Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ABC Unequivocally Promotes Covenant

Alyson Barnett-Cowan (i.e. 'ABC' but not 'the ABC"!) makes a simple, succinct point about the Covenant. One many NZ students appreciate in the month of November: read it then respond! (In their case 'read the examination question'). Alyson is Director for Unity Faith and Order in the Anglican Communion Office.

"The first thing to say is that for any Anglican or Episcopalian to be able to properly enter into a discussion about the Covenant it is vital that they first read it for themselves here "

She goes on to point out the role of the Covenant as the opposite of draconian, devilish, or deranged:

"The point of the processes outlined in the Covenant is precisely to encourage one part of the Communion, when seeking to respond responsibly in its own context in mission, to consider how that will affect other parts of the Communion It is not that one Province would exercise a veto over another, but that there would be collaborative discernment. In a globalised world, it is no longer possible (if it ever was) for one church to act entirely for itself; decisions have ramifications, and the intention is for these to be explored together. "

But, or BUT, ABC goes on to say some things which, frankly, this pro-Covenant covenanter does not find as persuasive as he would like!

(1) The Covenant will work for those who sign up to it and the Communion will still work as a mixed group of signers and non-signers

"It is also not true that non-signatories would no longer count as part of the Communion. There will be Provinces which have adopted the Covenant, and there may be (though one hopes not) Provinces which have not. They are equally members of the Anglican Communion, according to the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council. The difference would be that signatories will have made a commitment to live in that communion in a particularly enhanced way, and to a process of consultation and common discernment."

Is not this an articulate form of nonsense? True, if 35/38 member churches sign up, three non-signers could be 'carried' along in some kind of communion as a Communion while 35 work 'in a particularly enhanced way etc'. But what if 19 sign and 19 do not, or 31 sign and the 7 non-signers are TEC, ACCan, ACAustralia, ACANZP, CofE, ACWales, and EpCScotland, would the Communion really be able to operate as a (so to speak) mixed economy? I suggest the ACO works on clarity about the level of support the Covenant requires for it to be a meaningful rather than nonsensical document.

(2) The Covenant will make a difference (badly illustrated)

One of the arguments against the Covenant is that it is not needed as current structures are sufficient to deal with imaginable future developments. So I find a less than helpful point being made when we read this:

"The assertion is often made that the ordination of women could not have occurred if the Covenant were in place. It is not at all clear that this would have been the case. The consultative processes of the Anglican Communion actually resulted in the discernment that this was an issue about which Anglicans were free to differ. That is exactly the kind of discernment that is needed when any new matter emerges: how do churches in communion distinguish between that which may further the Gospel and that which may impede it? There are never simple answers, but the intent is that the Anglican Communion Covenant provides a way of doing this in a collaborative and committed manner."

The intent is one I agree with: to counter assertions about a hypothetical situation (if the Covenant had been in place then X would have/not have taken place). But the wording here undermines the Covenant. If the pre-Covenant Communion previously found a way to engage in common discernment on a tricky matter, why would it need a new way via the Covenant?

The better argument to make here is that the pace of communication around the globe today means that we are interconnected as member churches of one Communion in a different manner to the past. A formerly ad hoc approach to controversial matters, appropriately informal and patient over time, now needs a structured, clear, formal process able to be entered into with speed and efficiency (even if the process, once engaged, should take as much time as the particular issue warrants).

I imagine that both supporters and opponents of the Covenant might agree on one thing, at least, about ABC's post: it has a whiff of panic about it! We can be sure, by the way, that the ABC will have approved of ABC's action in writing and publishing this promotion.


Anonymous said...

The reason the covenant is needed now is that the historical situation has changed. The forces of divergence have become greater - the self confidence in the Global south, the reach of liberal thought in the west - and the forces of continuity have weakened. The current instruments and conventions are apparently not capable of dealing with the current situation. The idea of covenant is a response to the anxiety that we are no longer capable of recognising one another as memebers of the same communion - and like it or not this isa widespread fear throughout the communion

Rhys L

Brother David said...

A big whopper here. Lie, not a hamburger.

That the actions of one province have untoward consequences for another province elsewhere. A classic example of the idea that if you repeat a lie often enough most folks will forget that it is a lie and take it for the truth. There is absolutely no evidence on the ground that this is the case. Just a few over indulged, loud mouthed African primates who have promoted this concept.

And yet when TEC and ACCanada missionaries on the ground in Africa, working among the people of these provinces inquire about the truth of the matter, time and again they draw looks of confusion. The people have no idea of what they speak. The topics of discord in the Communion do not touch the lives of the people. They are more concerned with obtaining their family's next meal. Materials for a sturdy home. Sanitary water. A basic education for their children. They are grateful for the assistance of Christian brothers and sisters regardless of their particular take on women bishops, same gendered marriages or partnered gay bishops!

The only primate with a concrete example of how same gendered marriages and gay and lesbian priests has effected his province was the rambling presentation where the Archbishop of Cape Town chastised the TEC PB publicly last summer in the UK. Guess what his complaint was? When he met with the press they always wanted to ask him about the issues in the churches in North America and he could not talk about the issues which he wanted to speak to the press about.

