Anglican Covenant: Hobson ’s Choice or Sophie’s Choice?

Cranmer's Prayer book of 1552.
Cranmer's 1552 BCP
At the Contra Costa Deanery meeting this week we had a useful presentation on the Anglican covenant and lively discussion around the tables about whether the Episcopal Church of the US should agree to the covenant.

I have written about the Anglican Covenant several times and you can find those posts in the category called “Church Politics” for that is exactly what this is pure and simple.

The decision we face is a Hobson’s Choice:

Do we want to be in “communion” with the other Anglican churches of the world so much that we are willing to give up the sovereignty of our national Episcopal Church of the US, subject our faith values and practices to the will of an international Anglican Communion Standing Committee and other bodies mostly made up of member provinces that have already told us we are sinners for our beliefs and our actions border on apostasy.

This is a little like turning over the authority of the US Congress to the UN General Assembly and hoping for the best.

We empathize with the problems of the African bishops and provinces facing the growth of Islam putting pressure on them to move their philosophy and rules of behavior closer to those of the Muslim majorities in their countries.

We recognize that some bishops and provinces such as Mexico find themselves in the minority and signing onto the Anglican covenant brings them closer to the views expressed by the majority Roman Catholic Church.

The question is whether the Anglican Covenant is a Sophie’s Choice?

Sophie’s Choice in the movie was to choose which child to sacrifice and which to save.  By choosing one the other would die.  The question we face is whether the Anglican Covenant so corrupts the principles of the communion that it has the practical effect of undermining the very faith foundation of the Episcopal Church in the US and others.

In the US we already face a 40 year trend in declining participation among the mainline Protestant religions.  Will adding more controversy and division in the life of the church improve our attractiveness to the unchurched and underserved?

The Genius of the Book of Common Prayer

The answer to our problems lies in the history of the Anglican Church.  Just as at the time of the split with Rome, the church faced divisions and uncertainty.  The differences were healed by allowing the people of the church to pray over them and instead come together around Archbishop Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer which celebrated our oneness in the love of Christ, in the ritual of the Eucharist and in the Easter of our shared future.

Just as it was not necessary to resolve every difference in the time of Cranmer so it is not necessary to resolve our differences in such a win-lose way today.

For me the answer is simple.

We cannot be the Body of Christ in the Episcopal Church of the US if we abandon our independence, subject our values to a veto by a foreign church and leaders with different values, or abandon our faith tradition in the genius of the Book of Common Prayer.

We cannot be the Body of Christ for the people of God in our midst if we exclude and vilify those of difference instead of loving and welcoming them to the table where all who love God and seek Christ are welcome.

We cannot be the Body of Christ in America if we abandon the principles of independence, freedom of speech, religion, the press and association that are the foundation of our nation and the reason we broke away in our own revolution—an independent church able to call our own bishops, raise up our own priests and preach the Good News to any who walks through our doors to receive it.

If we abandon these things for the sake of being in communion with those who do not respect our rights, our faith values and our liberty then we will end up with buildings but no soul.

Just say no!

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