July 19, 2008

Covenant Thought for 07.19.08

Responding to a comment at TA to the effect that neither "side" in the current Anglican to-do is willing to submit to mutual accountability...

What we are facing is the anti-gospel of some demanding that others submit to their authority, versus the willingness of all to bear each other's burdens. It is about putting up with each other because we love each other, not the deadly game of trying to make the other into what we think they ought to be — or else. The Covenant, even in its modified version, persists in casting its language along these lines: those who do not submit to the authority of the rest shall be dealt with. The Gospel invites us to a different kind of submission — not to each other's authority, but to the willingness to live with and forgive the faults of the other. This is why a Covenant based on discipline and threats of expulsion or dissolution is unacceptable; it is a prenuptial agreement. What is looked for is a Gospel-based Covenant in which all will commit to each other "for better for worse" and for ever.

The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. Luke 22:25-26

Tobias Haller BSG

18 comments:

David |Däˈvēd| said...

So, in a way, the only covenant we really need is the one we make at baptism. That one covenant seems sufficient for so many things at the same time.

Tobias Haller said...

David, got it in one. Would that more could grasp this simple concept...

Cany said...

A covenant seems unworkable, undesirable and unnecessary. I vote with David. Baptism. Keep it simple.

After reading the versions, with critique, it seems obvious the proposals are neither organic nor suitable.

I suppose like all other things, if we cannot get along, someone steps out the door. For now, at least, even that doesn't appear to be happening as projected though those with one leg on two continents remain.

WSJM said...

Right on, Tobias, as usual.

Caminante said...

As for the current iteration, there still is too much contractual language in the covenant and appendix for them to convey the sense of holy covenanting.

Geoff said...

It has been pointed out, fairly, that most Anglicans have never heard of the "baptismal covenant." We need to remember that the provinces that use the 1979 BCP and its derivatives are minority. It's not a deal-breaker, but we want to avoid the arrogance we are so often accused of.

Jane R said...

Right. Which is why there is no need for that extra "Covenant" and for trying to turn organic realities into juridical ones.

This baptismal and communion-based (small c and in every meaning of the word communion) model demands much more of each of us, laity or clergy, and that is good. Like adulthood, it's hard, messy, and complex, and it also requires humility and trust in the ongoing grace and Spirit of the living God.

Tobias Haller said...

Geoff, I didn't read David as intending what we call "The Baptismal Covenant" as in the BCP 1979 -- but rather the covenant of baptism itself, by which we are irrevocably bound one to another and incorporate in the mystical Body of Christ.

The language of our Baptismal Covenant, admittedly novel to North America, with its five pertinent questions, surely only renders explicit some very basic teachings of the Christian faith, and the requirements for "walking in the way of the Lord" and "keeping the commandments" as the 1662 BCP more tersely put it. It seems to me to be impossible to negate these promises without seriously compromising the Christian Way.

David |Däˈvēd| said...

Exactly Fr. Tobias.

Jane R said...

Indeed, I read David the same way. (Now David, tell us how you meant it :-).)

Erika Baker said...

Tobias
I agree with the theology and the sentiment.
But how realistic is it, looking at the actual mess of the Anglican Communion, to believe that it will survive without some kind of new statement of what it is all about that can be affirmed by those involved in the process now?

From a purely psychological point of view, simply to "go back" to the old bindings will leave everyone feeling lost, as though the whole deeply painful struggle had been for nothing.
But if everyone can feel they have been heard and that they have had a real influence in how we relate to each other from now on, it is much more likely that the new way of being together will be carried by the majority of those who have so much invested in the process.

The question should not be Covenant or not, but what kind of Covenant. Otherwise I fear we'll still be in the same mess at the next Lambeth Conference.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika,
I'm not opposed to a Covenant in principle: but it needs to be one that is not based on exclusion. I think what we are seeing now is the self-exclusion of those who do want and exclusive covenant, and for whom (per Gafcon's latest) the Saint Andrew's Draft isn't "strong" enough -- not exclusive enough, so they will have none of it. There is an old saying, "We can tolerate anything but intolerance." Ultimately -- and this was the point of my post of 7.8.08 -- the centrifugal force of intolerace peels off the most intolerant.

Tobias Haller said...

