Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why conservatives throughout the Communion should vote for the Covenant

A commenter here draws attention to John Richardson at The Ugley Vicar posting on why he would vote 'no' to the Covenant.

I argue the opposite. Conservative Anglicans concerned about both truth and unity, about speaking up for the truth and against false teaching, should vote for the Covenant. Here are my reasons:

(1) Without the Covenant the Communion will remain in its current state, divided, diversifying, and dying (as a fellowship of churches which are not in fellowship with each other). The Covenant offers a way out of the mess not as some argue because it is, in itself, a recipe or mechanism for unity and communion but because member churches saying 'yes' to the Covenant would be member churches re-finding and renewing their intention to work on division, limit diversity in belief and practice, and give new life to being a 'Communion.' All Anglicans, including all conservative Anglicans should support the Covenant for this reason alone.

(2) We are at an extraordinary cross-road in the life of the Communion. If this were an ordinary cross-road, if the Covenant was (so to speak) just another bright proposal from the bureaucracy of the Communion thought up on an otherwise rainy, dull day in London, we might feel it was unhelpful to the cause we believe in (as many progressives and many conservatives do feel, and provide arguments against it, as John Richardson does). Voting it down would then be a vote against bureaucrats having bright thoughts on dull days about unnecessary additions to the panoply of Communion life. But at this extraordinary cross-road, brought on by progressive Anglicanism pushing the boundaries of Anglican diversity, the Covenant is a means of saying to ourselves that there are limits to Anglican diversity around the globe, than 'Anglican' has specific content in doctrine and in practice which can be held up as something to which member churches are accountable.  For conservatives to vote against the Covenant is to vote for unlimited diversity in future Anglicanism. Is this the direction conservatives want to go in?

(3) The Covenant will not stifle member churches from speaking up (a specific objection of John Richardson's).

Conservatives should vote for the Covenant, even with reservations, in order to draw a line in the sand in respect of progressive power to control the character of future global Anglicanism.

I am not prepared as a conservative to collude with progressives in furthering their very clear agenda in voting the Covenant down.

Postscript: to put all this in another way ...

The Covenant by itself will not make the Communion all that conservatives would like the Communion to be. Conservative reservations about the Covenant are understandable and worth stating on the public record. Yet conservatives should support the Covenant because the Communion without the Covenant will be all the progressives want the Communion to be and that will be worse in the long-run for conservatives.

23 comments:

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter,

The issue of the covenant in our diocese has been and gone. The vote was overwhelmingly 'no'.
My stance is no because:
1. We have the 39 Articles, BCP & the Ordinal
2. Constitution
3. the Covenant is the case of 'too little, too late'- and thus I don't believe it will do anything.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, it would seem that John Richardson (UglyVicar) is probably arguing for the same as you - but with a slightly different slant.

He does not regard the Covenant as disciplinary enough to limit the diversity of theological understanding that presently exists within the Communion Partners. He argues that the Covenant will not reign in the liberals.

You, as I understand your position, believe that the Covenant has enough within section 4's 'relational consequences' provisions, to unite all the conservative elements of the Communion within the process.

Both of you, it seems to me, are keen to prevent any progress in the initiatives taken by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada to open up the churches of the Communion to a the possibility that the LGBT community should be included in the life and ministry of the Church.

However, I submit that the Covenant process will not fulfil that purpose; neither will the Covenant be acceptable to the GAFCON Provinces.

Maybe God wants the Anglican Churches of the Communion to walk fearlessly into the 21st century - agreeing to disagree on matters of gender and sexuality - until the Churches catch up with reality, on matters of gender and sexuality.

Rosemary said...

What a muddle Peter!

I was talking today to a school principal who is more deeply concerned with pupils low self esteem than anything else. I asked him what society needs to function properly as a society. This is clearly visible in a village, perhaps not so clearly in a city. But what we used to refer to as ‘salt of the earth’ folk NEED to make up at least 85% of society, the percentage is probably higher. We NEED road sweepers, plumbers, electricians, roofers, builders, shop assistants, mums, dads and on and on and on. We can’t function as a society without them. So that school principal needs to so value the .. well lets call it ‘ordinary’ .. but which our society [especially the media] doesn’t highly esteem. That school MUST help our children to find values in something other than being a ‘high flyer’ .. and achieving something that the world perceives as ‘great.’ Because very few of those children are going to achieve that, and those that do, will .. in my humble opinion .. do so with very little help from the teacher. We need to help children to see that they have value in and of themselves, in their honesty perhaps, in their friendship .. they don’t have to achieve ‘great’ things in order to be valued.

