Comments: Anglican Covenant: more diocesan votes

The yawning gap between bishops and everyone else is very striking.

Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 2:21pm GMT

Carlisle Diocese
Carried in all 3 houses at about 13:00 on Saturday 10 March

Bps 2:0
Clergy 19: 13 abstensions 2
Laity 33: 17 abstensions 0


Posted by david simon at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 2:48pm GMT

To frame this as 'the yawning gap between bishops and everyone else' is point-blank wrong.

There is an immense amount of support for the Anglican Covenant within and across all dioceses. Adding up the numbers posted at MCU gives:

903 For, 921 Against, 100 Abstentions
(NB: the numbers for Durham, a positive vote, and Truro, a negative vote, are not posted at MCU - thus, the above numbers are a sketch)

When these numbers are divided by the relevant dioceses, this spread of nearly half and half is not reflected. Furthermore, in four dioceses - Leicester (38 For, 35 Against, 7 Abstentions), Sodor and Man (27 For, 27 Against, 1 Abstention), Chelmsford (60 For, 60 Against, 11 Abstentions), and Hereford (38 For, 38 Against, 2 Abstention) - the total has been neck and neck. However, please feel free to correct my math if it is wrong!

This is not a question of the bishops out to get free-spirited clergy and laity. When compared with the other two houses, the bishops are far more united, to be sure - but that is all (and given their more global set of experiences and outlook, I don't find this neither surprising nor inexplicable).

There is nothing accurate or imaginative in framing this as an episcopal conspiracy.

Posted by guyer at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 4:00pm GMT

What I find so striking is the different way diocesan voting on the ordination of women and on the Covenant is treated. If women bishops had done this badly in the dioceses (is it now 16 dioceses have said no?), we wouldn't have heard the end of it. And supporter that I am of women in the episcopate, I would have had to reflect that the mind of the Church isn’t really there yet. As it was, there was no end of comment in speeches in February's synod that, for some reason, 42 out of 44 dioceses wasn't really enough evidence of the consent of the faithful for the women bishops measure and therefore the House of Bishops needs to amend it to save the Church from itself (because those people in the dioceses don't really know what they are doing, if you follow). If the Covenant does manage to achieve victory all in the remaining dioceses to vote (which seems highly unlikely), I'm sure we will hear no end about the ‘mandate’ it has received from grass roots Anglicans. It is all a bit exasperating, is it not?

Posted by Judith Maltby at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 4:42pm GMT

Whatever the final outcome, I see a very divided Church of England, except for the bishops, who are either well out of touch with the flock or extremely loyal to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Certainly the proponents of the Covenant can no longer claim consensus for the document.

June Butler

Posted by Grandmère Mimi at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 4:44pm GMT

This can't go on can it? Whether or not a majority of Dioceses accept the covenant, the number against is already so large as to make the whole thing dead in the water except in the minds of those who have staked so much on its adoption or who wish to use it as a stick with which to beat up those they wish to control. The covenant is dead already.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 5:21pm GMT

So the answer to the question 'will the episcopal drum-beating make the synods march in step?' seems to be 'no.' At least, so far. The pro-covenant campaign needs another 13 dioceses to give the document the thumbs-up. With 17 more synods to vote before the end of April that's not impossible, but going on current form I'd say it's pretty bloody unlikely. And given that the bishops have left themselves precious little room to manoeuvre on this one, can we expect to see ever more passionate appeals for unity and party loyalty from the top? Or will a spirit of generous pragmatism prevail? We shall see...

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 5:59pm GMT

"There is nothing accurate or imaginative in framing this as an episcopal conspiracy." guyer

Are you seriously suggesting that ALL the bishops, bar the one that voted against, personally support the Covenant and that none of them has voted for political/'let's be nice to Rowan' reasons? I just don't buy it.

Posted by Laurence C. at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 6:49pm GMT

The Covenant is now dead as it is almost impossible for the 'yes' group to achieve a majority.

...and 'guyer' wait until the final numbers come in. The trend for rejection is growing fast ... take a look at Not the Same Stream for a short analysis by Paul Bagshaw.

