Some readings on Anglicanism and The Covenant.

No time to go into it now, but I've been doing some summer reading on the Covenant - some up close and particular to the Covenant, some about the notion of Anglicanism and the way in which we have come to understand the notion of the Anglican Communion.  For now a few recommended readings and why:

I read again "What is Anglicanism?" by Urban T. Holmes, III.  A wonderful, thoughtful and quite germane to the moment. He states in his chapter on Prophetic Witness,

"One thing which I would hope has struck the reader by now is the infinite variety of people that make up the Anglican Communion. Two things seem to follow from this. The firs is that everyone does not have to be an example of everything. In other words, John Coleridge Patteson may embody our spirit of mission, but he does not have to also possess the spiritual insights of a Julian of Norwich, who apparently never left that small English town. This can be justified by the second observation.  In our common life of worship, which is what cements Anglicans together, we can affirm the different gifts of one another without having to live as if they were ours as well.  In our our understanding of the church, it is the people of God who provide a comprehensive ministry, not each individual."

AMEN! When I get to it I hope to write a critique of the Anglican Covenant from the observations of Holmes. We will see.

Just last week I got to the Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2011.  The first two articles are important to the wider discussion of just why the Anglican Communion is what it is . "Beyond Imagination: "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ" (1963) and the Reinvention of Canadian Anglicanism, " by  William J. Danaher, provides a peek into the theological foundations of the life of the Anglican Church of Canada and the role that MRI played in its development. Episcopal Church readers will find this a useful example of just how we might also come to examine our own growth and change as a result of MRI and its implications.  

Jesse Zink in "Changing World, Changing Church: Stephen Bayne and "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence" does part of this work for us.  In particular Zink's reference to Bayne's understanding of the "mission of God." The effort to focus on that, rather than on the mission of the organized (and organizing) church, was central to Bayne's response to MRI. He writes, 

"This difficult task was what Bayne and MRI were gesturing at, as they attempted to integrate two different organizational views: on the one hand affirming the local variation of Anglicanism around the world, and on the other hand building cooperation and communion among those various branches of Anglicanism." (p. 259-69)

The notion that the misso Dei and MRI required careful attention to organizational concerns is something we might well consider in looking at the Covenant, at the future form of the Anglican Communion, and indeed at our own structure as a Church.

Writings on the Anglican Covenant "idea" are being sent about from many thoughtful sources. The Anglican Communion Institute has recently published an article by Philip Turner that is worth the read. The Covenant: What Is It All About?  Readers may be surprised that I am referencing an Anglican Communion Institute article. Preludium has often pointed to the ACI as a rather narrow needle through which to thread the Anglican lifeline. But I read what the ACI writers write because sometimes there is gold in them there hills.

Turner has written a good and substantive argument FOR the Anglican Covenant and those of us who oppose it need to take its points into consideration. He notes, as have many of us, the strange phenomena by which the left and right, so called are in opposition to the Covenant and the middle is muddled. He suggests that the Covenant could indeed be subverted by progressives or confessionalists, but that the danger in that is a problem of our watchfulness. The greater danger is that not choosing the Covenant we will find ourselves having to do the same work over again in even more difficult circumstances. 

He writes, 

"It seems to me that the understanding of communion that has shaped the proposed covenant is vastly superior to the theologically vacuous one favored by many with progressive views and to the impractical confessional one favored by many with more traditional convictions. It provides a way to sustain a thick form of communion within the changes and chances of history and within the conflicts occasioned by differences in culture. It provides a way through history that does not reduce communion (as in the progressive case) to the chance overlap of moral commitments or (as in the traditionalist case) to a fixed point in the history of the church that can serve as a theological north star. The ship that is the church is best guided by common immersion in Holy Scripture and mutual recognition born of a grace filled struggle in the light of scripture’s witness to arrive at truth. That is what the covenant is all about."

The notion of a "thick form of communion" is an interesting one. It deserves at least as much attention as the notion of the "thin places" touted by the spiritually adept. A thick form of communion would entail greater attention to what "Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ" might mean. 

So: Read Holmes, read ATR, read Turner. Good beginnings of a good summer in preparation for General Convention.


  1. It is excellent to see that the Turner essay receives some approbation here!

  2. Peter...I read, I learn, sometimes I agree - even with evangelicals! Its a grand life.

  3. In the current context, irrespective of what it may once have meant, “mutual responsibility and interdependence” means that each Communion church is answerable for what any other Anglican church does. It is therefore necessary for each church to be able to veto the actions of other churches to avoid embarrassment. This is foolishness and self-destructive.

    I am unimpressed with Turner’s fear that “we will find ourselves having to do the same work over again.” Perhaps we will come to our senses and realize that the work need not have been done in the first place (or, more properly, was the wrong work to be doing). If we do it over again, perhaps we’ll get it right next time.


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.