1/09/2007

Drip, Drip, Drip: Are we dealing with water torture or fresh springs?

The Anglican Communion Office and the Archbishop of Canterbury have been busy this week.

The Covenant Design Committee names have been released. They are:

The Most Revd Drexel Gomez, West Indies
The Revd Victor Atta-Baffoe, West Africa
The Most Revd Dr John Chew, South East Asia
Ms Sriyanganie Fernando, Ceylon
The Revd Dr Kathy Grieb, USA
The Rt Revd Santosh Marray, Indian Ocean
The Most Revd John Neill, Ireland
The Revd Canon Andrew Norman, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative
Chancellor Rubie Nottage, West Indies, Consultant
The Revd Dr Ephraim Radner, USA
Ms Nomfundo Walaza, Southern Africa
The Revd Canon Gregory Cameron, Anglican Communion Office, Secretary

Jim Naughton, over at Daily Episcopalian, is not entirely comfortable. In that I join him.

Archbishop Drexel Gomez was at the second meeting of the Windsor Bishops, and the and Archbishop John Chew were in Washington for the meeting between the Global South Steering Committee and the Network. My sense is that they will be strong advocates for a covenant, and more a covenant that has enforceable restrictions on membership in the Anglican Communion, restrictions that will require stronger authority from the Primates (not the ACC).

In Drs Kathy Grieb and Ephraim Radner we have solid intellectual input from the USA. Although I disagree with Dr. Radner quite often, he will be a resource for the group. I believe Dr. Grieb will be an important voice in this process.

About the others I have less clarity. It is interesting that the three power players in this – The Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC and the Primates (Global South or otherwise) are represented by individuals who will I suspect set much of the direction. At least there is present a Primate not from the Global South and Africans from at least several Provinces in Africa.

I have many questions about this group, but the primary one is whether inclusion in the group already means that they agree that a covenant – one called a covenant – is necessary. That is, are the members of this group already committed to the idea of a covenant rather than, say, a compact? I am very suspicious of ecclesial sorts who talk about covenants, mostly because the one covenant that gets talked about all the time is the covenant of marriage. That image of what it means to be the Anglican Communion is defunct, or ought to be. We are not married to each other, we are married to the Gospel.

According to StandFirm here is also something called a “corresponding group”, Standing Firm says that on multiple good authority the group consists of the following:

Bill Atwood, USA /Southern Cone
Paul Avis, England
Terry Brown, Melanesia
Tom Brown, New Zealand
Sathi Clarke, South India
Michael Doe, USPG
Norman Doe, Wales
John Gladstone, South India
Bruce Kaye, Australia
Paul McPartlan, PCPCU
Zac Niringiye, Uganda
Stephen Noll, Uganda
Martyn Percy, England
John Rees, Legal Adviser, ACC
Kathy Ross, NZ ( Oxford )
Eileen Scully, Canada
Stephen Sykes, Doctrinal Commission

This group is fascinating. It consists of some of the best minds in the communion. It also has an anomaly, namely Bill Atwood, who is listed as USA and Southern Cone.

So, what are we to make of this? Is this the drip, drip, drip of water torture, in which slowly it dawns on progressives that there will indeed be a covenant and its form will require a stronger Primates House… a kind of ecclesiastical House of Lords Spiritual? Is the end of all this simply to make the Anglican Communion an international church, with an international hierarchy? If so those of us who don’t like this idea at all will find strange allies.

Or is this really the opportunity for a fresh spring from which we can all drink? What sorts of checks and balances are there out there which could in fact help us all to make better decisions?

The Covenant Design Group will have to work hard to convince us that what is achieved reflects not the Primates or the Archbishop of Canterbury, but some sense of governance by lay and ordained people. Very little of what has transpired gives much hope that the Design Group will move in this direction.

It seems to me that we mostly have the drip, drip, drip of water torture, not fresh springs. The outrageous statements of Primates who say they will not sit at the table with our Presiding Bishop, the request that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw from the ACC meeting, and the most recent findings of the Panel of Reference, all point to prolonged struggle.

The Panel of Reference, a body appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to deal with oversight of parishes and dioceses with their bishops, has a mandate from the Archbishop that requires careful attention. It reads like a royal proclamation. It is full of recommendatory language, but its force is hierarchical.

It might be of some interest to note that among the members of that Panel there is one member of the covenant design committee, the Chancellor of the West Indies.

