Friday, 27 February 2009

The Anglican Covenant: A House on Sand

As the March 9th deadline approaches for Provincial responses to the Covenant Design Group, an odd but telling paradox is emerging; in order to stabilise the Anglican Communion, it seems essential that the Covenant’s biblical foundations should be weak. During debate at the Church of England’s General Synod earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury articulated a view which resonates with many in the liberal leaning Churches of the Communion when he stated that the Covenant is ‘part of an ongoing inquiry of what a global Communion might look like.” and “At every stage it is something which churches voluntarily are invited to enter into."

But how is this weakness? Is it not simply a commitment to listening with a generous spirit? Experience of the ‘listening process’ over the past ten years has taught the orthodox to be wary as in practice it has served to subvert discipline and lend credence to false teaching. And this persistent impression can’t be waved aside as the suspicious interpretation of those opposed to the revisionist agenda. Paul Elie in his March Atlantic Monthly article ‘The Velvet Reformation’ praises Rowan Williams for ‘prodding the communion toward acceptance of gay clergy’ as he doggedly persists in trying to keep everyone at the table.

The particular danger of this emphasis upon relationship and process rather than confessional integrity is that the orthodox become acclimatised to a church culture which dulls their biblical awareness. GAFCON clearly represents a significant break with that culture, but resisting it is a continual discipline and a recently released video of an interview with Dr J I Packer helps to keep things in proper context.

In a discussion about the difference between first and second order issues, he says that the closest parallel with the current crisis in the Anglican Communion is not even the Reformation, but the Arian controversy of the fourth century which threatened to undermine the whole Church through the denial of the incarnation. Even more striking than this parallel however is the strength of Dr Packer’s feeling; when asked how he feels, he says he is sick at heart, deliberately echoing the distress of the prophet Jeremiah (8:18) at the rebellion of God’s people and its destructive consequences. Read more

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