March 24, 2012

Political Science 101

The voting in the synods of the Church of England Dioceses to date has resulted in a majority of dioceses against the adoption of the Proposed Anglican Covenant. I am happy that good English common sense has prevailed over the sometimes strained and rhapsodic appeals for the adoption of the PAC, often with little reference to, or congruence with, its actual text.

One of the things most odd about the rhetoric on the Covenant is the refrain that without it the communion will just become or be "a federation." This tune has been sung by Archbishop Rowan, Mark Chapman, and apparently now (in a tweet) by Ruth Gledhill. Allow me to make one short observation to address this concern:

The word federation derives essentially from the Latin foederis = "covenant." A federation is precisely a group of entities bound by an agreed covenant. What we are (or are supposed to be!) is a "communion" and the Proposed Anglican Covenant would have turned us into a weak federation.

Class dismissed.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG 


June Butler said...

Brilliant lesson, Tobias. I wanted to use an added descriptive, but you would not have moderated my comment through. ;-)

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

"A federation is precisely a group of entities bound by an agreed covenant."

Perhaps this demonstrates the truth of Peter Carrell's posting Wrongly named international Anglican Coalition favours covenant. And also The annoying truth about the Anglican Covenant.

Piggy-backing on Peter's blog postings, I noted:

" ... criticizing or rejecting the official Anglican Covenant - or rejecting the very idea of a Covenant - presupposes an alternative or rival set of norms and boundaries that define what it means to be Anglican and what it means to be in communion. And those alternative norms and boundaries are not always explicitly articulated by the anti-Anglican Covenant lobby. ...

"So any argument against the official Covenant necessarily entails an understanding of what's required to be a part of that common life at the Communion level, what it means to be 'truly' Anglican, what it means to go off the Anglican reservation, how we deal with conflict and disagreement, etc.

"If all of that were spelled out, it would look like an Anglican Covenant (albeit not the currently official one)."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Well, Bryan, as I've said before, I'm not a member of the "NACC" because I do not oppose the "idea" of a Covenant -- though I wouldn't call it that, and think this part of the problem. I favor a Constitution if it comes to it.

But I also question the loaded language of "official" here -- a major problem with the proposal is that the editors were not responsive to many of the very firm critiques particularly of section 4. It was attenuated, but remained in place. This of course also put off those who wanted it to be stronger.

In short, the process was very badly designed indeed, and doomed to failure from the start, as it was attempting to bring unity to a disagreeable assembly of folks by getting them to agree to something.

Nor do I think and Anglican Constitution or Covenant of any sort is the inevitable way forward; though I'd not oppose a proper stab at it via a series of Congresses, probaably over two or three decades. In the meantime, careful observation of respect for existing synodical bodies within provinces (as Hooker strongly commended) and interprovincial respect for the the decisions of other provinces -- even if one disagrees with them -- would go far to maintaining some semblance of unity as we continue to cooperate in those things that we _do_ agree about.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Ps. and thanks, Mimi. My acknowledgement of your comment seems to have etherized... like a patient on a table.

June Butler said...

Tobias, sometimes my comments here etherize, too. I think it's something in the air.

I don't see why those of us who are opposed to the covenant are bound to come up with an alternative. We can continue in our relationships across the provinces of the Communion and (if you will) muddle along. If there is another attempt to bring Anglicans together in a more explicit and formal way, I'm against using the label covenant.

However will we agree on what it means to be 'truly' Anglican today? History tells us that the meaning of Anglicanism changed throughout the centuries? Is it possible that the term Anglicanism has passed its sell-by date?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Mimi, those are good questions. The whole idea that there is something "Anglican" in a confessional way -- towards whith the Covenant supporters were edging -- just doesn't sit well with the roots of Anglicanism in the Elizabethan Settlement. As folks from Hooker to C S Lewis to W R Huntington noted, Anglicans are doctrinal minimalists, and quite often accept mutually exclusive understandings even of those doctrines: e.g., the Atonement; rather than "confessing" a single interpretation after the fashion of some of the Christian sects.

As I think I observed somewhere else, defining Anglicanism is a bit like defining pornography, as the Supreme Court justice said, "I know it when I see it." So it is sometimes easier to say what Anglicanism isn't: such as insisting everyone agree about everything, or "settle our differences" by appeal to some central arbitrator. It is in the latter way that the Covenant seemed to depart from historic Anglican modes of behavior. And I still think at its heart it is a Way and not a Thing.

June Butler said...

Perhaps I was not clear about Anglicanism, which as you say, you think of as a Way. I see much of value in the anglican way (no caps?), however, I don't feel quite comfortable calling myself Anglican.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

A number of churches in the Communion used to have "Anglican" in their names but dropped them because of the association with England. Only a few churches use it as an official part of their title. Ultimately it is a matter of genetic heritage, I think, less and less an institution or even a Way, though I'd like to preserve that latter.