The church needs to follow it’s leader and do the same thing. Jesus valued the unlovely, healed societies rejects. We ought to commend good marriages for instance. Our leaders should be leading church AND society in this respect. Well .. are they? Or have they got themselves into a pickle. You refer to the church as ‘dying.’ I’m not that depressed, but it’s certainly extremely unwell where those principles are not followed.

I tried to point out to you in my previous post, that those like me .. I think you refer to me as ‘conservative,’ I’d like an ‘orthodox’ in there somewhere please .. have seen NO sign, none whatsoever, that we are valued, wanted, desired and full members of our church. None Peter. Now that shakes one’s confidence in the system to mend itself, whether using a covenant or not, because it has shown no signs of using the instruments it DOES have to heal itself in the first place. Quite the opposite, as I said earlier, we are NOT wanted, judged severely, and made to feel distinctly unwelcome .. and yet I strongly believe we are the ‘salt of the earth.’
[continued]

Rosemary said...

Now if you cannot value the ‘salt of the earth’ as things stand, why should signing a covenant make any difference? It won’t .. and your post does nothing to convince me it would and therefore I should sign on the dotted line. I think you know me well enough to know that the value I put on both truth and unity is high indeed. In fact the one and only factor that sometimes causes a hiccough in my thinking about this matter, is schism. A division. I do NOT want our church to divide, and I look at history and see that division in and of itself, is usually a waste of time. So if anything could persuade me to sign, it is that. However, division also causes [historically speaking] the church to look at itself and ask the hard questions it was ignoring previously .. so that may very well be what God is calling some folk to do. It may take a century, but the fact that ‘salt of the earth’ people walked, makes others sit up and notice. After all, they like me are lay people, the only thing we have is our feet .. to enable us to walk. Leave where we’re not wanted!!!

If you want the rank and file membership to follow your vote .. assuming you’re successful .. it is they you must convince Peter, and at the moment, I don’t fancy your chances. Rank and file are already extremely disenchanted with their leadership .. and I’d like to make it plain at this point that I am NOT talking about my own Bishop who is doing a good job in a difficult age .. so you need to start talking with them. Listen to them for a change, instead of the ones that the church is always urging you to listen to. They won’t trust you of course, in the beginning they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear .. so you’ll have to demonstrate your commitment to them .. and I’m full circle .. we haven’t SEEN that demonstration that you value us or our opinion. In fact quite the opposite, you are so busy making first order issues out of second order issues, that when a first order issue comes along, you’re confused and unclear .. and nothing in your post gives me any hope in this matter. [continued]

Rosemary said...

Instead of writing .. “brought on by progressive Anglicanism pushing the boundaries of Anglican diversity” .. you should have written .. “brought on by progressive Anglicanism BEING PERMITTED to push the boundaries of Anglican diversity.” Then maybe the rank and file, those you SHOULD value, might have a little hope.

There .. I’m speaking up as you insist I’m allowed to.

Shawn said...

"Maybe God wants the Anglican Churches of the Communion to walk fearlessly into the 21st century - agreeing to disagree on matters of gender and sexuality - until the Churches catch up with reality, on matters of gender and sexuality."

And perhaps God wants us to honour Him and His Word, not the false spirit and ideology of Western Liberalism, and for Liberals to stop pretending they are wiser and more ethically advanced than God.

We should walk fearlessly into the 21st century, but not by surrendering to the world, let alone the world of Godless Liberalism. We do so by walking in submission to the Lord and His will.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
Conservatives are entitled to find and to follow any and all reasons they have for not voting for the Covenant.

I have suggested that to do so is to collude with an unfortunate progressive agenda for Communion life.

If you and others unpersuaded by my point here continue to vote against the Covenant then that is the reality I shall live with.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
Ditto my response to Rosemary above!

Rosemary said...

Argh!!!! I feel a little like screaming. Sigh .. .. .. Peter, I don’t WANT to divide. I don’t WANT to give up .. but middle management .. clergy if you like .. has GOT to demonstrate some support for the laity. It is NOT doing so .. so the leadership .. Bishops, Synods etc., are having their way. You admit that, you admit it’s dysfunctional .. so DO something about it to show us .. the rank and file, that you are there trying to protect our interests. So far all you’re demonstrating is a decided ability to hold out the hand of friendship towards those very liberal/progressives who are undermining our worth. It’s simply not good enough to say that you’ll ‘have to accept that reality.’ DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT .. get off the fence. Sorry, that’s blunt .. but you are asking us to consider your point of view .. well please try and consider ours.

