5/18/2009

Ephraim Radner responds on 'in principle' adoption of the Anglican Covenant

I wrote "Dr. Radner and "in principle" acceptance of Covenant" on May 15th and Ephraim responded in a comment. I think his comment is worth posting as a followup to mine. Here is what he had to say:

I am grateful, Mark (as I often am), for your tempered tone in criticizing my views. You've tried to grasp one of my suggestions, and are not persuaded. Fair enough. I do want, however, to try to clarify aspects of the suggestion itself that have informed its purpose, and that you do not address.

Ephraim Radner

First, the suggestion of "in principle" adoption is made within the context of deep dismay by many in the Communion (so it appears) over the process and outcome of the ACC meeting. This is a crucial element to bear in mind that you do not mention: rather than drawing churches closer together in the Covenant process, the ACC meeting seems to have pushed them further apart. A large number of GS representatives went home angry and alienated. And, of course, not only them. Although there have been some arguments to the contrary, most observers of the meeting's treatment of the Covenant on the floor agreed that it was not well-ordered, at best. And the credibility of the outcome for the disposition of the Covenant text is not, as a result, great at present. Yes, I am committed to the Covenant process in the sense that I believe in it and want it to work. My suggestion comes out of this context, and it is motivated precisely by a desire that this process indeed be and be perceived as a "Communion-wide" one. I have heard no other suggestions for recapturing some credibility in this regard, but I welcome them. I have heard suggestions, on the other hand, from both "liberal" and "conservative" perspectives that the process itself is useless, as is its purpose. This is a tack I am not willing to take.

Second, the notion of an "in principle" adoption is precisely that it not preempt the process that the ACC has itself left the Communion. But since this last is, in many churches' eyes (rightly or wrongly), tainted, offering some decisive views about the Covenant text in a way that provides a clarity some churches feel they were no permitted to express formally at the ACC, seems a reasonable way to try to bridge a serious divide. This is not a "declaration of independence" at all, but an attempt to respect the views and process of a divided Communion for the purpose of maintaining some kind of relation that can be built upon in the near future. The "in principle" aspect is precisely a matter of restraining actual adoption in order to await whatever revisions, if there are any, are given to the text.

Third, I realize that it may seem as if I am, retrospectively, demanding an "authority" for the CDG that it simply doesn't have. Again, however, the issue is the context of the moment. You are certainly right that the CDG was only a servant of other Communion bodies. Of course I accept that! But there are no blank checks in terms of Church order. Who exactly decided that the text would go to the ACC remains, for instance, very unclear to me. Not that it matters in itself, except that I know many would like to have a sense of the process itself that led in this direction. Certainly, the ACC was not the body that commissioned the Report. (I thought it was the Archbishop on behalf of the Primates. Have they had or will they have a chance themselves and "on their own", as it were, to respond to the text?) In any case, as an Anglican Communion Christian I have as much responsibility as anyone else to urge an integral process of counsel and decision-making with respect to the health of the common body. And in this case, the outcome to the ACC meeting does not seem to have furthered that goal as it might have, and I am duty-bound to speak openly on the matter. I claim, however, no more authority than you do! You have a blog, and share your judgments (often harsh) about people, policies, decisions, and so on with the world; I, in my own way, do the same. Both of us, however, are generally dispensable. I have no illusions.

16 comments:

  1. Brant-in-LA18/5/09 11:23 PM

    Not very convincing, Dr. Radner. The list of those likely to adopt 'in principle' would contain few surprises and makes going through the exercise seem silly. Ergo, your suggestion smacks of frustrated bullies wanting the exact results that Mark identifies. Please hold open the possibility that the outcome of the ACC gathering in putting the brakes on this 'covenant' was nothing less than the work of the Holy Spirit.

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  2. Brant...the list of those (few) not signing is no surprise either.....

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  3. It has been my observation (perhaps too often expressed) that the 'orthodox' view contains the compulsive need to 'make them behave!' And that is precisely what the forth section of a very bad idea -- the covenant -- is all about.

    One cannot perfect the section. It is simply a bad idea no matter how expressed. Calling a judicial document a covenant simply because it has a three section preamble changes nothing of its nature.

    What is going on here is an attempt to make the Anglican Communion what the ABC keeps calling it 'the Anglican Church.' In short the covenant is a blueprint for an uber-province and it wont wash.

    One need only consider a simple question to see what is going on with total clarity. What would happen if the provinces were invited to sign a three part version? Yup, Central Africa and the other holy provinces would recoil as though confronted with a cobra. Common faith is not the subject. Common prayer is not the subject. Making the North obey is the subject. As our Southern proverb has it, that dog wont hunt.

