This is the first of at least two posts regarding the Anglican Covenant today. The Church of England's General Synod takes up that misguided and dangerous document tomorrow. Here is some of what people are saying:
It shouldn't surprise any of our readers, long-time or occasional, that we look at The Covenant™ with a gimlet eye. We're willing to live with a high degree of tolerance and ambiguity within the Communion and grant a wide berth to the members of the 38 national provinces, through their own structures and governance, to do the best they can to advance the Gospel in their part of God's vineyard.
If we were in high dudgeon, for example, about the decision of a national church to allow lay people to preside at the Holy Eucharist, we should take advantage of all the media at our command to make our displeasure known. But not for a moment would we want an Anglican Standing Committee (or Sitting Committee) in place to discipline, censure, and diminish that theologically muddle-headed province.
And we're quite happy with the Covenant that's already in place in the Anglican Communion. Didn't know we had one? Oh we do: It was assented to by all the bishops who attended the Lambeth Conference of 1888. It's called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It's spare, clear, and its four premises have served as compass points for the Communion for more than 120 years. You'll recognise it as Anglican. (The, er, new Covenant™? Not so much.)
The Covenant Design Group tried their best to satisfy the demands of those who wanted to restrain local provinces from actions that would disturb, as well as those who insisted on maintaining complete independence. In that sense, the document is interesting, and I maintain that the process of discussing its proposals throughout the Communion is healthy for us all.
However one frames it, the Covenant does provide a mechanism for eventually determining who is “in” and who is “out.” Do I want, say, the Diocese of Sydney “in” or “out”? Based on what? Their peculiar ecclesiology, which lies well outside the usual range of Anglican options? Their desire to have lay people presiding at the Eucharist under certain conditions? That it often seems to be too much of a family affair? What benefit would there be to them and the rest of us in ostracizing them? Or any Anglican church you think has placed itself outside the pale?
It might feel good — “So there!” It would reduce the range of embarrassing questions we have to put up with (“If the Church of XXX can do YYY, how do you justify it?” “We don’t, so we threw XXX out.”). Sometimes I like to imagine trying to explain things to Jesus, as I stand before his “great judgment seat” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 122).
Bishop Alan Wilson (who has been writing so much good copy of late that it seems almost certain he will be muzzled by appointment to higher office in which he will have to renounce or at least ignore his recent output):
Whatever the virtues of the Covenant text, or not, it is inconceivable that people will hold themselves accountable to something they never wanted in the first place and don't believe in. Many TEC people the Windsor process was aimed at see it as abusive and biased interference. Meanwhile Conservatives are increasingly seeing it as a Chocolate Teapot (e.g. here). Windsor is increasingly and profoundly tainted for both, and, cuts diminishing amounts of ice with either. Why bother, then, with a blow-up Windsor process? The only people such a thing would would work for are people who don't need it or care about it anyway. This is a profoundly Groucho Marx place to end up.
As always, the crew at Thinking Anglicans has an excellent round-up.
And finally, for the moment, the hashtag for following tweets from General Synod is #synod.