Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oops. Jesus made a mistake.

In reviewing the Gospel for the Feast of St. Stephen the other day, it occurred to me (well, it had occurred to me many times over the past many years, but usually I just didn't pay much attention) that Jesus made a mistake. He referred to "all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar." Of course he was referring to the first murder in the canonical Hebrew Bible (Genesis 4) and the last (2 Chronicles 24; 2 Chron. is the last book in the Hebrew arrangement). But it isn't Zechariah ben Barachiah, who is the prophet who presumably wrote the Book of Zechariah, it's Zechariah ben Jehoiada (his father Jehoiada was high priest at the time of King Joash of Judah), who was stoned in the temple courtyard at Joash's orders.

Well, maybe Jesus didn't make the mistake. Maybe Matthew made the mistake. The mistake doesn't occur in Luke's version, so either Matthew added the mistake or Luke corrected it from the earlier Jesus tradition. In either case, Matthew 23:35 contains a mistake.

Is this a trivial mistake? Absolutely! (The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes the error, explains it, but does not make a big fat hairy deal of it, as well it shouldn't.)

And my point is...?

The text of the Bible contains errors. Some of them are utterly inconsequential, and not worth a lot of discussion. Some of them may be more significant, and worth some careful reflection.

In any case, folks who claim to believe in a literally inerrant Bible need to get honest, or get smart, or both.

As God says to such folks, "You really just don't get it, do you?"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don Hanway's book

I'm often a little annoyed at myself when I tardily discover a book I wish I had noticed a year earlier. Such a one is Donald G. Hanway's A Theology of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion: Love Letters to the Church (Haworth Pastoral Press, 2006 -- also available through the usual online booksellers). It's a solidly scriptural work (more solidly scriptural in my estimation than the frantic anti-gay arguments of the self-proclaimed "orthodox"), and it really isn't about "sexuality" but about Jesus, and the Gospel, and people. A fine book both for clergy and laity, and for parish study groups. The "blurbs" on the back include brief pre-reviews by Bishop Steven Charleston and by Tobias Heller (well known in this corner of the blogosphere!).

Don and I were neighbors, colleagues and friends in southwestern Nebraska back in The Olden Days. I went off in my various directions, and Don ended up spending the bulk of his ministry (before his recent retirement) at St. Mark's On The Campus in Lincoln, Nebraska. Aside from annual Christmas cards we haven't been much in touch in recent years, which I regret, and am grateful to have finally discovered this book. It comes out of many years of pastoral ministry, including many gay and lesbian persons, students and others, both inside the Church and outside. I commend it enthusiastically.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Prayers at Lessons & Carols

I am reminded that at the Advent or Christmas Lessons and Carols, in which many of us have participated already or will be participating between now and Christmas Eve, we are bidden to pray for "all who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love."

Yes, that may include "us" as well as "them"....

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Several thoughts occurred to me this weekend, particularly as we follow the news of the departure of members of the Diocese of San Joaquin to join the Sons of I Will Arise, and the word from Canterbury continues to be "B'rer Rowan, he don' say nuffin'."

A few days ago we had a jolly chat over at MadPriest's place about opera, which MadPriest hates. I had commented that watching DVD productions of a couple of the dramas from the Ring of the Nibelung (instead of just listening while trying to follow in the libretto) had given me a greater appreciation of Wagner (though I'm still not quite a fan!). I also have been re-reading (after a lapse of many many years) Stewart Robb's English translation of Wagner's text.

I was reading through Act Two of The Valkyrie, in which Wotan and Fricka are having a great spat, because Wotan has seen to it that his son Siegmund has found the charmed sword Nothung, which he will use to kill Hunding, with whose wife Sieglinda Siegmund is running away. (Sieglinda is also Siegmund's twin sister. Don't ask. Or rather, ask Anna Russell. A lot of that kind of thing was going on in those days.) But Fricka, whose goddess portfolio includes marriage, is all ticked off about this, and she finally browbeats Wotan into agreeing to give up Siegmund and, as it were, to throw him under the bus. In the midst of all this Wotan laments the fact that he ever got messed up with Alberich and the ring Alberich had forged out of the Rheingold (after forswearing love, in order to become master of the universe; see the previous opera), and recognized that in fact he and the rest of the gods and Valhalla itself were all ultimately doomed (although that takes two more operas).

