Lionel Deimel takes a very close look at the American-in-England’s pro-covenant essay that was circulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the bishops. An excerpt from a detailed commentary on the entire Doll essay:
Deimel: I believe that The Episcopal Church will, wisely, reject the Covenant option, as it is in conflict with its mission to minister to its people and society. If the church cannot act until it is allowed to do so by Uganda or Nigeria or Rwanda, it will become irrelevant to American life. The Episcopal Church is not about to jettison the Gospel for the sake of acceptance, but neither is it going to retain tradition for tradition’s sake to placate foreign Anglicans who neither understand nor appreciate American civilization.
Doll: Anglicans around the Communion often think about the Covenant in relation to their own church political objectives. It’s often said, ‘If we had to wait for the slowest members, women’s ordination would not yet have happened.’ In fact, over this issue the Episcopal Church was very careful to consult and accept the strictures of communion. That has not been the case in the more recent issue of same-sex relations. Here the Episcopal Church has in practice refused to be bound by communion-wide restrictions. I would argue that if the principles of communion are right, if the Gospel calls us to be subject and accountable to one another, then we must be obedient and patient and trust in the rightness of the outcome under God and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It may mean that we won’t have what we want when we want it. But if this way is Christ’s way, it is the way of the cross. If the journey to unity is to be true to him, then it must be costly and sacrificial.
Deimel: To begin with, The Episcopal Church has not made its decisions in secret. When it prohibited discrimination against gays in ordination, the election of a gay bishop became inevitable. Further, the discussion of the women’s ordination issue in the Windsor Report is regarded as revisionist history by Episcopalians. Those Anglicans who insist that The Episcopal Church discriminate against LGBT persons are not asking Episcopalians to exercise restraint or to make a costly sacrifice; they are asking Episcopalians to sacrifice instead their sisters and brothers in Christ. Do we have the right to do that?
Doll: We find ourselves in a situation where we profess belief that Unity is what God is and what God does in the world, what he calls us to be, but that we find ourselves in danger of giving up on that Unity and accepting the disintegration of our Communion and of affirming our separation. I think the Covenant is worth our support despite its faults. We have no alternative programme. Those who wish to join it will do so because they wish to grow closer to others in the bonds of unity, not because it will enable them to punish wayward churches. They will join because communion is what God is and what he calls us to in Christ. Communion is our starting point, God’s gift to us in Baptism.
Deimel: The operative words here are “to punish wayward churches.” This is what the Covenant is really about. As has been pointed out by more than one writer, the alternative—certainly one alternative, at any rate—to having a covenant is having no covenant. That has been God’s gift to Anglicans for centuries.
Doll: The liberals of the American church begin not with communion but with the ‘prophetic’ call to (their understanding of) justice and truth. The conservatives of the developing world and their GAFCON allies begin with neither communion nor justice but with the church as the guardian of (what they understand to be) truth. The Covenant process stands between these two poles. It values highly justice and truth, but it sees these not as starting points but as fruits of communities that together tenderly nurture unity, communion, and holiness of life. If the Church lives the life of communion for which God created it, then unity, peace, justice and truth will manifest the integrity of our choice to the wider Church and the world
Deimel: Doll craftily represents Covenant adoption as a via media position, rather than the radical step that it is. I see no reason why making nice with people in faraway churches with unfamiliar traditions and conflicting theologies is a greater good than truth and justice. The reality is that positive change in the world—post-modern folks are reluctant to say “progress”—does not, historically, come about through agreement within councils at the summit of hierarchical structures. The world actually needs prophets; it does not need more ecclesiastical bureaucrats. Peter Doll believes otherwise.
h/t to Tobias Haller for the headline.