The conservative evangelical 'covenant'

I was initially quite concerned when I heard about the so called ‘covenant’ delivered to Archbishop Rowan by a group of conservative evangelical Anglicans last week. (I use the word ‘covenant’ in inverted commas as a covenant is an agreement betwen two people, which this is not.) The ‘covenant’ basically says that they are going…

covenant cartoon

I was initially quite concerned when I heard about the so called ‘covenant’ delivered to Archbishop Rowan by a group of conservative evangelical Anglicans last week. (I use the word ‘covenant’ in inverted commas as a covenant is an agreement betwen two people, which this is not.) The ‘covenant’ basically says that they are going to bypass Bishops they don’t like, withold their contributions to diocesan funds if they feel like it and ordain whoever they want to. You can read it here should you want to.

I was alarmed to see that it came from groups including the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC), a group representing a range of evangelicals within the C of E.

ceecBut all is well – and in this case I’m glad I was very slow in saying anything about this story. It turns out that the covenant does not even have the support of the council members of the CEEC, let alone any of the member organisations or ordinary members. Bishop Pete of Willesden and the Ship of Fools (and a member of the council) is publicly distancing himself from it and I very much doubt that most members of institutions such as the Evangelical Alliance, Scripture Union, New Wine, the evangelical theological colleges (Ridley Hall Cambridge, Wycliffe Hall Oxford, Cranmer Hall, Durham, Oak Hill College London, Trinity College Bristol, St. John’s College, Nottingham) all of whom are represented on the council were even consulted let alone support the ‘covenant’. The “CEEC President and Chairman sign new Covenant on behalf of CEEC” headline really is rather made up.

The final nail in its coffin was this response by the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright. If you only read one link on this story this is probably your one.

If I were a member of any of the organisations listed above I’d be asking my CEEC representative (or college principal) a difficult question or two. As Tom Wright said: “It looks as though the authors are hoping that the members of their organizations will not dare to challenge them, though when we work through the document we find plenty of reasons why they should.”

See also:

Update: A great post by Paul Roberts – A lament for Evangelicalism

Remember how you were once concerned above all other things with bringing the Good News to people who didn’t know who Jesus was and what he has done. Now all you seem interested in is sex and church politics, as if without the Church getting straightened (sic) out on this issue, the gospel somehow is powerless. Do you still believe in the gospel? Or are you so concerned about the purity of the Church that you’ve made the gospel a function of ethics or ecclesiology. From where I sit, you seem to have lost your first love, your first passion, your driving force. At the turn of the 21st century, you could have lead, harmoniously, the whole of the Church of England, into an era of unrivaled creative passion for evangelism. Instead, you ran into a churchy ghetto, became sex-obsessed, and started talking only to yourself.

Advertisement: Download a free 2007 calendar containing a selection of my church-related cartoons from 2006


  1. this cartoon gave me a ‘laff and a haff’

    still laughing in fact.

    laughing is good.

    hee hee

    hee hee hee

    x Jody

  2. (I use the word ‘covenant’ in inverted commas as a covenant is an agreement betwen two people, which this is not.)“, said Dave.

    Well … so much for God’s covenant with Israel then. Sigh.

    Unless by ‘people’ you mean ‘parties’ which is a whole new ball game. As it were.

    David Reimer

  3. Jody / Richard – thanks

    David – you know what I mean. Two people / groups of people / persons / parties.

    Peter – are you still involved with Anglican Mainstream? If so I’m wondering whether the Executive Secretary of AM is another who has gone ahead with this without the support of his organisation.

  4. Anglican Mainstream is a networking group so it doesn’t have “membership”. Rather it has a board of reference where one can “buy in” to different things that they do. That would explain why different Anglican Mainstream statements have different signature lists.

    For the record, I’m not involved these days with Anglican Mainstream in any official or formal capacity. That was a decision made over a year ago to help me concentrate my efforts on my own ministry in the parish and beyond.

  5. re: * Andrew (Tall Skinny Kiwi): “But it looks to me like the beginning of a conversation.” Sorry Andrew – can’t agree. This is an attempt to disrupt the conversation.

    Dave – you might be right but i always like to be optimistic until i am proven wrong.

    love believes all things . ..

    btw – i think i will steal your cartoon for my blog.

  6. Oh Dave,
    this is so seriously up my street
    I can see you becoming an anathema (whatever that is)
    Didn’t you read the bit in the Covenant (I think it was paragraph 261, sub-section 16b) about cartoonists and what our loving God has in store for them?

  7. brilliant cartoon, sums it up perfectly. I’m a New Wine member. ’nuff said. Thankyou for posting the ‘lament’ too, it puts it into words better than I could.

  8. Great Dave! I am a bit worried I agree with you so much!

    I was really disappointed at the covenant statement. I never heard Tom Wright’s so angry in tone…and rightly so.

    Some evangelicals have such a sense of the individual that “my faith” and “my congregation” are all important. We are part of one Church and have responsibilities to one another. If we lose that our mission is tarnished or destroyed.

    These are dangerous times. Much finance comes from the evangelical churches (such as the one I belong to) and there is a real danger that money will be used as a lever to set an agenda.

  9. Much as Wright’s response to the CEEC Covenant made much sense and good reading, the idea that it might be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ is perhaps a bit overstated. Calling these folks to task for their absent eccelsiology is a little bit like throwing Brer Rabbit into the bramble patch. It’s no problem – that’s where we belong and feel most comfortable. The CEEC Covenant represents opportunity for a particular wing of the church to accomplish certain goals. It’s about control and focus for program. That the Evangelical Wing has in the past done well in the presence of Bishops and neighbouring congregations with whom they disagreed is somehow left to the side undiscussed. The name ‘Anglican’ over the door has given these churches and parachurch organizations access and respectability. No, they’re not the ‘Dolly Pond Church of Pentecost with Signs Following’ – Calm down Mum, it’s the CofE! These big churches – replete with their well heeled adherents could now, conceivably, strike out on their own. And here comes an opportunity.

  10. There is now an article on the Anglican Mainstream website which answers some of the questions around the ‘covenant’ – it doesn’t directly address those raised by Tom Wright.

    The opening question: who do you speak for, is answered:
    “We speak on behalf of the many Anglicans, (from among Evangelical, Charismatic and Anglo-Catholic traditions) who want to remain faithful to the biblical faith as the Church of England has received it, and who see that that faith is currently at risk. Those who wish to express support for the concerns of the Covenant are invited to e-mail any of the signatories to say so.”

    which says: ‘we speak for all orthodox people, but we still want you to explicitly tell us that you support us’, which is a bit have cake and eat it imho.

  11. Man, you guys are way harsh. Tom Wright is just sore because nobody asked him first.

    The ecclesiology that Wright produces is extremely debateable I am afraid. Since when is a denomination a church, anyways?

    As for the money issue, he has his facts wrong, in the midst of his high dudgeon: the evangelical churches I know who are considering withholding funds from the central diocesan administrations – after years of bullying by them I might add – are independently giving to ministries in poorer areas and overseas. They are not ‘well-heeled’, they are generous.

  12. My Church History is far too shaky to assert this categorically, but…

    didn’t the Scottish Covenanters make a Covenant (among themselves i.e. between the people who signed up to it) that may not necessarily have been accepted by the church authorities of the time but nonetheless had an impact on them?

    This may of course be irrelevant, but I live in hope…

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