Thursday, May 26, 2011

Into the breach once more: the Covenant's excellent vision of Communion

Is there any other part of the current life of the Communion which publishes essays of consistently high quality than the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI)? Derided as four guys and a laptop, the ACI actually has more brains per letter of its abbreviation than any equivalent I am aware of. (Certainly lots more than ADU has!?).

Thier latest publication, "The Covenant: What is It All About?", an essay by Philip Turner, is a superb apologetic for the whole Covenant, even Section 4, which neatly pushes hard against both groups of Covenant opponents, the progressives emphasizing member church autonomy and conservatives pushing for confessionalism. Here is the money quote in my view:

"The Anglican Communion is not simply a federation of churches joined (voluntarily) in a common task. It is a communion of belief and worship as well as mission. Conversely, the Anglican Communion is not a confessional body that can be identified by common subscription to a series of assertions. It is a body bound in the communion of Christ by mutual “recognition”–recognition by each in the other of fidelity to the witness of Holy Scripture as mediated through the traditions of the church. Recognition arises out of honest exchange between partners committed to sustaining communion and arriving at a common mind. It involves not only determination of truth but also forms of relationship and the presence of graces through which truth can be discerned. According to this view communion involves both mutual adherence to the truth of God in Christ and mutual subjection in love."

There is lots more. Essentially Turner is expounding the excellence of the Covenant's internal vision of Communion for Anglicans. Read it there, comment here!

Philip Turner nails down a key question which is a threaded theme in my own reflections on the Communion: what does it mean to be a Communion? Consequential questions then are, Do we want to be a Communion or not? Will avoidance of the Covenant make us something other than a Communion? (I note the alternative of a 'federation' mentioned above).  Turner's own church, TEC, is in the gun in his essay. But my own church could just as easily be in the gun: we are quite keen on our own autonomy, on forging our own pioneering/prophetic path. The more we do so the less Communion means to us. Rhetorically we say we belong, practically we are unwilling to submit to others. God will be the judge of our reality.


Pageantmaster said...

Without working Instruments which underly and form the working cogs of the Covenant, the last of which was emasculated at Dublin, it is all dust in the wind, and I say that as someone who has supported the Covenant in the past.

Plus listen to AB Venables' interview on Anglican TV - 3/4 of the Communion just aren't listening any more, so discredited is the London structure after Dublin.

That is where we are - everything else is denial and wishful thinking. Just my view.

But Grace and Peace to those who labour to make sense of this.

Anonymous said...

"the ACI actually has more brains per letter of its abbreviation than any equivalent I am aware of. (Certainly lots more than ADU has!?)."

- Peter Carrell -

Dear Peter,
You do have a habit of wearing your heart on your sleeve - with this outrageous fawning to the neo-con '4-theologians' on the poorly-named "Anglican Communion Institute' web-site.

Doctor Turner's oft-times wordy epistles to the Church at large are, I find, little more than bombastic homage to the status quo in conservative Anglicanism. The other three theologians within the claque are no more 'brainy' than those more modern theologians who take the trouble to exegete the scriptures in a more disciplined and eirenic way that allows for the revelation of new insights into sexuality and gender in today's world. 'Passe' is perhaps the best way to describe ACI's understanding of the genius of Ekklesia Anglicana

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous (please give a name next time - that's the policy here - but I am happy to publish your comment in this instance because you are very kind to me),

There is a lot of 'bombastic' about on the Anglicanet these days. But little of it is as intelligent as the four guys.

Bryden Black said...

From my own understanding of the evolution of this Anglican Communion Covenant business from TWR onwards, coupled with a serious commitment to the RCD, I can only endorse Dr Turner’s “display” of the Covenant’s “logic”. Furthermore, given precisely those two terms, “mutual accountability” and “recognition”, being so ably and necessarily displayed by Turner, I cannot for the life of me acknowledge either the case of the so-called ‘progessives’ or that of the ‘traditionalists’ (in Turner’s schema here, and here alone!) to be anything like robust enough. For both would appear, to me at least, to be rather small-minded in their grasp of “Anglicanism” (albeit in slightly different ways).

