Comments: Anglican Covenant: another result and some comment

What I find interesting is that bishops are unable to carry their clergy and laity with them.

They have lost credibility and influence.

They need to get it back. They will have to earn it. It cannot be taken for granted.

Posted by badman at Friday, 2 March 2012 at 11:53am GMT

Liam Beadle's paper is excellent.I feel encouraged and built-up by it.

It is good to read something really grounded in reformed ideas for a change, rather than the endless diet of concepts derived from RC and anglo-catholic sources, and so often to me feel disconnected from English history, and the spirituality of the BCP. As the paper says, too often these ideas emphasise the role of bishops and provinces, in a fashion that simply is not anglican; and skews the balance of Christian discipleship and witness.

The lack of true democracy and the domination of the Church of England by bishops has had very damaging effects on the Church's life. Gagging lay people has had disastrous consequences for the church. The treatment of ministers has not been good either and with the erosion of freehold that will continue to get worse.

Posted by Mary Marriott at Friday, 2 March 2012 at 12:02pm GMT

Because I'm deeply sad and don't have a regular occupation or a real life, I've been crunching some of the numbers up on the Modern Church website. We're now about two-fifths of the way through the diocesan voting process, with 7 synods voting in favour of the covenant and 11 against. In itself this isn't especially telling, because the voting process is weighted - as it were - in favour of rejecting the motion (since it requires a majority in both the houses of clergy and laity to be passed and not just a simple majority overall).

But looking at the actual numbers of votes cast is a bit more revealing. By my count there have so far been 1195 votes cast in the houses of bishops, clergy, and laity. Of these, 591 votes (49.46%) were in favour of the covenant, 541 (45.27%) against, and 63 (5.27%) abstaining. But the gap closes if we exclude the 28 bishops, all but two of whom have voted in favour of the covenant. In the houses of clergy and laity alone, there have been 565 votes (48.41%) in support of the covenant, and 539 votes (46.19%) against.

Of course, all of this is quite irrelevant to the question of whether the covenant will eventually be returned to the General Synod. But it suggests an interesting picture: however you cut it, covenant supporters have a plurality of the overall vote but so far fall short of an overall majority. This is particularly telling when you consider the overwhelming support the covenant commands from the house of bishops. Overall, at this stage it looks to me like the covenant debate is sowing division rather than fostering the kind of consensus this process is intended to produce.

Posted by rjb at Friday, 2 March 2012 at 12:04pm GMT

I think I feel about the Covenant like Republicans feel about Mitt Romney. That is, it may well pass, but grudgingly and without conviction and in fear of something worse (whatever that might be).

It clearly doesn't carry unanimity, or even a clear majority within the C of E and the wider Communion. In this situation the only way for it to pass is with the votes of those who really do want it and for others to consider abstaining or voting against. I think having it pass after contestation is the only way to limit possible overextension of jurisdiction under Covenant procedures.

Of course if there is a sufficient shortfall of support, then either the Covenant will be 'parked' or be brought back in a different form. And so it goes. At least there will be dialogue.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 2 March 2012 at 7:20pm GMT

When there is so little consensus on the "consensus building mechanism" what hope is there for it? If they do this when the wood is green...

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 2 March 2012 at 9:57pm GMT

rjb - given the size of Sodor and Man Diocese, there are going to be some pressing questions about constituencty, sorry, diocesan boundaries if the covenant is defeated 22 dioceses to 21.

Even more so, given that 2 out of 3 houses in Sodor and Man voted in favour, and the overall result was a 27-27 draw. How does that count as 'rejected'?

Posted by David Keen at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 8:54am GMT

Have others noticed?

If you type into Google "No Anglican Covenant" - then the YES group arrives as the first choice - paid advert "yellow pages" section.

Does that cost a lot?

There seems to have been amendments to the descriptions of those who are quoted in the boxes that flash up on the left of screen.

