Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anglican Covenant Pros and Cons

Our church (the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia) has published its response to the proposed Anglican Covenant. Our corporate response is that we are not in favour of it. Such response reflects the complicated make up of our church's governance which provides for a diversity of both theological and cultural voices to be heard, and some of those voices are particularly cautious around the idea of 'others' here or abroad having a say in how we work out our ecclesial life.

There is however a delicious irony about the timing of our announcement. In this same week, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori has published material concerning her attempt to inhibit Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh - so far unsuccessful because at least one of the three senior bishops of TEC have refrained from supporting the inhibition. The gist of this material is that Bishop Duncan has erred and strayed from the rules of TEC. That is, ++KJS - and for this we can be grateful - has provided the Anglican Communion with the perfect example of the point and purpose of having rules for membership of a body: no body can be so elastic that it can permit any behaviour. In TEC's case, Bishop Duncan's behaviour in leading his diocese towards a new relationship with the Anglican Communion has stretched the bounds of TEC's elasticity.

One of the definite pros of the proposed Covenant for the Anglican Communion is that it potentially offers a way of defining the elasticity of the Anglican Communion in regard to the behaviour of its member churches. One of the cons of the proposed Covenant, in its current draft, is that (in my view) it is muddled in its wording about how the breaking point of elasticity would be measured. But a new draft will be published after the next meeting of the drafting group later this month (Jan, 08), so this particular weakness in the Covenant may be sorted out.

In the meantime we can but reflect on the history of TEC and its canons which permit the inhibitions of bishops for infractions of the doctrine, worship and discipline of the church. Why Duncan and not Pike and Spong?

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