Posted Friday 29 June 2012
The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has written for ChurchTimes (22 June edition) about the recent decision of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church not to adopt the Anglican Covenant. In the article he highlights how the SEC holds tenaciously to its commitment to the Anglican Communion and explains the reasons for this.
The article reads:
At our recent General Synod, the Scottish Episcopal Church decided by a clear majority not to adopt the Anglican Covenant (News, 15 June). In 2011, the Synod had discussed the Covenant in indaba sessions. It was clear then that a decision to adopt was unlikely.
We tried hard to keep the issue open. I believe that the Anglican Cov¬enant is an honourable attempt to heal our brokenness. But, some time ago, as I set out to address yet another meeting in my diocese, I confided to my blog that I was going to listen to the most committed Anglicans on the planet telling me why they didn’t like the Covenant. They believed that the Covenant was un-Anglican.
The Scottish Episcopal Church holds tenaciously to its commitment to the Anglican Communion. I see three reasons for this. First, it is our size — to a small Church, it matters that we belong to something bigger.
Then there is a reason that is proprietorial and slightly presump¬tuous: we invoke the memory of Samuel Seabury, consecrated in 1784 by the Scottish bishops as the first bishop of the Church in the United States of America. We like to believe that we were in at the beginning; and we want to be part of the bringing to birth of a new phase of Communion life.
Finally, and more subtly, our particular attitude to authority — rooted in the collegiality of a College of Bishops — finds an echo in the Anglican Communion’s aspiration to dispersed rather than centralised authority.
We approached a decision about the Covenant with great care and with some apprehension. We, too, are a diverse Church. We have con¬gre¬gations who see the Covenant as important and necessary for their security within our Church. This decision has called on our reserves of internal trust. Those congregations needed to know that, whether or not we adopted the Covenant, we in¬tended to take a measured and respectful approach to our diversity.
But therein lies the first of the prob¬lems. The Covenant addresses what it sees primarily as inter-provincial disagreement; but its effect may actually be to heighten ten¬sions within provinces. That is because a particular attitude to the Covenant is always at risk of being read as expressing a corresponding attitude to questions of sexuality.
Provinces will continue to con¬sider the Covenant and come to their own decisions. The Anglican Com-munion will continue to seek unity in an astonishing diversity of culture and context across the world. It already has structures and processes through which we build Commu¬nion life.
There are the four Instruments of Communion. There are networks — family, environment, and others. There is the Anglican Alliance. There is Continuing Indaba, for which I chair the reference group. There are also diocesan companionship links.
But we need a more comprehens¬ive understanding of the challenges. We also need to recognise that no single measure can address them all.
The genesis of the Anglican Cov¬en¬ant lay in the Windsor report, which arose from the development of conflict over issues of sexuality. In my experience, conflict is almost never “single issue”. It is a complex of issues that sometimes don’t quite match in a directly adversarial way. And the passion with which those conflicts are experienced tells us that other issues are in play. It’s about more than the “presenting question”. Let me suggest two other issues that are part of this.
The first is one to which we are tangentially linked through the Seabury story: it is the legacy of history. The sharp word is colonial¬ism. People assert independence of thought and action more strongly — they challenge authority more resolutely — when relationships are conditioned by the legacy of history. In the Anglican Communion, that history affects interactions between the New World and the old world, and between the developed and the developing world. The challenge is to build an Anglican Communion that transcends its history — a post-colonial Communion.
At the Primates’ Meeting in Dub¬lin last year, I learnt that another of the great diversities of Communion life lies in our understanding of author¬ity. A bishop in the Church of England does not exercise authority as we do in Scotland — and it is different again in the United States and in Nigeria and in Hong Kong. That diversity enriches, but it has led to misunderstanding and disap¬point¬ment in one another.
I believe that a new understanding of the problems we face is needed. By challenging the legacy of history, new axes of relationship will be encouraged. We shall be better able to address the deeply adversarial divisions that gather around issues of sexuality. Communion grows when we share together in mission, grow together as disciples, and act with a self-discipline that is the foundation of unity in diversity.
Our Communion is a gift to the world — a global institution that aspires to exist largely without centralised authority and to celeb¬rate its rich diversity. Such a Com¬munion models things that are important for the world community.
Such a Communion is attractive in mission because it has learned to transcend conflict. I believe that we now have a historic opportunity to reshape the Anglican Communion so that it may become an instrument of God’s mission to the world in the next generation.
Resources related to this news entry: