Thursday, April 7, 2011

Misleading Impression re No Covenant campaign?

Whether formally networked together or not, a fair number of Anglican blogs constitute an effective collective promoting 'No Covenant' (some are linked to on my sidebar, including Preludium, Kiwianglo's Blog and Thinking Anglicans on a regular basis, but recently my friend and colleague Bosco Peters at Liturgy also chimed in). I suggest a casual Anglican reading around the blogosphere would likely form an impression that the No Covenant campaign was well supported around the Communion and even arrive at the conclusion that the campaign is destined to succeed.

Quite why there are few Anglican blogs such as this one which promote the Covenant I am not sure. Perhaps Covenant supporters are busy on other matters! But at risk of incurring an 'of course you would say that Peter' response I suggest that No Covenant campaign's probability of success should not be measured by its posting prolificity. In the end the arguments in favour of the Covenant are simple to explain, reasonable, and thus likely to win favour in Synods (where decisions are actually made, much as some of us might like to see decisions made via comment threads to which we contribute our self-evident wisdom).

The simple argument in favour of the Covenant is that the Communion needs to reestablish its constitutional basis as a coherent organisation. It has been exposed in the last decade as having insufficient means to engage in a guided process towards resolution of serious disagreement if not division. To the argument that no new constitutional basis for the Communion is required because we Anglicans do things less formally there is a simple reply in the context of any General Synod or Convention: if we really believe that then why not abolish the constitution of our own church, and if we think a consitution is a good idea for our own church, why would it not be a good idea for the Communion?

It is, contra quite a lot of prognostication via the internet, entirely reasonable to expect member churches governed by their own internal constitutions to accept that the growth and development of the Communion now requires a fit for purpose constitution for the Communion. What is good for the member goose is good for the global gander.

I get the point made in a comment a few posts back by Bosco Peters that 'Covenant' is not the appropriate name for what is going on. Although it is a bit of a mouthful we are talking about a 'Communion constitution.'

A final thought: why are advocates for the blessing of same sex relationships so against the Covenant? Are they projecting the weakness of their arguments onto the Covenant? If the arguments for the blessing of same sex relationships are theologically strong and biblically mandated this will be recognised by the wider body of Anglicans covenanted together to find common cause and common ground for Anglican doctrine.

In the end I think the Covenant is likely to be agreed to by most if not all members of the Communion (i.e. those still engaged in the regular life of the Communion) because it asks people to be in favour of something which is a holy and good purpose: that the Communion be a coherent global body of Christ.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

"why are advocates for the blessing of same sex relationships so against the Covenant?"

Except for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and...

[Peter, keep watching: you may find yourself out of step with "those still engaged in the regular life of the Communion". Go and talk candidly to your bishop, and see if she fits your (universal) statement.]

Alison

ps. How many "coherent global bodies of Christ" are there in your ecclesiology?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,
Tis true that I have been too general/universal in the statement you single out. There are advocates for blessing same sex relationships who are for the Covenant. But my point might then be all the stronger, viz, given that some advocates etc are for the Covenant why are other advocates against it?

I am a minion. In the great scheme of things I do not think it matters if I find myself in step or out of step with regular Communion life. At last look I thought I was still in step. But I could be wrong.

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

Thanks for including me in the list of august writers!

You write, "my point might then be all the stronger, viz, given that some advocates etc are for the Covenant why are other advocates against it?"

That connects precisely with my point. As you might say:

There are advocates for the blessing of same sex relationships who are pro-Covenant, who are anti-Covenant, and (I suspect) a third group who are Covenant-neutral; ditto against the blessing of same sex relationships; ditto those neutral about this...

My point entirely: they have no real connection. It's been very much, "committed same-sex bishop... blessing of committed same-sex relationship... hey look over here: Anglican Covenant!" Lesson one in sleight of hand. Often used ecclesiastically. And politically.

Blessings

Bosco
http://www.liturgy.co.nz

Bryan Owen said...

I suppose there are Anglicans who favor same-sex blessings who also approve of the Covenant, but I'm not familiar with them. Perhaps y'all can point me to some examples?

Most of the anti-Covenant crowd that I'm familiar with are also very much in favor of same-sex blessings. So much so, in fact, that I've had the impression that to be a "progressive" necessarily means rejecting the Covenant as "unAnglican" (whatever that means).

Folks who fit that category sometimes use rather colorful language to drive home their opposition, such as one priest in the Anglican Church of Canada who described the Covenant as "a product of as Stalinist a process as could possibly be imagined." And then there are others who describe the Covenant as "an unmitigated evil" and "a homophobic power grab."

Such rhetoric leds me to believe that one major reason why many "progressives" so strongly oppose the Covenant is because, in placing checks and balances on provincial autonomy, they worry that it will mean shutting down the possibility of going ahead with same-sex blessings.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Peter, by the "reasserter" new math, there may be far more folks who oppose blessing same gender relationships and also oppose the Covenant, than those who approve blessing same gender relationships and also oppose the Covenant.

