3 questions to your clarification - Ephraim responds to Poon

Dear Michael,

This is helpfully clarifying. 

My own sense is that, at the center of Anglicanism – an ecclesial reality whose vocation is provisional, and in service of the larger Church and world – is the lived reality of Scripture-in-Communion, the power of the Word of God shaping and transforming the lives of human beings into the image of Christ.  I agree that the characteristic shared vehicle for this has been, and rightly should continue to be, the Scriptural worship of the Common Prayer tradition we have in trust, foundationally ordered by the Daily Offices and Eucharist.

I have several informational questions in response to what you have clarified. 

On a practical level, as you point out, this Common Prayer tradition has become undone.  So, I ask you if you have a suggestion as to how it might be renewed and strengthened through the Covenant?  Simply listing the 1662 Prayer Book tradition as “guiding” does not seem to be sufficient, and I would agree. But how it shapes the entire section to make clearer the foundational aspects of the tradition we both seem to believe needs to be renewed here.  Concrete suggestions of this kind are precisely what are needed. 

Secondly, the “conciliar” aspect of this is also central, not on some bare structural ecclesiastical level, but insofar as we seek to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).  In the world where real people are involved, such oneness in Christ (what we call “communion”) comes about through disciplined practices carried out together, a primary one of which is mutual “counsel”.  That which “seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 15:28) – the mutual counsel of prayer and Scripture by which what simply “seems good to us” (vs. 22, 25) becomes transformed into the will of the whole Church – is given in the common life ordered by the kind of reality described in Col. 3:12-17.  Being formed by “Scripture in communion”, through the joyful and adorative prayers of the Word of God read and said together, requires such an articulated order.  Again, in a time when that order has been undone, what suggestions do you have for a covenant that might renew and strengthen it afresh? 

Thirdly, You are concerned about the “status quo” thinking in the Proposed Covenant behind the affirmation of the “quadrant” (by which I assume you mean the commonly understood “four instruments of communion”).  This was, as you know, a part of the Global South proposal itself (section 5), where all four “Instruments of Unity” are named, with certain historical functions briefly listed;  in Section 6 of this earlier proposal, there is a general commitment to the counsels of these Instruments (“we will adhere to the counsel and direction of the Instruments of Unity”). 

From what you have written here and elsewhere, I know that you have grave concerns about the way resources have limited the faithfulness of e.g. the Anglican Communion Office and other Councils. You are also skeptical of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s role. I had thought, again from things that you have written before, that you felt that the Primates were indeed a more useful council for the Communion in this regard (as the Global South proposal hints, pointing to them as representative exemplars of the special ministry of bishops).  The Proposed Covenant attempts, in its ordering of these matters, to take account of these concerns, though within what are still the seemingly accepted de facto contours of our decision-making, defining more specifically – although still generally – the way that the Primates might fulfill their “particular” role as “custodians of faith, leader in mission, and visible signs of unity” (GS proposal), specifically in their relation to the other councils.  Was this way of definition a weakening or an unhelpful strengthening or limiting of the GS proposal?  It is also true that the Proposed Covenant did not seek to dictate a financial or representative solution to the issues of resources and accessibility in detailed ways. Should it have done so?  How might you suggest it might be done otherwise? 

The “status quo” which you worry about being reflected in and perpetuated by the proposed Covenant is one that, I would argue, has already moved significantly to open the ears and hearts of the Communion to the wisdom, needs, and witness of the Global South churches, among others.  The very place we are now in, in terms of decision-making and perhaps even radical change within the Communion, is a testimony to this. The “status quo” of today is not the “status quo” of 10 years ago.  I would argue, however, that the change is one of “more and more”, rather than “altogether new”. In any case, what provisions in a Covenant, in your mind, would further this movement, in a way that is nonetheless still geared towards the life of our communion in Christ?

These questions, which your comments raise, are exactly the kinds of questions we all need to hear and discuss publicly in light of the weight being given—by the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the general expectations of the Communion – to the articulation and adoption of an Anglican Communion Covenant. 

Thank you for furthering this discussion so pointedly.

In Christ,


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  1. Editorial Says:

    I may be mistaken, but I think Dr Poon’s mention of the ‘quadrant model’ is a reference to Graham King’s (Fulcrum) improvisation of Andrew Goddard’s in one of his talks. Another expression is - radical liberals, moderate-liberals, moderate-conservatives & radical-conservatives. I think these categorisations generally exist in most minds.

    I copy out a section here from Graham King’s below.

    1. ‘Federal Conservatives’, in the bottom right, consists of those who are conservative on sexual ethics but who do not consider highly the ecclesiology of the Windsor Report and especially its warnings against transprovincial interventions. They would not be unhappy with the demotion of the Anglican Communion to a Federation of Anglican Churches. Examples of this group may be the Anglican Mission in America, which began with transprovincial consecrations, parts of the American Anglican Council and the Archbishops of Nigeria and of Sydney.[19]

    2. ‘Communion Conservatives’, in the top right, consists of those who are conservative on sexual ethics but have a high regard for the ecclesiology and the recommendations of the Windsor Report. They are keen to hold to the concept of Communion. Examples of this group may be Fulcrum and the Anglican Communion Institute and the Bishop of Pittsburgh.[20]

    3. ‘Communion Liberals’, in the top left, consists of those who are liberal on sexual ethics but have a high regard for the ecclesiology set out in the Windsor Report, if not all its recommendations. Examples of this group may be the Bishop of Virginia and the centre of the Special Commission of ECUSA.[21]

    4. ‘Federal Liberals’, in the bottom left, consists of those who are liberal on sexual ethics and have a low regard for the ecclesiology set out in the Windsor Report and many of its recommendations. Examples of this group may be Integrity USA and the Bishop of Washington.[22]