Thursday, April 21, 2011

Colorado's Response to the Proposed Anglican Covenant

          The following is the statement submitted by the Diocese of Colorado's General Convention Deputation to Executive Council on the proposed Anglican Covenant. It was posted on the House of Bishops and Deputies list on Wednesday morning and has since been reposted on a number of other blogs and news sites. It occurred to me that I should also repost it on my blog.
          Fellow deputy Zoe Cole and I were the co-authors of this document. As a member of the deputation, I have had the opportunity to converse with congregations and individuals about this subject, which has greatly contributed to my thinking about who we are and how we relate to one another in the Anglican Communion. Back in November, I had created a PowerPoint presentation, which I freely shared with any who asked for it, as an outline for framing an even-handed discussion of the proposed covenant. If any would now like a copy, please email me at, and I'll be glad to send it to you.


Members of the Diocese of Colorado’s General Convention Deputation have accepted and faithfully engaged Executive Council’s invitation to study, pray and discuss with members of our diocese the proposed Anglican Covenant. In addition to our own conversations as a deputation, we listened to others in congregations and in other contexts throughout the diocese, and these conversations also inform our understanding of the proposed covenant and this response. Our fellowship with each other and our desire to be in relationship with sisters and brothers in Christ in other parts of the Anglican Communion have been strengthened by our study and discussions. We give thanks for the collaborative work of the committees and writing teams who have created the successive drafts of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Based on our engagement with the text and with each other, our deputation (with one exception) has concluded that adoption of the proposed covenant would not strengthen our relationships within the Anglican Communion or foster our witness to God’s transforming love in the world. We, therefore, recommend to Executive Council that The Episcopal Church encourage members of the Anglican Communion to persevere in strengthening relationships through ongoing conversation and living into those covenants that already bind us in missio dei – the Baptismal Covenant, the Five Marks of Mission and the Millennium Development Goals - while refraining from adoption of the final draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Our concerns with the final draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant include the following:

·      The idea for a covenant arose out of the Windsor Report in response to the actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada regarding consecration of a partnered gay bishop and same gender blessings. However, the proposed covenant provides no means of reconciling the relationships broken by responses to those actions. Instead it offers a punitive Section 4 that proposes relational consequences that formalize separation and suspension from participation in the life of the Communion. One member of our deputation suggests that this is an example of proffering a legalistic solution to remedy a relationship problem. Another deputy asks, “How would the events of 2003 have turned out differently had such an Anglican Covenant been in place then?”

·      The Preamble acknowledges that signatories adopt the covenant “in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the grace of God.” However, Section 4 directly contravenes the Preamble by promulgating disciplinary procedures that do not respect those different contexts. The polity of the provinces in the Anglican Communion varies widely, and Section 4.1.3 affirms the “autonomy of governance” of each province.

·      Section 3.1.3 elevates “the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, ordained for service in the Church of God” into ministry leadership above the laity, which is contradictory to The Episcopal Church’s theological understanding of the ministry of all the baptized, including the laity who share in the governance and leadership of the Church.

·      Section 3.1.4 codifies The Four Instruments of Communion and their powers in a new way that is not in alignment with how they are perceived, received and understood by all provinces of the Anglican Communion.

·      Some experience the proposed self-description of Anglicanism (Sections 1-3) as "too Anglican" while others experience it as "too generically Christian." This confusion about how a particularly Anglican understanding of Christianity fits within a general understanding of Christianity may undermine the integrity of ecumenical relationships. Moreover, if the proposed covenant accurately describes Anglicanism's self-understanding, why is it necessary? If, on the other hand, it does not accurately describe our self-understanding, then how is it helpful? And does it not then fundamentally change who we are?

·      The broad authority proposed for the Standing Committee of the covenant suggests the “covenant” is really a “contract.” The grace and beauty of the Anglican Communion has always been the voluntary fellowship of provinces bound together by affection. Covenants in the biblical tradition are about relationship, identity, and transformation, and are rooted in models of shared abundance (Eucharistic fellowship). On the other hand, contracts are merely transactions or exchanges for mutual benefit. Contractual arrangements fall short of our vocation to love one another as we have been loved by God.

The Colorado deputation affirms the need to maintain and deepen fellowship within the Anglican Communion as well as within The Episcopal Church. Our relationships are troubled and the members of the Anglican Communion are not of one mind about how to reconcile and restore our relationships. Some would even diagnose the Anglican Communion as a global entity as being profoundly fractured, our relationships ruptured, and our attention to missio dei compromised. Precisely for these reasons, we must work to intensify our relationships across the communion through engagement with the promises we have already made to care for one another.

All of us must continue to seek ways to connect our Anglican identity and relationships to God’s mission for the Church. Some believe it is incumbent upon those opposed to this version of the covenant to propose alternative, clear, realistic and definitive strategies by which this global family can weather and address the divergent theological and ecclesial realities in the Anglican Communion. 

We look forward to continuing to walk together with all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion and give thanks for our fellowship.

General Convention Deputation of the Diocese of Colorado


Ms. L. Zoe Cole, Esq.
Mr. Jack Finlaw, Esq.
Mr. Lawrence Hitt, III, Esq.
Ms. Lelanda Lee - Co-Chair

Ms. Janet Farmer
Ms. Erica Hein


The Rev. Andrew Cooley - Co-Chair
The Rev. Brooks Keith
The Rev. Christy Shain-Hendricks
The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

The Rev. Max Bailey

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