    FWIW
    jimB

    How funny! As we see the attempt to draw a bow and shoot TEC come apart, the security word is "unstring!"

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  4. Not really, Jim.... it is about unity....so, even the ABC, who is a liberal on certain issues, would not want to force the majority of the Communion to accept his view if they think it would involve their church / communion condoning anything they believe to be incompatible with scripture. He cares about unity....not sure unity was high on TECUSA's agenda in 2003 and since.

    TECUSA put the cart before the horse in 2003.... the right way to do things is to persuade the Communion first and then make changes, not do things which you know are going to cause disunity and expect people to like it or lump it, regardless of their consciences.

    Now, I understand some will say that they cannot wait for the AC to be persuaded, it has been too long and they feel it is unjust to ask them to wait. The right thing to do, in that case, is not to go ahead anyway, regardless of the "mind of the Communion" and thereby cause division, but to walk away and be a liberal communion which people who share your views can join, from all around the world, with integrity....i.e. be part of a communion in which you do and say exactly what you think right, rather than making BO33 compromises for the sake of staying in the AC etc.

    I can respect a liberal position when principles are acted upon, accepting the consequences..... trying to avoid those consequences results in all suffering an integrity deficit and more in-fighting, that is all. We are all tired of it, I am sure. Hoping GC09 is not sucked into more "play the long game" compromise but stands up for its principles. What is TECUSA benefitting from being in "the Anglican Church"? A world stage....but not a happy situation for anyone.

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  5. TECUSA put the cart before the horse in 2003.... the right way to do things is to persuade the Communion first and then make changes, not do things which you know are going to cause disunity and expect people to like it or lump it, regardless of their consciences.

    Unfortunately Observer, that is a rule that folks have made up after the fact. It is the way that they wish things to be. It is a part of the fabricated, happy past that conservatives always refer to in order to justify their positions in the present.

    As far as an Anglican Church, they are multiple, 38 national and regional Anglican churches and a handful of extra-provincial Anglican churches, but no world-wide Anglican Church, just a world-wide communion of independent, autocephalous national and regional Anglican churches, called the Anglican Communion.

    TEC is a part of the AC because TEC helped create it. TEC would choose to stay in the Anglican Communion, but lost its way in 2006 with BO33. I do not believe that you will see a repeat of BO33 this year. Unfortunately, because of many factors, I do not believe that the Anglican Communion of the past exists anymore. But I believe that TEC wants to be a part and will continue to be a part of the AC that does continue to exist. And my church, the Anglican Church of Mexico, will remain her loyal friend and encourage the bonds which she shares with us and many other Anglican churches in the AC. We cannot control what others may do.

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  6. What do you mean, David, when you say, "Unfortunately Observer, that is a rule that folks have made up after the fact. It is the way that they wish things to be."?

    Before it happened, the ABC and all the Primates (including Griswold) asked TEC not to go ahead because it would destroy AC unity.... that was a chance to do things the right way i.e. persuade the Communion first. But, as I said, I can understand that some are tired of waiting....in which case, a TECUSA-led, liberal communion would be an honourable alternative and would not require BO33s etc which sap integrity on both sides.

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  7. I don't know, Observer. I think there is a "rule" imposed after, although it may or may not be what Dahveed was referring to. You were responding to Jim, and said, "even the ABC, who is a liberal on certain issues, would not want to force the majority of the Communion to accept his view if they think it would involve their church / communion condoning anything they believe to be incompatible with scripture. He cares about unity...." But, there is no rule allowing Canterbury, or any other office or province, to force one province or another to do anything. And Jim is right, at least to the extent that certain provinces want to force TEC - or, having failed in that, to force Canterbury - to accept a theological anthropology that most of us find flawed.

    Imagining that "rule" is indeed quite recent, although not perhaps as recent as 2003. No, it was assumed (and, as Mark has often noted, not agreed or received) after 1998; and thus the violations of provincial boundaries began, not after Bishop Robinson's ordination, but with the Anglican Mission in America, supported by Rwanda and Southeast Asia.

    So, was the General Convention thinking of unity in 2003? The arguments were certainly made. However, faced with folks from New Hampshire saying, "We know this man, and voted for him because we see God working in him," most didn't find it compelling to stall what they saw as the Holy Spirit acting. But, with Lambeth 1998 and AMiA already established in history, and with ordination of women at all, much less to the episcopate, dividing the Communion, it's also arguable that the disunity had already been discovered.

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  8. Hello Marshall Thanks for your reasoned reply.

    I think people on both sides have principles...it is the "insitutionalists" who try to force compromise.....for the institution, of course.

