The Church of England is about to decide on The Covenant, the new arm of anglican unity, or the end of anglicanism as we know it - depending upon your standpoint.
Personally, on the whole, as an anglican evangelical, I am very much against it.
We have the catholic creeds. We have the thirty nine articles. We have the prayer books. And we have a history of understanding that the church is a big place, and that within its walls we will all fall out with each other but still belong to Jesus. I'm not sure why we think a new document (regularly updated to reflect the latest fads in ethical or theological infighting) will help. All it will do is help point out what those fads are and what the factions are that are enjoying the fight.
Hardly the stuff of John 17, is it?
O, it's possible that one side or another may enjoy the odd 'victory', but I refer you to my previous sentence.
Now: my conservative evangelical friends are having apoplexy, and are beginning to write their comments already - how unevangelical I sound, how cheaply I am selling our scriptural heritage, how easily I abandon the importance of doctrine which the covenant will help us preserve in these dangerous days.
The Covenant will be re-written at regular intervals, by the predominant party of its day. If the evangelicals are feeling powerful today, they should remember it's barely twenty years since they were all but non-existant, and perhaps wonder what the Covenant would feel like if re-drawn in such circumstances. It's a flexible tool. To make the majority feel good, and to whip into shape the recalcitrant few. It's ecclesiastical bullying. Hmm. Blessed are the meek, anyone? Sorry, just for a second I forgot to sell my scriptural heritage cheaply enough.
As Anglicans, we have never set our store by the mass acceptance of secondary theology - adiaphora. We have held to the old adage of in things essential, unity; in things inessential, liberty; and in all things, charity. The Covenant seeks to firm that up a little... or rather, to take away a little liberty. And charity. Gordon Brown would like it, I suppose, as long as he was writing it. It suits the spirit of an age where the powers that be want a little less freedom around the place.
But wasn't it for freedom that Christ has set us free? Sorry. More Scripture interfering again.
As an evangelical, I have to trust the power of God through his Spirit at work in the believer's heart, and the love of Christ transforming each believer, and the inspiration of the Scriptures conforming us to the character of Jesus as we seek to know him more. As an Anglican, I have to accept humbly that I am not the only person in the big house of faith and that (occasionally) I will learn something of my Lord from my brothers and sisters around me. It seems to me that God in his mercy did not require his Son to say during his earthly ministry - "O, and by the way chaps, unless you all agree on absolutely everything at all times, I think you should form a committee so that you can throw out those you don't much like".
Though I do recall St John saying words to the effect of, "Hey kids, come on, play nicely now."
There we go. That'll do. I'll sign up to that. If we're going to add to the Catholic Creeds, the Thirty Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer as the formularies of the Anglican Church, let's just add 1 John 3.18: "Hey kids, come on, play nicely now."