Friday, 19 November 2010
Covenant - Truth or Conviction
Chris Sugden and Vinay Samuel have written an article for this week’s Church of England Newspaper entitled Truth or Conviction: questions over the Anglican Communion Covenant. Here’s how it starts:
Many primates have indicated that they cannot support the Covenant in its present form. The African Primates said in Entebbe in August : “We realise the need for further improvement of the Covenant in order to be an effective tool for unity and mutual accountability.”
In April the Global South meeting said: “We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.”
Why the reticence?
And the article concludes:
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Friday, 19 November 2010 at 1:57pm GMT
The current Covenant process interminably delays judgement and leaves little hope of discipline and thus of consistency. We are left in a permanent state of dialogue and conversation. This has practical implications at parish level when churches have to decide how to relate to same-sex couples requesting blessing and bringing surrogate children for baptism. If the covenant process in the Communion becomes the state of affairs in the Church of England, its practices could be so contradictory that chaos would result. Endless appeal could be made to conviction, openness, listening and time while practices and actions continue which go against the teaching of the church whether in a parish or whole diocese.
The above argument could therefore suggest abstention in the vote in General Synod next week for the following reasons:
The Communion needs recognition of orthodox teaching and for proper and appropriate boundaries. The Covenant does not achieve that purpose but substitutes conviction for truth. Some wish to travel further in the direction in which the Covenant is supposed to point, but do not wish to support the very weak approach of the current Covenant. Where the current Anglican Communion process is going today could be used to allow for English Dioceses to move in TEC’s direction tomorrow on the grounds that this is accepted Anglican practice.
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Bishop K H Ting of China (in USPG Prayer Diary) "Christianity moves and compels people, not by its doctrines but by love made manifest, love held high and spread abroad, love waiting eagerly for the final coming of the world of love".
Love seems to be somewhat limited, or limited only to people who think like us from some advocates of the Anglican Covenant and from those who don't think it goes far enough.
Could someone please explain what the objection is to bringing children for baptism?
Is it that infant baptism is being rejected?
It gets worse! Even the children of gay couples are to be turned away. I thought that the Anglican way was as stated in the BCP that 'No Minister shall refuse or, save for preparing or instructing the parents or guardians or godparents, delay to baptise any infant within his cure'. Sounds like another innovation fron the 'orthodox'.
"same-sex couples requesting blessing and bringing surrogate children for baptism" This term 'surrogate children' is interesting. In this context it means 'bastard', since it looks as if these persons should be excluded from the community. It hasn't been so very long that the Church did exclude children based on the circumstances of their conception. I wasn't aware that this was part of the discussion. Was this a widely known implication?
Are Sugden and Samuel really suggesting, as they seem to be, that a surrogate child of a same-sex couple should be refused baptism?
Oh yes they are suggesting refusal:
"The basic reason why no orthodox minister could hold a baptism for the child of a cohabiting or homosexual couple is because of the baptismal vows. Parents bringing children for baptism who are too young to profess the Christian faith for themselves are asked whether they 'submit to Christ as Lord'."
See this rationale here http://cranmercurate.blogspot.com/2010/04/lordship-of-chirst-determines-baptism.html
Wow. So now we know who's next. Not only gay or lesbian parents, but their children too.
"Suffer the children." Suffer indeed.
Beyond the baptismal argument (which I agree appears to be incredibly prejudicial to the child), I wonder what sort of covenant Sugden and Samuel would approve, since anything that "delays" judgment seems to be inadequate in their eyes. Do they want a Leviticus for Anglicans? A long list of dos and don'ts that define Anglican doctrine and practice?
"... when churches have to decide how to relate to same-sex couples requesting blessing and bringing surrogate children for baptism."
This is mean-spirited beyond belief. "Surrogate" children?
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I was blessed to preside at the baptisms of two little boys, the sons of a lesbian couple. The sponsors for the children were an RC gay male couple and the biological dad of each of the kids. Both moms' families were there to rejoice in this event, along with the parish congregation.
I have a small album of pictures of this lovely event, and I like to show it to people as we [the Diocese of Virginia] begin talking very gingerly about the possibility of blessing same sex unions. It's awfully hard to be sour and negative while looking at these happy and attractive folks. It looks like a family to me.
"Surrogate children" indeed! Faugh!
As has long been noted, Christ the Lord had nothing to say on the subject of cohabiting same-sex couples. I am familiar with the calculus by which some evangelicals insist that every word of the Hebrew Scriptures is automatically the teaching of Christ (Jesus = Word of God AND OT - Word of God SO Jesus = OT) in spite of his explicit negation of portions of that text.
