Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The So-Called Anglican Covenant
This ‘Covenant’ is more of a constitution than it is a covenant. Perhaps it more emulates the American Articles of Confederation than even a constitution because it outlines an ecclesiology that does not exist for a collegiality that does not exist. As the Rev. James Stockton has commented, it is a “litigational document”. It is trying to develop a pattern that does not work for any of the constituent churches in the Anglican Communion. It certainly is not at all workable for The Episcopal Church with our sense of the egalitarianism of orders. One thing that the Anglican Communion does not need to be is a “litigational” body. We have enough difference among ourselves as constituent regional churches. These differences do not need to be highlighted by a legal constitution.
This Covenant is a bishops’ document. Nowhere in it does it provide a clear place for discussion and presentation of any action to the laity or the clergy. The Covenant seems to assume that the Communion is to be led by bishops and ruled by bishops to the exclusion of anyone else. The Instruments of Communion— funny, I always thought that was a chalice and paten ---are now the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC, and the Primates meetings. What about our Synods, our General Conventions, the discussions of lay and clerical theologians, etc?
The Covenant provides for a Standing Committee but provides no mechanisms for how that Standing Committee would be constituted. Who would choose the members so that said Standing Committee could be acceptable by constituent churches? The proposed Covenant makes no provisions.
This document seems to be concerned with immediacy. It requires the whole of the Church to consent to theological, justice or mission demands by a specific member church. This means that the peculiar character of Anglicanism is lost. Perhaps the most endearing quality of Anglicanism is its ability to be a national, or a regional church addressing issues as they present themselves in the local community. Unlike the global Roman church which cannot act until the whole world understands the Copernican centrality of the sun, Anglicanism has always been free to address the needs of mission in a particular area without needing to get a consensus world-wide. What works in San Francisco does not have to work in Timbuktu and vice-versa.
The immediacy that this document calls for is for the slowing down of addressing global concerns. It would require the same understanding of Scripture, the same theological premises, the lock-step thinking that has paralyzed the Roman Church for centuries.