I would also question the speculation regarding women's ordination. It was the lack of communion processes for consultation that allowed provinces to proceed with their own channels of internal consultation that resulted in them proceeding with WO. By time any consultation took place on the Communion level the cat was out of the bag and conclusions contrary to the reality on the ground would have been moot.

Suem said...

Yes, it was an articulate form of nonsense, maybe it would be unkind to say it was an articulate form of nonsense minus the articulate bit.

liturgy said...

Thank you, Peter, for highlighting another confused promotion of the "Covenant" which, as you indicate, this promotion will have the approval of the chief promoter, Abp Rowan. I have actually read the "Covenant" as suggested - certainly, as presented in the link, it is a confusing document in swapping, without any reason, between "communion" and "Communion". That you can now be a member of the Anglican Communion without signing the Covenant needs to be clearly spelled out in the actual document. But as this is the final version - let's just be neat about its messiness and confusion and not sign.

Peter Carrell said...

Briefly, all comments appreciated.

I disagree with you, David: say the whole of Australia were to agree with Sydney and institute Australian wide diaconal presidency: I think that is untoward re the whole Communion re our common understanding of Anglican orders.

Bosco: if we all signed up, that would be neat; and the first post Covenant meeting could sort the caps!

Brother David said...

You speak of an event of fiction thus far Peter. I speak of real events that have occurred. There is no evidence that TEC and AC Canada, along with ACANZP, AC Mexico, AEC Brazil, EC Central America, Scottish EC, CiW, AC Southern Africa and who else escapes me, ordaining women to all orders of ministry has adversely effected any other province.

And there is no evidence that the movement of TEC and AC Canada blessing same gendered marriages or ordaining same gendered partnered folk to all orders of ministry has adversely effected any province, aside from their well feted, pot bellied primates screaming that it is so.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
You are focusing on adversative effects of one province's action on another or other provinces. I (and I believe other Covenant supporters) are focused not on effects 'on another church' but on effects on our shared understanding of what it means to be Anglican.

The diaconal presidency example is not completely fictional as this is operating within a diocese, and does raise significant questions about whether having a shared understanding of orders matters for a common understanding of being Anglican.

The ordination of women, for the most part, has led across the Communion to an agreement that it is not unAnglican to ordain women (i.e. even Anglicans who do not ordain women are prepared to accept that Anglicans can ordain women. Those who cannot so accept at best are struggling and at worst have left us).

The question of the ordination of women cannot be said to be completely without effect as some feel strongly that it has driven the wedge deeper between Canterbury and Rome. (Others, I know, do not feel so strongly about that).

One final point: you may be missing the converse of 'adversative effects'. That is, the possibility that when one member church does something and it is not challenged as being outside the Anglican limits to diversity then other member churches say 'See, X has made radical change Y. Why don't we do that too!'

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing in Christian theology as "same gendered marriage". It is a recent invention of post-Christian schismatics. There is nothing new in this; it goes back at least as far as Tertullian and his 'New Prophecy' movement. And while it is entirely possible to have a conservative or traditional "style" of liturgy, that is no guarantee of truth or apostolic fidelity in a leader or teacher. I know of nobody who really believes that Schori et al are traditional or orthodox believers. People may be nurtured in their early years in an orthodox and traditional, even fervently evangelical version of Anglicanism. But they can also turn against it, even if they retain some of the traditional language. I've seen this happen on more than a few occasions, usually over personal sexual issues. Christian faith is systemic (ethics and doctrine belong together), and I am increasingly convinced it is impossible to maintain a traditional faith alongside modern secular or postmodern sexual mores.
A last remark to people of a legalistic (tunnel vision) cast of mind: the fact that something has been 'legally enacted' according to canons, rules etc of duly ocnstituted bodies is no guarantee of truth or righteousness, as the hapless defendants of Nuremberg discovered.
Al M.

Kurt said...

“The topics of discord in the Communion do not touch the lives of the people. They are more concerned with obtaining their family's next meal. Materials for a sturdy home. Sanitary water. A basic education for their children. They are grateful for the assistance of Christian brothers and sisters regardless of their particular take on women bishops, same gendered marriages or partnered gay bishops!” --David

David is exactly right. The membership growth in most GS churches is directly attributable to the dysfunctional natures of their national states, not the doctrines promoted by the con evos there. These post-colonial countries, half a century after independence, still are unable to provide their peoples with basics that those of us in the West take for granted.

The Anglican Communion has already split. When GS bishops refused to receive the Holy Communion with TEC Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, the AC as we knew it, ended. When GS countries changed their Constitutions, downgrading or eliminating the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in their churches, they split from the AC. Williams and others are simply in denial.

I can assure Peter that TEC will not approve the so-called Covenant—not without very major changes, anyway, such as eliminating the punitive sections.

Kurt Hill
Enjoying the beautiful fall foliage
In Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
If the Communion is split, and TEC won't sign the Covenant, why would TEC stay in a Communion which agrees to the Covenant?

