Friday, July 1, 2011

Are Autonomy Alone members of the Communion going to leave?

I find it very hard to work out where TEC is going with its membership of the Communion in the context of "Will we, won't we sign the Covenant?" debates. On some readings of comments at Preludium (e.g. this thread) I sense a spittle-flecked raging against the Covenant and what it is alleged to stand for which does not see a simple logic and its conclusion: if the Communion becomes a Covenanted Communion, member churches opposed to the Covenant do not need to live with its (argued) oppressive consequences, they are free to leave to pursue their vision of Anglicanism.

In a sense to the "solas" of the Reformation (Sola Scriptura, etc) we have an emerging "sola" or "alone" in this new Reformation: Autonomy Alone. This is the stance of churches unwilling to countenance an understanding of 'Communion' in which autonomy is counter-balanced with interdependency and mutual accountability in an Anglican working out of catholicity and unity. All this and more is very well stated in this Catholicity and Covenant post.

Of course we may yet find that the overwhelming majority of member churches do not sign the Covenant. At that point we may conclude that Autonomy Alone is a mark of this new Reformation which applies almost uniformly to Anglican churches. But if an overwhelming majority of churches do sign the Covenant, would it not be a simple consistency of theological commitment to Autonomy Alone for the remaining churches to walk away?

PS. Yes, that may yet include my church ACANZP which I rate 60:40 likely not to sign the Covenant.


Canon Neal said...

Interesting question, Peter.

If I understand my fellow TECers, the answer is, no, we will not walk away. That may seem logical to you--and to me--but not to the majority of people in TEC opposed to the Anglican Covenant.

They view Autonomy-but-in-no-strings-attached-Relationship as normative for Anglicanism. So, logic would dictate that they can be in relationship with those who call themselves Anglican--except for the ACNA, AMiA, and other continuing churches--without being covenantally connected to anyone.

Thus, they will not walk away, because the norm is to be autonomous but in relationship with no obligation other than to meet to compare notes and have some semblance of missional cooperation.

I suppose the $84,000 question is, "What will the CofE do?" That will affect all answers and responses, in my opinion.

Peter Carrell said...

I entirely appreciate, Canon Neal, that if most member churches share TEC's autonomy -but-no-strings-etc view then 'that' is 21st century global Anglicanism defined, even deified!

But I wonder what penny might drop in TEC's mind if 21st century Anglicanism decisively reject that view?

I agree: what the C of E does, is hugely significant.

Juan Kinnear said...

Dear Peter

I can’t help but wonder whether the alternatives set out in this argument reasonably and fairly reflect the position of those among us who oppose the Anglican Covenant project.

Yes, the debate concerning the proposed covenant is not about events in New Hampshire, Los Angeles or Lambeth 1.10. But, it must be acknowledged that the status of GLBT Anglicans in our Communion features prominently on the backdrop against which the covenant project is playing out. Decisions in support, or against the covenant will be heavily influenced by constituent churches’ commitment/opposition to the admission of gay people to holy orders and the blessing of same-sex relationships. Conceivably, signing the covenant may bind churches to abandon their prior commitment to GLBT Anglicans, something they are unwilling to do. Can it be that, for them, a vote against the covenant is not a vote against the notion of one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, nor a vote for autonomy and gnosis above all else, but instead an act of fidelity to GLBT Anglicans based on their understanding of the Gospel?

A suggestion that opposition to the proposed covenant is a rejection of the creedal affirmation in unam, sanctam, cathólicam et apostólicam Ecclésiam, is simply over stating the case, in my view. It does nothing to foster ‘continual reciprocity’ and ‘permanent conciliarity’ of which Olivier Clement speaks in reference to catholicity and communion, instead exposing an itchy trigger finger, ready to dispatch dissenting Anglicans to the outer darkness. May I suggest theological hyperbole and prejudiced analysis of the motives of others do nothing to aid the health of our communion.



Brother David said...

