The Proposed Anglican Covenant: The Club Chimes In

It’s impossible to resist making some comments about Responses Offered by the Executive Board and Clergy and Lay Deputations to General Convention of the Diocese of Southeast Florida to Questions contained in A Short Study Guide to Aid the Episcopal Church in Responding to the Draft Anglican Covenant as Prepared by the Covenant Design Group, both because of its content and certainly where it’s from.

  • In one sense, it’s refreshing to see liberals in TEC lay it out so baldly after years of "conversations" and waffling.  Perhaps they are emboldened by their new Presiding Bishop, who is capable of this when she thinks the occasion calls for it.
  • The statement "Members of The Episcopal Church who supported the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire and advocate for greater inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the church have adopted these positions as a response to their “faithful, respectful, comprehensive and coherent” handling of Holy Scripture", indicate that the Diocese’s level of Scriptural understanding has not advanced since Bethesda-by-the-Sea’s vestry booted the ladies’ rummage sale from the premises forty years ago.
  • As long as the Diocese’s demographics are as they stand, statements such as "Missing from the draft document is any real consideration of the place of “justice” in the life of the Church and how to protect the “marginalized” and “weak” whom Jesus clearly called the church to serve" will ring hollow.
  • The statement that the Thirty-Nine Articles "were never authoritative for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States" is absurd when one considers that a) they were included in every prayer book the church authorised until 1979 and b) they took the trouble to modify them and make them applicable to the situation the church faced in the U.S.  The statement that "Asserting that the member Churches were “led by the Spirit” in developing flawed or false Articles of Religion is a serious problem that reflects a significant theological chasm between the drafters of the Draft Covenant and The Episcopal Church" won’t hold water either, because the Articles were promulgated by the Church of England before there were any member churches.  And TEC’s communion with the CoE is something they’re doggedly holding onto, for both legal and other reasons.

The report ends up by recommending "…that no body or governing structure of The Episcopal Church be party to this Covenant, or accept or sign the current Draft Anglican Covenant."  This is unsurprising; however, conservatives should look at this with caution.  The problem with centralising structures is that their integrity largely depends upon those at the top.  The whole history of TEC over the last half century has been one where those at the higher level of the denomination have gained control of its structure and propagated their idea over the organisation.  As things stand now, the Covenant would shift the authority in the Communion to the Third World provinces, an improvement over the present state.  But if this were to ever change, we would be worse off than we are now.  The report states that "…the order of the Communion is in many ways only “apparent” and is, in any event, already ruptured."  It would serve the long-term integrity of the conservatives better to formalise this event rather than try to repair it with a covenant.

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