Posted in Church of England

Bearing with one another in love – but without a Covenant

Paul wrote (I’m quite a traditionalist on the authorship of Colossians):

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Which is his way of saying some of the things that the Archbishop of Canterbury said in commending the Anglican Covenant. Mutual accountability, and therefore a structure for conversing with each other about new or difficult questions in the church, are surely part of what it means to love one another in the body of Christ.

I doubt if any of those voting against the Covenant in the dioceses of the Church of England were voting against those principles. But as a church, we have now voted against that means of making them concrete – enough among us felt that the Covenant would not in fact deliver the dialogic co-operation that the Archbishop was talking about, but instead be a battleground for groups trying to seize power over others.

So what now? I wonder if we’ve been doing this on to grand a scale – it’s difficult to translate the words of Paul to the Colossians into a document which tries to encompass all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. At the same time, new triangular relationships have been growing between dioceses of different Provinces, bringing together bishops, clergy and lay people in personal encounter and shared worship. I haven’t (yet) been part of one, but it seems that there the seeds of covenant are growing in a mutual accountability which comes from an understanding of difference along with a common sense of sharing in the same gospel.

It’s not something that can be dictated – but maybe it can be sown. If we can learn to love each other across unresolved differences, then we’re really doing the church’s work.

PS If you’re wondering how I voted: the issue was voted on in Southwark while I was still in London, and in London after I’d moved to Southwark.

2 thoughts on “Bearing with one another in love – but without a Covenant

  1. Well, I am disappointed by the failure of the Covenant, but mainly becasue I had hoped we could all support the Archbishop. However, I am sure that personal contacts, shared events, and shared Communion will help us to overcome divisions, or to learn to live with them. (The plethora of meetings where we all go off to talk to thoise who are most like ourselves is worrying.) Shared Communion probably means visiting one another and receiving the sacrament ad hoc, not just set piece events.

  2. I think the question of scale is important as it leads to a ‘one size fits all’ approach. I am reminded that in the 60’s and 70’s the ecumenical movement was seen in terms of a unification of the organised churches but that felt like as if it was being imposed from the top. Ecumenical success has come about where groups of local Christians have worked together, getting to know each other and accepting each other as they are. Perhaps that is th emodel for the Anglican Communion to follow.

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