We wish things to remain as they are Peter. If you want to change the AC to a covenant model, you may try. You may politic to bring about the change. But we may also politic to keep the status quo. And you can be sure that my province, even after having signed the covenant, would not accept anyone trying to pressure TEC, our Mother province, to walk away.

Pageantmaster said...

The CofE will sign.

God bless.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Juan,
I appreciate that some people will say 'no' to the Covenant because it is assumed to (e.g.) be anti-gay or (local to Aot NZ) anti-three tikanga, and will make such reasons explicit.

I try to take at face value those who say that autonomy is so important that the Covenant is wrong; but acknowledge other concerns can be in the background.

I think those wishing to defend (say) TEC as an exemplary participant of God's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church have some work to do (e.g. why in 2003 it proceeded to ordain Gene Robinson as bishop knowing it would divide the Communion, in spite of requests not to do so, and without having formally agreed through its GC to change of catholic doctrine. That hard work in explanation would apply to other Anglican churches. Some would say that our church is one of them!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I distinguish between pressuring TEC to walk away and raising the question whether TEC fully understands the logic of its position, should that position be out of step with the majority of the Communion.

It is early days to determine whether the Covenant has a majority or not. But Mexico has shown a good lead on this. Deo gratia.

Canon Neal said...


While it think it is fair to say that the events of New Hampshire, Los Angeles, and Lambeth 1.10 of 1998 have fueled the desire of some for an Anglican Covenant, the quest for a clearer definition of Anglicanism actually started much earlier.

This quest was really begun by Archbishop Michael Ramsey who voiced this concern following his meeting with Pope Paul VI in 1966 when he asked himself upon what basis did he, as Archbishop of Canterbury, represent a branch of the Church with a theology.

His questioning of what exactly is Anglicanism spawned a whole series of books and articles aimed at answering this question, such as, "Anglicanism and the Bible," "The Anglican Moral Choice," etc.

Certainly the movement in Sydney toward lay presidency of the Eucharist makes the question of Anglican identity, polity, and practice a necessary exercise for the church today.

Brother David said...

But Mexico has shown a good lead on this.

It has nothing to do with leadership. It has everything to do with our national personality as the Mexican people of not wanting to rock the boat or offend anyone.

Revd Stephen Donald (Tolaga Bay) said...

Hi Peter - is 'Autonomy Alone' a 'self-defined' and recognised group of Anglicans - or your categorisation of those Anglicans who understand that the Church is held together by 'bonds of affection' rather than requiring a confessional document with disciplinary provision?

Somewhere in all this discussion on what makes us Anglicans we seem to have lost sight of the 1888 Lambeth Quadrilateral; tis an 'an oldy but a goody' in my book. We'll remember this developed (initially within the PECUSA - TEC) as the Church of England recognised that missionary activity and colonial expansion had become the Anglican Communion.

A. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation”, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

B. The Apostle’s Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.

C. The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.

D. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and people called of God into the Unity of His Church.

For me, such a statement is sufficient, the problem with the ‘Anglican Covenant’ proposed is we playing at creating God in our own image and making up the rules to say who is in and who is out. Signing the proposed Covenant - or not signing - does not make any person, diocese or province / national church Anglican.

While I believe the GAFCON group have got it sadly wrong - I still recognise them to be faithful if somewhat misguided Anglicans - and from their actions (particularly 'cross-border interventions) many of those within GAFCON consider the rest of us badly in error or worse. But Peter, as I understand these churches are not even considering the Anglican Covenant, have they already left by your definition?

We all remain Anglicans, covenantors or otherwise, although the bonds of affection at present may be strained to breaking point. The derivation of the Maori word 'hoariri' (enemy) might be instructive here; hoa = friend, riri = angry. Within the context I live and work, this is demonstrated frequently; people who are bound by whakapapa (genealogy) from time to time have disputes (sometimes lasting more than one generation) but remain linked by familial bonds and common descent, and when the anger dissapates, move closer again. Food for thought here? Every Blessing

Anonymous said...

