Friday, April 13, 2007

Lionel Deimel: "The Covenant We Do Need"

We spent some time yesterday talking about what is wrong with the proposed Anglican Covenant Draft. For further reading as to why some consider this an extremely flawed document, you may want to review the Rev. Katherine Grieb's recent presentation to the House of Bishops.

Articulating what we are against may be an important first step. But it seems to me that if we are to be about the work of God's re-creation, we need to also express what we are for. I believe Lionel Deimel offers some ideas that may help begin such a conversation in this essay. Here is part of it:

...The foregoing considerations have caused me to change my mind about the need for an Anglican covenant. I now do believe that a covenant is needed. The covenant we need before we begin examining theological differences among provinces, however, is one that specifies clearly the fundamental privileges and obligations of Communion membership. Each province of the Communion should ratify this covenant before any future business not directly related to mission is conducted by the Communion. Among the basic principles that a covenant should establish are the following:

1. That the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot discriminate in his invitations to the Lambeth Conference. All bishops of a particular kind must be invited or not.

2. That no primate may be excluded from the Primates’ Meeting.

3. That diocesan boundaries are inviolable.

4. That jurisdictions should not overlap.

5. That breaking communion with one province breaks communion with all.

6. That Communion-wide rules govern the transfer of ordained persons from a jurisdiction in one province to a jurisdiction in another.

Well, you get the idea. No doubt, there will have to be rules for which specified penalties apply if they are broken. (This takes us to a potentially slippery slope if we wish to avoid building a cumbersome judicial mechanism for the Communion. I don’t claim to have all the answers here.) Personally, I would like to see the Primates’ Meeting abolished and more responsibility given to the ACC, which should meet more often. No doubt, it has been argued that it is too expensive for the larger ACC to meet more frequently, but I suspect that this is not the case, since the ordinary clergy and laypeople who make up the ACC will likely accept not flying to meetings first-class.

Oh, I should mention one other essential rule for a covenant. No bishop, priest, or deacon should be allowed to transfer between jurisdictions to avoid ecclesiastical discipline.
Early in this piece, Lionel makes reference to Bp. Cox, who recently left TEC when he found himself facing presentment. I think an even more timely example of this manuever is the example of Donald Armstrong, who recently left TEC for Nigeria after also facing presentment regarding financial irregularities. Don Armstrong is the Executive Director of the Anglican Communion Institute, which has been, since it's inception, promoters of the Network. Jim points us to new information being revealed regarding the specifics of these rather unusual financial transactions. Armstrong is supposed to defend himself against these charges this Saturday. I'm curious as to how he will explain his parish's "loan" to the ACI of $170,000, which it appears the Institute never received.

I appreciate Lionel's efforts to identify what kind of Covenant we do need; one that will clarify the "privileges and obligations of Communion membership". But I find myself quite uncomfortable with even such a minimal codification of the "bonds of affection" within the Communion.

Is there a form of "Covenant" that TEC could support? Or is the previously suggested set of issue-oriented essays proposed by Frederick Quinn sufficient?


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