As I’ve continued to review the Saint Andrew’s Draft Anglican Covenant, I’ve come to appreciate the positive changes in the first two sections more and more. The problem, of course, remains in the potentially mischievous disciplinary clauses in section 3.2.5. As I’ve noted on the previous draft, having an out-clause in a covenant is like having a pre-nuptial agreement signed along with the wedding register. No priest should allow such an action, as it is a clear indication of defective intent: how can one swear to unity while providing for division?
So I suggest that if we simply remove section 3.2.5 and its subsections, and the overly complicated appendix of discipline to which it refers, we will be left with something actually worthy of the name, Covenant.
Some will say that this removes the Covenant’s teeth. But why should a covenant have teeth? Didn’t Paul warn the Galatians about the danger of “biting and devouring one another” rather than following the law of love? The rest of the covenant amply lays out the concepts of loving mutual responsibility, service and mission — and if that is not enough to keep us together, no disciplinary threats will make us into what we are called to be.
Teeth are for eating, and in this case, like the serpent Ouroboros — the snake that eats its own tail, the symbol of simultaneous self-destruction and self-possession, alone and insensate in the emptiness of self, as Plato said — these punitive measures will only lead to self-obsession, rather than the self-forgetfulness to which Christ calls us.
Tobias Haller BSG