4/23/2007

Fourteen Questions on the Draft Covenant: #1.

(I have recommended that everyone who can respond to the "Draft Anglican Covenant" using the Study Guide questions. Our responses are an important part of the development of a more general response to the Draft. And, if that is not enough reason to do so, your personal response can stand as a separate thing which can be sent almost anywhere you wish. The internet is a grand thing sometimes. Over several blogs I will try to respond to the specific questions. I urge readers to do their own work on this as well. )


Question 1: Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and / or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?

An Anglican Covenant would be useful to those ends; perhaps not called a Covenant but a Compact, or even a Constitution. But the Covenant as proposed in these preliminary remarks is unnecessary, dangerous for the health of the Communion and, to the extent that the Draft Covenant is proposed as the Covenant, disastrous for interdependent life in the Communion. So my answer is, it is not necessary but useful, and this particular Draft is neither. Here is why:

The preliminary remarks of the whole report, titled "The Report of the Covenant Design Group" constitute the wind up for the pitch. The pitch is a carefully worded plea for the rapid legitimatization of a particular Covenant, here a so called "draft covenant." The "dual track approach" makes the Covenant we might wish to have essentially the Draft Covenant we have received. The supposed "dual track," in which there is longer term consideration of a text and a near recognition "in the general substance of the preliminary draft set forth by the CDG (Covenant Design Group) a concise expression of what may be considered as authentic Anglicanism," is no dual track at all. It is a single track with several stops.

The preliminary remarks of the CDG document make it clear: This Draft Covenant is being presented with the hope that it is "robust enough to express clear commitment in those areas of Anglican faith about which there has been the most underlying concern in recent events…" It is presented as the basic framework of the Covenant to come, not as a stop gap while a better more permanent document is developed.

The process by which this Draft Covenant will be turned into something for which only "fine-tuning and adoption" is necessary is indicative of one of the primary characteristics of the Draft Covenant itself. The weight of the Draft Covenant text and its consideration by Lambeth will be pressed by the Primates, the heads of the thirty-eight churches of the Anglican Communion. The CDG (i) "proposes that the Primates give consideration to a preliminary draft text, (ii) that they commend the text to the Provinces for study and response, (iii) that they express an appropriate measure of consent to this text and (iv) express the intention to pursue its fine-tuning and adoption through the consultative and constitutional processes of the Provinces." The Primates assume extraordinary power in this process and that assumption must be challenged now.

It is important to note that item (i) of this list was the consideration at the Primates Meeting in February 2007 and item (ii) is the consideration by the Provinces, of which our work is part. The Communiqué of the Primates Meeting devoted only two paragraphs to the Anglican Covenant (pars 15-16), but it too assumed in its "Key Recommendations" what the Draft Covenant proposes, namely a greatly enhanced role for the Primates. Item (iii) is again a matter for the Primates, prior to Lambeth, and (iv) finally gives the fine-tuning over to the Lambeth Conference and in turn to Provincial bodies for consideration.

This particular scenario makes it clear: The Provinces have only two occasion when the voices of the baptized, other than Primates, will be consulted – one is now and the other begins at Lambeth. If we wait until Lambeth to derail the expansion of Primatial powers we will only have the option to buy in or buy out of a Covenant that has become the benchmark for membership in the Communion. The specifics of the CDG Report is a "railroading" of the whole discussion down the track to a loyalty oath disguised as a "draft" covenant subject to "fine-tuning."

This is why we must firmly object to the CDG's "Draft Covenant." No matter the wide agreement that some sort of instrument to strengthen our interdependent life. This instrument fails completely in that task.

I share the wish that there be an instrument "which would articulate our common foundations, and set out principles by which our life of Communion in Christ could be strengthened and nurtured." That is why my answer to the general question is "yes." But the answer lies elsewhere, not in this text.

2 comments:

Weiwen Ng said...

It's a long covenant. However, it would be good if Asian and African Americans, especially those born in the Global South, were to respond.

Brian Ferrell said...

I took some time recently to write my responses to the Study Guide as I believe TEC needs to hear from folks in the pews. Though not as eloquent or informed as Mark's, they are short enough to post as comments. Here is my answer to Question 1:

My understanding is that the standard by which we determine full communion with other churches is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. So I answer this question with a question: why would the Communion require anything more than the Quadrilateral?

The Communion seems to require mechanisms by which we share clergy, study and worship together, and do common mission, but I do not believe a Covenant per se is necessary to achieve these ends.

The Primates Communique of 2007 makes it clear that an Anglican Covenant would be used to strengthen the power of the primates, creating a centralized form of global church governance, and to punish Provinces that do not tow the "correct" theological line. No, this will not strengthen the Communion as most Episcopalians understand it.