March 5, 2012

Canterbury Pitches; Anyone Catching?


The Archbishop of Canterbury is continuing his advocacy of the Proposed Anglican Covenant in a YouTube video uploaded today. I commend it to your viewing.

It seems to me this video capsulizes well the dilemma about the Covenant, and the mixed message it sends: it is, in Canterbury's view and by his account, somehow very important to our future way of life together, but it only consists of a set of agreed principles and recommendations concerning disagreement about acts that might create tension over those principles. It has no specific requirements or authority.

Of course, the very reason we have tensions in the communion derives from the fact that not everyone is prepared to accept recommendations when they feel the recommendations are misinformed or misguided, or harmful to the local work of their own church. This is precisely why the recommendations contained in Lambeth 1.10 have led to such a great tension in the Communion — and the notion that further recommendations being in place might have prevented those tensions, or might prevent other tensions in the future, is by no means evidently true. It is, I think, plainly false.

The Archbishop asserts that failure to adopt the PAC will somehow lead to our "impoverishment" as a communion; that it might lead some of the weaker provinces to feel abandoned; that it might add levels of further confusion to our ecumenical relations. He offers no real evidence that such a reaction to the PAC will produce these effects, and I for one see no evidence that this is the case; or that the adoption of the PAC will enrich our common lives, support the weaker provinces, or clarify our ecumenical relationships. It is, after all, only a set of recommendations, or so the Archbishop says.

In short, this seems to be one more effort to skew the voting in the Church of England's diocesan synods. I earnestly entreat the voting members to listen to what the Archbishop says, but also to do something he fails to mention: read the text of the Proposed Anglican Covenant, in particular section 4.2, and see how well you think it matches his rosy portrayal.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

8 comments:

Eric Funston said...

Why does "answerable to one another" simply sound like a euphemism for "punishment"? That's precisely what Section 4 provides - step out of line, get smacked down (to 2nd class Communion membership). Whether one calls that being "answerable to one another" or being punished, it amount to the same thing.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Eric. The real failing of the Covenant is that it leaves open for further action in enacting relational consequences (though "just" recommendations to the Instruments) through a "process" supposedly "set out below" but not actually appearing in the document!) those who fail to accept the "recommendations." There is serious threat of coercion here: you will accept the recommendations or there will be consequences! To what extent then, are these mere recommendations and not demands?

I was reminded this afternoon of the parable of the pig and the hen considering their respective contributions to the farmer's breakfast. What is merely a "recommendation" from Canterbury's perspective is certainly seen as a "demand" from those on the receiving end! How different things would be if in the wake of +Gene's election the other provinces had simply minded their own business, and Canterbury recommended they do so?

I recommend the English dioceses reject the Anglican Covenant. It's just a recommendation -- no strings attached!

Muthah+ said...

Once again the ABC is trying to herd cats.

Grandmère Mimi said...

As an academic, would Rowan have accepted such a weakly supported argument from a student? An argument which never references the actual words of the text that is being defended?

Is the covenant the only way to communicate to 'needy and isolated parts of the Christian world' that we want to engage in conversation with them? What have the members of the communion been doing all these years?

The ABC seems to suggest that there is no real choice for members of diocesan synods, that the only sensible vote is in favor of the covenant.

Tobias and all, I don't expect you to answer my questions. I have a dream that Rowan will appear to answer.

John Dinnen said...

+ Rowan's speech was released just after our Diocesan Synod voted against the Covenant (admittedly by a narrow margin). I and others against the Covenant, feel that it is too rigid (bureaucratisation of theology and fellowship, according to GilesFraser) and appears punitive. I hope synod members listen to the speech. Then make up their own mind. The Covenant is not the only show in town.

Erika Baker said...

I would still like to see a proper explanation why people believe clause 4 is only a "recommendation". Just stating that it is so doesn't make a convincing argument.

I'll start supporting the Covenant when those who want me to actually get down to answering the detailed questions the no-campaign is asking instead of just making sweeping assertions.

This video is not worthy of Rowan's intellect. It is desperately sad to see him talk in this way.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Muthah*, that or sculpting Jell-O!

Mimi, I detect the academic in this video: it feels like a stern lecture to a dense student. "I shouldn't have to be telling you this!" Some say he is sneering, but that is actually just his manner of speech -- he has always curled his lip slightly when speaking. Impatience may exacerbate the appearance of discontent, however, and he is clearly impatient. His persuasion would be stronger if he backed up his thesis with reference to the text.

John, thanks for word from the ground of action. Bureau-theology it is indeed, of in Jim Naughton's wonderful phrase, "government by hurt feelings." I do think people should make up their minds, though -- but only after reading the text and weighing the arguments pro and contra.

Erika, I've noted elsewhere that the pro-PAC position reminds me of people who make sweeping assertions about Scripture but are unable to point to the text in support of the claims. Frankly, I think a "recommendation with threat of consequences for failing to follow the recommendation" is essentially the same as "a demand." And the whole notion of shunning as a mechanism of control is shocking and misguided, and hardly worthy of the name "covenant."

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Muthah*, that or sculpting Jell-O!

Mimi, I detect the academic in this video: it feels like a stern lecture to a dense student. "I shouldn't have to be telling you this!" Some say he is sneering, but that is actually just his manner of speech -- he has always curled his lip slightly when speaking. Impatience may exacerbate the appearance of discontent, however, and he is clearly impatient. His persuasion would be stronger if he backed up his thesis with reference to the text.

John, thanks for word from the ground of action. Bureau-theology it is indeed, of in Jim Naughton's wonderful phrase, "government by hurt feelings." I do think people should make up their minds, though -- but only after reading the text and weighing the arguments pro and contra.

Erika, I've noted elsewhere that the pro-PAC position reminds me of people who make sweeping assertions about Scripture but are unable to point to the text in support of the claims. Frankly, I think a "recommendation with threat of consequences for failing to follow the recommendation" is essentially the same as "a demand." And the whole notion of shunning as a mechanism of control is shocking and misguided, and hardly worthy of the name "covenant."