At TA, a commenter said,
I think you should re-read your post and consider the consequences. Perhaps a bit of a re-draft is in order. After all, is everyone supposed to stay together with the group that decides that human sacrifice is the order of the day? Will it make any difference when the crosses at the front of the church are replaced with gold plated Buddhas and/or we replace "Christ" with "Krishna"? I think you also have some lines beyond which you would admit that unity cannot be sustained. It is ingenuous to pretend that "for better or worse" is without limits. This is not true even in, and perhaps especially in, marriage

JCF noted,
Remind me not to marry you, Steven. ;-/

and I responded as well,

Steven, JCF said it well. I realize your argument is a strange sort of dilatio ad absurdum -- but I assure you I would oppose introducing human sacrifice into the liturgy (I don't even really like the Missa Versus Populum), or gold-plated Buddhas on the lawn (I'm even against having a fortune teller at the Church Fête) or Krishna in the liturgical texts (I even wince at Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier -- and that's in our version of the Great Litany since 1928!).

The fact is, Jesus put up with us while we were yet sinners, and we crucified him. He also said we needed to expect a similar cross-bearing exercise. Often the "cross" a Christian must bear is another Christian. Those who cannot abide their brothers, whom they have seen, will not be able to abide God when he comes to judge --- God may well appear to them as the miserific vision of all they hated and despised in others.

I have never understood the marriage vow to include finger-crossing. That strikes me as defective intent.

Christopher said...

I would suggest however that the use of the language of "sides" itself often within it power dynamics. One can posit two extremes and place oneself in the middle as if from a more objective vantage point. I see this being used a lot by those who are favored by the present systems within the the institutions of church. The commenter, whom I love but am estranged from, has for example been quite willing to use "sacrifice" language for lgbt brothers and sisters in ways that are dehumanizing. That is a "side" everybit as much as the extremes.

Mercenary Presbyter said...

I share your concerns about this Covenant turning into a mechanism for deciding who is "in" and who is "out." I believe this temptation is intimately tied to the historical relationship between Anglicanism and colonialism.

What, or who, will be the authority? In colonial times, church "authority" consisted of the missionary priests and bishops who transplanted the Anglican expression of faith to Africa, Asia and South America. When the leadership of these churches was not indigenous, they all looked like little outposts of Britannia and it was rather easy to maintain a sense of unity and order.

The challenge before us now is that these churches are largely now led by indigenous leaders and are highly contextualized. Now that the leadership is no longer exclusively white, male, and British (or Anglo of some ilk) how do we find common ground? What does "authority" look like in this new world? What does "unity" mean when we have such deep cultural differences?

I think your starting point of submission based in forgiveness (and I would add forbearance) is fundamental.

it's margaret said...

Please just make sure all the Bishops get a copy of this..... it's the best yet.

Any Covenant will only further the argument of authority and power. We should strive to lay them both down....

Erika Baker said...

It's Margaret,

I think we need to tread very gently right now.
There seems to be a real discrepancy between what is happening on the fringe and in the blog sphere, and what is coming out of Lambeth.

Bishop Alan of Winchester and Bishop David Walker's blogs both suggest that Indaba is working, that there is much gentleness, care and growing together happening inside Lambeth.

Yes, there is the Archbishop of Sudan and there will be others. But they're predictable. It's the small shoots that seem so very promising right now.

I'm just holding my breath, trying to leave my normal sarcasm and certainties on a park bench, and praying....

Tobias Haller said...

As I may have mentioned either in this blog or at TA, I had a very productive meeting with Abp Deng Bul while he was in NY. He expressed some of the same sentiments -- about how difficult TEC decisions made life in Sudan, particularly in relation to Muslim and Pentecostal reactions.

It seems to me that once back among his own bishops, he may be speaking to that choir, or they may be having some influence on him. Certainly in our meeting he never suggested that Gene Robinson should resign.

That this emerged from what appears to have been a caucus meeting of the bishops of individual provinces may be a good exercise in hearing what each province has to say -- but we should by no means feel that any must submit themselves to any dominant view from outside their own culture: this works both ways --- the Sudan need not accept or approve of gay clergy; and we do not have to reject them. If we cannot remain together in the same communion in spite of this difference, then we are simply repeating the history of the early church and splitting over the equivalent of circumcision. And we know what became of the faction that insisted on the Biblical teaching.