Anti-Americanism and the Anglican Covenant

Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church discusses Canon Librarian at Norwich Cathedral Stephen Doll’s paper “Anglican Covenant – Bishop’s Council” which was circulated to all bishops in the Church of England. It intends to support voting for the Anglican Covenant and has the Archbishop of Canterbury’s approval (including the anti-American rhetoric):

This article is a response to the paper ‘Anglican Covenant – Bishop’s Council’ by Peter Doll, Canon Librarian at Norwich Cathedral. At the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion it was circulated to all the bishops in the Church of England. To have been given the Archbishop’s imprimatur is significant; presumably Dr Williams approves of its content, including the strong anti-American tone.

Here is the Conclusion in Clatworthy’s response:

Doll has presented many criticisms of American Anglicanism as arguments in favour of the Anglican Covenant. I have offered responses to each of them as I understand them.

The argument from hope for a new age seems to be a simple error, a lack of familiarity with New Testament scholarship. Two other arguments surprise us for appearing at all: the disapprovals, respectively, of elected bishops and the search for personal fulfilment. In these cases Doll settles for a minority view. Of the other arguments I have claimed that the majority, if accepted at all, turn out to be arguments against the Covenant. These are the arguments from imperialism, isolationism, individualism and truth, justice and communion.

This leaves two arguments which, if accepted, do present a case for the Covenant. These are the desire for greater integration at the expense of federation, and the opposition to rationalism. Greater integration can be established by two different means: uniformity of belief, or an agreed structure designed to protect diversity of belief within the one church. The Covenant would promote the former; Classic Anglican theology has in the past favoured the latter. Doll understands this only too well, and looks forward to the new authoritarianism. Others do not.

Similarly, the attack on rationalism illustrates a debate which has echoed through the centuries. Is there a proper place for individuals and communities today to question inherited religious beliefs and discover new insights? Or is it the duty of Christians to believe what they are told, accepting that divine revelation is supreme over the thoughts in the minds of mere humans? These two views have battled against each other since the later Middle Ages. The pendulum has swung back and forth, and Doll rightly sees that the Covenant would give it a decisive nudge away from human reason.

Again, some would welcome the change but others would not. Doll has, in the end, helped us to see just how high the stakes are.

To read the point by point refutation of Doll’s essay to to Modern Church.

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