Monday, February 20, 2012

No Second Thoughts Covenant Coalition

It would be easy this week to have second thoughts about the Anglican Covenant. Thinking Anglicans take us to GilesFraserian blasting against it and the announcement that Marilyn McCord Adams is the new patron of the No Covenant Coalition (see also here for NCC announcement). Cranmer has a thoughtful piece on the Covenant which cleverly offers an insight about Tory and Whiggish forces operating in the to-ing and fro-ing over the Covenant. The thoughtfulness leads to a conclusion that the Covenant is unnecessary (many in the NCC will agree) and the 39 Articles are sufficient 'covenant' for us (many in the NCC will not agree, neither about the sufficiency nor about any place for the 39A to define or determine 21st century Anglicanism). John Richardson highlights the breakdown of episcopal collegiality in the C of E (over precisely the issues interconnected with the journey of the Covenant). For counter-balance of a refreshing kind for those wondering if the Anglican church remains a place from which to engage in gospel ministry, Cranmer's Curate offers good thoughts.

Why, then, obtusely maintain an apologetic for the Covenant?

First, a simple point about understanding Anglicanism: there is more than one version around, more than the liberal, diversity, freedom of doctrinal and ethical conscience version, and it is a good Anglican thing to do to argue for Anglicanism with doctrine and discipline at its centre (the Anglicanism, incidentally, we must never tire of reminding ourselves, which is enshrined in the constitution and canons of every member church of the Communion - the Covenant's novelty only consists in raising to the Communion level what each member church enjoys already).

Secondly, a serious point about the future of global Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion: the anti-Covenant argument about the future of global Anglicanism expressed through a Communion with the Covenant is this, "It will be bad." By implication, the prognosis of a Covenant-less Communion is, "It will be good." I suggest there is a different prognosis to contemplate: without the Covenant there will not be a Communion: neither a good, bad nor indifferent Communion, no Communion. By contrast the argument for the Covenant and global Anglicanism represented through the Communion is not, "It will be good" but, "It might just survive."

So, Cranmer, Fraser and the NCC: do your darndest to rid the Communion of the Covenant. But be careful what you wish for!


liturgy said...

Thank you for your honesty, Peter,
that the “Covenant” raises “to the Communion level what each member church enjoys already”.

Might I, once again, point out an issue with your tenses. There has not been a Communion in the full sense of the word (we must never tire of reminding ourselves) since the ordination of Women.



Peter Carrell said...


Father Ron Smith said...

My previous blog just went down the cyber drain following upon my registration!!! We'll try again:

Peter, one has to admire your intestinal fortitude on insisting that the covenant is important for the Anglican Communion.

You and I know that GAFCON will never sign up to it. And those who think that GAFCON - because of its numerical implications - should be part of it; then it's a dead duck!

The reality is that, those of us who are not part of the GAFCON are the remaining loyal members of the Communion's ethic of 'Unity on Diversity' - because we believe that the Gospel is inclusive of ALL people.

Then why would we need a Covenant that might decimate the Communion membership still further?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
We do not need a Covenant which decimates Communion membership further - on that we are agreed.

I have here and elsewhere made the point that the Covenant needs a high level of support for it to be meaningful: say, 90% or higher (80% would be absolute minimum). Such support would hardly represent the decimation of the Communion.

I am sure you will agree with me that the Covenant is about member churches make decisions, not about bloggers, pundits, and the like making noises for or against the Covenant. I may be devastated if the Covenant is voted in - but that is not the same as the Communion being decimated.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

So perhaps you can answer a question. How exactly is the Covenant going to fix the problem? The Americans and their fellow travelers are going to keep doing what they are doing. GAFCON is going to keep on doing what it is doing. The bureaucracy that controls the covenant isn't actually going to let it be used for anything lest such action disturb the horses. So how then does the Covenant actually reverse the fracture that has already happened? It seems to be a great deal of pomp and circumstance
surrounding a combination of smoke and mirrors.

What is actually going to happen is this. The CoE is going to follow TEC and take the liberal part of the AC with it. The Canterbury-centered AC will nominally still exist, but the actual power will be located in NYC.
The more conservative members will shake the dust of Canterbury off the soles of their sandals and form a new Anglican Communion based upon doctrinal orthodoxy. Within 20 years the old Canterbury-centered communion will resemble a desiccated corpse left wasting in the desert.

There will still be an AC. But it will no longer be Anglo-centric, and it will contain an alternate to the CoE. The old Anglican Communion is dead. Long Live the Anglican Communion.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
It is important not to second guess scenarios which are hypothetical.

For one instance: what if it turns out that 36/38 sign up and TEC does not. TEC keeps going its own way (agreed, likely) but it can no longer do so in the pretence that a significant part of the Communion is agreeable to it.

Stick with 36/38 and C of E is the other church which does not sign up. Sadly two of the "big" Communion players have misread the desire of the rest of the Communion to be a Communion. They both go their progressive ways but neither can pretend they are living at the centre of Communion life.

But 36/38 is an ambitious bit of imgination. The scenario which actually plays out might be closer to your prognosis. But at that point I am personally satisfied: I have contributed a tiny bit for arguing against disintegration.

OK. Lots more could be said to more fully answer your question but I have some other deadlines to meet.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Just an update. Provincial synod for Jerusalem and Middle East is next month. Not sure if each of the 4 dioceses has taken a definite position on covenant, so not sure if there will be a definative up/down vote on it. But keep an eye out for the outcome next month. If there is no decision this time, it's another couple of years before the next one.

Peter Carrell said...

Could be the weathervane for the Communion!?

Father Ron Smith said...

"The more conservative members will shake the dust of Canterbury off the soles of their sandals and form a new Anglican Communion based upon doctrinal orthodoxy" - Carl Jacobs

I think that dust has already been absorbed into the atmosphere of the desert wastes. Any sodality which sets itself up - apart from the Province of Canterbury - cannot claim authentic Anglican roots, and will therefore need a new name.

With GAFCON out of the picture, the rest of us can get on with the task of Inclusive Christianity, which acts out the Gospel imperative: of
Christ for ALL who acknowledge their need of redemption.

Carl's dismissive attitude towards our sisters and brothers in TEC does nothing more than reveal his contempt for the good work done by their ministry to the poor and marginalised around the world - including the GAFCON countries that now seem to despise them.

TEC, being one of the earliest members of the Anglican Communion is less likely than those GAFCON Provinces that have already moved away from the Instruments of Communion - to abandon their co-founding Canterbury partner.

The Anglican Communion will survive - despite GAFCON dis-affiliation.

hogster said...

Re "Any sodality which sets itself up - apart from the Province of Canterbury - cannot claim authentic Anglican roots, and will therefore need a new name".

Is it the Province of Canterbury or the 39 Articles that is the basis of what is authentically Anglican? One might argue it is the Gospel that is the ultimate root.


But then we have to ask what is the Gospel? Respective answers to that lie at the heart of the problem.

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

Any sodality which sets itself up - apart from the Province of Canterbury - cannot claim authentic Anglican roots, and will therefore need a new name.

Heh. Sez who? There are plenty of people in this world who consider themselves Anglican without bothering to ask the permission of the AoC to use the term. They aren't going to go fretting about the ownership of a name when the CoE goes south. It's not like Canterbury owns the copyright. I find it interesting however that you cast away the teaching of Scripture on a whim of human reason even as you strain jot and tittle to defend a particular definition of an organization. Perhaps that is because religions without coherent doctrine need still something to provide coherence. What else is there but organization?

The Anglican Communion will survive - despite GAFCON dis-affiliation.

Yes, but the question is "Who will be in it?" I don't think you realize just how bad things are getting for TEC. The money is drying up at the local level. Parishes are starting to have real trouble being able to employ full time priests. The congregations are getting old. The children are gone. There is no evangelism. KJS has just completed her "scorched earth" campaign through her own population, and driven out vast numbers of people. This is a church staring at complete collapse inside twenty years. And it is the centerpiece of the liberal Anglican Communion that you say will survive. Well there might still be a formal organization out there somewhere in twenty years. But what purpose will it serve when the most important church in that communion has an ASA of 100,000 people?

The re-formed AC will have actual people in its churches. It will grow and call itself Anglican whether others approve or not. Eventually, the old AC will slip into obscurity as the membership in its constituent churches declines to subsistence levels. Then there won't be any doubt as to who is an Anglican.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Yes, with Carl I would like to ask why tradition and Scripture can be revised but not the definition of being Anglican (so the Covenant is unAnglican?Let's revise what 'unAnglican' means!) or belonging as Anglicans (what if the ABC supported the unAnglican Covenant, why would we stick with the office? Wait, the office(r) does support the Covenant!)

You cannot revise one part of tradition and Scripture in the light of experience without being open to revising other parts. Our experience of the Anglican Communion anchored into the See of Canterbury is that it hasn't been working too well lately: why not change the anchor?

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, my only response to your last question, Peter, is with another question: Would you, as an Anglican education officer in ACANZP want to identify yourself with GAFCON, the organisation that you so admire for its 39 Articular stance - against the Inclusive ethos of the non-GAFCON Provinces?

