I shouldn't have been surprised but I was. Two days ago I posted on the appointment of Digby Wilkinson to be Dean of Wellington Cathedral - an innovative appointment, taking a 'hybrid' Anglican priest and Baptist pastor from a Baptist pastorate and placing him into a significant Anglican ministry. Yesterday a friend drew my attention to this Facebook post from one of our parishes/vicars raising significant negative questions about the appointment. [LATER: The post has been pulled]. For those unable to access the post, it begins with this line before linking to the Stuff.co.nz announcement,
"And now for the latest from Disneyland (oops I mean the Bishop of Wellington) we have the prodigal dean."
Further down, the questioning begins,
"I just think it’s bizarre that the Anglican national cathedral now has a dean who knows nothing about Anglican worship, tradition, or the breadth of Anglican theology. I can believe that Baptists help make this world a better place, and can believe that even in Wellington that could be so, but why try this Baptist experiment with the Anglican Cathedral? "
What I was surprised but shouldn't have been surprised about is that the parish is St Matthew's in the City and the vicar commenting is Glynn Cardy.
OK. We live in a free church where questions may be raised about decisions. And 'Disneyland' or 'bizarre' may not be the worst thing ever said about the decisions of Bishop of Wellington. But Glynn's approach raises a few questions about the character of our church.
For instance, implicit (even explicit at certain points) in this Facebook post is a presumption that being Anglican is 'this' rather than 'that'. But what on earth could give Glynn Cardy the confidence that he knows what Anglicanism is and what it is not? Why would 'Anglican worship, tradition or the breadth of Anglican theology' matter, unless he assumes that there is a common Anglican mind, a shared set of Anglican values that these things matter? Against what Anglican 'thing' could a Baptist be a threat? Could it be a 'thing' which Anglicans wish to cherish, to defend and to exclude non-Anglicans from?
My answer to these questions, given here previously (e.g. here) is that an informal, unwritten Anglican Covenant controls significant tracts of Anglicanland. Whenever we Anglicans say something along the lines 'true Anglicanism is this' or 'that doesn't seem to be true Anglicanism' it is implicit that there is an idea or set of ideas which determine what we assert 'true Anglicanism' to be.
The (likely) defeat of the written Anglican Covenant will be a triumph of the unwritten Anglican Covenant.
This unwritten Anglican Covenant is a marvellous document in the hands of the hegemony which adheres to it: as seen here, it can be used to oppose innovation when it suits, but it can also be used to support innovation when it suits, e.g. innovation about blessing same sex partnerships.
Much better, I suggest, to have a written Anglican Covenant since that is participatory (all may know its contents) and just (people may be held to account to a standard they know in advance). The inherent disturbance to the body politic of an unwritten Anglican Covenant is that it is elitist (it is largely in the hands of a self-appointed hegemonic Sanhedrin of claimants who know what true Anglicanism is), unjust (supporting innovation as it suits and not when it does not), and ill-mannered (so a bishop can be taken to task for appointing a licensed priest to a deanship but a priest can not be taken to task for using the epithet 'Disneyland' to refer to the bishop).
Incidentally, the Baptists, who have obviously lost one of their finest ministers, by contrast have been nothing but gracious, as you can read here.