    Is the problem not caused by trying to stay together when differences are irreconcilable? I do not doubt what you say about the principles of those acting within TECUSA in 2003..... the problem starts when we have to try and fit the result of people following their principles (and "polity")in NH into the AC given a majority will not accept it...... so we get BO33.....and years pass.... and nobody is happy.

    St Paul was wise in teaching the new testament church that sometimes it is necessary to split..... if we did that, all can live with integrity (and no more in-fighting)

    TECUSA can lead a liberal communion that would be much more productive than the current situation of TECUSA in the AC

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  9. "Now, I understand some will say that they cannot wait for the AC to be persuaded, it has been too long and they feel it is unjust to ask them to wait."

    Yes, Observer, that is exactly what led the GAFCON Primates to boycott Lambeth, and the US breakaways to form ACNA. They were unwilling to wait for the Episcopal Church to be "disciplined" by the Communion, and decided to go off on their own. Their "walking away" from the Anglican Communion is now nearly complete; their adoption of their own Covenant will perhaps seal it.

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  10. Marshall,
    If, as appears likely, the bishop elect of Northern Michigan is refused confirmation, what does it make of the argument from 2003 that'faced with folks from New Hampshire saying, "We know this man, and voted for him because we see God working in him," most didn't find it compelling to stall what they saw as the Holy Spirit acting.'?
    Those who elected the bishop-elect might well say the same thing.
    Obadiah Slope

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  11. Perhaps, Charlotte...but if they adopt the Ridley draft...and nearly all provinces adopt the Ridley draft, TECUA may have "issues"........... but the politics in Jamaica is making that more posssible..... none of this would matter if TECUSA was not so desperate to have the AC meetings for its bigwigs to attend...

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  12. Estimable Obadiah:

    I appreciate your question. I don't mean to sound flip when I say that one aspect of this is "that was then and this is now." I've had concerns that in responding to others who want to define us in ways we don't like, many, and especially some of our bishops, will feel need to define us in ways that we may like and/or live with, but will still be more restrictive than what we've lived with before. I have some appreciation for Observer's thought that the Episcopal Church might well feel a necessity to make a choice we might have once hoped to avoid (the image of "fish or cut bait" came to mind - how current is that in Oz?); and, by the way Observer, I think there might well be a definitive address to B033 in Anaheim.

    There have been so many statements that "the Episcopal Church has abandoned the faith," that I'm not surprised that some would feel less room for liturgical innovation. We might think of ordination of GLBT persons as matters of discipline (the Canadian hairsplitting of "doctrine but not core doctrine" notwithstanding), but we continue to see Creed, Christology, and Sacraments as matters of doctrine, with consequently less latitude. I certainly think the bishops who have written responding to what they've seen in the writings of the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan feel they are addressing a different, and different-level, question. Others will disagree; but I think that's where they see the difference.

    BTW, the verification word is heritif. Is that the proper feminine of "heritic?"

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  13. Observer, what on earth do you mean, "adopt the Ridley Draft"? The Ridley Draft is no longer current. It has been sent back for much-needed revisions to Section 4. There is no way of "adopting" a draft that is no longer current. What effect could such an action possibly have? What on earth are you thinking?

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  14. Marshall,
    I must confess I have never got my mind around the "fish or cut bait" saying that occurs on episcopalian websites more often than you might think. Thank you for clarifying it.
    I think what you are saying regarding confirmation of bishop's elections is that (as I have long suspected) the argument that the the dioceses/bishops/GC delegates simply trust the good sense of the local diocese in question does not hold water. To my mind those who used it in 2003 were trying to deny responsibility for the decision of the General Convention.
    So I think there might be an element of fish and bait cutting brought on by the Forrester decision.
    The GC 2003 decision was in effect a doctrinal decision, at least a ruling by GC as to the suitability of +NH as a partnered gay man to be a bishop, as is the current decision about Kevin Forrester.
    Lots of fish and bait about, I think. And as you say, possibly more to come at your GC.
    Obadiah Slope

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  15. Well, Obadiah, I think the image of "trusting the diocese" holds water, or at least held water, in that folks did mean it when they said it, issues of logic notwithstanding. There were certainly those in 2003, if not the majority, who said they couldn't trust the diocese that elected a partnered gay priest; and we have yet to see the results yet for Bishop-elect Thewlis Forrester.

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  16. Charlotte...not sure where you are getting this "no longer current" idea....why do you think that stops anyone who wants to adopt it from doing so. The Ridley draft is out there. Radner and others stand by it, including section 4..... because it is acceptable to most Anglicans in the world.....the proof will come if many adopt it, of course. The ABC has encouraged all to start studying and talking about Ridley.....seems it is "current" to him. There is nothing to stop a province or GAFCON adopting it....nothing at all to force anyone to wait for yet another committee doing yet another review....

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