Thursday, April 23, 2009

Much ado about nothing

The Anglican blogosphere is agog with leaked emails, rushed publications of plans and policies about the true status of dioceses, presiding bishops, archbishops, covenant signatures etc. Check out Mark Harris, Ruth Gledhill, Thinking Anglicans, and Titus One Nine to see if you can make sense of it.

As you do keep in mind these things: the authors of the leaked emails/of the policy statement published here want to remain in the Anglican Communion to which they currently belong, and they want to sign up to the Anglican Covenant being drafted, revised and improved even as we speak. But for some in TEC (e.g. read the comments to Mark Harris' post) these bishops and theologians (all of good standing in TEC) are some kind of 'enemy' of TEC, even though they have not left TEC (unlike others), and have no plan to do so. They are also being dumped upon despite putting out a carefully argued position paper on the relationsip of dioceses to TEC, and of the Presiding Bishop to the bishops of TEC.

Why do I think it is much ado about nothing? If a diocese can make a decision - dioceses do - then it can decide to sign up to the covenant, or not. All the huffing and puffing by canonical lawyers and blogging pundits does not change that. A province or member church of the Communion could decide not to sign up to the covenant, but could it prevent a diocese from signing up? It is hard to see how it could do so. Of course the Communion could decide that the covenant cannot be signed up to by any body other than a 'church' or 'province', but if that is so, then that is not a decision of either TEC or any group of bishops and theologians. Again, much ado about nothing.

It would, incidentally, be extremely odd, would it not, for the following scenario to occur: the Communion as a whole proposes and circulates a covenant; Anglican church X rejects the covenant, but Diocese Y within X accepts the covenant; X then seeks to discipline Y. Presumably X's grounds for discipline of Y would be some kind of illegality with respect to Y's constitution. But Y's grounds for signing to the covenant would be commitment to Anglicanism. At this point the true bearer of Anglicanism would be Y and not X. Morally, at least, X would cease to be Anglican in the substance of its faith!

For a different reading of the current situation, John Richardson at The Ugley Vicar has a very interesting view on the Communion: it's already in schism because the prospect of it is no longer news.

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