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The Anglican Covenant, Modernism,
& Godly Common Sense

[COMMENT: Bishop John Rodgers is a very clear and careful thinker.  Here is an assessment by him on the attempt to formulate an Anglican Covenant to which both sides will agree  I think he is on to something which can give temporary stability to the orthodox side of things.  The "other side", of course, will never accept his idea. 

In any case, the old formularies, while providing a base for beginning, do not themselves answer the questions being asked today.  We need a full re-making of Biblical theology which can respond to today's questions regarding an ancient faith.  The mostly Reformed theology which has undergirded Western Civilization collapsed two hundred years ago.  It had no clear answers to the so-called "Enlightenment".  We Christians must redress that failure, or continue to swim in the backwaters of civilization.  

At least, that is the task which the Road to Emmaus thinks it is about.   E. Fox]

The March Communiqué of the House of Bishops:
Some surprising, wider implications

 By the Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers Jr.

             The House of Bishops declared that the request by the Primates in their Dar es Salaam Communiqué begins to change the nature of the relationship of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion to the Communion and to each other. They pleaded a lack of authority to comply. They cited the independent, democratic character of TEC. It is clear that they did not like the implied change.

             The Communiqué of the House of Bishops did not address the September 30th request concerning human sexuality, though that request would seem to come under the same criticism and rejection as those treated by the House of Bishops’ Communiqué. One wonders why? Must we wait until September to once again hear the Bishops cite the same argument, that the Primates’ request concerning same sex blessings, ordinations of practicing homosexual persons, and consecrations to the Episcopate, violates the independence of TEC? Or, will the ploy be: “But they didn’t ask us to stop these from going on, just not to authorize them. We are already in compliance”? Delay follows delay.

             It is ironic that it is precisely the individualistic, impatient and unbiblical actions of TEC that have led to the actions on the part of the Anglican Communion that the Bishops of TEC regard as undesirable and an illegitimate development in the Anglican Communion.

             The implied change, to which the House of Bishops objected, is that the Primates could intervene by request in the internal affairs of a given Province, when that Province’s teaching, whether by actions or by teaching approved by canon, is at odds with the mind of the Communion as declared in agreed Communion standards or as stated at a Lambeth Conference. Particularly is this intervention appropriate when the mind of the Communion was stated in Lambeth in such overwhelming numbers and was a judgment about the teaching of the Holy Scripture, the ultimate authority of the Anglican Communion. (Resolution 1:10 at Lambeth 1998)

            I believe that the House of Bishops is reading the situation correctly; a change in the Anglican Communion is coming about. We are, after all, a very young thing as an Anglican Communion, and are still taking shape. It is a needed change. The Anglican Communion must have some way to declare its core theological beliefs and how it reads the Holy Scripture. It must also have some way to discipline Provinces and Churches that defy the Communion’s declared teaching and practice. Both the proposal for an Anglican Communion Covenant by the Windsor Report along with the new Draft Covenant and the request of the Primates Communiqué are expressions of this need and attempts to meet the need.

             Now I would like to raise a very serious problem and make a clear suggestion.

 First I want to state the problem. The Covenant being written at the request of the Windsor Report should be deep-sixed! Why? Because, it can’t work. There is no way that revisionists and orthodox Anglicans can jointly write and approve an Anglican Covenant that will do what such a covenant must do i.e. clearly state the core beliefs of Anglicans and provide for the discipline of Provinces and Churches that violate the core beliefs. To ask such a committee to do that is like asking Congress to discipline itself. What committee so comprised will state anything that ½ of its members couldn’t agree to? The result with be a Covenant full of vagueness at the doctrinal heart, while providing processes for discussion, tons of discussion, until we are blue in the face and until the errors being discussed have taken over the Communion.. It is a recipe for disaster. Nor will any instrument designed to discipline Provinces and Churches be included. In fact I have recently read a view of the Covenant that explicitly rejects the place of discipline in the role of the Covenant. And that was written by a member of the drafting committee. If we spend our energy trying to make this work we will go on forever and lose while discussing, or more likely, out of sheer exhaustion, be co-opted into agreeing to something not worth signing. Please reread the proposed Covenant looking for doctrinal commitment, for binding authority, and the possibility of discipline? I haven’t found them.

             Now the answer, here is a far more excellent way! We already have an Anglican Communion Covenant. It consists of the Anglican Formularies: the Holy Scriptures, the 3 Catholic Creeds, The 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal. You can’t beat them. They have bound us orthodox Anglicans together for centuries; they are brief and they state the core doctrines. They are gracious and full of Good News. Using elucidations, they can be applied by Lambeth Conferences to current issues. Concerns held by some Anglo-Catholics can be addressed by giving the local Bishop some wiggle room regarding liturgical matters. Not only that, no other Covenant could be written that would be ½ as good. We have a gem. We should polish this gem and let it shine and sparkle. We need to lift this Godly Covenant to the authoritative position it deserves, as the Anglican Communion Covenant. In fact, for a number of Provinces in the Anglican Communion the formularies already are in that position. The Province of Nigeria has altered its Constitution to do precisely this. They provide a great example for orthodox Provinces to follow.

             We would also need to designate some agency in the Anglican Communion to encourage  instruction in the Formularies on all levels of the Communion and to use of the Covenant to discipline member Provinces or Churches of the Anglican Communion that violate this good, and grace-centered Covenant. In the end we would, no doubt, be a smaller Communion but we would be Anglican and we would be united in the truth.

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