In response to the Primates' invitation to participate in discussion of the Draft Anglican Covenant issued by the Covenant Design Group in January of 2007 and released by the Primates for general discussion in the Church after their meeting in Tanzania in February, certain members of the School ofTheology Faculty sent the attached statement, drawn up by them after discussion, reflection, and prayer, to the House of Bishops. We hoped that it might contribute to their discussions. We emphasized (and emphasize)that it is a statement by the individual signatories, not a resolution by the faculty of the School of Theology as a whole. I now send it to you, ourcolleagues in the School of Theology, believing that you may be interested to see what we have said.
Your servant in Christ,
A Response to the Draft Anglican Covenant by Members of the Faculty of the School of Theology of the University of the South
We, the undersigned members of the Faculty of the School of Theology of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, welcome the opportunity to participate in the discussion of the Draft Anglican Covenant issued by the Covenant Design Group in January of 2007 and released by the Primates for general discussion in the Church after their meeting in Tanzania in February.
We are glad that, despite recent disputes and disagreements, our primates have been able to agree in a spirit of brotherly and sisterly love to such a comprehensive and thoughtful statement as this. That we should meet and listen to each other, not confronting each other with ideological rhetoric but rather seeking to understand and honor each other’s concerns, is surely the Anglican (and Christian) way.
Moreover, we commend much that is in the draft covenant as a noble and orthodox affirmation of Christian hope and commitment.
We believe, however, that there are elements in the covenant that will need further discussion and emendation.
This, we believe, is particularly true of Section 2 (“The Life We Share: Common Catholicity, Apostolicity, and Confession of Faith”).
First, we are, on the one hand, pleased that this section refers to all four elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, which our Anglican forebears explicitly described as “a basis” on which approaches might be made “by God’s blessing” towards Christian unity.1 All succeeding efforts and experience in approaching Christian unity, as well as much recent theological reflection (and not only by Anglicans) appears to us to underscore the wisdom of those who expressed their view of classical Anglicanism in this way. As the distinguished Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson has recently pointed out, precisely those four elements named in the Quadrilateral – the canon of Holy Scripture, the rule of faith ultimately and definitively expressed in the Creeds, the Sacraments, and the Historic Episcopate – emerged at roughly the same time in the Church’s history, and the Church decided that each of them was an essential and foundational constituent of its common life. These four elements therefore constitute – and should be seen as constituting – an organic and mutually reinforcing unity.2 Therefore we believe that Section 2, in naming these elements, is moving in the right direction.
On the other hand, we are concerned that while Section 2 does indeed mention all four elements, unlike the Quadrilateral, it does not present them side by side so as to make clear that they constitute a unity, and it mentions one of them – namely, the historic Episcopate – virtually in passing, and as one among other elements (such as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer) which, greatly though we value them as parts of our Anglican history, are hardly constitutive in themselves either of orthodox faith or of Christian unity and identity.
We therefore suggest that Section 2 be revised so as to cite the Quadrilateral in full, in more or less the form that it took in 1888. By that means, each of the four essential and foundational constituents of the common life of the church will be given its own proper weight, and this seminal moment in Anglican and Christian self-understanding will be given the recognition that it deserves. The remaining affirmations can then be adjusted accordingly.
Second, we note that when the authors of the Quadrilateral described the Nicene Creed as “the sufficient statement of the Christian faith” they were deliberately echoing the language of the Synodical Letter of the First Council of Constantinople to the western bishops.3 In view of our present difficulties, we find it important to recall that those who drafted that letter were, as they made clear at the time, especially concerned to commend that creed as a basis for establishing peace in the Church. Restoring the language of the Quadrilateral and thereby affirming the importance of the creeds in a separate statement (and not just as a part of the statement on Holy Scripture) reminds us of the historic role played by the rule of faith,4 which the creeds embody,5 in helping to determine the canon of scripture itself,6 and in informing and constraining the mind of the Church.
Third, we note that Subsection 4 of Section 2, as presently written, does not accurately represent the Anglican Communion wherein, in many provinces, the worship book in use is no longer called The Book of Common Prayer, even when it has virtually or actually replaced a previous text with that title (for example, A New Zealand Prayer Book: He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, An Anglican Prayer Book 1989, A Prayer Book for Australia, Common Worship), and wherein, in other cases, even where the title Book of Common Prayer has been retained, the 1662 book has played no significant role in its evolution for centuries (thus the American Episcopal Book of Common Prayer of 1789 and its successors were manifestly evolutions of the Scottish Episcopal book of 1637, rather than the English book of 1662).
In the light of the foregoing, therefore, we respectfully request,
first, that Section 2 of the Draft Covenant be re-written so as to incorporate explicitly all four elements of the Quadrilateral, substantially in the form in which our forebears stated them in 1888, and that other parts of the Draft Covenant be emended so as to be congruent with the Quadrilateral, and
second, that Section 2, Subsection 4, be redrafted to reflect the reality of the situation.
We are aware, of course, that the Anglican Communion faces significant and difficult issues other than those that we have touched upon in these observations and requests. Notably, we face issues surrounding the possibility of a division over a question of catholic moral theology, as opposed to division over an issue of catholic doctrine. Nevertheless, it is axiomatic that Christian theological ethics follow from Christian understanding of God.7 It seems to us important therefore that our initial statements with regard to doctrine be made with as much clarity and precision as possible, so as to give us a sound basis from which to proceed to discussion of those other issues. To this end, we attach a proposed revision of Section 2 of the Draft Anglican Covenant.
William S. Stafford, Dean and Professor of Church History
Donald S. Armentrout, Charles Todd Quintard Professor of Dogmatic Theology
William F. Brosend, Associate Professor of Homiletics
Walter B. Brownridge, Associate Dean for Community Life
Christopher Bryan, C. K. Benedict Professor of New Testament
Julia M. Gatta, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology
Robert D. Hughes, III, Norma and Olan Mills Professor of Systematic Theology
Guy Fitch Lytle III, Bishop Frank A. Juhan Professor of Anglican Studies and World Christianity
Susanna E. Metz, Assistant Professor of Contextual Education
James F. Turrell, Assistant Professor of Liturgics
Proposed Revision of Section 2 of the Anglican Covenant
2 The Life We Share: Common Catholicity, Apostolicity and Confession of Faith
(Deuteronomy 6.4-7, Leviticus 19.9-10, Amos 5.14-15, 24; Mark 1.14-15; Matthew 25, 28.16-20, 1 Corinthians 15.3-11, Philippians 2.1-11, 1 Timothy 3:15-16, Hebrews 13.1-17)
Each member Church, and the Communion as a whole, affirms:
1. that it is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
2. that in union with our forebears, it affirms the following as unique, irreplaceable, and foundational elements in our common life, and, under God, the basis of our and all true Christian unity:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith
2. The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
3. The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church
3. that it participates in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God;
4. that, led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and the Books of Common Prayer and other liturgical texts that have been authorized for use throughout the Anglican Communion;
5. that its loyalty to this inheritance of faith inspires and guides it, under God, to seek in its turn to bring the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and to make Him known to our societies and nations.
1 Lambeth Conference of 1888, Resolution 11.
2 Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997-99) 2.167-305, especially 239.
3 Regarding the faith of Nicea, the fathers said, “tauvthn gaÉr kaiÉ uJmi~n kaiÉ hJmi~n kaiÉ pa'si toi~" mhÉ diastrevfousi toÉn lovgon th~" a*lhqou~" pivstew" sunarevskein dei'” (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 5.9.11; text in Léon Parmentier, Theodoret Kirchenschichte [Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1911] 292). This is rendered in NPNF as “this is the faith which ought to be sufficient for you, for us, for all who do wrest not the word of the true faith” (NPNF [2nd series] 3.138, trans. Blomfield Jackson). Jackson’s (and the Lambeth fathers’) translation is actually somewhat over-restrained in its rendering of sunarevskein, which in normal usage signifies not merely that something is sufficient, but that it is satisfying and even pleasing (see LS sunarevskw): the point being, surely, that our acceptance of the catholic faith as expressed in the Nicene Creed is not merely a matter of submission, but of joyful affirmation, in the spirit of Mary’s enthusiastic “gevnoitov moi” (optative mood!) (Luke 1.38) at the promise of her role in the Incarnation.
4Traditionally “the rule of faith” refers either (1) (in its narrower sense) to those summaries of the faith that were already current in the Church in the apostolic age, which we have received in the form of the catholic creeds, and which were of central importance in the church’s discernment of which writings properly were in the canon and which did not belong there; or else (2) (in its wider and later sense) “the rule of faith” refers to God’s revelation in Holy Scripture as interpreted in the tradition and teaching of the Church (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds [London: Longmans Green, 1950] 206; Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler, Concise Theological Dictionary, Cornelius Ernst, O.P. ed, Richard Strachan, trans. [Freberg: Herder, 1965] 414). It is evidently in this second and wider sense that the Quadrilateral of 1888 spoke of the “Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments… as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith,” a claim which was then complemented by explicit affirmation of “the Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith” (Lambeth 1888, Resolution 11, sections [a] and [b]).
5 See e.g. The Oecumenical Documents of the Faith, T. Herbert Bindley, ed, revised F. W. Green (Methuen: London, 1950) 1-84; Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, Definitionum et decarationeum de rebus fidei et morum, Karl Rahner, ed., 31st edition (Freiberg, 1960) 1-6, 54, 86.
6 “Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae ecclesiae commoveret auctoritas” (Augustine, Contra epistolam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti: in Zycho, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 25.6.1, 197). Subsequently those Scriptures, which had their place in the canon because they witnessed to the church’s faith, were by that very fact given a place in grounding and governing the church’s faith. So Anselm: “Siquidem nihil utiliter ad salutem spiritualem praedicamus, quod sacra Scriptura Spiritus sancti miraculo foecundata non protulerit aut intra se non contineat” (Anselm, De Concordia q. 3, c.6 ; compare Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1, q1, a8; and Articles VI, VIII, and XX of the XXXIX Articles of the Church of England). An argument was thus created that is, of course, circular: the Scriptures are true because they witness to the faith of the church, and the faith of the church is true because it is witnessed to by Scripture. Nevertheless the circle was (and is) “benign” (Jenson, Systematic Theology 1.58), as those who drafted the Quadrilateral evidently knew.
7 Exodus 20.2-17; Mark 12.29-31, Romans 15.7, Philippians 2.3-15, 1 John 4.19; compare Article XII of the XXXIX Articles; see further Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.2.§36.2; Jenson, Systematic Theology 2.204-10; Rahner and Vorgrimmler, Concise Theological Dictionary 152, 296-98; Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (4th edition) (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007) 129; Owen C. Thomas and Ellen K. Wondra, Introduction to Theology (3rd edition) (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Morehouse, 2002) 100.