Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dead Duck Covenant?

It is getting close to the duck shooting season here in NZ. The aim of duck shooting is to kill ducks. The aim of many against the Covenant is to kill the Covenant (but, remember, we have been assured here, that some against the Covenant are only against this Covenant, though you will struggle to find any anti-Covenant website publishing an alternative written Covenant for consideration). Just as duck shooters having little luck hitting ducks are cheered to find someone else has hit a duck and secured a meal as a result, some cheer is found around the Communion (e.g. at Preludium where a different kind of shooting metaphor is invoked) as news emerges from Facebook, where else, of one of our episcopal units, Te Manawa o Te Wheke, passing a resolution rejecting the Covenant. I cite the motion as reported by Liturgy:

"That Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o te Wheke, for the purpose of providing feedback to te Hinota Whanui/General Synod, states it’s opposition to the Anglican Covenant for the following reasons:
-After much consideration this Amorangi feels that the Anglican Covenant will threaten the rangatiratanga (self determination) of the Tangata Whenua (local people).
-We believe the Anglican Covenant does not reflect our understanding of being Anglican in these islands.

-We would like this church to focus on the restoration of justice to te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi which tangata whenua signed and currently do not have what they signed for."

A few comments from myself. I make them with acceptance that this is a decision made by this hui amorangi and unlikely to be reversed before General Synod 2012 but with an eye on other hui amorangi and synods which may engage with motions about the Covenant between now and General Synod 2012:

Clause One raises all the questions which notions of 'autonomy' raise in connection with the Covenant, and here an answer is given which is in keeping with one significant argument against the Covenant: Anglican autonomy should not be overridden. A particular question from my 'pro Covenant' perspective is: in what ways would the Covenant "threaten" rangatiratanga? Another is: would it threaten rangatiratanga any more that being bound into a three tikanga constitutional framework does?

Clause Two is a democratic expression of our right to believe what we will about what it means to be Anglican in these islands. But has our church ever engaged in a debate as to what it means to be Anglican in our islands? Beyond a 'belief' about such a matter, where is the evidence that the Covenant does not reflect our 'understanding' of what it means to be Anglican?

Clause Three, if followed by our church as a basis for prioritising foci, would mean that our church will never sign the Covenant. We are working on justice in respect of the Treaty, but progress is fitful and the restoration of justice sought here is, arguably, unattainable. On the basis of clause three in this resolution we would never debate the Covenant again!

In our church's governance, if one tikanga votes against a matter, that is it. It is a dead duck. One of five hui amorangi has spoken. What will the other four determine? Where will seven pakeha dioceses go with this? What will the Diocese of Polynesia say?

[The series on consistent Anglican theologies will continue].


Suem said...

"The aim of many against the Covenant is to kill the Covenant."

We are seeing some loaded language here again! The Covenant is at the moment a proposal, not an established thing, and certainly not a living entity which can be "killed" or hunted down. Does that make those against the Covenant into killers/ murderers? If the covenant is to be MUTUALLY adopted, then dioceses and provinces must have the complete right to reject it without having accusations thrown at them such as "deniers" or of wishing to "kill".
I think we are seeing how (as I predicted) the Covenant will prove a focal point for further bitterness and division - for example here historic bitternesses have been brought up in the reference to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Whether this is right or not I am not really qualified to say, but it is a feature of our human world that when we cannot agree we become angry, bitter and resentful.

I do not believe the Covenant will help us with that tendency. I do think the gospel might though.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
Ideas and proposals are put up and "shot down", "killed" (strong metaphors), "relegated to the bench", "put on the back burner", "filed in the WPB" (moderate metaphors), as well as "ignored", "rejected", "cast aside". In the process people's feelings may be hurt or helped. Where an idea is "threatening" (as the Covenant is perceived to be) it may be merciful to "kill it stone cold dead" now before real damage is done.

In robustly using metaphorical language to describe responses to the Covenant I am neither (a) bitter myself nor (b) intending to denigrate those opposed to the Covenant, least of all brothers and sisters in my own church.

But I am writing in a blogging environment where debate about the Covenant is robust. I am on the side of the Covenant in which supporters are routinely described as "bigots" and "homophobes" (not by you, of course!) ... where does that language come from, and how does it assist the improvement to mutuality in the life of a non-Covenant Communion?

Suem said...

To "kill" is a stronger metaphor than to shoot down. You are right that sometimes strong language is justified, but I think not in this case - at least not if people have a RIGHT to reject the proposed covenant, and it has been sent to provinces and diocese for consideration. To me that implies a right to freely reject it.

I hope you are being genuine when you say terms such as "bigot" or "homophobe" are not used by me? (You did use an exclamation mark which suggested you were implying I do use such words - apologies if I got that nuance wrong though.)

I actually would be very reluctant to use those words about any individual. I might refer to a set of attitudes as homophobic or bigoted, although even then I would exercise caution. I try to speak of homophobia only when I do see irrational fear, hostility or hatred of gay people,for example, not as a term to refer to the belief that same sex relationships are morally wrong or forbidden by scripture.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I apologise for leaving the impression, via an ambiguous use of words, that I might think you might be among such casters-of-epithets. I do not think that, at all. You are unfailingly polite!

Bryden Black said...

While this motion by one of the Maori tikanga ‘dioceses’ does have some significance, of equal significance is the support also already offered the RCD of the Covenant (the only version then available) by Christchurch and Nelson of tikanga Pakeha some time ago.

