Comments: General Synod Answers to Questions

Would you buy a used car from the Bishop of Manchester?

Posted by poppy tupper at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 11:53am GMT

On the issue of whether or not the CofE can take direction from the primates....This is an issue that has long been of interest to me going back to praemunire and later Elizabeth. I believe that TEC faces a similar concern, "off-shore" control being given to an external body. The question is one of voluntary participation in an association or confederation vs granting actual power to some sort of suzerain. I have wondered if the Church of Nigeria or Kenya or Tanzania would be equally disposed. Nigeria has removed from its constitution (2005) any reference to Canterbury but a reference does remain in the constitutions of other members of the GS Core. TEC's reference to the Anglican Communion is exclusively in its Constitution's preamble, not in its articles, and could be construed as descriptive rather than proscriptive.

Posted by EPfizH at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 1:31pm GMT

Thank God for the Crown.

Posted by bobinswpa at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 5:10pm GMT

Mr William Fittall's answer is both illuminating and disturbing. For some time I have wondered about what it would take to give the C of E the power to sign an Anglican Covenant, assuming all along that it would have legal difficulty doing so.

The key issue here is that of Provincial Autonomy, which is an essential feature of Anglicanism, and stems directly from Article 37. The trouble in the case of the Church of England is that autonomy is guaranteed, not as a principle in itself, but because the Established Church is subject to royal authority and to the sovereignty of Parliament. The question that arises from this answer is whether a disestablished Church of England would be willing to hand over its autonomy to a body empowered by a Covenant to exercise coercive jurisdiction over the Provinces of the Communion. Given royal supremacy, this question need not be debated in the Chuch of England, but the absence of Establishment in every other Province means that they cannot evade that debate.

The continued pressing for assent to a Covenant of some sort is problematic when the Church of England is not in a position to sign on. Clearly the C of E cannot legally sign a Covenant which in some way interferes with its Provincial Autonomy. That being the case, why should any other Province be pressurised to do so? This element of the proposal for a Covenant is the crux of the future of the project. For it is evident that a Covenant which provides for the coercive "discipline" of Provinces of "restraint" of their otherwise autonomous actions is a non-starter for the Church of England, and I daresay for a number of other Provinces, including TEC, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Wales, Scotland for starters. But a Covenant without such elements is a non-starter for the Global South, who clearly demand the power to coerce the Western Provinces. (What they will do when this power is turned on them is another question).

When it comes time to sign a Covenant, will the Church of England say, in effect, "sorry, chaps; love to sign but can't - Establishment, you know. Bad luck." And will they say it with a straight face? And what are the consequences of the Church of England not signing on to the Covenant?

Why exactly are we spending so much effort, not to mention money, on designing a Covenant when the C of E simply cannot sign, and the willingness of other Provinces to sign will depend on details which will of necessity make it impossible for half the Provinces to agree, either way?

By all means, a modest statement of who we are as a Communion, without coercive elements, would be acceptable to many, and very probably possible for the Church of England to sign (though even here we would need to check on its aithority to sign what amounts to an international treaty) but that would be rejected by the Global South.

"The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England." Neither doth the Archbishop of Abuja, nor any other foreign Prelate. If we sacrifice Provincial autonomy in the hope of saving the Communion we will have sacrificed a fundamental element of Anglican identity for what will, I fear, amount to no more than the temporary illusion of unity.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 5:21pm GMT

"For it is evident that a Covenant which provides for the coercive "discipline" of Provinces of "restraint" of their otherwise autonomous actions is a non-starter for the Church of England, and I daresay for a number of other Provinces, including TEC, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Wales, Scotland for starters. But a Covenant without such elements is a non-starter for the Global South, who clearly demand the power to coerce the Western Provinces. (What they will do when this power is turned on them is another question)". - Nom de plume -

Clearly, this assertion by Nom-de-plume here must surely be considered by all parties before any of them (especially the Church of England) embark on an enterprise of prescriptive Covenantal relationship which cannot, legally, be embarked upon from the outset. Of what use would be a Covenant which cannot be signed by the Canterbury Founding See?

What are the legal implications for the C.of E., nevermind the other prospective partners?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 8:46pm GMT

Nom de Plume said "Why exactly are we spending so much effort, not to mention money, on designing a Covenant when the C of E simply cannot sign, and the willingness of other Provinces to sign will depend on details which will of necessity make it impossible for half the Provinces to agree, either way?"

The psychologists have a word for it- a displacement activity.

Defined as "In animal behaviour, an action that is performed out of its normal context, while the animal is in a state of stress, frustration, or uncertainty. Birds, for example, often peck at grass when uncertain whether to attack or flee from an opponent; similarly, humans scratch their heads when nervous."

We all know the covenant is a doomed dead-end, but it saves us having to deal with the real issues, and gives us the comforting sense of doing something.

Simon Dawson

Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 9:51pm GMT

Simon

We call it busy work (in education). Liked the post.

Posted by bobinswpa at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 12:49am GMT

When asked how the CofE will sign-up to the Covenant.

Officials say: "Where there is a will ......"

I realise this doesn't take this discussion any further on - but I have posed the dilemma to those involved in the Design Group - and that was the response.

