Wednesday, 6 April 2011

From the Right

There is comment about the Anglican Covenant from the far right of the theological spectrum, but what about comment from there about the No Anglican Covenant Coalition (NACC)? Well there is an example (if from December last year) with a follow up commentary and both are worthy of a little note.

As a sort of Charles Raven (the present one, not the historical giant) but of the theological left, or an outsider looking in (as says MadPreist), this opinion about opinion interests me. How does an example of far right opinion view the NACC?

In general the NACC stance regards the decentralised Communion as vibrant whereas the far right sees it as broken or impaired. The NACC thinks that the Covenant would slow innovations because of objections from other Anglican Churches, whereas the far right thinks initiatives could still be taken (but as it understands them, as in church planting - actually this is contentious when it travels over parish boundaries). The far right doesn't see the Covenant as centralising and punitive as does the left, nor does it see punishment as implying second class division. Nor does the far right interpret the Covenant as forcing bonds of affection, which cannot be done. Unlike the left, the right sees 'deviant behaviour' as worthy of punishments, and behaviours should be judged - and the liberal side has accused Global South archbishops of homophobia.

Whereas the NACC sees the Covenant as stifling debate and concluding matters before being tested, the far right sees the contentious issues as going on for too long. Lambeth 1998 1:10 resolved the matter. Plus the far right sees that an ending of debate favourable to inclusion would be accepted by the NAC.

The NAC view is that a Covenant should be joyful but this is about institutionalising mistrust, but the right thinks mistrust and brokenness exist already. Disaffection already exists, and a covenant to include revisionists is one that cannot be accepted by the far right.

Much of this is already understood, with quite a chasm in existence. But what about a further and deeper view of the NAC side from the right.

Canon Gary L'Hommedieu put it:

What they are really lobbying for is a church without boundaries, a contradiction in terms, but something that sounds persuasive in the current climate of debate and can distract the public from observing a political agenda.

This agenda is multiculturalism, whereas the right sees cultures and not a super-culture.

So the theological right combines with the political right. But it isn't right - correct - about this.

Multiculturalism is not about creating one super-culture, but a situation where, for example, public service leaflets go out in every language and every group guards and shares its culture from its origins. This is a potential model then for Anglican breadth through difference. The alternative is where everyone should become British in large part, with only memories of origins.

It is this approach, against multiculturalism, that starts to judge choices.

So the right wing, at least as represented by L'Hommedieu, has this connection all wrong.

A church without (theological) boundaries is also likened to permissive culture and affluence, according to the right. Perhaps, rather, it is likened to education, self-awareness, the ability to decide for ourselves and not have imposition. And I wonder how many are really arguing for a Church without boundaries. I would, but that's the reason I am outside: it does have boundaries.

Indeed what L'Hommedieu wants is a pan-cultural pact, an agreement that is an explicit statement of collective life. It is about what is and is not part of society.

In the context of the Covenant, that's an important admission: some are in and some are out.

The whole point about multiculturalism is to extend the boundaries out as far as possible, to make the boundaries flexible, and to maximise the tolerance of diversity beyond that of core ethical values both against harm and that would threaten such liberty.

Where values clash between cultures, is there a need for a Covenant? The strain is always lessened by as much looseness as possible. And this is the argument against a Covenant (and the first one I employed: if an institution is spinning and coming apart, banging in nails at the centre will only delay the day the whole thing flies apart and more violently).

As the Covenant is discussed in English dioceses, it is perhaps becoming clearer just what an impact this will have locally. Where I was wrong was to imagine nails going in centrally, for the thing to then shake more violently. Rather the nails are being banged in right down to parish church level, and that isn't just a matter of riding roughshod over different expressions of Anglicanism but instituting a kind of conserving regimentation from above, indeed from beyond.

But Gary L'Hommedieu doesn't think a real Covenant, that has boundaries, is on offer, and that there is nothing to resist. The ambiguity of the wording would suggest this is too optimisic on the liberal side.


An Episcopal Chuch based study of the Covenant is available, with an introduction at Preludium.

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