January 4, 2010

Thought for 1.4.10

Sparked by a discussion at Thinking Anglicans...

I think it very important, if (as it appears) we are discussing some kind of trans-provincial Covenant, that we understand the difference between voluntary commitment and legal sanction. The Anglican Communion Covenant describes itself (and is described by others) along the former lines, though it has some clear hints of the latter still, even after the fourth section has been slightly watered-down. Some have suggested that signing the Covenant binds a signatory never to do anything others might find objectionable. This is clearly specious as the Covenant itself includes procedures for dealing with just such an eventuality. And in this touchy time, who knows what oxes yet unborn may one day be gored.

For me the question is simple: Shall we have a new body of Anglican Law, or a Charter of Good Intentions? For the sake of clarity I would prefer the former, though I also do not think we are ready for that. At this point I still am torn between ignoring the Covenant on one hand, or killing it with kindness on the other, by encouraging everyone to sign on. As I have noted before, not signing, and signing and then being disfellowshiped for purported offenses, both leave us more or less in the same place.

From the beginning, the Windsor and Covenant processes have been redolent of the mindset of the schoolyard, of hurt feelings and violated affection. It represents not interdependence but codependency, a situation I would not want to see played out in a parish, let alone throughout the Communion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


WSJM said...

"It represents not interdependence but codependency, a situation I would not want to see played out in a parish, let alone throughout the Communion."

I hadn't thought of it that way before, Tobias, but I think you're right on target.

June Butler said...

Tobias, I can't get past the idea that for TEC to sign on to the Covenant would be dishonest, because we know with near certainty that we will move forward without waiting for the Anglican Church of Uganda, or the Anglican Church of Nigeria, or even the Church of England to be of one mind with us.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Bill. This is actually an aspect of the present situation that has been most on my mind for some time. Perhaps I have a heightened awareness of this sort of issue due to the fact that the Brotherhood of S Gregory vow of chastity includes the clause, "to love others without the desire to possess or control."

Mimi, I take that point, but I think it important to be strict and separate the recent "hot issues" from the actual language of the Covenant -- and continue to maintain that our movement towards full inclusion is actually in accordance with the Gospel. The Covenant could (even as I admit it probably won't) be used to help move signatories in the 2/3rd world to move towards greater openness to possibilities. Much will depend on who signs on -- if GAFCON jumps on board, we should not do so. If they hold back, and the bulk of people willing to actually work together hands together, that's another atory. One way to help that along would be for TEC to lay claim to our position and our faith in the Gospel, and not be forced into walking away -- even if that is what the original crafters intended. We need to be wise to Realpolitik as well as informed by the Gospel. As Frank Griswold noted to the Bishops prior to the vote on Gene Robinson: "Are we going to live in hope or live in fear?"

June Butler said...

Tobias, we've had the discussion before, and I take your point in saying we should stay in the game and try to be a catalyst for good, as we see the good.

So much in the Covenant still needs to be clarified. What is the definition of a church in the proposed Covenant? Can the Church of England sign on without an act of Parliament? I could go on.

Then, too, we often make mistakes in our predictions of future events, although I believe that if Bishop-elect Mary Glasspool gets consents, which I believe she should and will, then we will hear cries that TEC cannot sign the Covenant. But here I am anticipating a future event.

I am wary, because of the manner in which a report (Windsor) was foisted upon us as a set of rules and the Covenant process, from the beginning, was mishandled resulting in much unnecessary Sturm und Drang and confusion.

Oh my! Word verification is "fixotic". Is this the shorter version of fixated and psychotic about the Covenant?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Mimi, I still have a divided mind on all of this, but I'm trying to think strategically, rather than buying in to the dysfunction of being liked, approved of, or all the rest that seems so central to the Covenant.

As to England, I think the question has already been answered in the affirmative -- that Section 4 was revised in such a way as not to require an act of Parliament -- since all "discipline" (such as it is) is self-discipline. This is an important point -- there is nothing the Instruments can "do" to any member church -- all they can do is ask the members to do certain things, or not do certain things, and at most discern that those who don't want to play can't play any more (i.e., "relational consequences.")

As to people saying "you can't sign the Covenant" -- well, who made them Pope? This is why I'm saying we have to find our b*lls and either say, plain and simple, "No Way" -- or "Yes, we commit to the Gospel, and this is what it looks like, folks. Take it or leave it." I think we need to get over the hand-wringing as if signing or not signing will "hurt" us. This is where the deep dysfunction and codependence from our side comes in -- the desire to be needed, to be liked, to be approved of. I mean, seriously, read through the diagnostic descriptions of codependency on the web and see if it doesn't sound like the state of the Anglican Communion!

