More about a Compact rather than a Covenant.

I have remarked twice on this blog, HERE and HERE that I thought the churches of the Anglican Communion might think of developing a compact among the churches, rather than a covenant.

We already have a covenant, one which we refer to in the Episcopal Church as the Baptismal Covenant. Covenant is in this sense a relationship between individuals – in this case God and the converted human. In the case of the baptismal covenant in particular it is a relationship established that cannot be broken, for it does not rely on our strength or purpose, but on God’s love and inclusion of us. The Covenant with Israel may have been with the whole people, and its assurances to the whole people, but it is signaled by the individual who does what God has required in the Covenant.

Compacts, however, are entered into not only by humans, but by human corporations or bodies. A compact can be devised among corporate bodies, organizations that are committed to common tasks and a common future. Compacts do not supplant the covenant of baptism: we are by covenant made part of the Body of Christ. I would argue that we are members of the Episcopal Church by compact, and the Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion by mostly unwritten compact. Compacts can address common mission, tasks, direction and purpose. Compacts can hold us accountable to one another.

This idea would have to be fleshed out a good bit to be of value in the current Anglican mess, but as we look towards the discussion of an Anglican Covenant, I would propose we think seriously about an alternative to “Covenant” language. Perhaps compact might serve. Let’s keep our Covenant with God, and compact with one another to get on with the work we promised in that Covenant.


  1. It's an interesting idea that probably won't get any serious consideration from a group of people who are convinced their truth is the only one that's right and don't seem to have any real interest in reconciling the existing differences we have. I get the impression those who want to redefine what it means to be an Anglican and a Christian know little of either concept. Narrow minded people usually only want a simple answer to solve a difficult issue and see the world only in terms of black and white, yes or no, right or wrong, without allowing for the possibility other answers may exist and maybe they don't know it all.

  2. And, maybe they would like to carry on the faith that has been for the last 2000 years, and not just the last 40 years; and maybe they would like to keep the Bible as a sacred book, and not relegate it to a nice historical book that no longer has any meaning in the world today; and maybe they would like to keep calling sin, sin, and not justify it in many different ways. And maybe they would like to believe that Jesus Christ really is the Way and the Truth and the Life, and no one does come the Father except through Him. And, finally, maybe the whole relativism promotion in the world today is wrong...maybe.

  3. maybe they would like to carry on the faith that has been for the last 2000 years, and not just the last 40 years

    Do you honestly believe that there were no changes in the Christian faith until 1966?

  4. Everyone knows there have been changes, but not many to the extent in recent time that the Episcopal Church has sought to change it, and therein lies the reason that the it is in the mess that it is in. It was told that the church would split, and lo, it did; it was ask to say it was sorry for what it did, and lo, it could not. What will happen next? We all just have to wait and see.

  5. The church has certainly changed its teaching on usury:

    Here's St. John Chrysostom on the subject:

    "Nothing is baser, nothing is more cruel than the interest that comes from lending. For such a lender trades on other persons' calamities, draws profit from the distress of others, and demands wages for kindness, as though he were afraid to seem merciful. Under the mask of kindness he digs deeper their grave of poverty; when he stretches forth his hand to help, he pushes them down. . ."

    Here's Leo the Great:

    "This point, too, we have thought must not be passed over, that certain possessed with the love of base gain lay out their money at interest, and wish to enrich themselves as usurers. For we are grieved that this is practised not only by those who belong to the clergy, but also by laymen who desire to be called Christians. And we decree that those who have been convicted be punished sharply, that all occasion of sinning be removed."

    John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury in the 16th century, has some harsh words on the subject as well:

    "If I lend 100 pounds and for it covenant to receive 105 pounds, or any other sum greater than was the sum I did lend, this is that, we call usury; such a kind of bargaining as no good man or godly man ever used; such a kind of bargaining as all men that ever feared God's judgment, have always abhorred and condemned . . . It is the overthrow of mighty kingdoms, the destruction of flourishing states; the decay of great cities; the plagues of the world and the misery of the people. It is theft, it is the murdering of our brethren, it is the curse of God, and the curse of the people. This is usury, and by these signs and tokens ye shall know it."

    It's funny how no one gets all hot and bothered about this particular "innovation."

    And then there's remarriage after divorce, which even the loudest, most pious "reasserters" practice without compunction these days. No big deal there, either. Just ask the twice-married David Roseberry, who is quite the conquering hero among the neopuritans.

    There are many other examples, and again, none of them have aroused much opposition. But then they have to do with practices in which even the pious indulge.

    Homosexuality, on the other hand, is a safe vice for most people to condemn, and so they do, enthusiastically.

    That's what's really going on here.

  6. Might I say something about words (like "covenant" or "compact")?

    All along I have been puzzled that ++Rowan could pretend that having an agreed upon set of words could solve the problems of the WWAC. As the chief father of "radical orthodoxy" he knows full well that it is never the actual words, but how they are interpretted that counts.

    No new set of words can change that.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, 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.