Such rhetoric leds (sic) me to believe that one major reason why many "progressives" so strongly oppose the Covenant is because, in placing checks and balances on provincial autonomy, they worry that it will mean shutting down the possibility of going ahead with same-sex blessings.

No Brian, I think that it is because we just plain oppose putting checks and balances on provincial autonomy, regardless the topic de jour. We value our autocephalic nature.

BTW, is there anything that smacks of the Covenant among the autocephalic Orthodox churches? Or do they do well without such a beast?

Anonymous said...

"BTW, is there anything that smacks of the Covenant among the autocephalic Orthodox churches? Or do they do well without such a beast?"

They don't have "same sex blessings", "partnered gay clergy" or women priests either. Do you think there might be a connection?

The idea that western Anglicanism is some branch of Orthodoxy doesn't fly.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Bryan Owen said...

The point made by Peter "Palaiologos" in response to Hermano David is an important one. In comparison to the Episcopal Church, there is a much stronger and greater uniformity of dogmatic and moral theology within Orthodoxy. Certain things are simply intolerable - like, for instance, bishops who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or same-sex blessings.

We need to make a distinction between what valuing "our autocephalic nature" means within mainline "liberal" denominations on the one hand, and it means within various Orthodox churches on the other. For instance, as I've noted before on my own blog about the No Anglican Covenant Coalition:

... the No Anglican Covenant Coalition comes across as a forceful push for a "believe whatever you want, do whatever you want" libertarian approach to the Christian faith, as though such a free-for-all very loosely held together by liturgy is what it means to be truly Anglican, and as though that's what Richard Hooker was all about, too. (In an earlier posting I've written about encountering this sort of thing before in my parish work, with persons who want to pursue their own agendas without any accountability to others arguing forcefully that our Church lacks substantive content and binding teaching.)

That is a completely different animal from Orthodoxy!

Kurt said...

“They don't have "same sex blessings", "partnered gay clergy" or women priests either. Do you think there might be a connection?”

Neither do they have Calvinist con evos who like the smell of TULIPs.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Kurt said...

“... the No Anglican Covenant Coalition comes across as a forceful push for a ‘believe whatever you want, do whatever you want’ libertarian approach to the Christian faith, as though such a free-for-all very loosely held together by liturgy is what it means to be truly Anglican…”— Bryan Owen

Even if this were true about the NACC (and I dispute this), Fr. Bryan certainly knows that we Anglicans have had such a “libertarian approach” in our midst for centuries. It’s called Latitudinarianism, and it is older (c. 1640) than Evangelicalism (c. 1740) as a school of thought within Anglicanism. (In fact, oddly enough, it was the Low Church Latitudinarians who blocked with the Evangelicals against the Catholic Revival 180 years ago! Then, they fell out with each other over the “Higher Criticism” of the later 19th and early 20th centuries).

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryan Owen said...

Interesting point, Kurt. Although I doubt that many of today's "latitudinarians" would have much tolerance for things like eternal and immutable morality.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The reason that the two topics were in separate paragraphs is because they were not related ideas.

As an afterthought I merely asked if another autcephalic communion, the Orthodox churches of the East, has anything like a covenant. So my question still stands because basically what I got in response were quips.

liturgy said...

If Fr Bryan intends his comment about ““believe whatever you want, do whatever you want" libertarian approach to the Christian faith” to apply to all who do not think that the Covenant will solve the issue(s) in the Anglican Communion, then, from my perspective, he is creating a straw man. Those I know best who do not think the Covenant is a positive way forward are orthodox in faith and practice, strongly Trinitarian and Chalcedonian, disciplined in prayer and pastoral practice, faithful in their first marriage, and loyal to their vows within the church.

I cannot say the same for all those I know who support the Covenant.

The suggestion in this thread that the Covenant will fix the problem of women priests and bishops is neither surprising nor encouraging.

David is right to continue to ask how other communions hold together. I am not surprised discussions like this generate more heat than light – I would be interested in what the Old Catholic Communion has as a communion-wide constitution.

Anonymous said...

"“They don't have "same sex blessings", "partnered gay clergy" or women priests either. Do you think there might be a connection?”

Neither do they have Calvinist con evos who like the smell of TULIPs."

Neither does the new emerging Tec - or what's left of it (buildings lawyered back into diocesan hands, dead people's money, but not a lot of people now). Evangelicalism as a self-conscious devotional movement may have sprung up in the 18th century (as Anglo-Catholic piety did in the 19th), but the doctrine and theology of evangelicalism is no different from Cranmer's and the BCP. But the "theology" of Tec today is not Cranmer's. It's a different legacy, owing more to 19th century 'New Thought'.
Peter "Palaiologos"

Anonymous said...

