Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year opinions

We need social networking, but more of it should be in the real world rather than online, writes Julia Neuberger in the Guardian.

Richard Moth writes in The Times about Serving in Afghanistan with a true spirit of self-giving.

You can read and watch The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Covenant fatalism (almost). (TA will have a roundup of reactions to the final Anglican Covenant proposal soon.)

Pat Ashworth wrote in the previous edition of the Church Times about diocesan missioners. See Taking stock and doing something.

In that issue, Peter Thompson wrote that The Noughties live up to their name.

And today Andrew Brown writes in the Guardian about Leicester. See Here, everyone is a minority.

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Categorised as: Opinion

Giles Fraser's Church Times article is puzzling at best. Only after many paragraphs of beating around the Covenant bush do we finally get to what seems to be Fraser's position.

He finally says of the Covenant that "We must fight it on the beaches." But this is the last sentence of his article!

If that is his position, why all the hemming and hawing that precedes it? Surely his position can be put more persuasively?

If the proper response to Dr. Williams's Covenant is Churchillian resistance -- a view with which I agree -- then why so much wet-noodle tergiversation?

Fraser's fatalistic navel-gazing is a model of how not to oppose the Covenant.

It is time for those within the Church of England who oppose the proposed Covenant to say so -- and to say so in clarion terms.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 1:38pm GMT

Giles Fraser is correct in his analysis that the 'covenant' will be pushed through by the most underhanded, dissembling means at hand. He is also correct that it is designed to exclude and expell - not a gospel imperative at all is it? Time for the Churches to reject it without comment. And keep rejecting it. It is also time to stop inviting Dr. Williams to speak outside his province.

Posted by: sr. holy house on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 4:24pm GMT

Giles Fraser's article reads so oddly because it really is too late to fight the Covenant. It will come into effect inevitably, and, as inevitably, the Americans will be expelled from the Communion, because, no matter what the Lambeth spin, the only purpose the Covenant has ever had is the "disciplining" of the Americans.

It was not clear to the chief players, twenty years ago when they hatched their plot, that they would end by expelling the entire American province, and almost as an afterthought, the Canadians too. They thought that only a tiny minority of American Episcopalians supported LGBT inclusion. It would be easy to knock them off, while the "shock and awe" would frighten C of E liberals into silence and compliance. They were wrong, as the Archbishop of York realized when he finally went to a TEC General Convention, and saw that the reverse was true -- inclusion was supported by a majority of 10 to 1. So, like George Bush in Iraq, the plotters launched their hubristic war against the American Church thinking it would all be over in a matter of months -- and it has ground on for years, as a damaging war of attrition.

Nor could the plotters have realized that secular society would swing hard against the homophobia they counted on to be the chief weapon against the liberals. Even in far more religious America, Christianity's self-identification with homophobia has done it considerable damage among the young. Thus, their Pyrrhic victory leaves them with Church of England that represents only a minority of bigoted fanatics among the English.

Yet Church of England liberals did little or nothing to resist. Nobody wanted to break ranks, or damage their careers, or seem to be insufficiently post-colonial, or be seen in public associating with Those Awful Americans. Everybody said the Church of England would muddle through somehow. Last fall, when +Wright announced that the Americans would be expelled from the Communion even if they signed the Covenant -- that was the last possible moment to change the course of events, and, though there was a little huffing and puffing from a few of the inclusive groups, nothing really happened. So it's over, the Covenant and the Ugandans are in, and the Americans and Canadians are out.

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 5:24pm GMT

Will there still be an honoured place in the Church of England for those traditionalists who in conscience cannot agree with the innovation of the Covenant? Hmmmmm.

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 6:05pm GMT

Charlotte is spot on. I'm not sure it has been a full 20 years, but there must have been several years planning leading to the official declaration of war by the neo-zealots. I seem to recall this was the Kuala Lumpur Statement of February 1997 ?

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 7:44pm GMT

"So it's over, the Covenant and the Ugandans are in, and the Americans and Canadians are out."

