Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Proposed Anglican Covenant Limps Along

November 28, 2010
The First Sunday in Advent

The First Sunday in Advent seemed a good time to return to occasional ‘blogging’ in and for our parish. The proposed Anglican Covenant is a necessary, albeit, unfortunate topic.

The Covenant was first proposed in “The Windsor Report” as a response to conflict among Anglicans following the Consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Some Anglicans refused to attend Holy Communion with others as a result.

What has emerged since those days are two key developments. One is that a number of Anglicans have decided to follow a path of ‘purity of doctrine’ which mostly seems to mean in practice a denial of the full humanity of women (at least as far as the Church is concerned) and the condemnation of homosexuality. A not insignificant number of Episcopalians have left The Episcopal Church and joined a new denomination of self-styled Anglicans. Some provinces, notably in Africa, have ‘recognized’ and declared themselves ‘in communion’ with this new effort.

The other key development is that the Archbishop of Canterbury has thrown his weight and authority behind the development of an Anglican Covenant that is now making its way through the provinces of the Communion for ‘response’. The ‘driver’ for this wordy effort is found in the commentary on the controversial section 4.2 which reads “From our recent history it is evident that some developments bring dispute, disruption and tension. The clear majority of responses demonstrated that a section of the Covenant which seeks to provide an ordered way for the Communion to approach disagreement remains a necessary feature of the Covenant.” The effort is to provide some means of resolving disputes without disrupting the Communion. The key principles are ‘inter-dependence and mutual accountability’.

The Archbishop told the General Synod of the Church of England that without the Covenant we could expect the dismantling of the Communion ‘piece by piece’. The commentary on section 4.2 of the document acknowledges, then dismisses, my position. “There remains in some quarters a lingering feeling that being in communion requires only positive affirmation and encouragement.” I would not characterize my position as “a lingering feeling”, nor as the belief that ‘being in communion requires only positive affirmation and encouragement”. I would characterize my position as the belief that “being in Communion requires being in communion or table fellowship irrespective of cultural differences.”

I see no good coming from continued efforts to keep this thing alive, especially in light of a statement made by leaders of the conservative movement known as GAFCON in the middle of the General Synod of the C of E saying that the Covenant is not satisfactory to them as it does not go far enough.

We have learned in this country that there really is no placating the group that wants a church founded on some notion of ‘purity of doctrine’ rather than the infinitely more messy search for ‘right relationship’, itself a gift of grace when made manifest, and in whose service doctrine is developed, put to use, and modified over time. The foundation for any scheme of union has been and should remain the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.For these reasons I have signed on to a group led by an international group of respected ‘bloggers’ called “No Anglican Covenant”.
We may well wind up with a number of provinces ‘signing on’. They, presumably, would be the ones invited to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s every-ten-year-gathering. Those who do not sign on might be accorded some kind of observer status or could possibly free up a great deal of money for mission rather than meetings. I’m not knocking meetings and I’m not knocking costly investment in relationship. I’m pointing out that should Anglicanism be defined by our having some central ‘Standing Committee’ who can help us find our way through the ‘relational consequences of serious disputes’, that our not being invited to the party is not the end of the world.

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