Tuesday 8 September 2009

All Aboard

Thinking Anglicans includes the full text of the Report from the Communion Partner Bishops, the seven who had a private meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Thus we have the continuing saga of the Covenant (and why I continue to cover it). These bishops appreciated his recent Reflections on the decisions of The Episcopal Church at the General Convention (in which, clearer than ever before, Rowan Williams determined against those decisions that gay and lesbian people cannot represent Anglicanism at any levels of ministry). In response, Williams again mused whether "elements" in provinces against the Covenant will be free to sign up to the Covenant, but the meeting leads to the report concluding (among other things) about the Covenant, to:

urge its adoption by General Convention, or to endorse the first three sections of the Ridley Cambridge Draft and the Anaheim Statement.

This is not the view of the Archbishop's self-appointed interpreter, Bishop Tom Wright, and his pals at the Anglican Communion Institute, with their long essays. This Report suggests that, whilst there is potentially track 1 and track 2 with the Covenant, Williams might like all aboard on track 1 despite what The Episcopal Church (TEC) has passed and intends. It is not absolutely clear this is Williams's view, but it is their view.

Presumably these bishops and probably Williams see that with TEC on board it will at least take into account other conservative views against inclusion as part of its move towards inclusion. There might be a foot on the brake as well as a foot on the accelerator, or at least a messing around with the gears and clutch before pressing the accelerator. Such a Covenant would be the ultimate piece of rubber - not rubber that forms a shield but rubber that is very bendy and wraps around any shape.

Thus the bendy Covenant becomes like a piece of temptation, saying, "pick me, pick me," as if this deepens the togetherness. It becomes, instead, only another stage on which to argue. It is, yet again, another attempt to get this thing through the final goalposts, having come through lots of little goals along the way, with insufficient opposition at each stage.

The Covenant is there for one reason and one reason only: to restrict. As such, it either does restrict, or it increases the Anglicans' necessary ability to practice duplicity. The whole dispute, at present, is an argument about the boundaries of duplicity, that TEC really does want to include faithful gay etc. relationships as part of the transformation of baptismal life, and others who say it is not possible to include such relationships. The Covenant arises because of this dispute, is framed by it, and then the suggestion is that it includes both positions negates itself and adds to the problem.

Furthermore, the Covenant does give legitimacy to central institutions that at present are doubtful; that people can say 'so what?' to the passing of the Lambeth Conference 1998 1:10 resolution by a body meeting to chat and pray. Not when there is a Covenant, however.

To then use that resolution inclusively would have to be like John Henry Newman and his Tract 90, turning the Thirty-nine Articles on their head to mean what they don't mean. Under the Covenant someone will write how Lambeth 1:10 approves of loving, faithful, same sex relationships. So in time the Thirty-nine Articles, disliked by Catholic and liberal, were downgraded into historic formularies; but this would not be the case with Lambeth 1:10, which would have been upgraded.

Plus, when there is a Covenant, and say the Church of England makes a move to act (perhaps on women bishops) that receives objection at the international level, then legal wrangles are potentially large and continuous. To then take action that assumes direction of any sort from the international level will result in legal advice and potential action. Saying 'do this or lose your membership' could be tested in the courts as an intention of international oversight and control. The Covenant could be a spur for all kinds of legal battles. In any case, it is quite possible that the General Synod will regard the Covenant as juridical and punitive, and reject it. For legal reasons here and elsewhere, the Covenant and its statements could be rendered impotent in a short period of time, once adopted, as it then faces both ways at once.

Best not to have it, not to succumb to the temptation, and to let other Anglican Churches reject it too, with a good head of steam for the Church of England to reject it as well.

1 comment:

June Butler said...

The covenant was a cockamamie idea from the beginning. Too much money, time, and attention has been spent on it that could have been better spent elsewhere. Someone give it a quick and merciful death. Vain hope, I know.