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Sunday, November 28, 2010

This is your Advent I "Wake Up" Call

Note: As some of you know, the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv (aka HoB/D or "Hobdee), is a place for conversation among bishops and deputies elected to General Convention.

Sometimes, the conversation there is really wonderful. No one's life is transformed and no one's political position converted - near as I can tell - but there are usually lots of things to be learned and insights to be gained.

And then, there are times when my last, poor tired nerve gets pulled.

Yesterday was one of those times.

I really don't think it's helpful - or, for that matter, healthy - for us to talk about the tensions in the Anglican Communion in general or the Anglican Covenant in particular - in terms of "family" or "marriage". Especially when we use those analogies to avoid confronting the real issues on the table.

So, someone did just that, and well, here's how I responded.

Just think of it as an Advent I "wake up" call.

Today's Epistle is: Romans 13:11-14
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

++++++++++++++++++++ 

There's an old chestnut of a story about God and Satan out for a stroll when they come upon something in the road. "What's that?" asks Satan. "It's 'The Truth'", answers God. "Here, let me have it," says Satan, "I'll organize it."

Let's stop trying to put lipstick on this pig of an Anglican Covenant. This is not about "marriage" or "families". Follow those analogies and you'll end up where we find ourselves now: talking in circles around each other.

Rowan used to talk about the Anglican Communion as a "mystery" and a "gift". What ever happened to that line of thinking? Ah, perhaps it is because he's discovered that you can't bind up a mystery in rules. Neither is a gift made more valuable by imposing conditions for its use.

The Anglican Covenant is NOT a way to bring a few "rules" into a "lawless" Communion.

Our Anglican "custom" and "tradition" have been tolerance for the diverse ways and expressions of our common life of faith, fashioned after our understanding of scripture.

We have an unwritten doctrine of "Accommodation".

That's very Pauline. We are held together by bonds of affection not bonds of law. Indeed, Paul tells us we have been 'freed from the law'.

Oh, and BTW, when did the "Instruments of Communion" trump the ABC and the BCP that the Anglican Covenant will now further trump? I must have missed the memo on that one. Come to think of it, I've never seen a resolution from Lambeth, or General Synod or General Convention or any other similar Anglican Province or Diocese, which "legitimizes" or "canonizes" - much less defines - said "Four Instruments of Communion". I suspect, if it had, it would have failed miserably.

No, these "Four Instruments of Communion" have come into being and prominence by the old fashioned Roman Catholic doctrine of "Truth by Blatant Assertion".

Indeed, I always thought that the only "confession of faith" I had to make was contained in the Creeds, which also assures me of my membership in a "one, holy, catholic and apostolic" church, and the only "covenant" I needed was contained in my Baptismal vows.

And, please don't insult my intelligence by claiming that the Anglican Covenant is about "unity" or "unification". I've read the Anglican Covenant, more often than I care to admit, actually, and I have come to the conclusion, each and every time, that it is not about a "covenant" but a "contract", based on "offense" for which there shall be "relational consequences".

1984, anyone?

Rowan has long been known to say "ecumenical relationships" when he means "affection for Rome". He is also known to be thoroughly anti-American. Which is why, when one reads the "final draft" of the Anglican Covenant, one can clearly see a scolding finger being wagged at the Americas from a man desperate for the reader to kiss his papal ring.

His opening speech to General Synod was an embarrassment. In the end, all he could do was appeal for its passage on the basis of loyalty. Essentially, Rowan made the vote on the Covenant equivalent to a vote of confidence in him.

Mark Russell, a General Synod member, picked this up in his speech, "The Archbishop of Canterbury has the most impossible job in the history of the world. It is a lonely task. I have never heard Rowan Williams ask for our support in the way he has. If we say no, we're not backing our archbishop when he asked for our help."

My friends across the pond tell me that rumors were swirling that Rowan "needed" the Covenant in order to be able to meet with the Primates and that, if he failed to get the Covenant, he was considering resignation.

How pathetic is that?

