Ephraim Radner: An Open letter to the Covenant Design Group

[I see] particular evidences arise every day that demonstrate not only a lack of mitigation, but further retrenchment of polarization and division.

For example, yesterday my bishop in Colorado (where I remain canonically resident), the Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill, ordained to the transitional diaconate a publicly known partnered homosexual. As we know, such an ordination in itself is no longer news in parts of North America. Why should anyone care? What made this news in Colorado (and this is where I heard about it first, in the newspaper) was that Bp. O’Neill has, since becoming bishop in 2003, made a public commitment to refuse such ordinations. He did this, not on the basis of his personal views, but ”“ frequently referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own distinction between personal and episcopal teaching roles ”“ on the basis of his desire to abide by the Communion’s stated teaching and discipline for the sake of common life. He frequently emphasized his affirmation of the Windsor Report, both in its underlying theology and in upholding its specific recommendations. To be sure, he did not vow any time-frame for these commitments; but the purposes were clear enough.

Yet yesterday, he changed course. The issue here is not to lodge a complaint. Furthermore, we know there are no legally binding Communion policies that somehow limit his choices on this or any matter. Bishop O’Neill has made his decision, he has done so on the basis of convictions that were long-known, and he does so in concert with many of his American colleagues. Nonetheless, he does so in the known context of TEC’s and the Communion’s own difficult grappling with what has now turned into a horrendously destructive matter, and he does so deliberately. This is the issue worth pondering.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Colorado, Theology

17 comments on “Ephraim Radner: An Open letter to the Covenant Design Group

  1. Phil says:


    The CDG does not care. Are you starting to get it now?



  2. robroy says:

    Ephraim+ sees the process that is at work: Conservatives leave, liberals become more bold, more conservatives leave, liberals become bolder still, etc. The Gene Robinson pre-inaugural prayer is part of it. But wait till GC09. It will be really ugly.

    [blockquote] But we can certainly engage honestly and squarely what is at stake and avoid equivocating (yes, we do too much of that); we can speak clearly and not secretly or in code; we can offer concrete and effective proposals, and not diplomatic blurs; and we can prosecute them with all the energy God has granted us rather than being sidelined by the doubtless real but nonetheless surmountable bureaucratic obstacles with which common life across the globe presents us.

  3. jamesw says:

    I found this essay to only increase my esteem for Ephraim Radner. You might disagree with his tactics and strategy, but almost everything I read which he authors is well-reasoned and displaying of a Christian charity sorely lacking in so many other missives and actions.

    My sense is that Dr. Radner is under no illusions about what is happening in TEC. He is doing his very best to make the conservative point through the channels he has chosen to work. Dr. Radner should be commended for his excellent work rather then be an object for scorn or ridicule (and I say this without always agreeing with his strategy).

    I think here, Dr. Radner is warning the CDG that if they continue to dither and obfuscate, they will reap disaster for the Anglican Communion.

  4. robroy says:

    Ephraim+ mentions loss of orthodox leadership. My mom reports that Christ Church, Denver (where Kendall+ and Sarah Hey spoke to the CLCC) has lost their rector. He didn’t give any reasons. The rector of the rump Grace and St Stephen’s Episcopal was given the boot apparently. CLCC is defunct for all intents and purposes.

    Ephraim+ fails to mention the obvious, though. The timing is not that surprising. O’Neill got his invitation to Lambeth. The promised letter from Rowan supposedly became a phone call. Did Rowan call O’Neill? What was said? Rowan didn’t want any paper trail apparently. The end result…O’Neill drank tea with the queen and now acts with impunity. Thus, dies the diocese of Colorado. I have a hard time fighting off non-Christian thoughts of Rowan Williams.

  5. Libbie+ says:

    Hear, hear, James, #3… and Ephraim! I thank you both in your own ways for lucid, thoughtful writing, always. I count on both of you for insight.

  6. Fr. Dale says:

    Obviously Ephraim+ is addressing this letter to the CDG where he stated, “Furthermore, not all of us on the CDG share the same views about the Christian imperatives with regard to sexual behavior”. So, there is resistance within the CDG itself.
    “She [KJS]noted that the proposed Anglican covenant — a statement of a shared set of beliefs — is now in its third draft and pointed out that some Anglican provinces are resisting the idea that the covenant spells out what sort of penalties there might be for churches that are found to contravene it. “If a covenant is devised that talks about our shared beliefs, shared heritage, I think there is going to be less objection than if it talks of enforcement and membership. That’s what is driving the resistance.”
    So, there is resistance at the province level (KJS speaks about provinces).
    I think the P.B. is saying that if the covenant has teeth, TEC will not sign it. I also believe that TEC will do its best to ensure that it does not have teeth during the design and ratification process.
    Additionally, I felt sorry for the CP folks when I read this, “So, to all you Partners: Go in peace, already! And if peace is a blessing you’re unwilling to accept from us heretics, then just go. You’ll stop embarrassing yourselves, you’ll have a better chance of finding more like-minded bigots-in-the-name-of-Jesus out there.”

