Thursday, 23 October 2008

Answers to CDG Answers to Objections

Whilst the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would kick the next draft of the Covenant into touch, the Covenant Design Group (CDG) reports on and takes up the Bishops' flogging of the dead horse at the Lambeth Conference 2008.

The CDG remains wedded to the Covenant name and model, as a dynamic generous-attitude relationship, despite concerns it is too contractual, and presents historical problems in Scotland and Aotearoa New Zealand.

The CDG does not intend that this become a fifth instrument of Communion. Yet it may in the future become a central text, says the CDG. The CDG later calls it a "foundational document" - it needs people to interpret its place and offer guidance and principles. This all sounds muddled, that indeed it will end up becoming a fifth instrument of Communion.

It is not a panacea for all Communion problems, but the CDG thinks the Covenant will "illuminate the quality of relationships". How about not being a panacea for all Communion problems but adding to them by formulating the labelling of insiders and outsiders?

Some feared the Covenant might overtake and undermine the local nature and flexibility of Anglican Communion. The CDG sees covenant processes in the development of the Anglican Communion. Er, yes, but they were informal weren't they, and that's the point. The CDG adds:

There is no covenant where there is no willingness...

What a good idea! No willingness, and therefore no Covenant.

Some bishops at Lambeth were worried that this is all crisis driven. The CDG knows their pain but covenants in the Bible came with:

...failure, difficulty, and the desperate cries of the oppressed, the exiled, and the fallen.

Yes, but this is an institutional issue and about none of those, other than to marginalise gay people further in the cause of institutional patching and centralisation. Incidentally, the CDG might not have been listening too well at what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks did say about covenants: he actually said how covenants of fate continue to bring groups in a pluralist setting together for practical purposes when covenants of faith cannot be set up. This Anglican one cannot be set up without causing labelling and exclusion. Covenants are not set up in order to create two tier communions.

Some bishops thought the Covenant is intended to be punitive and to exclude. The CDG would like togetherness but:

sustaining relationships in communion has to acknowledge also the reality of threats to those relationships, the consequences that actions have for relationships, and even their possible breakdown.

So actions lead to exclusion or (at least) two tiers of in and out!

Bishops were worried that it was all to legalistic. The CDG will look again at its language but much that happens in Anglicanism is juridical, it says. Indeed it is, especially in the Church of England which operates along with the law of the land and somehow this Covenant would have to come into the law of the land when an intention of that law is to exclude foreign oversight of the Church of England. Disestablishment anyone? I'm in favour of that, but not so that this binding Covenant could be introduced. It should be dead whether the Church of England is established or disestablished, however it relates to foreign Anglican Churches.

Some bishops thought the Covenant was all about institutional maintenance. You don't say! The CDG gets rather carried away here about Jesus and no greater love than this... because I don't remember the verse that states...

no greater love than this, that we lay down our excluded friends for our institution (cf. Jn. 15:13)

This Covenant is nothing to do with love or its intensification: it is to do with the prevention of actions that have received the disapproval of some leading Anglican people with an active attitude far from that of love. They are obsessed with what people do with their genitals, and in some cases encourage cultures of violence and oppression where gay people are involved.

Some bishops were worried that the Covenant would demand uniformity and confession. These bishops might just have been thinking of the creation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. The CDG wants the faith "once delivered" (Jude 3) delivered, though some of us think this faith was once delivered over rather a long time and via some circuitous routes - indeed it was never once delivered. Diversity was rather more fundamental than uniformity, and irrelevant regarding specific actions in one Church objected to by another Church.

Some bishops thought there were statements elsewhere that need no addition by a Covenant. The CDG thinks each of the historical statements is insufficient alone:

This is so because each alone does not articulate the expectations for mutual responsibility that permit the Church as a whole, and certainly the Churches of the Anglican Communion in particular to carry through the specific calling of its mission.

But they are not read alone: they are read together and become a whole. The Baptismal Covenant, the Eucharistic fellowship, and the Lambeth Quadrilateral are comprehensive and all add to each other.

If these were inadequate before, and read separately, why was no formal Covenant produced in addition then? If they were not inadequate then, why are they inadequate now? It is nothing to do with all this elongated answering via several biblical quotes (all available and applicable before): it is because a number of people in some Churches do not like what some Western Churches are doing. They want more rules.

Some bishops saw centralisation happening. The CDG wants to handle "the language of autonomy" ..."with care".

...the Anglican Communion is best understood as a family of self-governing Churches, drawn into Communion not only by the human elements of shared history and patterns of worship, life and mission, but by the supernatural grace of God.
The CDG agrees with this model. The Churches of the Communion should remain able to order their own life, polity and discipline according to the demands of their own mission context.

But it doesn't want autonomy to override communion. Yet there is plenty of evidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury sees a direct line between bishops in dioceses and himself, bypassing the Churches that run those dioceses, and he would be central to operating the Covenant. Plus, complaint by one Church about another causes conflict resolution to move to the centre if disagreement continues. Yet it is nothing to do with one Church what another decides, if the decision comes under what it considers the Lordship of Christ and promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is what autonomy under these means, not some centralising process when someone sets up a complaint. The truth they are not free to ignore is not decided in some Baha'i-like fashion up at HQ Processes Inc.. Anglicanism is not Roman Catholicism.

Some bishops wanted the Instruments of Communion relationship clearer. The CDG speaks of moral authority over provinces. Another word for this could be 'pressure'.

Some bishops wondered if dioceses and not just Churches (provinces) could sign up to the Covenant. The CDG says if a Church's canons and constitutions permit, dioceses might sign up. Yeah yeah, the point is when they do not so permit. Then what?

And of those who do not sign the Covenant? Those who do not sign do not make the mutual commitment to responsibilities in the Covenant, says the CDG. It sees signatories deciding for themselves whether to be in full Communion or not with non-signatories - bilateral relationships, presumably. The point is why this cannot be the way forward anyway: Churches recognising one another in a patchwork quilt, Anglican-style.

Would the Covenant have gnashers? It is "radical loss" rather than sanctions, says the CDG, and consequences. But the consequences would be a systematic labelling of some Anglican Churches as second class, in a power play of who's in and who's out.

Finally in terms of objections and questions, the CDG is considering how the Covenant can be changed and what complication such brings to its text. But if there is a process by which it gets changed, then it would need to be changed for a purpose, to allow what was not allowed (for example). So therefore the Covenant would be juridical.

Over and again the questions and objections to the Covenant do not answer the driver of this: that some want a two tier Communion or full exclusion simply because some Western Churches would like to include people of various active sexualities into the ministry and to bless those who seek to commit to one another in their relationships. That's what this is about. There is plenty already organically Covenantal in Anglicanism, and this formal Covenant effort is little to do with that covenanting which is biblical and organic and more to do with rules.

1 comment:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Wonderful commentary on the piece of crap that is the CDG. Is it all right to say that here? Crap, I mean, not CDG.

no greater love than this, that we lay down our excluded friends for our institution

I've been searching for that verse, too. Also, I can't find the one that says:

Take up your cross and lay it on the shoulders of your brothers and sisters, and follow me.