Covenant, Contract, and Communion

I am continuing to read through the latest Anglican Theological Review (vol.87 num.4). This issue concerns the Windsor Report and what the essayists think our response to that report should be or what they consider to be the significant aspects of the report.
Harold T. Lewis, the moderate Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, PA(!) wrote an essay on the differences between “covenant” and “contract” and his experiences in a diocese that is headed by the leader of the reactionary movement within The Episcopal Church. And, I am just now reading the essay by Ephraim Radner, Rector of Church of the Ascension in Pueblo, Colorado. Radner tends to be conservative from a Catholic perspective. I truly like his essays!
The following paragraph from Lewis’s essay, Covenant, Contract, and Communion: Reflections on a Post-Windsor Anglicanism is significant, I think:

“I contend that this quintessential Anglican trait of an ability to allow for such differences,” (he earlier detailed some of the significant differences effecting the Communion right now – primarily revolving around homosexuality) “this covenantal existence that has, since the time of Richard Hooker, allowed for divergent views under the Anglican umbrella, no longer obtains. Anglicanism today has ceased to be guided by covenant, which understands the church to be supple. Instead, it is beginning to be guided by contract, which understands the church to be rigid. IN as assiduous and tenacious reverence for and reliance on laws – biblical, constitutional, canonical – Ecclesia Anglicana is exhibiting an unprecedented sense of distrust stems almost solely from the existence of divergent views on the subject of human sexuality. Specifically, many opine that any individual, diocese, or national church body that believes that homosexual persons can be fit for ordination, or that the church should consider recognizing same-sex blessings, has removed itself from the ranks of orthodox Christians…
“What makes such actions so troubling is that the theology of those who hold such views is deemed suspect, and their very fitness for ministry is called into question. Actions arising from such suspicions can have serious consequences…”
(pp 604-605)
The following is from Radner’s essay, Freedom and Covenant: The Miltonian Analogy Transfigured:

“…polity that is ‘open, democratic, and participatory – flowing out of the life of the community.’ ‘Autonomy’ within a culture of ‘democracy represents a vital piece of self-imaging for Episcopalians.’
“But is this understanding simply the result of ECUSA’s long immersion in an American culture, an appropriation of the secular foundations of American government?…
“There is a theology here. It does not, however, look much like the theology expressed by the eighteenth-century organizers of the Episcopal Church, whose interest in democratic voting was real, but limited (and certainly not universally shared). Instead, the biggest theological problem confronting the inventers of American Episcopalianism was
bishops themselves, and how to justify them in a political and religious context in which ‘prelacy’ was often attacked as intrinsically oppressive and seditious… William White’s goal for the yet-to-be established Anglican body in the United States was that it should provide a religious option from those who were drawn to ‘episcopal’ forms of ecclesial life and worship.
“Today’s historical-pneumatic claims to liberty on the part of defenders of ECUSA’s autonomy are something else altogether…. But, their shape, within the context of historical Anglican debate, is quite surprising: it turns out to be far closer to the reformed congregationalist radicalism of someone like John Milton than to anything resembling ‘Episcopal’ values. This similitude demonstrates the paradox – and the irony – of current ECUSA official theology in the debate about Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion. It appears as if the most extreme of anti-episcopal (‘anti-prelatical’) theologies is now wedded to an American ecclesial body distinctive precisely through its commitment to ‘prelacy.'”

Good stuff! I like Lewis’ focus on covenant rather than the legal black and white of contract, and the Body of Christ being supple rather than rigid. On the other hand, as I have been moving more towards a “Catholic” (not “Roman”) understanding of the Church, Radner’s emphasis on the unique situation of the American Episcopal Church being a church of prelates is important, since there is a move by both the “conservatives” and the “liberals” to push their views in a way that does seem more congregational than epsicopal.