Thursday, May 22, 2008

Back to St. Andrew's 4

I've been asked to submit my comments on Section 2 of the St. Andrew's Draft for publication elsewhere. Therefore, I'm going on to the questions on Section 3.

So, here is the next question for Deputies about the St. Andrew's Draft of the Draft Anglican Covenant:

Section 3: This section describes some of the elements of our common life together in baptism, Eucharist and ministry and moves to elaborate more recent understandings of our life in the Anglican Communion. It identifies ways by which the Anglican Communion comes together and then describes the four Instruments of Communion in their appropriate historical development.

• What meaning and impact do the four Instruments of Communion have for you in your diocese?

This is a question that has little to do with the content of the St. Andrew's Draft, and much to do with the need for a Covenant. Those who sense little awareness within a diocese of the Instruments of Communion might also have little interest in, much less commitment to, a Covenant process.

In a sense, I'm not the best person (or, at least, not the most representative person) to answer the question. I'm a blogger and an information junkie. I have particular interest in international relations. I expect I'm a lot more interested in these questions than most.

As a frequent supply priest, I find I get few questions about international issues in the Communion. That may mean they aren't interested. It may mean they have already had opportunities to discuss this with their own clergy. It may mean their clergy haven't kept them informed about events in the Church, even those events within the Episcopal Church that have international ramifications.

It is this last that is an ongoing concern of mine. Part of the reason for my blog is to highlight events, and especially actions of General Convention, that many folks may not know about. That they don't know is, in my opinion, commonly a fault of the clergy. Granted, it's easy enough for all involved to get caught up in parochial concerns, in both the literal and metaphorical senses. However, we do have a responsibility as clergy to educate congregations about the Anglican tradition, which should include some information about the Anglican Communion. (At least, that seems obvious to me.)

With that rant completed, let me give my impression. I think that within my diocese folks are aware of international connections in ministry. They are aware primarily of current and former companion diocese relationships, and of any current or continuing ministries from those relationships. Within my diocese, none of those ministries have been disrupted by the current troubles. I think there is some awareness of the Instruments of Communion when an issue makes the news. So, there is some awareness of the Archbishop of Canterbury and perhaps of the Primates Meeting. There may be some current awareness of the Lameth Conference; again, it's been getting some press as it gets closer. I fear there is hardly any awareness of the Anglican Consultative Council at all.

Also relevant to the question is my thought that even if folks are aware of any or each of the Instruments, I don't think they're aware of the relations among them (it's not really as mysterious as the interrelations of the Trinity; but they've heard more sermons on the Trinity). When most of the information comes from headlines, they all appear authoritative, and perhaps equally authoritative.

In that light, the St. Andrew's Draft is significantly better in paragraph 3.1 than the Nassau Draft in describing the role of each of the Instruments of Communion. I appreciate listing of the Instruments in order of their establishment, clarifying that the Anglican Consultative Council predates the Primates Meeting. I particularly appreciate the description of the Primates meeting that reflects its original purpose, without the accretions of assumed authority so blatant in recent years.

So, to return to the question: I'm not sure just how aware people are of the Instruments of Communion, or how much impact of the Instruments they feel. But, then, I find myself once again wondering about the question. The impact, if not the intended import of this question, is less about how much parishioners know and more about how much deputies should care. How much awareness of and sense of presence of the Instruments is beneficial within the Episcopal Church? Like, and not unrelated to, the question of bishops, is the Communion of the esse, the bene esse, or the pleni esse of the Church? How much are the Instruments of the esse, the bene esse, or of the pleni esse of the Communion (for example, would it be possible to have something we would consider a Communion without one or more)? How we answer those questions would say much about our interest in and perceived need for an Anglican Covenant; and if we are interested, what it ought to include.

And now, on to the next question....


"Ms. Cornelius" said...

It's there if you look for it with no little effort. But I admit to being more distracted by the upcoming election for president and for Congress, and I know that I should rectify that.

I would like a simple outline of what the Instruments are attempting to do, and confess that I am not just a bit skeptical of them, given actions of +Venables and his ilk.

I fear I cynically see this current dispute as the numerically superior yet fundamentalist Church in the Global South versus the economically more powerful (yet radical elements) of the Church in America and Canada, with a soupcon of hubris all around. I may be simplifying, but that's not unusual.

Marshall Scott said...

ms cornelius:

(You know, I did know a Miss Cornelius, who was an Episcopalian, after being well trained by St Cecilia; but that was long ago in a galaxy far, far away....)

Well, I can appreciate focussing on the elections; and that illustrates just my point. We have concerns that are more present to us than our Anglican difficulties, even for those of us who spend much (perhaps too much) time on them. And, in any case, that doesn't really fall into the "parochial" concerns. Our elections affect all Episcopalians, and quite a few Anglicans outside the U.S.; and they give us an opportunity to express our moral concerns, if in a somewhat different way than in the parish.

Your description isn't uncommon, nor entirely inaccurate. It is certainly about power, and about perceptions of authority. However, it's especially about bishops. I'm pretty sure our Anglican siblings in the Global South, at least those in the pew, are also much more concerned about very local interests, just as we are.