The Lead at Episcopal Cafe continues a discussion of the new draft of a "Covenant" for the Anglican communion. Read the draft here, and today's post, about the Church Times's analysis of highlights, here. I find, mulling over what I read, and as much as I understand it, that this does what I hoped it would: provides a way of engaging one another within the Anglican Communion when we disagree, acknowledges the autonomy of each church within the Communion, and resists setting up some kind of centralized authority or magisterium, which would be very much at odds with the Anglican tradition as I have understood and embraced it.
Like many, I've been processing this covenant draft in the context of Ash Wednesday and our observances this beginning of Lent. And hence have been slow to respond. I was interested that this morning's gospel was from John 17, Jesus' prayer "that we all may be one," and focused our attention on the relationship between Jesus and his Abba, and the mysterious and real "bonds of affection" within the Godhead that are suggested in that prayer. I have to admit I haven't been following closely every step in this controversy but I notice in the discussion of the draft that there's a lot of focus on the legal issues it seems to lay down and not much about Jesus. What I like about the draft as I read it, somewhat naively and "from the pew," is that it seems to provide for a process of conflict resolution that respects autonomy and assumes a desire to stay together in the "bonds of affection" that unite the various parts of the Anglican community. There really isn't any way that any document can protect us from the ill-will of people who truly do not want to seek unity, and whose position is essentially: I don't want to be part of a church that includes those people." Isn't the whole history of the Church directed toward returning us to that radical goal of being united in Christ even when divided in other things.
The parish I belong to, the Church of Our Saviour (read my earlier post about it here) is the face of the Anglican communion: people are from West and Southern Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and African Americans and European Americans etc. We love to worship together. We love to be together. We disagree about a lot, including theology and Biblical interpretation, but we understand that we are called into community in Christ. Many have relatives "back home" in Africa who are unhappy about the Episcopal church. Mostly we don't talk much about the Anglican communion, though we did for awhile in 2003. There were disagreements and hurt feelings. But I think we did pretty well at hearing one another and staying together.
When the whole covenant process was first proposed I remember saying to someone involved: My deepest hope is that nothing said in a covenant document will mean that my congregation cannot stay together. My view from the pew is that the St. Andrews draft of the Covenant is the sort of thing I had hoped for.
In the polarized media world we live in, the fact that we aren't getting much media attention, as Jim Naughton points out in his post on Episcopal Cafe yesterday , may mean that we are making headway toward that goal. People staying together in the midst of disagreement, conflict, bitterness, and hurt is apparently not news because you can't identify a winner and a loser. But maybe it means we're making some small steps toward holding up a vision of unity in the love of Christ. Counterintuitive. Countercultural, imperfectly realized. But I think the Covenant begins to give us some tools for this, with its insistence on autonomy within the body, and on fidelity to "bonds of mutual affection."
At least there is nothing in it that would undermine the work we are trying to do together in my congregation, to try to live and worship together, in and through our diversity, with a common focus on Our Saviour.
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.