Friday, February 24, 2012

The single most damaging lie of the 'no covenant' argument

Many claims are made about the Covenant and what it will do and not do, most of which are hypothetical claims because, let's remember, the Covenant is a proposal, not a reality. But these claims fuel the fire of fears so they are particularly effective since emotions are strong arguments for agreeing or not agreeing to a course of action. One might even venture a little further and consider whether arguments for the Covenant are essentially theological (the unity of the churches in Communion is agreeable to Christ) and arguments against the Covenant are essentially emotional (it will be the cause of great upset, wailing and gnashing of teeth).

One of the most damaging claims about what the Covenant will do is the claim that it will usher in an Anglican papacy, curia and magisterium. This is a particularly damaging claim because it plays on the visceral fear at the heart of Anglicanism that we might one day again be subservient to Rome. In one of those quirks of life, fear of papacy is a uniting force for both Anglican liberals and conservatives, as well as all those in between. Not that the Covenant will make us subservient to Rome, but even the possibility of an Anglo-Papacy strikes terror in the Anglican heart!

But the Covenant will not usher in any kind of papacy, at least not any kind not already familiar to us. The Covenant is simply about the Communion enjoying what every member church already enjoys, a written constitution and code of canons constraining licensed clergy and officers of the church to live by that constitution. Are member churches run by popes? Do they have curia and magisteria? No! Nor will the Communion if it embraces the Covenant.

How about we stop lying about the Covenant by desisting from playing on fears of papacy?

Incidentally there is one slight amount of popery already in the Anglican system, but it will not change one whit with the Covenant in place: the Archbishop of Canterbury has discretion about to invite or not to invite to the Lambeth Conference.


Father Ron Smith said...

"fear of papacy is a uniting force for both Anglican liberals and conservatives, as well as all those in between." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Peter, I fear that, in your defence of the Covenant, you are now indulging in hyperbole. Only the most rabid Evangelicals are actually in 'fear of papacy'. Right thinking others are suspicious of the tendency of the Covenant to bring in a 'papal-style' governance that would be antithetical to the traditional 'live and let live' ethos of traditional Anglicanism.

This fear-mongering is not a tactic of the No Covenant Movement. It is rather a desperate attempt on the part of those who fear the full admission of the LBGT community into the fellowship of Christ in the Church. Most of these have a natural fear of Roman Catholicism, but don't mind a whiff of papal-style rule if it suits their purpose - the exclusion of Gays.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
If there is no Anglican 'fear of papacy', how come we haven't reunited with Rome? (Special edge to that question: why haven't Anglo-Catholics reunited with Rome? Answer: (I suggest) fear of papacy).

The second most damaging lie about the Covenant is that it is about the fear of full admission of the LBGT community into the fellowship of Christ in the church. It is not. It is about what the doctrine of Christ teaches us, and in this present time, with special reference to what that teaching teaches about human relationships, and how we handle differences in understanding on these matters.

Father Ron Smith said...

"If there is no Anglican 'fear of papacy', how come we haven't reunited with Rome?" - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Here, again, Peter, you are intent on perpetuating a myth. The Church of England did not come about because of a 'fear of the papacy', but rather because of an emerging ecclesiology that found the papacy an obstruction to the mission of the Church.

It was not anything to do with basic doctrine, but rather the ecclesiology - the mechanics of administration of the Church, that wanted to dictate how the Church was governed - precisely the same argument that is brought into play about the invasive ethos of papal-style governance implicit in the proposed Anglican Covenant.

You say that it is not evangelical fundamentalistic fear of the LGBT inclusion of TEC and the A.C.of C. - that has already sparked schism in the Church - that has occasioned the raising of the Covenant (prompted by the Windsor report).

Then what do you discern as the reason for the schismatic movement that has already occurred in the GAFCON Provinces and ACNA - if not a fear of inclusion of LGBTs in the Church? Apart from a sola scriptura view of gender and sexuality, there has been no other excuse offered by the departing people.

Your charge of the 'lies' being uttered by the NO Covenant people might well be turned back onto you!
This is a sad reflection on our common Lenten discipline. And one I really don't want to be part of.

At this morning's Mass, the readings urged us - from the Prophet Isaiah - to 'Fast from judgement'. Perhaps we all need to try a little harder.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Am struggling to distinguish between 'fear of papacy' and finding 'papacy an obstruction to the mission of the church.'

(Incidentally, from an evangelical perspective, I think there were some things to do with 'basic doctrine' (esp. to do with salvation) at the heart of the English Reformation).

It is your framing of the matter which makes it difficult to respond to your question about departures. I myself do not equate 'fear of inclusion of LGBTs' with 'a sola scriptura view of gender and sexuality'.

