"There is much talk at present in the Anglican communion of a new covenant to bind us together. This is seen as a solution to our problems, to our disagreements about homosexuality. Some argue that we just need to agree to certain new "essentials". But many of us hesitate to embrace such a covenant because we already have a covenant: our baptismal covenant." The Rev. Canon Jane Shaw, in The Guardian, reflects on whether we need a new covenant for the Anglican Communion or if we have sufficient bonds in baptism.
For Christians, the rite of baptism brings us into the body of Christ. It is about sharing a radical equality as children of God. Paul made this clear in his letter to the Galatians: "For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith ... There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female." This was startling in the hierarchical Roman society into which the church was born, where you might find yourself in a small room, knee to knee, sharing a meal with a man who was your social superior, or with a slave or a Roman matron, with whom you would never, in the normal conventions of the day, have mixed. It is startling today; not in the same way, not in the formal breaking of hierarchies in our apparently democratic society, but in the linking of different peoples across villages, towns, countries and the globe, through that bond of baptism. We call this a baptismal covenant.
Shaw suggests another response to the Anglican crisis.
All we really have to do in the midst of this crazy church dispute is be awake to our relationship with a loving God. And to do that, warring Anglicans simply have to recall their baptism: that moment when the waters washed over us and the heavens echoed with God's declaration about each of us - you are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, with you I am well pleased. If we remember that, really remember it, disputes might "wither like the grass and fade like the flowers" as Isaiah puts it, as we are bathed in the knowledge of God's love for each and every one of us.
The Rev Canon Dr Jane Shaw is dean of divinity, chaplain and fellow of New College, Oxford
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