6/11/2007

Just an idea: A Compact among the Churches

Well, there is nothing like audacious undertakings at the end of a early summer weekend, so here it is: A Compact among the Churches of the Anglican Communion: Proposed. In an earlier age, where this would have been printed as a broadside or memo, the recommendation would have been that if nothing else the paper could be used to wrap dead fish. Regrettably, in a digital age such alternative practical use is lost and unwanted verbiage is simply consigned to cyber-trash. (Sigh!) We have lost something in a paperless world.


It is deliberately only one page long and thus is constricted in wording. Most covenant proposals, for example that of the draft Anglican Covenant, are quite a bit longer. It is also simple, written as if the Anglican Communion did not require fixing as much as clarifying its sense of self. It disperses authority among the instruments of Communion, it acknowledges the autonomy of Provinces, and it provides a means for disengaging a Province from active involvement in the workings of the Communion.

This "covenant" is cast as a compact, in a sense moving the conversation from the idea that we are doing something new to an agreement as to what we are. It begins with the recognition that de facto the two "lists" of who is part of the Anglican Communion are those of the Church of England (at the end of their canons) and the ACC, in their list of member churches.

This document attempts to clarify the issue about Faith and Order defined in terms of the Book of Common Prayer moving the focus from a particular book (CofE 1662) to a corpus of material. The Lambeth Quadrilateral and Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence are affirmed, recognizing that they both affirm the autonomy of the churches and seek means of transforming common life.

Finally this document briefly spells out a system of dispersed authority regarding Communion wide life. Executive authority consists of the power to invite and include and is exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council. Pastoral authority rests with the counsel from the bishops. Programmatic authority rests with the ACC and its support of specific agencies of the Communion. It assumes that each Church is indeed autonomous and that the Anglican Communion is not necessary but desired.

Perhaps it is destined for the trash bin, but here it is:

------------------------

A Compact among the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

We acknowledge that the Dioceses, Provinces and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury are the constituent members of the Anglican Communion. We believe that God is calling us in Jesus Christ to the following affirmations:

Member Churches pledge:

To uphold and propagate the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, which statements of historic Faith and Order are to be found in the collective informing corpus of the 1549, 1552, 1559, and 1662 Books of Common Prayer of the Church of England, understood to be continued into the present in the books of Common Prayer of the several churches.

To invite ourselves and others into fellowship and, if God so wills, into organic union, with other churches on the basis of the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, such churches to be considered part of the Anglican Communion if in communion with the See of Canterbury.

To exhibit mutual respect and interdependence in the Communion, honoring Anglican faith and witness as it finds expression in the affirmation of the faith in the recitation of the ancient creeds of the undivided Church, the commitment to common prayer and sacramental life informed by Holy Scripture, in the witness and ministry of the autonomous churches of the Communion, and in the ministry of all the baptized, every Christian contributing to the life of the whole.

Member Churches agree:

That each church is autonomous within the generous orthodoxy of life in Christ. Every member church recognizes the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion of all churches in the Communion. All baptized persons command the respect of every member Church. The several vocations of the baptized may are exercised in a member Church by affirmation of that Church. Such license and affirmation in one church of the Communion does not imply affirmation of the practice of that vocation in the life of any other church of the Communion.

That the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council exercise certain executive powers within this fellowship. They hold the power to invite and include churches and persons into the deliberative consultations and programmatic activities of the Anglican Communion. No church can be a member of the ACC that is not in communion with the See of Canterbury; communion with the See of Canterbury does not guarantee membership in the ACC.

That Bishops express godly counsel and teaching as they meet in the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and at other times. Such counsel and teaching informs the Communion and must be held in high regard, but such counsel cannot direct or command actions of member Churches.

That withdrawal of a member church from the Anglican Communion may be effected only by declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury that the member church is no longer in communion with the See of Canterbury. The Constitution of the ACC may describe membership and conditions for withdrawal of membership in the ACC. Invitation to the gatherings of bishops and inclusion in the ACC are matters respectively of decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the membership of the ACC. Exclusion or disinvitation effectively limits fellowship but does not remove a church from inclusion in the Anglican Communion.

