Some preliminary thoughts about the Proposed Covenant

Uncategorized

I am actually quite heartened by what I read here. There’s nothing that I would have to “cross my fingers” to sign onto. It’s clearly rooted in both Holy Scripture and the traditions of the Church. It’s a pragmatic and reasonable document.

One of its effects would be to create a “referee” Рthe Primates Meeting Рin cases of serious provincial level dispute. This is uniquely different than a Pope and not a confessional statement. It is a conciliar solution. I like it because I believe in a fundamental way that we must always work to discern God’s will from within a believing community.

I’m reading a number of people posting already that they are uncomfortable giving up any of the Episcopal Church’s autonomy to such a group. I guess I’d have to disagree with them. I’ve often thought that both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion needed some way to explicitly state that some positions were “out of bounds”. I think this need is true in all parts of the Church and in all parts of the Communion. The border crossings, the movement toward lay presidency, the issue of same-gender blessings to name a few are all things that have allowed or forbidden in local contexts.

Even speaking just for the Episcopal Church, we as a body have yet to be able to find a way to invite badly behaving bishops to stand down from their positions and to consider more carefully the needs of the whole body as being more important than the needs of the diocese they serve or the constituency they’ve gathered.

Do I have a quibble? I guess I do. I’m concerned that there be enough looseness in the Covenant that local communities could provide both appropriate pastoral care to their members and also that there be sufficient freedom for the local congregations to be able to be open the calling of the Holy Spirit (with the caveat that any innovations would have to be ultimately accepted by the larger body.)

I expect everyone around the Communion is going to want to take some time to work through all the ramifications. I know I need to. But this is a good place to start from.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

11 Comments

  1. David – is it the idea of giving someone in the Communion the right to be referee or is it the fact that the Covenant in its present form names the Primate’s Meeting to that task?
    If I had my druthers, the best choice would be an Anglican Conference.
    But I guess my point is really that I agree we need a referee. I’m willing to be convinced about who that ref might be in terms of praxis.

  2. Rodney says

    I disagree about the need for a “referee” because it suggests that there is a common point of understanding that is understood to be concilatory. I signed on to the Episcopal Church because of the explicit absence of such a thing. I’m also extremely uncomfortable handing over authority to any body that does not include all orders of ministry. And the idea that ultimate authority for Biblical interpretation (I may be reading too much into that particular section) rests with our bishops is just silly. I don’t believe that our accountability with one another should not be collapsed into some need to agree with one another.

  3. Rodney says

    I disagree about the need for a “referee” because it suggests that there is a common point of understanding that is understood to be concilatory. I signed on to the Episcopal Church because of the explicit absence of such a thing. I’m also extremely uncomfortable handing over authority to any body that does not include all orders of ministry. And the idea that ultimate authority for Biblical interpretation (I may be reading too much into that particular section) rests with our bishops is just silly. I don’t believe that our accountability with one another should not be collapsed into some need to agree with one another.

  4. As I wrote at Fr. Jakes and Meditation:
    I’m sorry but there is a lot of ahistory here to which the Scots should rightly object as should we. Again, we’re trying to craft a more tidy Anglicanism than has existed, telling a new meta-narrative of our founding to reestablish something that did not previously exist. Disruptive narrative by focusing on the conflicts and contestedness in our history is a firm antidote to such hegemonic notions. [As I’ve written repeatedly we are inhertitors primarily of the Scots, with a bit of 1662 added in here and there, and hence our more “catholic” prayers rather than “Calvinist”. Anglicanism has been many movements under one roof, and the via media has been through this contestedness summed up in prayer in Christ, not a milque toast moderation.]
    I found several lines telling, matters such as “biblical morality”, for example. What is this and who gets to decide?
    I think it reads as incredibly top-heavy, just for starters, in answer to my own question–what of theologians both lay and ordained, conscience, what of communities as a whole, what of the entire community, which at present does not include all sorts and types in our processes on such important deliberations as to what is biblical and what is not? A true common good must also be good for particular persons, at least if its a catholic common good because one leads to the other. At present our common good is at the expense of some in the community.
    I also think given the Primates’ egos and agendae, it would be better to lateralize authority to the ACC rather than the other way around. The Primates need to be grounded within the wider orders of the Episcopate, Presbyterate, and Laity–and it’s time to bring the Diaconate on board as well, since between the deacons and laity, much of the ministry in the world is actually present. Note the laity aren’t even mentioned but only the Episcopate, Presbyterate, and Diaconate. This in itself is very telling.
    I might point out that “biblical morality” and “all things necessary to salvation” are not the same thing. The former has to do with our ongoing responses to the Living God, and thus are open to much debate and question and contextedness, the latter have to do with God’s mighty acts for us in Christ Jesus and present to us by the Spirit. When Huntington proposed this, wanting a minimum but necessary dogma, the Creeds were to be our lens upon what it is in the Scriptures that is saving–those things about God for it is God who saves. We have here that continued move to conflate first things of dogmatic theology with moral theology. In Reformation terms a conflation of grace with works, and hence, the very real sense on the part of lgbt Christians that you folks are preaching two different Gospels, requiring first a work of us–that we either become something else or become celibate as our only licit response to God without our input, of course, before saved which means having faith in God’s working for us in Christ by the Spirit which is in contradiction to how grace seems to work for straight folks. The former asks grace to destroy our nature, the latter builds upon nature.
    In keeping with the contested and top-down and lateral movements within classic Anglican polity, I will be sending out a questionaire of questions to centrists like Fr. Nick and Fr. David, not necessarily the same thing as those in the center or who wish to keep us together, who are pastors, as I continue to see a top-heavy, sacrifice someone without ourselves sacrificing approach while not answering publicly and specifically on matters of pastoral and ritual care of lgbt Christians in their midst in real practical and practicable ways that put flesh to the words .
    I would also like to hear from any centrist pastor how they read the Communion’s hyperplexy over same-sex unions while no one is willing to break communion over the jailing and persecution of lgbt Christians by even Primatial support? This to my mind vitiates severely Anglicanism’s moral authority and those who say nothing or make excuses. The only part of Windsor that is required for compliance is those parts built on our backs, what of the near anathema of persecuting or harming us, muchless border crossing which even Canon Cameron when asked in Tanzania seems to have said shouldn’t be stopped at this time?