Both try to march to a drum inimical to a Reformed Catholicism so delightfully displayed by say the likes of Hooker, or even a Quick or Sykes. In which case, if at all an accurate assessment, then of course they will both oppose either “mutual accountability” or “recognition”. For in the end, both ‘progessives’ and ‘traditionalists’ (in Turner’s usage NB again) are just too sectarian to truly acknowledge the necessary Common Life that IS the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, should the AC Covenant indeed fail in the end, what has won out is yet more fragmentation of the Body of Christ - a fragmentation, it must also be acknowledged, which has been driven by a blindness every bit under the judgement of John ch.9 (for example).

Even as ARCIC III gets going, what staggeringly ironic times we live in ...!

Peter Carrell said...

At risk of being praised, once again, for 'fawning,' I like what you say, Bryden :)

James said...


Peter is simply saying that amongst the essays Anglicans publish, ACI stuff is consistently the best. That you refrain to mention a single essay characterized by taking "trouble to exegete the scriptures in a more disciplined and eirenic way that allows for the revelation of new insights into sexuality and gender in today's world" is characteristic of what you call the approach which is no longer "Passé" in the Ekklesia Anglicana:

Reliance upon emotive language with little ground; characterization of ideas according to persons and sociological groups one thinks is likely to agree with such ideas, rather than analysis of the ideas themselves, or general questions concerning rationality.

Your comment here is quite apt since it is so characteristic of the current Ekklesia Anglicana and our tendencies to write in the style of emotional puff-pieces, resorting to insinuation rather than reason. This is why, I think, the greater minds tend, these days, to join other churches, allowing us to wallow in an intellectual world which is generally rather numbing and blighting. In the Anglican world, the puff pieces are "in"; the pieces reflecting more scholarly responsibility and intellectual acumen are "Passé" (yawn, "it's bombastic - whatevah").

In celebration of the ACI, here's one of my favorite essays on things Anglican from back in 2005. Turner himself was previously dean of the Episcopal Berkely Seminary at Yale; this article has also been described by Dean Munday of (Episcopal) Nashotah House Seminary as the best article he's read in its concise summary of the situation in TEC. An Unworkable Theology.

The article itself perhaps casts light on this rather blighting phenomenon we're experiencing in the Communion - with a rather reductionist and monotonous discourse where everything is related to "love." Love itself, of course, is intriguing, when we have the spectrum of many values and theological concepts with which to work. But we are in the process of making love itself rather grey and boring by reducing everything else to this singular, over-arching concept.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks James; and for the link.

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Peter! Fancy my comments being labelled 'Anonymous' - a nomenclature I certainly do not endorse! Could there have been a malfunction of the web-site, on item 2, do you think?

Regarding the ringing endorsements of Bryden and James of the A.C.I. and its Four Theologans - again, not unexpected of them. However, that still does not authenticate Doctor Turner's conservative view of the Church Universal, nor even of our little Anglican bit of it.

And as for Bryden's remark about ARCIC III; with our own Archbishop David Moxon as co-Chair of the new arrangement, I can see the real possibility of some progress in hermeneutical discipline within that Body. I am beginning to have some hope of progress there.
Christ IS Risen, Alleluia!

Peter Carrell said...

Understood, Ron - Blogger comments have been playing up a bit lately.

I think there is some irony going on re ARCIC III - working on what we have in common with the Romans while the Communion dissolves is, well, being diplomatic, ironic.

Bryden Black said...

Many thanks indeed James for turning people to this article from First Things, which goes by another name in the Radner /Turner co-authored book, The Fate of Communion (2006). There its title is “ECUSA’s God and the Idols of Liberal Protestantism” (its contents being very slightly reworked also). I think I prefer this punchier title!

