|Covenanters: Bishop Gregory Cameron and |
Archbishop Drexel Gomez in 2009
The Constitution of the Anglican Communion is now on the ACC page of the Anglican Communion website. A Q&A style presentation of the Standing Committee is here.
The changes in the constitution of the Communion would give effect to the proposals contained in the Covenant; the Covenant would would give significant powers to the Standing Committee of the Communion (and here). It would, in effect, make the SCAC a new Instrument of Communion in its own right.
The result of the changes that have already taken place and those which the Covenant may instigate would change the nature of Anglicanism for ever.
The consequences will, over time, stretch right to the heart of each church. It may be that this will be a good thing (though I don't see it myself) but surely it can't be good to do this by default, without informed consent, without some sharing and general acceptance of a vision for the future.
First, it will turn the Communion into a Church, instead of a family of Churches (irrespective of who's in and who's out).
Local synods will grow less independent, autonomy will be constrained, episcopal authority will be circumscribed. I don't think this will happen all at once; I think it will happen step-by-step, issue-by-issue and probably with no-one outside the Anglican Communion Office taking stock as it goes on.
|From here to eternity, via the SCAC|
To turn this round: ordinary worshippers will feel even further from the places decisions are made.
Third, the manner in which these changes have already been effected will predispose the manner of future decisions.
In particular the bureaucratic-political nature of the Church will be reinforced with the great majority of people effectively excluded by an glass wall from decision making. The international elite of fixers and global leaders will talk to one another and operate in ways that most others (including all but the best funded and staffed lobby groups) will not be able to follow, let alone influence.
What is already an overwhelmingly clerical church will become even more so.
Fourth, the voluntary nature of adherence and expression of faith will shrink still further. In 1828 the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in England effectively made membership voluntary. That fact has never been part of the church's self-image. Instead, monarchical (strictly princely) attitudes have characterised the exercise of episcopal authority, mirrored by excessive deference. In England at least lay members of the Anglican Church are subjects, not citizens.
Fifth, there will be an impact at the local, parochial and deanery level. Curiously the tendency to ignore or circumvent the rules, and for self-confident clergy to do their own thing, may grow stronger. (This capacity is an internalisaton of monarchical attitudes turned back against the official monarch).
|The future of the Anglican Church?|
Sixth, there will be a little less money in the local church and an even higher ratio of (relatively better paid) senior clergy and bureaucrats to regular worshippers.
* * *
Sometimes I wonder why I worry. I was once ordained and now I am without episcopal permission to officiate (no-one's refused - I just haven't asked). This leaves me (and other retired / resigned clergy in this position) unable to be members of the Church. There is simply no space for us in the constitution.
But I do worry. The shape, flavour, rhetoric, financing, decision-making, trust, suspicion, competence, clarity, history, vision, style, values, ethos of any organisation predispose how it functions on the ground. All of these elements are predominantly set by the top. The words and actions of the few senior leaders are setting the church on a particular spiritual path to the future.
I have not seen or heard anything in the debate around the Covenant any official consideration of its impact in the pew. It's all about inter-Provincial relationships, as though they were separable from the people who constitute the membership, the foundations, the purpose of the Church. And who are the source of its funding. Could we not seek to shape the Church as though it served the spiritual needs and potential of the people of God?
|Covenant between God and the people of Papua New Guinea, signed by the Prime Minister, 2007|