Monday, May 21, 2007

An Anglican Covenant

As I am sure many of you are already aware, the current solution offered to deal with division and strife within the Anglican Communion is a covenant. A draft exists that was produced by “The Covenant Design Group” that met in Nassau in January. The product is a draft that is making its way through channels, as we speak. What does this mean for Anglicanism and for us?

For the most part, the content of the draft is innocuous. It contains a good deal of verbiage about the value of the Holy Scriptures, the Catholic Creeds and our historic faith. This strikes me as well and good. Acknowledging one’s identity, from time to time, is a good thing.

The two pieces of the proposed covenant that deserve more attention are the sections related to the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates meeting. I would argue, that both are granted a new “type” of authority in the proposed covenant. It seems that the ABC would not only be the central figure within Anglicanism, but would be the convener of a Primates meeting, when certain subjective conditions are met, that pose a threat to the unity of the Communion. When a threat is perceived to the unity of the Communion, the Primates meeting, according to the proposed draft, seems to hold
judicial authority.

There are many opinions about the propriety of a covenant. Some argue that Anglicanism has never included a "confessional", and shouldn't now. Some argue that Anglicanism needs a new structure for a new day. I am open to that possibility. As Christians, we believe that revelation, in a theological sense, of the divine will is ongoing. I would like to think, that as we grow and deepen as believers, God draws us closer, transforms and directs us in ways we can’t imagine. God could certainly exercise the same with the Church.

Yet, a covenant, as a political reality, makes me very nervous. This proposal did not arise because Anglicans were, sitting around the fire, contemplating the mystery of God’s love, and the ties that bind us. This proposed covenant was developed because of conflict. The proposal seems, in no way, to address the issues (human sexuality, Bishop Gene Robinson…) that led to the conflict. It seems a little like, developing a judicial system to apply to a “crime”, that occurred before there was a law on the books.

Finally, a covenant strikes me as being the “official” acceptance of a relationship that exists. In marriage, we are sanctioning what is already there. Marriage is about faith in God and faith in one another. God’s covenants with Abraham and Moses seem to bear the same quality, the recognition of what’s there.

Can a covenant work in reverse? Will a proposed covenant create faith and trust?

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