It tells us basically why such “theology” is “unworkable”: its ‘god’ is essentially an idol, a sociological projection. And just so a sectarian denial of the Living God of Nicene Christian Faith. [Love that reference to the Baganda and “mother’s cooking”; nicely ironic ...!]

James said...

Yesterday I was writing to an Episcopalian acquaintance about his trust in +KJS and, doing some research, came upon something new and thus wrote this article about a continuing cover-up on the part of TEC Church Center regarding the election anomaly of +KJS, which made me think of some of the discussions here (and elsewhere) in the Communion. We are using a lot more emotive language and "group-association" language instead of speaking of issues in depth. Fr. Ron, I "call you out" in my last comment for it (didn't know it was you at the time), but I catch myself doing it increasingly as well, and conservatives are doing it a lot these days as well (though imho not nearly so much as TEC loyalists). I do think that our current patterns of discourse are worth a pause for thought.

Bryden, thank you!

Peter, it would be interesting to hear what you think about the apparent cover-up mentioned in the article, as well as our patterns of discourse in the Communion - you might find the two are related. I tend to think that with the loss of Christ as our center, moving into more politically progressive, non-Trinitarian Christian forms of Jesus-following, that our discourse is being eroded, and our language being gradually voided of meaning. George Steiner has a lovely essay on this effect but unfortunately I don't have his book at hand.

Fr. Ron, the article might make you consider the possibility that a more critical attitude toward TEC might be good in the long term for the cause of LGBT ordination in the Communion. I do think that if LGBT allies could distance themselves from the perception (or actuality) of advocating non-Trinitarian Jesus-following inside the church, this would improve their general reputation.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James,
From a long way away: pursuing the PB on the question of changing her Wiki bio seems akin to pursuing Obama over his birth certificate or Bush over the hanging chads of his first election: no matter where it goes, no one is going to unelect the elected one.

As far as I am concerned the PB is a perfect representative of the controlling theological, ethical and sociological paradigm which governs the mind of TEC. Change the paradigm not the PB, that could be something to consider.

Yes, it is possible that the Communion at large has no idea what is going on as TEC representatives work out their strategies here and there among the Communion's many bodies. But isn't it also possible that other Anglican folks are doing that too?

James said...

I have no illusions that the PB will get unelected; however, the breach in ethics at her election should be investigated rather than hidden from the public eye.

We tend to think that "bad things" happen only when devious individuals are scheming about their hideous plans. This is not my view of this situation. The simple precedent established here means if I falsely represent myself to you and you confront me on that fact ... I can charge you with hypocrisy, since you are pointing out my error, while you haven't done so for the PB.

This is much more a case of ethical and linguistic decay not willed by anyone, rather than of scheming and bad intentions.

With regard to the cover-up - it's understandable enough and "human" enough for an institution to want to relegate the seamier parts of its history to the wastebin, and peering unto such seamy parts is never pleasant. But it's essential to understand such history are we to avoid its repetition, and avoid the spread of corruption.

So in your words - yes, it's the social and ethical paradigm I'd like to see changed, and not the PB. But we need to study it first. We have the dilemma here: either we mention problems we've encountered, but anonymously - a rather fair response is, "That may have never happened. You need to give me a name, place, and time, or we have no context and can't control if you're just spreading rumours." However, begin to provide that context and a response is often: "You are being mean to that group / place / person, you are a hater / nasty person."

I'd suggest: Communion-wide, we need to be a bit more open to recognizing that all is not well and rosy. Were we more open to this kind of thinking, very likely an inquiry would have been made long ago about the election ... or perhaps the information wouldn't have been falsified in the first place.

James said...

