I had three days of mulling the state of the Anglican Communion in general and the prospect of an “Anglican Covenant” in specific at General Seminary with some of the best and brightest in this “Big Fat Anglican Family” in New York City last week. Entitled “An Anglican Covenant: Divisive or Reconciling?” the conference included keynote speeches, the presentation of academic papers and responding panels of faculty and students from the seminaries of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
You can hear the presentations yourself online on the General Theological Seminary website and there are some great photos for view as well by GTS Communications Guru Bruce Parker.
And now I’m back and I’m getting the “So whats?” So what did you learn? So what’s going to happen next? So what do you think about this “covenant” process?
So here goes … my thoughts on where we are and what next on “As the Anglican World Turns:”
The hot air balloon with the "Anglican Covenant or Bust" sign across it has sprung a slow leak. The urgent voices insisting we must all climb aboard "or else" have dwindled to a marginal few. And the rest of the Anglican Communion seems to be paying attention as never before to just exactly what it is that makes us the “Anglican” Communion.
In spite of the uber-efforts of the Schismatic Sky-Is-Falling Spin Meisters to represent as fait accompli that which they wish would be:
· The American Episcopal Church has not been voted off the Anglican Island;
· The Lambeth Conference that was going to be boycotted by the “mainstream bishops” of the Communion is on schedule for July in Canterbury;
· The “parallel province” the Archbishop of Canterbury was poised to recognize as the legitimate franchise of Anglicanism in the United States in place of the apostate, heretic Episcopal Church is gathering dust on someone’s drawing board;
· The great flood of congregations and dioceses abandoning the sinking ship of the Episcopal Church turned out to be a trickle of usual suspects;
· And the proposed “Anglican Covenant” being fast-tracked by the primates as a means to (see first bullet point) vote the American Episcopal Church off the Anglican Island is now being mulled, processed, discussed, vetted, amended, revised and considered.
It does not appear to be going as planned in Schism Central. In fact, it can be argued that the coup d'état has, in fact, failed. The vast majority of Anglicans seem to be very much “over” what Jenny Te Paa described as the epidemic of SOAP (Sudden Onset Arch-episcopal Paroxysm) which impacted not just those primates directly infected but (sadly) the mission and ministry of churches throughout the Anglican Communion.
Do we need an “Anglican Covenant” to tell each other that the bonds of affection that have for generations linked our various and varying expressions of Anglicanism matter more than the differences the SOAP-infected primates have insisted must lead to divisions?
No, we don’t.
Might we be strengthened in those bonds of affection if we could, together – as a whole church (AKA “not just our bishops”) – create an explicit expression of those implicit bonds of affection in a document we could claim together?
Yes, we might.
And is it possible that this very “covenant process” which was intended to draw a circle to keep some “out” might be redrawn as a circle to gather all “in?”
The scriptural text I’m drawn to is Genesis 50:20 – the story of God turning the evil intended against Joseph by the brothers who sold him into slavery into good for the whole people of Israel.
Can we dare to imagine that the same God – our God – could turn the efforts of the SOAP-influenced primates to create a juridical Covenant designed to cast the Episcopal Church off the Anglican Island into good for the whole Anglican Communion? Could it, instead of a means to exclude, become an articulation of historic Anglican Comprehensiveness that would draw others in? Could we create, as Ian Douglas suggests, a covenant with missiological rather than juridical intentions?
I admit I am not yet to the place where I hear “Yes we can!” as the reply to those questions.
But after three days in NYC – with the hot air (happily!) leaking out of the “Anglican Covenant or Bust” balloon – what I do hear is “Perhaps we could!”
And, at the end of the day, perhaps we will. Film, as they say, "at eleven!"