Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Anti-Anglican Covenant Lobbyists get organized

Or at least they have a website - and yes, it's the usual suspects. They write, "we predict that the covenant text itself could become the cause of future bickering and that its centralized dispute-resolution mechanisms could beget interminable quarrels and resentments."  Now isn't that pretty?  Sounds like a good reason to just stop voting all together.

Frankly, what's more interesting at this point is not who is listed - which again is predictable (do they ever recruit new people or just keep rehashing themselves into spanking brand new lobby groups over and over and over again?) - no, rather, what is more interesting at this point is who is NOT listed - at least not yet.  Watch that space very carefully. Check it all out here.  And please pass the Geritol.

Tip of the Tinfoil to SS.  Thanks! 

SATURDAY UPDATE: Gregory Cameron responds to the lobbyists in England who took out an ad in the Church Times:

From the Bishop of St Asaph

Sir, — There was a very curious document in last week’s Church Times (full-page advertisement, page 7). In it, two organisations, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, for which I have formerly had the highest regard, turned themselves into the nearest to an ecclesiastical BNP that I have encountered.

They resort to the old tactics of misinformation and scaremongering about foreigners and outside influences to whip up a campaign against the Anglican Covenant, and replace reasoned argument with a “Man the barricades!” mentality that is little short of breathtaking.

We are to beware, the advertise­ment says, of the machinations of “another Anglican province any­where in the world” and of a move “to subordinate the Church to the judgements of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Com­munion. [The Covenant] would thereby make the Church of England subject to an outside power for the first time since Henry VIII.”

The main target of their opprobrium, worse than a European Commission or a Spanish Inquisi­tion, is “a new international body, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion”. In fact, this body is the same Joint Standing Committee that has muddled through the business of Anglican Communion affairs now since 1969. It is scarcely new — even if it was given its new name by a two-thirds-majority vote of Anglican provinces ratified at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica in 2009.

And the most extreme power at the Standing Committee’s disposal under the Covenant is — wait for it — “to make recommendations” (4.2.7). It is this potential for shock “recommendations” that has Inclusive Church and MCU quaking in their boots, since they argue that any such “recommendations” will “subordinate [the General Synod] to the new centralised authorities”. In fact, the Covenant text clearly says: “Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations” (4.2.7).

The Covenant also states quite clearly that “mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance. The Covenant does not grant to any one Church or any agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church of the Anglican Communion” (4.1.3).

Like so much else in this advertise­ment (and I could offer an extensive list), the assertion is simply rubbish.

During the past 150 years, many of the Churches of the world have been formed into Christian world com­munions; the newest was formed this year, the World Communion of Reformed Churches. There is a general recognition that if local or national Churches are to be truly international and live in a global fellowship, they must do more than just assert their autonomy, but seek to live into an interdependence that truly honours the fellowship of the whole body. This truth was recog­nised by the Lambeth Conferences of 1920 and 1930, and the Covenant is a careful attempt to balance autonomy with responsibility.

There is no element of coercion anywhere in the text, but there is an acknowledgement that neither can everything that one Church does be foisted on the whole Communion without the recognition that relations can be damaged. What the Covenant sets out in Section 4 is a proper mechanism that allows the articulation of discomfort, even distance, but which honours autonomy.

But this is too much for our latter-day Little Englanders, who bemoan the passing of the armchair bonhomie of the Athenaeum as the measure of Anglican inclusivity. They would, it seems, rather see the disintegration of the Anglican Communion into a series of acrimonious factions than restate a common faith and witness and find grown-up and responsible mechanisms for the articulation of the life of a whole Communion.

Well, I suppose they’re entitled to their opinion, but I do wish that they wouldn’t resort to scaremongering and the misrepresentation of a text in an attempt to swing the debate.

Secretary to the Anglican
Communion Covenant Design Group 2006-09
Esgobty, Upper Denbigh Road
St Asaph LL17 0TW

Read it all here.


Tregonsee said...

He Who Is Not Listed will not long be able to eschew even this small amount of publicity.

As for bickering. A separation of both sides, much like a divorce, will do wonders to lower the level of rancor. Just ask anyone who was in TEC and is now in ACNA or some other body separated from TEC. Lots of health debate on the things that really matter.

Floridian said...

The dialogue is over, and no sane orthodox Christian would consider being in covenant with these people anyway. There are admonitions in Scripture against being unevenly yoked with unbelievers, or having communion with those who will not repent, but continue to rebel against God, such as heretics, apostates, pagans, sexually immoral, etc.

jschwarz42 said...

