Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Diocese of Christchurch Covenant motion

A correspondent here reports that the Diocese of Canterbury in England has voted in favour of the Covenant (report is here), and raised the question what my diocese, of Christchurch (i.e. Canterbury and Westland, NZ) has decided re the Covenant. The answer is that we have a one day synod on Saturday 21 April and the draft motion in the synod papers reads thus:

"That this Synod, 1. Affirms the Covenant in principle; 2. Supports Parts 1 to 3; 3. Supports in principle the adoption of Part 4.

Naturally I disagree with this motion as currently worded. Can you work out why I disagree with it?

Incidentally, this is what ++Rowan, who will be visiting our fair city and see later this year, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, to whom ++Rowan delegates oversight of Canterbury Diocese had to say to his synod about the Covenant,

"The Anglican Covenant, which we are about to debate, takes us into the very heart of what we believe to be our church’s true vocation within God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It seeks to explain how we are called to grow more fully into the life of “mutual responsibility and interdependence”.

We miss entirely the fundamental point if we see the Covenant, as some do, merely as a product of disagreements over human sexuality, or as a way of excluding those churches which act unilaterally without the consent or understanding of the wider Communion. Instead the Covenant places God’s vision for God’s Church and God’s world centre stage and then invites us to live into this as our overriding calling.

Contrary to what some might argue, it does not, in my judgment, create new structures or new authorities. Nor does it seek to offer legal solutions to the failure of human relationships. But equally it challenges any understanding, again erroneous in my judgment, that our Anglican Communion is nothing more than a series of independent churches linked in some sort of federation. Instead it offers us ways of living faithfully and authentically, offering us processes of handling differences while at the same time allowing for the Spirit of God to breathe new life into our existing Communion framework. It enables Anglicans across the world and Christians of other denominations to understand who we are and how we seek to share in God’s work. In these times of anxiety, it surely demonstrates the stability of the standing cross. Personally I support the Covenant wholeheartedly and I hope that Synod will do the same when we come to vote."


liturgy said...

Greetings, Peter,

Since you disagree with the motion, am I right to understand you will be voting against it?



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I am being a little bit teasing with the comment!

I agree with Parts 1 and Part 2.

Depending on the course of the debate I could propose an amendment to Part 3, but, ever the pragmatist, I would be unlikely to propose an amendment if I thought it would not fly (but then I might if the debate was lacklustre I thought it needed a prod into liveliness).

As for voting: I will be interested to see whether we will vote on the motion in its parts (I might then vote against Part 3). But on voting for the motion as a whole I think it would lack political astuteness to vote against the motion as that vote might join with people voting against the motion because they generally do not support the idea of an Anglican Covenant, let alone this particular one.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, if - as you imply - the Covenant was not raised up as a tool for dealing with 'problems' of gender or sexuality (remembering that these were basic to the excuses for those departing membership of the Communion for 'safe havens') - then what do you think - precisely - is the reason for imposing a disciplinary Covenant upon the Communion?

And could we not just continue as we are now - for those of us who have remained members of the Anglican Communion - in Fellowship with one another in pursuit of the gospel of God's Love for ALL?

Father Ron Smith said...

I still find Section 4:2, and, by implication; 4:3, to be inimical to the traditional Anglican ethic of 'Unity in Diversity' which, to my mind at least, is a first step in the wrong direction.

On these grounds; Instead of being an enabling document, the intended disciplinary element contained in the proposed Covenant document becomes exclusionary rather than 'inclusive' - a charism, which is a fundamental mark of the Gospel.

Emily Shepherd said...

The quotes you attribute to ++R are actually quotes from the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, to whom ++R delegates oversight of Canterbury Diocese. Archbishop Rowan was not present at Canterbury Diocesan Synod's vote on February 4th.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Emily,
I shall correct the post - thank you for alerting me to my oversight!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
The issues of sexuality and of episcopal cross-jurisdiction represent a global Anglican movement without a common means to resolve differences with reference to a common standard of theology and ethics (in your "diversity-in-unity" terms, "common" here is about knowing the limits to that diversity). The Covenant provides that means. What's not to like?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, in an attempt to answer your question - "What is not to like?" - about the covenant:

It is the attempt to outlaw any innovation in Gospel outreach that does not meet with blanket approval by ALL Covenanters - by applying relational 'consequences' - a 'nice' way of denying Provincial independence on issues applicable in context to particular Provinces.

In other words, the Covenant is a Roman Catholic style of stifling any prospect of institutional changes outside of the initiatives of 'Head Office'.

Changes have been wrought before in the Communion without reference to 'Head Office', simply because they have been in line with the local implementation of the Gospel in situ. For instance, the Ordination of women was an important local initiative taken by Provinces outside of the Church of England - who only later saw the pastoral efficacy of such a move.

