Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Anglican Covenant

His Grace had been holding off from commenting on this until a decision had been taken in Synod.

Now that that decision has been taken (an overwhelming ‘aye’ in all three houses for sending it out the diocesan synods), the mechanism designed to encourage / facilitate / bolster / impose / bludgeon / compel / enforce unity merits a little analysis.

The Covenant is designed to hold the Anglican Communion together for better or worse, in sickness and health, ‘til the Second Coming do them part.

For, like papal infallibility, only the apocalyptic parousia can render it absolutely null and utterly void.

But to be Anglican is to be synodical and devolved, not totalitarian and centralised: the Archbishop of Canterbury is not a pope in his realm and neither is the See of Canterbury as absolute as the See of Rome.

So just how is the Anglican Communion to act when one Province decides unilaterally to re-define, adjust, develop and ‘progress’ in an area of morality or teaching in a manner that does not accord with Anglican tradition?

Whatever the Anglican tradition is.

Who will do what to whom?

Good grief, the Church of England can’t even discipline within its own ranks without uproar: the Suffragan Bishop of Willesden criticises the hereditary principle of monarchy and espouses distinctly republican views – which is, well, just a tad un-Anglican – and his boss the Bishop of London was so ‘appalled’ that he rebuked and suspended him.

But Bishop Pete’s twittering mates are all so appalled by the Bishop of London’s public rebuke and semi-suspension that they decide to start a Facebook support group. Lambeth Palace, in the meantime, says +Pete is ‘entitled to his views’, while former Archbishop of Canterbury rebukes the Bishop of London for being ‘far too severe’, asking: ‘How often in the past have bishops ignored heretical comments by clergy?’

Magnify this relatively minor spat to a rather more significant one between autonomous Anglican provinces, and you’ll see the problem.

If the US branch says it’s consistent with the ‘Anglican tradition’ to consecrate an openly gay bishop or the odd lesbian, who is the African branch to be ‘appalled’ at such a development?

And if one Province decides that it is most definitely consonant with the ‘Anglican tradition’ to appoint women to the Episcopate, who is to decide the proportionality of the punitive action against them?

What if the Anglican Church of Australia, like +Pete, wishes to object to the Queen being Supreme Governor of the Church of England on the basis that the hereditary principle is ‘corrupt and sexist’?

Shall ++Cantuar simply say they are ‘entitled to their views’?

Who is the guardian of the 'Anglican tradition'?

How can there be Roman unity in Anglican diversity?

How can one impose discipline without exerting a pseudo-papal authority?

The Covenant is designed to resolve disputes, yet it is clear that Anglicans do not do ‘punitive action’ very well: we do not even do suspension, preferring instead the euphemistic ‘withdraw from public ministry’. So we can forget anathematisation or excommunication.

Perhaps the Covenant is un-Anglican, but the very fact that it is a development in the Church’s doctrine of ecclesiology actually renders it rather Anglican.

If we are to avoid the ‘piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion’, do we not need a bit of glue?

It’s a certain fact we’re out of whitewash.

And what on earth could be wrong with a framework which demands consultation?

How can one resolve disagreements without dialogue?

The bizarre thing is that the Anglican Church actually practises what the Roman Catholic Church pretends to: subsidiarity; notwithstanding that the very concept is a Roman Catholic invention. It is to do with governance at the lowest level, and the Anglican Communion has historically been constructed on devolved localism. Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell would be proud.

But it hasn’t worked.

It is the old Conservative tension between Tory centralised authority that seeks to preserve tradition and Whiggish local democracy to precipitate radical reform.

Is the Covenant a via media between restriction and liberty; between subsidiarity and centralisation; between paternalism and autonomy?

Insofar as it appears to satisfy neither the Archbishops of West Africa nor the US Episcopal Church, perhaps the balance is right. Yet if the Covenant be not unanimously approved by all 38 Provinces in the Communion, it can be authoritatively adopted by none.

