Peter is making that point again, this time in response to a talk on the Anglican Covenant given by Lionel Deimel to a Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh meeting. Deimel's talk is entitled "Why the Anglican Covenant Should be Rejected," and it concludes like this:
Rejecting the Covenant may or may not derail what seems like an unstoppable express, but, at the very least, we will not be complicit in destroying Anglicanism or paying for the destruction of our own church. In the end, our mission might be to pick up the pieces of the Anglican Communion and reconstitute them as a fellowship that is truly Anglican.
Peter's response in a posting entitled "The annoying truth about the Anglican Covenant" is worth quoting at length:
Truly Anglican! What on earth is 'truly Anglican'? Since the whole of the talk is intelligent, rational, and insightful it is right and proper that the word 'truly' is understood to mean something in this context. It is not a descriptive word thrown into the sentence as a flourish. 'Truly' has to do with 'true': there is a true Anglicanism which can be distinguished from a false Anglicanism. Further, 'truly Anglican' means some kind of definition going on as to what is true Anglicanism and what is not true Anglicanism. Indeed the sentence speaks about reconstituting broken Anglicanism, a task which implies knowledge of how to go about intentional work on Anglicanism compared with (say) letting Anglicanism randomly evolve. That word 'fellowship' implies some sense of a shared definition as well as intention. So 'truly Anglican' involves definition of what being Anglican means, and a shared definition at that. A definition which Anglicans make a decision to agree to. Finally, note that implicitly the reconstituted Anglican fellowship will not include those who do not buy into the definition of what is 'truly Anglican'.
Sounds like a Covenant with disciplinary teeth by another name!
This point has been made by me before on this blog. Despite the arguments against the Covenant sounding like the choice before us is to have a Covenant or to not have a Covenant, as long as we remain committed to being 'truly Anglican' then the choice before us is to have a written Covenant or an unwritten Covenant.
The advantage of a written Covenant over an unwritten Covenant is that we know what we are agreeing to with the former. With the latter shadowy players behind the scenes have ample opportunity to change the meaning to suit the occasion. Real Anglican democracy lies in the way of transparency with a written Covenant. True Anglican justice lies with a Covenant known to all signers and not with an unwritten Covenant the contents of which no one knows for sure.
It is an annoying truth about the Anglican Covenant that there will be a Covenant as long as Anglicans wish to distinguish true from false Anglicanism. We cannot escape the Covenant, we can only make a choice as to whether it will be written down or not.
I agree that this is, indeed, an annoying truth! And it's annoying precisely because denying it means affirming it in the very act of denying it (a performative contradiction).
I also agree that it really is much better - more democratic with less room for subtle coercion - to have the norms of our common life and the distinctions between "true" and "false" Anglicanism written down so that everyone can make an informed decision about whether or not to sign on.
Many of those opposed to the official Covenant have written a great deal about what they think is wrong with the Anglican Covenant. Perhaps another contribution to the debate over the official Covenant that those opposed to it can make is to publish the normative ideas about "true" Anglicanism vs. "false" Anglicanism which drive their opposition. It would be helpful to see what the alternative covenant(s) affirmed by the opposition over and against the official Covenant actually looks like in a document that spells out the norms as clearly and concisely as possible. Comparing and contrasting the official Covenant with the unofficial covenant(s) affirmed by the opposition would make for a constructive conversation about the future of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.