The Church of England implemented a two-tier system of alternative episcopal oversight, with the advent of 'PEV's, which we in other Provinces may not have liked, but we did not break communion over the issue. It seemed to be a local need

Those who have broken communion over the issue of Gay Ordination and the Blessing of Same-Sex partnerships will likely NOT subscribe to the Covenant anyway, so why should the ACC bother to appease a group that does not want any longer to be part of the Anglican Communion?

To try to entice the GAFCON group back into a fuller relationship, by offering retrospective discipline on the Anglican Church of Canada and TEC would be silly - and further divisive.

If , however, the ACC were to agree on a commonality based on the first 3 sections of the current Covenant document - without the threats of Section 4:2 - there might be a workable basic for an agreement.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Despite my opposition to the Covenant, I think you're right in that the Covenant needs to be taken as a whole - it's no use saying what we believe and how we operate if there aren't practical outworkings of that fellowship together. Why not submit an amendment, put your case in your diocesan paper, and then if it doesn't look like it will succeed you can withdraw it?

Situation here is a bit complex - there are 4 dioceses making up province of Jerusalem & Middle East - Egypt & North Africa, Cyprus & Gulf, Jerusalem and Iran. As you can imagine, logistics are challenging for the diocesan synods, let alone the provincial synod. There's no diocesan synod for Egypt & North Africa until 2013, and I'm not sure when the next provincial synod is. So, it could take a while before the definitive answer is given.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Your opposition to the Covenant appears to be founded on a large misunderstanding of the Covenant. If we could clear up the misunderstanding, would you reconsider your opposition?

No gospel innovations and initiatives post-Covenant will require universal Communion or head office of the Communion agreement.

Innovations and initiatives may (stress "may") result in another member church of the Communion questioning the innovation or initiative and requesting Communion consideration of whether this initiative or innovation is in accord with Sections 1-3 (which you agree with). Sanctions of the mildest kind ("relational consequences") could follow if that review process led to a determination that the initiative or innovation was out of step with S 1-3. There is little which is different in kind to the way our church operates: dioceses initiate different ways of spreading the gospel and expanding the mission of God, occasionally some such initiative seems to be out of kilter with our constitution and canons, questions arise and determinations are made.

Again I ask, what's not to like about a Covenant which means the Communion would operate in the way its member churches operate?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, if you could convince the GAFCON Provinces of the efficacy of your case For the Covenant, then I might agree with your thesis.

I would not be against a relational ethic that would guarantee freedom of conscience for local initiatives that do not compromise the first three section of the present Covenant statement - they are basic to our common understanding of the Gospel. I am still wary of any formal Covenant that would disbar a member on the petition of a 'Sola Scriptura' Province.

I believe that Anglicanism is more attuned to the modern world than those Provinces of the Communion that want to restrict progress on issues of human rights and justice.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

A further point of clarification (if needed): no member can be disbarred on the petition of another member. A petition for consideration of an issue ultimately is received and determined for action/non-action by the Standing Committee of the Communion.

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

The Christchurch diocesan synod motion was drafted by a high-level group of pro-Covenant people in our diocese. It’s wording is as clear and meaningful as the Covenant it supports and which provinces are affirming, adopting, acceding to, preambling, and adapting. The debate about the meaning of the wording of this motion is consistent with adding another layer to debating the meaning of the Covenant which further adds a layer to debating the actual issues. That you and Fr Ron and others, both highly intelligent, educated clergy, disagree about the meaning of the Covenant doesn’t at all surprise me. The result of passing this motion will be as useful as the actual Covenant itself.



Alan T Perry said...

"Naturally I disagree with this motion as currently worded. Can you work out why I disagree with it?"

Well, obviously you can't support it because it's not in the subjunctive.

JimB said...

While I am proud of the careful intellectual work that we have put into explaining why the Covenant is a particularly pernicious idea: the easiest way to defeat it is to simply ask people to read it. It is really self-defeating.

The covenant is a symptom of a drive to power and centralization focused on Canterbury. We can see how that centralization works. It is the Roman system. Anglicans rejected it some 450 years ago and I know of no reason to re-acquire it now!

Many thanks for your catching the typo (my really, really bad!) and letting me re-post.

writing for myself but as a matter of disclosure:
member – no Anglican covenant coalition

Edward Prebble said...

"Again I ask, what's not to like about a Covenant which means the Communion would operate in the way its member churches operate?"

Well Peter, that brings us to one of several 'catch-22' aspects of this 'Covenant'. Either it does create a new punitive structure, which its critics charge but you disagree, in which case we do not want it. OR it does what you say, allowing us to carry on as we do now, in which case, why bother?

Peter Carrell said...