Tom Wright is no longer billed as the "Bishop of Durham" and Andrew Goddard, formerly elevated to the lofty rank of "Theologian" is now described as a: "Writer and Theologian". Any here who have study the content of those two websites FULCRUM and the ACI would nod wisely at "writer"!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 9:13am GMT

@David Keen - I don't disagree with you. As I noted above, the covenant has an awful lot of hurdles to jump through because the voting system has a built-in tenency to favour a down-vote. That's why I'm looking at the total delegate count, rather than the number of dioceses voting, as a better indicator of the mind of the church. (I should note, incidentally, that the figures I gave above don't include Durham - which voted yes - and Truro, which voted no; figures for these dioceses aren't available at this time, but for the reasons given above we should probably assume that together they'd weigh on the side of the 'yes' party).

The merits of the voting structure are a whole different matter. Personally, I think there's much to be said for the conservatism of the process. Though I haven't broken down the results by house, it looks to me that (as in Sodor and Man) there's more resistance at the level of clergy than at the level of laity, which is interesting. But even in the unlikely event that Sodor and Man was the tie-breaking diocese, it's worth asking whether the church should seriously consider accepting such a fundamental document that had been rejected, under its own rules, by half the dioceses in England.

Still - three more dioceses are voting today, and one of them is Hereford! The 'Yes' camp has a chance to draw almost even. I can't believe I'm actually excited about this: Synod-spotting as a spectator sport.

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 10:40am GMT

If we are concentrating on the voting numbers rather than the substantive issues we will never get any consensus or understand properly the concerns of those voting for and against. Even if all the remaining dioceses were to vote for the covenant, there would be work to do to get people together and build a broad consensus. It is astonishing too how the narrative attaching to majorities changes according to the issue. Like it or not, Synod voting by houses across dioceses is the way we do these things. It is interesting, for example, that an earlier comment on diocesan voting suggested that we were being "saved" by the laity voting against the covenant. Actually it seems to be the clergy vote which has been more anti, but since dioceses are so diverse, predicting trends is a mugs game.

I am against this covenant, because the relational consequence of God's love for the world was the incarnation, bringing in the Covenant which counts. There is precious little reflection on the theological issues implicit in the document before us, or on the exercise of power and authority by human institutions - both of which would be necessary to persuade me to change my view. Instead, these issues appear to be deliberately avoided.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 12:53pm GMT

Chelmsford Diocesan Synod voted against the Covenant this morning - 2:1 in favour in House of Bishops (+Stephen abstained); roughly 29-26 against in clergy; roughly 37-36 in favour in laity (numbers are from memory, I'm sure the official figures will be out soon enough). There had to be a recount as the first time round there was only one vote difference in both houses of clergy and laity. I think some clergy came off the fence for the second count...

Posted by Sam Norton at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 1:54pm GMT

According to the figures on the Modern Church tally sheet Chelmsford's bishops provided the first vote against by a bishop and it looks like the first abstention by a diocesan bishop - though details of Truro and Durham are missing.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 7:02pm GMT

Sorry - previous comment missed Derby.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 7:06pm GMT

Looks like there were 7 more pro covenant votes than anti covenant cast in three dioceses today (not counting the pro votes of the Bishops in Chelmsford), and yet the tally will show 2 anti and 1 pro, or 13 and 8 total. Not sure how much this adjusts the figures already given by rjb of the total votes cast.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 7:46pm GMT

Mark I thought the diocesan in Truro had voted against, but am away from home and without my files to check this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 8:59pm GMT

It is a trifle disingenuous to whinge after the fact about rules that were clear before any of this started.

Frankly, I don't give a rodent's rectum if the overall tally of votes shows a huge plurality for the Covenant. Voting by houses has traditionally been used to ensure that radical decisions are not easily made.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Sunday, 4 March 2012 at 4:16am GMT

@Mark Bennett - I'm not sure that the level of support the covenant document enjoys is not a "substantive issue." Moreover, I think you are wrong to suggest there has been a conspiracy of silence around the theological issues. If you visit any number of diocesan websites - including those of Hereford and Chelmsford, which voted today - there are theological arguments presented from both sides regarding the covenant document. I can only assume this is the tip of the iceberg with regard to dialogue at a diocesan, deanery, and parish level. I would say that what we have seen is a lot of theological wrangling (mostly both sides talking past each other) and very little attempt to gauge just how much support the covenant really has. This is part of the reason I am so interested in the synod numbers. But the covenant is not simply a theological document - it is also, of course, a political one. This may be regrettable (and in my view the covenant is no substitute for that elusive Anglican beast, a real Ecclesialogy), but it is hardly a new development. And liberals, of which I suppose I'm one, are hardly babes-in-arms when it comes to playing ecclesiastical politics.