There is a great deal already written about the Panel of Reference’s recommendations concerning Fort Worth. The major problem is that the three dioceses in the Episcopal Church that do not ordain women do so because they do not recognize the ordination of women as a theologically grounded possibility. That is, women are not really priests or bishops, no matter that the Church has so ordained them. The agreement to look the other way and simply live with a church that does ordain women, without really talking about it too much, simply doesn’t work. Electing a woman as Presiding Bishop put that on the table. It is easier between Provinces – where one does and the other does not ordain women – but within a Province it is a mess.

Into this mess the Panel of Reference now steps, and invites the Episcopal Church to continue living with a Diocese whose bishop down deep does not recognize the orders of the Primate of the Episcopal Church. This won’t work. The Panel of Reference, relying on the slippery notion of “reception,” is not helpful.

The Anglican Communion Network was pleased, as one might imagine. The Panel’s report recommended that, “the Archbishop of Canterbury continue discussions with the Diocese of Fort Worth and with The Episcopal Church with the aim of securing the place of Fort Worth in the Communion.” This seems to read that the Panel believes that the Diocese of Fort Worth might have some other place in the Communion than being part of the Episcopal Church. Fort Worth already has a place in the Anglican Communion. It is a diocese of the Episcopal Church. What is going on here?

The Moderator states, “It is clearly up to the leadership of The Episcopal Church to choose either to continue pushing faithful Episcopalians who disagree with the majority on this issue out the door, or to accept the constructive work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference. Within the Anglican Communion Network, we have found that those of us who have embraced the ordination of women to the priesthood and those who have not have been able to work and worship together with great unity once we agreed to respect each-other’s theological convictions on this issue in both word and deed. This is why, at the very beginning, the Anglican Communion Network established its Forward in Faith Convocation to stand alongside its five other convocations, creating a means to enable and strengthen this very outcome. It would be a wonderful thing to see the entire Episcopal Church choose this path.”

The Moderator seems to think the Network solution is the one for the whole of the Episcopal Church. I can, and do, respect Bishop Iker’s convictions. That does not mean that I think he is right. He is ordained a bishop with license in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church ordains women. If he doesn’t believe women can be priests or bishops, then this is the wrong church for him.

No doubt the Moderator is correct, we can work and worship with great vigor and unity given these disagreements, but it may well be across a line.

The Episcopal Church ordains women. If Bishop Iker cannot abide that, it would appear that he belongs to another church – not the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is governed by decisions made by lay and ordained people, assembled as a General Convention. Any covenant it enters into on a wider level that does not reflect that spirit of governance by a whole people belies our own progress in becoming such a church.

Someday the Panel of Reference and the Covenant Design Group will have to come to grips with these realities.

The sooner the better.

18 comments:

  1. It's discombobulating to watch the Anglican Communion crank itself up to return to the 16th century when we were busy burning Catholics (replaced now on the pyres by progressives. When my husband and I became Episcopalians, we were embracing a church whose institutional core was determined by a female head of state who declined to make windows into (men's) souls. Now we're all suddenly supposed to run around with little signs on our foreheads announcing our particular relationships to scriptural authority and condemn each other becaus some of us can't manage to see women as fully human and others of us have post-colonial anger issues and many think gay people need to be condemned and abused in this life and can't leave it to God to sort folks out. Geez, could we please go back to fighting over which BCP version we like? It may not ave been a halcyon period, but it was better than this.

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  2. My thoughts, such as they are, on the Covenant Design Group and its likely process:

    1) The Design Group includes a number of prominent conservatives and is chaired by one of the most prominent. This in itself will mollify almost all on the conservative side of Anglicanism.

    2) However, no member of the group supports schism, congregationalism, or the Network's plan for a replacement Anglican province in North America. That clarifies a number of other things.

    3) The few liberals on the Covenant Design Group will no doubt block attempts by the others to include the most extreme sorts of provisions, the ones no liberal or moderate could sign on to.

    4) However, the draft as it emerges from the Design Group will probably be on the conservative side.

    5) Before the Covenant goes into effect, it will have to be adopted by each of the member Churches in the Anglican Communion. It is not going to be imposed on any.

    6) Since there are a large number of liberal and moderate member Churches, there may well be further objections to provisions in the draft as too conservative. Such provisions might be rejected outright, but it is more likely that liberals in the Communion will seek to mitigate them. I expect to hear, for example, from the Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

    7) Thus the Covenant, as adopted, will probably be much less conservative than the Design Group's draft.