That no more than one church may have jurisdiction in a particular area except when for historical, ecumenical or pastoral reasons two churches both in communion with the See of Canterbury and with one another have mutually agreed to continue overlapping ministries.

This Compact will become effective when received and affirmed in a manner proscribed by the Anglican Consultative Council by two thirds of the current member Churches of the Anglican Communion.

29 comments:

  1. Mark, this makes a lot more sense and is easier to engage than the covenant proposal that has come out of the Windsor process.

    I would suggest a slight amendment to the paragraph regarding the BCP. You currently have content that the Prayer Book tradition is "understood to be continued into the present in the books of Common Prayer of the several churches." Since not all the provinces refer to their current worship books as "books of Common Prayer" and some have authorized liturgies in addition to versions of the BCP, I'd suggest amending that to "understood to be continued into the present authorized liturgical texts of the several churches."

    Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love our Anglican irony. This is very likely divinely inspired and exactly the course we should be taking, but because the reason for proposing this compact is an answer to power and not to faith, it is, alas, very likely doomed for fish wrapping.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are committing logic again. Well Done! The first thing that caught my eye was "Among" v "Between" and that points to the power structure implicit in the covenant. Like the Righter Trial - this gets back to basics. Folks want to keep expanding on what is basic. Again, the human element to exert power.

    Pax et Boum,
    Paul

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can only concur the proposal is "very likely divinely inspired" and "alas, very likely doomed for fish wrapping." But to continue the conversation, when you write "That withdrawal of a member church from the Anglican Communion may be effected only by declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury that the member church is no longer in communion with the See of Canterbury." am I to understand your intent is that withdrawal is at the initiative of the member church said action subsequently "validated" by the ABC? If so, truly divinely inspired. If not, smells too much like excommunication to me.

    Arthur Sargent (not nearly as anonymous as the intro suggests!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am particularly pleased by your suggestion and the role suggested for the ACC as this is the only instrument of communion that includes the laity, has a constitution, etc, and a 2/3 or ¾ vote vs. a simple majority seems to effect policy. There have been some substantive changes proposed to the membership in this group, however, particularly a stronger presence for the primates in the last few years. Have you thought through as yet what role you would see for the primates meeting in the ACC? The covenant draft focused legislative and judiciary functions in it, and some have also suggested that it assume the executive authority of convening Lambeth and defining its agenda? Are you thinking along the lines that a stronger presence for the primates on the ACC would be a possible middle way between those who strongly oppose their control of the communion and those who supported it? EPfizH

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is nicely done, but I am concerned that it doens't address the wide differences in polity amongst the constituent churches. I'm not suggested a standard polity is needed, but obviously TEC will want to honor the more democratic process we have when deciding matters related to our relationship with the ACC.

    Also, what about any bilateral ecumenical relationships the constituent churches engage in? You mention that being in communion with any ACC member body puts that ecumenical partner into the ACC, but they would seem poor step-children at best and rather left out of the family decision-making process.

    Just some random thoughts..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mark, this is a wonderful document -- I hope it gets the attention in deserves. It would be nice to have something that I think people of good will could all live with.

    Two trivial notes? I think in the sentence "The several vocations of the baptized may are exercised in a member Church by affirmation of that Church" you probably meant either "are" or "may be" and in the final sentence, I think you meant to use prescribe rather than proscribe. (I tried to locate an e-mail address I could use to note those, but failed. Please feel free not to approve this comment for public view -- it's not substantive in any way.)

    Thank you again for a wonderful document!

    ReplyDelete
  8. John-Julian, OJN11/6/07 11:45 AM

    And God said, "Let there be light!"

    Excellent piece! A little tuck here and there (as per the comments) and it should be all ready for the September House of Bishops meeting.

    ReplyDelete
  9. i like this a great deal, except for the part about the prayer books.

    they are not the statements of "Faith and Order"; in all our churches order has been defined by canonical legislation, and this also represents a retreat from the taking of the BCP as "primary theology".

    I'm not sure what to put in its place. But all those prayer books you list have simply never been of any authority in the Episcopal Church, and I would insist that it is a mistake to see even the 1789 book as some kind of "successor" to 1662.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mark,

    Just wanted you to be aware of Greg Griffith's critique on SF.