Peter, you very recently declared to me in a comment “No autonomy is going to be handed over to the Standing Committee.”

Now, once again, you write about the requirement to hand over autonomy. Without word games, point scoring, put downs, and style over substance, please can you clarify which it is you are arguing for - autonomy or not?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,
I take 'Handing over autonomy to the Standing Committee' to mean that a member church gives up its right to govern its future to the SC and determines it will follow that governance.

I understand that counterbalancing autonomy with interdependence to mean that a member church of the Communion, in the context of the Covenant operating in the Communion, is willing to listen to the Standing Committee's judgment on a matter brought to its attention and to engage seriously with that judgment and an expectation of following it, acknowledging that to then not be governed by that judgment likely would have 'Communion' consequences.

But ultimately, the autonomy is reserved to the member church, not handed over to the SC.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Steve,
I think 'Autonomy Alone' Anglican churches are those which specifically and explicitly acclaim their autonomy and assert that autonomy ahead of interdependence with other members of the Communion. Such churches likely will not sign the Covenant; whether they are 'bonds of affection' churches is a moot point ... some churches around the Communion these days do not seem very affectionate with each other these days!

I am not quite sure what the qualitative difference between the Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Covenant is: would not any new member admitted to the Communion need to sign up to their adherence to the LQ? Is not a distinction between an Anglican church and a Presbyterian church, the fact that the latter does not agree with the LQ?

As I understand it, only a few of the GAFCON Anglican churches have been clear that they will not sign the Covenant. A significant player within GAFCON is the Diocese of Sydney, but it belongs to a church which has not yet determined whether it will sign the Covenant or not.

There is food for thought in your reflection on the word 'hoariri.'


liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

I think there is a strongly protestant ecclesiology underneath your approach of – if you don’t like this list of beliefs go and start your own church with your own list of beliefs…

In fact, in the mess of the so-called “Anglican Covenant”, most don’t interpret those not signing up as leaving the Communion, rather those provinces will not have voting rights (they may have speaking rights) in some Communion meetings. And since the decisions made at Communion level aren’t binding on anyone anyway – clearly that is not a significant loss.

Stephen, don’t get us started again on the Lambeth Quadrilateral! LOL! That led to a very lengthy debate here recently from those who want to sign up to the Covenant, but don’t adhere to the details of the LQ within it

Peter, you used to say things like the “Covenant” won’t work unless something like 95% of the Provinces sign up. Now, your tone appears much more along the lines of we who sign up will be the true Communion and the rest of you can start your own.

Pageantmaster, yes the CofE will sign up. But only because they’ve carefully followed my instructions at “How to get a province to sign up to the “Covenant”” They have carefully sidestepped the autonomy question, just as Peter is doing, so that, as the established church, the issue doesn’t go to parliament.

[I think it would have been much more fun to have had the Covenant signed up and the Archbishop of Canterbury excluded because the CofE didn’t! In the mess of the "Covenant" that isn't even allowed for]

As it is, the provinces signing up are doing so by rewriting what it actually means to them. So ultimately, other than a great chance for some to get some free flights, it’s not going to change a thing.



Brother David said...

For me Peter, Padre Tobias says well, what we who do not wish a Covenent imposed upon the AC feel;

But it is the idea of being a fellowship, a communion — not a "church" or a "federation" — of self-governing churches whose individual decisions do not bind the others, even as they cooperate in mission and ministry, that forms our only peculiar offering to the tapestry of world Christendom. It is a model of service and fellowship, of work with rather than power over, commended by Christ himself as a model of churchly governance. If that is not worth preserving, then we have little else to offer.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,

I take your point well, that in the course of posts and comments I may be either changing my mind and/or giving misleading impressions.

