- The Covenant will introduce regulation where there is currently little regulation
- The Covenant initiates a mechanism for building relationships and communication allowing the Churches of the Anglican Communion to stay in communion both nationally and internationally
- There remains room for local freedom with connectedness to the whole
|local freedom will remain|
The third of these is not an argument for the Covenant. It is merely an assertion that this Covenant will not be as prescriptive or as constricting as some critics suggest. It implicitly cedes the point that the Covenant will constrain local freedom - probably to a significant degree - only not too much.
There has been no discussion of subsidiarity in the whole Covenant process, despite it being significant in the Windsor Report. As a result 'local freedom' is vague to the point of vacuous.
I read the Covenant as suggesting that Provinces will indeed be able to do anything they wish - unless and until someone objects (or 'raises a question'). Consequently, to ensure that there is capacity to raise a question, there will need to be a whole new skein of mutual monitoring. Each Province will have freedom - but CCTV will be installed in every governing body and monitored by the Anglican Communion Office.
(4.2.9) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.
Whatever 'autonomy' means, this is not it.
|Consecrating Gene Robinson |
bishop of New Hampshire
The first and second arguments rest on a particular way of seeing the disputes which have divided the Communion.
The narrative goes something like this:
The North American Churches, TEC especially but the Canadian Church too, have erred and strayed from the path of orthodoxy for a long time. Consecrating Gene Robinson simply put the tin lid on it. The defence of 'we followed our own canonical procedures' only makes matters worse. If the rules result in circumstances where 'the devil has clearly entered the church' then the whole church is structured demonically.
Or, less graphically, the American Churches have not listened to the deeply held concerns of the rest of the Communion. And, right now, there is nothing anyone else can do about it.
|Price £1.95 or $3.07|
If this is the narrative then the response is relatively straight forward: create the power to do something about it - and then do it. Specifically eject TEC and ACoC from the Communion unless and until they repent their decisions and turn from their erroneous ways.
The first part of the plan is the most difficult. It entails persuading enough of the Communion to give up their autonomy and to cede these powers to a central authority. They must discard inherited patterns of working together voluntarily and replacing them with 'regulation', enforceable rules.
The Communion will thus cease to be a company of pilgrims walking together in their distinctive localities in the common service of Christ. It will instead become a single Church with one government, one set of rules, one order.
Once this is done, once the rules are in place and power centralized, the task of expulsion should be simple. For the prosecutors the case is already adjudged and proven; all that remains is for sentence to be effected.
But what will we lose? The narrow focus on the expulsion of TEC and ACoC, which predates the consecration of Gene Robinson, has distorted our vision. The difficult task of walking together alongside those with whom we disagree has been discarded in favour of a draconian and simplistic solution: excise the offender. The carefully nurtured history of autonomous churches co-operating will be replaced by an authoritarian Church regulating. And, at the heart of the programme, world-wide Anglicanism would lose TEC and ACoC.
Furthermore this is the immoral logic of fighting a war in the name of peace: we will end up deliberately creating schism in the name of unity.
- The Covenant will introduce regulation where there is currently little regulation. Yes. It will. But is it justifiable? Is it wise? Why should we lose the diverse Anglicanism we have inherited to replace it with a new, centrally governed Church? How will regulation and enforcement stop faithful people exploring new avenues of the expression of faith?
- The Covenant initiates a mechanism for building relationships and communication allowing the Churches of the Anglican Communion to stay in communion both nationally and internationally. This is disingenuous as we already have such mechanisms. The question is: are the terms of the new mechanism any better than those we currently enjoy? And what will happen once TEC and ACoC are expelled? Will relationships be better, or will every member have in the back of their mind the question: who will they come for next?
- There remains room for local freedom with connectedness to the whole. Yes, some, how much? How will any one part of the global, unified, regulated Church be able to respond to new insights which the Spirit is revealing? How will we be sure we will not have to go at the pace of the most conservative and the most intransigent? How will the prophetic voice be heard?