Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keynote #1: The Case for an Anglican Covenant

So we're launched on this three-day conversation about an "Anglican Covenant" -- the first plenary session this evening (after Evensong and Dinner in the Refectory!) was a presentation by Archbishop Drexel Gomez ... pictured below with GTS Sub-Dean Titus Pressler.

In a nutshell, the Archbishop made the case that "the present crisis" makes it essential that we "articulate the bonds of affection and make explicit what has heretofore been implicit" in order to create "agreed upon mechanisms for managing differences."
In a nutshell, the room wasn't buying it. Although +Gomez maintained that an Anglican Covenant was "not intended to calcify the Communion but to enable it to deal with disputes" he also asserted that "the covenant is the only available mechanism to hold the Communion together" -- at the same time referring with some energy to "the present crisis" which has "broken the communion" and "could have been avoided" if there had been a recognition of "the legitimate limits on autonomy."
The only real surprise for me was his reference to "Rumors of a bold initiative to advance 'gay marriage'" ... surprising because there's no "rumor" about it -- at least not to anybody who reads this blog.
Anyway, the Q&A that followed was interesting -- several folks here from the Canadian Anglican Church and one of the panel responders was from the Old Catholic Church so it definitely wasn't "the usual suspects." At the end of the day it fell short in the new information department but the dialogue was respectful and I give the overall tone and timbre of the evening two thumbs up.
For the record, I did NOT hear "the case for an Anglican Covenant" get made ... but stay tuned for Day Two ... coming soon to a blog near you!


Caminante said...

Wow! You are fast!! I am still posting photos from my wandering around NYC and won't get to commenting on your posting but I agree with what you said.

Bill Carroll said...

"articulate the bonds of affection"

As in "I love you, man."

Sorry if I've been too "implicit."

How a "bond of affection" remains such when it becomes a legal obligation still remains beyond me. That isn't making something explicit. That's making something new.

If it had been implicit all along, you would have thought that Lambeth would have refrained from making the explicit statements which contradict the Virginia and Windsor Reports.

This remains nothing but a thinly veiled power grab for an unsupportable view of the nature of the relationships among churches in the Anglican Communion.

John S Morgan said...

The widespread practice of polygamy going on (even if kept under the radar)in the African Churches breaks the bonds of affection with me. How does Bishop Gomez see an Anglican Covenant handling that problem?

Hiram said...

Part of the disagreement going on in the Anglican Communion is over the nature of the Communion: are we a body of national/regional churches who have a common history, or are we a body of churches who have a common faith, agreeing on certain core convictions as being essential to being Christian?

The first draft of the proposed Covenant leaned to the second idea. The most recent draft leans toward the first idea.

If we cannot, as an entire Communion, agree on which of the two foundations we have, then the Anglican Communion will split. Those who believe that the only way we can be a communion is to uphold a common faith will associate with one another. Those who think that a common history is sufficient will argue long and loud that we do not have to split, but will be unable to convince those who believe that Christianity has certain core, non-negotiable convictions.

That is just the way it is. The United States could not long exist as a nation divided on the question of slavery. The Anglican Communion (for all its ethos of having developed in a culture that values compromise) will not be able to exist as a body divided on the question of the foundation of what binds us together.

Hiram said...

PS to John Morgan: let's see some proof of polygamy tolerated among leaders of African Anglicans. (There are provisions for lay people who, at the time of their conversion, are men with multiple wives -- but these are for lay men only, not for all Christian men or for clergy.)

Kathy said...


So if a person is in a civil marriage (union) and converts over then the marriage should be recognized?

liturgy said...

Thanks for this post
& I will return here to keep up with this.
My most recent reflection on draft 2 of the covenant is at
I don't think our church is in a hurry to sign up...
I don't see an email address;
I'd be interested in linking our sites
so hope you will visit my site called "Liturgy"
& let me know if you are interested in linking.

Christ is Risen!


Hiram said...

Kathy --
The African statement about polygamy seeks to do justice to both the historic Christian view of marriage and the economic conditions of polygamy. If a man who has multiple wives becomes a Christian, he is to be sure that all his wives have their material needs met, but to have sexual relations only with the first wife. Decades ago, a convert was to turn all but his first wife out -- which of course left them destitute. The African policy seeks to meet the economic needs of the additional wives, while emphasizing the one man and one woman ideal expressed in Genesis 2, in the Epistles, and in Jesus' teaching on marriage. The convert understands these conditions and affirms that he will live by them before he is baptized.