There are no catches, Edward, or catch-22s with the Covenant, except for those with a tendency to imagine them!

The fallacy in how you frame the matter lies in the word 'punitive'. Such an emotive word, laden with all kinds of baggage. Unfairly used, I suggest.

My argument is that we should bother to have the Covenant in the same way that we should bother to have a constitution and code of canons in our own church. That code of canons prescribes consequences for infringements of the canons. I think the appropriate word to use is 'discipline' not 'punishment.'

Just as I do not object to being licensed to work in a church which has a discipline to its life which guides me in my conduct and public teaching, so I do not object to the Communion having some analogical discipline for its member churches.

Do you think our canons are punitive? If you do then I bow to your consistency in objecting to the Covenant. If you do not (exemplified, e.g., by currently holding a bishop's licence or PTO) then I suggest it is inconsistent to object to the Covenant on the grounds of the discipline it brings to Communion life, and unfair to call that discipline "punitive."

Peter Carrell said...

PS Edward,
Surely you are not objecting to a 'new structure' for the Communion per se! What would Anglicanism be if it were not a church open to new ideas!!

Father Ron Smith said...

"The fallacy in how you frame the matter lies in the word 'punitive'. Such an emotive word, laden with all kinds of baggage. Unfairly used, I suggest." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Peter, in your argument with Edward (virtually an argument with all of us who do not support the covenant), you find the word 'punitive' seemingly unsuitable.

However, in the context of the Covenant, how else would you describe an action that would apply 'relational consequences' to any one who does not meet the demands of the Standing Committee appointed to invigilate (police) the requirements of the Covenant?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I will not aver from the use of the word 'punitive' where those who accuse the Covenant of such make precisely the same charge against the canons of our own church (the infringement of which may incur consequences, some of them being 'relational consequences', e.g. if I lose my licence from the bishop, there is a relational consequence to the action which led to the loss of licence.

Since, however, I generally do not find you, me and other colleagues running around our church complaining about the punitive nature of our canons I do not see why this word should be used of the Covenant. What is good for the goose is good for the gander etc!

Your last paragraph betrays a most unfortunate misunderstanding of the Covenant which does not require the SC to invigilate the requirements of the Covenant but only to do two things in relation to the Covenant:

one is to "monitor the functioning of the Covenant" which would appear to be simply keeping a general eye on the way in which the Covenant is working in the life of the Communion;

the other is to respond to specific questions about the Covenant and its meaning for the churches of the Communion.

Only in the latter case might the SC eventually, after proper exploration of the matter, including taking all possible steps to facilitate agreement on the matter between churches in dispute, might a recommendation come forth re 'relational consequences'. This is a long way from invigilation, police action and punishment.

One would wonder why reasonable people from reasonable, traditional and Scriptural churches could not come to agreement. Thus one would wonder why any relational consequences should ever occur.

Of course sometimes people are unreasonable. But, really, that is not an option for three-legged stool Anglicans.

Father Ron Smith said...

"One would wonder why reasonable people from reasonable, traditional and Scriptural churches could not come to agreement. Thus one would wonder why any relational consequences should ever occur."

- Dr. Peter Carrell -

I wonder, Peter, if you made this statement to the GAFCON Primates, exactly how they would answer you?

Or, Peter, are you intimating that GAFCON will never sign up to the Covenant. If the non-GAFCON people could be assured of that fact, that GAFCON would not be included, then the rest of us might be able to live in Unity without the Covenant.
There would not be any need for it.
WE will still be able to share the charisms of Baptism and Eucharist.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
What an extraordinarily exclusionary approach you have to Anglican life! Fancy not wanting the GAFCON Anglicans to be part of the global Communion. At a stroke you would have the Communion shrunk down to the few Western Anglicans that belong to the Communion while wishing the many African and Asian Anglicans to go away. That is not my understanding of how catholic inclusion works!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, the time for naivete (or any pretence) has departed. You and I both know that GAFCON would never be a part of a Communion that included TEC and A.C.of C., so why pretend that they would ever join the Covenant - or indeed any association that includes them?
GAFCON has already moved away.

As ACANZP is still in full communion with TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, I, as a loyal Anglican in Aotearoa/N.Z. am still in full communion with TEC and the A.C.of C., and therefore - by their choice - out of communion with GAFCON and ACNA. Simple!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
GAFCON are already a part of a Communion which includes TEC and ACCan; albeit a Communion with impairment.

I make no judgement on who will or will not sign up to the Covenant: that is for member churches to determine not for bloggers to pronounce on.

I think bloggers are entitled to make predictions. In that case the intriguing possibility is that both GAFCON and TEC might not sign!

I am sorry Ron but you are wrong about whom ACANZP is in full communion with, and that includes every GAFCON member of the Communion. Not quite as simple as you make out.