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Sufficient and Required?

Sufficient and Required?

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Published by TheLivingChurchdocs
By Mary Tanner. What is it that constitutes recognisable identity amidst the myriad particularities of time and space?
By Mary Tanner. What is it that constitutes recognisable identity amidst the myriad particularities of time and space?

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Published by: TheLivingChurchdocs on Jun 16, 2012
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THE LIVING CHURCH • June 17, 2012
By Mary Tanner
s provinces have discussed and voted on the Anglican Communion Covenant I have beensurprised at the different reactions that have beenexpressed, sometimes in strong language.There arethose who see the Covenant as a controllingmechanism, promoting a centralised authority whichseeks to stifle the autonomy of provinces, offering a vision of the church that goes against the grain of  Anglican ecclesiology. Others see it as a way of strengthening Anglican unity, handling difference andconflict in an adult fashion, and offering a frameworkfor us to live mutually accountable to one another.Then there are those who agree, reluctantly, that itis the only show in town. So far eightprovinces havesaid yes and are in “Covenant communion.” Twenty-six dioceses in England have voted no and 18 yes. Thismeans that the Church of England has in effect said
,though the overall majority of votes cast were infavour. Even if the Church of England were to moveto reconsider the Covenant, this could not happen inthe lifetime of this General Synod and, therefore, notbefore 2015. The Church in Wales gave an “amberlight,”wanting to know more about the consequencesof the Church of England’s decision for the rest of theCommunion and for the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury before giving its definitive response.This is not a comfortable place to be in. How are weto make some sense of it?I suspect that we need toassess where we are in a bigger context. Christ, on thenight before he died, prayed for the unity of hisdisciples then and for ushis disciples now. Theunity we are called to live is for God’s sake and theworld’s sake. Unity and mission are inseparable.It issacrificial unity, a unity in which the world might justsee in us a glimpse of its own possibility. Unity is to belived out in each particular local place, globally, and incontinuity with Christians through the centuries. Nolocal church is self-sufficient. We need one another.Unity is not just a vague sense of belonging acrossoceans and continents but costly,expressed in mutualconcern, mutual support, mutual love, in the sharingof gifts and resources and in seeking a common mind.It is unity in the one faith, confessed in words focusedin eucharistic communion which issues in deeds.The proclamation of faith in words and deeds isgiven in the specificity of languages, dances, images,symbols and customs unique to each place. It is unityin diversity. Without diversity there is no authenticunity, no catholicity. At the same time the localexpression must never be at the expense of regard forthe wider communion of faith and life. The one Gospelhas to be recognisable in the midst of particularity sothat we can celebrate together, saying“this is the faithof the Church, this is our faith.”Each local communitymust be able to recognise Christlikeness in the othersand recognise the One, Holy,Catholic and ApostolicChurch in the others. But what is it that constitutesrecognisable identity amidst the myriad particularitiesof time and space?
e Anglicans had a shot at describing Christianidentity and unity in the Lambeth Quadrilateral:Scripture, Creeds, two dominical sacraments,and athreefold ministry with an episcopate locally adapted.Henry Chadwick once called this reticent statement“unity at a bargain basement price.Borrowed fromthe Episcopal Churchand affirmed at the LambethConference in 1888, it was reaffirmed at Lambeth
In Support of the Anglican Covenant
June 17, 2012 • THE LIVING CHURCH
1920 and again in 1998. The Quadrilateral has servedus well and shaped the ecumenical agenda. We havethe Episcopal Churchto thank.But even as we were celebrating the centenary of the Quadrilateral in 1988 it had become clear that thisreticent statement was barely enough. The number of  provinces had increased; international travel andtwinnings between provinces had increased ourknowledge of one another,giving us a sense of joy inbelonging to such a diverse Communion.At the sametime,when issues arose in one part of the Communionthat touched the very sinews of our common life, Anglicans had to consider where and how decisionsthat affected all were to be taken. It is an ancient principle: what affects the communion of all should bedecided by all. What structures, therefore, of “gracedbelonging” — we struggled to find language that wasnothierarchical or authoritarian— would enable us tolisten to one another, to discern and decide together,and then live accountably to one another?I find it useful to remember what happened whenthe Episcopal Churchbecame convinced that thereare no theological objections to women in theepiscopate and that local mission actually requiredwomen bishops. This was clearly an issue thattouched the unity of communion,for the episcopalministry is, as one theologian described it, “glue thatholds the Communion together.” In September 1986the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Churchcounselled restraint before the 1988 LambethConference while consultation with the Anglicanepiscopate was taking place. For two years beforeLambeth an intensive Communion-wide conversationset up by the primates took place in which provincesexpressed their different views. “Listening as a markof Communion”became the first chapter of a reportwhich went on to tease out the biblical, ecclesiological,and ecumenical arguments for and against.Much of the conference was given over to listeningto bishops who held very different views, to theexperience of women in the priesthood, and to the views of ecumenical partners. The result was notunanimity on the matter then, and we are notunanimousnow. But it was decided that if a provincewere to go ahead then the others would remain “in thehighest degree of communion possible”in spite of continuing difference. For more than 24 years theCommunion has lived in a process of “open reception”of this ordering of the ministry.It has not been an easyroad, and remains difficult in some provinces of theCommunion. We have not been good at continuing toexchange experiences and question one another. ButI believe that it is possible to recognise at least thebeginnings of a credible model of discerning anddeciding in communion, enabled by our Instrumentsof Communion and mindful of the imperfectcommunion we share with other Christians:a way of living with difference in respect.Not only the matter of women’s ordination was atissue in these years. There was also an intensifyingdiscussion within the Anglican Communion and inecumenical dialogues about Instruments of Communion, or “structures of graced