What might be of real assistance to both tikanga may be derived from Peter’s comments re Clause Two. For so far our GS has resolutely avoided any genuine discussion around the AC’s dilemmas this past decade: it has ducked the Windsor Report; it has side-tracked the Final Draft of the Covenant by raising apparent legal niceties; and, as a result, it has certainly not discovered what might indeed be “these Islands’ understanding of Anglicanism”.

All in all, the ACANZ&P has contented itself to drift aimlessly amidst a sea of real conflicted (Christian) faith ... This motion, it seems to me, is just one more sign of that conflict - offering little by way of a step towards any true corporate resolution, failing to read the real signs of the times, satisfying its own parochialism.

Father Ron Smith said...

"A particular question from my 'pro Covenant' perspective is: in what ways would the Covenant *threaten* rangatiratanga? Another is: would it threaten rangatiratanga any more than being bound into a three tikanga constitutional framework does?" - Peter Carrell -

What needs to be put into context here, Peter, in trying to answer your question, is the fact that the unique 3 Tikanga system of our ACNZAP was born is situ - it was never mediated by the ACC or any other governing body of the Anglican Communion. Indeed, if permission had had to be sought from the ACC before implementing our joint consitutional decision to set it up, there may never have been a 3 Tikanga Church here.

What does that say about the need for a 'Head Office' Covenant - for any of our 3 Tikanga? We have secured a governance which suits our particular set of cultures and environment. Why seek to become the same as other Provinces?

We are a unique manifestation of Gospel Mission in our given setting - unlike some others. This does not mean that any of the 3 cultural strands of our Province want to assert their particular way of 'doing Gospel' on any other Province. We are already part of the Body of Christ in the Anglican Communion. What more do we need?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
It is the same gospel around the world. Belonging together under one Covenant is no more a fearful prospect than being bound under one constitution in these islands.

If one consitution for three tikanga across four sovereign states, and many languages works for us, why not one Covenant across 38 member churches?

Marshall Scott said...

"If one constitution for three tikanga across four sovereign states, and many languages works for us, why not one Covenant across 38 member churches?"

Peter, your question and your post begs a question of process. If we were looking at a Covenant text that had arisen out of a Communion-wide exploration of "what it means to be Anglican," I think the current climate would be different. Of course, I also think such a process, focused less on "what it means to be Anglican," and less on "how can we conclude the current unpleasantness and try to prevent it ever happening again," would produce a different text. This has been driven more by issues of haste ("How can we get this over and done with? How can we come to a conclusion within the incumbency of one Archbishop of Canterbury?") than by even the events to which the process was a response.

Speaking only for myself, but as a current and experienced Deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, I believe that even this text without Section 4 would pass. I think there would be some dissatisfaction, precisely around the question of whether this was "what if meant to be Anglican" as understood in the Episcopal Church; and there would certainly be some interpretive comments. Still, I think it would pass.

There is desire to remain in Communion; but I agree with you that we would all benefit from wide exploration of "what it means to be Anglican," throughout the Communion. That can happen without this Covenant, and, actually, without any new structure. It just can't happen in a few years.

JCF said...

"publishing an alternative written Covenant"

Because we already have one?

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1886,1888)

It's been argued (over at Thinking Anglicans) that the Quad is "merely" an ecumenical document, not an Anglican one.

I find this a specious distinction. The Anglican charism is given for the purposes the Holy Spirit gives it...but not as "booth" to be built in perpetuity. To the extent that the (proposed) Anglican Covenant has any ecumenical purpose, it seems little more than booth-building.

And if it doesn't have an ecumenical purpose, then it has even LESS rationale! [Fence-building, to divide the sheep & the goats---when that's distinctly above ANY human pay-grade!]

I do want to see a new emphasis on the Anglican Covenant...AS The Quad. It has so much to contribute to the larger Church---IF we don't throw it away on this malicious proposed covenant!

[Many thanks to/blessings upon the Tikanga Maori!]

Schizophrenologist said...

I simply do not understand the need for the convenant. It seems to have two principle uses: 1) as a way to punish those provinces that have more generous views on sexual orientation, or 2) to provide a framework for imposing the same Biblical hermeneutic across all provinces.

Let's be honest, please. The convenant originated as a means to appease those who condemn homosexuality. But it is not about homosexuality; it is about power. Otherwise we would have needed a covenant about divorce and remarriage, or the ordination of woment, or a host of other issues.

It is unfortunate that the lessons of history are forgotten. Tyranny cannot be appeased, and if the covenant is ratified, nothing will be solved. Instead, we almost certainly will see the immediate exercise of power to impose conformity and to alienate or marginalize certain provinces.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Belonging together under one Covenant is no more a fearful prospect than being bound under one constitution in these islands."
- Peter Carrell -

The only 'fearful prospect' for any of the Communion Provinces in acceding to the current Covenant Document is that of being bound into an imposed disciplinary ethos which would preclude any further independent missional action which might not meet with the approval of the Anglican Magisterium.

Just imagine, if the same Covenant Document had been in existence 30 years ago, there would never have been any women clergy in the Church today. Certainly no women bishops - the C.of E. would have prevented their ordination. And that's only one missional activity that would not have been possible under this Covenant.

The only reason the Anglican Communion anywhere in the world has been able to keep up with the needs of its local communities is that Provinces like New Zealand (the first tri-cameral Synodical government); TEC (the first women and gay priests and bishops); and
the Anglican Church of Canada (the first same-sex blessings) have been led by the Holy Spirit to initiate these pastoral initiatives according to the statutary authority that they have.

The real fear of a proscriptive Covenant is that the missional outreach of the Church will be limited to the lowest common denominator among the provincial partners. In other words, the mission of the Church would be out-dated and ineffective.