(1) I am partly responding to some of my reading on Anglican blogs which (in my words) seems to say 'If that's what the Communion, with or without the Covenant, thinks Anglicanism is about, then we don't want a bar of it.' If so, what about pursuing the logic of your position and leaving so everyone is happier all round? But commenters around the blogosphere are not the whole of the Communion, so:

(2) What is the true Communion? I see this as still being played out. It may be a Communion with only a minority or an insufficient majority signing up. It may be a Communion with a large majority signing up. If the latter, I think a question does arise about how long the Communion could sustain 90-95% of its members operating with the Covenant and 5-10% without (and how would that work? Presumably non-signers cannot be given consequences for infringing that which they did not sign!). Then,

(3) I am not so much saying, "non-signers please start your own Communion," as "non-signers, you seem to be significantly out of step with, if not disturbed by the signers, would it be better for you if you formed your own Anglican entity." [The logic underlying this response, incidentally, is at work in the liberal end of the Anglican spectrum as much as the conservative end].

(4) The Communion will be what it will be. It is quite unclear to me at this stage whether (a) a large majority of member churches will sign to the Covenant; (b) the signing will be a robust embrace of the Covenant rather than a polite acceptance of it as a document to be attached to the appendices of local canons and constitution!

Anonymous said...

"It has nothing to do with leadership. It has everything to do with our national personality as the Mexican people of not wanting to rock the boat or offend anyone."

Except when a US soccer team is mentioned before as crowd - in California. La raza para siempre! :)

James said...

Rev Stephen Donald - Thank you for bringing up the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (CLQ). it just about always makes me very, very happy when I see someone mentioning our guiding principles as Anglicans; and it sums up nicely what it means to be a non-confessional body.

The CLQ, I think, is a wonderful description of a "dream church," good for churches which are generally already quite healthy. But the laws of polities apply here.

A sick, diseased polity which hasn't been accustomed to democratic functioning, is likely to become corrupt when governed by a constitution and polity designed for governing a healthy state full of citizens who respect democracy. It may actually need to be ruled under martial law for the protection of citizens from each other. Clearer laws stating specifically what may and may not be done are necessary; measures restricting free movement are necessary for the very protection of individuals at risk.

When we have a situation in which clerics teach their flocks things implying that Jesus is dead, and such teachings are being spread about the Communion - we are doing the very worst things which a church can do. We are not unlike a polity which kills its subjects with the argument that people are the source of strife. For we are most surely sowing spiritual death.

After a period of time - a few generations - if we have been good stewards of our freedom - we might return to a beautiful, enlightened set of principles like the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral - if, e.g., it is clear to all: "We must teach a Risen Christ."

But in the meantime, we must take some kind of action which assures that we will prevent ourselves from inflicting terrible harm upon the body of Christ.

Some pedophiles, realizing that the perverse form of their love is likely to harm children, turn themselves in to authorities to prevent harm from befalling children. We also should see how the form of our love for Christ's children has become corrupt and perverse; and that what we are teaching them is leading them astray into spiritual death, or even "anathema". Perhaps we as a Communion have even gotten beyond the point where we ourselves can be trusted to make for ourselves such laws; and that our guiding principles and laws should be handed to us by a gathering of churches who are faithful to Christ and His teachings by a convocation of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and reformed Christians. We do not know what we believe, or what we should believe; we do not know what we should do. But the overwhelming majority of us wish to remain Trinitarian Christians. So it may be time to ask the faithful Trinitarian Christians what this means, and how to be Trinitarian Christians.

At the moment, GAFCON is making suggestions ... but is not yet forming a "church within a church." I find it embarrassing (but probably necessary) that our clerics have to have it spelled out to them: "You must teach the bodily resurrection of Christ; or refrain from teaching entirely." But in looking at what we have done ... such embarrassment is probably necessary ... and will furnish a reminder for following generations of the dark and hideous situation the Anglican Communion found itself in our times.

Here, I am not endorsing GAFCON's approach, since I don't claim to completely understand it ... but I note how many seem to fancy themselves able to say "what these guys are up to and will surely do" ... though their predictions so far as to what GAFCON was about to do, have turned out quite wrong.

Brother David said...

