2/08/2008

Michael Poon on the St. Andrews Draft.

The Global South Anglican web pages speak to a much wider range of viewpoints that is sometimes given by the Global South Steering Committee, and certainly a much wider range than is presented by those who are promoting the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). One of the best and most prolific minds in the Global South Anglican community is Dr. Michael Poon. He has just written a longish essay on the St. Andrew's Draft Covenant, known with some wit by Fr. Tobias as the SAD Covenant, and by yours truly as the Ash Wednesday / St Andrews Draft.

Dr. Poon's essay is worth a careful read. You can find it HERE. At the close he writes,

"It is clear then that SAT (the St. Andrew's Text) – the act of covenanting – is intelligible only within a wider ecclesial reality, communities of faith that submissive to a godly order. SAT cannot stand on its own. Neither should it focus its attention towards solving the present crisis. It should seize the opportunity the present crisis provides to provide a proactive structure towards the maturing of the Anglican Communion.

Helpfully, the discussions at Lambeth will be strengthened by reflections from the Theological Education in the Anglican Communion as well. Discussions on the Anglican Way and on theological education in the Communion breathe concrete meaning to the Anglican Covenant. Perhaps it would also be helpful if some attention is given to the formulating of a catechetical framework, as proposed by the Global South Anglican Primates.

Put in another way, Lambeth perhaps should focus its discussion on the essentials in faith and order, that is, St Andrew’s Text itself. I am unclear whether the proposed Appendix on Framework Procedures should be tabled at all for discussion in the foreseeable future. If the bishops at Lambeth are able to agree to a framework of faith, and come to a common mind in giving this concrete embodiment at the parish levels (i.e. in having agreed standards in catechisms, prayer book, and theological education), dioceses across the Communion will draw from it direct spiritual benefit and be strengthened. We all would have come a long way.

The sentence in RED is perhaps the most important. I believe Dr. Poon is right. The Lambeth Conference will bog down almost immediately if it tries to take on both the Text and the Appendix together. As I said earlier they are unequal texts: the first is a great teaching tool and a gathering point for Anglicans. The second is an emerging canon law.

I must say I like the notion that the real benefit of an Anglican Covenant is the possibility that it becomes a teaching tool for the strengthening of the Communion. Then even the process of discussion of the covenant becomes a process of discovery for us all.

Looking at the Text itself there is no question that there is more work to be done. We can hope the bishops at Lambeth will work on that. That will be enough for one three week gathering.

Fr. Tobias Haller in his excellent article raises the immediately important question, namely, is there actually any need for a covenant at all. Read his remarks HERE. His answer? If the covenant is a covenant of death, no thanks. Again, like Dr. Poon, Fr. Haller believes that there is merit in the actual discussions. If out of that discussion there is a growing reason for choosing Life+ Jesus, go for it.

5 comments:

  1. How about a combination? Ash Wednesday / St. Andrew's Day works as the "Aw Sad" draft. Which is where it left me.

    There are two sections, I suspect, because since the second Eames commission became the Windsor commission, there have been two distinctly different intentions. One need only go back to the published comments of then PB Griswald and ABp Ackinola to see the two, contradictory strains.

    The immediate American reaction as expressed by the PB (and many others) was along the lines of: OK, we can see we hurt some folks and we can apologize, then we can put our best and most articulate to work on study and writing for the covenant idea. Certainly we hope we can agree!

    The immediate 'Global South' reaction from ABp Akinola was, "where is the discipline of America and Canada?" (I think I have that correct from memory it is at least close.)

    What we had, and what we have, is one group looking to 'make up' and the other to 'discipline.' And I fear that the two streams are not destined to meet.

    So, we see the Aw Sad draft seeking some sort of general theological and political vision while the appendix tries to impose canon law on provinces from without.

    The authors do seem to have figured out that many wont sign on to a curial structure of primates. But spending years to reach the point where the ACC decides that a province has excluded itself is not much of an improvement.

    Over all, a non-starter I think. And the effort is doomed to failure. No number of drafts can bridge the gap between the Global South expectation of victory and the alternative expectation of reconciliation.


    FWIW
    jimB

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  2. John-Julian, OJN9/2/08 12:35 PM

    Well put, Mark (as usual).

    If the Covenant's purpose is to discover and enunciate our Anglican commonalities, it has the potential of being a powerful dynamic for good. If, on the other hand, its purpose is to establish a way to enforce uniformity (which, given the dynamics of its genesis, is almost certainly the case) then it is a hopeless wad from the beginning.

    If the bishops at Lambeth had the sense to say, "Let's discuss the body of the Covenant itself, and leave the Appendices to Lambeth 2018", some good could come of it. Perhaps even a model for a re-newed common Catechism and a common outline for preparation for ordination! And, in the voluntary absence of the GS bishops, this actually might even conceivably happen.

    Of course, if anything good does come from it, it will apparently be without the input of the GAFCON folk, so they will predictably continue to be unhappy with whatever comes from Lambeth, no matter how enlightened or inspired. (Sigh!)

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  3. I'm not sure if I want any part something which will:
    "breathe concrete meaning to the Anglican Covenant."

    Sounds far too much like Goodfellas to me.

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  4. From Dr. Poon's essay:

    "How the Communion as a tangible family of churches scattered worldwide can remain together (and not break up into like-minded fraternities) and work coherently for Christ’s mission is nothing short of divine grace. This is the charism of, and challenge before, the Communion today."


    If only Dr. Poon were chairing the Covenant Design Group rather than the hopelessly compromised Dr. Gomez. Perhaps then we might have had a Covenant to which skeptics like me might have been able to acquiesced.

    Instead, we have a bludgeon designed by bullies for the sole purpose of shattering the Communion into precisely the sort of "like-minded fraternities" that we are not called to be.

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  5. Personally, I will be extremely disappointed if the Covenant is not sufficient to resolve the current crisis. The Communion is on a trajectory toward splitting. The Windsor Report called for a short term solution and a long term solution to the crisis brought about by our decisions at General Convention 2003 and 2006. The short term solution has yet to come about. The refusal to invite +Gene Robinson to Lambeth is not a sufficient enough solution to put the Communion together again. More must be done, or the Communion as well as our Episcopal Church will continue to fragment and splinter.

    While I do not want the Covenant specifically to address the current crisis--this needs to come from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates--the Covenant should be sufficient to address such a crisis if it is not resolved by that time.

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