Thinking Anglicans

Poon on the Covenant

Michael Poon has written a paper The Anglican Communion as Communion of Churches: on the historic significance of the Anglican Covenant.

It is available in various formats from Fulcrum and Global South Anglican.

The paper aims to draw out the historic significance of the Anglican Covenant for the Anglican Communion. It begins by examining the nature and reasons of the “ecclesial deficit” of the Anglican Communion. It points out that the ecclesial status of the Anglican Communion has never been clarified. The Anglican Communion arises historically as an accident. It has never been constituted as an ecclesial body. The paper traces the transformations in the Anglican ecclesiastical map amid powerful global undercurrents in the second half of the twentieth century. It reflects on the emergence of the status of the See of Canterbury as “focus of unity” of the Anglican Communion. It proceeds to point out how uncritical adoption of the term “instruments of unity” from Protestant ecumenical dialogues led to confusion and mistrust among Anglican Churches. The paper then explores the potentials of communion-ecclesiology for the Anglican Covenant. It goes on to argue that the Anglican Covenant, grounded in the New Covenant, provides the canonical structure of the Anglican Communion. It constitutes the particular Churches to be a confident Communion of Churches. The inter-Anglican structures of the Anglican Communion should in fact be the ecclesiastical embodiment of the Anglican Covenant.

The Revd Canon Dr Michael Poon is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Trinity Theological College, Singapore.

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Pluralist
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Here we go. Another article that starts from the year dot and goes on and on.

So straight to this:

54. Here we come to see why the Anglican Covenant is important. It provides a canonical structure that unites the Churches of the Communion to be “Church”.

It is, in fact, an innovation: the Anglican Communion was not and is not a Church. If it becomes that, then it has changed.

JCF
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JCF

“It goes on to argue that the Anglican Covenant, grounded in the New Covenant, provides the canonical structure of the Anglican Communion.” Oh, I’m all for that . . . if by “the New Covenant”, we mean the one that begins w/ Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? But seriously: “It begins by examining the nature and reasons of the “ecclesial deficit” of the Anglican Communion. Does not Dr Poon have to prove that there IS an “ecclesial deficit”, before he can examine its (so-called) “nature and reasons”? On the contrary, I find not an “ecclesial deficit” in the AC—the Quadrilateral… Read more »

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

And given that, as Colin Podmore writes “the terms Anglican and Anglican communion have yet to figure in the C of E’s formal expressions of its identity and self-understanding”, how will the Church of England as currently constituted become part of this Anglican Church?
Poon quotes this and seems to suggest that the C of E will have to undergo radical change to become part of this new covenanted community.Does he think this is likely to happen? Or that many loyal members of the C of E would want it?

Tobias Haller
Guest

I have absolutely no wish to be part of a “world church” with a central command. If I’d wanted that I’d have remained a Roman Catholic. I want to be an Anglican, and I have no small resentment towards those who wish to transform classical Anglicanism into a clumsy imitation of Rome.

What is it that people don’t understand (or understand but don’t like) about being a “fellowship of national or provincial churches”?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Pluralist:

Indeed–to my mind, the greatest reform of the Church of England’s creation was the idea of a national church, a church that adapts Christian worship and belief to local needs and requirements, rather than insisting on a “one size fits all” international form.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Pluralist:

Indeed–to my mind, the greatest reform of the Church of England’s creation was the idea of a national church, a church that adapts Christian worship and belief to local needs and requirements, rather than insisting on a “one size fits all” international form.

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

The Anglican Church of Australia to which I belong is an autonomous Church. Its Constitution notes that it is in communion with “the Church of England”. There is no reference even to Canterbury let alone to the Anglican Communion or to any “instruments of unity”, the most important ones of which in fact are quite informal. Many Anglicans value the various ways in which we share in the life of the Communion but I do not think there is any way in which in practice our Church’s Constitution will be changed or any way in practice in which any “Covenant”… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

I agree with Pluralist and Tobias Haller; we have managed pretty well as a ‘Communion’ based on a relationship of fellowship in the ‘Anglcan Way’, which is the way of Scripture, Tradition & Reason. For a new Confessional legalistic Covenantal relationship (a la Roman Catholicism, with an imposed ‘Magisterium’) to be imposed, then either Constantinople or Rome would be the answer. The Reformation Founders would stir in their graves at the thought of a centralised theocratic government based in Nigeria, Sydney, Uganda – or even London, Toronto or New York. Justice and Mercy can never be sacrificed for mere ‘organic… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

I haven’t been able to get into the paper yet, although I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Poon. I don’t necessarily agree, but I do respect him. Two things strike me about the reference to “ecclesial deficit.” The first is that it is Roman language. That is, it is a phrase used in recent Roman comments on the nature of the Church in distinguishing recognized Churches (Rome and Constantinople and their various constituents) and other Christian bodies. The second is that it is language related to what Rowan has used in his own discussion of wanting recognition… Read more »

Lionel Deimel
Guest

Amen to that, Pat. Being a national church that can respond to the needs of the nation’s population is surely a hallmark of Anglicanism. So is a certain tolerance that seeks to include a variety of views (originally, those of everyone in the nation) in the church. One has to make a pretty strong case for throwing these characteristics overboard. There is, I think, a possibility that the Anglican Communion may, in the end, choose to discard Anglicanism itself. That would be a shame. In that case, I hope that The Episcopal Church will remain truly Anglican in its ethos.

