Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do critics of the Covenant wish to be part of a united Communion or not?

Reading comments on threads such as this one on Thinking Anglicans (which incidentally will also lead you to a wide array of posts/articles on the Covenant) or this one on Fulcrum, or reading an essay such as this one by Father Jim Stockton, I am a little confused as to whether critics of the Covenant wish to see the Anglican Communion united or divided!

One emerging theme is that the Covenant will not unite an already fractured Communion. This is, I think, a fair line of criticism to pursue. It is consistent with a commitment to unity to ask of a proposal, 'Will this, in fact, unite us?' It would, of course, assist people such as myself to learn what the better alternative to the Covenant is! It would also be true, I suggest, that a will to unite combined with the Covenant would see the Covenant working well, whereas a lack of will to unite combined with the Covenant will not see the Covenant working well.

Another emerging theme is that the Covenant is not (really) intended to bring unity but is the outwardly respectable face of a hidden conspiracy to enable the expulsion of TEC from the Communion and thus, by implication, is also an anti-GLBT measure. Thus for various reasons from commitment to GLBT rights to basic Christian compassion to simple respect for local Anglican autonomy, the bluff of the Covenant should be called by rejecting it. I and others dispute this interpretation of the Covenant. But, being this far away, Down Under at the Bottom of the World, there may be a conspiracy at the heart of the Covenant going on which I am unaware of - a remarkable conspiracy because it features ++Rowan at the centre of it, and has even involved the Presiding Bishop of TEC who has been present at key Communion meetings supporting the Covenant.

Personally I prefer to trust the non-conspirational involvement of ++Rowan in the Covenant and to interpret the Covenant as (among other things) a fair call by the Communion for TEC to convince the whole Communion of the theological justification for the moves it has made in recent years. That is, the Covenant is an opportunity for member churches of the Communion to walk together, talk together, and be mutually accountable one to the other ... which, of course, is not only an opportunity for TEC but also for Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, my own church, Sydney-within-Australia - all those who have embarked in recent years on courses of action which have raised questions about whether they are Anglican or not - to account for their actions!

But critics of the Covenant do not see the Covenant in this way. Fair enough. But I see the force of their criticism, if prevailing, as leading us further away from unity as a Communion rather than closer to it. The future of the Communion could be bleak because the critics are offering nothing to stop the fracturing.

Essentially criticism of the Covenant boils down to this (as I reflect on the critics): local autonomy of member churches of the Communion is a more important Anglican value than the interdependence of Anglican churches in a Communion. Ultimately this means the Communion will die.


Suem said...

It seemed to me that Fred Hiltz, in his New Year's address seemed to be open to the possibility that the Anglican Church of Canada would sign the Covenant.

I don't know if I'm off mark here or if that was the impression others had?

What did you think of what Hiltz had to say?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem
Hiltz is open to the Covenant. The crunch will be the Canadian General Synod ...

Suem said...

What did you think of what Hiltz had to say? I am thinking especially of his comments that we are called to "live graciously with difference."

Should we live with difference, or are some differences so great that they cannot be tolerated?

That seems to me the question that this covenant may find out and the nub of what this is all about.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
OK, with you now on what you seek!

We do indeed need as Christians to live graciously with difference (as, in fact, the whole world needs to do), but some differences are so great they cannot be tolerated. Thus many voices at this time are refusing to live graciously with the (shall we say) "different" way in which some Ugandan politicians would wish to treat Ugandan homosexuals.

Back to the Canadian Anglican church: already one criticism I see emerging about Hiltz' remarks are the fact that various bishops/dioceses do not seem to be able to live graciously with parishes who are different to the point of distancing themselves from the official Canadian Anglican church. Thus litigation re property is proceeding in the courts!

So, from a distance, it is a little difficult for me to understand clearly what "difference" for Archbishop Hiltz means with respect to his Anglican context in which he seeks to live graciously.

A final point (in an all too brief, not comprehensive response) could be this: what is the "difference" we are being called to live with in respect of homosexuality? For instance I see a distinction between living with people as fellow parishioners who are different to me in respect of sexual identity and working out what standard or standards of relationships apply to those set apart through ordination for ministry in the church. Others press for no such distinction ("all the sacraments for all the baptized" I believe is one relevant epigram).

Or, take this issue: what some call 'the gay issue', others term "GLBT", seeking to broaden the inclusiveness of the church to incorporate those who identify as bisexual and transgendered. Are all these identities on the same level? Perhaps they are (and I am a slow learner) but I do wonder about 'bisexual': would not a monogamous person be making a choice for one sexuality rather than two ... or is embracing 'GLBT' about being much less ethically conservative than that?

So, there are "differences within difference" with which we engage as we seek to be gracious.

Suem said...

Let me explain to you about bisexual people as there are many misunderstandings about this orientation. Like "homosexuality", the term "bisexuality" simply refers to sexual orientation, not sexual practice. Moreover, someone who is bisexual may have a sexual preference for one gender but will or can meet people from the other gender who they have a chemistry with or are attracted to.

It is possible to be bisexual and celibate, it is possible to be bisexual and monogamous. Most of the bisexual people I know are committed to a monogamous relationship, just as most, if not all, of the gay or straight people I know are committed to monogamous relationships.

If you are bisexual, you cannot "choose" whether you will be gay or straight ( and if you do try to do this,it will cost you psychologically!)You may of course choose to settle with someone of your own gender or the opposite one.

I know a few transgendered people ( I am not transgendered myself) and what they have described to me - being trapped in the wrong body - sounds like torture. It is not something I understand but I feel called to walk with transgendered people, listen to them and support them.

Are "all these identities on the same level" - well, I know all these people, as human beings, are on the same level.

As for "refusing to live graciously" with the death penalty for homosexual acts in Uganda, I do think it is right and Christian to speak up against atrocity and cruelty. I don't see people's private lives as ranking on the same scale with atrocity or genocide. We should speak up against wrong but effectively we do "have to live with" the homophobia in Uganda. It might actually be helpful if some of us did reach out graciously to such Church leaders and politicians. In very homophobic societies, people often think they know no gay people! They see gay as "other" and if they saw a human face to LGBT people, perhaps they would rethink their views.

If "mainstream" Anglicanism cannot live with a difference of opinion over this, perhaps it is better to be honest about that and for the different factions to separate. That is not what I personally want, but it where I do fear we are heading.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Suem.
It is certainly not at all clear whether the Anglican Communion in the end will demonstrate the ability to agree to disagree, so the future may be fragmented.