Kurt said...

"If the Communion is split, and TEC won't sign the Covenant, why would TEC stay in a Communion which agrees to the Covenant?"

Because, Peter, we were instrumental in founding the Anglican Communion. It would not exist without us.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Does it occur to anyone else, or just to me, that if Kurt (above) is correct (TEC will stay in the AC, come what may) that we are doomed to be dysfunctional whether we (the rest of us) sign the Covenant (TEC won't sign but will stay) or do not sign the Covenant (disintegration will continue unabated)?

Brother David said...

Peter, if the Communion is dysfunctional or impaired it is not by the choice of those of us who are liberal minded in our Christianity. We have not cut relationship with anyone. We have not forced what we believe to be true and the leadership of the Holy Spirit on others. That is the doing of "the other side". Folks who hand out ultimatums and threats as their take on following Christ. We are open to studying, praying and communing with everyone. We have cut no one off nor thrown anyone out. And we ask the same of our brothers and sisters with differing opinions. The ball is in their court*, or if you are so inclined, it is in your court.

We have no plans to leave. We have no plans to withhold fellowship. We have no plans to stop assisting the ill and suffering, the poor, the lame and the blind, those seeking the help to better their lives and the lives of those they love. We believe that we are doing what Jesus would do. And what Jesus would want us to do. If you lot cut us off you will have to be the ones to leave to do so. We are not going anywhere.

"He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in."
- -- Edwin Markham

*Basketball metephor.

liturgy said...

Yes, Peter, it has been occurring to lots of us for quite a long time, and I have repeatedly said it, both here, and on my site. I'm pleased that it has finally occurred to you: This "Covenant" won't fix this "problem".

The article of this post reveals that provinces will continue members of the Communion whether they sign or not. You have declined to respond to whether there will be a Communion with a capital c and one with a lower case c. The "Covenant" is unclear about all such details - they appear unimportant to you, but for others of us they just demonstrate the ambiguity of what you are advocating we sign up to.

It's more than ticking "I have read and agree to" a software licence - this is more like those online IQ tests where you end up finding out there were consequences in the fine print :-)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
You write of many aspects of the situation, some agreeable, some not so; but I take up just one aspect, when you write, "We have not forced what we believe to be true and the leadership of the Holy Spirit on others." Part of the problem in the Communion is that while such things have not been 'forced' on others, they have not been submitted to the wider assessment of the whole Communion either. Part of the struggle in the Communion is with the notion that the Holy Spirit is leading in one way in one place and in another in another, without any sense of mutual submission of such claims for discernment by the whole body. Consequently and unsurprisingly we are divided.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I think I have been personally fairly consistent for a while now in saying that I do not think the Covenant amounts to much in respect of the life of the Communion if less than 80% or so sign to it. (I acknowledge that other pro-Covenanters take a different view). The ability of the Covenant to change anything, IMHO, lies in the common accord established by member churches signing to it and then living by it. If that common accord does not exist then (I presume) Communion life will go on much as now: a formal Communion which never quite gets bishops of member churches all around one table; a set of communions among members of the Communion; and, just possibly, an emerging sense that the strongest Anglican communion (small c deliberate) is the largest and most cohesive set of member churches (e.g. Global South).

Anonymous said...

"We have not forced what we believe to be true and the leadership of the Holy Spirit on others."

David has just proved what I asserted about him and his coreligionists: that they are the schismatic heirs of Montanus, claiming to have the special leading of the Holy Spirit on the cause du jour, homosexuality. What will it be tomorrow - polyamory?

Like Montanus, David and his schismatic party have not submitted to the judgment of the Church Catholic. And like the Gnostics of the second century, they can be pretty adept in using traditional Christian vocabulary (as well as avoiding it at times) but mean something quite different by it. That's what their trailblazer "Bishop" Spong did, until he pretty much gave up any pretense of orthodox belief, and that's what "Bishop" Holloway of Scotland did, until he came out as an atheist. Tec bishops used Spong as a stalking horse, to take the flak while they pushed out the boundaries. Do you wonder why we orthodox Anglicans find it hard to have confidence in you guys? We know what trajectory you are on, even if some of you began your Christian lives as conservative evangelicals (as I think Spong did) or as conservative Anglo-Catholics, as Holloway did. At some point in your lives you lost the plot, and now you claim to be led by the Holy Spirit. Just like Montanus.

Al M.

Brother David said...

What will it be tomorrow - polyamory?
I rest my case from the other thread. It is said as a useless comment to startle, to insult our intelligence and to divert the discussion. The kamikaze pigeon runs are pure fecal matter!

Did I hear the fallacy of an appeal to numbers?

Shall I embroider a big red H for heretic on my clothes? I shall wear it as a Badge of Honor.

But as I have separated from no one I shall leave the title schismatic for those who have actually left the church.

Kurt said...

“Do you wonder why we orthodox Anglicans find it hard to have confidence in you guys? We know what trajectory you are on…blah, blah, blah, blah.”—Al

Gimme a break. You really expect serious people to comment on this kind of childish crap?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY