July 3, 2011

Matter of Substance

The Proposed Anglican Covenant (PAC) is not structured as a means to reach agreement on difficult issues, but as a means to manage disagreements on any issues whatsoever when they happen. It has nothing to offer as a way forward: all brake and no engine. As a nobbled runner in the race for new models for the governance of the Anglican Communion, it is never going to win, precisely because it does not govern, or propose to govern. It still leaves the traditional autonomy (in any and all things, let’s be honest and clear) up to the individual provinces, and by its own account shields their local constitution and canons from outside interference like the sensitive private parts they are. The PAC can manage some of the interrelations between the provinces — but again only to the degree that the provinces are willing to take up the recommendations of the official recommenders. That is what it says.

If this is beginning to sound like the elderly dowager in the upstairs bedroom banging her stick against the floor to quiet her fractious and disruptive heirs and assigns gathered in the parlor, the analogy may not be too far off. To what extent is the Anglican Communion in danger of becoming a provincial staging of Gianni Schicchi?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


WSJM said...

"To what extent is the Anglican Communion in danger of becoming a provincial staging of Gianni Schicchi?"

I love it! Perhaps we should all gather in the courtyard of Lambeth Palace and sing "O mio babbino caro."

Anonymous said...

I think this post is one of the most important I've read on the Anglican Covenant, because you have stated what us ordinary pew-sitters see when we read the Anglican Covenant.

I've been requested by my bishop to read and become informed about the proposed Anglican Covenant in advance of the 2012 Convention. My strongest reaction is one of boredom. There is nothing in this that provokes exciting, novel forward-looking changes in the Episcopal Church, or any other province for that matter.

My second reaction is confusion. To my eye you summarize the content of the proposed Anglican Covenant accurately. It leaves the traditional autonomy in the individual provinces and manages difference "only to the degree that the provinces are willing to take up the recommendations of the recommenders".

The rules of the AC aren't changing. Why not sign the Anglican Covenant and signify we consider ourselves to be full members? That is my position.

Well, I guess that is not a studious enough response, because most of the commentaries I've read lean toward not adopting the Covenant. The reasons I have seen for that position are two.

One is that since this "Covenant" makes no change to the "communion" status of its member provinces but proposes additional structural layers, it is all burdon. So don't adopt it.

The other reasons vary in content, but require the reader to accept a large body of conjecture about the background motivations or future desires of a large number of the "head men" of other provinces. Why would we make decisions based on conjecture, since we can't accurately assess these motivations and intentions? Whatever position the Episcopal Church takes, I hope it's based on what the document actually says.

I would someday like to be a delegate to a General Convention of the Episcopal Church. For now, I'm glad not to have to invest time in this particular issue. I hope the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion deal with this issue in this triennium and move on.

Uncooperative Student.

Frank Remkiewicz aka “Tree” said...

We have dallied long enough and we have permitted the wrong people to drive the boat for too long. Time to move in the direction of a new communion built on celebrating our differences and including everyone that comes to the altar.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, William. I thought that might tickle a funny bone or two! And, yes, I was thinking exactly the same aria for the same person!

Student, you are definitely onto something here and I have made much the same argument myself earlier. I neither see the PAC as Armageddon or the only way forward. My primary reluctance toward adopting it at this point lies in the fact that I think it has too many things in it that are problematical -- and I don't think it is wise to sign on to anything, even something with as weak an enforcement mechanism as this, if it contains things with which I strongly disagree. My current position is that we should express continued willingness to engage in a process of discernment, affirm the first three sections as more or less consistent (with certain exceptions) with the doctrine discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church, and to reject section 4 as not only unhelpful but incoherent.

That being said, if General Convention does vote to sign onto the covenant I will not be mightily upset. We will simply have to then stand on our 2 feet and reaffirm that the actions we have taken with which others find difficulty are in fact consistent with the Gospel, and tradition Scripture and reason (as I tried to show in my book!)

Fred, I think that is what is happening whether we want it to or not -- the old Anglican Communion is dead. Period. Something new is emerging, and I think the Episcopal Church will be very much at the center of the new Anglican Communion, as it was at the center of the old. (Someone from the Anglican Communion office mentioned off the record that if you were to chart all of the relationships in the Anglican Communion, the vast majority of them go through the Episcopal Church and its dioceses.)