And that will just leave the Jerusalem Declaration, which advocates ‘the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family’ (8) and the rejection of ‘those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed’ (13).

It also stands upon the bedrock of the XXXIX Articles ‘as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today’ (4).

If His Grace is honest, he is a little tired of all this: we are not at a moment of historic schism like those of 1054 or 1517. Let the Worldwide Anglican Communion go the way of the British Empire, of which it is but the spiritual ghost. The Archbishop of Canterbury should be wholly concerned with leading the Church of England, not distracted hither and thither in cobbling together endless formulae by which mutually exclusive provinces may continue to perpetuate the perception of communion. You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins: the factions have already decided their courses and will not put aside their differences. The moment a province decides to appoint to the Episcopate Katharine Jefferts Schori and then Mary Glasspool, it is clear that they don’t give a damn about acting ‘with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy’.

It is not so much a matter of asking what fellowship light hath with darkness, but to some that is precisely what it is about. The ‘dissolution’ so feared by the Archbishop of Canterbury is as inevitable as the British withdrawal from India: you can’t buck the people.

Unless you’re prepared to use force.


Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

The liberals who have started this are in the minority but hold ‘key’ positions that attract the media’s attention; for example, Katharine Jefferts Schori and then Mary Glasspool.

What I don’t understand, probably for want of knowledge, is how can a small minority be able to rent asunder the church?

After all there are millions who disagree with this small minority and are in agreement with the majority.

This is not the time to withdraw from the world-wide Anglican Communion. The risk is that certain people will push for more involvement with churches cooperating with the evil EU.

And is not the Anglican Church wrapped up in ours and commonwealth constitutions?

I thought the entire edifice was like land law: you tinker with one rule here and it affects another rule there.

25 November 2010 at 10:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

Simply embrace the One Holy Roman Apostolic Church and be done with it.

25 November 2010 at 11:09  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Cranmer said

Good grief, the Church of England can’t even discipline within its own ranks without uproar: the Suffragan Bishop of Willesden criticises the hereditary principle of monarchy and espouses distinctly republican views – which is, well, just a tad un-Anglican – and his boss the Bishop of London was so ‘appalled’ that he rebuked and suspended him.

Sounds like another good reason disestablish the CofE. The way you guys organise your religion is your own business but while we have an established church I am afraid it becomes my business too.

25 November 2010 at 11:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many divisions has the Archbishop of Canterbury?

25 November 2010 at 11:44  
Anonymous +Dewi Menevia said...

This must be the clearest piece yet written on the whole sorry business.

I agree with YG re ++Cantuar's present difficulties, but surely does he not have a profound responsibility for maintaining the bond of Christian unity? Is not the Covenant his attempt to do so in the face of the battle between African dogmatic traditionalism and American Episcopalian Unitarian Universalism?

25 November 2010 at 12:27  
Blogger AncientBriton said...

"Give someone an inch and they will take a yard/mile."

Not content with getting their own way, the feminist organisation Women and the Church (WATCH)seek to deny traditionalists who tolerated their advancement any rights. Something those who pander to Islamic expansion may care to ponder.

I previously blogged my views on the Anglican Covenant here:

25 November 2010 at 12:42  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Your Grace.
The position of Anabaptist makes more sense day by day.
We have a lot to thank the CofE for, but it is in grave danger of becoming extinct unless it sorts itself out.
The Church of Rome is in a similar position, struggling with precepts i.e contraception that have changed in the present age.
Perhaps they should both seek the Lord for a solution, after all it is His problem.