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 4 March 2012 at 7:35am GMT

No one's whinging that I see. rjb has simply pointed out some interesting realities connected with the covenant process (and its aftermath...).

Posted by c.r.seitz at Sunday, 4 March 2012 at 1:26pm GMT

'It is good to read something really grounded in reformed ideas for a change, rather than the endless diet of concepts derived from RC and anglo-catholic sources.'

I strongly agree with this. One of the many problems in the C of E today is the lack of self-respect. Far too many of its members, including many of its so-called leaders, think we are some sort of weak apology for something else, whether it is 'true' Evangelicalism or 'true' Catholicism or 'true' Orthodoxy. We aren't: we're the best (alongside the Episcopal Church of Scotland, the Church of Ireland, and the American Episcopal Church and a few others). There are of course many problems to sort out but the way to do it is from within our own traditions.

Posted by John at Sunday, 4 March 2012 at 3:00pm GMT

rjb, while several dioceses have ensured that balanced information is available, a few have ensured precisely the opposite.

Lichfield - the first diocese to vote yes - is a case in point.
* Only proCovenant propaganda from Church House and the Anglican Communion Office was provided. * The diocese was approached with a request to distribute contrary material. It was refused. * The diocese was asked for a mailing list so the contrary material could be distributed at no expense to the diocese. This was also refused.
* At the synod - 90 minutes having been scheduled for the debate - the first 30 minutes were a presentation by prominent Covenant apologist Bishop Graham Kings. This was followed by a ten minute speech by the mover of the proCovenant motion. In other words, 40 minutes of a 90 minute scheduled debate had elapsed before any Covenant critic was permitted to utter a syllable. In the end, following alternating five minute speeches, the proCovenant side was allocated 65 minutes while Covenant critics were permitted only 25.

Lichfield may have been the most extreme example of a proCovenant fix. IT was not the only one.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Monday, 5 March 2012 at 7:25am GMT

"Even more so, given that 2 out of 3 houses in Sodor and Man voted in favour, and the overall result was a 27-27 draw. How does that count as 'rejected'?"
Posted by: David Keen on Saturday, 3 March 2012 at 8:54am GMT

Under the rules, the votes in the house of bishops do not count; neither does the aggregate vote. To pass, the motion must pass in BOTH the houses of clergy and laity otherwise it falls. In Sodor & Man, the motion to approve the covenant was lost in the house of clergy and therefore failed overall. Some may find this strange but that's the way it is.

Posted by RPNewark at Monday, 5 March 2012 at 5:56pm GMT

The rules were clear before the process began. The Covenant must be voted on by orders, and unless it is passed by both the clergy and the laity, it is defeated.

It's really not that complicated - except for the deliberately disingenuous. It is analogous to legislation in the United Kingdom or in Canada or in Australia or in the United States which must be carried in both Houses in order to be considered passed.

And unlike the Canadian Senate or the UK Lords, at least both of the synod houses have some sort of legitimacy.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 12:10am GMT

I take rjb's point to be that the overall vote shows how divided the CofE is. All this crowing about 'second-guessing a process' is beside the point being made. Show one place where someone has complained that the process is not fair or clear.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Tuesday, 6 March 2012 at 1:26pm GMT

There is no point in bringing up the irrelevant consideration of aggregate votes unless one is looking for some fiddle whereby the powers that be will be able to claim some sort of moral victory in the ashes of a presumed (but hardly yet certain) defeat.