Chris H.
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Chris H.

In many ways I think the problem comes down to branding in our global village. “Anglican” is a brand and people expect everything under a brand to be the same. When I go to McDonalds in China, I expect the same fries and Big Mac as in the US. People assume that everyone using the corporate brands do and have the same things. Perhaps a solution would be to move the “Anglican Communion” bit to a historical footnote and have national churches rebrand themselves. Otherwise if they want the Anglican brand to survive, tightening the definition of what it means… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Amen, Lionel. Local Autonomy is the grace to allow for enculturation and evangelisation honored in the Church of England since the days of Augustine of Canterbury — at the direction of Pope Gregory the Great! Ironic that one of the greatest Bishops of Rome advocated local diversity — nay insisted on it when the Milanese began to adopt Roman customs! — and without apparently suffering any ecclesial deficit thereby. Not only is the Covenant not leading to peace between the various provinces, but it is breeding further chaos and division _within_ the provinces. Surely a sign that this is not… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

In 1984 I attended a meeting of Benedictines about how the new Code of Canon Law (of the Roman Catholic Church) would affect monastic communities. One of my reflections was that we could never have a common canon law in the Anglican Communion because there is too much respect for cultural differences. Perhaps I was mistaken.

Thomas+
Guest
Thomas+

“The Anglican Covenant provides the Communion (…) a canonical structure” Well, there it is. In Dr Poon’s view (as expressed throughout his document) he appears to welcome the idea of a Covenant providing a >>canonical<< structure. Canonical could be understood in a broader meaning – structural, organizational – or in rather strict ecclesiological meaning, canonical law. While I could live unhappy if the broader meaning is all that he cares for, I believe that what he has in mind are just canons, which to my mind, for a variety of reasons, will be unacceptable to a great number of folks.… Read more »

Phil Harrold
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Phil Harrold

How odd it seems that several commentors would be so reliant on the ‘national church’ ideal of church autonomy. The idea of the nation seems so arbitrary, so quintessentially modern in its present-day expression, and so fraught with tragic history. Why would we trust this curious invention to be so ‘ultimate’ and capable a definer of our spiritual geography in the Church?

Steve Lusk
Guest
Steve Lusk

Chris H has paraphrased a tired old CANA talking point: “many Anglicans in Africa, . . . fear the Muslims next to them are going to say, ‘America has gays, so all Anglicans promote gays.’” To buy that one, one must believe that if only we Americans would stand shoulder to shoulder with the mullahs in oppressing our gays, African Anglicans would get a pass on the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and his death on the cross, Danish cartoons, and teddy bears named Mohammad, that the tribal feuds and economic rivalries that underlie much of the inter-religious violence would… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

I am not sure we Welsh see Augustine as a model of tolerance, inclusivity and local diversity ….. no, not at all!

Pat O&apos;Neill
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Pat O&apos;Neill

Phil:

Because the alternative is no spiritual geography at all…just a big world-wide church that puts all in the same tent…or else a true balkanization–each parish/congregation making its own rules, so that in moving from town to town (or even from one end of town to the other) you can never quite be sure that the Anglicans “here” are the same as the Anglicans “there”.

Pat O&apos;Neill
Guest
Pat O&apos;Neill

Phil:

Because the alternative is no spiritual geography at all…just a big world-wide church that puts all in the same tent…or else a true balkanization–each parish/congregation making its own rules, so that in moving from town to town (or even from one end of town to the other) you can never quite be sure that the Anglicans “here” are the same as the Anglicans “there”.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Well, as pointed out by a conservative to me last night, TEC is not really a national church – just autonomous. We include dioceses and bishops that in countries outside the US. We’re an international church without the need for Canterbury, thank you.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

The concept of the national church is hardly “quintessentially modern” where the Eastern Churches are concerned. Somehow the seem to get along, to a greater or lesser degree, without an Orthodox Covenant.

