02 May 2011

Test Driving the Anglican Covenant – Part 2

In part 1 of my test drive, I looked at possible outcomes if a question were to be raised under the proposed Anglican Covenant with respect to a resolution of the Anglican Church of Canada. The resolution in question is A186 from the 2007 meeting. I chose this resolution because it is obviously controversial and is precisely the sort of thing that might attract attention under the proposed Covenant. It reads:
That this General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine (in the sense of being creedal) of The Anglican Church of Canada.
But if a question were to be raised with respect to this resolution, how might the Standing Committee go about determining whether it is compatible with the Covenant?

There are two aspects to this question: process and standards. The process, such as it is, is laid out in section 4.2 of the proposed Covenant. I've already commented extensively on the merits of the process, but essentially it is open-ended. The Standing Committee can consult anyone it pleases and then make up its mind in whatever manner it wishes. Putting the best face on it, let's assume that the Standing Committee might consult the various Instruments of Communion, particularly those that meet frequently. It might consult the Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, or the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order. Presumably it would ask for input from the Anglican Church of Canada and whoever raised the question. It might also consult with other Churches. Frankly, if it wants to give the impression of being as credible as possible, I imagine the Standing Committee is likely to err on the side of consulting too far and too wide rather than run the risk of being accused of not consulting enough. Having consulted and sought advice, the Standing Committee would then take that advice into consideration and make its decision.

But what about the standards by which it would decide? That's in sections 1-3 of the proposed Covenant.

It might be argued that the declaration is incompatible with the Covenant because:
it is contrary to Scripture and the catholic and apostolic faith. (Sections 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.2.1)

it impairs the “apostolic mission of the whole people of God” and is a barrier to ecumenical co-operation in that mission. (Section 1.1.8)

it is contrary to “Christian theological and moral reasoning and discipline that is rooted in ... Holy Scripture and the catholic tradition.” (Section 1.2.2)

it causes a breach in communion (Sections 2.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.2.7)

it is a failure to “have regard for the common good of the Communion in the exercise of ... autonomy.” (Section 3.2.1)

it is against the counsel of the Lambeth Conference (Resolution I.10 of 1998, Section 3.2.1)

adoption of the resolution is a failure “to act with diligence care and caution in respect of [an] action which may provoke controversy.” (Section 3.2.5)
A response might be made that:
the declaration is part of “proclaim[ing] ... in our [Canadian] context the grace of God revealed in the gospel.” (Preamble)

the declaration is not contrary to our reading of Scripture or the catholic and apostolic faith, which is a matter of interpretation. If the Creeds are the “sufficient statement of the Christian faith” (section 1.1.4) they are silent on the issue.
we see this declaration as "prophetic and faithful leadership" which constitutes "courageous witness to the power of the gospel in the world" (Section 1.2.6)
it is important to our mission in our context to take this step, in particular as a response “to human need by loving service” and “transform[ing] unjust structures of society.” (Sections 2.2.2.c, 2.2.2.d)

it is an affirmation of the incorporation of all people into the Church through baptism. (Section 3.1.1)

it is not an act intended to break communion, nor do we believe that it is a matter over which communion ought to be broken.

it is a legitimate exercising of the constitutional autonomy of the Church. (Section 3.2.2, Declaration of Principles 6(i))

we have spent much time in openness and patience in this matter of theological debate. (3.2.3)

a failure to declare this action compatible with the Covenant would violate the Covenant's protection of constitutional autonomy. (Sections 3.2.2, 4.1.3)
Obviously this list of arguments is not exhaustive, and some of the arguments are stronger than others on both sides. The point here is that arguments could be raised from within the framework of the Covenant to support either the claim that the declaration is incompatible or compatible with the Covenant. I have already suggested that the three possible outcomes would each have difficulties attached to them and would not solve the matter. How the Standing Committee would come to its decision is complex. In the end, the proposed Covenant is sufficiently ambiguous that a final decision would be a matter of interpretation from a number of perspectives. I suspect that other considerations would come into play, including political considerations. That would only make matters worse. And, given that there is no way to appeal the decision of the Standing Committee, someone would walk away very dissatisfied.

What would be the “relational consequences” then?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, but moderated. Please use a name, any name or alias, or your comment will be deleted. I welcome constructive criticisms, profusive praise, and intelligent interjections. Abusive, nasty or libellous comments will be ruthlessly deleted. Hey, it's my blog and I get to be as arbitrary as I want!