The proposed Covenant and the Gadarene swine

After yesterday's votes, there are now 17 dioceses voting against taking the next step towards an Anglican Covenant in the Church of England. That's seven more than those in the "for" category. How it fares in England, of course, is at least notionally important in light of Communion structures and personalities.

Listeners to the BBC's "Sunday" program(me) heard professor Diarmaid MacCulloch's current take as he debated Bishop of Sherborne Graham Kings.

What swings the argument against is that people realize that this is a sort of centralization proposed for the Anglican Communion which has never been Anglican, which is against Anglicanism. The Anglican Communion is not an Anglican church; it's a family of churches.

Responding to the idea that "[n]obody's forced to do anything; these are recommended courses of actions," MacCulloch not-too-subtly noted:

This lunatic proposal has gone down a path [where] once you start, you don't see the alternatives; and watching [the Covenant process] happen has been like a rather slow-motion version of the Gadarene swine.
Comments (6)

Since when have any of the Instruments of Communion needed a Covenant in order to make recommendations. If that's really all the Covenant is about, then it is completely unnecessary. The rest of it in parts one to three is simply a restatement in one place of bits and pieces of our tradition.

If it is nothing new, then it is superfluous. If it is something new, what is it? And if not now, why ever?

Transcript here:

I was amused that the charge that the PAC was "centralization" was answered by saying that if you opted all that meant was you could be on the "central committees":

MacCulloch Well, what swings the argument against is that people realise that this is a sort of centralisation, proposed for the Anglican Communion, which has never been Anglican, which is against Anglicanism. The Anglican Communion is not an Anglican church it’s a family of churches and you don’t need some punitive, centralising, disciplining sort of process to make the churches work together. That’s not the Anglican way, and I’m delighted at the way that the Dioceses have recognised that. This is a great thing for the Church of England.

Stourton Let me put that to Graham Kings, because it is a very serious charge that the idea that this runs against the fundamental spirit of what Anglicanism is?


Stourton Let’s just be clear Dr Kings is that right in formal terms? If you don’t sign up to this you are not a member of the Anglican Communion?

Kings No. That’s not right. You are still a member of the Anglican Communion. It may be some particular committees that you cannot take part. Yes, you are still fully a member of the Anglican Communion but not in the central committees. Nobody is forced to do anything. These are recommended courses of actions. It is not one central committee that has drawn up this, it has been discussed all over the Communion and the Church of England had a huge input into it.

I found myself stumbling from the outset over Bishop Kings’ bag of marbles vs. cluster of grapes metaphor.

What bothers me more and more from this argumentation coming largely out of the episcopate is that trust – with all of its emotional and experiential content – can be legislated and structured via a covenant with so-called “relational consequences.” Bishop King then alludes to this as “interdependence.”

I find this symptomatic of a tragic misunderstanding of how authority flows and the foundational nature of Christian trust and relationships: Trust is given, never taken. Authority works the same way. And true interdependence is freely and mutually offered, never contracted under duress.

As long as bishops promoting the covenant, including the ABC, labor under this misunderstanding, they are bound to encounter frustration.

The laity of the C of E appear to hold more of the wisdom “marbles” in this case. I’m grateful they have a say in this decision!

What has not been recognised officially in all of this, is that the Covenant would have become the ruling 'Instrument of Unity' deciding who was in an who was out - non-Anglican!

Ron Smith

This idea that failure to accept the Covenant is a repudiation of the Communion, or leads to monad-like isolation, and that the Covenant is the only way to preserve interralationship, is the most specious aspect of the pro-Covenant side's debate. What have we had up til now? How does the Covenant actually improve things? Why does saying, "Not this way." mean, "No way at all." People see through this form of argument very clearly, and the more Kings et al. talk, the more they lose.

Yes, Graham Kings, keep digging!

I was very amused that the transcript was rushed out by his diocese on a Sunday. I thought only bloggers did such things on Sundays.

By the way, I'm noticing a strong trend of which the transcript is an example. The social media organs of the institutional church are working weekends. I've seen this in TEC, the C of E and the Church of Nigeria.

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