John Rodgers, formerly the Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge PA, is a bishop in the Anglican Church of Ruwanda. He and Chuck Murphy were the first two AMIA bishops consecrated for the United States.
Bishop Rodgers, and his colleague Prof. Steven Noll have always seemed to me to be the “brain trust” of the Sub-Saharan Anglican Provinces. (Prof. Noll is serving as Chancellor of a University in Uganda, though I knew him when he was teaching at TESM at the same time that Rodgers was there.
Whenever one of them takes the time to write an article which is then carried on VirtueOnline, you can be sure that it’s intended audience is the AMIA and CANA leadership both here in the States and abroad.
So I was very interested to read the following:
“I believe that the House of Bishops is reading the situation correctly; a change in the Anglican Communion is coming about. We are, after all, a very young thing as an Anglican Communion, and are still taking shape. It is a needed change.
The Anglican Communion must have some way to declare its core theological beliefs and how it reads the Holy Scripture. It must also have some way to discipline Provinces and Churches that defy the Communion’s declared teaching and practice. Both the proposal for an Anglican Communion Covenant by the Windsor Report along with the new Draft Covenant and the request of the Primates Communique are expressions of this need and attempts to meet the need.
Now I would like to raise a very serious problem and make a clear suggestion.
First I want to state the problem.
The Covenant being written at the request of the Windsor Report should be deep-sixed! Why? Because, it can’t work. There is no way that revisionists and orthodox Anglicans can jointly write and approve an Anglican Covenant that will do what such a covenant must do i.e. clearly state the core beliefs of Anglicans and provide for the discipline of Provinces and Churches that violate the core beliefs [my emphasis].
To ask such a committee to do that is like asking Congress to discipline itself. What committee so comprised will state anything that ½ of its members couldn’t agree to? The result with be a Covenant full of vagueness at the doctrinal heart, while providing processes for discussion, tons of discussion, until we are blue in the face and until the errors being discussed have taken over the Communion.
It is a recipe for disaster. Nor will any instrument designed to discipline Provinces and Churches be included. In fact I have recently read a view of the Covenant that explicitly rejects the place of discipline in the role of the Covenant.
And that was written by a member of the drafting committee. If we spend our energy trying to make this work we will go on forever and lose while discussing, or more likely, out of sheer exhaustion, be co-opted into agreeing to something not worth signing. Please reread the proposed Covenant looking for doctrinal commitment, for binding authority, and the possibility of discipline? I haven’t found them.
Now the answer, here is a far more excellent way! We already have an Anglican Communion Covenant. It consists of the Anglican Formularies: the Holy Scriptures, the 3 Catholic Creeds, The 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal. You can’t beat them.”
From what I can intuit, this sort of desire for clear boundaries and a solid, normative confessional statement is a key piece that helps to understand both the desire in this part of the Church for a covenant, and their desire that voices calling to keep the Elizabethan Settlement as settled “law” in the Communion be expelled.
The very idea that there be a “declared teaching in the Communion” to which we must conform rather than there being an agreed upon structure and form for prayer and polity is a example of how I believe we witnessing a change in Anglicanism that I can not accept.