Friday, June 01, 2007

Responding to the Study Guide: Questions 13 and 14

This is the last piece on the Study Guide. I will be sending off the opinions I have written, and trust the thoughts of others who have answered more thoroughly than I have.

(13) Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be ‘new’”? Why or why not?

(14) In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?

Since both Questions 13 and 14 address the Draft Covenant as a whole, I will address them together.

There are clearly “new things” in this Draft Covenant.

  • First, there is the clear sense of urgency underlying the entire Covenant effort. It fixes the effort in a specific historical context – this historical context – and so undermines any effort to establish a relationship open to the future.
  • Second, the Draft Covenant would establish the “Instruments of Communion” as structures of the Communion. To this point, the “Instruments” have been forums for maintenance of relationship and cooperation in mission. The Covenant in this Draft would establish them as agencies – as structures having in themselves moral and juridical agency – for the Communion.
  • Third, within those the Covenant would establish the Primates’ Meeting as the “gatekeeper” to determine what issues might call for consideration by the other Instruments of Communion, and what positions might express “a common mind.”

In assessing the Draft Covenant as a whole, I do not believe it will help us. While much of the language is attractive, the essence of the document is an effort, driven by a sense of urgency, to establish structures that will centralize authority for decisions and reception for the Communion at the expense of the autonomy of individual Provinces. Driven by the perception of urgency, I fear such a Covenant might be embraced in haste, but would certainly be repented at leisure. It will not add to our capacities in individual Provinces to respond to our unique cultural circumstances.

From the lessons for Trinity Sunday: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) I could have chosen other lessons to make the point, but this is apropos both in content and in timing. This is a clear statement of how, by God’s grace in Christ, we are in communion with God in Christ and so with one another. If this is not sufficient basis for Anglicans to be in communion, no covenant we negotiate will result in meaningful communion, much less cooperation in the ministry that God has given us.

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