    8) Importantly, the Covenant is unlikely to be an "Anglican Confession." It is much more likely to be a procedural document, a kind of written constitution for the Anglican Communion. That means its implementation will require test cases and interpretation -- offering further possibilities for liberals to mitigate its provisions.

    9) A prediction: If the Covenant says anything at all about homosexuality, it will say that the participation of gay and lesbian people in the Church is presently "in a process of discernment."

    Yes, it will be classic Anglican fudge -- but then so are the Thirty-Nine Articles.

    So, as a liberal, I believe I have reason to support the Covenant process and hope other liberals will do so.

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  3. Ah Ha,
    It's probaly good to keep in mind that one person's water torture could very easily be another persons fresh spring, and vise versa of course.

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  4. I think too many make too much of recommendations of the Panel of Reference. Its mandate is solely to make recommendations to the Archbishop of Canterbury; and so the effect of any of these recommendations is entirely dependent on his interpretation of them. Anyone else's are speculation.

    I do agree that the wording of the last recommendation is vague, and can appear to prejudge the results of Fort Worth's efforts have their own way. Still, I noted that Bishop Iker in his response (found on the Stand Firm site) chose to gloss the necessity of the participation of The Episcopal Church, which the Panel did not do. Over all, the recommendations speak to opinions the Archbishop might share, but no more. They do not appear to change his oft repeated recognition of the limitations of his office and authority.

    I'm waiting to see what this second group is to do. However, the extensive representation on that group from provinces that have not questioned communion with The Episcopal Church (especially of Aotearoa/New Zealand and Canada, both of which join "first world" and "third world" sensibilities well beyond what we've effectively done in TEC) is hopeful, just as it's hopeful to have Southern Africa well represented on the Covenant Committee itself.

    I continue to feel we should support a Covenant process, recognizing that we may not end up supporting the model Covenant itself. Sure, it's uncomfortable that we can't control the outcome; but we do control our participation when it's all done, and General Convention will act appropriately, I trust, when we see something final. Indeed, the fact that Americans are participating at all is at least more justice than some in the Global South might have wanted.

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  5. cross posted from Thanking Anglicans:

    Hmmm -- well, five of the twelve are from provinces whose primates refused to attend a Communion service because ++Frank Griswold was present & I have never been able to finish any work by Ephraim Radner (who always seems to me to be on the verge of tears).

    I can't say that I find it at all encouraging (but this is no surprise ever since ++Rowan refused to reconsider having as chair of the design committee one of the primates who wants to expell The Episcopal Church from the WWAC).

    One of the sad things has been to hear from some of the members of the Eames Commission who were secretly very unhappy with the Windsor Report that they signed off because there was no more time and they "had to come up with something." If this design group comes up with anything at all, it is likely to be the same story. Then a suggestion will be treated as a requirement & the same arguments will pass back and forth yet again. If anyone were listening, it might not be so depressing.

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  6. We are not married to each other, we are married to the Gospel.

    This threw me for a moment, but it is quite profound. 'Tis why we call each other "brothers and sisters" and not "husbands and wives" (the first-century and contemporary distaste for a literal inbred Church notwithstanding.) Siblings have both greater freedom and agency in relationship with each other than do husbands and wives, yet the sense of familial interdependence is still very much felt, particularly in having common "parentage" to go back to some of the core theological language of the faith.

    I'm encouraged by Charlotte's take on this. I wonder (I imagine this has been dealt with elsewhere) if, after all is said and done, we might, at best, end up with some sort of reception process -- as we have for the ordination of women. On the other hand, this might result in some provinces walking, given the extreme statements we've been hearing recently.

    It seems that we are edging towards a choice between that or some Anglican equivalent of the Roman curia. Don't know if that constitutes a Faustian choice or not, but I certainly would prefer the former to the latter.

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  7. Christopher9/1/07 6:29 PM

    I can't imagine that a covenant that explicitly (or even implicitly) excludes gay people from the Church's clergy and laity would find much support. And let's be honest about it - that's exactly what some people in the Communion seek to do. The danger seems more that a process covenant based on regular dialogue - which I support - could lead to deadlock and inaction with regard to issues that do not enjoy unanimity, or at least majority support in the Communion. A de facto exclusion of a particular, targeted group of Christians by virtue of process is no less wicked than an explicit exclusion. The Windsor Report spoke, in the context of the ordination of women, of successful agreements to maintain "the highest possible degree of communion" despite differences (WR page 15). Is that possible on the issues we face now? It would certainly be a much more positive way to proceed.