If a one or both partners in a same-sex civil union were to become Christians, they would know that part of conversion is repentance and a decision to live according to God's design in all areas of life. Of course, in many ways this decision takes a lifetime to implement -- but some major steps can be taken quite quickly, such as abstinence from sexual relationships, and quite possibly the dissolution of the civil union. Is that easy? I will not pretend that it is. It would be very painful. In my own life, I expect -- and very much want -- my wife to love God more than she loves me. If she loved me more, she would dishonor God, and place me in the horrifying and ultimately impossible position of being her god. Jesus promises that those who place God, his Kingdom, and his righteousness first will find that they will have all that they truly need -- even if they have to do what feels like cutting off a hand to avoid sin.

Suzer said...

Hiram -- so it's o.k. for some folks to maintain some form of a polygamous relationship for economic reasons, but same-sex couples wouldn't be afforded the same courtesy? This is where the hypocrisy of the anti-gay folks gives me a chuckle.

I am the primary wage earner in our household. My partner, due to some long-standing health issues, relies on me financially. She, of course, offers much in the relationship that is not financial, but if we were to end the relationship as you suggest, she would be left homeless.

Why do you assume that same-sex couples would not face the same kind of economic hardship upon dissolution of their relationship that polygamous unions would? Divorce even among heterosexual couples often has devastating financial (and other) consequences. And of course, I am only speaking of financial issues here (since that is your reasoning in supporting ongoing polygamy), and am not even dealing with the much larger issues of love, affection, emotional support, etc. that same-sex couples would be denied by your suggestion of dissolving their relationships should they wish to be Christian (under your rules).

Of course, I'm lucky -- I don't subscribe to your particular interpretation of Scripture. We attend a church that accepts us and supports our relationship. Not everyone is so fortunate, however.

Hiram said...

Suzer, note what I said about the relationships the polygamous man has with wives #2 on -- he provides a place to live, and cares for the children -- but the relationship becomes other than sexual.

The cultural contexts are also quite different -- here, it is common for single people to be able to live alone. In developing countries, life is so labor-intensive that it is very difficult for a single person to live alone. Also, wives that have been dismissed are seen as worthless and are shunned. That is a large cultural difference between here and areas where polygamy is practiced. After Christianity has had a larger impact on the culture of an area (the issue arises where Christianity is relatively new), the situation would change, and I am sure that church leaders would take the changed values into account.

I am not saying that ending a relationship of any kind is easy, painless, or free from economic consequences. And I am not saying that the African policy is ideal -- but I am saying that the Christians of Africa do not accept polygamy has having the same moral value as faithful, heterosexual monogamy -- and they are often accused of doing so, as John Morgan does above.

Suzer said...

So differences in culture in Africa can be taken into account, but not differences in culture here? (I often seen it argued by some conservatives that acceptance of homosexual relationships is an aspect of Western "culture" -- one highly disliked by them. I'm not personally saying it's cultural, just furthering the premise at hand.)

Having been to Africa, and supporting mission efforts there to educate children, I do have some first hand knowledge of the culture. Not a lot, but enough. So why is it o.k. for culture to be taken into account there and not here?

Or is it really just all about sex? What rules you interpret from Scripture as being anti-homosexual? The rules that I also read, but in context, given the culture and history of the time in which the Scripture was written? And I can find nothing in Scripture that says same-sex relationships are sinful --committed monogamous relationships, as we know them today.

You seem willing to apply context and culture for some, but not for all. With all due respect, I just don't get it.

RudigerVT said...

Suzer, it's not that complicated.

Men with many wives are still normal. In a certain statistical sense, probably more normal than those blessed with just one (given the ubiquity of this form of polygamy).

They're normal because they're not queer. This is Hiram's long-standing (LONG-STANDING) beef: it's the queerness, stupid.

It's permissible diversity to allow for some of this sort of polygamy, as they maintain the essential element (non-queer) even as they fudge what appears to be a nice-to-have (monogamy) but not a must-have.

Neat trick, huh?