Did you sign up to the 39 Articles when you were priested? I certainly didn't. The Doctrine of Christ and the Trinity still remains the basis of our Unity as members of ACANZP. We don't need an additional external disciplinary document to prove our allegiance to Christ. We have it in our Baptism, Eucharist, the Four Gospels and the Creeds.

Father Ron Smith said...

You will no doubt have gathered by now, Peter, that the Diocese of Salisbury is only one of the 10 dioceses of the Church of England to reject the Covenant. Even though their Synod was addressed by noted pro-Covenant Suffragan Bishop Graham Kings, his Diocesan Bishop, Nicholas Holtam, was not in favour, and the Diocese did reject approval of the Covenant.

The Score among dioceses of the Church of England at present is 10 Against: 5 For.

Here is a section of Bishop Holtam's address to his Synod:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has put a huge amount of effort into this as the way forward for the Communion. I have thought long and hard about my own position which, as a matter of public record prior to my appointment as bishop, is against. It seems to me that the Covenant will indeed create a different set of relationships in the Communion but that this will on balance be unhelpful and un-Anglican, like a piece of unshrunk cloth sewn on to an old cloak. I am particularly concerned that the effect of section 4 will be to exclude some Provinces from the heart of the Communion, particularly because the views being excluded are represented within the parochial life of our own Province. I have asked the Bishop of Sherborne to propose the Covenant and the Dean to oppose it to show that at a senior level in the Diocese we are not in agreement and that we can live with our differences"

I think that, if all dioceses get a balanced presentation of pro and anti Covenant speakers, the present move towards rejection of the Covenant will gain momentum.

As you will be aware, rejection of the Covenant by the Church of England would render it 'null and void'within the Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
You have not answered my question as to whether we might revise the definitions of what 'Anglican' and 'unAnglican' mean, with the special edge that I am asking you who readily revises other things that Anglicans have held dear.

I identify myself with all Christians (for we belong to Christ) and with all who claim the name 'Anglican' (for we would appear to have something to discuss).

As for identifying with 'GAFCON Anglicans', in my work in education and training for the Diocese of Christchurch it is my role to be available to assist all clergy and laity in the diocese across all our parishes and ministry units. As you know some of those do identify with GAFCON (including some who actually went to the conference in Jerusalem) and thus I identify myself with them and with those, such as yourself, who oppose them. It is a bit of a stretch but I do my best!

Father Ron Smith said...

Perhaps, Peter, you have helped me to identify one of the charisms of being an Anglican - your own openness to the difference between GAFCON and non-GAFCON Provinces: This is the sort of Anglican trait that has long been part of our Anglican 'genius' - the acceptance of our 'Unity in Diversity'.

What has interrupted that charism in the Communion occurred when GAFCON refused to sit down at the Lord's Table with the rest of the Provinces at Lambeth. That action spoke louder than words - to the extent that 'Unity in diversity' was rejected by GAFCON Provinces.

I could live with GAFCON - if the Leadership would reverse its decision to shun the possibility of koinonia with non-GAFCON Provinces that, in all conscience, cannot do what GAFCON has decided is its requirement for their being seated together at the Lord's Table.

Anglicanism, at its best, is a loosely-bound association of Christian Churches whose Doctrine is founded on the original English Reformation understandings of the catholic Creeds (i.e. - without the papal-style dominance of Rome), together with an openness to the revelation of the Word-made-flesh in the Scriptures: in the light of modern scientific, social and hermeneutic discovery - pertinent to our day and age of understanding our human biological reality.

As you know, there is no scope for precise definition of one's faith on a blog-site. This is something deeply personal and bound by one's personal experience of the work of the Holy Spirit in one's own life.

The Institution of the Church, like the Scriptures, is a guide along the journey. Its parameters are a basis - not a holding pen - for exploration. What holds us together is the commonality of our Baptism into Christ, and our sharing in His presence at the Eucharist. When that Eucharistic Fellowship is broken, therein lies our problem.

Scripture assures us, that even the Holy Spirit is searching the mind of God! How can we possibly have the answers to every situation that comes along? We have to be open, at all times for fresh revelation of 'What the Spirit is saying to the Church'. Our Unity is a gift of God, and those who resile from it will suffer consequent deprivation.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, today I have checked in on my favourite web-site 'Thinking Anglicans', where I found this little gem - on the Covenant- by one of your conservative friends in the C.of E.:
calling himself 'Archbishop Cranmer:

'The death of the Anglican Covenant'

Andrew Reid said...

Just saw that your bishop Victoria Matthews helped to produce these videos about the covenant.

Peter Carrell said...

I didn't know that, Andrew!