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GS Paper Re Covenant Jan 10 2010

GS Paper Re Covenant Jan 10 2010

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Published by Peter Carrell
Paper for General Synod of ACANZP
Paper for General Synod of ACANZP

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Peter Carrell on Apr 16, 2010
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Belonging to the Anglican Communion:
A paper for General Synod on theCovenant by Peter CarrellReaders of this paper will value belonging to the Anglican Church of AotearoaNew Zealand and Polynesia, enjoying the great heritage bequeathed to us fromformer generations, while being glad that we are a self-governing church, freedfrom decisions made on the other side of the world by the Church of England orthe London headquarters of the Church Missionary Society. There will be less shared value placed on our church belonging to the AnglicanCommunion.Some may be glad that our bishops get opportunities to meet with otherAnglican bishops at the Lambeth Conferences every ten years.Some may appreciate the fact that when our new vicar arrived from Britain orNorth America there were no problems with her ordination being recognised byour church because we are in communion with hers.But others may have questions about what the Anglican Communion does for ourchurch. When we hear that it costs this church money to be involved in theAnglican Communion we may wonder about the value we get for those funds.Furthermore, some of us, reading and reflecting on the past decade of ‘Anglicantroubles’ may wonder if it is a waste of time trying to make the AnglicanCommunion work. Simpler, it may seem, if each Anglican church were to go itsown way. After all, in each local situation we local Anglicans know best what todo.Except we find that ministry and mission in the church are not geographicallyrestricted like that. For many Anglicans, our skills, our passions, our learnings areenhanced and inspired by opportunities to learn from fellow Anglicans incountries far from our own. Some of us have benefitted from the opportunity tostudy and train in Anglican colleges elsewhere. Many of us have benefitted fromclergy who have brought their training and experience to our islands fromAustralia, the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom (to name just a few placesof blessing to us). The impulse to mission has pushed many of us to step outside our local contextsin order to go to other places: as missionaries, chaplains, developement and aidworkers. Members of our church have served with distinction throughout thePacific and on all the continents of the earth. We have even sent mission workersto Australia!In short, Anglicans gain a lot and give a lot by belonging to the global network of Anglicans known as the Anglican Communion. But today we are at a crisis, at apoint of decision in respect of the future of the Anglican Communion. This crisishas arisen because a partnered gay man was ordained as a bishop of TEC in2003, but some point of decision would have come sometime for our worldwidecommunion with its huge theological, cultural, ecclesiastical, and liturgical1 |Page
 
diversity. The strains in our diverse Communion have been evident for sometime. Our diversity has led to disagreement, dispute, and, recently in NorthAmerica, division.Is there a way forward from here? If so, what is it?
The Way Forward from the Present Crisis
Some say the way forward is to finish with the Communion, to accept that its dayis over. It would be in the spirit of our post-modern times for each Anglicanchurch to ‘do its own thing’ and to pick and choose which other Anglicanchurches we wished to be networked to.Others say that the way forward from this crisis is by the same way that wearrived at it: we Anglicans work out our respective missions, sometimesdisagreeing with each other, always talking together, sometimes failing to listenwell to each other, but, in the end, somehow making a go of our relationships. Then, thirdly, there is the way of the Covenant to which we are invited to offerour commitment. The first option, to finish with the Communion, is attractive. But it does not sitwell alongside the vision for a united church as an anticipation of that wider unityof all things which is the great theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians. A unitedchurch is an important part of our Lord Jesus Christ’s final prayer (‘that they maybe one’ in John 17).Whether or not we think of the Anglican Communion as a ‘worldwide church’, theunity of the Communion contributes an example to all churches, and forms (andhas formed) an important point in ecumenical dialogue between churches,especially with the two largest (groups of) churches, the Roman Catholic Churchand the Eastern Orthodox churches. Unity within any church is demanding, unityamong divided churches is even harder work. The first option is an avoidance of some very demanding challenges. As faithful disciples listening to God’s Wordthrough Scripture, should we be embracing these challenges or avoiding them? The second option for a way forward, to keep going as we have been doing,raises questions whether we would be facing the depth of the present difficultiesin the Communion, measured, for example, by many absentees at the lastLambeth Conference. The ‘bonds of affection’ which have been the glue holdingthe Communion together till now have come unstuck. We are in a fine mess.Continuing as we have been going, hoping shattered bonds of affection will berestored without significant change to the Communion is unrealistic. We need anew beginning in which member churches re-establish the things we hold incommon as Anglicans and commit ourselves to an agreed way of resolving futuredisputes. Thus we need the third option, the possibility of an Anglican Covenant.2 |Page
 
 The third option is an opportunity for the member churches of the AnglicanCommunion to reconstitute the Communion for the twenty-first century in athoroughly Christian and Anglican manner, by accepting and committing to theproposed Covenant.
The Anglican Covenant
 The Covenant is a detailed document with four major sections. It aims to dothree things: (1) to restate what we believe as Anglicans (2) to state what itmeans for self-governing churches to belong together in a Communion in whichthere is mutuality and interdependency with one another (3) to set out a processfor dealing with disputes that may arise.Effectively the Covenant will be a new constitution for a renewed Communion. Tosay what we believe, to express our respect for each other as well as ourcommitment to each other as autonomous yet interdependent churches, and tomake a commitment to resolve our differences in an orderly manner is bothChristian and Anglican. By binding ourselves together through the Covenant wewill be committing ourselves to that unity of the church taught in Holy Scripture.With the Covenant we have a clear and present opportunity to reconstitute theCommunion with a new clarity about what we hold together in common andabout how we will relate to one another. Neither of the first two optionsdescribed above offer this advantage of reconstitution of the Communion withnew clarity.All current members are invited to commit to the Covenant, none is excluded,and if all sign then the Communion will be stronger than it was before 2003. Inother words, the Covenant offers a constructive way forward to restore the goodhealth and strength of the Communion.
Questions about the Covenant
Some questions have arisen about the Covenant. Is it punitive? Will it stifle newinitiatives? Will it affect the tikanga life of the Anglican church in these islands?Questions such as these are fair questions to ask, but they beg some otherquestions which we should answer first.Is there value in being part of a global Communion? If so, how would we describeour common life together as members of a global Communion? How would wearrange our common life together so that we celebrate our differences andresolve our disputes? If we answer ‘Yes’ to the first question, and answer ‘theCovenant’ to the next two questions, then we could answer as follows to thequestions in the first paragraph above.Is the Covenant punitive? No, it is not a criminal code; but it does prescribe whatmay happen where our common life together is no longer shared by a memberchurch.3 |Page

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