This is the title of an essay by The Rev. John Kettlewell, Rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Schuylerville. The Rev. Kettlewell calls himself a lifelong, orthodox, Anglo-Catholic Christian. In his essay, Kettlewell+ turns the usual argument in favor of adopting a Covenant on its head. Rather than a defense of orthodox Anglicanism, the Covenant is argued to be irreverent, perhaps even tantamount to heresy. This is a strong indictment, based upon an alternate reading of the true nature of orthodoxy. Whether you agree with the argument contained in the essay or not, it is worth close consideration. Fr. Kettlewell has kindly allowed the essay to be reprinted here:
The Covenant is one more attempt to establish clearly and without confusion the nature of the Anglican Faith. My concern is that it diminishes, almost to an irreverent degree, the foundations of Christian orthodoxy and its very nature. The Creeds, with their richly symbolic language, embrace and embody the essence of our Faith. The liturgical life of the Church expresses that Faith. Why do we need a "covenant?"
The supporters of The Covenant represent something like the simplistic notion of the Fifth Century Christian thinker, St. Vincent of Lerins, who affirmed what apparently The Covenant is trying to affirm about Anglicanism: "Orthodox doctrine is what is believed everywhere, at all times, and by all." On the basis of that simplistic notion St. Vincent condemned the thinking of St. Augustine, one of the greatest of all the Christian theologians. The Encyclopedia Britannica says of his views, "...he was convinced that Catholicism held the truth and that any innovator who indirectly or directly destroyed any part of the truth was a heretic." Ironically, not long after his time, his views were strongly criticized by the writing of St. Prosper of Acquitaine. The so-called "Vincentian Canon" carried little weight in the history of Christian thought. It would not be possible to fit into that narrow box the thinking of the Greek and Latin Fathers, or of St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Anselm, or Richard Hooker, or Edward Pusey, or most, if not all, of the leading theological thinkers of Christian (and Anglican) history.
From The Christian Century: "British theologian Kenneth Leech says that "...the holding together of apparent contradiction and ambiguities is of the very nature" of what he calls "the orthodox project." For Leech, "it is heresy that attempts to oversimplify the problems, to quash the struggle." In Leech's terms, the whole aim of The Covenant would be "heresy." The chief purpose of The Covenant is to "quash the struggle." Leech says, "The rejection of paradox and ambiguity is the characteristic of heretics of all ages." Exactly what the purveyors of The Covenant are trying to do. "Heresy is one dimensional, narrow, over-simplified, and boring. It is straight-line thinking, preferring a pseudo-clarity to the many sidedness of truth, tidiness to the mess and complexity of reality. Orthodoxy by contrast is rooted in the unknowable." In other words, the whole idea of The Covenant has a distinctly "heretical" character.
We, the Church, are "stewards of God's mysteries" (1 Cor. 4:1) The irreverent aim of The Covenant is to abandon that responsibility, for the very human assumption that: We know what the Bible says. We know what is true, and anyone who disagrees is wrong, undermining the "mysteries" of true "orthodoxy" for the sake of simplistic clarity.
The Reverend John Kettlewell (a lifelong "orthodox" Anglo-Catholic Christian)