Thursday, November 18, 2010

Better argument for Covenant today

A better argument for the Covenant is available today, courtesy of Bishop Graham Kings CiF article, also reproduced on Fulcrum. Here is a key part of his case:

"The model of the Covenant is drawn from family ties and kinship and bounded by mutually agreed norms of behaviour which benefit everyone. It is not a document of doctrinal specifications, like the conservative Jerusalem Declaration, drawn up mostly by those who boycotted the Lambeth Conference. Nor is it a contract, as feared by its liberal critics. It is truly a covenant.


In his address to the Lambeth Conference 2008, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, was pithily penetrative and perceptive in drawing out contrasts:

'A contract is a transaction. A covenant is a relationship. Or to put it slightly differently: a contract is about interests. A covenant is about identity. It is about you and me coming together to form an 'us'. That is why contracts benefit, but covenants transform.'

The four sections of the Covenant cover the themes of belief, mission, church and relational consequences. They provide for a delicate balance of communion with autonomy and accountability. It seems to me that the ‘unbounded’ is soon the ‘empty’ and we do not want the life of the body to drip out, dissipate and disappear."

As I continue to read across the internet I find it curious that some of the greatest vehemence against the Covenant is associated with the notion that being Anglican is being free to explore theology in an open-ended manner, and thus with the fear that the Covenant will end this freedom - +Kings 'unbounded' in the citation above.

Apart from the fact that it is very doubtful that the Covenant will precipitate the end of Anglican theological freedom, it is offensive to some Anglicans such as myself that, on these arguments, 'Anglican' is a synonym for 'liberal', and that the vehemence works from the certainty that this liberal way is the only way to be Anglican. (As an aside, it is curious that the liberal arguments against the Covenant are not at all 'open' to the benefits of the Covenant!)

There are, of course, many liberal Anglicans, including some who comment here, who are comfortable with a range of theological views intermingling in the Anglican Communion. But I am disturbed by those liberals who make comment on the Covenant as though to be Anglican is to be liberal and that is that!

4 comments:

liturgy said...

Ah, yes, more sleight of hand from the pro-Anglican “Covenant” side.

You have, I’m hoping, read the Chief Rabbi’s full text. Let’s count the number of times he actually refers to the Anglican “Covenant” – ummm… ummmm… ummm… ummmm… never. Not once!

When you made a covenant with your wife, Peter, did you put in a “clause 4”? The consequences clause for what will happen if she stops loving you, comforting, honouring and keeping you,…? IMO, if you did, it is not a covenant at all and your marriage is not a valid marriage.

Be honest about it. Call it the “Anglican Contract” and then it’s not so easy to use theological, biblical sleight of hand and misapply words that deserve more respect. And then read what the Chief Rabbi says about contracts. That fits.

Comparing it to a biblical covenant is about as theologically appropriate as the very popular “we have three Tikanga because there are three Persons in the Trinity” approach.

And can we please stop bandying the word “liberal” around as some sort of homogeneous group. You are more liberal than I am liturgically (and liturgy is still pretty central to Anglicanism). In fact I would suggest that the average pro-Anglican “Covenant” Kiwi is probably far, far more liberal than I am on a number of points, liturgy included. So it’s not liberal = against the “covenant”, from where I stand it more regularly appears as liberal = for the covenant.

We need to move beyond terms to actual content.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The model of the Covenant is drawn from family ties and kinship
All that I see that has to do with family is a prenuptial agreement. Those are based on mistrust and need for control.

The four sections of the Covenant cover the themes of belief, mission, church and relational consequences.
And if we are not in lockstep with those belief, mission, and church parts then there will be consequenses. Consequences = castigation leading to expulsion. I am not inclined to signing onto my own penalty warrant beforehand.

There are, of course, many liberal Anglicans, including some who comment here, who are comfortable with a range of theological views intermingling in the Anglican Communion. But I am disturbed by those liberals who make comment on the Covenant as though to be Anglican is to be liberal and that is that!
I am an Anglican in the first sense. I am not an Anglican in the second sense. But point out to me who has been mean to you Peter and I will beat them up for you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I am talking, as (e.g.) David commenting here also talks, about those whose general theological line is better summed up as 'liberal' than as 'conservative'. There are other kinds of Anglicans in the world, e.g. centrists who incline neither to the left or the right. I find that most of the criticism of the Covenant comes from those who are avowardly liberal, some comes from those who are neo-Puritanly conservative, and some comes from those like yourself who eschew labels!

I do not think the covenant = relationship critique works by way of asking about my marriage covenant which is between two (and only two) people. We are talking about a means of renewing the relationships across a network of (I believe) 38 member churches. (I imagine if I were married to 37 women I might have a Section 4 in the marriage covenant!! They might want to hold me to account when I fail to support them adequately). The details of the Covenant spell out our relationships with one another in terms of relationships and even in the extreme instance of a consequence resulting from a final breakdown of relationship, the consequence concerns relationships (not, e.g. fines). I think a sense that this is a 'biblical covenant' is quite fine as ultimately our relationships are bound in terms of understanding ourselves as the people of God and as the body of Christ, and concern our life as a whole people and as one body.

Again, I do not find in the kind of criticism you bring forward here any alternative proposal for developing our life together as member churches of one Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David
It is not clear to me that expulsion from the Communion is particularly envisaged in terms of Covenant consequences. I am not saying it could not happen, but I am wondering if it is a possibility with or without a Covenant: most organisations have some way of dealing with extremely bad behaving members!

Anglicans of the 'second' kind re liberal certainty are not much in evidence here, so no beatings or beatings up required. I am reflecting on wider reading across the internet and the certainty exhibited in some quarters that the great characteristic of being Anglican is being open, non-dogmatic, etc.