Is the Anglican Covenant just Dar by other means?

By Jim Naughton

Is it possible that proposed Anglican Covenant is a means of achieving a modified version of the Dar es Salaam settlement proposed by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in 2007?

The communiqué released after that meeting proposed a “pastoral scheme”, which created a church within a church led by almost exactly the same bishops who signed the factually challenged document on diocesan autonomy released Wednesday by the Anglican Communion Institute.

The ACI, with Fulcrum in the United Kingdom, were influential in creating the pastoral scheme and articulating the Camp Allen principles that were also endorsed by the Primates. The Dar settlement was almost unanimously rejected by the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, (which, as Sally Johnson chancellor to Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, has demonstrated, did not have the constitutional authority to affirm it). Despite its rejection, the leaders of the ACI continued to press for its provisions to be imposed on the Episcopal Church, even though the Dar settlement makes no provisions for this eventuality, and the Primates Meeting lacks the authority to force settlements on member Churches.

Have a look at the Pastoral Scheme (which you can see by clicking Read more) and then read the emails in this thread written by Christopher Seitz regarding conservations between himself, Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina and the Rev. Theron Walker, a rector in the diocese of Colorado.

In these emails, Seitz says that if a parish determines that its bishop’s support for the covenant is not as intense as its own, it can ask for alternative episcopal oversight through the Communion Partners. Put aside for the moment the fact that the proposed covenant has not yet been presented to the Anglican Consultative Council, and therefore may not be in its final form, and note how Seitz uses the covenant as a tool to separate parishes sympathetic to the Anglican Communion Institute and the Communion Partner Bishops from their diocesan bishops. If this is considered a legitimate exercise, it can be employed against any bishop anywhere–and can be used as a cover to legitimize separation on other grounds, for how would anyone determine that one’s bishop’s support for the covenant was, in fact, precisely commensurate with one’s own?

Note also the emphasis Seitz puts on keeping all of this business between the Communion Partner Bishops and the Pastoral Visitors (who have been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but who have not yet been asked to intervene anywhere), in effect setting the CP bishops up as free agents in their dealings with Lambeth Palace. Note the importance he places on keeping Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the sidelines so she cannot refuse a pastoral visitation, and note that he does not mention the PB’s own plan for alternative episcopal oversight, which was adopted by the House of Bishops in September 2007, with the support of most of the Communion Partner bishops.

If the scenario Seitz is outlining here were to come to fruition and be embraced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the result would be strikingly similar to the results envisioned by the architects of the Dar es Salaam settlement: a theologically conservative enclave within the Episcopal Church that enjoyed all of the rights and none of the responsibilities of Church membership.

Given Seitz’s plans, the fact that the archbishop’s pastoral visitors were trained for their new roles by a team that included two men who are mentioned prominently in the ACI emails is cause for real concern. The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner of the Covenant Design Group is one of the three members of the ACI and signed the statement on diocesan autonomy. Bishop Gary Lillibridge of the Windsor Continuation Group did not sign the statement, but if the emails are to be believed, he offered helpful comments on previous versions, and supports its general principles. (A statement from the bishop, who is well-respected by many who disagree with him on the issues convulsing our Church would be extremely helpful right around now.)

If passing the covenant effectively creates a church within a church, the covenant has to be defeated, but its proponents may be able to salvage their project by amending the document to foreclose this possibility. Whether they are open to amendments may tell us much about their true motives.

Jim Naughton is the editor of Episcopal Café.

A Pastoral Scheme

We recognise that there are individuals, congregations and clergy, who in the current situation, feel unable to accept the direct ministry of their bishop or of the Presiding Bishop, and some of whom have sought the oversight of other jurisdictions.

We have received representations from a number of bishops of The Episcopal Church who have expressed a commitment to a number of principles set out in two recent letters. We recognise that these bishops are taking those actions which they believe necessary to sustain full communion with the Anglican Communion.

We acknowledge and welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop to consent to appoint a Primatial Vicar.

On this basis, the Primates recommend that structures for pastoral care be established in conjunction with the Pastoral Council, to enable such individuals, congregations and clergy to exercise their ministries and congregational life within The Episcopal Church, and that

the Pastoral Council and the Presiding Bishop invite the bishops expressing a commitment to “the Camp Allen principles”, or as otherwise determined by the Pastoral Council, to participate in the pastoral scheme ;

in consultation with the Council and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop, those bishops who are part of the scheme will nominate a Primatial Vicar, who shall be responsible to the Council;

the Presiding Bishop in consultation with the Pastoral Council will delegate specific powers and duties to the Primatial Vicar.

Past Posts