Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nuancing a point re Anglican coherency and the Covenant

A comment to the post below about diaconal presidency in Sydney not being a 'Communion breaking' issue raises an interesting question, for me at least:

Is the Covenant, when all is said and done, about Communion breaking matters (and what to do about them) or about building Communion coherency?

Negative motivation or positive?

I am keen on the positive case for the Covenant.


Suem said...

I don't know - wish I did - but it is impossible to get straight answers about what is meant by relational consequences, so we can't say yet which it is about when "all is said and done", can we?

Also, we are not going to agree on what we mean by "coherency" are we? What is a "coherent" Communion to you might be an oppressive and exclusive one to me.

I am keen on the positive case for grace and love, for listening to each other and walking alongside each other, even when that is hard. I cannot see a positive case for "relational consequences".

You still haven't answered the question as to why I can walk alongside those opposed to me (even when it seems that some of those would condone persecution), but they want a covenant?

Father Ron Smith said...

Suem's 'Grace and Love' sounds pretty good to me - as a basis for koinonial relationships. On the other hand, schismatic severance speaks rather of the opposite.

I've not heard yet of any Anglican gay person who would prefer a ghetto Church. This is precisely what has already happened with CANA and ACNA - and very nearly with GAFCON (hardly to mention Sydney). How can you have a live *coherent Church* with schismatic intentions in the offing?

All I can hope for is some sort of alliance with other Anglicans who are respectful of all other human beings - trying to live out their God-given humanity with grace and dignity. If the Covenant did that, I would be all for it. 'Grace and Love' are certainly consonant with that pious hope. Section 4 does not yet meet that expectation.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Forgive my ongoing medical analogies, but the Anglican Communion is in the midst of a cardiac arrest. It is dying on the table. It needs emergency treatment to resuscitate it. If that same treatment will restore it to full health, prevent future crises, and help it to lead a healthy life into the future, brilliant. But first, it must address the current crisis.
Andrew Reid

Kurt said...

“A comment to the post below about diaconal presidency in Sydney not being a 'Communion breaking' issue raises an interesting question, for me at least: Is the Covenant, when all is said and done, about Communion breaking matters (and what to do about them) or about building Communion coherency? Negative motivation or Positive?”— Fr. Peter

We don’t need the “Covenant,” Peter, to build coherency; all we need is common sense, and a little bit of Christian charity. Look, I personally don’t believe that diaconal/lay presidency in Sydney should be a “Communion breaking” issue. In saying that, I don’t mean to imply that the issue is unimportant, or that what Sydney is doing “informally” if not “formally” is very wrong and contrary to Anglican tradition. My point is that even when we believe other folks in the Communion are doing something wrong, we don’t have to break Table Fellowship with them to express our unease.

You may be sure that if I were to visit Sydney I would seek out a parish (such as St. James King Street) where such diaconal/lay celebrations do not take place. Similarly, no one says that conservative evangelicals from Sydney visiting NYC have to attend services presided over by a female or gay male priest. Or, attend a Eucharist celebrated by a divorced and re-married heterosexual priest, for that matter!

What is needed is a sense of proportion, and a willingness to continue Table Fellowship (the essence of any real inter-communion) in any way we can. Let God take care of the rest!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous at 11.22 pm
Please make your comment again BUT WITH YOUR NAME!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
Do you belong to a church with a constitution, canons, and associated consequences?

If you do then why do those things belong to its fabric? Why does your church exist without relational consequences for infractions of fellowship and why cannot people within it walk with differences without the constitutional/canonical apparatus?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
(Partly picking up a comment made by an anonymous commenter which I have asked to be resubmitted with a name): on what basis do you deem TEC (a proportionally very, very small church within the USA) to be not a ghetto church? how do you distinguish between TEC and other churches on the notion of schism when TEC is pursuing a path which it knows will result in people leaving it? By what criterion or criteria would you draw the conclusion that the Sydney Diocese is a 'ghetto' church (when it is the largest diocese by a long way within the Australian Anglican Church and (I suspect) the largest church in the metropolis of Sydney?

Peter Carrell said...

Another analogy, Andrew, relating to your is this: the heart of the Communion is unable to supply blood to the whole body. But if it can lop off a limb or two, make itself smaller, then it might just be able to keep alive what remains!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,

I would be more open to persuasion that all the Communion needs through this crisis is common sense and some charity if I saw member churches operating in the same way having set aside their constitutions, canons, and associated consequences for infractions.

When I look at your own church, TEC, I see more canons being approved, seemingly in a direction which involves less reliance on common sense in dealing with certain difficulties and more expenditure on lawyers.

Why should the Communion operate on common sense and charity when none of its member churches do so?

Suem said...

Of course my church has canons, constitutions and laws - possibly because we are flawed human beings and do not manage to live in relationship with each other as we should? But why do we need some sort of new document at this point? Also, it is NOT a law, it is a voluntary agreement - and many asked to sign it have no idea what they are agreeing to in terms of "relational consequences". How can anyone agree to what they don't know?

If you will be honest and say, this is a law/ canon/ constitution and it will clearly mean this and that - then I can at least know how to proceed.

As for infractions of relationship, you still haven't answered my question about why I can walk alongside those opposed to me ( even those who would condone persecution), but they cannot walk alongside me?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,

The Covenant would be a required new document in the life of global Anglicanism on the same basis that a new canon is introduced into the life of a member church: some situation has arisen to which a new rule is an appropriate response. The working of the Communion has broken down according to (so to speak) common sense and a bit of charity, so it is timely to work on formalising Communion relationships and processes associated with the conduct of those relationships via the Covenant.