Whatever the figures are finally already they cannot possibly represent support for a cohesive and unitive covenantal scheme. That would require a much higher affirmation.

Judith Maltby is right by the way when she points out the distortion perceived in the diocesan voting for woman bishops.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 6:57pm GMT

...and so the bishops (and Rowan) can go to the Worldwide Anglican Inquisition, hold up their hands and say, 'Well we did our best, even putting out strongly-worded statements and naff videos (anyone else seen the Attenborough/ABC spoof on Youtube btw?) but the people of God thought otherwise.' Covenant not rejected by naughty bishops, but by the faithful. No grounds for banning obediently pro-covenant CofE pointy hats from anything; covenant a dead duck; collapse of the Whiplash 'flog-the-deviants' party.

Is 'The Prince' required reading on the bench of bishops, 'cos it looks that way to me?

Posted by david rowett at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 7:14pm GMT

4 out of 6, and I would have considered Carlisle pretty much unwinnable (surprised how awful Coventry was). That's shootin', Tex! Congratulations to the No campaigners in England.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 8:40pm GMT

So sad about Coventry - my Alma Mater - the diocese wherein I was Baptised and Confirmed. However, it seems that the Juggernaut of the Covenant may yet be halted, by the opinion of the majority of English diocesan Synods. A sad day for the ABC, but perhaps a good day for the Church of England.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 10 March 2012 at 11:45pm GMT

I never suggested an episcopal conspiracy. I only noted the gap in the voting between bishops and everyone else in 3 English dioceses. It is striking. Only those conspiring something would suggest any more than that; or someone with an over-active imagination and too much time on his hands.

Posted by Counterlight at Sunday, 11 March 2012 at 12:03am GMT

Grandmere Mimi:

Or both.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 11 March 2012 at 12:10am GMT

Ron, under the present Bishop Christopher Cocksworth Coventry is very much a Fulcrum oasis.

Posted by Robert Ian Williamjs at Sunday, 11 March 2012 at 2:31pm GMT

Guyer points to the aggregate voting numbers. I remind him (and all) yet again, the aggregate numbers are irrelevant. The rules were clear before we began, and no amount of whinging will change them after the fact.

The reality is that this system of voting (by houses, with a mojority in both houses required for a yes) is longstanding practice on matters of import. The rationale is profoundly conservative - that radical changes should be approached with caution.

Ironic, then, that the spokesthingees for the Anglican reaction are now complaining about the genuine conservatism of the process.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 8:48am GMT

And again, Mr French, the aggregate numbers are not irrelevant when the fate of the covenant as a Communion document as such is considered, and not within the context of the CofE only (where aggregate numbers do not figure into the final determination -- a process I have never seen questioned, much less 'whinged' about). The covenant will be acted upon by 31 more provinces. 1 has rejected, 5 have said Yes. CofE will most likely reject. Knowing that there is a majority of Yes votes in the aggregate will be a factor in how the covenant fares more broadly, and also may be a factor in the covenant's future life as such. We simply do not know what the covenant's larger life is until all the provinces have acted.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 9:01pm GMT

I think this is a really valuable question. Have there been any provisions about what happens to the Covenant proposal if it fails in England or in large parts of the Communion?

I suppose the assumption had been that it would pass easily in most Provinces and that we might just end up with TEC voting itself into the second tier.
Was there ever a thought that this tiered Communion could potentially look more like a Wedding cake?

Is there a path for abandoning the project if it is adopted by fewer than x Provinces?
Or is it here to stay and we're really only voting about whether we're in the first or the second tier?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 8:21am GMT

Canadian Archdeacon Alan Perry has written on this matter at his blog, "Insert Catchy Blog Title Here." He pointed out that international treaties usually do not take effect until some ratification milestone is reached.

One of the failings of the Covenant is that its drafters failed to provide a sensible milestone. The Covenant becomes effective for each Province immediately upon ratification. If (for the sake of argument) no other Province ever ratifies, the five that have will still be bound by its provisions. And this despite the reality that, notionally at least, none of the five might conceivably be represented on the Standing Committee at any given moment.

Just one of the many glaring faults of the thing.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 12:47am GMT

Ms Baker, why do you write "if it fails in England or in large parts of the Communion" instead of "if it fails in England" only? Thus far, it has been adopted by 5 provinces and rejected only by 1.

My hunch is that people want a No vote in the CofE to have disproportional weight--not just on the impact related to the ABC as Instrument, though there is resistance to this idea--vis-a-vis the process as a whole. The 'failure to provide sensible milestones' is in the eye of the beholder. Why would Burundi or Indian Ocean understand a 'sensible milestone' one that ruled out their consideration of the covenant on equal footing with all others? Speaking in popular 'justice' terms, that seems hardly 'just.' It would reinforce a view of 'mother church knows best'. (Leaving aside the irony that one implication of a No vote is that such a role is being questioned).

Posted by c.r.seitz at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 2:26pm GMT

Sorry, Dr. Seitz, but your constant claiming something as important doesn't make it so.

The fact that the aggregate vote was close is an interesting factoid of no particular relevance or value - although those who wish to spin defeat as victory will doubtless trumpet it quite loudly.

But even we were to go along with the fantasy of its importance, it is rather a Phyrric not-quite victory since the very narrow aggregate numbers prove, if anything, that the idea of the Anglican Covenant as a means of unity is simply delusional.

A couple of years ago, my local professional sports franchise appeared in the national championship game. When time expired, my team had won its third Grey Cup because the defending champions had missed a field goal attempt.

However, in the Canadian Football League, a game cannot end on a penalty. Because my team had too many men on the field (ironic, given the marketing ode to the fans as "the thirteenth man") the play was rerun, the Montreal Allouettes scored their field goal and won the game.

So, as much as the Saskatchewan Roughriders where in the lead throughout the whole game, and as much as the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in the lead when time expired, they do not appear in the record books as the 2009 Grey Cup champions.

The rest of the tale, while of some interest to football trivia buffs and perhaps some minimal solace to Rider Nation, is still irrelevant.

Just like the aggregate voting figures on the Anglican Covenant.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 4:09pm GMT

Dear Malcolm, with all due respect, I believe that perhaps you have misunderstood me. What is more, referring to those such as myself as 'spokesthingees' rather belies the stated intent of our earlier email correspondence, in which you lamented name calling by the Pro-Covenant crowd and asked for a shared dialog on the matter.

As for my post above, I did not call for a popular vote to reshape the canonical precedence given to the dioceses (I am not so American!). Rather, and as C. R. Seitz understood, if there is significant popular support for the Covenant, then it is not likely to simply disappear from the radar. If I recall correctly, you yourself wrote something similar to me when you stated that NACC does not anticipate the Covenant going away if it is defeated in the CoE this time around. There is quite a long road to haul for all of us, regardless as to what we believe about the Covenant.

Posted by guyer at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 9:29pm GMT

Mr French: Thanks a lot for the exciting details from Canadian football. That helps a lot.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 11:07pm GMT

Just to be clear "spokethingees" is a bit of slang in some circles and has, of itself, no derogatory intent.

While I still maintain that the aggregate numbers are an irrelevant factoid, I think you are misreading their significance.

The communications advantage - ie, control of information flow etc. - has been almost entirely in favour of the Covenant until relatively recently. And frankly, without a lucky break one weekend when the noes took a substantial lead, it would have remained there.

Given the inbuilt organizational and communications advantages, the fact that the aggregate voting is close at all is a stunning reversal for the Yes side.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 6:02am GMT

c.r. seitz,
I asked what would happen if the Covenant fails in large parts of the Communion because I think it's time I understood this thing properly with all its possible implications.
And I believe it is only possible to understand something properly if one looks beyond the expected middle of the road scenario.

Of course, the Covenant could fail in England only and in a handful of other Provinces. In which case - what happens to the Communion and to the office of ABC? There are interesting speculations on Tobias Haller's blog In a Godward Direction about this. Together with the comments on this forum they paint a picture of something not completely thought through.