Actually, it is rather a good quote. And an assessment of the Covenant that pretty much jives with most discussions that I and others in our parish community have had after every draft. Only change I would make is: in the two places where your quote reads, "... could ...", it would be a more accurate assessment to substitute "... inevitably will..."!! The ONLY purpose of the Covenant (in Windsor), as I understood it, was to provide a tool that would (somehow, in ways that Windsor never bothered to explain) enable us all to come back together and restore mutual trust and respect among disputing parties in the AC, and save the "unity" of the Communion. I am not sure what anyone thinks this sort of Covenant could possibly achieve. But it will certainly not do that!


Bryan Owen said...

Be sure to read the brilliant response to this "coalition" over at Anglican Down Under entitled, "Wrongly named international Anglican Coalition favours covenant."

TLF+ said...

The same small group is well served by a bunch of old money to burn and a church membership that is aged and concerned with a bit of peace and comfort after life's long labors. TEC has no critical mass of people concerned about anything beyond the current generation. The most influential groups are a) the small group of activists funding their LGBT drama hobby and b) the aged members who want a bit of familiar comfort. There's the governing symbiosis in TEC right now.

ettu said...

I am glad to see a reduction in anger on both sides - well, at least the number of blog posts is way down - I no longer see them in the 300 or so range even for significant articles. As to the only old faces appearing comment, it seems that the reasserters are the same old names also --so I believe it is clear that observation is one either side could make.

Anonymous said...

RE: "I am glad to see a reduction in anger on both sides . . . "

Yeh -- on the part of the traditionalists, indifference will do that.

RE: "it seems that the reasserters are the same old names also . . . "

Right -- we're just not endlessly recycling ourselves into new groups: Claiming the Blessing, Oasis, Integrity, Via Media, The Consultation, and at least a dozen more ad nauseum -- with the same old activists.


Wilf said...


I have responded to you here regarding what I believe are inaccuracies regarding your convictions about 20th century European philosophy. I assume that your parish is probably teaching you such things in order to comfort its flock that its non-Trinitarian teachings are somehow "orthodox," or adequately similar to those taught by Trinitarian churches.

I don't mention this in the posting, but actually to find the proper situating of the types of beliefs taught by Borg-inspired parishes, one really needs to look at the Victorian or nineteenth century late-romantic period, pietism, and figures such as Schleirmacher and Ritschl. These types of views however have been roundly refuted in the 20th century by some of its most prominent figures - including e.g. Husserl and Heidegger, and to some degree even the post-structuralists such as Barthes (not Barth), Foucault, and Derrida (with the general notion of the "author function" as it is found in, e.g. Dilthey, an extension of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics - and its critique / "death"). Those views were largely framed by wrestling with certain tensions and uncertainties of that era which haven't existed for many decades, and have generally been discarded, though they can be artificially resurrected with a bit of disinformation and a good dose of fear-mongering.

I am sorry that you have been let down by your parish in this way, and that TEC has done this to you. Faith is so important. When a church teaches things contrary to what Christ taught us about Himself - those effected are profoundly let down, and element of trust necessary for rational reflection on elements of faith diminishes to such an extent that the evaluation of claims of faith becomes enormously difficult. This is one of the "symptoms" and outworkings of a condition of apostasy.

Most Christians are not versed in these types of things, which also makes the "cleanup" operation in a parish which has been touched by apostasy even more difficult and painstaking. Your path to faith will be tremendously difficult. You will probably first need to lose the faith you have. Seeing that your parish has let you down regarding "what 20th century philosophy says" may perhaps be a first step. Even if this loss of faith leads to a period of atheism - I think it would be generally a good thing - and more likely for you to encounter the incarnate and risen Christ than remaining with your current set of beliefs.

I don't doubt for a moment that these postings will lead you to renounce your current faith. They may, however, be a small step on that road, in discovering a new anger, and maybe a new curiosity. I wish you blessings and wisdom.

Wilf said...

Sorry ...
First sentence last para should be "I don't believe for a moment ..."

Wilf said...


I neglected to say in the other thread - my thankfulness to you for a succinct presentation of your views. Yes, there are vagaries, and parts which are based on unfounded premises. But it's a very, very well-done summary. It has helped me think about these matters as well - not so much "what I believe," but more - how a certain paradigm of thinking (like Borg) fits together. And this is valuable. I thank you for writing this stimulating text.

jschwarz42 said...

