Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Catholicity Outweighs Autonomy

Perhaps the briefest but bestest apologia for the Covenant and the urgency of agreeing to it is found in this Fulcrum published advocacy by Paul Avis, Catholicity Outweighs Autonomy. Here is a stirring excerpt:

"The Covenant is not perfect and it is not completely clear to me how the “consequences” aspect of it will be worked out, if it comes to that. But I don’t think that is the most important thing about the Covenant. The key, for me, is that by subscribing to the Covenant, Anglican churches will signal in a serious way their intention to remain together. They will signal this to themselves, to all the other Anglican churches throughout the world, and to other Christian world communions, who are watching anxiously and do not want to see the Anglican Communion finally fail as a worldwide fellowship of churches. Such a failure would indicate a serious weakening of Christianity and its witness on the world stage. It would also bring grief and heartbreak to millions of Anglican Christians around the globe.


But is the Anglican Covenant asking too much of member churches? Does it fatally compromise the hard-won autonomy of the “provinces”? I think not. “Autonomy” cannot be the first thing that we have to say about ourselves as Anglican churches. I think the attributes of the Church of Christ in the Creed come much higher up: unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity."

I look forward to catholic Anglicans who comment here explaining what is wrong with this understanding of catholicity ...

17 comments:

Doug Chaplin said...

I'd be tempted to say don't mistake high-church liberals who like dressing up for catholics – but that would be very naughty of me, and I must resist temptation.

Anonymous said...

OK Peter, I'll bite!

Peter - you cannot be serious!
And this man is the general secretary of the Council for Christian Unity and canon theologian of Exeter Cathedral and has a doctorate!

And he writes, and you are perfectly happy to quote him: "The Covenant is not perfect and it is not completely clear to me how the “consequences” aspect of it will be worked out, if it comes to that."

ROTFWL!!!

"I don't really understand how clause 4 works or what it means, but let's sign it anyway because having a covenant is a really nice idea..."

Dr Peter Carrell - you can do better than dredge up tosh like this and call it "the briefest but bestest apologia for the Covenant". If that's as good as it gets, there's not much debate left.

Had you not had your coffee yet?!

When you read the rest of his piece it's clear the man hasn't even read Zizioulas or your blog. He understands "catholic" in a papal way. As you appear to.

Alison

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for drawing attention to this article by Paul Avis, who is an official of the Anglican Church movement towards the hope of unity with the Roman Catholic Church. That, I believe, has coloured his arguments in favour of the Covenant. He wants the Anglican Communion to become an international 'Church', like Rome, but with its headquarters in the U.K.

My own argument, featured on my site 'kiwianglo', is based on the fact that Rome itself remains intransigent on the issue of its own unique 'catholicity' - in its consistent denial of our clerical Orders, on the basis of what they see as their invalidity - hence the formation of their own, peculiar, R.C.'Ordinariates'.

Rome wants all Christians to bend to its own sectarian understanding of 'Catholic Order'. Anglicans have a different understanding of what it means to be 'Catholic' - while also yet Reformed - something that was clearly spelt out at the Reformation.

The Anglican 'Communion' came about by an 'accident' of the Holy Spirit, when the Church of England saw the advantage of harnessing the burgeoning missionary aspects of the Church in North America and other 'colonial' Church Bodies that elected to be more closely connected with the C.of E. as ecclesial partners in mission.

For the independent Churches of the Communion to now be urged to join together in a way similar to the national sectors of the Roman Catholic Church - under a Vatican-style Magisterium - would seem to be a retrograde step. This would inhibit (through the application of the disciplines of section 4 of the present Covenant Document) any local initiatives of the local individual Provinces of the Communion who freely elect to join in the official relationship of the proposed Covenant.

This seems to sacrifice the local context of missional activity to the idea of a centralised uniformity - which seems to deny the original concept of Anglicanism

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The key, for me, is that by subscribing to the Covenant, Anglican churches will signal in a serious way their intention to remain together. They will signal this to themselves, to all the other Anglican churches throughout the world, and to other Christian world communions

And so he is also implying that if we do not sign this particular covenant, that we are signaling to ourselves and everyone else, that we are not seriously intent in remaining together. Bovine fecal matter! That is a fallacy of logic to which I hope no one falls prey.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters,
A few notes:
(1) To be given an opportunity to sign a document which would deepen our relationships with each other but to refuse to take the opportunity would not give a signal of our intent to remain together.
(2) I understand Paul Avis to be not overstating the Covenant's quality (it is not perfect ... we could keep going towards perfection, but this is the best we can arrive at with reasonable process) and not prejudging the "consequential" aspects (i.e. wondering if there would be consequences ... he understands that the Covenant provides for an issue to be raised ... only if the raising of the issue and seeking of response was unsatisfactory would any consequences occur).
(3) I see nothing in his document that leads to papalism, but everything which leads to a strengthening of our interdependence in communion.
(4) I need help to understand how this document varies significantly from either Zizioulas or my own blog.
(5) Avis' first sentence is important for context: is the Communion in jeopardy or not?
(6) No commenter so far has specifically addressed the key issue Avis' raises of 'autonomy' v 'catholicity'. (I see Ron's comment as getting close to that, but not specifically addressing it).