25 November 2010 at 12:58  
Blogger FrTerrence said...

Dear Annonymous,
"Simply embrace the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." ...Okay, thanks for the suggestion. I will become Eastern Orthodox. Thanks

25 November 2010 at 13:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace,
The Lambeth Conference of 1930 described the Anglican Communion as "a federation without a federal government".The 1948 Conference declared the Anglican Communion as provisional and its vocation to disappear ( presumably into United episcopally led churches on the South India model) Yet the 1958 Conference rather reversed this direction and the appointment of Bishop Stephen Bayne as Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion set in train the future developments; ACC, Primates etc..Your prescient thoughts suggest we have reached the end of that, perhaps abberant trajectory.
Perry Butler

25 November 2010 at 14:22  
Blogger Bryan D said...

A most excellent post, Your Grace. It is most excellent not only for being well written, but also for not pretending that there is some clear, easy, ideological dogmatically appropriate solution.

My conservative American episcopal friends would be distraught to be cut loose at last, but it's time for them to work out their own solutions.

My only reservation is that His Grace and most likely many other readers of this blog probably don't want the 'unleashed' version of Archbishop Williams that would be unleashed should he find himself no longer responsible for holding together a worldwide Communion. My hypothesis is that it would not be long until he reverted to his unabashed, leftist former self—his academic self.

25 November 2010 at 14:31  
Blogger Bryan D said...

I should have been more clear: I do not think His Grace should like to disassociate himself from the American branch only to find it entrenched at Canterbury.

25 November 2010 at 14:37  
Anonymous An Australian said...

Your Grace asks:
"What if the Anglican Church of Australia, like +Pete, wishes to ditch the Queen a[s] Supreme Governor on the basis that the hereditary principle is ‘corrupt and sexist’?

Shall ++Cantaur [sic] simply say they are ‘entitled to their views’?"

If Your Grace was referring to the position of Her Majesty vis-à-vis the Anglican Church of Australia I think Your Grace will find that such a situation cannot arise for the simple reason that it is already the case that Her Majesty, although Queen of Australia, is not the Supreme Governor of the Anglican Church in that realm. The constitutional relationship between monarch and church in the realm of AUSTRALIA is different from that which prevails in the realm of ENGLAND. There is, in short, no Supreme Governor of which Her Majesty's Anglican subjects in Australia can rid themselves.

If, on the other hand, Your Grace was referring to the position of Her Majesty vis-à-vis the Church of England then, yes, such a situation could in theory arise. The Anglican Church of Australia (or any church of the Anglican Communion) could in theory speak out against the position of the Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, even threatening to break off fellowship.

As one of Your Grace's Australian communicants and one of Her Majesty's loyal Australian subjects I would, however, say that it is unlikely in the extreme that the Anglican Church of Australia would ever do so. Most Australian Anglicans neither know nor care about the governance of the Church of England. And of those that do almost all would take the view that it is for the Church of England to decide how it is governed.

But although unlikely in the extreme, Your Grace's point is admittedly a theoretical possibility. In such a case ++Cantuar would be perfectly entitled to speak out. In fact, I would expect him to. Just as it is not for the Church of England to pass judgement on the constitutional relationship between church and monarch in Australia it is, by the same token, not for the Anglican Church of Australia to pass judgement on the constitutional relationship between monarch and church in England.

25 November 2010 at 16:10  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms An Australian,

His Grace thanks you for pointing out his typos: he has clarified his meaning.

He has had a rather pressured day, and thanks you for bearing with his imprecisions and fallibilities.

25 November 2010 at 16:20  
Blogger Arden Forester said...

By its essence the Covenant is un-Anglican. But then, there are some who deny so much that they become something else. Anglican Patrimony is whatever you want it to be it seems. I attend an Anglican church with the Mass of Paul VI as central to its daily worship. I have been brought up believing that the term "church" means the Holy Catholic Church of the creeds. My Anglican Patrimony is in another world from that of, say Katherine Jefferts Schori, who doesn't think that Jesus is the only way to salvation, doesn't think the sacraments are unchangeable or unalterable, and who is perfectly at ease with adapting to the ways of the world.

Comprehensiveness is one thing. Promoting non credal beliefs is quite another. I just wonder who Synod thinks is going to police this covenant and who is going to break it. Humpty Dumpty may need consulting.

