Friday, August 1, 2008

Thoughts on the Idea of an Anglican Covenant

I've seen that (among other major issues this weekend) the bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference will be looking at the "Anglican Covenant."

Speaking of the so-called "Anglican Covenant," Fr. Jones' recent piece at the Anglican Centrist suggests a good question: why not just go with The Five Marks of Mission affirmed by the Anglican Consultative Council back in 1984?
  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Why can't these marks of mission be a sufficient basis for a covenant? After all, they mirror the five vows we make in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer's Baptismal Covenant.

But someone might object that these five marks are not sufficiently specific when it comes to doctrine.

While I would agree about the need for more specific doctrinal content, I would also respond to such an objection by asking: Why can't the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral - affirmed by successive Lambeth Conferences and General Conventions of The Episcopal Church - be a sufficient basis for staking out the doctrinal norms and boundaries of our common life as Anglicans? After all, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral not only affirms that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God that contain all things necessary to salvation; it also says that the Apostles' Creed is the "Baptismal symbol" and the Nicene Creed is "the sufficient statement of the Christian faith." What more doctrine do you need to be an orthodox Anglican?

Why can't we simply reaffirm what we've already affirmed as Anglicans: the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and "The Five Marks of Mission"? Why can't what we've already agreed upon - what is already part of our inheritance as a global communion - be the sufficient basis for a "covenant"?

I've been struggling with the proposals for an "Anglican Covenant," and the more I think about it, the more I think that between "The Five Marks of Mission" and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the primary reason for insisting on anything else is to gain leverage to exercise some kind of power and control over others (particularly those with whom one disagrees).

Besides being a bad idea, that's also not Anglican.

Furthermore, it's a recipe for "being in communion" already available in other Christian churches that reject the comprehensiveness of the creedal (as opposed to confessional) orthodoxy of the Anglican tradition.

We live in strange times when Anglicans ask Anglicans to sacrifice our identity as Anglicans in order to maintain our identity as Anglicans.

1 comment:

Joe Rawls said...

I've been a big fan of the Quadrilateral for many years. It has enough real substance to give us a genuine ecclesial identity, yet avoids the drawbacks of a laundry list of 21 all-time favorite dogmas.
Of course, Bishop Spong would think the Quadrilateral's hopelessly medieval, but hey, you can't please everybody.