The Revd. Malcolm French writes at Simple Massing Priest about the Covenant. First he takes on the proposition that There Is No Alternative, and then he wonders out loud how the Church of England, under the same Archbishop of Canterbury, can manage to hold on the open-ended view of full communion as a member of the Porvoo Communion while demanding the approach of the Covenant for the rest of us.
Let’s consider another international Communion of churches to see how they have handled this very same presenting issue.The Porvoo Communion recently had a consultation to discuss the theology and practice of marriage among the member churches. Some of the Porvoo churches permit the ordination of partnered GLBTQTS and some do not. Some of the Porvoo churches bless same-sex unions, some do not and a few actually solemnize same-sex marriages. Technically, the range of practice in the Porvoo Communion is actually broader than in the Anglican Communion, where no member church has formally approved same-sex marriages.
So, how does the Porvoo Communion deal with this diversity of belief and practice?
Well, here’s what they said in their communique at the end of their recent consultation:
“The consultation made clear that differences over the introduction of same-sex marriage remain unresolved. It is clear that there are a variety of views and pastoral practices along a theological spectrum. Some believe same-sex marriage to be a legitimate development in the Christian tradition, whilst others see the potential for a serious departure from the received tradition. Nevertheless the consultation affirmed the benefits of ‘belonging to one another’. The value of honest encounter and strengthened friendship provides a platform of sustained communication in the face of issues which raise dificulties for us.”
So Porvoo can manage to muddle through without mechanisms to expel the outliers. No meaty Covenant need be introduced to discipline the dissenters. Porvoo simply acknowledges the disagreement and affirms the commitment to continue together.
The irony, of course, is that the Porvoo Communion is nothing other than the fellowship of Anglican and Lutheran churches in northern Europe.
So the same Church of England, under the leadership of the same Rowan Williams, manages to hold two completely contradictory opinions at the same time.
Well, your Grace, if it’s good enough for Porvoo, it’s good enough for me.
Father Malcolm French, at ‘Simple Massing Priest’, puts forward the same argument as many of us on the unsuitability of the proposed Anglican Covenant , and it is this:
If the communion of Churches in Europe, PORVOO, which includes the Church of England, can allow a diversity of theological praxis on the treatment of Same-Sex Unions in their different national Churches; then why cannot the Anglican Communion Churches co-exist under a similar provision – allowing a similar diversity of praxis to thrive under the common code of relationship that exists between the national Churches of the Provinces?
Such an ethos of ‘Unity in diversity’ would better suit the traditional ethos of Anglicanism, than that of a magisterial, confessional, Covenant Process, such as is presently being advocated by the Anglican Communion Office. Of course, it would depend on the different Churches of the Communion to agree to such a compact, but surely it is not outside the bounds of possibility that this could be the proper way forward in the present debates? If it can work for PORVOO, why not for the Anglican Communion?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand