New patron slams Anglican Covenant

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams says the covenant was born of moral indignation with punishing intent. Photo: courtesy Anglican Taonga
The Rev. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams says the covenant was born of moral indignation with punishing intent. Photo: courtesy Anglican Taonga
Published February 16, 2012

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn McCord Adams, a U.S. philosophy professor and author, has become the most recent patron of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. Her fellow patrons include Bishops John Saxbee and Peter Selby, and Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch.

McCord Adams, a member of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and served as Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University from 2004 to 2009. She also served as a member of the Church of England’s General Synod at the time the covenant was being developed and was known for correcting misinformation among Britons about the Episcopal church. Her latest book, Some Later Medieval Theories of the Eucharist: Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham, was published in 2010 by Oxford University Press.

“Prof. McCord Adams’s experience in both the Episcopal church and the Church of England gives her a much broader understanding of the workings of the Anglican Communion,” said the coalition’s Episcopal church convenor, Dr. Lionel Deimel, in a press release. “Coming on the heels of the decisive [anti-Covenant] synod votes in [the dioceses of] Derby and Gloucester, this is an exciting time for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.”

McCord Adams herself minced no words in the press release when speaking of the covenant. “The proposed Anglican Covenant was conceived in moral indignation and pursued with disciplinary intent,” she said. “Its global gate-keeping mechanisms would put a damper on the Gospel agenda, which conscientious Anglicans should find intolerable. The Covenant is based on an alien ecclesiology, which thoughtful Anglicans have every reason to reject.”

For his part, the Rev. Malcolm French, the coalition’s Regina-based Canadian convenor, points to an inherent anti-American bias at the heart of the covenant. “Certainly the venom level went up once the Episcopal church had a female presiding bishop and, oddly, this is why the covenant has appealed to some people in the U.K. who would otherwise be seen as perhaps politically on the left. It connects to a larger anti-Americanism that has nothing to do with church politics.”

While conceding that the covenant material issued in Canada has been quite fair and balanced, he says its official counterparts in the U.K. have been one-sidedly pro-covenant. “Several dioceses have refused to give critics a fair hearing,” he says. “In one diocese, for example, which held a 90-minte debate, the covenant supporters got to speak for an hour, and critics got half an hour.

According to the coalition’s website, as of Feb. 8, five of the Church of England’s 44 dioceses (43 in England; one in Europe) had passed the proposal and six had rejected it. “In dioceses where both sides have been given a fair hearing, the covenant has been defeated. It has passed only when obstacles were set in front of those critical of it,” says French.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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