July 7, 2010
In recent weeks the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have accepted the first three parts of the proposed Anglican Covenant and have rejected the fourth section. More recently, the Province of Mexico has approved the proposed Covenant in its entirety. This has won praise from Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary-General of the Communion. Paul Handley, writing for The Guardian has compared the process to “introducing the rules of football 100 years after the start of international tournaments.” The Archbishop of Canterbury has clearly placed his eggs in the Covenant basket opting for some kind of largely mythical ‘institutional unity’ at the expense of gay and lesbian people to such a degree that he found it hard to condemn Ugandan proposals for laws that would enact a death penalty for those found to be gay and punishment for those who concealed them which appeared to be supported by Anglican bishops there.
I’m tired of the whole thing. The Church of England is ‘a church’ governed by internally agreed up on rules and regulations in the form of constitution and canons. So is The Episcopal Church. So are each of the 39 interdependent provinces that make up the Anglican Communion (which itself is not ‘a church’). The Covenant is the beginning of producing something that could serve as a constitution for a kind of international ‘church’ with increasingly centralized power and control in the form of a ‘standing committee’ (which sometimes smells like the old soviet politburo to me). All this appears to me to make us susceptible to the old and ignorant taunt that we are ‘Roman Catholic Lite’. I continue to pray that we will continue to be a communion who model catholicity through staying in relationship through difficult (‘divisive’) controversies. There is no law that will set us free however good some rules may look to some.
I continue to believe it important that we find ways to be in relationship with Christians very different from us in Rio and Kasulu. I think it important that we continue to support such inter-Anglican efforts as providing for an Observer at the United Nations and the work of the Compass Rose Society in spite of the silly games by which Americans are being excluded from ecumenical conversations for proceeding with the consecration of a lesbian woman in Los Angeles, while others who have been deemed to have ‘ignored the moratoria’ are ‘being investigated’. At some point that work will become something less about relationship and more about giving material support to those who do not wish to be in relationship with us apart from whatever money we might provide. If and when such a time comes the current form of the Anglican project will be over. That would be a great loss in my view, but not the end of the world. The truth will still set us free.