And I got to thinking: Gee. This reminds me a little of a certain Archbishop of Canterbury I could think of. Hmm.....

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In an article on the National Post about the recent meeting of the Anglican Network of Canada in Burlington, Ontario, Charles Lewis quoted J. I. Packer, a well known, senior evangelical scholar:

"Schism means unwarranted and unjustified separation from the rest of the Church, causing an indefensible breach of unity. Those who are unfaithful to the heritage are the schismatics. It is not we who are the schismatics."

Professor Packer has surely been around long enough to realize that every schismatic in the history of Christianity has claimed that "we" are not the schismatics, "they" are the schismatics. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Apparently the Anglican Network of Canada, led by retired episcopal defectors Donald Harvey and Malcomb Harding, is planning to break from the Anglican Church of Canada and to join the Sons and Daughters of I Will Arise (also known as the Province of the Southern Cone of America), which has been trolling for disaffected dioceses, bishops, parishes, and money in North America.

Packer claims that the Anglican Church of Canada has been "poisoned" by "liberalism." This seems to mean primarily the willingness to consider blessing the unions of same-sex couples. However, "The homosexual issue is just the tip of the iceberg," said Cheryl Chang, a board member of the Anglican Network. "It is what's under the water that is more critical to us. The liberals see the Bible as a book that can be changed and interpreted, and conservatives see it as unchangeable through generations. And those are simply irreconcilable views."

Yeah, they probably are. I find it incredible that these folks think that the idea that the Bible must be "interpreted" is a "liberal" notion, and that seeing the Bible as "unchangeable through generations" is "conservative" (rather than 1. false and two 2. stupid).

One difference between "liberals" and "conservatives" is that "liberals" hope very much that the "conservatives" will stay and argue their point of view vigorously. The "conservatives," on the other hand, or at least many of them, would rather stomp off in a self-righteous hypcritical huff and then accuse the "liberals" of being "schismatic."

It's getting a little tiresome.

Thanks to epiScope for pointing to this article.

The National Post article is at

Stolen from MadPriest

Friday, November 16, 2007

Southern Cone or Bust!

I have a question.

Apparently +Bob Duncan plans to take the Diocese of Pittsburgh (or at least a group of folks claiming to be the Diocese of Pittsburgh) off to join a Province that is TA/NGC (True Anglican, with No Gay Cooties). An invitation is apparently out there from the TA/NGC Province of the Southern Cone of America.

Meanwhile +Jack Iker plans to take the Diocese of Fort Worth (or a clever plastic replica thereof) off to join a Province that is TA/NGC2 (True Anglican, with No Gay Cooties and No Girl Cooties). The invitation from the Southern Cone is apparently also out in their driveway with the engine running.

Here's the thing. It is my understanding that the Southern Cone does not ordain women to the priesthood. (The diaconate, yes, but not the priesthood. Deacons, after all, are in servant ministry, so it's okay for women to have that status. Kind of like Jesus.)

So if +Bob Duncan goes to the Southern Cone, can he take his women priests with him? Or will he have to throw them under the bus?

On the other hand, if +Greg Venables lets +Bob bring his women priests with him to the Southern Cone, +Jack Iker may have to find a different refuge, since he has already said Girl Cooties was not an option for him. Where to go? Nigeria doesn't ordain women, but I think they have actually said that's a possibility for the future. The East African provinces I think already have Girl Cooties (Straight Girl Cooties, but Girl Cooties nonetheless). What's left? Sydney? But Sydney is only a diocese, not a Province. And the Anglican Church of Australia, even though there are some remaining concerns about Gay Cooties, have pretty much made up their mind about being okay with Girl Cooties. And besides, Sydney may very well be NGC2, but they are hardly TA. (+Jack Iker and +Peter Jensen. Now, there's a pair!) (Well, of course +Jack could join up with the Southern Baptists. Pretty much like Sydney, and a lot closer. But pretty strange bedfellows, if you'll pardon the expression.)

So what are +Bob and +Jack (and +John-David and +Keith, and +Greg Venables) to do?

