David Virtue has handily published a talk by Lionel Deimel on the Anglican Covenant. Lionel is a leading progressive Episcopalian in Pittsburgh. Virtue's publication of the whole talk is here. Deimel's own commentary on excerpts from the talk (which he has published in full as a PDF) is here on his own blog. The talk as a whole is fascinating as it recounts some of the standard lines against the Covenant while not quite coming down completely on the side of TEC rejecting the Covenant: Deimel allows there is a case for TEC going with a discernible flow of Communion approval for the Covenant.
Here I want to pick up one point which I think represents an 'annoying truth' about the proposed Covenant which activists against the Covenant hurry past. Deimel's talk ends in this way:
" Rejecting the Covenant may or may not derail what seems like an unstoppable express, but, at the very least, we will not be complicit in destroying Anglicanism or paying for the destruction of our own church. In the end, our mission might be to pick up the pieces of the Anglican Communion and reconstitute them as a fellowship that is truly Anglican."
Truly Anglican! What on earth is 'truly Anglican'? Since the whole of the talk is intelligent, rational, and insightful it is right and proper that the word 'truly' is understood to mean something in this context. It is not a descriptive word thrown into the sentence as a flourish. 'Truly' has to do with 'true': there is a true Anglicanism which can be distinguished from a false Anglicanism. Further, 'truly Anglican' means some kind of definition going on as to what is true Anglicanism and what is not true Anglicanism. Indeed the sentence speaks about reconstituting broken Anglicanism, a task which implies knowledge of how to go about intentional work on Anglicanism compared with (say) letting Anglicanism randomly evolve. That word 'fellowship' implies some sense of a shared definition as well as intention. So 'truly Anglican' involves definition of what being Anglican means, and a shared definition at that. A definition which Anglicans make a decision to agree to. Finally, note that implicitly the reconstituted Anglican fellowship will not include those who do not buy into the definition of what is 'truly Anglican'.
Sounds like a Covenant with disciplinary teeth by another name!
This point has been made by me before on this blog. Despite the arguments against the Covenant sounding like the choice before us is to have a Covenant or to not have a Covenant, as long as we remain committed to being 'truly Anglican' then the choice before us is to have a written Covenant or an unwritten Covenant.
The advantage of a written Covenant over an unwritten Covenant is that we know what we are agreeing to with the former. With the latter shadowy players behind the scenes have ample opportunity to change the meaning to suit the occasion. Real Anglican democracy lies in the way of transparency with a written Covenant. True Anglican justice lies with a Covenant known to all signers and not with an unwritten Covenant the contents of which noone knows for sure.
It is an annoying truth about the Anglican Covenant that there will be a Covenant as long as Anglicans wish to distinguish true from false Anglicanism. We cannot escape the Covenant, we can only make a choice as to whether it will be written down or not.