Skip to main content

Fences

For a long time, I have used the role renegotiation model as a way of analysing relationships. This model acknowledges that all committed relationships - marriages, churches, tribes, families, clubs, whatever - have boundaries: there is a limited set of participants in the relationship and there are rules about who these participants are. If there are no boundaries then there is no relationship. People who participate in the relationship have expectations about how others in the relationship will behave and expectations about how they themselves will behave. In a sense, a relationship is an agreement -made formally or informally, consciously or unconsciously- about what these expectations are. Relationships break apart when expectations are not met, so it is important to know what the expectations are, and how breaches in expectations can be repaired.

Now I'm telling you all this because much of today's 14 hours of General Synod was spent dealing with issues of membership The day ended with a motion requesting the synod to define membership, and the matter wasn't taken terribly seriously. We Anglicans don't like defining our membership, and we don't like anything which might suggest we are excluding someone, which is a nonsense really, if the role renegotiation model has anything to tell us. The motion was dismissed fairly quickly, but the other matter which relates to membership was not quite so easily ignored. Much of the morning was taken up talking about The Covenant. Now I'm not going to spend a lot of time at this hour of the night talking about The Covenant but if you haven't heard of it, or don't know why we are talking about such a thing, as about 80% of Anglicans and about 99% of non Anglicans don't, you'll find an account of it here.

The Covenant is not something that individual Anglicans adhere to, or even individual dioceses; it is, rather, something that entire provinces of the Anglican communion are invited to sign up for en masse. Getting all of us in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand to agree is going to be quite a task, but necessary I suppose, if you think that the ultimate aim is to have The Covenant encompass all 80 million people from around the globe who identify themselves as Anglicans. The text of The Covenant has four sections. The first three define what it means to be an Anglican church with regard to practice and belief. In terms of the role renegotiation model they define expectations: what we might expect an Anglican province - ours or someone else's- to believe and how we might expect them to act. So far to good: we can more or less agree on these three. It's when we turn the page and start to read section 4 that our Anglican livers become all lilyish, because section 4 defines what will happen if we breach the expectations laid out in the first 3 sections. Not that the penalties are all that severe; we are Anglicans, after all. It seems that the ultimate threat will be exclusion from some committees and boards and commissions and so forth, which, after 14 hours of synod, holds less horror for me than it might have done at 7:00 this morning. But as the lawyer in The Castle said, it's the whole vibe of the thing that counts. It's the prospect of the world wide communion breaking up because we can't reach agreement on basic doctrinal and ethical issues which lies behind the covenant. This fear is the impetus for signing up, and, paradoxically, it's also one of the reasons we are so reluctant about committing ourselves. The other reason, for being nervous about The Covenant is, of course, a deep uncertainty about who we are. What is an Anglican? It seems we are a bit anxious about even asking the question.

So, faced with this uncertainty, we have taken a truly Anglican stance on The Covenant. After agreeing in principle to the first three sections, we have decided to talk about it for another two years before making a decision. Who knows? Perhaps in the time before the next General Synod we will come to some agreement on Anglican identity which will enable us to make a principled stand together, either for or against The Covenant and nobly bear whatever consequences may arise from that decision. Or perhaps we are secretly hoping that events will have overtaken us before we need to commit ourselves one way or the other.

Comments

NIE said…
"It's the fear of us in Aotearoa/New Zealand finding ourselves excluded that causes us angst. This fear is the impetus for signing up, and, paradoxicallly ....."
That sends alarm bells when you talk about fear, so I was glad to read on Anglican Taonga website what Bishop Victoria had said in her introduction to the day.

Pray that people in the pews may just keep going out into each week being what God directs them to be in Aotearoa/NZ over the next two years and pray further that attitudes will change because of the way(s) parts 1, 2 and 3 way are adhered to down here at the bottom of the Communion.

Thanks for your reflections - and the humour! May this day go well for you all.