  5. Nick+,
    With me, it’s specifically about the Primates Meeting, which is the least representative of the conciliar instruments.
    David+

  6. Nick+,
    With me, it’s specifically about the Primates Meeting, which is the least representative of the conciliar instruments.
    Nothing in the proposed covenant talks about juridical authority, only moral, so I’m OK with that. A covenant would only lay out the process for that moral authority to be exercised.
    The minute they start talking about juridical authority, I’m not interested.
    David+

  7. *Christopher asks:

    I would also like to hear from any centrist pastor how they read the Communion’s hyperplexy over same-sex unions while no one is willing to break communion over the jailing and persecution of lgbt Christians by even Primatial support?

    My reading is that it is fundamentally scandalous – and in a very basic way makes me wonder why the larger communion can’t see this hypocrisy. The legislation certainly goes against the very Lambeth resolution that they quote to oppose same sex blessings.
    Two other things – now that the ground rules for decision making are becoming clearer – will the Episcopal Church be able to bring a complaint to the Primate’s meeting about the behavior of the Nigerian province in this regard?
    And second – let’s say that TEC is forbidden from developing blessing rites, how much leeway will TEC and CoE and Canada be allowed to have to be faithful pastors to the people in their congregation?

  8. I wouldn’t hold my breath that our complaint would amount to a hill of beans, and even less that anything would be enforced for once this is law in Nigeria, ++Akinola can say it’s not him but the law of Nigeria that’s at fault and wash his hands of the whole thing. All will have missed an opportunity to have required two-way compliance while singularly worried about TEC and gay unions. In a few words, we lgbt Christians were expendable.
    As the oxygen fizzles out of TEC, we lay and gay folks may just need to do the work our priests may not be able to do any longer. At this time your ability to pastor lgbt Christians is impaired and becoming more so. It would be good for once to honestly face this and begin to recognize that your ability to pastor us is in trouble and becoming more so. I wouldn’t go to someone who sold us down the river for the sake of a unity that allowed our persecution and jailing while wringing their hands about holding it all together. Keep your private pastoral care.
    As I wrote the other day, I have long argued we need to reject easy gestures that privatize our lives. Priests who do this may mean well pastorally, but it’s another version of closeting and its disrespectful both to the way our lives are lived publicly as queer Christians in relationships and to the Cross we often bear for doing so both at the hands of the world and the Church. Better to admit that there is space between us and send us to a qualified layperson, a religious, wedding planner, or other tradition for such matters of pastoral and ritual care with regard to our relationships and all other passages in our lives marked by Christ. At least it’s honest and we don’t get to feel good about our “inclusiveness” that has in the effort made ourselves and our type the center and the Church. At least under such circumstances, we can invite a public, often those who do support us in our daily lives lived publicly, and celebrate outloud and before all present rather than stowed away lest honoring our presence cause a problem.
    This has all about TEC’s compliance, and I don’t expect that much more will come of this. That’s been the problem with those seeking a centralized solution all along, it’s one-way in application and has been in all of the conversations with regard to compliance to advisory documents and reports. As more and more ground was ceded, and advisory and recommendatory documents became law, they were only half-enforced. And as Caelius said so well, a half-law is no law at all. The question has always been, how will TEC comply?
    Not a word from the Primates about how Nigeria will comply or Uganda (where there are lot of nasty things being done to lgbt Christians as we learned in a recent video showing at my parish, including to Bp. Semantu, who has supported us there)? Once TEC is submission, don’t expect a similar response from ++Akinola, and voices of disagreement and rebuke to the grande plans will have been dispensed with.
    This has become a scandal in the biblical sense, as in a stumbling block to the Gospel of Christ Jesus especially for lgbt persons and even for many of us who are Christians. I hope as we move into Lent, this communion led by the Primates as first among equals will be on their knees in repentance and lament. That so many would go along with this scandal to hold it all together and trade-off the Gospel is even more horrifying.
    As I wrote at The Scotist’s, It’s time to ramp up the interference all around if we can only focus on the compliance of TEC. What of Nigeria’s compliance to this from the Windsor Report: any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care? While Nigeria prepares to pass draconian legislation against lgbt Christians (and non-Christians) with ++Akinola’s approval even against those of his own flock, we’re worried about compliance of TEC? Not a word mentioned about this by the Primates as they blather on, as I mused the other day…as Anglicans we are striving to construct a new founding meta-narrative of ourselves, slaying in words, if not in fact, though there may be some of that before it is all over with, the chaos of the queers, so that order can be restored. Such order, however, is under the judgment of Christ and is now being exposed in its formation for all the world to see.
    In fact, if this continues, we lgbt Christians will have to request alternative oversight by leaving the Anglican tradition altogether. As Matt has pointed out at Political Spaghetti, this is all going to be to the shame of Anglican anything in the end. I agree with him, may it follow such leaders to their graves.

  9. Paul Martin says

    The idea of a referee isn’t a bad one. I just don’t trust the Primates to play that role. There has been no listening process in most of the world. They are treating Lambeth 1.10 as holy writ rather than an expression of the mind of the council at one point in time. They speak of waiting for a new “consensus” while preventing any process which might allow that to evolve. I see no reason to place any trust in this process.

Comments are closed.