Peter, as for your last question "other Anglicans" - we Anglicans tend to like to be "middle guys," saying "a pox on both camps of extremists, here's the right, middle way - follow me." Sometimes this is accurate - sometimes it isn't. If there's a real "exotic" extreme here in the opposite direction, I suppose it would be the diocese of Sydney - but then with an entirely different ethos, and an entirely different set of their own church diseases. Unfortunately I'm not that familiar with them. I don't like hearing (as I do) that Anglo-Catholic parishes have got it rough over there. I don't like what I hear from some "Evangelicals" about Anglo-Catholics in general, nor do I like the tendency of lumping people into categories like, "the liberals ... (bla bla bla)." But as far as real "fieldwork" experience - I have more experience with Evangelicals outside of the Communion - where I am intimately familiar with their various shortcomings - about which I can drone on and on, as I perhaps shall someday in a new article - especially since I think that critics of Evangelicals in the Anglican world seem to get a number of things wrong here (and also because of how there are many marked similarities between them and some "liberal" Anglicans).

Re. elections: If there had been some official summary of Obama's experience presented to Americans for the election, and that summary said that he'd been a brain surgeon at Crabtree Hospital, Chicago - and after election, when it was revealed there was no Crabtree Hospital in Chicago, Obama said he used to bandage the heads of kids who fell from the swings over at Crabtree Park, which is why ... he told us he was a brain surgeon at Crabtree Hospital ... well, I'd call for an inquiry as to what happened & why, and how we can as a culture try to prevent that sort of confusion. Which is to say, this isn't a mere case of counting hanging chads or interpretations of vote counting. I'm pointing this out because during my term as Secretary of Communications of the United Nations, I sometimes noticed that ... well, I'll spare you the story.

Bryden Black said...

Peter, I am not sure the comparisons you mention are commensurate - even though I do agree the elected are here to stay!

For my money, a far better ecclesial electoral analogy would be the high-jacking of the electoral process in 2001 by Nolbert Kunonga in the Diocese of Harare ... And he too still remains in power. Even as Chad Gandiya, the genuine occupant of the see, chairs Communion theological gatherings at Canterbury!!

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks James and Bryden,
If an enquiry re the change to CV got underway I would watch it with interest etc. But I would not want to encourage misplaced energy pursuing an outcome that is never going to happen. (All slightly different from expending energy (1) pursuing improved systems of counting in elections; (2) compelling candidates to provide full length birth certificates from the start; (3) in future episcopal elections, ensuring that due diligence is done on CVs).

As for general corruption/corruptedness of offices and administrations in the churches of the Communion: we might also allow God to work out his judgments!

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

"Rhetorically we say we belong, practically we are unwilling to submit to others." ~ Peter Carrell

Speaking from within the Episcopal Church, I can say that, sadly, this is only too true.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Illness and long electrical black-outs have kept me from wading into this one so far :)
I appreciate Phillip Turner's thought out and reasoned advocacy for the Covenant. If the ABC and other Covenant advocates could plead its case so convincingly, it might be in better shape. He has convinced me that this Covenant could work as a long-term remedy for the Communion, although I would still want a stronger confessional basis and a different body to the current standing committee to oversee it.
Where I see the problems is that this Covenant does not address the current crisis with TEC and ACoC. It is like developing a long term treatment plan for a patient in cardiac arrest. It will only work once the patient is stable. There is too much damage from broken relationships and unrepentant action for a Covenant to work that includes TEC and ACoC. For 10 years, they have refused all efforts to bring them back within the miainstream belief of the Communion, whether that was initiated by the Primates, the Windsor Group or the ABC. Who can believe they share a common faith with us, when they have been undermining that faith for so long? Who can believe they will submit to any consequences, when they have refused all such efforts in the past?
What we need now is emergency medicine that clarifies which gospel we are living and proclaiming, and who are our fellow workers in that task.

Peter Carrell said...

Sorry to hear you have been ill, Andrew.

Yes, long-term the Covenant is moving in the right direction for the unity of the communion, by providing a basis for the common bit in 'communion.'

No, short-term, there is no solution ...

liturgy said...


Just to translate Andrew’s comment:
Sections 1-3 of the Covenant won’t do.
Section 4 is not right.
The ABC and other Covenant advocates are not convincing.
Other than that, long-term the Covenant is moving in the right direction.
Very convincing!
Now do we accede or subscribe to it – that’s the bit I now find confusing.


Christ is risen!