Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bruce Kaye on the Covenant, not!

Bruce Kaye, former General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia, editor of the Journal of Anglican Studies, knows about as much about the Anglican Communion as anyone, certainly more than I do. He is not at all keen on the Covenant, having created a blog World Anglicanism Forum to set forward his critique via a succession of posts. I am not convinced by his arguments - though it is also possible that I do not understand their profoundity. His latest post is plainly titled, THE FINAL TEXT OF THE COVENANT IS STILL AN INADEQUATE RESPONSE TO THE CONFLICT IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION. No ambiguity there!

However I am with Bruce on this point:

"12. The real issue is what kind of connection and commonality is appropriate to this kind of fellowship of churches, and in that context what is the appropriate way to deal with conflict between the member churches."

If 'Communion' means (say) a discussion forum or informal network or social club of churches with historic ties to the Church of England then the means of dealing with conflict is going to be different to the situation where 'Communion' means mutually interdependent churches open to being drawn ever closer into a true union of the body of Christ, that is, to being a worldwide church. As I read across the blogosphere such a progressive) view of the Anglican Communion's journey is less likely to be shared by liberals and more likely to be shared by Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals entranced by Paul's theology of unity in Ephesians.

I commend Bruce's posts to all readers of Anglican Down Under. He is, after all, a fellow beneficiary of life Down Under (well, the diminished version of it, you know, over the Tasman ...)


Anonymous said...

Choosing to ignore your remarks about Australia, will contribute to your other comments. ;)

Do we need this covenant when we have the 39 Articles already?

Mark Thompson said this on his blog. I think it is relevant.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Creidsinn (nice new face to your blog, by the way),

I think your question can be understood in two ways:

(a) Why not have all member churches of the Anglican Communion assent to the 39A and not bother with a Covenant?

(b) Don't we all assent to the 39A? If so, why do we need a Covenant?

With respect to (a) I guess quite a lot could be said, including a regurgitation of the variety of approaches the member churches have taken to the 39A over the centuries. Briefly, (i) given all sorts of questions, even oppositions to one or more of the Articles, even by those quite keen on them, I think it more likely that commitment to the Covenant can be secured than to the 39A; (ii) even if we substituted the 39A for the Covenant, the issue would still remain to be resolved, What would we do when a member church disobeyed or disregarded one or more the Articles?

In respect of (b), No, less rather than more member churches require assent to the 39A, their status often misunderstood in this regard. Thus the Covenant properly represents the situation across the Communion when it says (1.1.2) "[Each Church affirms] the catholic and apostolic faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. The historic formularies of the Church of England [footnote to: The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons], forged in the context of the European Reformation and acknowledged and appropriated in various ways in the Anglican Communion, bear authentic witness to this faith."

So, the Covenant in some ways stands to be a new set of "Articles of Religion", similar in some ways to the 39A/the great Creeds (because some things in the way we express our faith have not changed), and very different in other ways (because a lot has happened to the Church of England and it new forms throughout the world since the European Reformation).

Personally I agree with much of what Mark Thompson says. The 39A are foundational to understanding Anglicanism, and are highly renderable into today's context. But I do so as an evangelical. Many Anglicans are not evangelicals and have some very sharp questions about the 39A.

Joshua Bovis said...

Thanks for responding. Matt Kennedy has some predictions about this over at Stand Firm. He is probably correct too.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
I am looking forward to all the writing Matt Kennedy says NT Wright will do!