I would be most surprised if the General Synods/Conventions which approve member churches adopting the Covenant made those decisions without knowing what they were doing.

Why can you walk with those who oppose you (and with those who go further in the direction of persecution) and they not walk with you? One reasons could be that you estimate the difference one way and they estimate the difference another way. An example of this difference in estimation could be Roman Catholics and Anglicans re the eucharist: we Anglicans welcome Roman Catholics at our eucharistic tables (having estimated that their differences in theology are insufficient to warrant refusal to share communion with them); but Roman Catholics do not (formally, according to the rules) welcome Anglicans at their eucharistic tables (having estimated that our differences in theology are sufficient to warrant refusal to share communion with us).

(It seems) Anglicans in favour of the blessing of same sex relationships estimate this matter to be inconsequential theologically to the continuation of fellowship; whereas (it seems) Anglicans not in favour of the blessing of same sex relationships estimate this matter to be consequential theologically to the continuation of fellowship.

The reconciliation of this difference of estimation (effectively a 'difference about difference') is a challenge not much talked about compared to the much talked about difference about the blessing of same sex relationships.

Suem said...

I don't see a willingness to condone the persecution (even murder) of LGBT people in any way as a trivial or inconsequential matter theologically or otherwise, Peter. I see it as the utmost gravity, morally, ethically, spiritually and theologically. I see in such attitudes a breaking of Christ's call above all to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. However because of that call that I also feel I can do no other than engage with, and view as my Christian brothers and sisters, those who are capable of holding views and attitudes.

I also feel called to recognise that I too am flawed and sinful, capable of evil and atrocity, especially when I am in danger of demonising them and seeing them as the "other".

I would argue it is even more important to walk in fellowship when we disagree, and to be careful in these circumstances to be extra respectful.

If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even the most sinful do that, don't they?

James said...

I see Suem is somehow fearful of "persecution."

This sounds like she's been bitten by the bug of Fundamentalism that's overtaken TEC - see here.

It also is worth asking: would persecution of all Anglicans be such a bad thing? Perhaps we would repent of denying Christ and blighting the spiritual lives of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands - all those who are captivated by the teachings of +KJS in TEC, and like-minded teachers (n.b., not only in TEC but now a Communion-wide problem), taught deny Christ? It would save the world of much grief and suffering, and it might be the only way for us to come to repentance.

If at this moment, there were some way for all Anglicans to be jailed and punished for a number of years, I would gladly step forward as the first. Other churches can do much better that which we claim to be doing. So I fail to see why persecution of Anglicans would be a bad thing.

I don't think that at this point, a Covenant will bring us to the kind of repentance we need or stop our spiritual abuse of those in our pews.

If "common sense" had any possibility of working for us ... +KJS would have voluntarily withdrawn from the Instruments of Communion, and +Spong would have been convinced that he shouldn't be a bishop.

We are ugly fundamentalist wackos who destroy and maim spiritually.

Jesus is for everyone, gay and straight. Gay people in particular tend to be tempted by the Spong and +KJS stuff, I know so from my own gay friends. We are cursing gay people with these things we do. We do not love gay people - we love preening over our own imagined virtues of tolerance and inclusivity, that we are somehow more magnanimous lovers than other Christians. It couldn't be further from the case. We show in our acceptance of leaders who deny Christ our true scorn for all people, first and foremost our scorn for gay people. Fred Phelps is not the enemy of the gay Christian community - WE are.

I love the way Anglicanism once promoted responsible scholarship, "high" liturgy, good church music ... but we must see what we have become, and how we are making other Christians fear such things by our profoundly negative example. I do think the notion of an inclusive and non-confessional church is a beautiful thing - but it will have a better chance once the Anglican Communion is crushed (or repents), and Christians have forgotten of our sorry example ... Christianity will take many decades to recuperate to what we have done to the world church.

We do not need a Covenant as much as we need a Jonah to bring us to our knees in sackcloth and ashes - or we will feel God's wrath much more than what we are already seeing in our division and dysfunctionality. God loves us, but He can not stand that we are teaching His children to deny His Son, and thus jeopardize their chances of salvation.

May God send us a Jonah and save us; may we repent in sincerity for the gross magnitude of our crimes, unseen in any other church in the last 1,500 years.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, a ghetto Church does not have to be a 'small' Church - just one (like Sydney) that refuses to live with the LGBT community.

Re your reference to TEC as a ghetto Church. This is not correct, as TEC still 'lives with' the rest of the Communion Churches - without intentionally cutting itself off from the whole.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,

Anglicans are very good at not walking together in fellowship with people they do not agree with, whether those disagreements are weighty or light. We do not think a Presbyterian minister can celebrate an Anglican eucharist in an Anglican church because we disagree about the character and sacramental worthiness of the ordination of the Presbyterian minister. This lack of eucharistic fellowship at this point has nothing to do with the loveliness or unloveliness of the minister, or with our own individual attitudes towards people we disagree with. Christians disagree with each other and this affects fellowship in a number of instances. Some matters are affecting fellowship in the Anglican Communion at this time. I suggest we need to work on the substance of the disagreement between us, not on whether we love each other or not!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James,

Please do not invoke the name of "Fred Phelps" again in a comment on this site in the way you have done. It is quite ambiguous - I think I get the fact that you are not actually endorsing him, but others might not get that in the same way.

There is not so much free speech here at ADU that affirmations of Fred Phelps are encouraged.

James said...

OK, then allow myself to be clear:

Fred Phelps sucks.

And we suck more.

Animosity toward both should be understandingly accepted.