As the King of Siam said, "Is a puzzlement."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Not Even In A Big Brown Truck

Fr. Jake’s blog is running a post about the request of Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida to Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire asking that he decline an invitation to speak at a parish in Southwest Florida. The comments are extensive and for the most part measured, thoughtful, and reasonable. The link to this particular post is

But that’s not what I want to talk about here. About halfway through the discussion one of the commenters called attention to recent articles concerning two excellent, well known journalists in the secular press who are withdrawing after many years from the “religion beat.” They are Stephen Bates of The Guardian (UK) and William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times. See these articles; they are very good:,0,3530015,full.story?coll=la-home-center
Mr. Lobdell’s article in particular I found very disheartening, though I certainly cannot blame him. Mr. Bates has also shown great perception particularly in covering the Church of England, and is the author of A Church At War, which has received good reviews (I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my list).

This brought to my mind my own experience of some fifteen years as a non-stipendiary priest working at a secular position in a public university (after twenty-some years in parish ministry). Most of my colleagues knew that I was a priest, although we didn’t “talk religion” very much, nor should we have in that context. I was amazed, and not a little troubled, by the number of people — good, kind, honest, loving, concerned people — who have “fallen away” from the churches of their youth. I’m not just talking about their discovery that church leaders are sinners just like everyone else. I am, we all are, everyone knows that; most of us try to be honest about it and to repent. That’s not the problem. Most honest people understand about that. The problem is the authoritarianism, the religiosity, the intellectual dishonesty, the moral and financial corruption, the cruelty, the thirst for power and control (I could go on and on) that they had encountered and experienced. Terry on Jake’s blog commented, “Christianity is losing ground not because 'secular' thought is attacking it and winning. It is losing ground because it has lost its moral authority/leadership.” I think that’s right.

If we care about proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ we need to be a lot less afraid to point to things being said and being done out there — including in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion — that are false to the Gospel. I suggest we identify a “Not Even In A Big Brown Truck Society”* and not hesitate to name names. I am NOT suggesting that we stoop to the level of those who attack everyone who disagrees with them with insult and slander. In all things we must be charitable, though also remembering that love is sometimes tough. But in response to the Robertsons, the Dobsons, yes, the Ratzingers, and yes, the Akinolas and the Duncans and the Ikers, we must say, “No, in God’s name, no!”

It’s very popular, even among “progressive” Episcopalians, to dump on Bishop Spong. To be candid, I think a lot of what I have read of Jack Spong is not very thoughtful and sometimes heretical. But I also think we need to recognize that Bishop Spong’s analysis of various “fundamentalist” and authoritarian expressions of religion claiming to be Christianity has given many people hope that there may after all be a place for them in the Body of Christ. He asks a lot of the right questions even when not all his answers are on target. We need to quit picking on him and instead to look for ways he can share more fully in our genuinely evangelical task of proclaiming the Gospel of God’s love.

“Evangelical” has also become something of a dirty word, and we certainly need to reclaim it from the Big Brown Truck Society folks. (Some of whom, alas, are within our own Communion.) The Gospel of Christ simply cannot afford what passes for “evangelical Christianity” these days. But we also need to recognize with gratitude the truly genuine and authentic evangelicalism among relatively conservative protestants — I am thinking, for example, of Jim Wallis and Randal Balmer.

We as the Church are our own worst enemies — and perhaps even God’s worst enemies. We need to stop it.

*The “Not Even In A Big Brown Truck Society”: Those who would not recognize the Gospel of Christ even if Jesus himself were to drive up to their house in a big brown truck and personally deliver it to their front door.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Shelter for Homeless Bishops

According to Thinking Anglicans (, and shared on All The Usual Blogs, four English bishops (yes, the ones you’d suspect) have written in support of Bishop Duncan’s proposal to violate his ordination vows. Further, Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone of America (and Bishop of Argentina) has offered to “take in” any dioceses of the Episcopal Church who just can’t stand being Episcopalians any longer. (The Likely Suspects at the moment are Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, and San Joaquin.) This also is well covered in All The Usual Blogs. And yet further, Ruth Gledhill, a well-known journalist in the UK who covers Anglican Stuff with varying degrees of accuracy, writes: “According to well-informed insiders, Dr Rowan Williams, while opposed to separatist solutions to the Anglican crisis, has described the plan of Bishop Venables as a ‘sensible way forward…’”

Well. The Church of England has +Chester, +Chichester, +Exeter, and +Rochester. We have +Pittsburgh, +Fort Worth, and +San Joaquin. I guess that’s only fair. (I’m old enough to remember when Exeter had a real bishop, R. C. Mortimer. Oh well.) But I find it hard to believe that if (or when) +Nazir-Ali decides to take the Diocese of Rochester off to join +Venables, or +Akinola, or +Anis, or +Jensen, +Rowan would think that was a “sensible way forward.” Would he not say, “Um, excuse me? I don’t think so!”?

Tobias Haller, over at In A Godward Direction (, shares an interesting note from the Rev. Dr. R. J. Voyle of the Clergy Leadership Institute, which makes the point that if you want to successfully maintain meaningful unity, you have to focus on your core values. +Rowan, please copy: you will not save the unity of the Anglican Communion by betraying the basic values of Anglicanism. One thing I think +Rowan needs to do, as soon as possible (and I think he hinted at this in his e-mail to Bishop John Howe and its subsequent sort-of-clarification, but it needs to be more explicit), is to state that he will not recognize as still part of the Anglican Communion any American diocese that abandons the Episcopal Church for another province, and he will withdraw that bishop’s invitation to Lambeth. In other words, if you are American and want to be an Anglican, you have to do it through the Episcopal Church. Just as if you are English and want to be an Anglican, you have to do it through the Church of England.

If +Rowan doesn’t understand this, and lets this charade continue, the Anglican Communion is dead. As the Gospel puts it in John 11:39, kyrie, édé ozei, tetartaios gar estin.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Absolutely Must Read

Father Jake has posted on his website (see the column to the right) a major extract from an essay by the Rev. Canon Dr. Joseph Cassidy, Principal of St. Chad's College at Durham University. He's absolutely right -- an absolutely must read. The full text of the essay is posted on InclusiveChurch, I commend it enthusiastically.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Swimming the Tiber

One of the notable events during the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans last month was the announcement by the Right Rev. Jeffrey L. Steenson, Bishop of the Rio Grande, that he intends to resign from his office and from the ministry of The Episcopal Church and to join the Roman Catholic Church. Accounts have been widely posted on the usual blogs; an interview with Bishop Steenson was published in The Living Church (

I was very sorry to read his announcements, and I do hope he will reconsider. I do not know Bishop Steenson personally, but I believe he has given this matter long and hard thought and prayer, and if he believes that his conscience requires him to take this step, I wish him Godspeed and every blessing. His graciousness is exemplary.

However, I do have a question about his understanding of Anglicanism. He said in his Living Church interview that the meeting of the House of Bishops last March was “a profoundly disturbing experience for me. I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England … honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.”

I also was formed, I think slightly before Bishop Steenson, in an Anglicanism inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival, but not quite like what Bishop Steenson describes. When has The Episcopal Church not been autonomous? Granted, we speak better when we talk about “interdependence,” but ultimately we are an independent national Catholic church. If our relationship to the wider Anglican Communion is not by “voluntary association,” then what should it be? An involuntary association dictated by Canterbury, or the Primates (heaven forfend!), or the Lambeth Conference (something which the LC has never claimed to do)? I’m not sure what alternative Bishop Steenson is proposing to “an autonomous and independent local [sic] church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association.” It is true that many Catholic Christians believe it is the esse of the Church that there be a central ecclesiastical authority with a clear universal magisterium. That is the position of the Roman Catholic Church. (Oddly enough, that also now seems to be the growing position of many self-identified Anglican “evangelicals.”) I believe it is not the position of authentic Anglican tradition. I believe we have (for the most part) taken very seriously the admonition of Jesus about the use and abuse of authority: “It shall not be so among you.” Does this mean that Anglicans may go wandering off in strange directions? Yes, and we have done so, and we doubtless will again. But we also find our way back, by God’s grace. We are, after all, not saved by our own theological orthodoxy. One problem in a church with Roman-style (or “evangelical”-style) authority is that correcting errors becomes much more difficult. Being an Anglican may often seem like being in a frying pan, but diving into the fire is not the solution.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Reflection on the House of Bishops meeting

There has been a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the House of Bishops’ response to the communiqué from the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Dar es Salaam in February, on both sides of the issue. (Well, there has been some real disappointment expressed on one side, and a great deal of ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth from the other side.)

The HoB’s statement has been posted on various sites on the Web, including EpiScope:

One part of the statement that attracted some criticism from “progressive” commentators was the following:

The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (1) The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

A point of criticism was that the statement notes the reference of GC 2006 Resolution B033 to “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons,” which, although clearly implicit in B033, had not been stated explicitly until the HoB statement. Well, it’s not like there was anyone who didn’t already understand to whom B033 pertained! But what hasn’t received much mention, and what some of us wish the HoB had also explicitly noted, is that B033 pertains not only to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons, but also, presumably, to other “candidates to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” Unfortunately, there are many whose manner of life presents a challenge at least to me who have already been consecrated to the episcopate, and I guess it’s too late to do much about that now (although there are a number of purported bishops-elect to whom this might still apply). Here are what I consider some “challenging manners of life”:

notably failing to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and to “strive for justice and peace among all peoples, and respect the dignity of every human being” (granted, this language is specific to the Baptismal Covenant in the American Book of Common Prayer and as such is not common to all Anglicans, but any Anglican, or any Christian, who cannot vigorously respond “I will, with God’s help” to these vows desperately needs to find another religion);

making hateful (not just critical, but hateful) public statements about other human beings, some of whom are fellow Anglican Christian human beings, and dvocating their prosecution and incarceration even for simply discussing homosexuality;

actively invading another diocese in another Province, by consecrating bishops and claiming jurisdiction over congregations not only without the consent of the bishop of that diocese and the Primate of that Province but in total contempt of that bishop and that Primate, and indeed in contempt of the Archbishop of Canterbury;

arrogant condemnation of another Province for alleged nonconformity with certain provisions of resolutions of the Lambeth Conference and subsequent documents while flagrantly refusing to conform with other provisions of the same resolutions and documents;

unwarranted and unsubstantiated accusations of heresy and apostasy against the Primate and the Bishops of another Province;

violation of clear biblical morality, specifically as set forth in Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20.

I am disappointed that the House of Bishops did not also enumerate these instances of “a manner of life [that] presents a challenge to the wider church.”


Back to the Blog

I started this blog a few weeks ago and then got sidetracked! I was following the news and blogs leading up to and during the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans in September, and every time I thought of Wise Comments events would overtake me and they were always obsolete or superseded before I could get them posted. Probably just as well.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Let's Go Blogging!

I’ve been lurking on a number of blogs in recent months — primarily related to Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion matters. I’ve refrained from entering the fray of comments (and that’s probably just as well! — mostly because other people have made comments that are wiser than I would have made). But there comes a time when the temptation to join in becomes too great! So here I go. This blog (“The Liturgical Curmudgeon”) will be a miscellaneous assortment of comments, ruminations, reviews, moaning and whining, links to other people’s blogs and articles, etc. I have also set up a separate blog (“Have Stole, Will Travel”) on which I have posted a number of recent sermons. (Some people over the years have asked me for copies of sermons, which I find both flattering and frightening!) See the link on the right.

Comments are most welcome, with the caveat that I intend to moderate them. I have no objection to comments that disagree with me, even vigorously (who knows? You may be right!), but I reserve the right to refuse to post comments that are openly and notoriously offensive or idiotic. One would hate to think that Episcopalians/Anglicans, or any Christians, would post such comments, but, as we all know, alas…

Thank you for your charity and forbearance as I enter the Anglican Blogosphere!

Bill Moorhead

Some Reviews

I have recently read or encountered a number of books or interviews that I found interesting and valuable. Some of these are already well known. If you haven’t already seen them, I commend them to your attention.

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles. A powerful and deeply moving spiritual memoir. Ms. Miles sometimes colors a bit outside the lines, but then, so did Jesus. I recommend it to everyone, and would particularly suggest it to recent converts to Christianity or to the Episcopal Church, and to anyone who has been away for a while and is considering whether to come back.

The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, by Marcus J. Borg. Sub-subtitled “How We Can Be Passionate Believers Today.” Professor Borg has attracted a lot of criticism, even scorn, especially from more conservative quarters, because of his association with the Jesus Seminar. It’s true that there are some things he says about which I would like to sit down with him with a pitcher or two of beer (N/A; I’m on medications!) But he needs to be taken much more seriously than some are willing to do. I believe a number of parishes (including my own) have book study groups who are reading this book, and I highly recommend that. Another book for recent converts or returners who want a clearer exposition of what Christian Gospel is all about, especially if they are troubled by the “Christian religion” as preached by some self-proclaimed “evangelicals.” It’s worth remembering that Borg and Tom Wright are good friends even though they disagree about a number of things (see their The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions).

In Search of Paul: How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed. And while we’re talking about authors who get a lot of scorn from more conservative folks…! I am one of those who would take issue with a lot of the things Crossan says (his early book The Cross That Spoke: The Origin of the Passion Narrative is to my mind quite silly), but this book on Paul focuses primarily on the social history of the Roman Empire in the first century and is really very interesting, if occasionally a bit tedious. This opens some aspects of the first generation of Christianity of which many of us were not aware.

A few days ago I ran across an interview with Dr. John Polkinghorne, the (Anglican) priest/physicist at Cambridge, who in my judgment is one of our most important theologians, though probably under-read. (Generally easier to read than +Rowan!) The transcript and video of this interview with Robert Wright of, posted via, can be found at:
There are also some other interesting interviews in this series.

See you anon.

Bill Moorhead

Response to the Draft Anglican Covenant

I studied the Draft Anglican Covenant for several weeks, and submitted this response to the General Secretary of the Episcopal Church Center as we all were invited to do, earlier this year. I began by calling attention to some responses of others, with which I generally agree, which I found helpful, and which have been widely read.

Mr. Lionel Deimel (St. Paul’s, Lebanon, Pennsylvania);

The Rev. Marshall Scott (Diocese of West Missouri; posted on his blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside);

The Deputies from the Diocese of New York to the 2006 General Convention (posted by the Rev. Tobias Haller BSG, a member of the Deputation, on his blog In A Godward Direction)

I would also like to call attention to a subsequent response by my friend and colleague the Rev. Canon Ronald Osborne regarding the Instruments of Unity, which is posted on A Guy In The Pew, the blog of Chuck Blanchard of Phoenix, Arizona:

My own comments about the Covenant follow:


(1) Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?
I do not think an “Anglican Covenant” is necessary. Mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion is best strengthened, and has been strengthened in the past, by sharing in ministry by provinces, dioceses, and parishes; through companion diocese relationships; through conferences like TEAM (Toward Effective Anglican Mission) and TEAC (Theological Education for the Anglican Communion), etc. Anglicans need to know each other better through sharing worship and prayer, service and mission, personal communication and reflection. It is not clear to me what gain there would be by composing a document that I fear would simply create potential and actual seeds of dissension.

“An Introduction to a Draft Text for an Anglican Covenant”
(2) How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?
I am not really very clear what view of communion this Introduction is putting forth. I wholeheartedly believe that the Anglican Communion is a gift to us from God, but I am not sure what the Introduction means by our “special charism and identity.” I believe that as Anglicans we do have a special charism and identity, but this Introduction does not define these. On the contrary, my understanding includes an openness to the Spirit of truth, a willingness to listen to one another, and a reluctance toward ecclesiastical authoritarianism that I am not sure I detect in this draft covenant.

“An Anglican Covenant Draft”
1. Preamble
(3) Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?
This Preamble is unexceptional enough, I suppose, but I don’t see it as a sufficient rationale for imposing (let’s be candid) a covenant. We are certainly all called to grow up together to the full stature of Christ, but I’m not sure what is meant by “a worldwide Communion” and whether that might include an unnecessary agenda.

2. The Life we Share
(4) Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?
I am inclined to think that these affirmations are both deficient and excessive. I think the description of our understanding of our common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith are most appropriately expressed by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886/1888, including the specific reference to the Historic Episcopate. I don’t think anything further is required. “Participation in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God” — well, yes, certainly, but what exactly is that supposed to mean?

(5) The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church. Do you think they should be? Why or why not?
In a word, No. I actually rather like the Articles of Religion, mostly, but even in revised form we declined to make them “authoritative” in 1801. We might also note that the first two Anglican churches beyond the Church of England, namely, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, did not authorize the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The 1662 Book is certainly appropriate to include among our historical documents, as is also the 1549 Book, along with numerous other subsequent Anglican Books including the English Proposed Book of 1928 which the Convocations and the Church Assembly approved but Parliament rejected. Regarding Paragraph (5) of this section: Let’s not go there.

