Some brief thoughts about episcopal kerfuffles and covenants

1. Poor +Pete.
2. It is perfectly legitimate to take the oath of allegiance whilst maintaining Republican views – at least, that was my belief when I took them, even though I wouldn’t describe myself as anything like a republican (in the UK sense) these days.
3. The problem with +Pete’s remarks, as compared to, say, spouting rampant heresy or nonsense, is that they were immediately and directly hurtful to the couple concerned. I don’t think it is wrong to have a higher standard with regard to pastoral care than doctrine (even though, in the long run, maintaining right doctrine is the foremost pastoral task of a Bishop). 1 Timothy 3.2 is also relevant.
4. The Daily Hate-mail is an odious and obnoxious organ, which faithful Christians need to ignore, for the sake of their spiritual health (even if I take great interest in reading some of their columnists, like Peter Hitchens).
5. Rowan called on the new Synod to have a grown up conversation theologically. He also talked about the ‘realities’ of the situation. One reality of the situation that he did not address is that the US church and the GAFCON churches will not enter into a meaningful covenant together. It is therefore disingenuous of him to plead that we acknowledge a reality whilst not being real himself. Either he takes the high road of calling for more Christian behaviour from everyone (which would carry authority from him), or he takes the pragmatic path of saying ‘this is our bed and we have to lie in it’. Straddling the fence in the way that he does is uncomfortable for him and catastrophic for us.
6. The pragmatic choice facing the church is not, therefore, between ‘division’ and ‘no division’ but rather ‘where shall the division fall?’. Having an honest and direct conversation on that subject would be much more helpful than the frankly abstract and legalistic semi-theological ramblings that we’ve endured so far.
7. There was a distinct whiff of fear being stoked to drive the conversation forwards – if we don’t do this then terrible things will happen (vaguely defined). Fear is the opposite of faith and therefore a good indicator of what it would be a mistake to do.
8. Much of what Rowan said amounted to a plea to trust him. Sorry, no. I revere him and consider him a holy man in all sorts of ways, but on this issue I do not trust his priorities, so the appeal fails.

All of which makes me a little sad this morning.

7 thoughts on “Some brief thoughts about episcopal kerfuffles and covenants

  1. Hi Sam,
    1. Yes.

    2. the oath means what it says on the tin, though I was kinda hoping it didn’t.

    3. I disagree. You cannot separate doctrine from pastoralia that neatly. In the Pauline epistles for example the writer works from doctine to practice i.e. Because God is this, we should live like that. Of course that doesn’t negate the need for pastoral sensitivity but spouting heresy and/or nonsense does have serious pastoral implications.

    4. taken as read (or not in the case of the Daily Mail).

    5-8. I think everyone engaged in this debate would do well to remember commandment number 9 because the tone and content of the debate in the last few weeks from some on both sides suggests that we’ve forgotten what it says.

    I’m hoping we can all put into practice the verse of the day in your side bar:
    “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

    (sorry, I’m in a bad mood after listening half the night to the cricket from Oz)

  2. Hi Phil,
    On 2 I think weight needs to be put on ‘successors by law established’, ie you can’t be a revolutionary republican but you can be a constitutional republican.
    On 3 I agree – that’s why I said the last bit. I think I’d want to see more discipline on theological orthodoxy, not less discipline on pastoralia. As it happens, I don’t think +Richard would ever tolerate/ appoint an unorthodox suffragan.
    On covenant stuff, was there some language in my post that you thought violated the 9th commandment? It’s interesting that the doctrine vs pastoralia priorities are different in the second half of my post than the first!! (not something that occurred to me before)

    BTW I can understand your anguish about the cricket. I would accept test matches as one of the highest forms of sporting endeavour, but I hardly ever get a chance to watch these days (and it’s one of the few sports that I’d prefer to watch on TV rather than live, oddly)

  3. Thanks Sam,
    On 2, did you see my post earlier today? I’d be interested in what you think.
    I agree about +Richard and 3.

    My reference to the covenant debate was more general in terms of the tone and content of much of the material doing the rounds, not specific to your comments. (I got a bit edgy when you suggested fear was being used to drive the agenda as I think there is much more to it than that). I think both sides of the debate have at times misrepresented and caricatured opponents’ arguments and that was also true of some of the running commentary on the #synod twitter stream yesterday and in much of the commentary on the debate today. I have been particularly interested in the way people have criticised opponents and then cried foul when their own position has been challenged.

    I haven’t taken a particular position on the covenant as I wanted to hear the debate and did listen to it in full. I have followed the process and documents since Windsor and discussed the matter with a friend who is a member of the Faith and Order committee. I’ve read the statements put out by both the pro and no lobbies and I’d be interested to know how many have actually read the final document or based their opinions on the ‘summaries’ of others. (I’m not suggesting you haven’t read it as you are always thorough in your deliberations on important issues like this.)

    My final comment about the verse of the day was to myself as much as anybody else.

    Anyway, thanks again for the post. Hope your hands have defrosted:)

  4. Ha! you’re thinking much too highly of me – I did read all of the original windsor report (even printed it out and gave it its own folder) but I’m not sure I can claim to have sat down and read all of the covenant from beginning to end (just big chunks) – so I’d better go off and do that I think πŸ™‚

    BTW reading your post was one of the things that prompted this one

  5. Have now read the Covenant cover to cover – a few thoughts:
    – there is more that is uncontentious and admirable than I had expected;
    – the ecumenical possibilities are very interesting (4.1.5); but
    – my problems with it remain.

    I suspect that if this had been drafted and circulated, say, 20 years ago, reactions would have been very different. Sadly the reception of the Covenant can’t be disentangled from the specific ructions that are presently causing the problems. Lord have mercy upon us.

  6. “I suspect that if this had been drafted and circulated, say, 20 years ago, reactions would have been very different.”

    A very good point. The context of a text is so important, and this text has not come at a good time – for some, too little too late, for others, simply too much and with no way of knowing what it might be used for next.

  7. Once again you diss one of the major influences on my little blog. Without The Mail, The Sun and Viz Comic, OCICBW… would be a very boring place and we would never have met πŸ™‚

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