BillyD/Bill Dilworth
Guest

“Well, as pointed out by a conservative to me last night, TEC is not really a national church – just autonomous. We include dioceses and bishops that in countries outside the US. We’re an international church without the need for Canterbury, thank you.” No, I don’t buy this oft-repeated meme at all. Yes, we have dioceses outside the US. But it’s not as if we’ve planned some international ecclesiastical empire – we’ve fostered churches that needed help. If any of the overseas dioceses wanted to organize into independent Provinces we wouldn’t stand in their way; it’s happened before. If, say,… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Martin — quite so. The letters between Gregory and Augustine show a great and open mind trying to deal with a rather more limited one, and I don’t think Augustine was all that good at engaging with the kind of breadth of tolerance Gregory intended. Sounds familiar…

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

Speaking as a very progressive Vatican II Catholic, the last thing Anglicans need is central authority and a magesterium. The Reformation was a good thing and millions of us are praying for a second Reformation in the Latin Rite Churches. The Bishop of Rome would be a nice unifying symbol but should have no more authority than any other bishop and he should be elected by lay people and clergy. The present system is in a state of decay and it is on the verge of imploding. Anglicans have a better system, especially Anglicans such as those in the American… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“To buy that one, one must believe that if only we Americans would stand shoulder to shoulder with the mullahs in oppressing our gays, African Anglicans would get a pass on the Trinity…”

Fantastically well put, Steve L. Thank you.

MarkBrunson
Guest

My bad, Billy, in that I was unaware of what I was conveying.

I didn’t mean to imply that we were building an ecclesiastic empire, merely that we are quite capable of fostering close ties – filial ties – with cultures outside our own without the rickety spectacle of Roman-style imperialism through a single “home office.” I was trying to refute one oft-repeated meme and knee-jerked myself into appearing to offer another.

Dion
Guest
Dion

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 24 March 2010 at 1:26pm GMT: “The concept of the national church is hardly “quintessentially modern” where the Eastern Churches are concerned. Somehow the[y] seem to get along, to a greater or lesser degree, without an Orthodox Covenant.” Indeed, even if all the autonomous autokephalos churches (I’m thinking of Cyprus) are not necessarily “nations” — and “nations” does not always mean “nation-states”. The role of this proposed “Anglican Covenant” in Orthodoxy is, as I understand it, filled by Canon 15 (building on Canons 13 and 14) of the Council of Constantinople in 861 (_not_ an… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

Thank you for that direct, uncomplicated statement, Chris Smith

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The continuing posts and debate over the so called ‘Anglican covenant” is interesting. The purpose of the covenant was to brow beat North America into line on the issue of gay rights. However, things have changed. The national leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada is organizing the 2010 General synod in order to make sure that no new decisions are taken on this issue. The 2010 GS is being planned as an “hour of indecision”. Now that TEC has decided to ordain bishop-elect Glasspool, can there be any question that the covenant as a political tool is now moot.… Read more »

Grandmère Mimi
Guest

Chris Smith, I liked your comment so that I posted it on my blog.

I don’t mean to offend, but who, of sound mind, would want to use Rome as their model at the present time?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“The minute fundamentalists try to force their views down the throats of their fellow Christians, is the minute the people of God need to stand up and say enough! May the structure of Anglican autonomy continue and show the rest of the Catholic and Orthodox world that this way is preferable and more in keeping with the early Church.” – Chris Smith, on Wednesday – This is a timely reminder, from Chris, to all of us who might want to assist in the liberalisation of the Roman Catholic Church, that there are many ‘Vatican II Catholics’ who long for Rome… Read more »

BillyD/Bill Dilworth
Guest

“I didn’t mean to imply that we were building an ecclesiastic empire, merely that we are quite capable of fostering close ties – filial ties – with cultures outside our own without the rickety spectacle of Roman-style imperialism through a single “home office.””

Yes we can, to coin a phrase. 🙂

Annie
Guest
Annie

Thanks be to God for this website! The posts are a breath of fresh air to me and give me hope for the future of the Church. I am a progressive priest in a conservative (but still in TEC) diocese that is chomping at the bit to approve/affirm the Anglican Covenant at its next diocesan convention, and I am in the distinct minority in opposing such a move. Your posts have helped me to put into words my reasons for my resistance to the Covenant, resistance which up to now I have felt intuitively but had a hard time articulating.… Read more »

SelenesMom
Guest
SelenesMom

Has anyone tried bringing up this “covenant” idea before a group of lay people? I can’t imagine it would meet an enthusiastic reception, and in our parish maybe not even a civil one. Something like, “What on earth for?” “It sounds like more bureaucracy and more paperwork, who needs that?” “We got along fine without one up until now!” “Is someone trying to put a Pope back in?” “Probably, next this covenant will ask for another layer of DPA.”

Nom de Plume
Guest
Nom de Plume

It seems to me that the best course of action for any General Synod/Convention contemplating the proposed Covenant would be to adopt a motion deferring any further discussion until the Church of England signs it. That should buy us a century or two.

Pluralist
Guest