My explanation for the departures that have occurred (as concisely as I can put it) is that disagreement over whether God blesses relationships not affirmed in Scripture or tradition (no sola scriptura there, by the way) has led to a fear that such disagreement is being given or will be given no room to exist within the polity of the churches from which departures have occurred.

I do find it extraordinary that a catholic Anglican such as yourself characterises these departures as 'schismatic' when the departures are the result of the churches concerned promulgating changes to Scripture and tradition. If one wants to use 'schismatic' why not use it as a descriptor of churches which promulgate changes to Scripture and tradition?

Father Ron Smith said...

There have been other 'changes to the understandings of Scripture and tradition' that have not previously caused schism in the Anglican Cmmunion. One thinks of slavery, usury, divorce, contraception, racial discrimination - ALL revisions of the original understanding of Scripture and Tradition, but not Communion-breaking. Hermeneutical and social studies have brought about the need for change - to implement justice.

Father Ron Smith said...


"2.How and why has the Covenant been written?

The Lambeth Commission on Communion was established in October 2003 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Anglican Primates, in response to developments in North America with respect to same-sex relationships" ACC publication.

Peter, you earlier stated on this web-site that the Covenant was not brought about because of problems with TEC and the A.C.of C.'s inclusion of LGBTs in their churches.

The above extract from the official statement issued by the Communion on its web-site (above-noted) proves you wrong! n'est pas?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
It cannot be the case that all change is good and agreeable. Some changes will be so, others not so. In the end the reformed Church of England was a departure from Rome over matters of conscience in which the English felt departure was worth it and Rome has never in 500 years accepted that. But we Anglican descendants do not think of ourselves as schismatics.

As for your list, it would be intriguing to know when the catholic church universally taught racial discrimination, or even justified slavery.

Finally, it would good if you could one day admit that the issues surrounding the LGBT's "full inclusion" in the Christian community are not only about justice but also about holiness and whether the church can agree what holiness means for human relationships.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
If I have ever said that in its historical origins as a proposal the Covenant does not stem from the events of 2003 then I freely and gladly acknowledge my mistaken statements.

What I have tried to say, but perhaps unclearly, is that the importance of the Covenant today and for the future of the Communion does not lie in its ability or inability to deal with the single issue of homosexuality; rather it lies in its challenge to all member churches to renew our understanding of the importance of Anglican doctrine as the basis of our unity in Christ (where doctrine is about our right understanding of Christ and what he and his apostles have taught us).

In my view the historical antecedents behind the catalysing events of 2003 go well beyond homosexuality and include the years in which Anglicanism tolerated the wayward teaching of bishops and theologians such as JAT Robinson and John Spong as somehow within the acceptable limits of Anglican theological diversity. The Covenant is an orthodox limitation on 'anything goes' in Anglican theology. That is why I argue for it; and not because it is going to resolve one issue for us.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, where you and I differ mostly - on our interpretation of the need (or otherwise) of the new Covenant - lies mostly in your understanding of what you think might be a heretical view of God-given human sexuality, as opposed to my acceptance of LGBT persons.

The term 'adiaphora' has already been applied - certainly by the Anglican Church of Canada Saint michael's Report (and probably TEC) - to matters pertaining to relationships between same-sex persons. This is not a matter touching on the Doctrine of Christ, and is not outside the parameters of legitimate human biological/sexual identity.

I agree that our present divisions are not soley to do with human gender and sexuality. But they are to do with specific hermeneutical interpretation of the Bible - and how that reflects on a Christian understanding of human sexuality.

The gender/sexuality controversy has unmasked a deeper, more divisive problem of how one interprets the Bible in the world of today. Progressive scientific speculation about our basic common humanity has motivated parts of the Church to try to understand and minister to the needs of LGBTQ persons in the Church and the World. Resistance to this is what, in my view, is at the heart of our dis-agreement.

New understandings of our sexual- biological human nature have motivated parts of the Church to revisit what were once deep-seated proscriptive shibboleths against any questioning of human sexual differentiation.

However, there has been a strong resistance on the part of mainly ex-Colonial Churches to any such openness - causing rifts in the Anglican Family.

This basic division - between the 'sola Scriptura' outlook, and the more hermeneutically open approach - is what, seemingly will prevent (nay, already has prevented) Eucharistic Fellowship between the Provincial Churches. While both hold to their position, there may be no reconciliation of the breakaway factions (GAFCON and ACNA) with the parent body.

This is what is surely meant by the liturgical statement of the Eucharistic Fellowship: "We are all One Bread, One Body, for we all PARTAKE of the One Bread!"

We cannot force anyone to join in Eucharistic Fellowship. They can refuse to be part of it. This is what could be seen as 'schism'.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Part of the disagreement among Anglicans is over what counts as adiaphora!

I do not think we need a new (scientific) hermeneutic to engage with the LGBT community (and the science, in any case, is much disputed). I think we need a familiar hermeneutic around love, mercy and grace, along with a commitment to respecting human dignity.

