4/14/2009

Reviewing the Third Draft of the Covenant: Introduction

For the next few days I will be making some remarks on various portions of the Third draft of the Anglican Communion Covenant. This is all in preparation for a more general hacking away at the resolutions coming before General Convention. At the moment it is unclear what, if anything, will happen with the Covenant at General Convention. My sense is we are no where near a satisfactory conclusion to the work.

First a word about the silly ecclesiastical pretensions of the writing style:
(i) Why the stylistic form of the title: THE Anglican COMMUNION Covenant?
(ii) It is called "The Third (Ridley Cambridge) Draft. I have always thought the naming of the drafts after the place of meeting - Nassau, St. Andrews, Ridley Cambridge - which follows in the tradition of the "Windsor Report," - was just plain silly.
(iii) The constant desire to take a George Orwell sort of title for the Archbishop of Canterbury, "First among Equals" and then thinking that giving us the Latin "primus inter pares" improves the logic or the majesty of it all is really too much.

Having gotten that off my chest, a few comments about the
INTRODUCTION TO THE COVENANT TEXT.

This is an odd sort of document. The Covenant itself says about the Introduction, " (4.4.1) The Covenant consists of the text set out in this document in the Preamble, Sections One to Four and the Declaration. The Introduction to the Covenant Text, which shall always be annexed to the Covenant text, is not part of the Covenant, but shall be accorded authority in understanding the purpose of the Covenant."

So, in a kind of reverse of the "first among equals," the Introduction is "the least of these, but still authoritative." The first shall be last and the last first works as a promissory note about the Kingdom, but it is really off putting here.

It is a remarkably bad effort to show that the Anglican Communion is in some way an outcropping of a "divine calling into communion ..established in God's purpose for the whole of creation." (paragraph 2). But the text goes further into this muddle and wants us to believe that the Covenant Text is somehow connected to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who "looked forward to a new covenant not written on tablets of stone but upon the heart (Jer 31:31-34). I'm all for Jeremiah's words, but can't see exactly how the Anglican Covenant - which if not written on stone is none the less written a thousand times a thousand across the Internet and in the briefcases of ecclesial bureaucrats, etc - connects with what the prophet had in mind.

Paragraph 4 states, "Among these families is the Anglican Communion, which provides a particular charism and identity among the many followers and servants of Jesus." Perhaps it would be less confusing and a bit more convincing if the writers of this text said, "among many followers" leaving off the "the." The idea, it seems to me, is to suggest that as Anglicans we find a particular charism and identity in the stuff of our life together.

Paragraph 7 muddles through another idea: "Our life together reflects the blessings of God (even as it exposes our failures in faith, hope and love) in growing our Communion into a truly global family. " I have a sense of what the writer is trying to say, but it comes out a muddle.

The trouble with the Introduction to the Covenant Text is that it is written as if it was presenting a justification and argument for the Covenant itself. In this it fails miserably. Regrettably we are stuck with it as something that will always be published with the text we approve, unless of course the Anglican Consultative Council can see itself clear to insist that it be detached from the Covenant Text itself.

What in the world possessed the Covenant Design Group that this Introduction was always to be printed with the Text?

On a scale of five flamingos, with five being the highest, I give the Introduction a two.

1 comment:

  1. Those pink flamingos are a very queer way of rating the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Covenant!

    You are to be commended Father.

    ReplyDelete

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