The Covenant as Fruitcake

I was at a meeting of my diocese's Covenant Task Force last week. We are working on educational resources to inform the parishes and members about the proposed Anglican Covenant. The topic of other covenants came up, especially the Lambeth Quad and the one based on the Marks of Mission. I noted that they are both there in the proposed draft, and the following image occurred to me:

The elements of the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Marks of Mission, and bits of Scripture and dollops of assorted Anglican Premises have been folded into the batter of the Anglican Communion Covenant like so many raisins, candied citrons, cherries, and whatever those semi-gelatinous green things are, go to form part of the conglomerate of Fruitcake.

It has long been observed that few people actually eat Fruitcake, and yet this does not prevent its seasonal appearance as a "gift-giving opportunity." Someone once wrote that his family used fruitcakes towards building a fallout shelter in the basement. (Remember fallout shelters?) So people keep giving them to each other, in spite of not actually eating them. And it would be considered rude to refuse one, or, once the habit has commenced and taken root, suddenly to stop giving them. They serve as tokens of affection or respect, rather than as food.

It strikes me that the Covenant has become a Fruitcake. We are being urged to adopt it and accept it, in spite of the fact that it offers little in the way of novelty towards solving any of the current or possible future woes of the Communion. It confers no powers on any bodies or individuals they don't already have, though it lays out patterns by which recommendations can be made to those bodies or individuals that might lead them to take actions they could well take without the recommendations. It imposes no mandatory restraint on anyone beyond a call to self-restraint, with the possible consequence of changes in relationships -- which changes, some of real consequence, also have happened and could happen without the Covenant being adopted.

In short, the Covenant is a Fruitcake: we can smile nicely and say thank you, and put it in the cellar with all the other fruitcakes (many a well-meaning scheme or resolution of General Convention or Lambeth or the United Nations); we can refuse it with an equally polite smile, and watch faces fall and lips quiver at this implicit rejection of affection. For Fruitcake it is: a token of habitual affection; and little more.

I continue to be torn between these options, and am grateful for the time remaining before the virtual postal worker struggles up the walk with the burden of the 6-lb. confection, and General Convention is forced to say either, "Why, how nice!" or "Return to Sender" or something in between.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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