Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Anglican Covenant: some other views

Savi Hensman writes today at Cif belief about The Anglican power play.

The proposed Covenant is the culmination of a conservative and homophobic drive for power in the Anglican Communion

The Church of England’s House of Bishops is urging it to accept an Anglican Communion Covenant. This would give top leaders of overseas churches more power over the C of E and (strictly in theory) vice versa. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been a champion of greater centralism among Anglicans worldwide, supposedly to strengthen unity. But recent events have exposed the tawdry reality behind talk of “interdependence” and “bonds of affection”.

The Communion has long been a family of churches in different parts of the world, with a common heritage of faith but able to make their own decisions. The 1878 Lambeth Conference resolved that “the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches” and “no bishop or other clergyman of any other Church should exercise his functions within that diocese without the consent of the bishop thereof” .

This was repeatedly affirmed at international gatherings, as were the value of freedom and human rights. (While the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior C of E cleric, was expected to convene such events, he had no authority over other provinces.)

Adrian Worsfold wrote for the Daily Episcopalian a little while ago about The slow-motion car crash.

…Once again, and to be clear: if you don’t want the consequences, don’t vote for the document. To remove the Covenant is to finish Windsor too. This applies far wider than for The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada, the latter of which is dragging its feet somewhat in its aching movement from its desire to be agreeable in the Communion and its realisation that this document is a disaster.

The Archbishop of Canterbury believes in the bishops as people of a body, as in traditional authority, so policies are in the end sacred and personal. He is attached to this road, the only road, and in detail. I see him as a person, let’s say, in the passenger seat of a rally car with all the maps, the details and the documents, handed to him by the bureaucrats on the back seat according to tasks he set them. And then he’s the one who gives the instructions to his Secretary General, whose foot is slammed on the accelerator and whose hands are held fast on the steering wheel. They are in a rally and they are deciding the route for all the following Anglican cars. The fact that everyone sees this in slow motion should not alter the reality that there is an almighty car crash about to take place, with the lead car, and every other car following behind, generating a pile up for which ambulances are to be needed in numbers. Some rally driver, somewhere behind, needs to apply the brakes and radio the others.

And yesterday, Marshall Scott wrote in the same venue about Cowboy poker and the Anglican Communion.

Several years ago I began describing our Anglican struggles as “cowboy poker.” For those who have never heard of it, cowboy poker is a unique game. It’s a competition held in some rodeos in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere (yes, there are rodeos elsewhere). A card table and chair are set in the middle of the arena. Contestants sit around it playing poker. There is money on the table, but it isn’t won by playing cards. In fact, the cards aren’t the game. Instead, a fighting bull is released into the arena, looking for something to attack. The expectation is that the bull will charge the table, and the pot will go, winner-take-all, to the last person seated at the table.

I’ve had that thought again and again through the past few years. There have been many ways of looking at our struggles – differences over the limits of welcome and inclusion, over the interpretation of Scripture, over theological anthropology. However, it has also been a family argument over patrimony. That has included arguments over who would be the “true heirs” of the Anglican tradition; but also who would be recognized as Anglican by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The difference would fall between those who measured it by official recognition by the Church of England and the Anglican Consultative Council; and those who measured it by invitations to the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meetings, and “representative bodies.” Granted, there have been, as I said, disagreements about interpretation, but those have been in the context of remarkable agreement, included even in the draft Covenant, that Scripture and the Prayer Book tradition are fundamental to the Anglican tradition. So, I think there’s something to be said for the thought that this is about being recognized – being accepted, officially if grudgingly – by Canterbury (and if possible by the current incumbent)…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 12:37pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

The problem with conferring powers is that power conferred is always exercised, sooner or later.

The Anglican Covenant is being pushed through on the basis that it is not "intended" to be punitive or exclusionary - at least, not so intended by the present Archbishop of Canterbury. But others plainly do intend that, and, even if they didn't, its punitive and exclusionary potential will be realised once the powers are conferred.

So - do we want an Anglican Communion with powers of punishment and exclusion? Would those who want to punish and exclude others be willing to be punished and excluded themselves, by others, with whom they disagree?

I think the answer is no. And no, as an answer to these questions, fits in with the advice in Matthew 7:1-5 (and Romans 14:13 too).

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 3:48pm BST

I love Adrian's analogy. I fear the AC is going to become another Rome. It's the pray, pay and obey method. A club for no dissent, no questions and the third world, riddled with human rights violations will be dictating policy (not that every third world nation is anti progressive). If you want a Rome swim the Tiber or tell me to get out.

Posted by: bobinswpa on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 6:17pm BST

With the news of the Anglican Church of Mexico's assent to the Covenant, Secretary-General Kearon and the ABC are probably hoping (against hope) that other Provinces will follow. However, with neither side of the central arguments in favour of giving Canterbury any sort of Papal Primacy, both the ABC and Kearon may be disappointed.

The Global South has long ago signalled its dis-satisfaction with the ABC's apparent reluctance to ban TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada for not adhering strictly to the Moratoria (while yet failing to discipline other Provinces for the moratorium on Border-Crossing). So disaffected did they become that they have formed their own mini-Church - from GAFCON onwards - with Nigeria even removing reference to the ABC and Lambeth from its official Statute Book.

On the inclusive side of the argument (for both Women and Gays, as well as other 'minority groups') many Provinces are - to say the very least - unsure about the proposal to discipline them for what they discern to be the inclusivity of Gospel praxis - in ordaining both women and gays in their Churches (or, at least, not drawing the line against this policy). Section 4 of the Covenant Document, for them, will never find any degree of acceptability.

So, despite Mexico's approval; there may not be a sound majority of Provinces aggreeing to the proposed covenant Document. This leaves us with our current Provincial Churches, which, if pushed sideways, might even be encouraged to form a new 'Episcopal Church' liasson, in which to continue our movement towards an international 'Inclusive Church' environment of a broadly Anglican ethos.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 30 June 2010 at 11:07pm BST

"If we have come to see the Communion as that “precious,” than perhaps it has become an idol; and as we have seen again in Scripture and in the stories of the Saints, God breaks idols down. That is a painful experience, for it can indeed be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. At the same time, it’s more painful the more attached we are to the idol (when it is) being taken down." (words in brackets are mine: F.R.)

- Marshall Scott : Daily Episcopalian -

Marshall Scott is saying something rather important here. If, in our quest for 'unity' in the Anglican Communion, we are seeking uniformity with one or other sodality within the Communion - in order to continue as 'Anglican'; what does this say about the obvious need to embrace the infinite diversity of individual contexts of 'being Church' in the modern world - as Anglicans? And which model of 'Church' do we have to emulate? Is it the patriarchal model of the Church of England, or of Nigeria and parts of the Global South? Or is it the inclusivity of TEC, the tentative inclusivity of the Anglican Church of Canada, or the more cautious way of other Provinces which draw the line at Section 4 of the proposed Covenant?

If the ideal of Anglicanism ever does come to be perceived as idolatrous - in direct opposition to
the inclusive nature of the Gospel - then perhaps it needs to cling to its nature as a dispersed collective of local Churches - which, essentially, it has always been - up until now. Why spoil what may be the Holy Spirit's plan for a prophetic 'Unity in Diversity'.

The Papal Model seems not to be particularly happy in its magisterial ethos. Why would Anglicans want to revert to that model?

Our Unity is 'en Christo' - not 'en ekklesia'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 2 July 2010 at 12:56am BST
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