Of course, the very narrowness of the margin in the aggregate vote simply proves what the Covenant's opponents have always maintained: that the Covenant is not a sound basis for unity.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 7:27am GMT

"unless one is looking for some fiddle whereby the powers that be will be able to claim some sort of moral victory in the ashes of a presumed (but hardly yet certain) defeat."

What an odd and self-referential comment. I thought rjb's point was that the CofE is deeply divided. He was not--I did not think--presuming a search for 'a moral victory.' He was pointing out that a majority of people at present are pro-covenant, and that especially so amongst Bishop voters. Like a lot of things, that is useful to know. There will be an 'after the covenant vote' and many wonder what that 'after' will look like. Will the majority of provinces adopt after all, perhaps encouraged that the CofE needn't play a central role in the present Communion? Lots of questions could be asked along these lines. It is helpful to know that if the covenant is defeated in the CofE it needn't be viewed solely through that lens.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 6:07pm GMT

BTW. On the matter of 'self-referentiality':

Will the 'No Covenant' movement also operate in every province prior to considerarion of adoption, or just affluent western ones? Viz., will the coalition want GS provinces to vote No and so launch an effort lining up representatives in places like Burundi, Tanzania, S Africa, Middle East, Indian Ocean, etc who will speak against it?

I ask because of course the fate of the covenant is not in the hands of the CofE or ACofCanada or TEC. By its own terms, it is in the hands of those who adopt it.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Wednesday, 7 March 2012 at 8:39pm GMT

Twaddle. One can almost hear the Lambeth apparatchiks grinding out their fallback messaging just in case. "Majority of votes cast..." "Moral victory..." "Not really a defeat..."

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 6:25am GMT

I didn't realise we had Lambeth apparatchiks responding at TA on this thread.

If the majority of voters are in favour of the covenant, that will simply be a fact. No point hiding from it.

If a majority of the communion's members, via their provinces, adopt the Covenant, that too will be a fact.

My question was whether your No movement would also decide that was something they would hope to block, or is this mostly a concern with the western affluent zones.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 2:50pm GMT

" It is helpful to know that if the covenant is defeated in the CofE it needn't be viewed solely through that lens." - cseitz -

Yes, Christopher! Some of us - who are not part of either Province - might quite like TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada to take the lead in the ensuing Communion Partnership (assuming that GAFCON has self-elected not to be part of the current Anglican set-up).

Now, how would that suit you, Christopher?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 8 March 2012 at 11:31pm GMT

Father Smith--in your excitement you forgot to be coherent. Can you tell me what your question is?

Posted by c.r.seitz at Friday, 9 March 2012 at 12:57am GMT

Well Chris, "my" No movement would prefer to see the Covenant defeated everywhere. We have, based on various criteria, identified particular tactical priorities.

By the way, the not so affluent Episcopal Church in the Philippines has rejected the Covenant, as has the likely less affluent than average Tikanga Maori.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 3:52am GMT

Mr French--if your priorities reach into the GS provinces it will be interesting to see if it acts as an encouragement actually to *adopt* the covenant. This is precisely why the aggregate tally in the CofE will have an afterlife of some kind. The NO movement would likely only produce YES votes in the GS. One can imagine that moderate GS provinces might want to support the CofE efforts to bolster Communion on the terms of a covenant. More conservative ones might well conclude that the No votes are an incentive to now say YES, on the terms of e.g. SE Asia. So the fate of NO in the CofE is tied up with much wider Communion affairs.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 5:47pm GMT

Thank you for your advice, Christopher. However, given that our band of bloggers has hit well above what anyone believed we ever could, we think we are reasonably capable of setting our own strategic and tactical priorities without the helpful advice of someone committed to our failure.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Sunday, 11 March 2012 at 8:59am GMT

Mr French--no advice given. Only speculation about the consequences. Go right ahead with your No campaign as best you see fit, by all means.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Sunday, 11 March 2012 at 12:29pm GMT

No advice given. The No movement will obviously act as it judges best for its No vision. The above is speculation about the covenant's next season outwith the CofE.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Sunday, 11 March 2012 at 6:12pm GMT
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