Saturday, March 26, 2011

Glynn Cardys' Covenant Caveat, Clayboy's Communion Charge

With H/T to Preludium I see the Church Times has a downloadable multi-page guide to the Anglican Covenant, for and against. Check it out here. I shall read it with detailed interest, but a quick read reveals our very own Glynn Cardy (Auckland) prognosticating on the future of the Covenant in our 2012 General Synod, unexpectedly taking a dim view of its prospects.

Meanwhile, over at Clayboy is a thoughtful post about the character of common life in both the C of E (Clayboy's home church) and the Communion ... actually, Clayboy points out that the situation in both contexts is too much non-common life.

A very quick comment from me: the history of our church in these islands may point towards not accepting the Covenant, but that begs the question, is our history pointing in the right direction? Lack of great common life is a feature of Anglican life in these islands. Our headlines about three tikanga wonderfulness obscure some real stories of disconnect, division, and disintegration. (Why has our General Synod suspended the Board of Oversight of St John's College and placed a commissioner in the College to run it? It is not because common life there has being going really, really well!) Glynn and I would agree that we have been to a lot of church synods and conferences where diversity in our church has been celebrated and affirmed ad nauseam; we probably disagree on whether it is timely to work on our common life and reigning in the extremities of diversity. Working on our common life would confront us with the question of what governs our common life and when that governance would constrain diversity. Confronting that question in the church of these islands might lead to greater receptiveness of the Covenant: if common life matters to member churches of the Communion, doesn't it matter to the Communion itself?


liturgy said...

Common life: our church goes to inordinate expense and trouble and human energy in commissions, committees, subcommittees, bills and motions at synods, Interdiocesan Conferences and General Synod meetings throughout the South Pacific; those to be ordained vow publicly and sign documents, and whenever they take up new positions they vow and sign again, and what has been vowed is read aloud to their community – they will only use services that we have all together agreed to – and so preserve our common life. Yet we both know they don’t.

A lesser example: great debates, meetings, and motions went into every word and punctuation when we changed the name of our church – General Synod etc. all again. Yet in the margin of your blog, you a senior priest and educator in our church, get it wrong with two errors – don’t worry, most people in our church wouldn’t have a clue what our church is called.

We both know that in our province inordinate expense and trouble and human energy in commissions, committees, subcommittees, bills and motions to synods, Interdiocesan Conferences and General Synod which will finally result in signing or not signing the proposed Anglican Covenant will do even less for our common life than keeping to common prayer. The punishment for abandoning common prayer: you don’t get paid – should be quite motivating in our post-barter world! The punishment for not following the Anglican Covenant – some bishop may not get to vote at a Lambeth Conference – a meeting the bishop of Nelson said was a waste of time, and the votes are not binding on anyone in any case – just a suggestion.

The more conservative bishops of the Anglican Communion have seen that the Covenant will not make a difference. In the nudist colony we call the Anglican Communion at least someone is saying the Covenant has no clothes.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Have I now got the title correct? :)

If I understand you correctly, in your comment you are arguing that it is more important to get our common life working well in ACANZP than in the AC; quite a bit of energy needed for the former, so likely none leftover for the latter.

I would proffer in reply the possibility that greater commonality and coherence across the Communion might help ACANZP to grasp just how 'unAnglican' we are when we celebrate the width of our diversity.

You might want to reply that the weakest word in my proffering is "might"!

On one matter, however, I am confused by what you say (in the light of some previous exchanges between us). I understand our vows as clergy to be closer to our practice than you make out. That is we vow to use authorised forms of worship, but 'authorised forms of worship' has become so broad in meaning, so permissive of wide diversity, that most services led by Anglican clergy (perhaps even all) actually conform to what we vow to do.

Certainly in my experience of being present in many different services in our church, representing wide variation of possibilities, I have not come across many (and virtually none in our diocese) where I would sign up to a "prosecution" case seeking to determine these services represented broken vows. I would rather fancy being on the "defence" case!

In short: the problem with ACANZP services is not clergy breaking their vows, but the state of liturgical life our General Synod has approved.

liturgy said...

Yes, for the title, Peter.

And really yes to the rest of all you write in reply.

Certainly, many of the strongest advocates for the Anglican Covenant in our church might be surprised, when they actually read the Covenant, how much they may need to alter their liturgical practice if their advocating is to have integrity in their own context. Also, you are right, some of what has been passed at General Synod to do with liturgy is so confused and confusing, and what is then produced in various resources is further bewildering, that few now know what is actually our “agreed” common prayer and some of it IMO diminishes the formularies – contrary to our Empowering Act/Constitution. Might you and I agree that the “bonds” decrease in strength from diocese to province to communion? My point is, at its simplest, that if the stronger bonds do not hold us, the weaker bonds will not strengthen the weakness of what should be our stronger bonds. It is at this point that you interject with, “they just might”. Yes – I acknowledge you might be right – they just might. But I have grave, grave doubts. I cannot imagine that our General Synod’s signing up to the Anglican Covenant will actually narrow the spectrum of our common prayer to the point where it can have a genuine sense of being common in our province. If you can point to a community which is altering its liturgical practice to reflect its commitment to the spirit of the Anglican Covenant – I’d be happy to say I’m wrong.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
In some ways you are asking me to find a straw man I.e. the community supporting the Covenant which has changed its liturgical practice: I am not sure that the Covenant has made such an impact that we have whole communities aware of its existence, wholeheartedly in favour of it ... let alone considering changing its liturgical practice!