Whatever we do, let our yes be yes or our no, no, and not be based on reactions or reactivity, but on what we think is right.

WSJM said...

'The Brotherhood of S Gregory vow of chastity includes the clause, "to love others without the desire to possess or control."'

That would be a good clause to include in the baptismal covenant. A good vow for all of us.

Brother David said...

Has anyone ever compared this idea of an Anglican Covenant with the document that has brought together the churches of the Porvoo Communion?

Is this document similar? If they are not similar, why not?

That document appears to be one that the CoE has already navigated with regard to it being an established church of England. And the Porvoo document does not seem to cause such drama among its signatories.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

A good point, Dahveed. I made a similar note back in 2007 in connection with the TEC covenant with the ELCA. And I still think any number of these real documents promoting real ecumenical unity and communion should be the model, instead of the fantasy course laid out in TACC.

scott gray said...


i needed to think about this one a while.

i have no vested interest in the episcopal church any longer, but it is an important part of my heritage. (i grew up in an episcopal parish.) i currently hang my hat in a roman catholic parish, and there are a few parallels that make this covenant issue interesting to me. although, as you will see from my comments, i may misunderstand what’s going on.

i think that often, creeds and traditions and rituals are intended, with the very best of intentions, to be energizing points of actualization, and points of rallying, for intentional communities. unfortunately, these very creeds can become instead filters for purity of paradigms and intentional communities. as far as i can tell, if we give the creators of the covenant the benefit of the doubt as to intent (energizing actualization and point of rally), it is unfortunate that this instrument becomes a purfying filter for deciding who is ‘in,’ and who is ‘out.’

once the purifying edges have been articulated, and the borders strengthened, then the decisions have to be made about what to do with those who lie outside the borders and edges. generally, these decisions are made by those who lie inside the borders and edges (have you ever noticed how the border and edge definers always include themselves on the inside?)

we can destroy the (now clearly defined) differentiating elements. we can expel the differentiating elements. we can convert the differentiating elements. we can marginalize the differentiating elements. none of which is pleasant, dignity-maintaining, energizing, or celebratory.

in the roman catholic church, this has happened to the eucharist. the dogmas and creeds about belief and behavior codes has resulted in a purification of the body of christ, instead of the celebration of an energizing sacrament, or a rallying point for jesus-oriented engagement in the world.

this last weekend, i was involved in facilitating a lector workshop for my parish. one of the readings was the 1 timothy 2:1-8 reading for ordinary 25, year c (roman lectionary). it begins like this:

beloved, first of all i ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.

and i had just the day before, read about archbishop raymond burke’s decision back in 2007 not to allow catholic members of these very same ‘kings and all in authority’ (american governors and senators)to receive the eucharist because of dogmatic purity borders and edges (their voting records regarding abortion issues).

so we take the celebration of the eucharist, and its energizing and rallying potential as a sacrament, away from the very people we are saying need this kind of influence from the body of christ the most. this strikes me as most ironic.

the effect, regardless of the intent of the (anglican) covenant you're talking about, will be the same precipitation of ‘purifying’ situations. and i would argue that little good can come of it. especially when we most need the energizing and rally qualities of the celebration of the body of christ in how we get on with engaging the world at large.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Scott, for the very thoughtful comment. You are quite right that the proposed Covenant could become just such a "purification" tool -- and indeed, several among its crafters at the earliest stages made no equivocation that this was their intent! Even in its mollified form (the disciplinary section has been very much attenuated) it could still serve as a shibboleth instead of a gilgal -- a means to tell who is in or out instead of a center of unity!

The good news is that there is time to consider all of this. You wouldn't know it from the buzz, but there is no way for TEC, for instance, to actually formally adopt this Covenant prior to the next General Convention in, what, 2012? There is no 'sell-by date' inherent in this open-ended Covenant, so there is time to see what happens.

Thanks again,

scott gray said...


i'm glad there is a delay built into this situation. avoiding the precipitation of a wave into a particle, as it were, is a good thing here.

'tis a pleasure to think out loud with you about these processes. you are most gracious to entertain my thoughts, especially when i stray off topic.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Indeed, Scott. I welcome your thoughts, even if straying slightly, as they are also thought-provoking and lead to new insights.

As to time, yes to that, too. Schrödinger's cat can blissfully superposit for a bit longer!