On the question of eucharistic fellowship I suggest there might be more mileage out of considering whether TEC caused harm to the body of the Communion than making judgements about people not partaking. A little humility goes a long way. In this case I suggest considering whether TEC rushed the Communion with its actions in 2003. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:33 says, "Wait for one another." This I think we have not done as a Communion, with resulting hurt and pain.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, in your plea that Provinces should 'wait for one another' before instituting new initiatives in ministry; you mean like that of the C.of E. raising up PEV's to avoid the already constitutional ministry of women?

Or, maybe, GAFCON Provinces raiding the North American Provinces of TEC and the Anglican Church of canada, to establish alternative oversight?

Or perhaps you don't regard those as Communion-breaking activity?

Please! Let's be realistic here!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
My plea is that when a specific action might lead to departures from the church we 'wait', searching for every way possible in order that none might leave when initiative is taken.

In the C of E I think it would certainly be worth waiting to find a way for all to stay on board. As far as I can tell no one is rushing anything and efforts are being made to find that way.

In some cases in North America it would appear that o'seas primates rushed to provide alternative episcopal oversight. However there have been other cases where the provision of such oversight was in response to a heartfelt plea for pastoral assistance and I am sure the o'seas primates concerned were moved to offer help.

The language of 'raid' is not appropriate, incidentally, when talking about situations of acute pastoral need.

Peter Carrell said...

PS Ron,
You make a plea for realism. Does that plea apply to yourself? I would like to see some realism from you about the possibility, however faint in your own mind, that TEC has been provocative of its own people to say nothing of other member churches.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I would like to see some realism from you about the possibility, however faint in your own mind, that TEC has been provocative of its own people to say nothing of other member churches." - P.C. -

Peter, in response to your request: Do you not think that the Church has a need in circumstances where endemic injustice prevails to be 'provocative'?

This was shown to be a real need in South Africa - against the policy of aparheid. It is perhaps significant here that a former Archbishop of S.A. deems justice for LGBT people to be a priority for the anglican Communion.

Provocation was also used by Jesus, in his overturning of some of the unhelpful accretions of the Law by his Jewish compatriots.

The word pro-vocative mean to be pro-active to voice one's opinion. When that opinion supports the implementation of justice in situ - the Church has a need to witness.

It so happens that there would seem to be differing opinions in different parts of the Church as to what justice actually entails.
If only Provinces of the Church could allow one another to discern the application of 'justice' in situ; there may be an agreement to differ, while yet holding to what the liturgy calls: the 'Unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace'.

Peter Carrell said...

I take it that is a 'no' vote that TEC has any cuplability at all in anything that has unfolded since 2003 re departures from its own ranks or breakdown in relationships with other member churches of the Communion.

Father Ron Smith said...

The important thing for your blog, Peter, is that YOU obviously do - think that TEC has a liability for causing GAFCON and ACNA to abandon fellowship with the Anglican Instruments of Unity. GAFCON & ACNA have charged TEC with heresy, which, to my mind, is an exaggeration of the true situation.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Ron, I do think TEC has some liability. That does not mean that I agree with GAFCON or ACNA on every item of complaint which they bring against TEC.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
For evangelicals, the issue isn't about "papacy". Many evangelicals (not all - e.g. Fulcrum) who have spoken or written publicly are of the view that the Covenant won't do enough to restrain false teaching and protect orthodox Anglicans - as they believe the current instruments have also failed to do enough. Some are concerned about the elevated role the Covenant accords to bishops, but most have criticised the instruments and especially the ABC for doing too little to resolve the crisis. It tends to be the liberal provinces/dioceses that want to preserve autonomy and reject increased mutual accountability.

On the whole, evangelicals aren't afraid of extra accountability in the Communion. They feel that the covenant is a fudge that won't resolve the immediate crisis or the underlying issues.

Peter Carrell said...

That is fair comment, Andrew, inasmuch as the Covenant (as an agreement between as many Anglicans as possible) will not do enough to restrain false teaching.

I would want to think a bit further about whether it will do enoght to protect orthodox Anglicans.

I agree that evangelicals are afraid of some aspects of extra accountability in the Communion (but suggest there are other aspects they might be afraid of, e.g. extra accountability re sticking to the letter of their prayer books!

Andrew Reid said...

If sticking to the letter of the prayer books was the criterion for orthodoxy, it would be a very small Communion, brother!

Father Ron Smith said...

Andrew's 'false teaching' cachet is seemingly pointed at TEc and the Anglican Church of Canada - because there has been no other reason for the Covenant than to protest against their openness to Gays in their Churches.

Have you any thoughts, Andrew, about divorce - as being a 'false teaching' that many evangelicals embrace? If so, then why on earth did not the Church 'split' on this issue?