The following critiques of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advent Letter have appeared.
Alan Perry Of Advent Letters and Archbishops
…In spite of many assurances, some Anglicans evidently still think that the Covenant changes the structure of our Communion or that it gives some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body.
Er, that would be people like me, I imagine. But then, I’ve read the document and analysed it, rather than simply rely on unsupported “assurances” to form an opinion.
With all respect to those who have raised these concerns, I must repeat that I do not see the Covenant in this light at all.
I do wish that the Archbishop would ask someone to respond to the sorts of concerns that I and others have raised, and perhaps even offer a rationale or argument in favour of the Covenant. “No it isn’t” is not an argument, it’s mere contradiction.
It outlines a procedure, such as we urgently need, for attempting reconciliation and for indicating the sorts of consequences that might result from a failure to be fully reconciled.
Well, actually, it outlines the rough idea of a procedure, which is so vague that it’s practically useless, to make arbitrary decisions based on unclear criteria whether a given decision or action of a given Province is or is not “incompatible with the Covenant.” And, although it threatens “relational consequences” it doesn’t define them, so the Archbishop is incorrect to say that it indicates any “sorts of consequences.” The process, such as it is, is a recipe for arbitrariness.
Tobias Haller Noises off…
…The Archbishop also asks a question, and then assumes his question has no takers as he rushes back to square one.
I continue to ask what alternatives there are if we want to agree on ways of limiting damage, managing conflict and facing with honesty the actual effects of greater disunity. In the absence of such alternatives, I must continue to commend the Covenant as strongly as I can to all who are considering its future.
I can, of course, think of any number of “alternatives” to what I continue to see as a deeply flawed and, by its own self-confession, ineffectual effort at conflict management:
- Reliance on the Covenant for Communion in Mission from IASCOME
- Restoration of the purely consultative function to Lambeth, with a staunch refusal to adopt any resolutions at all, other than those that directly empower mission and ministry
- Expansion of ministry and mission cooperation between provinces, focused not on the mechanics of the Communion or disagreements on policies, but on doing the things Jesus actually commanded
- Continuing to provide forums for the sharing of views between provinces, as in the Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process which is “a biblically-based and mission-focused project designed to develop and intensify relationships within the Anglican Communion by drawing on cultural models of consensus building for mutual creative action.”
…In what seems a very disingenuous statement, I just noticed (thanks to Rod Gillis for pointing it out in the comments to the report at Thinking Anglicans) the irony in another portion of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advent musings:
In spite of many assurances, some Anglicans evidently still think that the Covenant changes the structure of our Communion or that it gives some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body. With all respect to those who have raised these concerns, I must repeat that I do not see the Covenant in this light at all. (¶ 7)
Beg pardon, but it is the Archbishop who introduced language of two tracks or two “tiers” for the future of the Communion. Moreover, the invitation not to participate in, or be suspended from, one or more of “the Instruments” is spelled out in the Covenant at 4.2.5. And further unspecified “relational consequences” concerning the actual status of communion between members churches, is also threatened (4.2.7).
If these are not “change to the structure of the Communion” then what are they? It seems to me they are fundamental changes to the only structure we have. Evidently, the Archbishop thinks otherwise, which leads me to wonder what he means by “structure.”
…Communion is a gift. The problem is not the Communion. The problem is the Covenant.
To make the argument, Dr. Williams begs the question: since he did all the visits and all these events happened without the Covenant in place, then is it possible to be a Communion without the Covenant? Would these connections cease if the Covenant were to not pass? Would Anglicans stop working together or would our voice be diluted in any way without the Covenant in place?
Put another way, would the voice of Anglicanism be any stronger in Zimbabwe and would it influence Mugabe any more if they had the Covenant in their back pockets? Would having the Covenant stop Polynesian islands from being any more submerged and would the urban parish be any more relevant to it’s neighborhood with a fully empowered Anglican Covenant?
Once more he talks about how we must not focus on the things that divide us, while extolling a document that defines itself in terms of division, rather than reconciliation. He says we need this to make room for everyone. Dr. Williams asks for an alternative to the mechanisms outlined in Part IV. He says that no one has offered an alternative. While this point is in itself debatable, allow me instead to make a my own humble suggestion:
Instead of spending time (as Section Four posits) on throwing each other out when we disagree, how about building a communion that encourages dialogue and reconciliation?
Instead of focusing on eliminating conflict by making sure that no innovation can happen without the approval of the most conservative member of the Anglican Communion, how about creating a structure and processes that encourage members of Churches who see the implications of the Gospel differently to come together, listen to one another, pray together, share experiences of mission together, and break Eucharistic bread together?
Mark Harris Canterbury writes a letter. It is Advent after all.