Monday, April 6, 2009

No waning here of enthusiasm for an Anglican Covenant

Work quietly goes on towards the establishment of the Anglican Covenant, a new draft about to be presented to the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, 1-13 May, in Jamaica.

I am very keen to see an Anglican Covenant adopted by member churches of the Anglican Communion. One of my reasons is this. The duty of teachers of the church is to teach what the church believes, not what the teacher determines to be worth teaching or adjudges to be a true interpretation of Scripture. But what does the Anglican church believe? For a long time now we have gotten by on one section of the church believing quite a lot (conservatives upholding Scripture, creeds, prayer books), another section believing very little or, at least, believing very little is essential to Christian belief, and another section believing that quite a few things can be believed, including things belonging to other faiths, even no faith. But we have come to a fork in the road: the ordination of Gene Robinson highlighted an issue we had not yet confronted, is there any solid body of Anglican doctrine to which all Anglicans can turn in order to teach what the church believes and not what individual Anglicans believe?

So that Gene Robinson does not bear the whole load of concern here, we can draw attention to someone we have learned about in recent days: the new Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, Katherine Ragsdale, who preaches that 'abortion is a blessing'.

We cannot go on like this in the West, unless we want to become a tiny sect of people who splash a bit of God on a secularist foundation. We need to renew our understanding of Anglican doctrine, what it is, and what it is not. It is no good critics of the covenant saying that we already have this and that in place to describe our doctrine - creeds, quadrilaterals, articles, and what have you. We have deluded ourselves about these, in any case, because for too long now we have treated non-adherence to doctrine as a tolerable exercise in Christian freedom.

It's true that the Anglican Covenant could go the same way as the doctrinal standards we have had that have been ignored more than adhered to. That's why the Covenant needs some teeth. I hope ACC, including our ACANZP reps, are alert to what is at stake and give the Covenant some teeth.

Let's commit to the Covenant!


Anonymous said...

"It's true that the Anglican Covenant could go the same way as the doctrinal standards we have had that have been ignored more than adhered to."

We have been here before. It's worth remembering that the struggle against ecclesiastical Arianism went on for nearly 60 years in Italy and the Eastern empire *after Nicea had determined the doctrine, while political Arianism (the Visigoths) remained a force in Spain until the conversion of Recared in the 6th century. At least they didn't have Islam to deal with then! If Spain had been Arian rather than Catholic when the Moors arrived in 711, I suspect there never would have been a Reconquista.
I can't feel too optimistic about Anglicanism's 'partners' in places like Sweden, where a a secular, feminist, pro-homosexual ideology dominates much of that church.
However, the real question for Anglicans and the endless saga of the Covenant (which Tec and Canada will ignore in any case) is whether the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, birthed at Gafcon and getting its England launch in London in July, will chart the course for the future. I do suspect that Nazir-Ali, that old protege of John Stott, will have a significant role in this.

Peter Carrell said...

I thought we were still battling Arianism in the church :)

Anonymous said...

Well, as the little old Jewish woman said in Berlin in 1933 about the Kirchenkampf, 'Arianism, Aryanism, who cares as long as He loves His Mother?'

(My taseless version of this old joke:
'How's your son the lawyer, Mrs Finkelstein?'
'I'm worried, Mrs Mandelbaum - the doctor says he has an "oedipus complex."'
'Oy, oedipus, schmoedipus, who cares as long as he loves his mother?'