At the time the Covenant was first mentioned there was some talk of changing the Constitution of the ACC to include the provisions of the Covenant as a way of avoiding certain problems - and I have heard it suggested that an Act of Parliament will be neccessary and (again) if there was "the will" this would be sought..... but I haven't heard any more about these since

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 9:52am GMT

Simon:

Agreed. Thank you for your analysis.

Martin:

The key question is the will, and I think that the issue of whether the C of E has such a will is being evaded by raising the vires. Sure, an Act of Parliament (or a Measure, which has the same force) could create the power for the C of E to sign, but then they would have to debate the substantive question. So much easier to hide behind the skirts of Royal Supremacy.

Part of what bothers me is that I don't see much official debate on the substantive issues. The necessity of a Covenant has been generally conceded without debate, and now the process is moving inexorably toward implementation.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 12:44pm GMT

Yes, I agree there is something rather empty in all the work I have been doing on the Covenant – It feels so insubstantial.

Take the matter of the statistics recently reported to the Design Group on the responses from Lambeth.

There were 670 questionnaires issued at the Lambeth conference – only 370 bothered to fill them in and only 343 of these find their way into the statistical survey! So though they claim some 64% approval for the idea of a Covenant – in fact only 37% of those polled at Lambeth registered their contentment and only just over 24% of the bishops eligible to vote are known to be content.

The attempt to poll those not present has not been a success, we are told. In this case silence cannot be seen as consent – indeed rather the opposite might be assumed.

That 300 bishops should have shrugged their shoulders and trashed the questionnaire is an amazing fact bearing in mind how vital to the future of the Communion this new covenanted relationship was claimed to be. There was a massive input at Lambeth, Drexel’s introduction no fewer than FIVE separate lectures on the present draft – TWO whole indaba sessions – and still 45% of the bishops who TURNED UP – and were a captive audience - couldn’t be bothered to comment in this short questionnaire..

Taking into consideration the pathetic responses to the Covenant from the Communion’s Provincial structures – it is plain to see that there is no will for this – no will at all. If I were associated with this proposal I would be ashamed at the lack of genuine engagement that Provinces (other than TEC!) have shown to this proposal, and the failure of the Lambeth bishops to engage and approve of it.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 2:57pm GMT

Cont.
In the Lambeth Bishops & Design Group’s Lambeth Commentary http://www.aco.org/commission/covenant/docs/a_lambeth_commentary.pdf on the Covenant (where much of the above information can be found) there are many points that make me smile and sometimes break into laughter.

Just one is the laboured points made in response to question 12 – What if a Church does not sign the covenant?

The response fails to grasp that many Churches have been in covenanted relationships with other Churches for decades. These relationships are often very strong and sometimes more tangible and real than those within the Anglican Communion. There is also now the Jerusalem Declaration which equally might be seen to establish a HIGHER ORDER of covenanted relationship than that offered by the present St Andrew’s draft. So the level of communion between two churches who have accepted the Jerusalem Declaration might well be of a higher order even if one has signed the Anglican Covenant and one has not.

I can well imagine that if one of the Celtic Churches voted not to accept the Anglican Covenant preferring to remain as they always were, and the others decided to covenant – then another “Celtic Covenant” might then be drafted outlining what has been the case in practice and describing the intimate relationship that exists between these sister churches. The Lambeth Commentary says no other relationship will have the “same peculiarity” as those framed by the Anglican Covenant – and while that may be technically true it fails to say that other relationships might have a higher claim on a member Church. If this covenant proceeds then I predict many churches will want to follow GAFCON and define their relationship with one another more precisely.


As to the Cof E’s engagement with the covenant as raised by Nom de Plume – well initially the whole thing was sold to Synod as a vote to support Rowan Williams in his attempt to fix the Communion’s problems and so it hardly go a mention first time around and more recently the debate was rather poor and failed to address many core issues.


Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 2:58pm GMT

Martin raises the results of the Lambeth survey on the Covenant. It is worth remembering that the survey results showed widespread discomfort with the role of the primates.

(Spontaneously recalled a reference from the cartoon Madagascar, where a certain primate - ie, a chimpanzee, but still, a primate - says, "If you have any poo, fling it now." I am overwhelmed by a new metaphor for the primates' meeting.)

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 6:03pm GMT

Thanks, Nom de Plume, for this excellent summary of the difficulties, based on the Articles of Religion, and the whole idea of the National Church, which lies at the heart of Anglican self-understanding. My suspicion is this is an aspect of Anglicanism towards which some, most especially perhaps the ABoC himself, is not warm, as he looks towards the AC being more like the RCC, a world-church. Recall as well his early opinions on disestablishment.

But the idea of the monarch as a check to outside interference has equally "catholic" roots, if one applies it to the concept of the Emperor being the appropriate summoner of a Council. It is all tied up with very old ideas about what monarchy is in the divine plan. And it is good to remember that there are traditions and traditions.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 10:59pm GMT

One can be hopeful that, during this week of meetings of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council, attended by Lay Clerical and Episcopal members, there will be some straight talking about the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed 'Covenant".

Also, there might be some discussion of the shenanigans to be enacted shortly in the Illinois proclamation of a 'Third Province' of the Communion. It is hoped that some sort of message will be sent to the re-Asserters, that such schismatic behaviour will render them no longer part of the official Anglican Communion.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 9:36pm GMT
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