belonging,asPresiding Bishop Edmond Browning called them.While ecumenical discussions were exploringwhat“personal, collegial and communalstructures orministries, embracing ordained and lay, might holdChristians together, the Anglican Communion wasincreasingly experiencing the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican ConsultativeCouncil, the Primates’ Meeting and the LambethConference— though we remained unclear abouttheir “ecclesial density”:the relation between them,what areas each had primary responsibility for, andwhat weight their resolutions had.In the years leading up to the 1998 LambethConference the issue of homosexuality was raised insome provinces of the Communion. With hindsight itis not difficult to see failures in the way we respondedto this.Although some provinces had reflected deeplyabout the matter, others had not. There was no officialCommunion-wide process of listening to and learningfrom one another, no Communion-wide delineation of what the issues were, or the implications for theministry of ordained or lay. There was no Communion-wide attempt to bring Scripture and tradition intodiscussion with the experience of gay and lesbian persons in the different parts of the Communion, norto determine together whether this was a communion-dividing issue.Many bishops at the 1998 Conferencewere distressed at the process that led to ResolutionI.10 which resulted in confusion and hurtconfusionover the issue itself, and confusion over how Anglicansdiscern together and seek to reach consensus.Unfortunately, a report that had been in the makingbetween 1988 and 1998,
The Virginia Report
,receivedlittle attention at Lambeth 1998. An opportunity waslost to move towards a common understanding of  Anglican unity and identity and how we might livedialogically and dynamically in Anglican communion.
ll of this provides the bigger picture in which tounderstand the provenance of the Covenant. TheCovenant was not an attempt to answer any particularquestion in the area of human sexuality. Nor was it a
(Continued on next page)
THE LIVING CHURCH • June 17, 2012
stick to beat us into submission in response to any particular issue before the Communion, now or in thefuture. It does not set out to stifle authentic proclamation of our common faith in our differentcultural contexts. It is an attempt to express anunderstanding of our unity and identity,and to suggesthow that might be lived out in a way that holds inbalance authentic provincial autonomy andinterdependence.The Covenant seeks to express what holds Anglicans in graced belonging Scripture, Creeds,dominical sacraments, ordered ministry;and then,going beyond the bargain basement price of theQuadrilateral, adding international structures of communion— personal, collegial and communal.Here the Covenant spells out with greater clarity thanhad been done before what it means to be Anglican.Section IV is different in kind. It maps out how thingswould work out in cases of severe conflict, whathappens when relations break down. It’s this sectionthat many object to most. That’s understandable. The juridical tone sounds un-Anglican.Section IV states clearly that “the Covenant does notgrant to any one church or any agency of theCommunion control or direction over any church of the Communion.” Nevertheless, it is uncomfortablewhen the Covenantsets out guidelines for disputeresolution, describing the responsibilities of aStanding Committee that seems to have assumed arole never discussed. It is uncomfortable because itrequires of all of us that we accept that restraint maysometimes be asked. It means being prepared toaccept that in the case of a very few issues we all needthe broadest community of reflection and discernmentin which to set our own, or our group’s, convictions aswe seek a common mind (which is not necessarily thesame as unanimity).Each of us might wish that the Covenant weredifferent: perhaps shorter, more reticent;that theconcept of covenant itself had not been used;thatthe place of an episcopal Lambeth Conference, actingtogether with the other Instruments, had been clearer;or that the responsibilities of a Standing Committeehad been previously agreed. We may wish that SectionIV had been distinguished as a different “genre,”requiring a different kind of response from that forSections I-III. Perhaps, however, what we should beasking is whether the Covenant is a sufficientdescription of life in communion,and whether its practical suggestions are what is requiredfordeepening, nurturing, and maintaining Anglican unityand communion; is it “sufficient and required for ourgeneration”? Will it help us journey together faithfully,living in the communion of God’s own life of lovewhile rejoicing in our diversity? Will it help us bemutually responsible, mutually accountable,and willit strengthen our communion in mission?
e are not today where we were when theCovenant was published. The Covenant is nowin effect between those who have agreed to it. We areapproaching what Archbishop Rowan described as
the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality …: that is,a “covenanted”Anglican global body, fully sharingcertain aspects of a vision of how the Church shouldbe and behave, able to take part as a body inecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to thisbody, but in less formal ways with fewer formalexpectations, …associated local churches in variouskinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with oneanother and with “covenantedprovinces.
What are we to do now?First, the process of response must be encouraged to continue. We needthe fullest Anglican reaction we can get. The meetingof the Anglican Consultative Councilin Novembershould review the responses and give some account of emerging issues. It will need to draw out for us whatit means in practice that some are now in “CovenantCommunion,”while others are outside the Covenant,though still part of the Anglican Communion. How willthis affect the functioning of the Instruments of Communion? The Church in Wales has already askedquestions about the position of an Archbishop of Canterbury.Secondly, as Bishop Michael Doe has written,rejection of the Covenant must not be interpreted asturning our backs on the Communion but rather as anopportunity to build new bridges, to find new ways of supporting each other in the holistic mission of God ineach and every place, and to show the world what unityand diversity can mean.Anglicans need to find togetherall the ways possible to strengthen relationships acrossthe Communion in spite of our difference over theCovenant, not least in order to support those insituations of violence and deprivation of whatever kind.In spite of our difference we need to strengthen“affective communion.”Thirdly, the responses so far suggest that the basicunderlying issue is the fact of different ecclesiologies.Some reactions seem to be based on a federal modelof the Church, others a communion ecclesiology,andthese divisions are not only between provinces butcompete within them. We shall never agree about this
(Continued from previous page)
In Support of the Anglican Covenant

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