25 November 2010 at 18:07  
Anonymous Oswin said...

I wholly agree with Your Grace. The wider 'Anglican Community' is one thing, the Church of England is quite another altogether!

25 November 2010 at 18:32  
Anonymous John Knox said...

You Grace does not seem to be aware of the finer details of the history of your own church...

Synods ARE NOT in the best tradition of the Church of England at all.

The synod only exists since 1970!

Provisions for a synod-like body were only made in 1919: Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919

Why? Because the general populace was fed-up with an autocratic church that had blessed a war in which nearly a generation of boys died. Nobody trusted the former authorities anymore and general voting rights came in otherwise to prevent revolution. Of course when everythings else had been put in place that general voting rights couldn't make a real difference (read Chesterton how is was done).

Best traditions of the Cof E? Ha, ha! Do I still have a foot? Ha, ha.

For the best traditions of the CofE, don't go back to the Empire, but to the only real days of Commonwealth.

Indeed, for a few years the CofE had synods and major assemblies.
Why, because it had adopted Presbyterian church governement during the British Commonwealth, that is why!

The Restoration and your newly installed precious Roman Catholic supreme governor at the time wouldn't have a bar of them. Best traditions of the Church of England!
Now this same authority has been gathering what the ancient Church of England would consider "sexual perverts" around the supreme seat of governance: Jagger & John as her appointed knights. Hardly St John is it?

Dear Cranmer, as counter-offer for Benedict's, I invite you to become Presbyterian again...

25 November 2010 at 18:40  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Couldnt agree more your grace , the church held in so much reverence by my forfathers has turned into a contempory discussion .There may be some belief that its some sort of post empire remnant , but then that would be denying what influence for good it had in those times.
I have just purchased my first king james bible (oxford edition) and have enjoyed reading Cyril Garbut :The claims of the church of England , how different Mr Garbutts love of our foundation of the Anglican Faith to the one currently in the laboratory.

I wonder if the synod has been taken over by trick or treat philosphers !

25 November 2010 at 19:00  
Anonymous Petronius said...

Thank you, Your Grace, for this thoughtful and well-written article. As a Catholic (and therefore an 'outsider looking in'), many of your articles deepen my understanding and appreciation of the Protestant view of what the Church is. This article is one of them, as the issue at hand goes very deep into the roots of what 'Church' is and isn't.

Your conclusion here ("The ArchB. of C should be wholly concerned with leading the Church of England, [and] not distracted [with perpetuating a pretence of communion between disparate factions]") is interesting.

On the one hand, I think that +RW must be mindful of the Church as the manifestation of the Body Of Christ (ie, that it should be one body, not many), and thus, if at all possible, he should seek to preserve unity rather than effect further dissolution.
On the other hand, sometimes a clear decision must be made: If certain factions within the church are promoting a view which is fundamentally and irresolvably at odds with the Gospel, then the ArchB. must act decisively and cut those factions off from the communion.

I wish the Anglican Communion every good blessing as it strives forward through these times.

25 November 2010 at 20:00  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Thank you, Mr Petronius. Your fellowship and enlightened theology are appreciated.

25 November 2010 at 20:02  
Anonymous Anglican and Catholic said...

I am afraid Mr Petronius (pace Your Grace's comments) appears to ignore the claim of the Anglican Communion to be Catholic (and, at the same time, Protestant [in some sense - see e.g.]. He may be Catholic, but then so am I. I (merely - but, I suspect, critically to him/her/it) do not accept the authority of the Bishop of Rome. I think 'Roman' (or some such similar appellation, describing his place in the universe of competing allegiances) might be more appropriate.