Rosemary said...

Sorry .. but calming down a bit, I have to point out that we don't see ourselves as having 'colluded' at all, we see middle management as having done that. Falling over themselves backwards with the hand of friendship outstretched. We even agree with that, but as a well known bloke has said here in New Zealand .. enough is enough! Enough colluding. We get a teensy bit cross when that is what we're accused of when it simply is not so.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I don't want you screaming!
I am doing my best to help as many as possible in the church, clergy and laity, to be in a church which does not divide while accommodating a range of views. I am not sure what further interests I should be protecting! Surely you are not simply focusing on protecting the interests of people who do not think women should be ordained ... or are you?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
(Your comment to which I am now responding is printed above my comment above which refers to your comment previous to that!)

Ok, I think I now get it. All sorts of collusion with unfortunate consequences has occurred. Now I appear to be making things more painful by implying that those who have done their best not to be part of the colluding will join in the colluding.

Fair point. But I think I am suggesting that the way not to collude with progressives is to support the Covenant. If doing that is joining other collusions in the Communion I guess it would be better not to sign.

But I would still sign ... though increasingly it appears that few will join me!!

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter,

In my humble opinon, for there to be true unity within the Anglican community I believe the unity must be gospel unity rather than institutional unity.

For example section 2.2 and 2.2.2a) states: 2.2 In recognition of these affirmations, each Church, reliant on the Holy Spirit, commits itself:
(2.2.2.a) “to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God” and to bring all to repentance and faith;

Because the Anglican Communion largely operates out of institutional unity the good news of the Kingdom of God is not defined theologically, if defined at all.

The Revisionist definition of the Kingdom of God is "a God without wrath bringing men without sin into a Kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of Christ without a cross and that Kingdom is found on earth and is a utopian pan-sexual world where there is inclusion without boundaries, tolerance with no repentance and relatvism; where everyone is engaged in a never ending listening process and conversation.

Where as the Kingdom of God according to the Gospel is a Kingdom where people are submitting to the rule of God in Christ Jesus, who have repented of their sin and have submitted to the rule of Christ as a result of his sin bearing once for all sacrifice on the cross.

I don't think the contrast could be any greater!!! Yet the Covenant fudges on this.

The Covenant also fails to acknowledge the heart of the issue - which is not homosexuality or women's ordination; rather it is the rejection of the authority of God's Holy Word. Even if every province in the Anglican Communion adopted the covenant, it will change nothing, because the unity it is promoting is institutional unity rather than gospel unity.

It has no choice, because there are two different gospels being proclaimed within the Anglican communion. Both cannot be right, yet the Covenant (with the other instruments of the Anglican communion) keeps trying to prop up the illusion that we can.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I do feel for you - having to deal with hysteria, in a situation where you are trying to conduct a reasonable debate. However, there are some who will not try to see both sides - as at least you do.

I appreciate your openness to ALL, even if it becomes difficult.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Have a look at my comments to John's post and his reply over at Ugley Vicar. I thought he was saying that the Covenant would enforce a faux unity within provinces and member churches, a view which I disagreed with. His reply was that he fears the Covenant will impose a faux unity across the Communion. I'm still not sure it's the most compelling argument, but it's a helpful clarification.

Thanks for your thoughtful arguments re conservatives supporting the Covenant. My issue is that unless we share the same gospel, the Covenant is pointless. That doesn't mean unless every other Anglican agrees with my interpretation or my perspective they are wrong. Nor is it just about sexuality. It is crystal clear that some member churches of the Communion hold to a different gospel - not just individuals within them, but the leadership and the direction of the church as a whole. They hold to a gospel of forgiveness without repentance, grace without holiness and love without obedience.

This is a time to ask those who have walked away from the Biblical gospel to return to that gospel, rather than introduce a new tool that fudges that gospel so we can all stay together. I wish it weren't so, but the only path forward I can see for conservatives is to adopt parallel structures within the Communion as a means to protect and proclaim that gospel.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

Without the Covenant the Communion will remain in its current state, divided, diversifying, and dying

The institutional division is caused by doctrinal division. It will only continue to worsen so long as that doctrinal division exists. You can only address the problem if you correctly identify the problem. The problem is that several major churches in the Anglican Communion have functionally adopted a false religion. Removing that false religion is the solution to the problems of the Anglican Communion. You must first divide before you can unite.

