March 7, 2012

Cameron on the Covenant

As part of the full court press to convince more English dioceses to support the lagging Anglican Covenant, Bishop Cameron has weighed in over at Fulcrum. Give him a place to stand and he may use St. Asaph's as a fulcrum to move England!

I've already said perhaps more than need be about the Covenant in these last few days, largely in response to the stream of arm-twisting from the English episcopate and like-minded folks. At least Bishop Cameron cites a few portions of the actual Covenant text, which is more than most of its supporters are willing to do, and I will not engage in a point-by point response to his Five Theses.

For as with the Covenant itself, the main problems lie in the last section of his essay, in fact, in his last line:

A “No” to the Covenant says: We can’t say what it means to be an Anglican, we want to be able to ignore our sister Churches when it suits us, and we won’t mind if up to half the Communion walks away.
On the contrary:

1. We can say what it means to be an Anglican, and this document fails to do so in many significant ways. (The lack of explicit reference to Reason, though as Chapman points out, this is assumed. Assumptions aside, surely a word ought to have been spoken! Then there's the reference to the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP, which are not in fact seminal for all of the Anglican Communion, but only "bits" of it.)

2. We do not want to ignore our sister Churches, but we also do not want them to ignore us -- and the Covenant establishes a formal way in which churches can be ignored, while offering precious little towards encouraging the dialogue it purports to favor. (I will put in a bid for the Continuing Indaba as an already proven positive way forward, Covenant or no. We do not need the Covenant in order to have dialogue and to take each other seriously.)

3. We do mind if half of the Communion walks away, but better that than urging any of the Communion out by "recommending relational consequences" -- and if the Covenant does not lead to that being done, neither does it prevent it.

In short, the Proposed Covenant is not suited to the task. It will not accomplish or encourage the things it says it hopes to do. This is why it is being so widely rejected; which in itself is an important point for something so supposed to be geared towards consensus-building.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

12 comments:

Perpetua said...

A small point of clarification Gregory Cameron is a (as Bishop of St Asaph) a bishop in the Church in Wales and in no practical way has any influence over the Church of England except that of any other Bishop in the Communion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Indeed, Perpetua. I was perhaps not clear in my reference to Archimedes that he might be using St Asaph's as a fulcrum to move England! But that was my intent... Perhaps I shall rephrase...

Jon said...

If I had to summarize the problem in the Communion at the moment, I'd say it's that there is a lot of talk about listening where the speaker actually means obeying. TEC does just about everything it can to guarantee that the others get to say what they want, at least on controversial social issues, but taking it the step further and granting a veto power to the rest of the Communion would require significant, problematic structural changes.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

And, ironically, Jon, there is actually a lot of listening going on, even without the Covenant. The Continuing Indaba and Mutual Listening Process is doing very well, as people learn to talk across differences without downplaying them, working together to enhance mission and ministry. The Covenant will likely impede those fruitful relationships, based on the opinions of whoever is on the Standing Committee, and the extent to which recommendations are made and followed.

JCF said...

Actually, "obeying" MEANS listening.

I think Rowan (et al) are looking for TEC's (nevermind their own dioceses's!) SUBMISSION. Looking to the ABC as "the first" and leaving out the "among equals".

No way Jose.

MarkBrunson said...

All his reasons boil down to one:

THE GOLDEN REASON FOR ADOPTING THE COVENANT:

It makes me and those in my club so, so much more important!!

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

JCF and Mark, I know it can look that way, but I honestly don't think this is about personal power, but a misplaced sense of what makes for good order -- it is ideology and not ambition. As in the Jeffrey John case, Rowan acted against his own beliefs about Jeffrey's competence, bowing to the pressure of the opponents for the sake of "unity." Ultimately, the real problem is not that Rowan is a strong-man, but that he is so willing to put aside his own views -- except the one that mirrors his own sense of paschal sacrifice, as he sees it -- for the sake of the group-think. I could be mistaken in my reading, but this seems to meet the test of Occam's Razor better than supposing personal power as the dominant motive. Our current mess, ironically, stems from Rowan's weakness, not a quest for strength.

Jon said...

Yes, I know. All the Covenant was ever good for was serving as a symbolic way of claiming Anglican identity, and section 4 isn't even helpful for that.

I think you're right about it not being a power grab, Rowan wants the church to agree, or at least seem to agree, even if there isn't actual agreement.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Jon. The Covenant has become a token, or worse, totem. The actual contents are less important to Rowan than the idea.

Bill Dilworth said...

The problem with the accumulation of power under relatively benign leaders (whether we're talking about +++Rowan or Obama, the Covenant or this year's NDAA) is that they won't be in office forever. When they are replaced, their successors inherit the enhanced power.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Indeed, Bill, which is why such structural changes should be undertaken with great care. Today's philosopher king may be next year's mad dictator!

MarkBrunson said...

You guys have such faith in the human race - wow, are you going to be disappointed! :(