December 1, 2010

Evaluation of the General Synod Events

It has now been a week since the Church of England General Synod voted to move the Anglican Covenant along the path to adoption. Whereas the Church of England has not yet signed on to the Covenant, it has certainly passed up an opportunity to deliver a fatal blow to the adoption process. Pity!

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition, which had worked hard to prevent the Synod from doing what it did, has issued a reflection on what happened. It has the somewhat unwieldy title “Observations on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address and the Anglican Covenant Debate in the Church of England General Synod, November 2010,” but it contains some pithy remarks about the events of last week.

My favorite part of “Observations” is this:
It is particularly ironic that Dr. Williams painted a picture of a frightening Anglican dystopia should the Covenant fail, as he and other supporters of the Covenant have been quick to accuse Covenant sceptics of “scaremongering.” It is also surprising, both in this speech and in the subsequent debate, that concerns were raised about the decline of the role of the Church of England, as well as references to its being “the mother church” that needs to set an example, whereas Covenant sceptics have been accused of being “Little Englanders.”
The Archbishop claimed to view the lobbying for and against the Covenant as unseemly, yet he engaged in the same practice, and, I must say, was masterful at it. You have to admire his chutzpa in conjuring up visions of the loss of empire, an image that still has a strong hold on the English psyche. In particular, of course, Rowan spoke of “a real danger, the piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion and the emergence of new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly.” Personally, I find that prospect refreshing, particularly the part about a reduced influence of the See of Canterbury.

“Observations” also contains this insight from Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, who participated in the Synod debate:
We are told that the Covenant sets out the framework for family relationships. But what sort of family lives by a covenant, with “relational consequences” for breaches of the rules?
“Observations” has this strong finish:
The idea of an Anglican Covenant was always a means to placate those in the Anglican Communion who were upset by the “controversial” actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The Oxford Statement [from the GAFCON Primates’ Council, available here] makes it clear, however, that that faction of the Communion will never be satisfied with unity without uniformity. Its insistence on the Jerusalem Declaration is proof that not even the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant are acceptable. It is obvious that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglican created by the GAFCON movement is intended as a separate, “pure” Anglican Communion that will include churches, such as the Anglican Church in North America, that are not part of the present Communion.

In these circumstances, the churches that subscribe to a more traditional view of Anglicanism than the Anglican vision asserted by GAFCON should abandon the Covenant, which can only divide them, and re-establish the Anglican Communion as a tolerant fellowship of autonomous national and regional churches.
You can read the entire document from the No Anglican Covenant Coalition here.

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