Anglican Covenant: The issues behind the issue

The Rev. Tobias Haller, speaking in the Diocese of Albany, presented his thoughts on the Anglican Covenant: Anglican Disunion: The Issues Behind "the Issue."


...I want to begin, as an historian, to ask, Was there ever union? What do we mean by unity as opposed to uniformity? I do believe we have a very deep union in the church, and I’ll be getting to that in my talk. But there is clearly a good deal of disunion on the surface of Anglicanism.

So let me start by asking, What is this thing called “Anglicanism”? Is there such a thing as “the Anglican Church”? What do we have in common with the other parts of the Anglican Communion? The old joke was, “The BCP and Wippell’s.” But there is no more common Book of “Common” Prayer throughout the communion, and Almy’s competes with Wippell’s...

We have the bonds of affection — but just how affectionate have they been in recent years?

So what do we have in common besides our genetic heritage as descendants of the Church of England (and let’s not forget our godmother, the Scottish Episcopal Church), with other siblings and our own offspring around the world? (While we’re not forgetting, let’s not forget that it was The Episcopal Church that is responsible for founding most of the Anglican provinces in Central and South America and much of the Pacific, and even Liberia in Africa). A number of these are now independent Provinces of the Anglican Communion, such as the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico; but others are still part of TEC — Haiti still being part of our own Province II!

Let me first say a word or two about where I don’t think we find our identity. And that, ironically, is in the very “Instruments of Communion” which the Proposed Anglican Covenant appears to wish to install at the center of our ecclesiastical life.

The Windsor Report called them “instruments of unity,” which is not a little blasphemous since our unity is in Christ. But those instruments don’t in any case seem to have had the effect of improving unity. The four are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting. These are all relatively recent entities not only in Christianity but even among Anglicans.


At his blog In a Godward direction, Haller gives a history of the Anglican Communion and the three points that he feels makes up the basis of that communion: Humility, Provinciality, and Variety.
I would like to suggest that alongside the familiar Quadrilateral we consider another structure that for want of a better term I’ve called the Anglican Triad (with apologies to those who use this term for what is often known, incorrectly, as “Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool.”) This Triad consists of three elements which I think are particularly characteristic of Anglicanism — not necessarily unique to it, but together constituting a unity which I fear is at present very much under assault.

For shorthand I will call these three elements Humility, Provinciality, and Variety. They stand in the via media between Humiliation, Provincialism, and Chaos at one extreme, and Pride, Centralism and Uniformity at the other. All three are well attested in foundational documents of the “Anglican Way.” (The Articles of Religion, the Prefaces to the English and American Books of Common Prayer) and in the work of those who first focused the Anglican vision, such as Richard Hooker. I’ll limit my citations to the Articles of Religion. (They are in the BCP, and I’ve always thought it good of the church to provide us with something to peruse during a boring sermon, if only to remind us that there are things more boring than sermons!)


Read it all here.

Comments (1)

Albany Via Media was pleased to host Fr. Haller's appearance in the Diocese of Albany as part of its Annual Meeting. Those who attended that event can testify that he is a riveting preacher whose earlier years as an actor were time well spent.

Robert Dodd, President
Albany Via Media

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