As usual Peter the Greek, I have no idea what you refer to. And it is especially confusing with your faulty spelling or grammar.

Brother David said...

Dr Peter, I have never been taught by priests of TEC, the ACCanada or the ACMexico that Jesus was dead. At least not until I have heard it as an almost unending refrain here on your website.

I am a trinitarian Christian, as are the vast majority of Christians, including Anglicans/Episcopalians, with whom I am acquainted.

Your new poster has some really bizarre obsessions about which he goes on and on here on your blog.

Anonymous said...

"As usual Peter the Greek, I have no idea what you refer to. And it is especially confusing with your faulty spelling or grammar."

You need to get out more, David. I meant to type "before a crowd", referring to the booing of the US soccer team in LA in the recent US-Mexico watch. You didn't watch?


Father Ron Smith said...

"then 'that' is 21st century global Anglicanism defined, even deified!" - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Dear Peter, on reflection, does that not sound just a wee bit superior - even confrontational?

I'm of the firm opinion that the Anglican Communion as presently constituted is enough to keep us together in the Body of Christ - without having to subscribe to the proposed Anglican Covenant. After all, it has lasted us well - until the schismatics decided to leave.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

Your observation about the Communion arrangements to date serving us well is undone when you starting talking about schism. Clearly the arrangements have not served us well because they have not prevented schism. Why would we want to continue with those arrangements into the future?

I hope you don't mean that they have served the Communion-of-the-like-minded well.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I hope you don't mean that they have served the Communion-of-the-like-minded well."
- Peter Carrell -

Well, Peter, If we honestly feel we have 'The mind of Christ', YES!

James said...

Br. David,

I am happy indeed to hear that you consider yourself a Trinitarian Christian.

If you are confused, there's any number of sources you could turn to in order to confirm that Marcus Borg's teachings imply that, in plain language, Jesus is dead. Yes, Borg does speak of "the living Christ" - but "living" here is like the kind of "living" when we say "Elvis lives." You can find an article here by Borg on Christology. Note however how most items of language have changed to have completely new meanings - e.g., when Borg says: "the spirit of God embodied in a human life" - he does not mean what Trinitarian Christians would mean by these words - but something more like, "This is a man who did very, very good things, and taught some very, very good things - this is what we mean by embodying the spirit of God."

I suppose though it would help to make clear first where your confusion lies. Do you firmly object, as do I, to this being taught laypeople with the church's authority, thus being (either directly or indirectly) commended to belief? Or have you perhaps not yet fully considered the implications?

Don't you think that LGBT people have the right to be taught the gospel in its fullness, including the call to turn to our risen and living savior? Isn't it also a justice concern, if especially LGBT people tend to be attracted to this other gospel emanating from the church, given its historic and current ties to LGBT-associated activism (or perhaps you're also largely unaware of this)?

I know you have appreciation for Bishop Spong, and I don't want to confront you with this in an unpleasant manner; I also don't know what Bishop Spong taught you that summer. For all I know, it may have been legitimate enough teaching about the failings of many churches ... and there is much to teach on this topic. Having appreciation for Bishop Spong most certainly does not, by itself, separate you from Trinitarian Christianity, as you may be unfamiliar with parts of his teachings.

I'd simply say: familiarize yourself a bit with Marcus Borg's teachings on Christ, and ask yourself whether or not this is what Trinitarian Christians believe. E.g., do they consider that 'divinity' and what it means 'to be God' is a subset of purely human capacities, and reducible to those things which humans can do? Do they believe that, in plain language, Jesus is dead?

I may seem naive, or snarky, or both ... though I intend to be neither - but I'd simply suggest: an honest assessment of this may well help you understand that too much association between LGBT activism and TEC does not bode well for LGBT activism ... and that LGBT Christians could do a great deal for Christ and the body of Christ by calling TEC to attention regarding the importance of teaching its members to turn to the Risen and Living Christ.