Anonymous said...

My dear Peter

This morning I criticised you for not having had any coffee. Now, later in the day the issue appears to be you have had too much and are just skimming over the comments far too fast.

You write, “No commenter so far has specifically addressed the key issue Avis' raises of 'autonomy' v 'catholicity'. (I see Ron's comment as getting close to that, but not specifically addressing it).”

I did not know Fr Ron’s point that “Paul Avis, …is an official of the Anglican Church movement towards the hope of unity with the Roman Catholic Church. …. He wants the Anglican Communion to become an international 'Church', like Rome, but with its headquarters in the U.K.”

My comment was clear that, even without knowing this, just from the text you provided, “He understands "catholic" in a papal way.”

Why, when at least both of us have so clearly addressed your point, do you still say, “No commenter so far has specifically addressed the key issue Avis' raises of 'autonomy' v 'catholicity'.”?

You have had good discussions here about catholicity being fully present in the local diocese, and yet you continue to persist in understanding it solely in one way: the papal way. As Fr Ron has made crystal clear, the papal understanding of catholicity is as “international 'Church'”. This also is Paul Avis’s view. And yours.

You may very well be correct, and we wrong – but please don’t ignore our position and claim that commenters fail to “specifically addressed the key issue” just because we do not agree with you.

Alison

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,,

I do not understand that an Anglican supporter of closer Anglican-Roman Catholic relations is necessarily committed to a 'papal' view of catholicity. Such a supporter could be working on a 'conciliar' view of catholicity. Have you considered the possibility that Fr Ron has leapt to an unwarranted conclusion from the facts before him?

I am still looking here for discussion of 'autonomy' in relation to 'catholicity': is autonomy more important than catholicity? Is constraint on autonomy a fair price to pay for increased catholicity? I acknowledge that implicitly one aspect of the matter has been expressed here: the view that loss of Anglican autonomy necessarily leads to papal catholicism. But is this view true? Does the Covenant necessarily lead to anglo-papalism or is that only one possible outcome? Why when the Covenant envisages a key role for the Standing Committee is a Roman-style catholicity constantly invoked as the "nightmare" outcome of the Covenant?

Of such matters I would be interested in hearing more.

Father Ron Smith said...

" is autonomy more important than catholicity?" - Peter Carrell -

At least two of your commentators has already pretty clearly expressed the opinion that it need not be an 'either/or' argument.

Do you not believe, Peter, that the Church to which you belong - ACNAAP - is fully 'catholic', in the sense that it has inherited the fully catholic, apostolic and reformed ethos of its Church of England forbears?

If you believe we practise our 'catholic' understanding of being Church - at least to the same standard as any other Anglican Province within the Communion; then how much more *catholic* can you get? Being an independent Church in the Anglican Communion does not rob us of our intentionally catholic heritage! OR, does it, for you?

The real point at issue is this: Would being a partner in Covenant with other Provinces, with a sort of magisterial governance, give us a more emphatic 'catholic' esse?
And if so, what will be the actual difference for us in New Zealand?
I can't put my point any simpler!

Anonymous said...

My dear Peter

You really do make heavy weather of things. The pope’s view of the word “catholicism” is that it applies to the “international 'Church'”. This also is Paul Avis’s view. And yours. Much as we’ve discussed it on your own blog – you seem absolutely incapable of even hearing or considering another perspective.

Zizioulas, Fr Ron, and I hold to the fullness of the catholic church being present locally. No one in this thread has mentioned “the view that loss of Anglican autonomy necessarily leads to papal catholicism” except you!

This is ecclesiology 101. Fr Ron gets it. I get it. I’m sure Hermano David gets it. I’d even bet Doug Chaplin gets it. Others on this blog have advocated it. We’re not asking you to assent to it – but please acknowledge that it’s a valid position, it is not obscure but mainline theology.

Alison

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,

I may be "incapable" but "absolutely incapable"? Oh, well. I am not sure that coffee will help me out of that one.

Perhaps the use of the word 'papal' threw me off balance. I will try to track down who introduced that word into this thread.

But meanwhile let's talk about an 'international church': Yes, Avis advocates that; I am keen on it too. When the Pope is keen on it he is keen on a different version to mine (i.e. conciliar).

Yes, it is not obscure to believe in a different way of being church. It is not obscure to work on (say) national autonomy for a church.

But is 'autonomy' compatible with 'catholicity'? Is there not something in catholicity which impels the church to seek wider and deeper union with other Christians, to grow the church beyond boundaries which, from God's perspective, are arbitrary such as national borders?

Is the New Testament church ultimately about catholicity in the sense of an international church without borders or about autonomy of local churches? Yes, some commenting here, many others elsewhere believe autonomy is not incompatible with catholicity. But are they correct?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I think our church is deficient in a number of ways. Generally speaking I do not think it understands its reformed heritage in the Church of England, to give one instance.

For me 'catholicity' is about holding in common those things which Christians have believed and practised everywhere through time. I am not sure that we are fully catholic: we have for example embarked on an interesting experiment re 'three tikanga' structures in which we have more than one bishop with jurisdiction per area (and we have a diocese with two diocesan bishops and two cathedrals)? Who is fit to judge the catholicity of our church in this respect (and thus assure me that we are fully catholic)? Is it we ourselves, or is it others, standing apart from us who may see things better than we do?

I find it strange that if all autonomous Anglican churches are equally catholic that we would hesitate to join that catholicity together in one greater catholic union under the Covenant: if we are all equally catholic, what could we possibly fear by joining together?

My sense is that we are not all equally catholic, that we have things to give and to receive from each other to deepen and enhance our catholicity. The Covenant offers the possibility of that deepening and enhancing.

I guess in the midst of these paragraphs, responding to your excellent questions I am raising this question:

is the fullness of the catholic church being represented in a local church the same as the local church being fully catholic?

Kurt said...

“I'd be tempted to say don't mistake high-church liberals who like dressing up for catholics – but that would be very naughty of me, and I must resist temptation.”-Doug Chaplin

And I’d be tempted to say don’t mistake low-church con evos in cheap business suits for Anglicans! I know it’s very naughty of me, but what the heck?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

“It is not obscure to work on (say) national autonomy for a church.”
The national “church” is only “church” by analogy (see Zizioulas et al). The church is fully present locally.

“from God's perspective, are arbitrary such as national borders?”
an aside: national borders are not arbitrary in the Bible – why are you abandoning biblical teaching? (Deut 32:8 et al)

“I find it strange that if all autonomous Anglican churches are equally catholic that we would hesitate to join that catholicity together in one greater catholic union under the Covenant: if we are all equally catholic, what could we possibly fear by joining together?”

We are “joined together” in a communion.
There is no “one greater catholic union” – that is a papal concept (shared by you), not, for example held by Orthodox. You want an international church. (When you keep repeating you want the structure of this international church to be different to the pope's - you are missing the point)

“local churches?”
In the Bible it is about local churches: church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22); church at Antioch (Acts 13:1); church at Cenchreae (Rom 16:1); church of God that is in Corinth (1 Cor 1:2); church of the Laodiceans (Col 4:16); church of the Thessalonians (1 Th 1:1 & 2 Th 1:1); church in Ephesus (Rev 2:1 etc). etc.

Alison

Father Ron Smith said...

"Who is fit to judge the catholicity of our church in this respect (and thus assure me that we are fully catholic)?"
- Peter Carrell -

On your own blog here, Peter, you would appear to be just another (self-appointed?) voice in the wilderness. The fact that you, persoanlly, are finding it very difficult - despite your teaching role within ACANZP - to accept the fact that our Church is 'fully catholic' makes you a very lonely commentator on this issue.

There would appear to be no-one else willing to back you up on your blog within ACANZP. Perhaps someone with a different Kiwi perspective - and yet consonant with you on your evangelical views - another retired/active priest in the diocese, the Revd. Bryden Black - could spare some time to help you out. His African perspective, and having 'sat at the feet of the current ABC', could possibly render him amenable to your view on the Covenant - as well as other things you believe in.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison and Ron,

I get the impression that everything is fine with our church, but not all is well with me.

That's okay. I look forward to other (Kiwi) commenters here continuing to underline how wonderful things are in our fully catholic church without deficiencies.

If in the process it is also underlined how lonely and untenable my own position as a questioner in the wilderness, that is okay. I might even shut up for a bit :)

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

I think that you have hit upon something here in your questions Peter. Is the Communion in jeopardy or not? Perhaps this is a more important question than we, at first glance, might imagine and its answer more telling than anything else.

Is the Anglican Communion in jeopardy? If the AC is in jeopardy, then from what quarter does that jeopardy arise? If the AC is in jeopardy, what form of jeopardy has been raised? If indeed we were all to agree that the AC is in jeopardy, then is the proposed Anglican Covenant an adequate means of addressing that jeopardy?

I think that different flavors of Anglicans would have different answers to these questions. And because we do, our answer to the last question may not be the same. So playing on our emotions with these little word challenges of such truck as, "Does catholicity outweigh autonomy?" does not gain much traction with me because I think that they are arguments predicated on straw(wo)men!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
If everything I wrote was perfectly balanced, I wonder if anyone would bother to comment? :)

I take your (implied) point that if the Communion is defined as a fellowship of autonomous churches then (from one direction) the Communion is in jeopardy (that is, autonomy is "threatened" by the Covenant). By contrast if the Communion is defined as a catholic fellowship of churches then (from another direction) the Communion is in jeopardy (that is, the catholic character of global Anglicanism is "threatened" by refusal to sign the Covenant). And so on, with variations as to the way 'Communion' is defined.

Nevertheless I am unembarrassed about attempting to get Anglicans to rethink the importance of 'autonomy'!