But to suggest that cohabiting same-sex couples do not submit to the Lordship of Christ is, to my mind, a libelous statement. And to make it grounds for denial of baptism, because such folks cannot stand as parents or godparents due to their reprobate status, sounds to me to be very un-Anglican, and, as duly noted, a violation of the Rubric.
A more expansive quotation from Cramner's Curate that Martin Reynolds quoted is below:
“The basic reason why no orthodox minister could hold a baptism for the child of a cohabiting or homosexual couple is because of the baptismal vows. Parents bringing children for baptism who are too young to profess the Christian faith for themselves are asked whether they 'submit to Christ as Lord'.
“It is a charade for a Christian minister to be involved in a public church service where the Lordship of Christ is being so brazenly denied by a relationship that goes against His biblical will. It is certainly not serving the child to involve him or her in a Christian service stripped of basic integrity.”
I would think that these sorts of people would apply this kind “biblical will” to the children of divorced and remarried parents. There's a much stronger proof-texting argument to be made. But of course they never do. I wonder why?
"With each succeeding draft the Covenant has “weakened” – to such an extent that now it is said that TEC can sign up to it. A critical point in this weakening was reached at the ACC meeting in Jamaica. An important intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury interpreted the mind of the meeting in such a way that eventually a motion was passed which led to the revision of section 4 so that all mention of discipline was removed." - Messrs Samuel and Sugden -
These two conservatives in the Church are acting as if the Covenant will not punish TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada - for their seemingly *heretical* treatment of homosexuals in the Church. Despite revisions made to try to allow for the need of the various Provinces of the Church to pursue their outworking of the Gospel in their own territory (which was precisely what was happening in TEC and the A.C.of C.); the latest Covenant document still does reserve the right to outlaw innovative actions which allows LGBT people to participate in the public life and ministry of the Church (instead of having to hide their true identity from the local bishop).
Both Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden are keen to advance the Cause of the Global South fraternity, which seeks to gain control of the Anglican Communion world-wide; and they, too, are fearful of the Covenant terms, which would require the G.S. entities that have made piratical incursions into the Territories of TEC and the A.C.of C. to 'repent' of their actions and withdraw. This would seem to have turned what was once their favourtie instrument of discipline back on them!
I'm not surprised that they find the Covenant *too permissive* on TEC and others who have dealt with the issues of gender and sexuality in their Churches with tolerance and acceptance. This is their great fear, that the Anglican Communion should no longer be a refuge for homophobes and misogynists.
Look at why the current version of the covenant is seen as inadequate by some parties. Their statements about its inadequacy illuminate exactly why some parties want such a covenant in the first place, and how they intended to use it.
The objectives and methods they wish to implement involve duress and imposition. Hardly loving, hardly compassionate, hardly gentle.
My understanding of the Baptism service for infants in the Book of Common Prayer is that the questions are asked of the Godparents (parents may be godparents, but need not be) as proxies for the child.
So, for example, the Godparents, who must be baptised, are asked "Wilt thou be baptised in this faith?" answer "That is my desire."
The godparents (and parents) are, by the rubric, responsible for setting an example by their own godly living, but baptism is not made conditional on the minister's private judgment of this.
The Common Worship service of baptism reflects a different understanding, with both parents and godparents answering the questions on their own account.
Living as I now do in the outer reaches of northern France I don't have a copy of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to hand, but if memory holds there was a question about letting adultress Hester Prynn's little girl Pearl be baptised (her father was the minister, as you will remember, but well hidden in the closet). The minister replied to the objections by saying that the child should be baptised because if she got to heaven she might well save her mother as well.
In April the Global South meeting said: “We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10.”
I take it that means that they themselves should be in compliance with the full text of Lambeth 1.10, which includes listening to gay people, (and which does not prohibit, but merely "cannot advise" same-sex blessings).
I await their listening process.
Pity that no-one challenges whether the sprinkling of water on a child's head can control the impartation of God's discretionary favour whatsoever. Perhaps, a far too liberal view.
I really wonder whether any episcopalian churchman could have taken John the Baptist's hard-line stance on Herod Antipas's marriage to Herodias. By today's standards, a flurry of episcopal shuttle diplomacy would have resulted in the discovery of a technicality upon which Herod's marriage could be sanctioned under the Mosaic Law. Or perhaps they could claim exemption under the 'let sin abound' provision. That would certainly have saved their heads from Herodias's party platter.
Yes, it's amazing how we can make inferences from scripture's like 'suffer the little children to come unto me' in support of infant baptism, yet demand a specific 'Jesus quote' to demonstrate His categorical opposition to or support for any sexual practice we deem acceptable today. But that's 21st century hypocrisy for you, eh?