Jonathan Clatworthy of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union says the Anglican Covenant is not a good idea:
The gay bishops debate lives on! The 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion are being asked to sign an “Anglican covenant” designed to create a split between approvers and condemners of same-sex partnerships. General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body, is due to vote on it in November. In the name of preventing one change – toleration of same-sex partnerships – it proposes to turn Anglicanism into a confessional sect where everybody is told what to believe.
The concept stems from the Reformation. For Puritans the answer to every question was to be found in the Bible. Once found it was the biblical answer, to be accepted without question since all religious truths transcended human reason. Truth was rooted in the past, so everything new was suspect; in the Christian tradition, so information from other sources was suspect; and in unchanging certainties, so one should never change one’s mind. Unable to explain disagreement, this tradition has produced endless splits as time after time half the congregation condemned their minister’s “unbiblical” teaching, left, and built a new church across the road to glower at the old one.
The Elizabethan theologian Richard Hooker argued instead for a balance between scripture, reason and tradition, because all have limitations. His successors developed classic Anglicanism: no dogma is beyond question, we can admit errors, learn through public debate and welcome insights from outside sources. This willingness to question everything and disagree without expelling each other made progress possible in 17th and 18th century England – not only in religion but also in science.
Clatworthy makes a good case, but it may be an uphill fight to keep the covenant from passing General Synod.