For this American, that's just fine. We won't have to pretend to have a faith in common with the bigoted and murderous Ugandans and others, and we won't have to pretend that His Fuzziness has anything worth saying about anything. He can cuddle up to the Ugandans and others of that ilk all he wants. By now he's lost the teeny tiny box where he hid his spine and his balls.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 8:21pm GMT

I mostly agree with Charlotte (as I often do) BUT I'm not sure the Covenant is inevitable, since a lot of people in the C-of-E are against it. Speak up, boys (and girls) and say it like it is.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 8:47pm GMT

Actually, the GAFCONITES boycotted Lambeth & the North Americans were present, so "who is in and who is out" is rather puzzling. But the Covenant has always been fruit from a poisoned tree -- from the beginning its purpose has obviously been punitive & contrary to the Gospel.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 11:37pm GMT

I followed Giles’ train of thought completely; I was with him all the way to the end.

It seemed a very Anglican way of reasoning to me and an inspiration to those who have struggled honestly with the Covenant from day one.

I think Charlotte may be underestimating by a decade the planning that has led to this moment, but I hardly think we are at the end of the Covenant development. I would say we are at the point where for some Anglican churches a Covenant will come to define the way they relate to each other, though I believe the present wording of the Covenant will change over the next ten years and that some churches will even then only adopt parts of the final Covenant.

I strongly support the view that this Covenant must be resisted and repelled because it will inevitably cause MORE divisions and confusion than presently exists. We have already seen the ecumenical reason for the Covenant blown out of the water by Benedict and the CDF in a move that has left the RCC deeply riven by its unheralded announcement. I would venture that as the Anglican Ordinariates are established they will cause even deeper divisions as the English Roman Catholic bishops already suspect.

In a mistaken attempt to appease some conservative North American diocese the door has been opened for individual diocese to respond to the Covenant - the fissiparous consequences of this will destabilise even some unsuspecting Global South Churches.

Already I have heard several suggestions how churches can sidestep the Covenant – some quite interesting – one such was for Wales’ Governing Body to accept the Covenant while all six diocese subsequently reject it. Another was for the provincial and diocesan structures to adopt and reject different parts of the Covenant and to call for a host of amendments.

I continue to maintain that there has been no adequate preparation, consultation or debate over the Covenant – the papers on the ACO website are (in the main) poorly thought and demonstrate how few Churches have bothered to take the matter seriously even the Lambeth bishops couldn’t manage to be enthusiastic.

What we must watch for are the proposed changes in the constitution of the ACC – these might be of greater significance and need to be challenged.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 12:15am GMT

I like reading Fraser's comments, and this one is no exception. Little gem, recognizing that the covenant is a pre-nup not the mutual pledge of sacramental relationship it so likes to style itself to be. Another thing I like is the clearly weary tone that admits progressive believers (and lots of other Anglicans, too?) have been dragged reluctant into the whole realignment-schism-conservative war mess.

The church life parallels for USA folks, with the Iraq War, well, are just to close to be ignored.

In place of the trumped up drums and marching about weapons of mass destruction, our church life has seen lots of marching and heard lots of drums and gun waving (swoosh, swoosh) from conservative Anglicans - who notice, at the moment, are not yet officially Anglicans any longer (how strange can it get?) - all about how straight folks would be damaged and contaminated if queer folks were allowed to survive and thrive at school, work, neighborhood life centers, parliaments or assemblies or congresses, and gasp, even in church life.

Actually, if one reaches back to the beginnings of IRD - the war has been in prep for more decades than many Anglicans might think; and more indebted to USA right Dominionist Theology than many believers might discern. One only has to read the work of Sara Diamond, Ana Maria Ezcurra, Andrew Weaver and others.

If we shift from the queer folks stuff to womens ordination fear of dirt and danger, then the war has been in preparation for even longer?