Wilf: I apologize for the delay in responding to your several thoughtful comments (it's been one of those weeks!). First, I feel I need to defend my parish, TEC (and Borg) against your "charge" of their being a corrupting influence dragging me and others along the road to "apostasy" (a term which, along with "heresy" I would argue is no longer terribly useful today - assuming it ever was). To this end, I need to point out some things about my own (not atypical) faith journey. My basic theological perspective and faith was formed and has gradually deepened and developed, but with little radical shift in direction (beyond becoming clearer to me), over the last 30-40 years, starting in the liberal Catholicism that emerged out of the post-Vatican II era, and developing (in part) in the light of my philosophical understanding of phenomenology, existentialism, Heidegger (all of which I studied in graduate school a couple of lifetimes ago!); and (more recently) William James, Rorty and Derrida - and various theological thinkers. In short, most of how I see things far predates my becoming an Episcopalian (9 years ago), as it does the first time I read Borg (probably 15 years ago) - or heard Spong talk. I came to explore the Episcopal Church (after remaining Catholic became spiritually impossible for me) precisely because of a hopeful curiosity about a church in which a Borg could find a home and a Spong could be a bishop. I almost instantly discerned that I had (through God's grace) found a "home". No one "led me astray". I am very familiar with the kind of traditional, "orthodox" faith-teachings about things like the resurrection and Christ's divinity - and their "meaning." I grew up with them, and wrestled hard and long with them before being led (by the grace of God's Spirit, I believe) to move beyond them to more fruitful faith-fields. That said, I do certainly believe in Christ's resurrection and "divinity" (although I understand them probably in an unorthodox way). I very early became disillusioned, however, with much of traditional "doctrinal" Christianity (particularly those teachings that involve any sort of Anselmian notion of "atonement" as an explanation for the "meaning" of Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection). I found that many of the orthodox "Trinitarian" teachings and "beliefs" which you find so critical to faith actually alienated me from being in relationship with God or "knowing" God (as opposed to "knowing" or believing things "about" God).

But neither Borg nor anyone else particularly "formed" my views (although, obviously on some level, everyone I have ever read, listened to or talked with, and everything I have ever experienced, formed them). Rather, when I first read Borg, it was like reading something so close to what I already had slowly come to experience and believe about God, that (except for it being so much clearer!) I myself could almost have written it. There was an immediate recognition and resonance. Now many (most?) people in my parish do indeed like Borg's writings; however they have not been "taught" them. I do not know how things go in "conservative" parishes; but in my parish we are not "taught" what to believe. We discuss and "converse" about the various things we study, and seek to understand (and evaluate) them together, and learn from one another (always, of course, with the help of the Spirit). So, if I am going to Hell, it is on my own dime - not as a result of anything my parish, TEC (or Borg) has done (or failed to do).

I will (with the indulgence of our host) address your more substantive issues later - but am for now at the word limit...

Peace, John

jschwarz42 said...

Wilf: To continue.... But I do continue to believe fundamentally that God cares less about what "doctrines" ("beliefs") we assent to about God (or Christ) and more about whether we "do justice, love compassion and walk humbly [that is, in a way authentically true to ourselves] with God." And the God of Love I have come to know and love would not fault or "penalize" someone for "beliefs" honestly held in faith, even if they disagreed with traditional formulations. For (and here I agree with Borg), what is important to our "salvation" (leading us to God) is not "BELIEF" in specific approved propositional "teachings" ABOUT God, but a "FAITH" which is beyond propositional reasoning and which is a RELATIONSHIP of radical trust and hope WITH and IN God. Yes we need to "know" that God "loves compassion and justice", so that we in our human way may come to worship and "know" God mostly through ourselves in turn living lives of radical compassion, love and service. And we need to "know" that Jesus' "faithfulness unto death" on the Cross was a consummate act of Love that we are "called" to recapitulate in our own lives and contexts. But I do not need to (and ultimately cannot) "know" the mysterious and seemingly "mad" factual "mechanics" of what it means to say that Christ died for us and rose into a new life. It is enough that it has "meaning" in my faith life (to get back to the KJS quote about "meaning" that started all this!).


jschwarz42 said...

Wilf, The other thing I find important in what Borg (and others) say is the implication of what Borg calls "panentheism": the notion that there is not a great divide between us and God, that God is ALREADY "near" (as the Catholic Michael Morwood has put it), that God is IN and permeates all of God's creation and is intimately present in it (although certainly also transcendent and other). Traditional Christianity has too much seen God and Christ through the prism of our sinfulness and alienation from God, understood as creating a chasm unbridgeable except through the metaphysics of "redemption". Sin is real; but, of equal import, all of creation (including us) is good. It is less helpful to see us as "fallen" (traditional view) than as incomplete and imperfect - struggling "with God's help" (grace) stumblingly forward through Salvation History, not to "regain" some original perfection now lost through our own "inherited" sin and corruption, but in a progressive "process" toward an ever-more-faithful relationship, in community, toward God (the "Kingdom"). This emerges (rather than being restored), through our free acceptance of God's gracious invitation to live lives of ever-increasing love, compassion and justice (i.e. to become ever more "like" God, and thus closer in relationship to God, whom we cannot know except in our experience of God as loving, compassionate, etc).

