Stretching and the Spirit: The Anglican Covenant

Posted by The_Elves

The upcoming Church of England General Synod will have a fairly significant focus on the Anglican Covenant process. As part of a contribution to that debate, Graham Kings of Fulcrum and Jonathan Clark of Affirming Catholicism have posted a commentary on the Fulcrum website. Here's an excerpt:

The Anglican Covenant - Stretching a Point

We believe that we are being called beyond the comfort of our own convictions - that the Spirit is stretching us into embracing 'interdependence' as the principle of our life together. This need not undermine the 'autonomy' of provinces, but it places the focus clearly on 'interdependence', rather than 'independence', as the starting point for the life of our Communion.

To make this commitment will be demanding and sacrificial and there may well be parts of the Communion for whom this sacrifice is too great. Opting out may lead to 'associate status' at Communion meetings rather than 'constitutive status'.

We believe that we need a Covenant which is evangelical, reasonable and catholic. Such a Covenant will sustain our communion with one another, will encourage our shared study of the Bible, will promote our Anglican pattern of synodical governance and episcopal leadership. It will enhance our co-operation with ecumenical partners and our participation in God's mission to his world.

Rowan Williams, who will be on study leave during the General Synod debate, has written perceptively of Augustine of Hippo:

Augustine is unmistakeably working with the real questions of an earlier period, but implying that their fully theological resolution will need some new disturbing turns in the argument; and in that sense he is doing something very like the prelates at the Council of Nicaea who reluctantly adopted a fresh terminology in order to hold on intelligibly to a threatened belief.' (Rowan Williams, Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005, p50)

Sometimes indeed 'some new disturbing turns in the argument' and 'fresh terminology' are needed.

Robert Runcie, in his opening sermon at the Lambeth Conference of 1988 asked prophetically:

Are we being called through events and their theological interpretation to move from independence to interdependence? If we answer yes, then we cannot dodge the question of how this is to be given 'flesh': how is our interdependence articulated and made effective; how is it to be structured? Without losing a proper - but perhaps modified - provincial autonomy, this will probably mean a critical examination of the notion of 'dispersed authority'. We need to have confidence that authority is not dispersed to the point of dissolution and ineffectiveness... Let me put it in starkly simple terms: do we really want unity within the Anglican Communion? Is our worldwide family of Christians worth bonding together? Or is our paramount concern the preservation or promotion of that particular expression of Anglicanism which has developed within the culture of our own province?... I believe we still need the Anglican Communion. (Adrian Hastings, Robert Runcie, London: Mowbray, 1991, pp154-5)

So do we. In the midst of this current crisis, the pattern of our friendship and collaboration in London has been encouraging and we are committed to worshipping, learning and proclaiming the gospel together. As our Communion is being stretched by the Spirit, a similar commitment to an Anglican Covenant, realistically and theologically, is the constructive way forward.

The full commentary is here. (h/t Thinking Anglicans)

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican Covenant

Posted July 3, 2007 at 4:54 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. john scholasticus wrote:

I’m slightly depressed by the AC guy Jonathan Clark rolling over and accepting (no doubt with excellent intentions) the notion of ‘the Anglican Covenant’. For - as we all know - if you roll over, you get———.

July 3, 6:12 pm | [comment link]
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