The meeting on the 12th December between Rowan Williams and
a group of Anglicans speaking on behalf of a wide group of Evangelical and Charismatic members of the Church of England with the support of a number of Anglo-Catholic leaders
seemed to mark a low point in the Church of England's traditional understanding of tolerance and catholicity when a "Covenant for the Church of England" was presented see here for the text.
Four things intrigued me about the "Covenant"
1. Where is the other party to the "Covenant" - in my understanding a Covenant is usually used to describe a statement of agreement between two or more parties which enable them to work together on a agreed basis. Would not the word Manifesto or perhaps even Ultimatum be an more appropriate word for what is presented.
2. The Covenant had apparently taken over a year to prepare - yet seems to have the feel of a hastily prepared document - one conservative evangelical colleague who have know for many years and who I had anticipated might subscribe to many theological ideas sustaining the "Covenant" described it as embarrassing when I spoke to him this afternoon and he is clearly distressed by its contents and ignorance of Anglican theology. This is all the more surprising because there are clearly some capable theologians such as Chris Sugden associated with its production.
3. Aside from the issues raised about Anglican identity, this must surely create division within the evangelical wing of the Church of England, with its exclusive claims which will leave many Anglicans evangelicals among those who are against them.
4. I wonder why some of those who are associated with the organisations which the authors claim to be behind the report (The Daily Telegraph among others in the press has challenged how wide the consultation has been) have not left the Church of England already if it is corrupt as they seem to think that it is - and more particularly if the issues which surround ECUSA are deemed to be symptomatic of mainstream life within the Church of England. What intrigues me even further of bodies like Anglican Mainstream (a body which under any other context would be charged under the Trade's Description Act)have among its members people who have recently chosen to join the Church of England from other churches including some of the younger clergy - but apparently without any real understanding of the traditions of the Church which have enabled it to be both reformed and catholic.
Just when I was getting a little depressed about what kind of understanding of Anglican ecclessiology my colleague emailed m with this link to Bishop Tom Wright's response here to the Covenant - and a sense of relief washed over me. Here is sound Anglican evangelical theology which truly represents the Anglican Mainstream tradition - a profound angry critique of what the Covenant represents - go read it.
Bless you Tom Wright!