Saturday, April 23, 2011

No Anglican Covenant

This afternoon, I emailed the following statement to both the General Convention office of The Episcopal Church and to the Covenant Study design group of the Diocese of New York.

My parish, St. Mary's Manhattanville, came out unanimously against the Anglican Covenant at our Annual Meeting on the first Sunday in Lent.  A drafting committee, of which as it turned out I was the principal drafter, came up with a statement for submission to the national church by the stated Easter deadline.  I apologize for a little awkwardness in the statement, especially for the fact that the scriptural quotations are somewhat loosely stuck in. I simply ran out of time and I wanted to include all the suggestions of all the members.

Here is the statement:

April 23, 2011

Resolution of the Annual Meeting
St. Mary's Manhattanville Episcopal Church
521 West 126th Street
New York, New York 10027

In response to the invitation extended to all parishes in The Episcopal Church to study and comment upon the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, this parish of St. Mary's Manhattanville Episcopal Church in New York, New York recommends that the General Convention of The Episcopal Church not endorse the Covenant.  Adopted unanimously, March 13, 2011.

A drafting committee was authorized to expand upon the bare bones resolution and has concluded that we concur with the reasons set out in the vestry resolution of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Albany, New York as follows:

* The Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 provides a sufficient base for the unity of The Anglican Communion.
* The discipline that would be imposed by the Covenant is contrary to the traditional autonomy of the provinces of the Anglican Communion [Covenant § 3.2.2] and, in particular, of The Episcopal Church.
* The Covenant would change the balance of Scripture, reason, and tradition by minimizing the role of reason.
* We are concerned that the Covenant would establish an ultimate teaching authority that would impair freedom of conscience by dictating which beliefs and norms are permitted to Anglicans.
We believe that each province in the Anglican Communion, and in particular, The Episcopal Church should continue to be free to respond to its discernment of God's will.

We also have a reason that is related to our history.  As the sponsoring parish of two of the women who were ordained priest in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, we see that one effect of the proposed Covenant would be to discourage actions that offer challenges to the church through prophetic witness.  In this connection some of us are reminded of the words of Isaiah (61:8):

For I the Lord love justice,
   I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
   and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 

We also think of St. Paul in 1 Thessalonians (5: 16-20a):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets,

We are aware that Paul’s next words are “but test everything.”  We believe the proposed covenant has too great a potential for quenching the Spirit and short-circuiting testing.

Finally, some of us feel, along with our Suffragan Bishop Catherine Roskam, that A Covenant for Communion in Mission is worthy of our study and attention. To quote Bishop Roskam, “It is neither juridical nor punitive and is consonant with our Anglican tradition—member churches joined by common prayer and common mission.” 

St Mary’s Manhattanville has ministered to all sorts and conditions of people in what is now called West Harlem since our founding in 1823.  For nearly 200 years we have stood for peace and justice for all – for racial justice, economic justice, gender justice, and sexual orientation justice.

Respectfully submitted,
on behalf of the Rector, Wardens, Vestry, and Annual Meeting of St. Mary’s Manhattanville,

Allen Mellen, Treasurer

Cc: Covenant Study design group of the Diocese of New York

The Harrowing of Hell

There are three things on my mind this Holy Saturday.  First, comments on the proposed Anglican Covenant are due to the General Convention office by tomorrow, Easter Sunday, if they are to be considered by the drafters of the Blue Book Report to the 77th (2012) General convention .  Second, in just over a week cooperators here at Morningside Gardens will be electing four new members to the board of directors.  Third, the likelihood is diminishing that the outgoing members of the Board of Directors will be voting on a capital loan for which we have applied.