Reviewing the Third Draft of the Covenant, Preamble & Section One
This is a continuing commentary on the Ridley Cambridge Draft Covenant (RCDC). This is part Two.
The Preamble of the(RCDC) speaks of affirmations and commitments. The careful reader will note that Sections one, two and three following this dual track - affirmations, commitments. Section four does not. Otherwise the Preamble is now cleaner and clearer than in the past. In particular it begins, "We, as Churches of the Anglican Communion..." The entities making the covenant are "Churches," by which is meant "National or Regional Churches."
What is missing throughout the document is a clear definition of just what is meant by various words, among them "Churches." Unless otherwise noted my sense is that "Churches," is meant such National or Regional Churches with synods, houses of bishops, at least three dioceses, and a form of internal governance. Assuming this as the meaning of this use, I give the Preamble four flamingos.
Section One: Our Inheritance of Faith.
(1.1.2) All the thumping about about the "historic formularies of the Church of England" have now been recast as an affirmation that they "bear authentic witness to this faith." They are thus reduced in status as compared with the Holy Scriptures and the Catholic creeds. This is a good move.
(1.1.3-6) These are the elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral simply lifted into the Text. Who can quarrel? I do find the Chicago version of several sections better - "The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testament as the revealed Word of God." The statement "The Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith" takes an entirely different slant on just what sort of instrument the Holy Scripture is. I'm for the revealed Word of God, more than the limit, rule or standard of faith. Likewise, I prefer the Chicago statement on the creed, which simply says, "The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith," rather than "The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith." The last two sections are identical. But this is all old water under the bridge.
(1.1.7) concerning common prayer and liturgy, and (1.1.8) the apostolic mission of he whole people of God, are very good additions to the Quadrilateral, which I suppose will become the Lambeth Hexagon.
This section (1.1) is sound and pretty much sums up the Anglican take on the received faith. I would have given it the coveted five flamingo rating, but really wish they had stuck with the Chicago text. So four.
Section 1.2 Commitments.
The pacing here takes a turn. Until this point the Holy Scripture has been mentioned in the Draft Text itself three times. Now in 1.2 speaks five times of Scripture. The whole of section one concerns "Our Inheritance of Faith" and there is no question that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament is central to that inheritance. The Word of God, however, is not a product of the Scriptures but also (or most particularly) the source by which the writings are indeed Holy Scripture. The commitments made in this section, related to our inheritance of Faith, make it appear that what we are dealing with in our "varying contexts" is our understanding of Scripture. It is not. What we have in this Faith, reliant on the Holy Spirit, is the presence of the Word of God, that Word being present from the beginning with God and known in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are instruments of that Word, not the Word itself.
Perhaps I have put this poorly. No matter. The reader will understand my concern: This section, which deals with the Faith received, says not one word about The Word of God. It speaks on two occasions of "Scriptures as God's Word," and "what we have received from God's Word." But our faith is not here in any way directly related to The Word, which was with God and was God, that is the source of all creation.
This section is the product of a very different hand than either the Introduction to the Text or Section 1.1.
As to the matters to which it commits us, should a church sign off on the Covenant, there is nothing to which we as Christians could not be honorably committed. There is a note of stringent control in (1.2.1) "mindful of the common councils of the Communion and our ecumenical agreements," (1.2.2) "answerable to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the catholic tradition." Those might be construed lightly.
The stress in 1.2.7-8 on Eucharist and common pilgrimage are commendable.
Section 1.2 is oddly written and falls short of expressing the fullness of the Faith that is reliant on the Word of God. It is not convincing, but it is not terrible either. I give it three flamingos.