Sunday, March 4, 2012

Either we have not done a good job or Satan is stuffing it up for us

Digesting news out of England that as dioceses vote for or against the Covenant the tally is heading the way of 'No Covenant.' Remember: the view espoused here is that if the C of E does not sign up to the Covenant then it is dead as dodo. So, let's imagine the Covenant is history. What would be the review of the journey to non-existence?

At the heart of the Covenant is a theology known as 'communion ecclesiology': an understanding of the church and the life of local churches in relation to the universal church in which 'communion' is foundational to our understanding of 'church': included in this foundation (I suggest) are ideas such as the eucharist makes the church; the church is the faithful gathered in eucharistic communion with their bishop; the unity of the church is a unity in communion, all gather to share in fellowship around the Lord's Table (i.e. not simply unified by agreeing to a statement of faith); unity of churches is the communion of churches (our unity is not complete when we are not in communion with each other; when we are in communion with each other our unity in Christ is complete); in particular, the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of churches around the world is a church in formation because 'church' is 'communion' so as the 'Communion' deepens its 'communion' it is becoming a church (notwithstanding many who do not want it to be so). You may wish to expand these elements of communion ecclesiology.

In this way of thinking there is everything to like about the Covenant, and nothing unAnglican (and nothing unCommunion) about it.

But the Covenant has had a bad press and a bad run towards failing to be adopted around the world. It has incurred the criticism of those whose ecclesiology is governed by gay sexuality (whether keen to embrace it or keen to exclude it) because it is feared to have too many or too little teeth. (What a richly ironic coalition against the Covenant has grown because of this particular ecclesiology). It has incurred criticism by those whose ecclesiology is not governed by gay sexuality but by other things, such as notions of what "Anglican" means, or what a "Communion" should not have (e.g. no pope, no curia, no magisterium). Etc.

So the promotion of the Covenant has suffered by saying too little about communion ecclesiology and thus allowing too much to be made of its origins in the Windsor Report. Those who have (such as here) tried to promote the Covenant as something timely and necessary for the whole of Anglican Communion life as it develops rapidly away from its Church of England origins in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have not done a good enough job. Apologies!

But then a future review about the failure of the Covenant to establish itself in 2012 might consider another explanation: we are locked in spiritual combat in which Satan has got the upper hand on this matter by stuffing up the Covenant for us. Our gospel reading today, Mark 8:31-38 reminds us that even Peter could be right and badly wrong at the same time, the latter earning the rebuke, 'Satan.'

Here is the thing: communion ecclesiology is true and noble. Its Anglican time will come.


carl jacobs said...

Or maybe the Covenant was just a bad idea. Perhaps it was a duplicitous attempt by the AoC to create a Potemkin unity between competing religions. The absence of the Covenant means that choices will have to be made. There won't be a bureaucratic process in which to indefinitely park the conflict.


Peter Carrell said...

There won't be many commenters here who will disagree with your first sentence, Carl!

Father Ron Smith said...

" the church is the faithful gathered in eucharistic communion with their bishop; the unity of the church is a unity in communion, all gather to share in fellowship around the Lord's Table (i.e. not simply unified by agreeing to a statement of faith); unity of churches is the communion of churches (our unity is not complete when we are not in communion with each other;" - Dr.Peter Carrell -

Peter, may I respectfully remind you that the moment certain GAFCON Primates refuse to sit at the Lord's Table with the rest of the Communion Primates - the Unity of the Anglican Communion was broken.

The Eucharistic Communion was not broken by TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada; it was broken, intentionally, by GAFCON - not only at the Eucharist at Lambeth, but also by its movement to provide its own separate organisation that became the GAFCON - another Church.

Once this is understood, the ground can be cleared for the rules of engagement. Too long has TEC and the A.C.of C. been blamed for what has been described as 'fracturing the Anglican Communion'. This is patently untrue. TEC and the A.C.of C. have never broken Table Fellowship with anyone. That was GAFCON's work.

Whatever the ACO does about any sort of Covenantal relationship, it cannot - because of their own intransigence - include GAFCON : as long as they refuse to sit at the Lord's Table with others in the Communion.

"You can take a horse to water, but you cannot force him to drink!" An old, but true, adage. You will have to construct your argument, Peter, pro-Covenant, on a different basis!

Suem said...

Oh dear! I am rather worried by you seeing this in terms of spiritual warfare and Satanic influences, Peter. I don't agree with the Covenant. I don't think those who support it are in any way Satanic or aided by Satan though. I just think they have a rather different perspective.

I do rather agree that if the Covenant doesn't pass in England then it will be a bit of a body blow. I must admit to being surprised at the voting, I had thought many would vote in favour out of sheer loyalty to Rowan Williams, even if they had reservations about the Covenant.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
Are not all great possibilities in the life of the church subject to Satan's attempts to stymie the work of God?

I am not seeing any one person as subject to Satan's influence. If anything, the ones who have failed here are those such as myself who have done such a poor job of explaining and advocating for the Covenant!

I am interested in your thoughts re the direction voting is taking in England. In my view "loyalty to ++Rowan" is an intellectually bankrupt argument for the Covenant and its continual repetition from some in favour of the Covenant is an embarrassment.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I believe in a church which has mechanisms for protest and thus the non-participation in eucharistic fellowship at meetings such as the Primates' and Lambeth 2008 (i.e. by not attending) has been an exercise in protest.

Rather than cast stones of judgement against those primates and bishops for breaking fellowship we should look at the reason for protest. If that reason is substantive (e.g. because it involves theological disagreement unable to be contained within legitimate Anglican diversity) then we need to ask the question why the perpetrators of that reason for protest are not being held to account for their role in straining the bonds of affection.

Certainly my advocacy fo the Covenant as a mechanism for assisting present and future Anglican communion needs some pretty large doses of grace re change and adjustment in attitude re the past. I am trying to be realistic. But ever hopeful ...

Roland Cartwright said...


I think that the Covenant is a lost cause but just why do you think it is essential that the CofE votes "yes"? If the Covenant does come to pass and CofE is in the 2nd tier of the Communion, what is the issue? Why couldn't it sit in the outer ring and join at a later date if it changed its mind?

Peter Carrell said...

There is a family aspect to Anglican Communion life, Roland, and to me the C of E not being in the Covenanted Communion family would be like having a family reunion with grandma left out.

Suem said...

There is a pro-covenant letter on Thinking Anglicans (from bishops of Bristol and Oxford.) Hard to know how it wil go. At the moment it looks positive for the No campaign. Covenant seems to be falling largely by the laity vote.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Either we have not done a good job or Satan is stuffing it up for us"

Peter, looking back over your posting, I, like Suem, have some doubts about the propriety of your heading - above-quoted. It seems top me that Evangelicals - when their pet projects are opposed by anyone - are prone to blame the devil, who, I'm sure, loves to be accredited with the power to upset the Church.

More realistic, I think, is to blame the potential for malign influence in ourselves - not giving the devil the credit.!

In any event, I find it rather mediaeval to put the blame on an outside influence - whose power Christ has already potentially put to death. It may be that the devil is still at work in the hearts of some of us, but he won't have the last word - that belongs to the Redeemer whom we profess to worship

To presume that Covenant advocates are on the the side of God; while the anti-Covenant movement is the work of the devil is pure hubris - in my humble opinion. Maybe the outcome will tell us something!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Never underestimate my propensity to be provocative in order to retain readership :)

It is not so much that I am arguing bluntly that one side of the Covenant is God's side and the other is not, as arguing that the Covenant-in-the-context-of-sound-communion-ecclesiology is a good and true intention towards the perfecting of the church as the bride of Christ.

It also is not the case, but I feel I am now repeating myself, that I am not seeing one side as on Satan's side, as that I am seeing (with Christ, with Paul, with the seer John) that satanic powers seek to disrupt the progress of God's good work and, again, to repeat myself, seeing those powers and their disruptive influence as much at work in me as a poor communicator as in anyone else.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for the hat-tip, Suem. What great bishops those two are!

liturgy said...

I’m fascinated by your comment, Peter, “Our gospel reading today, Mark 8:31-38”. [You will, of course, be reading that again September 16, so, as an aside, it’s fascinating that you chose it for Sunday.]

But my bigger point is, just quickly scanning a cluster of adjoining Anglican parishes in our diocese we get Sunday’s reading being: Mark 8:31-38; Mark 9:2-9; 1 Corinthians 14:1-25; Romans 2:1-16; Colossians 2; 1 John;…

Your passion to get all the ducks neatly in a row in international Anglicanism is highly commendable. I wonder if it is a distraction from our own inability to get even this simple level of communion going in our province of say 30,000 or so worshippers. Let alone in adjoining parish churches within our diocese.

You are indicating the “Covenant” isn’t primarily about gays. I suspect at next months special diocesan synod on the “Covenant” many will happily vote in favour of the “Covenant”, adding it to the list of things they “agree with” and “sign up to” – and go from there to continue ignoring the implications of their “agreements” to our common prayer (central in your post) and only jumping up and down should someone dare to “break the rules/agreements” and bless a committed same-sex couple.

Puhhleeezzz can we get beyond responses invoking gnats and camels – we’ve been there, done that, and I’m wearing the t-shirt.

As to where Satan is in all this: you appear to not leave open the option that he is in favour of the Covenant – only that he is against it.



Bryden Black said...

Sorry Ron, your diagnosis of disunity is not only paltry; it is plain wrong.
True enough though, at the Dar Primates Mtg there was serious “protest” and that of a kind which expressed both protest and an act of “impaired communion”, reinforcing an already impaired communion due to the events of the post October Primates Emergency Mtg, where Frank G was frankly duplicitous in his first agreeing to their statement and then joining in the consecration of GR. The “fabric of communion” was really “torn” back then.

So, remember Ron; it’s a seriously two way street - if not a multiple criss-crossing flyover system of blame, counter blame, and counter counter blame, much of it worthy of blame.

QED: Ephraim Radner’s “End of the Church” - in the fellowship/communion/koinonia of our Lord’s Crucifixion, as the Holy Spirit grants us world-wide Anglicans an exilic form of judgment. Now; there’s a “communion ecclesiology” Ron and Peter truly worthy of “pondering”.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
You need to trust me about a number of things: inerrant interpretation of the lectionary, which side Satan is on, etc :)

Yes, I realise it is difficult to get Anglicans to agree on things, but the Covenant is not about herding wild cats (clergy) in regard to the lectionary and the like, but about underpinning a Communion of member churches with a statement of faith and some discipline around that. Even member churches have managed to put together their own constitutions and canons so why not the Communion itself achieving something in this way?

I shall be fascinated to see just what our special Synod agrees to.

Father Ron Smith said...

re Bosco's post, I'm inclined to think that if one is faithful in small things (Lectionary obedience) perhaps wil lhelp us in the larger ones (Communion compatibility.

Needless to say, I cannot agree with Bryden's assessment of the situation - vis a vis the one who 'got up and slowly walked away' - for the record it was definitely GAFCON.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

the Covenant is ... about underpinning a Communion of member churches with a statement of faith

What Statement of Faith? The lack of any meaningful Statement of Faith is the Covenant's principle flaw. And yet it had to be that way, or the whole effort would have been stillborn. The only way you can possibly get agreement is to make the Statement of Faith so flexible that anyone could agree to it. The Covenant contains no meaningful Statement of Faith because it was never intended to contain a meaningful Statement of Faith.


Kurt said...

“There is a family aspect to Anglican Communion life, Roland, and to me the C of E not being in the Covenanted Communion family would be like having a family reunion with grandma left out.”—Peter C.

But it’s okay if the North Americans are left out of the family, is that it Peter?

Outside of the Churches of the British Isles, only the American Church has such a long history of living Anglicanism. The origins of American Episcopalianism goes back almost to the very beginnings of the English Reformation.

The first celebration of the Holy Eucharist on mainland North America by an Anglican priest took place in 1579 north of San Francisco Bay, the same year that the great Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, received Holy Orders. The first native-born American Anglicans were baptized in Virginia in 1587, the year that Mary, Queen of Scotts, lost her head for plotting to take the life of her royal cousin. America’s oldest Episcopal parish, St. John’s Church Hampton, Virginia was founded in 1610, and thus predates the first printing of the King James Bible. Hungars Parish Church in Bridgetown was founded in 1623, when the beloved Lancelot Andrewes—the greatest preacher of the Elizabethan Age—was serving as Bishop of Winchester. America’s oldest Episcopal Church building, St. Luke’s (“Old Brick”) Church Smithfield, VA was built in 1632, the same year that Christopher Wren, the future architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral, was born. St. George’s Church Valley Lee, Maryland was established in 1638, the year Scottish Calvinists defied Archbishop William Laud and signed the National Covenant, by which they pledged themselves to uphold the Puritan position by force and violence.

Our Line of bishops, beginning with the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury by bishops of the Scottish Church in 1784, is the oldest Line of Anglican bishops outside of the British Isles. The first Anglican Colonial Bishop was an Irish-American, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Charles Inglis, a former Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street, New York City. He was consecrated in 1787 at Lambeth Chapel to be the Bishop of Nova Scotia. Thus, the Canadians became the second people outside of the British Isles to possess the Historic Episcopate in the Anglican Tradition.

During the Colonial Period, Anglican services in America were performed, successively, from the Prayer Books of 1559, 1604 and 1662. We Americans were the first Anglicans outside of the Churches of the British Isles to engage in Prayer Book revision. American Churchmen produced the first Proposed Book of Common Prayer in 1785, and the first Authorized American Prayer Book in 1789.

But to some we are “expendable.”

Kurt Hill
(Who was recently elected Warden of his parish Vestry)
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
Congratulations on becoming warden!

Please take care not to read into this blog things which have not been said!

I was asked a question about the C of E and not about TEC, so I responded to the question. Nothing was implied about TEC being or not being part of the Anglican family.

As a matter of fact I think it is now some years since I have posted anything which suggested TEC should leave or be expelled from the Communion by force of diktat.

We need to find a way forward to be a family in disagreement. But I do find it hard to see why we are discouraged from thinking about TEC leaving and encouraged to not think about others who (de facto) have left or may yet leave. We all need to be at the table of discussion if we are to be at the table of the Lord in holy eucharist!

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

Three things spring to mind

1) We have already, here, discussed your presupposition that what works and is appropriate in the small of necessity must work and be appropriate in the larger. This is logically flawed. And incorrect.
2) There is a second logical flaw which runs: a constitution-canons-type-document would help the Anglican Communion; the “Covenant” is a constitution-canons-type-document; therefore this “Covenant” would help the Anglican Communion.
3) Significantly in this thread: you argue that canons are functioning well at diocesan and provincial levels therefore they will function well at Anglican Communion level. The point of my illustration (above), drawn from your post, is that this may be a helpful and honest argument from within a province where this is true – it rings very hollow when argued from within a province where our canons, rules, regulations are flouted at every level and every significant context.



Kurt said...

Thanks for the congrats, Peter. I'm really excited about being a Warden! Our parish is on the move!!

Maybe I misunderstood what you wrote, Peter. I'm glad that you want everyone in the Communion. As you know, I think that there should be some kind of link for all groups calling themselves Anglican or Episcopalian if they want it--as long as there is Table Fellowship included.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I may be guilty of all such logical sins of commission and omission!

I think I am trying to argue some other things:

- we are not afraid (generally speaking as Anglicans) of constitution and canons at member church level, so why be afraid at Communion level?

- some trust in the process of arriving at the Covenant needs to be had: it is currently the best proposal (and the only proposal) on the table for a constitution and canons type thing for the Communion, thus we should consider it. Clearly some do not think it will work very well; others think it will. Intriguingly those who do not think it will work very well are mostly (Tobias Haller springs to mind as an exception) not bringing forward an alternative.

Re our own church: I think we have a measure of agreement and disagreement. Agreement that, yes, all canons are not obeyed, and sometimes by people at the top of the tree. Disagreement about the scope of this. You use the word "flout". Some do, true. But as I travel about the place I see an impressive adherence to our canons (e.g. people taking liturgical requirements seriously ... even in churches where one might not expect this to be so). Plus, I experience our church as a church which unites around its constitution and canons (e.g. our commitment to being a three tikanga church; our movement towards resolving our impasse on same sex partnerships via canonical change). So, all in all, I do not see quite the same weakness in my argument on this point as you do.

But, as always, my disagreement with you about our amorphous church and its many colours and hues is a respectful one!

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

I am similarly respectful of those, like yourself, who are in favour of the “Covenant”. Thank you.

I am no expert in this area, whatsoever. I am merely trying to make my mind up based on weighing up points from different sides with the time and energy I can put into this issue. My conclusion might be wrong. My conclusion is open to changing.

It appears to me that those seeking to make a change need to argue for the change they are proposing. I have not yet found myself being convinced by the arguments in favour of the change.

I continue to suspect that we have sufficient structures in place to achieve what advocates of the “Covenant” hope to achieve by its implementation – and that these structures are not being used effectively by those who are involved in them. I continue to suspect that the “Covenant” will not do what those who advocate for it think it will – and that it will either do nothing or create more problems.

I do not think that every person who is unconvinced by the case for the “Covenant” is duty-bound to come up individually with an alternative.

I agree with all you write in response to me but I do not think that the model you paint of our province of many people adhering to our canons, an expectation that some would not adhere to things they vow, agree to, and sign up to, and the reality that some flout our canons, gives me any hope that this enlarged Communion-wide as you suggest will be anything different to the very issues you are seeking to solve.



Father Ron Smith said...

" But I do find it hard to see why we are discouraged from thinking about TEC leaving and encouraged to not think about others who (de facto) have left or may yet leave. We all need to be at the table of discussion if we are to be at the table of the Lord in holy eucharist!" - Dr.P.C. -

The main difference here, Peter, is that it is the GAFCON Churches that have made their own decision to leave! Neither the Anglican Church of Canada nor TEC have made any attempt to sever themselves from the Anglican Communion that now exists.

I have made this point before, but obviously it needs to be said again and again! Those who have neglected to honour Eucharistic Fellowship with others in the Communion, are not TEC or the A.C. of C., but only those who cannot live within its present constitutionally-ordered provenance. GAFCON does not want to be part of the present Communion. TEC and the A.C.of C. do. What is your argument about that reality?

Are you proposing disbanding the current Anglican Communion, while assembling a different one - under the new Covenant process? If so, do it one grounds of the truth - not on a myth - that GAFCON did not wilfully move out of Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
If you are not prepared to acknowledge that TEC provoked people to leave there is not much further to discuss.

As for forming a new Communion with or without X, Y or Z, my simple argument here is that all current member church of the Communion should sign the Covenant.