If – When? - state and church murder in Uganda and/or elsewhere become the operative (de facto and de jure) Anglican global norms against which nobody will dare to act lest their province be brought up on new covenant charges of stepping over established punitive boundaries, we will indeed have a sign. A sign, belated.

She who has ears will probably hear what the Spirit is saying to us; indeed Fraser and others are already hearing. IRD planned way in advance to win an Anglican Church War drummed up over queer folks as the presenting flat earth difficulty. Even if that seems to be coming true via the new covenant with Chesire Cat Canterbury floating large in the air, we must keep on following Jesus of Nazareth despite Anglican church life falling off the cliffs into a turbulent sea of nothing but blind orthodoxism paroxysms.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 12:51am GMT

Nothing too odd in RWs new year sermon; except the invisible footnotes at the end and hanging over all of his encouraging remarks.

He finishes by saying: God help you make a difference; and God bless you all and those you love in this coming year. Really?

Asterisk One is naturally the whole Queers Keep Out of Anglicanism banner. Queer Folks can just go make a positive difference in society among people outside church life, thank you very much. So that is what will happen.

Asterisk Two is probably that familiar, similar banner: No Uppity Women in Theology and Church Life, Please. Will a woman not dutifully in step behind a brother, husband, father always be a sign of New Anglican Trouble?

A covenant is not going to fix either hot button flat earth dilemma problem right up fine. Nor fix up Uganda by sprinkling holy water on state and cultural murder, intended as self-defense in the hearts of all the fearful believers. This Happy New Year will indeed see things unfold. My resolution? Don't stop following Jesus of Nazareth, regardless. Surely Easter Morning awaits all Anglicans with great surprise, shining with great light.

PS, Note again to progressive Anglicans: Immediately after signing off on the covenant, fresh charges must be submitted against the usual suspects. Look at how useful the Calvary case proved to be in the long run as Pburgh came apart at the conservative seams. The English situation calls for some thought and planning, since the church is established? Boundary crossers must be accused, fast, in all the big high covenant forums. Probably also the African and Asian churches who so proudly mistreat queer folks - charge the folk tradition lies, too, which categorically fail to distinguish between sexual assault or child abuse and competent-ethical adult queer citizenship in daily life.

But don't take any of all that new covenant dudgeon too seriously. All the covenant and prosecutions are basically an IRD planned game, artificial, not God's work, witness, worship, service. Still, viewed alternatively, suing under the new covenant might still serve some limited, positive, progressive Anglican aims.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 1:18am GMT

Like Giles Fraser, the Convenant makes me feel slightly ill not particularly because of what is in it (although that is objectionable enough in and of itself) but because of its very existence.

As that well known Marxist PoMo radical, Geoffrey Fisher, said, "The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning."

It was enough for centuries; it ought to be enough now; whether it still can be enough now is a question I do not have an answer to, although like Fraser I fear the worst.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 2:42am GMT

Contrary to the views of Charlotte, Neil, Cynthia, and Sara, I believe that the English need to get their backs up against the metaphorical wall before their natural disinclination to tolerate allowing someone to bully them will take over.

With respect, do you all really believe that most of the active parishioners in England want to become aligned with the bullies of Central Africa, and their distinctive minority allies in the Global North?

Do you really believe that most of them are content to separate themselves from their American and Canadian cousins?

Do you really believe that the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales, and the Church of Ireland, as well as provinces in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some others, will tolerate such an exclusion?

For my part, as uncomfortable as the new "silent majority" in England are making me with their reticence, I do not believe that the Covenant will be allowed to stand, parliamentary consents aside.

I believe that it will be dead on arrival, to be effectively debated ad infinitum.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 3:44am GMT

I don't think that most active parishioners in England know much about the Covenant or care either way. They're active in their parish and with their local mission projects.
And if someone tells them that their parish may no longer be able to sustain its links with the needy school in an African village they're supporting, they'll only ask why we can't just sign this covenant and then get on with it as we always have done.

