The Windsor Action Covenant: Think Before You Sign
The Windsor Action Covenant promoted by the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, in versions for laity, clergy, and bishops (see http://anglicancommunionnetwork.org/news/dspnews.cfm?id=144), cloaks schism in the guise of piety. Read carefully, and think about issues such as these before signing the Covenant:
- The vows of the Covenant are divisive, setting signers against non-signers—possibly over trivial disagreements—”Windsor Parishes” against non–”Windsor Parishes,” “Windsor dioceses” against “non–Windsor dioceses,” and seminaries teaching the “historic faith” against those teaching “revisionism.” This encourages a mindset sympathetic to schism.
- The notion of “standing with” a group of strangers “regardless of what they feel they must do” [emphasis added] commits the signer to supporting the acts of others even if illegal, immoral, duplicitous, or schismatic.
- The vows are designed to encourage laity and clergy to challenge the authority of diocesan bishops with whom they disagree. Dioceses have always been geographical jurisdictions, and we cannot choose bishops as we do long-distance carriers. Clergy who reject the “spiritual care and guidance” of their diocesan bishop violate ordination promises to “respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop” and to, “in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work” (BCP pp. 526, 532, 538, and 543).
- One might think from the Covenant that a “Windsor parish” fully supports implementation of the Windsor Report. The Network is not encouraging implementation of the whole report, however, but only of selected parts. Being a “Windsor Parish” is not quite what it seems:
- The Lambeth Commission did not ask for submission to the Windsor Report; it asked for the report to be discussed. (The proposed Anglican Covenant, for example, was written by a single member of the Commission simply as an example of what such a document might look like.) A number of provinces, including Ireland, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, and Central America have raised serious questions about some provisions of the report for restructuring the Anglican Communion.
- The Network and its allies have largely rejected paragraph 155 of the Windsor Report, which asks for a moratorium on jurisdictional crossings by bishops. Some “Global South” primates who pledged not to cross boundaries in the communiqué of the recent primates meeting have already violated that pledge. The Network has objected even to the Episcopal Church’s doing what the Windsor Report invited it to do, namely explain its theological position to the Anglican Consultative Council.
- In practice, being a “Windsor parish” will mean little, but having vestries vote on the designation will create discord between parishioners who favor and those who oppose such a move.
- The terms “historic faith” and “Apostolic Faith” (as well as “Orthodox Anglicanism”) are relatively new and problematic terms of Anglican discourse. Traditionally, the Book of Common Prayer has served both as a symbol of Anglican unity and an articulation of Anglican belief. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886–1888 identified the Nicene Creed as a “sufficient statement of the Christian faith.” From Elizabethan times, Anglicanism has emphasized unity in worship over unity of belief, embracing common prayer amidst diverse, even contradictory, understandings of the faith.
- The final pledge of the Covenant—“If General Convention chooses finally to walk apart, I will not follow, but will remain a faithful Anglican, God being my helper”—is nothing short of a commitment to leave the Episcopal Church for some nebulous new denomination under vaguely specified circumstances. What will a signer of the Covenant do if, for example, the “Global South” churches secede from the Anglican Communion, but the Episcopal Church remains in communion with Canterbury? Such a division is schism