Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A few Kiwi/Christchurch notes on the Covenant

With our local diocesan Synod coming up on Saturday this week and a motion on the Covenant, I append here, first the motion as it will be presented at Synod (wording slightly changed by our Resolutions Committee from original wording sent out to Synod members) and a few notes I offer re some issues re the Covenant and our church (its constitution, canons and Standing Resolutions) - some of which respond to a correspondent's question/observation about the virtual lack of formal, verbal recognition in our constitution and canons of the Instruments of Unity and the Anglican Consultative Council.


The motion
That this Synod:

1 Affirms the Anglican Communion Covenant in principle

2 Supports the adoption of sections 1 to 3

3 Supports in principle the adoption of section 4.

My notes

It may be useful to clarify (or attempt to clarify) some aspects of the possible permutations in the debate over the Covenant, if only to avoid - if possible - sidetracks which waste the precious minutes of Synod on a very full day.
(1) It has been pointed out that the Covenant comes into effect as two or more member churches adopt the Covenant. I suggest however that the Covenant is not of much effectiveness in the deepening unity of the Communion if most of the churches do not sign up.

(2) It is no doubt embarrassing for the C of E and for the ABC if most churches do sign the Covenant and the C of E has not signed. But, as I understand the situation in respect of the membership of ACC by the ABC, the lack of the C of E signing makes no difference to the role of the ABC in the administration of the Covenant by the Standing Committee of the Communion, or to the role of the ABC in meetings of the Primates, the ACC and of Lambeth.

(3) It is the case that our church only mentions the ABC in one place in its constitution and canons, and makes no mention of the other Instruments of Unity, but it is not the case that our church has no history of involvement in and respect for the Instruments of Unity, nor that it is without right as it governs its life through General Synod to elect representatives to attend meetings of the ACC. The fact of continuing elections for such representatives demonstrates that we do not need a canon to tell us to so elect and thus implies we do not pass unnecessary laws! De facto our church recognises with respect the Instruments of Unity even if it does not acknowledgement any authority of the Instruments (especially and notably the instance when the Primates Meeting questioned our new constitutional arrangements in the 1990s).

(4) All involvement in the Communion and, I suggest, the possibility of engagement with the Covenant is consistent with the following statement in the Constitution: " AND WHEREAS (18) this Church is part of and belongs to the Anglican Communion, which is a fellowship of duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces or Regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, sharing with one another their life and mission in the spirit of mutual responsibility and interdependence;"

(5) My next point could indeed be debated on the floor of Synod but I suggest that the Covenant is primarily about the conduct of our relationships with other member churches of the Communion and not about how we do our work of mission and ministry. Thus the adoption of the Covenant by our General Synod does not need prior formal recognition of the Instruments of Unity (which, in any case, can be given within legislation which expresses our adoption). Adoption of the Covenant on this logic would not be about our church genuflecting to a new set of authorities hitherto unmentioned in our constitution or canons (save for the See of Canterbury) but about our church recognising that we might one day be called to account for some course of action by the Instruments of Unity, a recognition which would be consistent with the statement cited above, "sharing with one another their life and mission in the spirit of mutual responsibility and interdependence."
(6) Incidentally, in my perambulations through the constitution and canons I have come across the following Standing Resolutions: " ECUMENICAL RELATIONSHIPS SRER SRER1. THE COVENANT (SR24) That the Church of the Province of New Zealand do enter into the Covenant between the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand, the Church of the Province of New Zealand, the Congregational Union of New Zealand, the Methodist Church of New Zealand and the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand as contained in the 12th Report of the Joint Commission on Church Union. [1980] SRER 2. AGREEMENT TO COOPERATE WITH OTHER CHRISTIAN CHURCHES (SR25) ..." We might also mention the recent Anglican-Methodist Covenant in this country! Might I humbly suggest that we do not waste time saying that the Covenant is "unAnglican", lest we spend time in a sidetrack about our own history as a covenanting Anglican church!?

8 comments:

liturgy said...

Thanks for your points, Peter. I too would hope we will not waste precious time, especially as those who oppose the motion get less time than you do. There is very little that can be said in three minutes.

I struggle to make sense of your motion. Especially, as you have now acknowledged that this is not a “proposed” covenant, but one that is already now in effect. Your use of the words “in principle” will need a lot of explanation. One cannot adopt parts of the “Covenant” – nor do you have any ability to alter the current “Covenant”.

