In light of some recent posts about defining practices and denominationalism, here’s a very sad story about those two things really working at cross purposes. A majority of the dioceses of the Church of England have rejected the proposed Anglican Covenant, which would have committed Anglican provinces to avoiding unilateral decisions that would be likely to cause discord among Anglicans elsewhere, and to instead consider such matters in broader consultation. The targets of the proposal were most conspicuously the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church USA, which have drawn the ire of Anglicans elsewhere for blessing same-sex unions and consecrating gay bishops, respectively. The North American provinces are out of line with Anglican views on homosexuality in the rest of the world, but believe that their actions in this area are urgent matters of justice that ought not to be forestalled by objections from less enlightened folk. Anglicans elsewhere, meanwhile, have expressed that the North American provinces are denying the Scriptures and are capitulating to cultural pressures.
The Church of England’s rejection of the Anglican Covenant is particularly sad to me because it appears that Anglicanism’s “mother church” is not invested in holding the Anglican Communion together. The Anglican witness to the church has been one of rather successful collegiality for years, wherein the church’s different provinces have expressed much diversity within and among themselves, while remaining in communion with one another. It appears that the Western expressions of Anglicanism do not value communion with their two-thirds world counterparts enough to submit their judgments about appropriate Christian conduct to their consideration, judging by who has accepted the Covenant so far – according to Reuters, that list includes the provinces of Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, West Indies, Southern Cone, South East Asia, and Southern Africa, all of which are churches of the two-thirds world.
It’s especially sad to see the Anglican Covenant failing to get off the ground in light of Rowan Williams’ pending retirement from the Archbishopric of Canterbury. Williams has worked tremendously hard to hold the Anglican Communion together, and the Anglican Covenant was a tremendous example not only of classic Williams, but also of Christian collegiality.