The Revd Mark Bennet, a priest in the Church of England, has recently written an opinion on the proposed Anglican Covenant, which he has kindly given permission to be published here.
A Covenant for the Anglican Communion: Not a Biblical idea
Remind yourself of all the ways in which the word “Covenant” is used in the Bible. The dominant idea, seen from Noah and Abraham through to Jesus is of a God initiated plan to bring sinful human beings back into relationship with him. The prophets, speaking in God’s name, refer to “my covenant”.
Then think about the prophetic commentary on the content of those covenants, including the extensive legal commentaries or penal provisions, which indicates how easily human beings revert to the letter of the law, rather than honouring its spirit – and apply that law to others, rather than applying it to themselves. We say that we are saved by grace, not by law, and yet it is so easy to act as if the opposite is true. What did Jesus say about such things?
I am reminded of Tony Hancock’s reworking of the film “Twelve angry men” – “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” Is this document with which we are faced worthy of being put alongside the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, of which we remind ourselves at every eucharist?
If legislation or formal documentation had been sufficient to restore relationships, our Biblical narrative would be very different, and have a different trajectory. In fact our salvation in Jesus points us in a wholly different direction, and reminds us that we cannot legislate for good relationships, only to mediate the arguments which happen in bad ones.
Because the direction of this “covenant” does not match the Biblical plan for restoring relationships, it will not work, and in fact will draw us away from the true Biblical path which we need to follow if we are to follow Jesus.
The Revd Mark Bennet
22 October 2011