Monday, 13 April 2009

Chuff Chuff Covenant

My piece about the Ridley-Cambridge Draft of the Covenant is at the Daily Episcopalian.

While waiting over Easter before this could appear, there was a debate focussing on the meaning of Church, and a loose meaning it indeed turns out to be (as I realised from reading). The explanation from Ephraim Radner at Kendall Harmon's blog Stand Firm raised the hackles of the theological/ ecclesiological left, because it clearly was taking account of schisms in the making:

31. Ephraim Radner wrote:

Dr. Noll asks one of the question very much in some people’s minds. The answer is that the word “church” is not carefully defined because it would have been overly limiting of a number of potential situations we did not feel it was wise to constrain in advance, including churches now in a relationship of ecumenical partnership, as well as future uniting churches, currently extra-jurisdictional dioceses, or future ones, etc.. The specific issue of ACNA or an individual diocese in a non-covenanting province was placed on the table, discussed at length, and we agreed that no limitation on this possibility would be defined.

Coupled with this is the speed that it can be used as a political tool:

40. Ephraim Radner wrote:

In response to 32:

I think, first, that 35 is correct: the Covenant goes into effect - for the covenanting churches - immediately upon adoption (4.1.6). That is, with the first two adopting churches, there is a covenant at work. As others joing, that body or network of covenanting churches expands. None of this is dependent - for churches already recognized within the Communion - upon any Instrument’s say-so - ACC, Primates, Canterbury. If the GAFCON churches or the Anglican churches of America or Africa or wherever adopted the covenant today, it would be in effect, and would begin to order the life of the Communion and its Instruments incrementally and finally, as others joined.

This latter point is somewhat anti-Communion, in that most have assumed, surely, on a single start date for all those who wanted to join. In my view, though, if true, it weakens the Covenant further, because it ceases to be a Communion tool but becomes one of bilateral and further relationships. It becomes the document of those who take it up. So what? It loses legitimacy as soon as that happens.

I say "if true" (surely true if Ephraim Radner says so - after all he made it, with the others) because documents have a life of their own. Creators of documents can say what they like, but it is what the document says that matters. The looseness of 'Churches' is just that, and grounds for more argument not solving argument.

The document brings to mind an Archbishop of Canterbury word: unclarity.

It is on this basis that I conclude the document is a mess. It goes in one direction, and undermines itself, it goes in another direction, and undermines itself. It cannot achieve anything other than more argument. Nothing can be imposes, and probably little can be generated in order to be directed. Its emphasis is against a two tier Anglicanism that might be a basis for disciplining, and so cannot serve the purposes of the theological/ ecclesiological right, but whilst moving slightly leftward (in terms of autonomy, scholarship, Holy Spirit) still leaves wheels that can rotate against such movement.

It is all just excess, more wording, a sort of push me pull you, a centralised scheme that cannot achieve anything much - never mind original intentions. That's why the makers should be told thanks but in the end Anglicanism isn't that sort of animal. Committees serve it, they don't make it.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Or you could say that the whole damned enterprise was a great waste of time and money, which is exactly what I thought it would be from the beginning.

Let those who will, have their covenant. I want no part of it, and I never did. I pray that the Episcopal Church and many other churches in the Anglican Communion do not sign on to this nonsense.

JayV said...

I agree, also with Grandmère Mimi. That li'l engine should just remain in the roundhouse.