Monday, June 04, 2007

On the Anglican Covenant

OK ... I'm darned close to the deadline but it's still June 4th! Here are my answers to the questions posed in "A Short Study Guide To Aid The Episcopal Church In Responding To The Draft Anglican Covenant As Prepared By The Covenant Design Group" as submitted to the "powers that be" per the request of Executive Council.

Submitted by:
The Reverend Susan Russell
President, Integrity USA

Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?
I do not think an Anglican Covenant is “necessary.” While I do think we are all called to the ministry of strengthening the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion I understand that strengthening to be in the service of Gospel we have been given to proclaim – not in the service of preserving the structures of the institutional church. To the degree that the “draft” Covenant under consideration would transform the bonds of affection that have historically united us as a people of God into shackles of theological uniformity antithetical to classical Anglicanism I reject it.

How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?
Not so much. It strikes me as arrogant and imperialistic. It reminds me of nothing so much as the myth of the “Great Melting Pot” I grew up with as the icon of all that’s best about America … an “all that’s best” that turned out only applies to those who can or will “melt” and sacrifice the gift of their particularity on the altar of conformity.

Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?
No. While I resonate with the goals stated in the preamble I believe they can be better achieved without an Anglican Covenant – certainly without this Anglican Covenant. Those goals would be better served if we were willing to spend as much time celebrating the diversity of our beliefs within our common faith as we are trying homogenize them through an artificial Covenant process.

Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?
No. Among my concerns are that the language in #2 naming Holy Scripture " … as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith" pushes us too far in the sola scriptura direction and #5 completely excludes the first order of ministry in the church: the laity.

The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church. Do you think they should be? Why or why not?
No. That was then, this is now. Articles of Religion and a Book of Common Prayer penned in 1662 are important historical documents and to be read, studied and inwardly digested. They are not to be swallowed whole. Making such archaic documents “authoritative” for The Episcopal Church means making authoritative documents which do not reflect the experience of women, people of color, gay and lesbian people or even the experience of anyone not from “That Sceptered Isle.” It would be to return this church to being the univocal expression of the faith of the British Imperialist Patriarchy. It would be a really big mistake.


Is each of these commitments clear and understandable with respect to what is being asked of the member churches and are they consistent with statements and actions made by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention? Why or why not?
No.
# 1 problematically holds up the Bible as the ultimate source of moral values when I believe we are called to include our tradition and our reason in those conversations as well and #3 holds up bishops and synods as the ultimate interpreters of what the Bible says disenfranchising, again, the laity from any authoritative voice.

Is the mission vision offered here helpful in advancing a common life of the Anglican Communion and does this need to be a part of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
This is arguably the baby that should be preserved when the rest of the bathwater gets thrown out.

Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?
No. I reject the description in #3 of the primates' meeting as being responsible for resolving doctrinal matters – we do not give that power solely to our own bishops – why would we give it to others? And reducing the Anglican Consultative Council to little more than a programmatic agency once again disenfranchises the only representative body in the Communion including all orders of ministry.

Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.
No. I believe the desire for such a body – “executive” and “judicial” – flies in the face of the nature of communion and collaborative process. It succumbs to the pressure from those who want to convene what amounts to an Anglican Tribal Council with the power to vote non-conformists off the Anglican Island. And if there WERE such a body the Primates would be the last bunch I would give that authority to. Better it should go to the Anglican Women’s Network who seem far more capable of celebrating difference and collaborating on Gospel goals.

What does the phrase “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .” mean to you?
It means to me that those with power to define which are “matters of essential concern” would also have the power to decide when we had come to common mind about them. It would mean that we would still be waiting for the ordination of women, for desegregation of our churches and for the full inclusion of the gay and lesbian baptized into the Body of Christ.

Can you affirm the “fundamental shape” of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
No. In its seeming intension to impose theological conformity on the Anglican Communion it confuses unity with uniformity and I believe leads us into an ecclesiology neither Cranmer nor Seabury would recognize.

What do you think are the consequences of signing such a Covenant as proposed in the Draft?
The end of Anglicanism as we know it.

Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be ‘new’”? Why or why not?
No. This Covenant gives extraordinary power and authority to Primates in particular and bishops in general and takes a giant step toward embracing the "scripture only" position of radical Protestantism. Only in the category of “everything old is new again” could these innovations be considered anything other than radical revisionism. If adopted they would reduce Anglican comprehensiveness to a footnote in the history of the Church of God.

In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?
In general: I urge its rejection. We can and must do better.

6 comments:

Lauren Gough said...

the myth of the “Great Melting Pot” I grew up with as the icon of all that’s best about America … an “all that’s best” that turned out only applies to those who can or will “melt” and sacrifice the gift of their particularity on the altar of conformity.

Love this! So true.

Anonymous said...

After reading these:

No. Among my concerns are that the language in #2 naming Holy Scripture " … as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith" pushes us too far in the sola scriptura direction ...

# 1 problematically holds up the Bible as the ultimate source of moral values when I believe we are called to include our tradition and our reason in those conversations as well ....

it seems that you wish to abandon what has long been accepted as the Anglican approach to the use of Scripture, reason and tradition, as stated by Hooker:

“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever” ( Laws, Book V, 8:2; Folger Edition 2:39,8-14).

Primacy of Scripture over reason and tradition (in that order) has always been the Anglican way. It seems that you would wish to change this and accord reason and experience an equivalent place with Scripture. Is that true?

RonF

Robert said...

You raised some of the same points I did in my letter to 815. In sum, I said that this is not an Anglican Covenant but a "Primates Covenant" which gives legal status to the usurpation of authority the Primates have been moving toward the past several years. It also seems to me to be missing the Angican spirit that has been overlooked in our present conflicts.

Anonymous said...

If REASON were to be elevated above scripture, then why do you need faith?

It seems to me that you do not truly want a religion. What you really want is a powerful world-wide club where you can make the rules up as you go. Wouldn't that fit your comfort level more than a religion with it's rules and mores?

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

WaterBird

Mark said...

If you believe scripture has all the answers, unchallenged, there is no faith inherent there, either. It's saying God can't intervene in the real world, that He can't be good if the Bible's writers were mistaken. There's no faith in that!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Susan for the well thought out answers to the questions. My answer is more simple: It makes no difference in what the proposed "Anglican Covenant" says as the entire idea of a Covenant is bad for the Church and flies in the face of historic Anglican thought. Let the Presbyterians and Baptists handle the Covenant thing...they can do it much better than we could, anyway.