, as I have never heard of it, nor of its use in Sydney. I couldn’t find it by googling either! Is this a new term that you have coined for another practice? I would have thought that Sydney diocese would be keen to baptise with water, so find this rather puzzling.
Brilliant letter – thank-you. You are a beacon of hope!
Thanks, Fr Simon. I would be pretty sure that such a thing is not official Sydney diocesan practice. I also note that the comment about it is a speculation from a friend of the Church Times correspondent. Perhaps your letter was rather too strongly worded on this point. Have you checked with Sydney diocese about it?