3/25/2011

The Anglican Covenant: a Church Times guide: out now

The Church Times, an English church news paper, has just published "The Anglican Covenant: a Church Times guide."  It provides a good collection of "pro" and "con" opinions on the Covenant, an editorial that leaves the matter in the hands of the dioceses in the Church of England, and a very useful "annotated Covenant."

It can be downloaded HERE.

The editorial ends, "To vote in favour, therefore, is to step into the dark. Such is the present state of the Communion, however, that to vote against it might well lead Anglicans into similar obscurity." Perhaps that is part of our vocation.

Pat Ashworth of the Church Times gives a detailed and quite sympathetic overview of Archbishop Williams' leadership in this prolonged struggle. The upshot of the years of work on this is the ABC's remark to the General Synod last year, that the Covenant be viewed as "an attempt to set out a structure for consent rather than a structure for discipline." 

The Covenant, in this context, is meant to provide a way for churches to consent to interdependence and accountability. But of course the problem is that not consenting quickly raises the issue about "consequences." 

Professor Marilyn McCord Adams, lately Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, now of the University of North Carolina, makes a strong argument that the trial run at dealing with consequences, even before the Anglican Covenant is in place, should give liberal Christians pause. 

"What the trial run does showcase is an Anglican Communion dominated by Primates. The first phase features primatial oligarchy, in which the Primates' Meeting plays a leading part.  The second phase spotlites primatial monarchy, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury uses his powers to call or not call meetings...and set agendas to manipulate outcomes...Why would anyone who loves a liberal Church want to covenant for that."

Noram Doe tries to make the argument that the Covenant is permissive, not coercive. (I think he fails.)

Gregory Cameron argues that the document is balanced between autonomy and interdependence. Simon Killwick thinks we can find a better way than the Anglican Covenant. So does John Akao, but for different reasons. 

Glynn Cardy believes the Anglican Communion believes the last section of the Covenant is simply too restrictive for the general good of the churches. Alan Wilson feels the Covenant leaves too much unanswered, and answers what it can in ways that are unclear.

So the assessments are mixed indeed. The positive assessments are given by people who had a very large hand in the envisioning of the Anglican Covenant. Bishop Cameron in a former life was Secretary of the Covenant Design Group.  Dr Norman Doe has been a consultant on matters related to the Covenant on several levels. The less than supportive essays come from Bishops, Professors and Clergy from various locals. 

One, Bishop Alan Wilson, opines, 

"None of the contentious issues of 2003 has gon away, but the energy has drained away from fighting over them.  Certainly, in the pews around here, people would sooner stick their heads in a food mixer than see the Anglican dog return to this particular vomit." 

And later, no slouch in the use of the English language, he says, 

"I hope that , as the Covenant goes out for discussion, lay people's answers will be as carefully received as those of lawyers and ecclesiastical technocrats have been so far in this process.  And if the ordinary people of God, the plebs sancta Dei, who came through the gay wars with their credibility far more intact than that of their bishops, should be allowed a voice, I hope our elders and betters will be listening."

Amen to that!

About the annotated Covenant: This is an excellent set of comments, well worth the read.

Please note that at the end of the version of the Covenant used by the Church Times there is included an addendum.  
 While the "official" text comes without this, the website version (and the one used by the Church Times) includes the following:

"The Standing Committee requested that the following statement from the Covenant Working Party Commentary on Revisions to Section 4 be highlighted at the end of the Text of the Anglican Communion Covenant as it appears on the Anglican Communion website:
'…the Standing Committee derives its authority from its responsibility to the two Instruments of Communion which elects its membership, and on whose behalf it acts' (Section 4.2)."
This apparently is there to make clear what is not clear from the Anglican Covenant text. It is an addition to the received text, the one we are asked to consider for approval. Apparently this is meant to be a clarifying comment. It isn't. 


Neither the Primates Meeting or the ACC can have authorized responsibilities related to the Anglican Covenant since we do not as yet have one. The authority and responsibility of the Standing Committee already exists by bylaw and arrangement, and the only reason to raise the issue of its authority here relates to its authority and responsibility to forward a text it deems final to the churches of the Communion for their consideration. 

6 comments:

  1. What a mess of pottage is the daft covenant! Bishop Alan doesn't mince words. I like that.

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  2. The Anglican Covenant is the best we can do to resolve a "crisis" in the Communion? Really? It's biggest sin is an utter lack of religious imagination.

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  3. Since the proposed covenant isn't about punishment, has any proponent suggested how TEC and ACoC actions would have been handled or how our current situation would have been different had the covenant been in place in 2003?

    I am concerned that proponents are diligent in telling us what the covenant isn't and opponents haven't offered an argument that moves beyond the possiblity of punishment.

    It is customary to offer a test drive before buying a new car, especially when the old one still works (even if it needs some work).

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  4. Point of Order, part of the difficulty is that the proponents haven't been convincing in saying it's not about punishment. If that's true, than there's little point to section 4. Individual national/provincial churches have managed "relational consequences" to this point without an over-arching committee.

    It is also a complication that there are two groups of opponents, if not three: those who think the Covenant is too binding (or potentially so), thus inhibiting "local expression;" those who think the Covenant isn't binding enough, and so inhibiting the level of unity (and unanimity they desire); and perhaps those for whom too much structure and centralization is a separate issue. For those concerned about centralization, the issue divides over who might/should be in charge. Those who think the Covenant isn't binding enough also want the primates to be the decision makers. Those who think the covenant is too binding aren't sure they want any decision makers, but could probably live with the ACC. In either case, there is some suspicion of the Standing Committee as too much a mix, with too many folks involved appointed by "them" (Primates Meeting or ACC, depending on your perspective).

    If we had been living with the Covenant in 2003, would there have been issues raised with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada? Certainly; but, as you suggest, we don't know what the consequences would have been. If we had been living with the Covenant in 2000, at the foundation of AMiA, would there ahev been issues raised with Rwanda and Southeast Asia? Certainly; but, again, the results are hard to imagine with clarity.

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  5. What a mess. Hopefully the idea of a Covenant will receive enough opposition across the AC to be scrapped altogether.

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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.