America and Canada don't feature much in most Christian's daily thinking here, whereas pictures of smiling African children at their schools adorn many parishes notice boards and pictures of HIV ravaged African orphans are a staple on prayer boards.

You can call that a shocking lack of awareness or a focus on what really matters. But either way, it won't translate into a mass campaign against the Covenant.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 2:53pm GMT

You are absolutely right, Erika, the majority of parishioners - and indeed many priests- in the Church of England know little or nothing about what the Covenant is and don't care. That is not to say that they don't care about the issues ( although I think many of them are just sick of all the squabbling and just want peace and quiet!)

Very few people are aware of the increasingly conservative direction of the Church and will probably swallow the sanitised version of the Covenant as something to "help us all get along together without fighting".

There will not be a "mass campaign" against the Covenant - and no campaign at all unless some liberal bodies take a stand.

Posted by: suem on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 4:32pm GMT

For Erika

You raise a very good and fair point. Thank you.

But, does that mean there is nothing in the English press about the attempt to create a brand new structure, binding the Church of England in ways not seen before?

Or does that mean that parishioners of the Church of England don't bother reading the English press?

I also appreciate today's citation by Gerry Lynch of an assessment by Archbishop Fisher:

"The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning."

Is that judgment unknown to the clergy and parishioners of the Church of England, or was it instead rejected at the time or subsequently?

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 5:21pm GMT


There are articles in the press. Not many, you'd have to follow the religious press or the religious news.

Even then, "binding the Church of England in ways not seen before" doesn't sound terribly threatening. What's wrong with friends forming closer ties and formalising some of them?

Unless you know the full history and the drift of the Anglican Communion, you will not necessarily pick up that this is a restraining, centralising piece of paper, and you might think it's all primarily aimed at keeping lgbt people out of the church. You might not agree with that stance, but you're unlikely to feel strongly enough about it to make a big fuss about the covenant.

You could conceivably believe that signing it will have no real major consequences... your parish doesn't have a gay priest, so why would it bother you?
And if you did care about lgbt people, you would still believe that the current system of don't ask don't tell, bless relationships in private etc. can continue. You would not really believe that a fuss in America will have consequences for your own worship.

And you will think it's all a storm in the teacup and not as important as getting Mrs Smith to the doctor on time, ensuring that Mr Jones is on the prayer list and that someone has replied to the last letter from the African link parish.

The CoE has always been a broad tent, a place for live and let live, for tolerance, and as Suem says, very few people have understood or experience in their own life that this is no longer the case.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 7:46pm GMT

"What's wrong with friends forming closer ties and formalising some of them?" - Erika -

My eye caught this fragment of Erika's article suggesting that the majority in the pews are hardly aware of the kerfuffle that is going on in the broader scheme of things in the Communion.

Although I live in New Zealand, I have relatives and friends in the UK, and I do visit from time to time, and my conversation with Anglicsns in the C.of E. shows that most people are largely unaware of the 'spiritual warfare' that is going on in the corridors of power on sexuality issues.
Most are accepting of the fact that some of their friends in the Church, both clergy and lay, are L.G.B.or T., and - provided they do not provoke public scandal - they are accepted.

The same goes for the average Anglican's view on women in ministry. Where they are active in parishes, most people accept their presence as a mark of the universality of Christian witness. Their gender is hardly a source of controversy. I suspect, too, that many ordinary Anglicans are wondering why the fuss about the prospect of women Bishops; when women Prime Minsters, Heads of Government, Chief Justices and other public functionaries are 'de rigeur' in the community?

The undergirding culture of 'Dont ask, don't tell', which once survived in the temporal world, is now seen as rather hypocritical in the Church; which has a tradition of open accountability - at least in enlightened societies. Everyone knows that Gays are part and parcel of both Church and Society. What is it that needs the prevailing culture of coverup? We are talking here about human beings made in the Image and Likeness of God the Creator - not aliens from out of space.

I always remember my old headmaster's favourite cliche: Honesty if the best policy. It works!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 5 January 2010 at 9:57pm GMT
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