Thursday, November 18, 2010

Covenantskeptic developments

We launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition just over two weeks ago. About ten days earlier, two progressive Church of England organizations, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, had run ads (warning - .pdf) in English church media decrying the Covenant.

Since then, it has been a flurry of activity - including some frankly bizarre antics from a handful of Covenant supporters. They should perhaps consider that namecalling is not the best way to persuade people.

Whatever else may be said, at least now the Covenant is being discussed and debated - although the satirical Mr. Catolick (see below) suggests that putting a complicated piece of business before a newly elected session of the Church of England General Synod is both unprecedented and manipulative.

This week, The Guardian is running a series of articles on the question Should the General Synod sign up to a document that might change forever the Church of England? Today's provocative piece by Simon Sarmiento suggests that is a waste of time and money since it won't accomplish any of the things it is supposed to accomplish. He also mentions something quite disturbing - that some bishops have been advised that bucking Lambeth on the Covenant will "harm their promotion chances." Coalition members have heard of similar dire advice (warnings? threats?) to ordinary clergy who have questioned the value of the Covenant.

To date, I have neglected to mention that the Coalition has also established a blog, in addition to our website. In the most recent entry, my fellow Canadian, Canon Alan Perry, takes on the assurance offered by the Lambeth establishment that section 4.1.3 of the Covenant protects the autonomy of the members churches of the Communion. Canon Perry - who has actually studied canon law - suggests that this is pure bunkum.

A month ago, it appeared that the Anglican Covenant would go through on a nod and a whisper - exactly the way Lambeth Palace wanted. Thanks to a band of obstreperous skeptics, the Covenant is now being discussed, debated and dissected. That can only be a good thing.

Now, as promised, we have Mr. Catolick.


Chelliah Laity said...

How far will the powers in charge go to destroy the church?

Malcolm+ said...

I'm quite sure that (most) of the people supporting the Covenant have no desire to destroy the Church. They aren't evil - just wrong.

And they've bought a bill of goods.

Paddy said...

I wonder what happens if a large part of the Anglican Communion signs the Covenant and the Church of England does not (which, if the Church Times poll is anything to go by is not beyond the bounds of possibility)? Would this mean that +Rowan Cantaur has impaired relations with his own Church?

Tim Chesterton said...

I'm quite sure that (most) of the people supporting the Covenant have no desire to destroy the Church. They aren't evil - just wrong.

Problem is, the status quo seems to be destroying the Church too. And I'm still waiting to hear of an alternative proposal from the anti-covenant group that doesn't boil down to 'You Africans should settle down and stop making such a big deal about this'.

Well, you and I both know that's not going to happen. So, let's come clean and ask, have you anti-covenanters basically accepted that the Anglican Communion is irrevocably broken, and come to the decision that it's better to preserve your bit of it with the characteristics you value about it, rather than try to change it in the service of a lost cause?

Malcolm+ said...

Thanks for engaging on this, Tim.

I don't think it's the status quo that's destroying the Church, but rather a refusal of some people (on both sides, admittedly) to have honest engagement about disagreement.

I would suggest, for example, that boycotting meetings (or, more scandalously, boycotting the eucharist) due to the mere presence of people one disagrees with is a a very destructive innovation of the past decade.

My alternative, as lame as it may seem at first glance, would be dialogue and prayer. This has largely worked on issues as divergent as the role of women to altar candles. There is no reason that it can't work today - except that some have chosen not to talk or to pray with certain others.

This idea that we cannot pray together "unless we are agreed" is the most destructive innovation in some time.

You and I often disagree, yet each time we engage on an issue, I find I'm the better for it.

Tim Chesterton said...

Malcolm, I'm not sure that even you would share communion with people under every possible circumstance.

For instance, if the celebrant was a lay person from the Diocese of Sydney, what would you do? Would that be included in the diversity we celebrate in Anglicanism? After all, if it is true (and it certainly is) that Jesus had nothing to say on the issue of homosexuality, it is equally true that he had nothing to say on the issue of who presides at the Eucharist.

And yes, dialogue and prayer have largely worked on the issues of altar candles and women here in Canada - but maybe that's because we Canadians are a tolerant bunch. They don't seem to be working as well in the C of E at the moment, though.

For what it's worth, I share your reservations about the covenant. I just think that if you're going to participate in an international campaign against it, you need to have a better proposal, and everything I've seen so far seems rather simplistic. I note, for instance, that everyone in the leadership of this no-covenant group is western and liberal. Well, that's not a hard group to get agreement with, but I'd be more impressed if you were able to engage some southern conservatives as part of your group as well. Because if you can't get them involved in your alternative proposal, it ain't going to fly, is it?

Malcolm+ said...

I'm sure I'd draw the line somewhere, but not this way. Not with slanders and attempts to steal property.

I can survive lay presidency - though I disapprove completely. But then, I also (quietly) opposed the Waterloo Declaration.

While prayer and dialogue may not seem to be working now, it is only prayer and dialogue that can possibly work - and offering the hardliners a stick to beat us with does not encourage either side to prayer or to dialogue.

I disagree about the antiCovenanters being obliged to present an alternative. It is the one proposing a radical rejigging of Anglicanism that has to make the case.

I acknowledge that our group is overly white and western. In part that's a function of how we came together - white westerners are more likely to be online than rural Nigerians. We are certainly conscious of the problem.

keith nethery said...

It seems to me what is needed in all this is a good dose of trust. The fact that none exists, on either side, means that nobody believes anybody else. So rather than talking about alternatives or putting liberal/conservative labels on things; we need to talk about how to trust once again. We need to go back to the beginning. Tell all the primates to take off their mitres and put away their positions. Suggest that they sit down in a room with nothing more than a committment that what is said in the room will stay in the room and talk - openly, honestly and trustfully. No power plays, no I'm talking my money and going home, no I'm not going to play unless you play by my rules. Just an open, honest, straightforward dialogue.
As a parish priest, that's exactly what I do when relationships are broken, I sit people down and we put aside all the posturing and tell each other openly and honestly where we are and where we might be going. It's amazing how often that can put us back on track.
Can the egos and agendas be put aside? Isn't that what the Gospel calls us to do.