But what gives us the hope and strength (through grace) to follow this "way" is not "correct belief" about how we are "redeemed" by Christ's "sacrifice" (which was somehow metaphysically "necessary" in order for God to bridge the chasm of sin separating us), but simply Faith in God's radical, unconditional, freely-given and inexhaustible love and forgiveness (as taught by the Jesus who died in Love for us). For this transcends all metaphysical "necessity" which human reason thinks would require a "sacrifice" for us to be "redeemed" and restored to "at-one-ment" with God. For God's extravagant love is not subject to necessity). What we need is simply "Faith" (not "The Faith"), an openness to God's Spirit, and a "practice" of "acting lovingly" (agape).

For example, fundamental to my living my faith is indeed a "belief" in Christ's "real presence" to us in our shred meal of eating and drinking his "body and blood" in Communion. But I have no "doctrine" as to how this "presence" of Christ/God "works". I certainly do not believe that bread and wine "magically" and "literally" change their physical "substance", or that this presence has a reality out of the context of our eating and drinking them in the meal. But the presence of God that I experience in Communion (and that again and again transforms me into living Christ into the world in my own life) has a reality, a "MEANING", that is so real and powerful in my life than it is irrelevant "how" that presence "works - what "literally" are the "mechanics" of it. What matters is precisely its "MEANING" in my life. It is that "meaning" that IS its reality. It is the same with our "belief" in the resurrection, Christ's "divinity" etc.

Peace, John

Wilf said...


Many thanks for your most excellently articulated response. I have great respect for people who honestly struggle with faith, as you do (and I do), albeit in different ways. You do point out some legitimate weaknesses in how Christian teachings have, at times, been taught and defended.

I thank you for your graciousness in the way you respond; this is a great gift, and allows for charitable dialogue, which is so important.

I hope to respond to you shortly.

Wilf said...


I still haven't responded, though I have been thinking about your words here - time hasn't permitted, and I'd like to respond well, when I do respond. My apologies for the delay, I do hope I can find you again to resume this discussion.

Wilf said...

I will provide a very short response (in comparison to the response I'd like to give) for the sake of continuing the conversation so we don't have too much silence.

Thought 1:
"For this transcends all metaphysical "necessity" which human reason thinks would require a "sacrifice" for us to be "redeemed" and restored to "at-one-ment" with God."

Here you are labeling a view which you want to exclude - or "transcend" - as "metaphysical." The view has been much more highly reified in human discourse - through persons talking about it, conceptualizing it - sometimes productively, sometimes unhelpfully - always concealing something, especially in the most "productive" moments. This is the nature of human discourse. It is, however, minus its history of conceptualization, no more or less "metaphysical" than the view which you propose as going beyond it.

A person brought up in a society with your own view of God as love, with few other characterizations than this ... will also grow up with new ways of conceptualizing, understanding, catechizing this type of belief; and when confronted with a more "classic" notion of atonement, may well decide that his own "metaphysical" belief in God as love only, is transcended by introducing a notion of alienation ... of course, opening up a much more pluriform field of discourse for understanding how man and God interrelate - for we have love, but we also have alienation.

"Metaphysics" is a rather "loaded" word - yes, we have been influenced by various teachings which can be labeled as "metaphyiscal," but reifying "metaphysics" in this manner isn't necessarily helpful. It's better practice to identify modes of thought which are limiting, blinding, or deceptive, rather than using this term - which is understood in so many different ways - and tends to imply belief in some kind of odd Platonic forms swirling around in an ethereal dimension which is more real than that which our experience inhabits.

Thought 2:
"What matters is precisely its "MEANING" in my life. It is that "meaning" that IS its reality."

I would say, "yes and no" to this. Meaning is always in some sense "mine" and in "my" life - but it also escapes this, there is that element of the other, of heteronomy, of intersubjectivity. That which seems subjective is also in some sense "objective" (not in the "scientific" sense of "I can prove this and thus you must believe it," but rather: "that which escapes my control and defines me more than I define it").

Your thought here is a very important first step, it could be called perhaps even the founding thought of phenomenology. But ... after having realized this, in moving further, we also see how such meanings are much, much more than "mine" - and that it is sometimes precisely in escaping this realm of the "mine" that we are freed of numerous problems and blights: of adhering to merely subjective (and possibly wrong or dangerous) attitudes and beliefs; of incestuous circularity; of our own selfishness; and our own "demons" which tend to inhabit this vicious circuit of self-affection. Lacan and "jouissance" come to mind here.

These, of course, are merely "preliminary" thoughts, and aren't addressing Borg directly.