Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wrongly named international Anglican Coalition favours covenant

There can be but one interpretation of the announcement that an international Anglican coalition has been formed with the name 'No Anglican Covenant: Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity.' That is that the coalition favours a covenant binding Anglicans together, for what is an Anglican coalition with a website but a fellowship with a binding document, and what is a fellowship with a binding document but a covenantal community!

So unfortunately this coalition has the wrong name. It should be called 'Not that Covenant but this one: Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity'! Incidentally 'Comprehensive Unity' is a covenantal idea since it values unity around an agreed conception of comprehensiveness.

The website for the covenanting coalition describes its view in this way:

"We believe in an Anglicanism based on a shared heritage of worship, not on a set of doctrines to which all must subscribe. Our understanding of Anglicanism leads us to view the covenant as profoundly un-Anglican."

A 'shared heritage of worship' means what, these days? The Book of Common Prayer (1662, C of E)? Wait, every province has moved away from the BCP to one degree or another! A shared theology of worship? No. Some of us are to the right of Zwingli and some to the left of Benedict XVI!

Ah, but a 'shared heritage of worship' could mean something more precise, a 'shared heritage of worship' as defined by certain Anglicans, a sort of covenantal understanding of that heritage: here is our definition of it, do you sign up to it?

This description is also curious in another way. It pits 'shared heritage of worship' versus 'a set of doctrines to which all must subscribe' yet I am constantly told by Anglicans that we Anglicans express our doctrine in our liturgies. If I subscribe to the liturgies I subscribe to the doctrines!! What is this coalition trying to say here?

Then finally, note the nail which completes the building of an Anglican covenantal community, 'Our understanding of Anglicanism leads us to view the covenant as profoundly un-Anglican.' Here is covenantal Anglicanism smuggled into a sentence which appears to deny its possible existence: how can something be declared to be 'un-Anglican' if there is not a shared definition of what 'Anglican' is? Indeed the first part of the sentence makes just that claim: 'Our understanding of Anglicanism leads us to view ...'

In a nutshell this coalition is saying 'we prefer our covenant to the official Covenant'. As Anglicans we are free to express such preferences, but it would be more persuasive if better arguments for the preference were forthcoming.

PS I am surprised that there is not an Australian presence on the coalition when prominent theologian Bruce Kaye is a publicly declared opponent of the Covenant. Perhaps that presence is being negotiated as we speak!

PPS I am even more surprised that this kind of nonsense is being put out and about re the Covenant (source here):

"We believe that acceptance and approval of the current proposed

Covenant will:

o Bring historic changes to the nature of Anglicanism.

o Trade a vibrant and colorful Anglicanism for drab uniformity.

o Impede local mission and destroy creative evangelism.

o Trade local oversight for centralized decision making.
Thank you for your consideration of this message."

Trade a vibrant and colourful Anglicanism for drab uniformity?

Impede local mission and DESTROY creative evangelism?

Trade local oversight for centralized decision making?

Has the coalition read the Covenant?

As for 'Bring historic changes to the nature of Anglicanism': it looks like an egregious offence, until we consider that 'historic changes' happen continuously with or without a Covenant ... Synod of Whitby ... Wycliffe translating the Bible ... Henry VIII dismissing the pope's jurisdiction ... Cranmer rewriting the liturgies ... (jumping a few centuries) ... all provinces revising the BCP ... setting up Instruments of Unity ... ARCIC ...

I think global Anglicanism deserves a better quality of opposition to the Covenant!!


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

This is brilliant, Peter!

Brother David said...

You are just purposely being obtuse. You enjoy that role.

You understand exactly what they are saying and pretending that you do not.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I understand that a group of Anglicans across several countries are opposed to the Covenant. I do not understand why the arguments put forward on this particular website by this coalition of opponents are as weak as they are. I think there are better arguments against the Covenant and I would hope my "obtuseness" might lead to improvements.

Anonymous said...

The Solemn League and No Covenant aka 'No Papery Here' is simply the reshuffled pack of 20 or so retired British and American psychodrama queens that hang out on the 'Mad Priest" blog of a former cleric in England.
Truly, nothing to see here.

Al M.

Andrew Reid said...

Regarding the lack of an Australian connection, I don't think Bruce Kaye would want to be associated with this Coalition. The No Anglican Covenant group oppose the covenant because they want to continue to propagate the gospel of inclusion within the Communion, with its support for homosexuality and SSBs. They don't want any accountability to anyone else. A quick look at the Coalition members on the 'About' page confirms this.

Bruce Kaye and others like him in Sydney oppose the Covenant, but on different grounds - they think it won't solve the problem. It doesn't address the issue of 2 different gospels existing within the Communion, and doesn't form a credible body to implement it. It's like trying to reconcile a divorced couple who have no interest in reconciling, by using the husband's best mates as the 'impartial' conciliators.

If an Australian connection arises, it will be someone like Muriel Porter, Rev. Peta Sherlock, or Rev. Andrew McGowan. In the spirit of the Melbourne Cup which ran on Tuesday, maybe I should open a book on the likely candidate? ;)

In any case, the Australian General Synod has kicked the covenant down the road to 2013. The real battleground is the CofE, which I understand will consider it next year?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al and Andrew
In response (1) the Coalition of No may foster more media attention that mere blogs; (2) the NZ rep is not a drama queen; (3) point re Oz appreciated ... perhaps one could also add that some heavy matters are weighing on Australian minds these days, what with the Obamaesque shellacking the English cricket team is about to hand out in the Ashes :)

Alan Crawley said...

As someone against the idea of a covenant beyond what is already in place may I respond?

There already is a covenant relationship in the Anglican
Communion, and it appears to me to be reflected in what the campaign are asking for. Some argue that this is currently broken and needs fixing - hence the new covenant. To me this seems like suggesting that a couple who are fighting should get married to solve their problems.

One of the reasons for creating the BCP was to hold together those of different theologies in one Church. If you do not believe in this then the covenant makes sense, if you do it doesn't. This campaign appears to take the latter view.

Father Ron said...

I think, Peter, that you are trying to portray the 'NO COVENANT' movement as representing something which, in fact, it is not. To say that the slogan 'No Covenant' means simply 'Another Covenant' is surely begging the question of what the motivation is for its existence.

For us in New Zealand who arrived at a unique multi-cultural freedom in our Church to pursue the work of the Gospel in situ - with all that means in terms of living with differences - the idea of an imposed covenantal relationship from outside, which presumes to limit our interpretation of the Scriptures to what a conservative element in the Communion decides to set forth as THE standard of moral and ethical behaviour, is tragic.

Furthermore, an attempt by 'Global South' Churches - who have formed their own covenantal sodality in the 'Jerusalem Statement' - to influence the freedom of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada to ordain their own clergy and bishops according to their own specifications of suitability for ministry, is nothing less than scandalous. Judgementalism was one of the sins exposed by Jesus among the Pharisees. We do not want this ethos to prevail in the Church.

Anonymous said...

"Contrary to Al M's ad hominemism the Revd Jonathan Hagger is a fully licensed priest in the Church of England."

Now there you've put your finger on PRECISELY the Anglican problem! Trahison des clercs and traicion de clericos (desempleados). :)

Al M.

liturgy said...

The Church Times online question of the week was running at 3:1 in favour and now stands at 4:1 in favour of the Church of England rejecting the Anglican "Covenant".

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for recent comments!