    Heidi

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fr. Mark,

    Well it is certainly a lot better than the curial blueprint from the primates. I do not mean that to be damning with faint praise, it really is a lot better.

    I hope someone in a purple shirt reads it.

    FWIW
    jimB

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm sorry Mark, but it won't work -- the entire point of the Windsor Report Proposed Anglican Covenant is the centralization of power to punish and exclude.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mark,

    As I said in my won blog (rfsj.blogspot.com), I like this very much. I might offer 2 suggestions:

    1. Include a more explicit reference to the Quadrilateral as the the core statement of what's important to us;

    2. You're already meeting in Executive Council, but this may be the core of an official counter-proposal to offer to the Communion for consideration. We shouldn't just reject the Draft Covenant (if that's what we're going to do) but rather offer a constructive alternative.

    Cheers,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  14. Michael M.11/6/07 3:28 PM

    One response mentioned the Primates in relationship to the ACC. Please note that in spite of what was decided about Primatial participation in ACC at the meeting from which we and the Canadians were excluded, the ACC Constitution has not been amended to include the Primates. That would require, I believe, the consent of 2/3 of the Provinces.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Please, please do follow up with what rfsj/(Bob) said. Maybe with some of the tweaking suggested, this really should be presented to the HoB, not just being REactive, but being PROactive about offering a more viable alternative. As it is now, I would reject the proposed covenant wholesale. This compact is a much saner and eternally more faithfilled response than the naked power grab of the proposed covenant. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I like it very much, Mark.

    Signed,

    Simple Pew-warmer

    ReplyDelete
  17. If all the member provinces are equal and the primate of one of them by historical accident exercises special powers, in these modern times shouldn't the Archbishop of Canterbury be elected by the provinces? Perhaps the other primates could be electors. To highlight their special role they could have red vestments and a special title, maybe something like card.... oops, off into the weeds. Never mind.

    Dear Mark, your compact is wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I also think we must acknowledge the Scottish lineage as a usage alongside those given here that are English, after all, ours takes much from the Scots and their greater continuity with 1549. The more we can be clear of the complexity of our history the less likely we'll end up with hegemonic metanarratives that say something less than our comprehensiveness has allowed.

    ReplyDelete
  19. why the general emphasis on the laity? what biblical principle determines what role they would have in determining doctrine? Not to be ecclesiastically wierd, but I don't see this example in how Jesus or the apostles went about doing things.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous said: "why the general emphasis on the laity? what biblical principle determines what role they would have in determining doctrine? Not to be ecclesiastically wierd, but I don't see this example in how Jesus or the apostles went about doing things."

    Parden me, Anonymous, but Jesus and the apostles were laity, not clergy.

    Michael M

    ReplyDelete
  21. I just don't get the necessity for only one jurisdiction in a geographical area. In my wife's Church there are Latin, Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Russian and probably a few other overlapping jurisdictions all in communion with each other. All work independently as Catholic bodies. With our huge differences in theology, why the huge resistance to letting conservatives have separation within the United States? Is it all about the power, prestige and pension fund?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Mark - this all sounds very fine on the surface but I have a few concerns:

    How many clergy from the western liberal churches can affirm their Christian doctrine as defined in the creeds and 39 articles? it would be wonderful if they could, as I had to in a declaration to my bishop prior to my own ordination. But it seems to me as if many clergy treat the 39 articles merely as historical documents of little relevance to the Anglican denomination today; while others are unable to actually say the creeds but are willing to sing them, as if in singing the words you don't actually have to believe the words (apparently attributed to Bp Pike).

    I am also concerned about the weight placed on the ACC rather than the Primates Meeting. Where in Anglican polity do laity swear to uphold the historic Biblical faith of the church as Bishops and Priests do at their ordination according to the ordinal in the BCP? I think this is an essential qualification for any member of a senior council of the church with decision making powers on the faith and practice of the AC - so laity would be excluded.

    I know this may sound offensive or controversial to western minds infused with notions of liberal participative democracies, but the AC is not a democracy, it is one of many manifestations of God's church on earth with Jesus Christ as its monarchical head. It is arrogant to impose on the world wide Anglican church a particular form of American democracy as the best way to determine the theology and practice of the church. Witness the radical shifts in the theology of ECUSA over the last 3 decades advanced by certain pressure groups within ECUSA at its GC's and overseen by an episcopacy weakened by excessive lay involvement.

    In relation to the ordination of certain people, you said: "Such license and affirmation in one church of the Communion does not imply affirmation of the practice of that vocation in the life of any other church of the Communion."
    Surely the very word "Communion" does imply common basic Christian doctrine and practices across all the provinces, with appropriate flexibility for variations in language, music, dress and style to suit local circumstances; but with interchangeability of ministers as a given.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Brian F said, "Where in Anglican polity do laity swear to uphold the historic Biblical faith of the church as Bishops and Priests do at their ordination according to the ordinal in the BCP? I think this is an essential qualification for any member of a senior council of the church with decision making powers on the faith and practice of the AC - so laity would be excluded."

    I find it odd that the People of God should be thought to be so lacking in their fidelity to the promises that they made in the Baptismal Covenant that they should be excluded from any decision making in the Church.

    On a happier note, great work, Mark. Might need a little work around the edges (as suggested above) but I agree with others that this is the kind of positive step that we should make.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Nicholas - I guess this is one of the problems - that ECUSA has modified its baptismal covenant so much over the last few years without reference to the rest of the Communion that one is not sure what promises are made now. But as far as I am aware, the traditional promises to renounce sin, the world and the devil, and to turn to Christ made by every Christian as their baptism are somewhat different to the ones made by priests and bishops at their ordination: specifically to teach only from the Scriptures and nothing else except what may be proven from Scriptures, or to drive away all false and strange doctrine which is contrary to God's word (from the ordinal for priests and bishops in the Australian church).

    ReplyDelete
  25. Well, I haven't been to many ordinations in the past few years, but I've been to many baptisms, and I've seen no change in the baptismal covenant (which is with God and the immediate baptizing community, not the Anglican Communion, btw). As for the ordination services, looking at the 1928 BCP and the 1979, the 1979 is a marked improvement in moving away from a sola scriptura vow, which is more a vow to a book than to using the knowledge gained through study of scripture as a living thing. A marked improvement.

    In any case, the change from 1928 to 1979 Prayer books is hard recent, and has been around long enough for all to either accept or find a different faith community that is more amenable to one's personal conscience.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Anonymous, you said, "why the general emphasis on the laity?"

    Brian, you say, "I am also concerned about the weight placed on the ACC rather than the Primates Meeting."

    What are we - the laity, I mean - chopped liver? What kind of a church would you have with only priests and bishops? They're more of us than priests and bishops. Why shouldn't we have a good solid voice in the polity of the church.

    I wasn't going to say anything, but I changed my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  27. obadiahslope15/6/07 3:23 AM

    As I understand it in TEC the latest BCP abrogates the preceding books. this is not the case in several othger provinces - even perhaps a majority - where the 1662 BCP remanis the standard of worship and the later books are supplementary to it. You would need to have a form of words that did not place the more recent books above the earlier ones which would conflict with the provincial constitutions.
    As with many suggestions from TEC, Mark appears to have written thgis without reading the constitution of any other province. Please don't assume that what conforms to the polity of TEC will work for the rest iof us! and we will try to do thesame for you.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Why the obsession with the 1662 prayerbook? Is it because John Calvin himself could have written that one?

    The U.S. church was much more strongly influenced by the Scottish prayerbook, the one that inspired the Calvinists to riot in the cathedral and then later kill a king and an archbishop.

    ReplyDelete
  29. obadiahslope15/6/07 7:44 PM

    Yes the US prayerbook was influenced by the Scottish prayerbook. But if you read them side by side you will find relatively more from the English prayerbook in your original version - it is the specific instance of the Eucharistic prayers that is specifically Scottish influenced. However that relates to only one province, yours. More of the provinces have 1662 written into their constitutions and my point was that Mark's draft neede to take this into account. You may not want another provinces way of doing things foisted onto you. They may not wish TEC's way of doing things foisted onto them. The several draft compact/covenants I have read all reflect the mores of the provinces where they were drafted. Mark's is no different.

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.