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  8. I can't imagine that a covenant that explicitly (or even implicitly) excludes gay people from the Church's clergy and laity would find much support. And let's be honest about it - that's exactly what some people in the Communion seek to do. The danger seems more that a process covenant based on regular dialogue - which I support - could lead to deadlock and inaction with regard to issues that do not enjoy unanimity, or at least majority support in the Communion. A de facto exclusion of a particular, targeted group of Christians by virtue of process is no less wicked than an explicit exclusion. The Windsor Report spoke, in the context of the ordination of women, of successful agreements to maintain "the highest possible degree of communion" despite differences (WR page 15). Is that possible on the issues we face now? It would certainly be a much more positive way to proceed.

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  9. I can't imagine that a covenant that explicitly (or even implicitly) excludes gay people from the Church's clergy and laity would find much support. And let's be honest about it - that's exactly what some people in the Communion seek to accomplish. The danger seems more that a process covenant based on regular dialogue - which I support - could lead to deadlock and inaction with regard to issues that do not enjoy unanimity, or at least majority support in the Communion. A de facto exclusion of a particular, targeted group of Christians by virtue of process is no less wicked than an explicit exclusion. The Windsor Report spoke, in the context of the ordination of women, of successful agreements to maintain "the highest possible degree of communion" despite differences (WR page 15). Is that possible on the issues we face now? It would certainly be a much more positive way to proceed.

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  10. "Now we're all suddenly supposed to run around with little signs on our foreheads announcing our particular relationships to scriptural authority and condemn each other becaus some of us can't manage to see women as fully human and others of us have post-colonial anger issues and many think gay people need to be condemned and abused in this life and can't leave it to God to sort folks out." Devon

    Exactly.

    I don't trust/accept the "designed group" (as in "already designed" by +Drexel and his Global South accomplices who have announced "their work" already at the Mr."Bigshots" Meeting in September). I wouldn't grant them permission to enter my living/sala room without securing the candlesticks, putting away the family Bible and taking the children out of the way of the oncoming hurricane dangerously generated by these deceptive, selfrighteous, feardriven bigoted MEN!

    These deadly Global South "gents" who would bring their hatefilled "spirit" of "excluding others" at all levels of CHRISTIAN LIFE into my HOME?

    No dice!

    Click goes the "deadbolt" in honor of the LGBT "dead" who are murdered (or about to be) as a result of these "pompus anti-LGBT" demeaning/demoralizing hate crime inspiring "selective scriptural" worshippers and outright bigots!

    Some of these +religious+ operate out of countries that are rampant with sickness of the spiritual, emotional, political and physical varieties. They come to "instruct" us in holiness from overwhelmingly pitiful everyday living disasters where they are UNABLE to communicate Gods REAL word against war, hate, rape, political corruption and everyday misery/SUFFERING, discrimination and OUTCASTING of their fellow countrymen and fellow human beings!

    There "covenant" is a blood oath of shallow deceiving!

    What holy covenant "oath" will they scribble tht will "heal" all of the Anglican Communion/us when they are incapable of dealing with their own personal politicial/religious and social messes at their own home PROVINCES when spreading the "word" of God?

    Their is little example of Godly direction or even basic straightforwardness and "honor" from some of these "designers" and I'm certainly not interested in "signing on" for being railroaded by their Biblical "diversionary" tacts as they avoid dealing with their own ugly TRUTHS at home.

    Reality is healthy when faced, it just takes a little getting used to!

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  11. Eventually progressives are going to have to come to grips with the fact that the Christian faith has doctrinal content. To be a Christian means to give assent to certain doctrinal truths. Progressives wish instead to redefine Christianity in terms of institutional or sacramental affiliation. Outside of a small collection of post-modern intellectuals, this redefinition has never and will never be accepted.

    Fellowship is not possible across these two definitions. Even today it is reported that KJS explicitly denied the uniqueness of the work of Christ. But that is one of those required doctrinal truths. As a result, it is not possible for the Panel of Reference and the Covenant Design Group to come to grips with the realities of TECs self-governance. The cost of doing so would be a legitimization of the redefinition of the faith.

    This they do not have the ability to do - unless they wish the Anglican communion to consist of that small group of post-modern intellectuals.

    carl

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  12. Well you seem to be saying, we want to keep the Diocese of Ft Worth in TEC, but not THAT diocese of Ft Worth.

