Friday, June 17, 2011

Only in Canada you say? Pity . . .

It's been nearly a month since last I blogged, but recent Anglican developments right here in Canada give me the perfect opportunity to get back in the proverbial saddle.

First, the excellent news that the Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear an appeal from Anglican dissidents in British Columbia. The dissidents had purported to remove their parishes from the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church of Canada. In doing so, they continued to occupy the parish property. The courts at every level ruled against them, and with the Supreme Court's decision to dismiss the appeal unheard, their legal options have run their course. The Diocese of New Westminster responds here, and the dissidents here.

I'm struck by the dissidents' special pleading that the outcome "should be of great concern to all Christian denominations." It would seem to me that Christian denominations should be happy to know that the Canadian courts are not going to redefine a denomination's polity and ecclesiology. The dissidents had been demanding that the courts force the Anglican Church of Canada to replace its heirarchical ecclesiology with a congregational polity. The courts have, quite properly, declined to turn Anglicans into Baptists.

Second, we've had a series of documents produced by the Anglican Church of Canada dealing with the proposed Anglican Covenant. The Anglican Covenant Working Group has issued a study and consultation guide (.pdf) supported by a website. Unlike the biased and intellectually dishonest propaganda pieces from the Anglican Communion Office, the Canadian materials present a balanced view and allow for an open discussion of the proposed Covenant on its merits. Of course, if the Anglican Covenant was supportable on its merits, the ACO wouldn't have to be afraid of a balanced debate.

In addition, the Governance Working Group has produced its own legal analysis (.pdf)of the proposed Covenant, with an executive summary (.pdf). Virtually the entire analysis points out the various weaknesses of the proposed Covenant, including the multiple and overlapping roles and ill-defined authority of the Standing Committee, the deficiencies in procedural fairness and the virtual exclusion of lay people from any meaningful participation in any part of the process.

Canon Alan Perry of Montreal provides his usual excellent analysis of the study materials and the legal analysis. Much of the other online coverage I've seen has focussed on the balanced approach the Canadian church has taken - in stark contrast to the Orwellian approach of the ACO or the passive aggressive stitch-up currently underway in the Church of England. One commenter even suggested that the very balance of the Canadian materials was "devastating" to the Covenant.

When I was young, Red Rose Tea used to advertise their product by suggesting that this particular Canadian tea (a different blend than in the United States) was the envy of even the tea-loving English. Each ad ended with a variation on the tagline, "Only in Canada you say? Pity . . ."

It appears that the same is true for an honest analysis of the proposed Anglican Covenant.