Monday, September 28, 2009

Pierre Whalon on Rowan Williams's Daft Idea

The Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe has a new blog post in which he comments on the current process towards a so-called Anglican Covenant. The phrase "Rowan Williams's Daft Idea" is mine, not Bishop Whalon's. He's far too cerebral and reasonable for that.

Bishop Whalon does point out that, despite the enraged mewlings of the Amer-Anglican right and their fellow travellers in the UK, the Episcopal Church has been far more deeply and intentionally attentive to the Covenant process than most other Provinces. He also points out that the Covenant is not quite so widely accepted as Cantuar, Dunhelm and others would have us believe. He also, in a nice byblow, points out the Orwellian pretensions of "Three Guys with a Website," AKA the Anglican Communion Institute.

I repost the whole piece below, but it can also be found at Bishop Whalon's website. I had the privilege of meeting Bishop Whalon a couple of years ago at the American Cathedral in Paris.

(The picture is the bishop's cathedra - the bishop's formal seat, which makes a chuch a cathedral.)

(Looks deucedly uncomfortable. One more reason, in addition to the silly hat, that no sane priest should aspire to be a bishop.)

Covenant, shmovenant?

People continue to go back and forth about the proposed
Anglican covenant, perhaps more so (if possible) since Archbishop Williams' July 27 essay, Communion, Covenant, and Our Anglican Future, in which he commented on the actions of General Convention. The upshot of Cantuar's piece is that a Covenant is desperately needed if there is to be an Anglican Communion, that is, a “theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'.”

More recently, a group of Episcopal scholars, along with the Bishop of Durham, has opined that the 2009 General Convention has already rejected the Covenant, particularly in Resolution D025—brushing aside the last (and in rhetoric, the most important) paragraph that acknowledges continuing disagreement among Episcopalians on how to fully include gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. This piece seems to deploy a “hermeneutic of deep suspicion”—that is, if they say one thing, they really mean the contrary. Up means down, right means get the picture.

Let’s all try to remember D020. Convention 2009 asked all the dioceses to consider carefully a Covenant draft which is still not out yet. And participation in the Covenant process is crucial to developing a deeper Anglican identity, even if that identity does not, in the end, pass through this particular document.

Furthermore, I remember distinctly Bishop Zerubbabel Katsuichi Hirota of Kita Kanto diocese of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai saying to the Lambeth Indaba group I was in that the Japanese bishops had caucused, and would not sign a covenant, because that word can only mean "contract" in their language and culture. The Bishop of Hong Kong immediately rose to say his province has the same issue. Going back to Lambeth Indaba, the “minutes” of the Lambeth Conference 2008, Section J has a set of pros and cons that continues to be relevant. [*] An Anglican Covenant by Norman Doe, recording all comments made up to June 2008, is still worth reading in this regard, and is instructive in finding out what people elsewhere are saying. (See here for a review of that book, among other

So other provinces may or may not accept a Covenant, for reasons other than the perceived orneriness of Episcopalians. Nevertheless, The Episcopal Church is the province that has participated the most fully in the Covenant process so far, and I think we are already the better for it. We need to see it through. More scholarly reflection, as well as further collections of conversations at the grass roots, would be useful. The Anglican Communion may not be more “theologically coherent” at the end of the process, but we will surely have a better handle on the challenges of Anglican ecclesiology—and that ain’t about sex.

Even more importantly, the relational matrix that the Communion is now will be deepened. Or, if you will, we will have a little more insight into how to obey the Lord’s command that we (Anglicans) love one another as he has loved us. Who knows—we might even become a little more obedient...

[* Reading the Indaba text yet again, I saw this remark by my friend, the late Ian Cundy, sometime Bishop of Peterborough, and heard his wise voice again: “Our modality is historically the “bishop-in-synod” rather than ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’”. He liked to make that point often, and I am glad that the Indaba editors retained it.]

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