Monday 3 March 2008

Covenant Insider

Most Revd John Neill, Archbishop of Dublin, has not spoken about the Covenant as a representative of the Irish Anglican Church but writes as a member of the Covenant Design Group that produced the latest St Andrews Draft. Thus he does not comment simply as a Church of Ireland representative might, though he notes that The Church of Ireland through the Standing Committee of its General Synod set up a Covenant Response Group which proposed a much shorter redrafting to the Nassau Draft.

He makes this entirely unsupported statement: has been proposed and fairly generally accepted throughout the Anglican Communion that there should be a Covenant produced.

One might contrast it with this statement also made:

...when we examined all the responses to the Covenant was that, sadly, there were few responses from those Churches which have been most outspoken about threats to the Communion.... the sad thing is that if a Covenant is there to restore the fractures in the Anglican Communion, everybody needs to own the process, and especially those who feel alienated.

I don't see how these statements quite relate. They must be pretty alienated about this process is there is general acceptance throughout the Communion and yet only 13 provinces and a few other groups could bother to respond.

He notes that some Anglican Churches have a situation where what the Primate says goes, and others are more synodical and consultative:

Those Churches which have a high regard for the role of Synods (such as our own) are very reticent to cede power to a Primates’ Meeting.

He has this wrong: they simply will not cede power to any Instrument of Communion. The Church of England cannot, legally, and others either cannot or will not. It is not going to happen and especially where the centralisers would want it to happen.

Describing the changes from the Nassau to St Andrews draft he states these points:

  • The overall structure is simpler
  • Blocks of biblical references are removed with more specific use
  • Emphasis is on mission and the wider ecumenical
  • The Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral appears clearly and the episcopal ministry is examined
  • Historic documents varies from one Church to another so there is no common list
  • Instruments of Communion are not set in stone, but are listed in historical sequence with no superiority given to the Primates Meeting
  • Autonomy is emphasised but limits to that autonomy are obvious - thus "autonomous in communion"
  • Reason is "admirably set forth" within Scripture and Tradition
  • The Covenant only gives principles that Churches should accept to remain in communion and the appendix (that states how Churches can be excluded) is but a suggestion of practice

Actually, it is a better view that reason is not stated adequately at all. It a leg along with the other legs of the stool, not inside them. Are they frightened of human reasoning? As for the main impact, he states that:

We must not reduce the Covenant into a pre-nuptial agreement. I would hope that the Covenant will eventually go out by itself for approval and the type of issues outlined in the Appendix be left to the Anglican Consultative Council.

There is a simple problem here about having a pre-nuptual agreement to a Covenant, and it is the same one as before. Either the Covenant does its job, which is to exclude those who will not accept the basis of being together, such as set out in the dreadful Advent Letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, or it does nothing and is useless, as there are many other statements of "being Anglican" available.

For all the tooing and froing and this element of Anglicanism and that, the Churches are autonomous and culturally are in different places. This is the point that has to be accepted, and if it is not then there are looser arrangements available to make Anglican Churches autocephalous on a more Eastern Catholic model rather than this constant pandering to a Roman Catholic model under an Archbishop who imposes his personal bias and whose policy is bound to fail.

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