March 4, 2012

English Episcopal PAC-men

Thinking Anglicans has highlighted an open letter from the Bishops of Oxford and Bristol concerning the Proposed Anglican Covenant and urging its adoption. By the voting record, Bristol appears to have been very persuasive on his home turf. Oxford has yet to cast a ballot, and it may be moot by the time they do, as it is possible, though unlikely, a majority of Church of England dioceses will have rejected the PAC prior to Oxford's Synod.

Paul Bagshaw has penned a thoughtful response to the bishops' asseverations, and I need not say more than a Bravo to his thoughts. I do want to note one of my chief complaints with Bristol and Oxford on this, however, and that is their statement

A luke-warm response, or worse, rejection, of the Covenant in the Church of England would meet with bewilderment in the wider Communion. Some would ask with the prophet Isaiah, “Can a mother forget her children?” ... It would also impoverish the Church of England. Our church life and mission is infinitely the richer for the relationships we share around the Communion. The Covenant offers us a precious opportunity to consolidate those relationships and to demonstrate our commitment to one another as churches. Let’s not miss this opportunity offered to us in our time.
Aside from the hand-wringing about forgetful mothers, it seems very odd to suggest that a Church of England rejection of the Anglican Covenant will in any way be seen as a desire to distance itself from the Anglican Communion! I say this for two reasons:

First, a number of England's "children" have already made it clear they wish to have nothing further to do with the PAC because it isn't punitive enough; and a few have expressed their reservations about it because it is punitive at all. It has little or nothing to do with relationships with the Church of England.

Second, and like unto it, is the reality that the Covenant has no mechanism for improving relationships, and only explicit threats for diminishing them, in the text itself. It is full of good intentions towards "commitment to one another as churches" but when it comes to brass tacks it is all about the management of difficulties through the imposition of "relational consequences." The carrot is only a picture of a carrot for future reference, while the stick is real. Rejecting the Covenant is the surest way to indicate a desire to continue to live in peace, and to consolidate relationships without any coercive "consequences" imposed as a result of disagreements that have arisen, or may arise.

I certainly hope that the rest of the dioceses in the Church of England actually take the time to read the PAC before suggesting it be adopted, rather than the smooth words of those who seem comfortable in believing that this proposal is absolutely necessary but really changes nothing. Sed contra, It will change everything, and give us nothing.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


June Butler said...

The Covenant does not solve these debates, but rather sets out what is commonly held to be essential to our Anglican (and Christian) identity and describes the best practice of how communion may be sustained within the Anglican Communion –

How has the Anglican Communion functioned for all these years without the covenant, if it is essential to "our Anglican (and Christian) identity"? For once, before the process to adopt or not adopt the PAC concludes, I'd like to see a well-reasoned argument in favor of the necessity of the covenant. I note that the bishops broadened the reasons why we must have the PAC to include our identity as Christians. Persuasion by overreach?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

For whatever reason, I think they are desperate. And desperation produces flawed logic. And hubris...

JCF said...

A luke-warm response, or worse, rejection, of the Covenant in the Church of England would meet with bewilderment in the wider Communion. Some would ask with the prophet Isaiah, “Can a mother forget her children?”

As I said at Thinking Anglicans: DRAMA QUEENS! }-p

[With the "mother" reference, I'm also reminded of this bumpersticker: "My mother was a travel agent for guilt trips". Guilt-tripping the CoE hoi polloi into approving the Covenant?]

Daniel Weir said...

Even with all the pro-PAC material emanating from Lamberth Palace it comes to this. Here in Massachusetts there is hardly any conversation about the PAC at all now. People are talking about and even engaging in mission. Imagine that!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Yes, JCF, the clutching of pearls (or pectoral crosses) is really too much. The rejection of the Covenant will mean precisely nothing other than the rejection of a deeply flawed proposal. Life will go on.

Same here in NY, Daniel. We did a study throughout the diocese, with workshops and lectures (from both sides) and still no one really cares all that much. There were no motions at our diocesan convention, and the general response is a collective NY "Eh."