Friday, July 06, 2007

General Synod of the Church of England Meeting at York

General Synod will be in session beginning today through next Tuesday. Although General Synod is similar to TEC's General Convention, in that it represents the national assembly of the Church of England, it differs in a few significant ways. It is made up of three houses; bishops, clergy and laity. All three houses meet in joint sessions twice a year; in London in February and in York in July.

Another important difference is the matter of passing "Measures." Synod is the only entity that can pass Measures which will become English law if approved by Parliament. In regards to canonical matters, the Synod can legislate without the approval of Parliament, although such changes or additions must be submitted for Royal Assent.

There's a couple of matters on the Synod's agenda that may be of interest to us. I want to focus on one item; the Anglican Covenant. Synod will debate the Anglican Covenant Proposal on Sunday. Some good background on this, and other Synod matters, can be found at Thinking Anglicans.

Although it is the concept of the development of a "covenant relationship" within the Anglican Communion that is the intended topic for Synod, it appears that the existing Covenant Draft is having a strong influence on all considerations of any kind of covenant arrangement. Consequently, a review of the draft may provide us with some necessary background.

The Anglican Covenant Draft has been widely discussed over the last few months. You may want to review the presentation made to our House of Bishops by the Rev. Katherine Grieb, a member of the Covenant Design Group. We have also previously discussed responses to the Draft Covenant by Frederick Quinn, Lionel Deimel, Abp. Njongonkulu Ndungane and APLM.

A more recent response by Inclusive Church is worth noting:

The growing number of bishops created by African provinces for "pastoral oversight” in North America (and potentially in other provinces), the attempts to create a Covenant that defines Anglican doctrine and ethics, and the apparent intention to organise an alternative to the Lambeth Conference in London next year all point towards one thing. The strategy to destabilise the Anglican Communion is moving into another phase...

...Clearly there are outstanding issues over how the Communion should respond to the reality that many Provinces include lesbian and gay Christians who live with partners in loving, faithful relationships. But the extraordinary way in which this issue has been allowed to dominate the life of the Communion over the past ten years is not coincidence.

There can be little doubt that the issue is being used by some, mainly conservative, Christians as a lever to try to change the Communion into something it is not; from a conciliar church into a confessional one. From a praxis-based Communion where the bonds between us are the bonds of fellowship and love to a codified Communion where exclusions are legally determined and legally enforced, and where the Communion defines itself not by who it includes but by who it excludes.

The Covenant process has been moved, by this group, away from its original intention which was to affirm the bonds of fellowship which exist. The way in which the draft was received by some at the Primates meeting in Tanzania is indication that, whatever the intention, it will be used to enforce a particular interpretation of the Scriptures to the detriment of the life of the Communion. We do not need a Curia, and the process of drafting a Covenant is already giving more power to the Primates than is justified by our history, by our life and by some of their actions to date.

Hard cases make bad laws. We wish to see, urgently, greater understanding between provinces, and we can see the value of a Covenant which enables this to happen . But the proposed draft before us is likely to be an instrument of further division, not unification. Some of our structures may need reform - but it is already clear that this Covenant process is unlikely to help...
The Telegraph is reporting that there is a conservative coalition forming that will attempt to push forward the covenant concept at Synod on Sunday. Church Times offers the details regarding two amendments to the Covenant Proposal.

What troubles me is that the discussion seems to be framed as a debate between some kind of strict formation of mandated beliefs that one must adhere to and a less formalized covenant that would include some basic principles that would be required for one to be called an Anglican. Those two poles suggest a compromise that would give the Primates too much power and would exclude the attributes of diversity and inclusivity, which are also basic Anglican principles.

The discussion needs to be reframed to include the position that no Covenant, of any kind, is necessary or required. We have the creeds. We have the Quadrilateral. Nothing additional is needed. Anything more would severely alter the flavor of Anglicanism, and hinder our witness to the world. Reject the concept of a Covenant altogether.

No doubt that there will be more news on Sunday. In the meantime, what have you spotted of interest in regards to General Synod?


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