P.S. Bit worried about the variation of the Blogspot header for the photo of the day yesterday, though. Remains of a broken-down former wharf leading to nowhere? Oh well ...
Alden Smith said…
“To seek to transform unjust structures of society” as the Church stands vigilantly with Christ proclaiming both judgment and salvation to the nations of the world, and manifesting through our actions on behalf of God’s righteousness the Spirit’s transfiguring power.

I liked this part of the covenant which will be a big support for those seeking justice in the Anglican church regarding the appointment of female priests and bishops and also for those seeking justice and enlightenment regarding the gay and lesbian community.

Having said that I actually wonder about the correlation between these sorts of covenants and actual everyday practise. The Catholic church has all sorts of written obligations and proclamations regarding for example birth control, yet most of Catholic Europe has nil population growth - writing convenants can sometimes be a way of trying to insure against the need for future struggle, resolution and enlightenment, but reality always has another agenda.

Popular posts from this blog

Centering Prayer Retreat

    A 3 day taught retreat in the practice of Centering Prayer.   Saturday October 2 2021 - Monday October 4 2021 Centering Prayer is a form of Christian silent contemplative prayer. This retreat is suitable for beginners in silent prayer, or for more experienced practitioners wishing to refresh their practice.  The retreat will be held in the En Hakkore retreat centre in the hills above Waipiata in the Maniototo. There will be daily sessions of silent prayer, instruction and discussion. The venue is spacious and set in an expansive landscape. there will be some time for personal reflection.  The cost is $175 per person which includes 2 nights accommodation and all meals.   Since the beginning, following the example of Jesus, there has been a tradition of silent prayer in the Christian Church. Over the centuries this tradition faded from the popular view and became confined to monasteries. It was kept alive by a largely ignored, but never fading lineage of Christian contemplatives.  

Turn Sideways Into The Light

David Whyte speaks in his audio series What To Remember When Waking of the myth of the Tuatha De Danann. They were a mythical race from Ireland's past who were tall, magical, mystical people devoted to beauty and artistry. When another more brutal people, the Milesians invaded Ireland the Tuatha De Danann fought them off in two battles, but were faced with a third, decisive battle against overwhelming odds. So, lined up in battle formation and facing almost certain defeat, the Tuatha De Danann turned sideways into the light and disappeared. Whyte's retelling is, to put it mildly, a gloss, but I am quite taken with the phrase and with the phenomenon it describes. Turning sideways into the light is the realisation that there are some encounters that are damaging to all involved in them: no one wins a war. Faced with such an exchange, to turn sideways into the light is to seek another, more whole form of relationship. It is to reject the ground rules of the conversation as they

En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation. The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and the

Camino, by David Whyte

This poem captures it perfectly Camino. The way forward, the way between things, the way already walked before you, the path disappearing and re-appearing even as the ground gave way beneath you, the grief apparent only in the moment of forgetting, then the river, the mountain, the lifting song of the Sky Lark inviting you over the rain filled pass when your legs had given up, and after, it would be dusk and the half-lit villages in evening light; other people's homes glimpsed through lighted windows and inside, other people's lives; your own home you had left crowding your memory as you looked to see a child playing or a mother moving from one side of a room to another, your eyes wet with the keen cold wind of Navarre. But your loss brought you here to walk under one name and one name only, and to find the guise under which all loss can live; remember you were given that name every day along the way, remember you were greeted as such, and you neede

70

This photo was taken by my daughter Catherine, when I was about 50. I think she did a pretty good job.  The number 70 has a kind of Biblical gravitas. It’s the number of elders appointed by Moses to lead the recalcitrant Israelites, and the number of people who went down to join Joseph, in Egypt. Jesus sent 70 disciples out to minister in his name, and the first Jewish Sanhedrin had 70 blokes in it. And, of course, there is Psalm 90:10:  “ The days of our life are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore, yet is their strength labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away ”. All this has some personal import because I turn 70 today, and can no longer fool myself that I am middle aged. I’m old. And before you feed me one of the lines of balderdash that pass for wisdom in our culture - “you’re only as old as you feel”; “70 is the new 50”; “age is just a number” or some other such nonsense, let me tell you that I am happy to be old. Deliriously