    Sort of like, it's OURS, but we're not so keen on the folks IN it. Perhaps if they left and let us keep the legal entity all would be well?

    Can't really have your cake and eat it, like it or not the Diocese of Ft Worth is not so much like some of the other dioceses.

    I'm guessing you'd prefer it to be somehow remade in TECs image?

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  13. Richard III11/1/07 12:02 PM

    Gee whiz Carl, why don't you give us a discourse on the Rapture and Great Tribulation while you're at it. I'd like to hear what you and your co-religionist friends see for all of us apostate members of TEC who understand the Gospel of Jesus to be about love and respect for our fellow travelers and that our decision to believe it means just that, rather than a one way ticket to Hell. And which Christian doctines have we thumbed our noses at in creating our own brand of un-orthodox christianity? I'm not any kind of expert on the christian religion, rather ignorant actually, and maybe I've been listening to the wrong people.

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  14. Bill Carroll11/1/07 1:12 PM

    The covenant design process won't lead to anything better than the Windsor Report. The fact that a small group of appointees was selected by Canterbury is a fundamentally flawed process that points in the same direction of proto-papal centralization. We should be seeking to de-centralize and de-colonialize the Anglican Communion. A more democratic and participatory process is called for, in which ALL voices are heard. Only a covenant that supports full provincial autonomy and liberty of conscience is a reasonable proposal for the Anglican future. Like the WR, the covenant design process is the last gasp of the British Empire. It may well be, given the overall make up of the committee, that no reasonable proposal is forthcoming. It will have to be amended beyond recognition by the provinces before they can adopt it by their own synods and conventions. It may well be that the Anglican Communion has outlived its purpose and that similar divisions will come to the fore in many other provinces.

    It is time to pull the veil off the combination of Anglo-Catholic fantasy and institutional self-preservation that leads anyone to think that these kind of documents are a good ideal. Our future should be defined by mission, not conciliarist dreams.

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  15. Me thinks Carl has a mighty big log in his eye, and perhaps, after he contends with it, he may have some different insight on what is or isn't intended by Christ.

    Doctrines weren't made by Christ.

    They were made by man.

    If you see need them to live a Christian life and build your relationship to God in that way, I'd never dream of getting in your way.

    Just please, offer me the same respect, and stay out of mine.

    This is Via Media. No windows into other man's souls.

    The end.

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  16. Eileen

    If the Christian faith has no content, then how can it define something called the "Christian life"?

    If the Christian faith does have content, then it can define the Christain Life. But just what is its content? By what authority do you establish it?

    I have asked progressives this question many times. I have received in response copious subjective arm-waving, liters of experiential smoke, and many words. But I have never received an answer.

    carl

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  17. Carl,

    I commend to you "The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety" by Timothy F. Sedgwick.
    revLois Keen

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  18. The Anglican Identity
    The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralised nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies – a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word ‘Communion’ means for Anglicans, … a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere…

    There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional…a distinctive historic tradition – a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly...

    The different components in our heritage can, up to a point, flourish in isolation from
    each other. But any one of them pursued on its own would lead in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism The reformed concern may lead towards a looser form of ministerial order and a stronger emphasis on the sole, unmediated authority of the Bible. The catholic concern may lead to a high doctrine of visible and structural unification of the ordained ministry around a focal point. The cultural and intellectual concern may lead to a style of Christian life aimed at giving spiritual depth to the general shape of the culture around and de-emphasising revelation and history. Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place – to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the church’s life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices – with a tradition of being positive about a responsible critical approach to Scripture, with the anomalies of a historic ministry not universally recognised in the Catholic world, with limits on the degree of adjustment to the culture and its habits that is thought possible or acceptable.

    Conclusion
    The only reason for being an Anglican is that this balance seems to you to be healthy for the Church Catholic overall, and that it helps people grow in discernment and holiness. Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible...
    That is why the process currently going forward of assessing our situation in the wake of the General Convention is a shared one. But it is nonetheless possible for the Churches of the Communion to decide that this is indeed the identity, the living tradition – and by God’s grace, the gift - we want to share with the rest of the Christian world in the coming generation; more importantly still, that this is a valid and vital way of presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. My hope is that the period ahead - of detailed response to the work of General Convention, exploration of new structures, and further refinement of the covenant model - will renew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritage so that we can pursue our mission with deeper confidence and harmony.
    © Rowan Williams 2006

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