Does anyone remember B033?

Same technique: Emotional manipulation.

Same source: Lambeth Palace.

I find it painfully ironic that while we have been having conversations about Open Communion and Marriage Equality, and whether or not to re-write our canons to be more "permissive" about who comes to the altar rail to be fed and who can come to the church for "pastoral generosity" in blessing the covenants between two people of the same gender for life long, faithful, monogamous relationship, that we are also talking about a covenant/contract of "rules" with "relational consequences" for giving offense to anyone who does not understand the theological integrity of our actions.

Never mind. The GAFCON crowd, which the original Anglican Covenant was designed to appease, has already left the building. Some are still lurking about, trying to salvage the furniture and various endowments and take them with them.

The Anglican Covenant is a tourniquet which has done its job. It stopped the bleeding and the appendage has been self-severed. "Rules" will neither heal us or save us. What has been done has been done. No sense in playing the "shame and blame" game. There's the mission of the Gospel to accomplish.

Part of the problem with the Anglican Covenant - and, I'm convinced it will be its ultimate undoing - is that it was written by theologians who had the temerity and arrogance of writing in a mechanism for legal consequences without consulting canon lawyers.

The first time anyone tries to enforce the "rules" of the Anglican Covenant, it will be like watching Humpty Dumpty come tumbling off the wall which Rowan and the Windsor Group have so carefully built.

What we need now is to acknowledge the losses we have had, grieve them, and begin to engage each other in those "bonds of affection" of which St. Paul spoke with such passion and eloquence, that we may begin to rebuild and edify the Body.

That can't be done while one is either nursing a grudge or devising a way to seek revenge and retribution. It takes a real spirit of reconciliation, assisted by some good olde fashioned Anglican tolerance.

That, my friend, is the real test of our Christianity. To use the sentiments of one great preacher, I fear that, if we were to be charged with the "offense" of being Christian, and the Anglican Covenant were the prima facia evidence used in our defense, we would lose the case and be cast out into the outer darkness.

The Anglican Covenant is not of God.

It will not have out.

7 comments:

whiteycat said...

No one has said this better than you have in this post! Excellent! Down with the Covenant. Just say NO!!!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

I keep saying that if the Anglican Communion is a marriage, then honey, it is a bit late to be asking us to sign a prenuptial agreement! Besides, a prenuptial is based on distrust and a need to control.

+Alan Wilson (CoE) has pointed out that the CoE does not need a covenant to belong to the Porvoo Communion. But there have been hints that +Rowan is a bit upset with the Church of Sweden for the same reasons he is upset with TEC and ACCanada.

Lionel Deimel said...

No, the Instruments (of whatever) have never been officially agreed to. They were first mentioned in the Virginia Report and given more prominence in the Windsor Report. The Anglican Covenant would indeed institutionalize them.

We should scrap the Primates’ Meeting, clarify that the Lambeth Conference has no legislative function, strip all power from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and reassess whether the Anglican Consultative Council serves any useful purpose. I suspect it does not. The money this program would free up could do much good in the world.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Lionel. Amen.

Lauren said...

I also think it's interesting that Jesus, in the text this week talks about the days of Noah before the flood, where people were marrying and giving in marriage. Those were the days before the flood, when that stuff was the important stuff. In other words, the lives of the people and how they went about their "normal" practices were more important to the people than the Maker of the lives of the people.

I'm not saying that Jesus wasn't down with marriage or anything, but an interesting intersection of pericopes and topics this week...

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

I think the only people who fear rules are those who plan to break them. The covenant really has no teeth as it stands today. Why fear it? It seems to me that it could bring about more clarity and openness about our differences, even if it won't resolve them.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Timothy, I fear your reasoning is a bit too simplistic. Tell that to women before suffrage. Or, to an African American before the Civil Rights Movement.

I'm not afraid of the Covenant. I'm insulted. It's an affront to the very Spirit of Anglicanism.

If the AC does not work to solve the problem, it becomes part of the problem.