If you begin to think of the consequences here, I think you'll understand why I am so passionate about how utterly wrong it is for churches to tolerate their clergy teaching their flocks to deny Christ (by teaching them not to believe in Him in His full identity for us). You could do the Anglican LGBT movement a great favor by calling them to help TEC in this way - LGBT Anglicans have a tremendously important voice in TEC.

Most conservatives, I think, would consider asking this as "pointless" - but I think - even if it may seem "pointless," why not at least try? God cherishes all His children, LGBT children included - as I try to do, but of course often fail. Much, much more basic a question than whether or not persons adhering to a particular sex ethic should be ordained or not is: do we wish to do what we can to nourish the faith in Christ of LGBT people?

James said...

Fr. Ron - I think a good case could be made for "Anglicanism" being deified if we approach the issue from a structuralist / linguistic perspective.

We tend to take various "interpretations" regarding the identity of Jesus Christ to be interchangeable ("bodily resurrection? grand metaphor for transformation? Of one being with God the Father? A set of superlative human capacities or actions?). We refer to Scripture in a manner more to embellish argumentation, as with other literary quotes, rather than as our source of inspiration and guide on issues of who God is, how we turn toward Him, how we lead lives to His glory.

With Jesus Christ and Scripture generally acting as signifiers with replaceable meanings ... these no longer order our discourse and action. Instead, we continually ask ourselves, "Is that Anglican?" So my thought - "How can we prevent clerics from using the authority the church has bestowed upon them, from denying (some doctrine) and teaching (an alternative doctrine) ..." - a question about the very formation, faith, and future of the body of Christ - is frequently turned away as being "un-Anglican" because it "does not respect Anglican comprehensiveness." "Where the rubber meets the road" - how we ultimately decide things - is largely determined by this "Anglican" thing, with a few meditative, interpretive glosses about 'God' and 'Scripture' along the way.

So a structuralist would conclude: "You seem here to be linguistically - in theory and practice - determining these signifiers 'God' and 'Scripture' on the basis of a central signifier 'Anglicanism,' and not vice-versa ... It is therefore 'Anglicanism' which functions as the divine, central signifier in your speech and praxis; 'God' and 'Scripture' rather have derivative meanings."

We may well say, "We're Anglicans, so it's okay for our priests to teach people that Jesus didn't rise from the dead - they are remarkably skilled at coming up with interesting substitutes - and we need to respect our many priests with their various teachings and ideas, and our heritage of precedent of what's been taught, more than these things you bring up like "the bodily resurrection of Christ" or "the divinity of Christ" - that's Anglican comprehensiveness for you!"

Whereas faithfully Trinitarian Christians would say: "Our church's polity and deliberations should come from our beliefs about God, which come from Scripture; the Resurrection is central to our belief, and church polity issues or specifics regarding interpretation are important to the functioning of the church, but are secondary to our faith in the resurrection. We do not claim to actually teach all things, or all possible beliefs; so we can not claim to be comprehensive or inclusive in every manner. Rather, we teach faith in the Risen Christ; and accept that this implies things which we do not teach, and do not do; and that some will go away from us disappointed."

That which functions as sacred is that which is irreplaceable and determining. And for many Anglicans - it's "Anglicanism" more than anything else, with God and Scripture functioning with interchangeable "interpretations" in order to facilitate the greater glory of Anglicanism.

Pageantmaster said...

Greetings Bosco - thanks for your response to my brief comment - good to make contact. Also, nice blog you have - I am partial to a bit of liturgy myself.

I am sure my church are very wise to be following your advice. I wish they would follow mine, but well, we can't all be CofE advisors.

God bless

Liturgical Pageantmaster

Anonymous said...

David, I am glad of your reassurance that no true Mexican would do such a thing - just as we know that true Scotsman would decline to eat haggis. ;)

"Palaiologos" (alethes Hellenikos)

Brother David said...

I did not say that no true Mexican would do such a thing. I have no idea how a Mexican crowd viewing that game in the US would behave. I am just pointing out to you that the crowd in question had very few Mexican citizens in it and why.