You yourself, on this site, stated that you disagree with the motion. “Naturally”.
http://anglicandownunder.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/diocese-of-christchurch-covenant-motion.html

Now to your points:

(1) “the Covenant is not of much effectiveness in the deepening unity of the Communion if most of the churches do not sign up.”
Agreed.
In fact the Covenant is not of much effectiveness in the deepening unity of the Communion if most of the churches do sign up.

(3) This is confused and confusing.
Our church has signed up to the constitution of the ACC. Our primates accept invitations to the Primates Meeting. Our bishops accept invitations to Lambeth Conference.
Our church does not call them “Instruments of Unity” as your point (3) does and as the “Covenant” understands them. Repeating the words “Instruments of Unity” over and over and giving the impression that this is formal Anglican teaching does not effect such – just as repeating “three-legged stool” often, and giving the impression that this is formal Anglican teaching does not effect such.
If you want the “Instruments of Unity” to be recognised by our church, as the “Covenant” formally intends – we will have to formally do so.
That may not be difficult to do – but it cannot be sidestepped.
End of story.

(5) You have already mentioned the urging of the Primates Meeting for us not to have a three Tikanga structure. They were so concerned that that was the first motion ever passed by that meeting. It has never been withdrawn or altered.

(6) Yes, please don’t get distracted by “un-Anglican” or “Anglican”. I’ve noted in a recent comment that when you use “Anglican” it can sound like “this is what we agree to do in our part of Christianity but it has no necessary value in the will of God for all Christians”. That may not be what you intend – but my point is that what a person says and what another hears in the use of un/Anglican is fraught.

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

" The fact of continuing elections for such representatives demonstrates that we do not need a canon to tell us to so elect and thus implies we do not pass unnecessary laws!" - P.C. -

And, by the same token, we do not need The Covenant to get on with our membership of the Communion, and interact with other Provinces who actually want to be together.

The Covenant, in other words, is an unnecessary legal enterpise.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
When things do not go wrong it is generally human experience that we do not pass laws to cover the situation.

We are considering an Anglican Covenant precisely because some things have gone wrong in our Communion relationships. They will not be put right by settling for a few chums who want to meet together being encouraged to continue to do so without further addressing the situation.

Father Ron Smith said...

What you have just said, Peter, is very true. We were supposed to meet together to discuss those matters that have caused the Covenant to be raised up. Until we do discuss those matters, there will be no papering over the cracks with a Covenant.

The 'Listening Process' has not yet happened in certain parts of the Communion - including our own!

Shawn said...

Well, the Communion opted for a "listening process" which included a moratorium on homosexual ordinations so that such a process could take place, but TEC ignored it, and chose instead to carry on as though nothing had changed, and in doing so clearly said to the rest of the Communion, "bugger off, we have no intention of listening to you".

The Covenant arose because of the arrogance and dishonesty of the TEC leadership.

The Communion is broken, and no amount of pretending it can be fixed through currently availiable means, or any pretence that the liberal wing has any intentions of listening to other opinions, is going to change that.

Let the Communion recognise faithful Anglican organisations in the U.S. and Canada, and expel the old liberal rump. They are dying anyway, and are no longer relevant to the mission of the Church, having long since rejected the Gospel in favour of cultural Marxism.

Peter Carrell said...

Slightly edited comment from Ron Smith:

"The Covenant arose because of the arrogance and dishonesty of the TEC leadership" - Shawn -

If Shawn were eligible to speak at our Christchurch Synod, he might just help the discussion by expressing his opinion to the tune of the above. I wonder whether he would last long on the podium?

[omitted words: I do not think it good to speculate on what might be the case - such speculations have an ad hominem element rather than a substantial focus on the issue at hand]

Father Ron Smith said...

I should have thought that, if 'ad hominem' is being applied to parts of my most recent post; the last paragraph of Shawn's post might also be under scrutiny. But, one expects the host to have an interest in what DOES appear on his blog.

Shawn said...

Ron,
If Shawn were eligible to speak at our Christchurch Synod, he might just help the discussion by expressing his opinion to the tune of the above. I wonder whether he would last long on the podium?"

Possibly much longer than you think. I suspect the evangelical reps would be very supportive.