The Covenant is a means of saying to ourselves that there are limits to Anglican diversity around the globe, than 'Anglican' has specific content in doctrine and in practice which can be held up as something to which member churches are accountable.

Except you refuse to define the contents of that boundary. You say that Christianity has specific content, but you want a broad fuzzy line to define the limits of that content. If the boundary is "The Creed where each man gets to decide for himself the meaning of the Creed" then you have neither boundary nor content.

Conservatives should vote for the Covenant, even with reservations, in order to draw a line in the sand in respect of progressive power to control the character of future global Anglicanism.

How does the Covenant do this? It would be controlled by people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It's one thing to write words on a page. It's another thing to have the will to act. What has always been lacking is the will to act.

The Covenant is dead. The Communion is pulling apart on doctrinal lines because competing religions cannot exist in the same organization. It cannot be stopped. It can only be managed. Eventually all those within the AC are going to have to decide which way they want to go. The Communion did this to itself by letting liberal leaven into the bread. Now it must deal with the consequences.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"They hold to a gospel of forgiveness without repentance, grace without holiness and love without obedience".
- Andrew Reid -

I consider this statement to be rather judgemental - as well as hyperbolic!

'They' is always a rather dubious attachment to people other than one's-self, and a typically self-righteous way of pointing at the perceived faults and failings of 'other people'.

A little humility would be much more welcome in the discussions under way - at least an honest acknowledgement of one's own part in the process of breakdown.

There is only one Gospel - and that is the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who come to Him for salvation - a process once described as "One poor person showing another poor person where to find bread".

Jesus had real problems with the Pharisees and Scribes, who thought he was undercutting the process they deemed necessary for people to be put right with God. In fact, they put him to death for what was his gracious magnanimity.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged" is a good counter to triumphalism.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The institutional division is caused by doctrinal division". - Carl Jacobs

A theologian might disagree with this didactic statement!

The current problem in the Anglican Communion is due to the fact that some Provinces are unable to accept that TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada have a different view of what constitutes Gospel Freedom in their particular area of the Field of Mission.

Our current division is nothing to do with Creedal Definitions, the Doctrine of God in Christ, or the Doctrine of God in Trinity. These are the agreed bases of Christian Doctrine.

There is also, of course, the matter of interpretation of certain Biblical passages - which are open to hermeneutic discovery - an ethic foreign to some conservatives in the Church, who are keen to outlaw any interpretation that does not agree with their own settled view.

Rosemary said...

I think it was fair of you to ask whether or not my views on WO coloured my thinking with regard to the Covenant. I asked myself the question and decided that of course it does. Now that I’m no longer so completely frustrated [or hysterical] about my inability to communicate, I can see that clearly. I have previously argued that WO is a second order issue, and I’m finding the use of that term .. first order and second order .. quite helpful. I think we used to describe such things as ‘salvation’ issues. Asking if being on one side or another made any difference as to whether or not we’ll meet in Heaven. A first order issue means we won’t, a second order issue means we will. So Peter, are you and I going to meet in Heaven? Are you going to meet the 250 so women [although that may be a bit generous because men outnumber women] from our last church in Heaven? Are we going to meet Baptists in Heaven? Presbyterians? Roman Catholics? Even .. gulp .. Roman Catholic clergy? Then whatever it is that divides us, can’t be a first order issue can it?

There was a ‘heresy’ trial in this country wasn’t there? About the resurrection I believe .. now that is a first order issue surely. We’re not going to meet in Heaven, any who don’t believe in the resurrection. That’s a gospel imperative surely? OK .. that’s all a bit simplistic, and those differences are wonderful learning tools for us lay folk, but if our church in it’s wisdom, decides that folk like me are not welcome in our church .. and I have previously given evidence to support that supposition .. but we ARE going to meet in Heaven .. then surely Jesus prayer in John 17, to which you allude, IS true. Not that we don’t have to work towards it, but we surely don’t believe that Jesus asked and God the Father said ‘No.’ So if the ‘unity’ is there, that leaves the ‘truth.’ First order issues .. doctrine .. and guarding it becomes a necessity.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
You, I, Carl, Shawn, Joshua, Suem, Ron, 250 women from your last church, a whole lot of Roman Catholics, Baptists ... yes, will be in heaven. From that perspective, infant baptism v adult only baptism, WO v non-WO, etc are "second order" issues.

But second order issues can still be divisive or, at least troubling in the body of Christ: it is hard to see how Anglicans and Bpatists could join in one united church given the practical differences our respective doctrines on baptism make for; ditto Anglicans in Roman Catholics if Romans cannot stretch their understanding of the eucharist to include those who differ from their understanding. And the matter of ordination of women to the presbyterate and the episcopacy is at least troubling in the C of E (if not divisive in parts already) and may yet, depending on the course of current GS legislation, be divisive.

So, in the end, I think second order issues can be divisive. Perhaps there are three kinds of "second order" issues: those that divide us denominationally (e.g. baptism), those that may or may not divide us denominationally (e.g. WO), and those that have not yet divided us denominationally (e.g. the varieties of Anglican understanding of the eucharist).

Shawn said...

Ron,

"I consider this statement to be rather judgemental - as well as hyperbolic!"

Except a fair and reasonable critique of liberal theology shows what carl has said to be correct. D.A. Carson has written in detail about this, with a great deal of analasis, in his book 'The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God".

Liberal theology does trumpet a warped view of the Gospel,in which the "inclusive" element trumps every other theological consideration.

"'They' is always a rather dubious attachment to people other than one's-self, and a typically self-righteous way of pointing at the perceived faults and failings of 'other people'."

But Ron, you spend much of your time on this blog doing exactly that. You self-rightesously point to the supposed faults of anyone who does not agree with the normalisation of homosexuality and SSB, calling us haters, Pharisees, reactionary, and various other names.

Surely if you opposed to such behaviour then perhaps you should not engage in it?

"There is only one Gospel "

Thats true, the one in the Bible. The liberal gospel is a different one.

"Jesus had real problems with the Pharisees and Scribes"

One of those problems was that they were inventing traditions which were not in the Bible and enforcing those on the people. Which is exactly what Liberals are doing with regards to the issue of homosexuality.

Moreover, in my personal experience, the most self-righteous and personally abusive people I have met in the Church were all from those churches claiming to be inclusive. The only times I have heard hatred towards other Christians being expressed, it was in "inclusive" churches and towards conservatives.

In my twenty years of being a Christian the only times I have been on the recieving end of personal abuse and attack, it has been in the Anglican church, and came from those like you claiming to be tolerant and inclusive.

So who are the Pharisees in the Church today?

"There is also, of course, the matter of interpretation of certain Biblical passages - which are open to hermeneutic discovery - an ethic foreign to some conservatives in the Church, who are keen to outlaw any interpretation that does not agree with their own settled view."

Except we have already shown that your not using a hermeneutic of anything. Your just picking and choosing which bits suit you. Calling that a hermenuetic is dishonest.

And Liberals are keen to outlaw (and I might add are prepared to use the power of the State no less!) any opposition to homosexuality. At least one Anglican I know of employed by the Church has said that the Human Rights Act should be brought to bear on the Church, which would effectively turn conservatives into criminals and expose them to legal sanction.

So, I ask again, who are the Pharisees today?

Don,t be so sure you know the answer to that.

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

Our current division is nothing to do with Creedal Definitions, the Doctrine of God in Christ, or the Doctrine of God in Trinity. These are the agreed bases of Christian Doctrine.

Oh? So then you will most certainly affirm the following statements on the basis of Creedal definitions:

1. That Christ was born of a virgin.

2. That Christ physically rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures.

3. That Christ is both very God and very man.

4. That there is one and only one way to God and that is through the work of Christ.

You will agree that no Christian unity is possible with those who reject these statements. Right?

carl

Shawn said...

Ron,

"Our current division is nothing to do with Creedal Definitions, the Doctrine of God in Christ, or the Doctrine of God in Trinity. These are the agreed bases of Christian Doctrine."

There are in fact serious divisions over those issues. Some Bishops and a large number of ministers do not accept the Creeds, or the orthodox understanding of the nature of Christ and the Trinity. John Spong has clearly rejected them. I know they are all questioned and rejected by St. Matthew's in the City. And there is no doubt that parts of the leadership of TEC, and KJS herself, question them or repudiate them to varying degrees.

So there is a problem there as well. And in fact, it is almost always the "inclusive" pro-gay wing of the Church that is also questioning the creedal foundations of Anglicanism.

I guess its a case, with some liberals (not all) of "anything that gets in the way of us worshiping the idol of modernism" must go.