No Covenant please, we are Anglican

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.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Michael Russell

    Hooker would not have suggested that scripture, tradition and reason be used in some balanced form. Rather he argued that which authority you turn to depends on what kind of question you have to resolve or what kind of thing you are talking about.

    Scripture was perfect for teaching us all things necessary for salvation, but beyond that Reason and lastly tradition might help us innovate where time or culture made Scripture or past traditions ineffective.

    More important in Hooker is his presentation of Reason and Nature as sources of Revelation. Because God made it all the natural world (science) and Reason, whose workings we continue to explore are reflections of God and part of the Second Eternal Law. The implication of this, which actual Anglicanism has understood, is that new learnings can come to be authoritative in areas not having to do with what is necessary for salvation.

    Hooker bluntly rejected the sort of biblical supremacism we see rampant among the so called orthodox around the world. Indeed castigated those who extended Scripture’s reach beyond is appointed purpose; charging them with bring Scripture and the Church into disrepute.

  2. Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

    The Modern Churchpeople’s Union has now shortened their name to just Modern Church.

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