What William James said a century ago about the sources of "New Thought":

"One of the doctrinal sources of Mind-cure is the four Gospels; another is Emersonianism or New England transcendentalism; another is Berkeleyan idealism; another is spiritism, with its messages of "law" and "progress" and "development"; another the optimistic popular science evolutionism of which I have recently spoken; and, finally, Hinduism has contributed a strain. But the most characteristic feature of the mind-cure movement is an inspiration much more direct. The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously precautionary states of mind."

I have long believed this is one of the principal sources of Tec "theology" - similar in ways to "Christian Science" but not asserting that "sickness is all in the mind". The core of Tec beleif is not, and has not been for a long time, Cranmer's BCP.
Cranmer, BTW, was fairly close to continental Calvinism, as any perusal of the 389 Articles will show.

"Palaiologos"

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The 389 articles. Wow, over half way there, keep it up. Soon you will be as Orthodox as Orthodox Jews.

BTW, I seriously doubt that anything that folks believe in TEC is derived from a movement that resulted in Seventh-day Adventism, Christian Science, Religious Science and the Science of the Mind.

Father Ron Smith said...

"A final thought: why are advocates for the blessing of same sex relationships so against the Covenant?" - Peter Carrell -

Probably for similar reasons to those put forward by the other opposition parties - GAFCON, etc: - only with a different twist:

Pro-Gay: Discipline - too much.
Anti-Gay: Discipline - too little.

Take your pick!

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryan Owen may not be correct in his assumption that all liberals on the issue of Same-Sex Blessings are NO COVENANT afficcionados. I am not avidly NO COVENANT, and would welcome the Covenant process if it allowed each Province to preach the Gospel in its own culture and context - without hindrance (on questionable cultural and contextual grounds) from other Provinces.

The current Covenant document's section 4 would not allow this to happen; so that I would find it difficult to support at this point in time. However, if the culture of 'moral pressure' against the inclusion of LGBTs in the Church were to be removed from Covenant negotiations, I would be happy to support it.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, I seriously doubt that anything that folks believe in TEC is derived from a movement that resulted in Seventh-day Adventism, Christian Science, Religious Science and the Science of the Mind."

Keep doubting - it's what liberals are good at! :) But also learn a little about the development of American religious thought in the 19th century, especially in New England, where old-style orthodox Protestantism responded to the shock of the new liberal biblical criticism emanating from Germany in a variety of ways. Many old-style Congregationalists, for example, became Unitarians (what do you think Emerson's stock was?), and Episcopalianism wasn't exempt either. Modern Tec "theology" is in fact remarkably close to 19th century "Divine spirit transcendentalism" in its unitarianism and 'Jesus as man of the spirit' ideas - investigate it and you'll see what I mean. Few liberals in Tec really believe in the Eternal Trinity of the Godhead or the two natures of Christ: Schori doesn't, and neither did Spong. They are not orthodox - they are the heirs of 'New Thought'.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Father Ron Smith said...

"Few liberals in Tec really believe in the Eternal Trinity of the Godhead or the two natures of Christ: Schori doesn't, and neither did Spong. They are not orthodox" - Peter the Greek -

What an outrageous and cynical observation you make here about the Presiding Bishop of TEC, and other Leaders of that Province of the Anglican Communion.

I don't know where you come from, Peter, but I do suspect you may be a highly-alienated former member of TEC. Would I be correct in that assumption? Anyway, whether you are or not, such a libellous and utterly un-Christian allegation ought not to appear on a serious publicly-hosted church web-site.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
This site is not a publicly hosted site; it is a project of me as an individual. But it is a public site in that reasonable debate is encouraged.

Peter Palaiologus makes as strong claim but not an unusual claim about the orthodoxy of ++Jefferts Schori and +Spong.

Speaking personally I would not be willing to engage in attempting to defend the orthodoxy of either. (That, by the way, is not a statement accusing anyone of unorthodoxy). In ++Jefferts Schori' case, she has made some public utterances which suggest she does not view Jesus as the unique Saviour of the World. In +Spong's case there is a vast collection of his writings which continually attempt to revise orthodox Christian doctrine in an unusually modernist-sympathetic direction. I leave the challenge of defending their orthodoxy to others!

Kurt said...

Peter, our TEC churches are hardly empty; my own little parish in Greenpoint has added a 5 pm Sunday Eucharist in addition to the 10 am Mass during the past year. Our attendance, while still modest, is nearly double what it was a year and a half ago. Indeed, the overall decline in TEC membership reflects demographics (smaller families with fewer kids, etc.) that hold across the denominational spectrum. Even the Southern Baptists of late are declining in membership—something which was unheard of, since practically anyone who takes a tract from their hands is considered a “member.” The membership decline of native-born American Roman Catholics is even more significant than that in the TEC and Protestant denominations. Only immigration keeps the Roman Church afloat. Secularization here continues apace among many young people (after 30 years of fundagelical ranting against abortion, “uppity women,” gays, and libbruuulls) whose perceptions are that organized religion is hopelessly backward.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY