Wednesday, March 07, 2007

father ephraim radner comments (some more) on the covenant

Read the whole thing here. Interesting deliberations around the catholicity of Anglicanism and the forthcoming, revised Covenant. Father Ephraim was responding to this comment from Father Michael Poon. Father Michael was in turn responding to this, Father Epharim's initial comments on the Covenant. What do you think?

Dr. Poon’s pointing to the central element of common prayer and the Prayer Book as the doxological center and context for Anglican hearing of Scripture in its “right interpretation” accurately exposes the complexity of this “old” and “new”. He calls for a return to the “ancient way”. And he is right: the Book of Common Prayer no longer functions in this anchoring and formative way for Anglicans as a Communion, much to our detriment. But I have already heard faithful (and centrally “orthodox”) Anglicans of a more catholic tradition criticize the Proposed Covenant precisely because it lifts up the 1662 Prayer Book as a “guiding” document for the Communion as a whole. Even leaving aside modern revisions and elaborations and perhaps perversions of the Prayer Book tradition within many evangelical and non-evangelical churches around the world, designating a liturgical form that is theologically oriented towards a fairly Protestant outlook (at least within an Anglican range) is seen by many “Anglo-Catholics” as highly problematic; and especially among newer churches who have never perhaps even been ordered within a history that attaches directly to the 1662 English edition. So there is a large question here: Is the “ancient way” closer to the pre-Reformation order of eucharistic life? Or is it to be found in a gathering of the Communion around an originating liturgical order whose focus in, e.g. 1662, is to be viewed as providentially integrating of our common life, even if not directly constructive of it in this or that local or national church? This is a central concern that, perhaps, the Covenant will need to address more substantively. I personally believe in the latter, and understand the draft Covenant to do the same; but I recognize that it will require some common discussion, prayer, and—frankly – effort and charity for this to be agreed upon. We will agree, I hope, as impelled by God; but that impulsion will be recognized only in a certain kind of shared openness.

Here is where the conciliar character of the Proposed Covenant is perhaps more prominent than Dr. Poon would like: the form of “Doxology-orthodoxy, right interpretation of the Word, and right and proper praise [that] underpin Christian ecclesial life” is not up for grabs, is not some human invention, but it must nonetheless be recognized and embraced by the human followers of Christ within the church. Conciliar life undergirds covenant not because councils and their members do not “err”; just the opposite. Conciliar life undergirds covenant because it is the formal agency of the erring Church’s act of constant re-conversion to the truth. It does not supersede the truth; it apprehends it within the historical life of the Church, which includes her many failures. Is there a place in this – and not simply a possible place but even a necessary place – for learning from the Global South? For all the failures and continuing failures, I believe this is already happening, precisely through these conciliar structures that have been emerging over the past few years. In this sense, the “status quo” is not so much being calcified as it is, in its uncovering of its authentic roots and purposes, being transformed.

No comments: