Thursday 15 December 2011

Ten Reasons for the Covenant Refuted

Let's counter these arguments from Andrew Goddard at Fulcrum straight away.

1. It has been consistently supported by the Church of England...

Obviously not, when given to dioceses to discuss. At best it is divided down the middle, and you do not innovate when divided.

2. It is a development in line with the Communion’s evolving life and is faithful to Anglicanism’s theological and ecclesiological tradition and identity.

But it goes over the line, forcing autonomous Churches - and particularly the Church of England as supplier of the Archbishop of Canterbury - to freeze developments that are culturally relevant.

3. It gives form to a vision of ‘communion with autonomy and accountability’ that has been central to the Communion’s self-understanding and is a genuine Anglican via media avoiding the dangers of both a centralised, controlling Curia and a fragmenting, fractious federation.

Anglicanism is not a federation (a central bureaucracy with sovereignty at the centre) but is a confederation at best: Churches are the centres of authority and provide higher simply for discussion. The Communion is not a Church. But the Covenant produces a real danger of curia by procedure at the level of the Standing Committee and it handing out 'relational consequences' in a new two tier Anglican Communion.

4. It enables Anglicans across the world and Christians in other denominations to understand who we are as Anglicans and how we seek to live together and share in God’s mission together as part of the body of Christ.

But perhaps they ought to understand that Anglicanism is not a unified world wide group but a Communion of Churches - in the plural.

5. It provides a clear agreed framework for debate, diversity and development through shared discernment within agreed affirmations and commitments.

It is an extra forum for decision making. There is no basis for decision making that then has 'relational consequences'. This is an innovation of centralising what has never been.

6. It facilitates changes in continuity and dialogue with both our Anglican tradition and our fellow Anglicans around the world and thus serves our unity in Christ.

Such unity, presumably, extends to other denominations too like the Lutherans and Roman Catholics to name but two. But they make their own decisions. Surely Anglicanism is about such unity when making your own decisions, not uniformity. Lutherans manage with such diversity. If you want centralisation, join the Roman Catholics. Even the eastern Churches (those rejecting original sin - what a difference!) have autonomy one from the other.

7. It preserves provincial autonomy but allows the clear articulation of the catholic consensus within the Communion and an ordered – rather than the recent chaotic – response within Anglicanism when provinces believe they need to act contrary to this.

It is not a consensus, but the leadership of unrepresentative elites. Look at IASCUFO and how it assumes its right to support a Covenant, and the Covenant does not yet exist. But the Church of England by dioceses does not have a consensus. Nor do several Anglican Churches destined for the second tier should this ever be passed.

8. It offers the best, perhaps the only, means of preventing further bitter fragmentation by enabling the highest degree of communion among Anglicans.

Anglicans will organised roughly into African, southern and Western groups quite autonomously. This makes cultural sense.

9. It does not explicitly address specific controversial issues but cultivates practices and provides processes for addressing whatever innovations – for example, lay presidency – might arise when some Anglicans may feel called to act in a way that others do not recognise as faithful developments.

If it is not about the gay issue what else is it about? Or perhaps it would have frozen women's ordination had this proposed centralisation process existed in the early days.

10. The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Church of England to support him and the other Instruments in working for the widest possible acceptance of the covenant within the Communion.

He is the least of reasons to support the process, given his track record so far in producing a bishops-as-communion bureaucracy, and then there is his likely retirement very soon: so let a new Archbishop have his space to take a more back seat and looser view of Anglicanism.

Yes, the Covenant itself is divided by the blocs of Anglicanism: those who reject it because their Churches remain highly supernatural and even magical in outlook and raise the Bible in such fashion with authoritarian leadership - so want doctrinal control. Then there are the southern Churches who reflect more in the way of modernity, and then the Western Churches that have handled great change and must manage within secularised societies and adapt to these. The Covenant is itself divisive.

The fact remains too that some evangelicals are dedicated to an international Anglicanism into the sphere of Western Anglican Churches. They are as much breaking any moratoria as others, and started doing it before episcopal ordinations of relationship gay people. Perhaps this is the future diversity of Anglicanism: something to live with. The Covenant won't stop them, as they shall ignore it. They organise in entryist fashion with plans and fellowships and ought to be flushed out to build their own Churches when in other parts of the world. As for the global south leadership (the rest of them, rather) who says they are representative.

The Church of England has responsibility to itself and its autonomy. By not adopting the Covenant, it protects that autonomy and, more so, present constitutional relationships with the State and its own ability to alter these without interference from without. There could be a situation in the future where a Covenant from without restricts what the Church of England can do, and this raises concerns in Parliament for as long as establishment continues and causes in effect an internal Church crisis. It is better then that the Covenant never sees the light of day, and made up groups like IASCUFO can stop imagining that it does exist.

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