  7. Jeffersonian says:

    Schori will sign it, then openly violate it and dare anyone to do anything about it. Why on earth wouldn’t she be absolutely brimming with contempt for any disciplinary process within the AC, having spit repeatedly in everyone’s sherry with perfect impunity?

  8. driver8 says:

    What a wonderful witness. Thank you for posting it and thank you Father Ephraim for all you are doing. You are in my prayers.

  9. Mike Watson says:

    Ephraim Radner has been perceptive about what is going on and what might transpire. This latest is evidence that his acuity is unimpaired. I think it is helpful to read this together with:

    his post-Lambeth article [url=http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/?p=95]True Christian Unity? Reflections on the Lambeth Conference[/url] (August 10, 2008), especially the last one-third or so setting forth suggestions for changes to the draft Covenant,

    the comment by Radner’s colleagues Turner and Seitz [url=http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/?p=268]The Episcopal Church and the Proposed Anglican Covenant: A Case of Aggressive Disproportion[/url] (September 16, 2008) including observations about the composition of the Covenant Design Group and the dangers of a “toothless” covenant,

    Radner’s [url=http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/?p=262]Truthful Language and Orderly Separation[/url] (September 9, 2008) which should be read in its entirety more than once, but in relation to the current topic consider especially the final two paragraphs about whether the Covenant could “provide the ‘orderliness’ by which a separation, if needed, could indeed unfold.”, and

    the Covenant Design Group’s [url=http://www.aco.org/commission/covenant/docs/a_lambeth_commentary.pdf]Lambeth Commentary[/url] (October 22, 2008).

  10. Fr. Dale says:

    #9. Mike thanks for the opportunity to review what Dr. Radner and the ACI wrote. I think in general, the authors of the above comments here have taken these past writings into account when they have offered their observations. How about telling those who have posted here what your opinion is? Myself, I would prefer your opinion to an assignment.

  11. Sir Highmoor says:

    It certainly appears that he has become “a voice crying in the wilderness” in North America.

  12. Brian from T19 says:

    This letter lacks the rigor we normally see from the ACI leaders. This type of orsination happens all the time in the AC (at least in TEC, ACoC and COE) and was never really the issue addressed by Windsor or Dromantine or the ABCX or Lambeth. Trying to stretch it back to Lambeth 1.10 may be accurate, but is really a bit silly.

    [i] Slightly edited by elf. [/i]

  13. driver8 says:

    I should say – having lived in three English dioceses, it’s simply not true that ordination of partnered non celibate gay men or women happens all the time in the Church of England. FWIW the policy of the English House of Bishops is that those ordinands who are not married should expect to give an assurance that they are celibate.

  14. driver8 says:

    It’s also not true that it happens all the time across the whole of TEC. In my part of TEC partnered non celibate gay people are not ordained.

  15. austin says:

    Sometimes battles are simply lost. It seems to me this is the case with regard to orthodox belief in TEC. I can conceive no feasible strategy by which the liberal revisionists could be quelled or bested.

    It is usually a better strategy, if there be any hope at all, for the losing side to retreat and regroup. This is essentially the new N American Province experiment, which may or may not work. (My own choice has been to join another communion.) ER would rather stay on the battlefield and flail around until the last man goes down. Valiant, perhaps, but doomed and, more to the point, no way to work for future success.

  16. Flatiron says:

    A helpful read I will return to. Thank you Ephraim+.

    Just a point on the facts – The ordination was to the Priesthood, not the Transitional Diaconate, as previous postings have noted. Also, Rev. Volland was technically ordained by +Rob on behalf of the Bishop of Minnesota. She was forced to go to Minnesota after CoM objections early in her process in Colorado, along with +Rob’s adherence to the “season of restraint” and his unwillingness to press issues early in his Episcopacy. The whole thing seemed a little fishy… one could have approached for “impediment” on procedure and canons as much as objections to her sexuality.

    Theological issues aside, the thing that should concern, and is concerning to, clergy in Colorado and elsewhere is how +Rob has handled this announcement. It has been abrupt, sloppy, sneaky, and with the appearance of picking a fight. That is real departure from the Bishop’s “MO” here. Reaction around the diocese has been one of violated trust as much as anything else. The press release given to the Denver Post didn’t help matters.

    And robroy (#4) – the departure of Fr. Kline at Christ Church was quite nuanced and had little to nothing to do with theology. But yes, CLCC is not what it used to be to say the least.

  17. Dr. Priscilla Turner says:

    Perhaps it’s a ‘Freudian slip’ that ER writes “retrenchment” when he means “entrenchment”. Retrenchment would be a good thing.