By John Bauerschmidt
The Covenant blog is a unique teaching ministry of the Living Church Foundation. Noteworthy among its commitments is its promotion of the ecclesial vision of the Windsor Report, its moratoria, and the Anglican Covenant process that grew out of it. All three commitments relate to the life of the worldwide Anglican Communion, though they have a larger Christian significance. These commitments are an important part of why I write for the blog.
The Windsor Report was issued in the midst of disputes about human sexuality. Windsor’s moratoria called upon the churches of the Anglican Communion to refrain from the consecration of bishops in same-sex unions, the blessing of same-sex unions using public rites, and cross-border interventions in the lives of other churches of the Communion. The observance of the moratoria was intended to preserve the bonds of fellowship between the member churches, during a time of discernment. The later Anglican Covenant was intended to establish processes to address new disputes.
One of the interesting things about the Windsor Report is its focus on the way in which a worldwide Communion of particular churches orders its common life while engaging in discernment on a serious, potentially dividing pastoral/theological/moral issue. Rather than focusing narrowly on a judgment about the presenting issue of human sexuality, Windsor cast a larger vision.
For the Covenant blog, part of the virtue of affirming Windsor and its moratoria, rather than a bald embrace of the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage, is that it provides a robust ecclesiological principle, with well-attested ecumenical and catholic credentials, as our organizing standard. That principle, not uncontested, is that when churches engage potentially divisive issues of concern to the whole fellowship, they should engage in common discernment with the other churches in a way that does not imperil the bonds of communion.
Windsor, its moratoria, and the Anglican Covenant process that grew out of it may well have receded in the rearview mirror of Communion life for many people. I think this is partly true, but partly not true. It certainly does not tell the whole story.
Windsor’s ecclesiological principle, and the communion ecclesiology that informs it, have had and will have a much longer shelf life, especially in ecumenical dialogue, but also in Anglican circles. Issues like the meaning of a common life in the Church, how we make decisions on matters of common concern, and how we order our life together in the meantime, will not disappear. In fact, these issues will become more acute. In this way, the Windsor Report will continue to inform the discussion. Its moratoria are particular to the time, but they are rooted in a more profound ecclesial vision.
For the Covenant blog, there is good sense in letting Windsor, its moratoria, and the Anglican Covenant, with their ecumenical and catholic resonance, remain as our organizational standard. I would not advocate for a narrower basis, in part because the Church is still in discernment about the presenting issue. But even saying that the Church is still in discernment about this issue can be offensive in some (not all) progressive circles.
Even a blog organized around the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage, of course, might have a role to play in such a discernment, and I would be happy to write for it. But the Covenant blog is broader than that. Among its members, it has many articulate advocates for the traditional teaching, but it doesn’t solely or even mainly concern itself with discussion of this teaching. It has a variety of ecological, liturgical, domestic, poetic, pastoral, political, and historical lenses, within a theological framework of discussion.
There are other groups with a commitment to the Windsor vision, for instance, the Communion Partners, which also has other commitments particular to members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, not necessarily involved in membership in the Covenant blog. In addition, Communion Partners advocates for the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage. The two groups are quite distinct, though some Covenant bloggers are involved in the work of CP (as I am).
The Covenant blog is a unique ministry, with a worthwhile and longstanding commitment to an ecclesial vision that is both catholic and ecumenical, with a broad resonance among Christians of all sorts. It is a privilege to write for it. May it continue to find able writers and interested readers in the years to come.