25 November 2010 at 22:52  
Anonymous Petronius said...

In response to Anglican and Catholic's above comment, I fully recognise the Protestant assertion that Protestant worshippers are both Anglican and Catholic in the true sense of the word, and I respect that. I did not intend to imply otherwise in my above comment.
Having been born RC and having grown up immersed in that particular tradition, it's actually very difficult to "think outside of the box" and to phrase my language in such a way that no possible offence could be taken. I assure you I meant no offence nor disrespect, A&C, neither to you personally nor to the Protestant churches. I really like reading what Cranmer says, and I suppose it's inevitable that, as I'm a RC member, my comments will be somewhat coloured by that background. However, I'm trying my best to listen to, and understand the Reformed point of view. It's a fascinating journey of learning for me.
Thank you for your criticism, A&C, I shall think about what you have said, and again, I do apologise if I unwittingly irked you. Please bear with me as I try to make sense of it all.

25 November 2010 at 23:37  
Anonymous Bishop Colenso said...

Yr Grace saith: we are not at a moment of historic schism like those of 1054 or 1517. Let the Worldwide Anglican Communion go the way of the British Empire, of which it is but the spiritual ghost.
We could not agree more. This pretended 'unity' is more of a Dangerous Deceit than honest acceptance that it doth not (and probably never hath) existed. Witness the Church of ENGLAND itself, wherein some Pastors jump around with guitars and preach substitutionary Atonement; some dress themselves in Popish Ragges and preach Transubstantiation; and yet others will have naught to do with either, saying they are Fond Things Vainly Invented, and rely upon Reason. Wherefore Our friends are much perplexed, and ask how this can all be the same church.

27 November 2010 at 17:11  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

The moment a province decides to appoint to the Episcopate Katharine Jefferts Schori and then Mary Glasspool, it is clear that they don’t give a damn about acting ‘with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy’.

Your Grace,

Whether those of us in the US Episcopal Church "give a damn" or not, Bishops Jefforts Schori and Glasspool were elected, not appointed. In the case of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, she was elected by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies.

In the case of Bishop Glasspool, she was elected in her diocese and received consents from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

The schism has already happened. The GAFCONites dissed the covenant, and their primates will not attend the Primates Meeting in Ireland.

I could not agree with you more that the Archbishop of Canterbury would do well to tend to his own garden, which needs fertilizing and weeding. A good many of us in the Episcopal Church have had far more than enough of his meddlesome ways.

27 November 2010 at 18:17  
Blogger Our Lady of the Rock Hermitage said...

What Anglican Communion ... there has been no Anglican Communion for some time now. It is time to bury it and get on with being Church.

27 November 2010 at 18:29  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Anglican Communion is nonsense. It was simply an imperial legacy of churches in communion with Canterbury and became perverted with American money.

The US church paid the bills and sponsored the junkets making the Canterbury boys feel it was a Mini-Rome. They were seduced by lucre.

In reality the Communion only exists as long as overseas churches are in harmony with Canterbury, otherwise it is dead.

Tails should not wag dogs

28 November 2010 at 06:47  
Anonymous Thoroughly Trinitarian Episcopalian said...

"What if the Anglican Church of Australia, like +Pete, wishes to object to the Queen being Supreme Governor of the Church of England on the basis that the hereditary principle is ‘corrupt and sexist’?"

I cannot speak for the Church in Australia, but as an American I can say that this is a very serious question for us. Not the hereditary principle, which is simply quaint, but the idea that the head of state of another country is the ultimate authority who (apparently through the Prime Minister) has the power to appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury. Why should a prelate appointed by a foreign political power have any authority over our church whatsoever? The idea is anathema to us; our church is carefully structured around the principle that all orders of ministry have the right to elect their leaders through stated electoral processes. The ABC has arrogated to himself powers to discipline which he has never been granted by the people whom he purports to oversee.

The Episcopal Church in the United States, like the Church of England itself, was founded by persons who were no longer willing to accept the unwarranted intrusions or unelected authority of a foreign government (political or ecclesiastical). Your Grace will surely not have forgotten the principle of subsidiarity which was foundational to Henry VIII's own declaration of independence from Rome. This subsidiarity is the very foundation stone of Anglicanism, like it or not.

29 November 2010 at 02:18  

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