Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anglican Covenant Again

More on the Ridley Cambridge Draft

I wrote a bit on Wednesday when the latest draft of the Anglican Covenant was released. When the Ridley Cambridge draft was released this week, many of the liberals and progressives were determined to give it a fair and sympathetic reading. Revelations from Ephraim Radner have sucked the air out of the room for many of us, leading me to view the current draft with a huge dose of suspicion.

Episcopal Café's The Lead has posted some very fine further analysis.

After the covenant group published the latest draft of the covenant, Jim Naughton noticed Ephraim Radner commenting at TitusOneNine. (You will recall that Radner is a member of the covenant drafting group, a former board member of the IRD, and an associate of the Anglican Communion Institute which Don Armstrong financially supported.) In his comments, Radner makes it clear that the covenant intentionally did not define "church" and acknowledges the draft was left vague so that other "churches" -- not just Anglican provinces [a.k.a. national/regional churches], but groups like ACNA/GAFCON, individual dioceses, or even the Southern Baptists -- could sign on to the covenant and seek recognition from the Anglican Communion. Jim summarizes the issues here, and there is much in the comments that is worth reading.

That revelation was shocking, to say the least. As a consequence, Jim Naughton articulates the misgivings many of his have when he pointedly asked Ephraim Radner:
So just so I am understanding this correctly:
a) the word Church does have a special meaning in the Ridley Cambridge draft that is not explained in the text, and is therefore potentially unknown to most of those who have received it;
b) you (and so far, only you) have been authorized to tell us this special meaning;
c) you thought the best place to do that was in a conversation with schismatic leader Stephen Noll and on the blog Titus 1:9.
d) those of us familiar with your long campaign to create a church within a church for the so-called Windsor Bishops (which almost succeeded at Dar es Salaam) are not supposed to have any concerns that given a, b and c, you aren't up to the same thing here?
I think that is a lot to ask. Doesn't it concern you at all that those of us who might be persuaded to support this thing are alienated by this kind of maneuvering?
Jim's questions are exactly to the point.

The covenant makes much ado about the four "instruments of unity" or "instruments of communion." In the comments on my earlier blogpost, Ann Fontaine asks the germaine question: Who has voted to adopt the 4IU? Who has endowed with them with magisterial power? Of course, the answer is that no one has. It was a fiction first cooked up by Ephraim Radner and other opponents of TEC, and -- because no one has challenged it -- it has become enshrined in some people's sense of the structure of the Anglican Communion. At the Café, Jim Naughton provides background on how the mythology of the 4IU came to be. It's important background reading.

Mark Harris also has a thoughtful piece. He sees section 4.1.5 of the draft covenant as "the camel's nose." That section says:
It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments. However, adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures.
Radner has made it clear that "Church" can mean anything from a denomination to an individual diocese (or maybe even a parish) to what we think of as a "church" in the Anglican Communion. Any one of these "churches" can appeal to any one of the purported 4IU for admittance. Is this not a recipe for chaos?

Mark writes:

The question becomes serious if, say, The Episcopal Church were to be at some point held at a distance on the basis of a decision by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and ACC recommending to the "Instruments of Communion" that they do so. Then that same Joint Standing Committee might recommend that the petition from a new Church in the area be received positively.

The new draft is clear: the actions of the Joint Standing Committee, the Instruments of Communion, the Primates or even the ACC itself have no force within any Church member of the Anglican Communion. However, their recommendations would have considerable force in the Communion itself. So they could not call the Episcopal Church to account and force it to do something. But it could decide that TEC was no longer part of this or that Anglican Communion "instrument."

The notion that the Joint Standing Committee or any other agent of the Communion could entertain a petition from ACNA to join one or the other groups with in the Anglican Communion, when ACNA exists precisely because it believes that TEC is not "orthodox" is troublesome.

The draft is now in its final form, it appears. Rather than change it by additional revision, it would seem to me that the ACC and the Joint Standing Committee might provide statements of clarification - that "church" means "national or regional church" or "Province," and that the Communion will not recognize two churches who are not in full communion and covenant with one another in the same geographical jurisdiction.

There will be more such clarifications needed. I don't think this stops the Covenant. It means that we need to be clear as to what things mean and why.
I believed from the start that Ephraim Radner would not work to create a covenant that would hold the Anglican Communion together, including TEC. And Archbishop Gomez was never an honest and open broker -- as he made clear when he participated in the consecration in Uganda of two American white guys to set up "missionary dioceses" in the U.S.

The more I learn, the more I believe the Covenant process is rotten to the core.

This latest draft of the Covenant is going to the Anglican Consultative Counsel, which is meeting the first half of May in Jamaica. For some reason, the ACC won't be allowed to amend it, but only to vote it "up" or "down." If this crazy covenant is to be stopped, it needs to be stopped in Jamaica next month.

Many thoughtful people are writing about the Covenant, and I'm sure more will write after Easter. For good, solid journalism and analysis, I encourage you to keep checking Episcopal Café, Thinking Anglicans, and Preludium.


Blogger Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, dearest Lisa!

4/12/2009 1:44 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think there is a great deal about this new version that is flat-out dangerous. This incarnation would allow for break away churches and diocese to have membership. That's so antithetical to Anglicanism, it makes my head spin.

This is not a covenant - this is a contract. Let's start calling it that, why don't we?

To paraphrase a famous song, "We don't need no stinkin' covenant...all in all it's just another brick in the wall."

4/12/2009 5:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Amen to you both.

Yes, Elizabeth. I think you're correct. It's no covenant; it's just a contract. Well said!

4/12/2009 11:52 PM  
Blogger Lindy said...

Well, the thing is that it was a bad idea from the beginning. I don't really care what words show up on the paper, this is just not how we do things. Even if the contract/covenant said "Yea for the homos," I would still think it's a bad, very bad, idea.

4/13/2009 1:53 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

It is positively conservative Anglicanism to resist something that will tear down our comprehensiveness. I fear that though some want for this covenant for good and honest reasons, the project is misguided and has been colored by particular agendae that if adopted would make schism more likely.

4/13/2009 6:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

No question, Lindy & Christopher. I agree it has been tainted from the beginning with a fervent desire to make TEC "pay" in some sense. None of these drafts move away from anger and a punitive tone.

4/13/2009 8:07 PM  

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