Covenant: The Unfriendliness and Place-at-the Table Arguments

The Revd. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams refutes the arguments that The Episcopal Church should sign up to the proposed Anglican Covenant or at least continue the discussion of the document and not refuse it outright. Shared with permission:

Some who wouldn’t have proposed the idea of the covenant in the first place, are inclined to feel that–now that the covenant is put before us–it would be unfriendly to other Anglican Communion members to reject it outright, rather than greeting it with some kind of muffled acceptance.

Our reply is that when it comes to the Gospel agenda, it is not unfriendly to disagree vigorously. Disagreement and debate is one tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring all of us fallible human beings closer to the truth. Fog and stalling does not.

Some argue that it is important not to reject the covenant outright, because we need to keep a place at the Anglican Communion table–a place that would be forfeited by voting the covenant down.

We reply with a question: who sets the table? Here the Windsor Report muddied the waters by asserting its presumptive legitimacy. Even before anyone had agreed to anything the Primates were moving to enforce its punitive consequences on TEC and New Westminster.

If the majority of provinces had signed on to the covenant, then it would be reasonable to suppose that only covenanters have a place at the table. But it is not the case that most provinces have signed on. Not even the Church of England has signed on. So it cannot be right to think that TEC will have a place at the table only if it accords the covenant some measure of acceptance. In advance of a covenant landslide, the criteria for Anglican Communion membership should be what they were before.

Perhaps +Ian Douglas will say that in fact the powers-that-be will deny TEC a place at the table if we reject the covenant outright. This hypothesis presupposes that the powers-that-be will apply exclusionary procedures unevenly. The Church of England’s refusal yet to accept has not excluded it. The Church of Scotland’s rejection has not denied it a place at the table.

But if the powers-that-be would do that, why would TEC want to collude with such unjust procedures? Why shouldn’t TEC rather join the Church of Scotland in rejecting the covenant and roll up its sleeves to work for fresh expressions of Anglican Communion around the globe?

McCord Adams is a Patron of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. Find more information here.

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