3. Our Commitment to Confession of Faith
(6) Is each of these commitments clear and understandable with respect to what is being asked of the member churches and are they consistent with statements and actions made by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention? Why or why not?
What’s not to like? What’s not to commit to? Well, actually, what is meant by “biblically derived moral values” (1) and how and by whom are they determined? This is both vague and naïve. There are major portions of the Bible that are not places I would recommend for deriving moral values. We would like to assume that the communion of member Churches are receiving and developing a Godly vision of humanity (well, most of us probably do), but there have certainly been times in the past when we (including ourselves) have had a very defective vision. I think the solemn obligation to sustain Eucharistic communion (2) is essential and it would certainly be good if all the Primates would do it. Biblical texts certainly must be handled faithfully etc. (3), but “primarily through the teaching and initiative of bishops and synods”? Who wrote this — Ratzinger? I think each Church should commit itself to seeking to be faithful to God, and I think we are mostly doing that; this section is superfluous and potentially mischievous.

4. The Life we Share with Others
(7) Is the mission vision offered here helpful in advancing a common life of the Anglican Communion and does this need to be a part of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
I think this section is really pretty good. I’m not sure we need to make a Covenant out of it, but it’s a good statement.

5. Our Unity and Common Life
(8) Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?
Well, it’s nice to see the Historic Episcopate finally make an appearance — better late than never! For most of the history of the Anglican Communion, two instruments of Communion (the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference) were entirely sufficient. In more recent decades, the Anglican Consultative Council has I think made a major contribution to the life and mission of the Communion. The ACC actually has a constitutional structure and is appropriately an additional Instrument of Communion. In this section, however, the ACC seems to be reduced to a co-ordination role, which I think is a serious error. Even more serious is the attempt to raise the Primates’ Meeting to Curial status. The Primates are appropriate members (perhaps even an “upper house”) of the Anglican Consultative Council, and maybe could meet additionally for mutual support, counsel, and discussion, much as the Houses of Bishops in the TEC and some other provinces do, but of course with no independent legislative authority. But “monitors global developments and works in full collaboration in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters that have Communion-wide implications”? I don’t think so.

6. Unity of the Communion
(9) Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.
No. The New York GC Deputation is right on target with their response to this point. And they are still right on target when they say that giving executive or judicial authority to the Primates is the worst possible solution. I’m sure that in the future, as in the past, Churches in the Anglican Communion will have disagreements or disputes about various matters. We will get over them.

(10) What does the phrase “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .” mean to you?
I don’t know what it means to me; or, rather, I can make it mean a variety of different things to me. Who gets to decide what is a matter of “essential concern”? How much of a “common mind” is necessary? I think this item (3) is dangerous. It also seems to me to conflict with item (2), which is pretty good. In fact, if we all had followed the counsel of item (2) in recent years, we wouldn’t have this Covenant proposal before us at all. Items (4), (5), and (6) are unacceptable; they have to do with power, not with the Gospel of Christ.

7. Our Declaration
(11) Can you affirm the “fundamental shape” of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
I don’t think so. Although there are some good points in the Draft Covenant, there are also some points that are seriously off target, and at the end of the day it is not clear that the benefits outweigh the potential costs, or that purged of its authoritarianism and prelacy such a covenant would really be worth the bother.

(12) What do you think are the consequences of signing such a Covenant as proposed in the Draft?
I think there is a real possibility that signing such a Covenant, certainly in anything like its present form, would destroy the Anglican Communion. Well, the Communion would continue, but we might have to call it something else, depending on which direction +Rowan jumped. In any case, not a good outcome.

Concluding Questions:
(13) Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be ‘new’”? Why or why not?
I certainly do not agree. The draft text of the Covenant is full of all sorts of innovations, of which the attempt to seize power on behalf of the Primates is the most grievous.

(14) In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?
In general, my response is that as a whole the Draft Covenant is pointless at best and faithless at worst. For all that the Covenant talks about being Anglican, it does not seem to understand Anglicanism very well. It is not that we do not value truth and orthodoxy, but that we discovered some time back that truth cannot be compelled (or even always discerned) by power, and the ultimate answer to bad theology is good theology — not heresy trials or ecclesiastical discipline.

The Rev. William S. J. Moorhead
Iowa City, Iowa