Perhaps I could make similar but different point: for those communities adhering to the written liturgies of our church, doing so as conscious practitioners of common prayer, why would they not go further and support the Covenant?

One sense I have about the whole course of the past decade is that we do have Anglicans around the world thinking about what does and does not hold us together, and whether or not we pray together in common prayer. We have quite a long way to go. Merely signing up to the Covenant will not bring us closer together, but debating the Covenant, working out why we value being Anglican etc and then signing up would be a step on the way to greater commonality.

But as you and I know, many to the 'left' and 'right' are not keen on the Covenant, so we might get to a point where Covenant signers are more or less those who cohere quite well together in the centre of the Communion. At that point the disjointed Communion will still be disjointed!

As for whether bonds decrease diocese/province/communion: yes and no. For some Anglicans they have more in common with those outside their diocese than within, outside their province than within, and (pace the ordinariate) some have more in common with those outside the Communion, across the Tiber.

liturgy said...

Again, there is much we agree on. [Especially the observations that we may have more in common with others beyond the levels of strengths of bonds I was observing – my point was juridical, rather than “having things in common”, and the “Covenant” when it gets to clause 4 is – juridical. I may have more in common with a contemplative Quaker, but my vows tie me juridically to a particular way of leading a wedding, however much I might like the Quaker way of doing it – just as one example].

“…why would they not go further and support the Covenant?” Possibly, because this “Covenant” doesn’t reflect our life or how we might best move forward…
Plus, IMO, the whole concept of calling it “Covenant”… I, and many others, do balk at something over and above the new and everlasting covenant that Jesus offers us. I will not go so far here currently as to call it blasphemous, but…

I see much stronger agreement about the first 3 clauses of the “Covenant” than on the fourth clause. It would be interesting/useful to explore the “constitutions” that hold other communions together – the Orthodox, the Old Catholics,… what sort of “clause 4”s do they have ?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I am not troubled by using the word 'covenant' because it is in a phrase 'Anglican Covenant': that suggests a particular kind of covenant among human people, not an alternative, rival, whatever to the one eternal covenant in Christ Jesus. (However I appreciate that you and others have principled, theological objections to the use of the word).

I do not know what 'clause 4' the Orthodox and Old Catholics have, but in principle it is possible that the AC clause 4 is better than any such thing that they have. What I like about clause 4 is that it provides a mechanism for taking up a matter of disagreement or dispute. What I am not afraid of as an Anglican is a clause with teeth: in ACANZP we have such legislation (e.g. "Title D") and I find it helpful to keep me on the straight and narrow.

liturgy said...

You, with a doctorate, have the agility to distinguish covenants. Many, I posit, hear the word “covenant” and are thereby swayed, as covenants so regularly feature on our theological landscape. I suggest that is unfair, and wish we would seek a less loaded term. I have no issue with a constitution of our Communion with agreed processes (I understand this actually to be mostly if not completely in place). I’m yet to be convinced that this is the one that is appropriate, but should we sign up to it, I think I will live more comfortably within it than many who currently advocate for it but have not really looked at it (your “straw men”). Old Catholics certainly have a process (what you call “teeth”) – some provinces left the Old Catholic Communion when women were ordained in all orders.

I am concerned that you think that you stay on the straight and narrow because of the “teeth” in Title D. Certainly, it is not the “teeth” of Title D that encourage me to live by the positive parts of Title D. If we were to sign up to the first 3 clauses of the proposed “Covenant”, unlike you, I think it extremely worrying if we keep to our agreement with those clauses out of fear of the “teeth” of clause 4.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I hope Title D keeps me on the straight and narrow as a licensed minister of our church not through fear but through appropriate reminder that 'actions have consequences.' Nearly everything I do and say as a licensed minister I embrace 'positively' but I have my weaknesses and when those are preyed upon by the Old Enemy it is quite a good counter to recognise that discipline could and should follow my giving way to temptation.

My understanding of the Covenant is that most of what we do and say as member churches of the Communion will be 'business as usual' but when, sometimes, we are tempted to stray from the Anglican straight and narrow, the thought of being challenged in international protest might mean we think twice if not thrice about what we are doing.

We might have had a separate Diocese of Taranaki with the Covenant in place rather than the unusual arrangements which exist in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki!!