Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Constraints of the Anglican Covenant

For openers, I strongly encourage each to read the following essay on line: The Church Idea.  Just what is this vague but intriguing work?  Well, it is an essay written by William Reed Huntington ( a priest and not a bishop) and is the basis for the Chicago Quadrilateral, that statement adopted first by our House of Bishops and then by the Lambeth Conference, all back in the 1870-1880s.  I believe it is as timely today, right now, as it was back then.  It addresses among other things, the uniquely American experience that is centered in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  It makes a very clear distinction between how and why we as Americans are governed and every other country including, by inference such places as Nigeria, Uganda, Argentina, and yes, even merry-olde England.  If you read no other part, read the American Problem.   It also discusses such issues as Romanism, Puritanism and the DREADED liberalism. 

This very fine work turns out to discuss the very same issues that we are discussing today and while the names have been changed to protect the guilty, we are still hashing and re-hashing the same points and counter points.  Let me add as a footnote, the William Reed Huntington was the primary mover and shaker that back in the 19th century wanted women as deaconesses and through patience and persistence got it and became a haven for women to become more included in the full life of the church.

There are two brief points I would like to make.  First, we really did settle this argument a long time ago with the Chicago Quadrilateral and I have heard, read, seen, or been privy to any  new arguments that would make an Anglican Covenant necessary.  We already have the four main points and do not need any more, at least based on the Huntington work.  Don't take my word for it though, read it and see what you formulate.  This Church Idea is a brilliant work that covers all the bases including the "need" for something that looks like the 39 Articles -- folks it is in there, it is included in the Quadrilateral.

The second point is perhaps a more pressing argument for today.  The point behind this Anglican Covenant is supposedly one unifying, in essence "rally round the flag boys" kind of issue.  This is so that when we approach other denominations approach us on issues of unity they (the other denomination) understands what and who we are.  Here is the rub.  The original Quadrilateral posed stumbling blocks of universality back in the 1880s and it had the four points we all know and love.  With the newest proposed Anglican Covenant those stumbling blocks become larger.  How so?  Well, we are in effect setting up a a ruling junta not unlike the Roman "magisterium".  The more formal but inconsequential power structures the Anglican Communion sets up the more likely they will become additional impediments to coming together.  One of the major issues with ARCIC is not the Pope per se but rather the magisterium, check it out.  So, what is it that we are doing?  The Anglican Communion removed the Episcopal presence on the Faith and Unity Commission thinking that it was a impediment to the ARCIC program.  The proposed power structure for the Anglican Communion becomes just as great an impediment. 

So, what is the upshot?  We have the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and it dealt with all the issues that we are re-visiting today.  If pithy is best, then we need to stay with the quadrilateral and leave all this other nonsense alone.  If, on the other hand, this really is a power grab and an extreme effort to wreak havoc by those who have power (or about to get it) on those who have no power then isn't that reason to not approve the Covenant as well?

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