Saturday, 3 July 2010

Two views about the Covenant

The Church Times published a leader column yesterday, Have the Mexicans started a wave?

This argues the desirability of seeking a supermajority of votes in the CofE General Synod:

…The records of the recent House of Bishops meeting, released this week, show that the House agreed not to propose special majorities when it comes to the vote in the General Synod. The decision is surprising, given the impact that the Covenant might have on the Church of England. Although the text contains no mechanical means whereby one province can influence the deliberations of another, it will obviously change matters to know that a decision might result in some form of severance from the Communion mainstream. This might not be a bad thing — greater responsiveness to each other is, after all, the object of the Covenant — but it will be a different thing.

As matters now stand, the implications if a province decides not to endorse the Covenant are unknown. The Covenant Working Group concluded that, in such an eventuality, “there should be the flexibility for the Instruments of Communion to determine an appropriate response in the evolving situation.” In other words, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, if time drags on, the Lambeth Conference would have to make something up. The C of E is not any old province, however, and were it to reject the Covenant, it is hard to see the project surviving. At the very least, the Archbishop of Canterbury would find it hard to support the Covenant without the backing of his Church. As so much rests on the vote, a two-thirds majority in the Synod would provide a clearer endorsement.

Paul Bagshaw has published an article today, Why the Covenant won’t work.

The Covenant will work in all sorts of ways, of course, some intended some predictable if unintended.

What it won’t do and can’t do, is what it says on the tin. It cannot ‘prevent and manage’ disputes:

This Commission believes that the case for adoption of an Anglican Covenant is overwhelming:

* The Anglican Communion cannot again afford, in every sense, the crippling prospect of repeated worldwide inter-Anglican conflict such as that engendered by the current crisis. Given the imperfections of our communion and human nature, doubtless there will be more disagreements. It is our shared responsibility to have in place an agreed mechanism to enable and maintain life in communion, and to prevent and manage communion disputes. (Windsor Report §119)

The reason it cannot ‘prevent and manage’ disputes is simple. If the Covenant mechanisms can be applied retrospectively (which is effectively what is being attempted) then these mechanisms are applied as it were from the outside of the dispute. They step in like courts and police to adjudicate and enforce an outcome – in this case the expulsion (in whole or part) of the offending members of the Communion…

A few days ago, he also published Just what will the Covenant cost?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 July 2010 at 3:13pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

I'm more with Bagshaw at the moment than with the CTers. In fact the CT piece reads very oddly indeed. Clearly, the covenant is not a new baby, and to just that extent, does not automatically merit the shared deference and one-way care that a new baby probably evokes among us, for any number of evolutionary, theological, ethical, and simple human reasons.

If the covenant is a new baby, CT words that stroke up our valiant fantasies that it will likely grow up fast, to become a doctor-geneticist who shines in his lab wearing a golden halo like a medieval saint painting - this baby is a male, isn't he? - and finds the cure for cancer, or hepatitus C, or HIV-AIDS, or the common cold - are odd and troubling in the extreme to any thinking Anglican. RW ought to be ashamed of himself is he even secretly broaches the covenant in his own mind and heart with such fatuous imagery? The CT Folks are also smart enough to know what spin doctoring they indulge, so I'm about as impressed as being greeted by a smarmy used car salesman down at the local car lots.

Dressing up RWs covenant as a new baby is an interesting parlor trick - with the spin doctor deck of symbolic analogy cards all stacked, one way.

Even if we run with the new baby image for a bit, we easily realize that many couples in strife who hope that a new baby will glue them together for all the best - themselves, the new baby, and the outside surrounding communities included - are doomed to disappointment. There is hardly a failure so keen as having a new baby, born into the deep, dark heart of the such irrefutable, relentless family strife - you know, exactly the sort of deep, unremitting strife which the Sex Wars have occasioned for Anglicans?

In such violent family climates, then, two outcomes are typical - neither one very welcome. The new baby is born into being a victim of the very strife which he (again, that marvelous maleness of the humble new baby as our savior?) was otherwise supposed to quell and calm and heal. The other outcome is also typical, and frequent. The new baby becomes a transmitter, an embodiment of the strife - he grows up to be a batterer, plain and simple. One says in retrospect, that he was sadly born into such a fate - and hushed tones are not out of place.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 3 July 2010 at 6:15pm BST

Actually, Dr Dan, I'm not so certain CT's endorsement of the Covenant is so ringing. They are correct to say that it is surprising that the HoB has not called for a higher level of endorsement by GS, precisely as they say because the impact of the Covenant, if adopted, would be so significant. But if they have not called for a super-majority, could it be because they fear it will not survive such a test? Yes, 2/3 would be a clearer endorsement. 50%+1 would be a squeaker and would reveal how weak the support for the Covenant really is. Such a win would be technically legitimate, but hardly anything to start building a new consensus on.

I truly hope that Paul Bagshaw is incorrect in believing that the Covenant is being pushed forward by the leadership of the Communion as a mechanism to push out the Episcopal Church. I have no doubt that's what the Global South have in mind, along with their rich American friends, but I hope the leadership have not sold out so completely. The expulsion of the Episcopal Church would be a great victory for the Global South, but a pyrrhic one, for it would also spell the end of the Anglican Communion. The next logical step would be a rush toward the Porvoo Communion as a more congenial forum.

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Saturday, 3 July 2010 at 10:05pm BST

"None of the provinces has yet rejected the Covenant, but neither can anybody be confident that it will come smoothly through the provincial processes that are currently working towards a verdict." - Leader, 'Church Times' -

This, surely, is not quite correct. To my certain knowledge. my own Province of Aotearoa/New Zealand has already indicated that it would not be happy with Section 4 of the proposed Covenant Document as it now stands. While admitting that the first 3 sections might be subscribed to - as a formulaic agreement on the Creeds and other formularies agreed to so far by members of the Communion, the General Synod of our Province has signalled its profound dis-satisfaction with the disciplinary measures spelled out in Section 4. Seemingly, then, one might suppose that, unless Section 4 is changed radically, the Covenant is not acceptable - to at least one Province of the Communion.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 4 July 2010 at 3:59am BST

The Church Times piece stops just short of its real point, it seems to me.

The English bishops opted for a simple majority because they are afraid that they may have trouble securing even that - and they are certain that a 2/3 supermajority is simply impossible.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Sunday, 4 July 2010 at 7:31am BST

"The English bishops opted for a simple majority because they are afraid that they may have trouble securing even that - and they are certain that a 2/3 supermajority is simply impossible."

So why do they alone get to set the rules? Doesn't anyone else [like priests, deacons, lay people] have a say?

I'm afraid, even after reading this site for several years,that the arcana of C of E legislative process confuses me [as ours evidently still confuses some on your side of the pond].

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 4 July 2010 at 8:43pm BST
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