I think the question of what happens should a majority of provinces vote against the Covenant is interesting, because as Malcolm French points out on another thread, in the civil sector it is inconceivable that a proposal can become law without a majority accepting it. A situation whereby the majority rejects a law but the minority who supported it is still bound by it is so counter-intuitive that I find it really quite staggering.

Is that really a possiblity?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 8:40am GMT

Sorry - Malcolm French's comment I was referring to was on this thread not another one.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 8:44am GMT

Ms Baker, I do not think the covenant will 'fail in large parts of the Communion' -- if anything, its defeat in CofE, but with 80% Yes vote from Bishops, may well contribute to its success. Moderate conservative provinces may well decide it is an opportunity to support the Communion they value. More conservative ones may decide, now with TEC and CofE probable No sayers, that it is good to adopt.

And who knows what effect +RDW's stepping down will have. No diminishment indeed...

Posted by c.r.seitz at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:54pm GMT

Simon, did my reply to Mr Seitz disappear into your spam folder? Thanks, Erika

ED: Apparently not. Try sending it again?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 8:59pm GMT

Mr Seitz,
thank you for your reply.
I don't want to enter into the political fray here, trip anyone up or score points.
I am genuinely trying to understand the legal structure of this Covenant proposal.

Even if "many" rejected it without the majority doing so - would we really end up with a de facto split Communion, one which holds the power by means of the newly set up Instruments to impose relational consequences on the others who have refused to accept that power of the Covenant?
What can first and second tier members of the Communion mean in that context?

Is this now ever likely to result in anything other than a permanent re-structuring of the former Anglican Communion?

I think the answer will largely depend on the actual legal structure of the whole proposal. Which is why I am genuinely asking

a. what role the ABC will play in the future if England rejects the Covenant.

and b. what will happen to the Covenant itself if most or many Provinces reject it?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 12:46pm GMT

Ms Baker: to your questions by number.
1) there would be a) a covenant communion and b) those who said No
2) see #1
3) Yes
4) Covenant can extend associations to those who want them, including the ABC and 80% of Bishops of CofE -- just unsure what that will look like because we need to see the provinces (30+) address this covenant and who a new ABC is
5) it will be up to those who adopt to answer that.

The No movement can seek to produce No votes. It cannot coopt Yes votes or the covenant as it emerges in consequence of Yes saying.

I don't think this is contraversial.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 5:31pm GMT

Mr Seitz,
thank you again.

So it strikes me that far from being an instrument of unity the Covenant, by the mere way its adoption process was conceived, is a tool for disunity.

Unlike with every other law that only comes into being when a majority votes for it, the Covenant sows formal separation the first moment one Province adopts it and another rejects it.

And the minute the Covenant was put to vote, the Anglican Communion as we know it was doomed.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 10:07pm GMT

"And the minute the Covenant was put to vote, the Anglican Communion as we know it was doomed" -- if it was doomed at that point, all it served to do was to confirm a reality.

But I doubt this, in any event. We shall have to see what transpires in the coming months. The covenant served the purpose of letting people have their own way: those who wish to say NO, and those who may wish to join those who have said YES. The YES sayers will simply argue that the Communion is then as it was before. The NO sayers will say that a federal system of autonomous churches is all the Communion ever was, and the YES people are wrong. Far from dooming anything, the covenant just exposes this split.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Monday, 19 March 2012 at 1:51pm GMT

Mr Seitz,

you are right, the Covenant exposes the split.

But it seems that Provinces were given the option to opt in or to opt out, but that no Province was given any say in whether the Covenant itself should come into being.

I don't understand the legality of this but I trust that it must be legal.

Still - it does more than confirm the existing split. As it gives opted-in members additional powers it also formalises the split in a way that just living with the split and hoping that further Indaba processes in the future might contribute to its healing doesn't.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 19 March 2012 at 5:37pm GMT

"just living with the split and hoping that further Indaba processes in the future might contribute to its healing doesn't."

"Just living with the split" is hardly ruled out by a Covenant.

"further Indaba processes" -- I guess even those who want to do this can continue. I don't see the point and one wonders where the money for this expensive talking is to come from.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Monday, 19 March 2012 at 6:56pm GMT

Just for the record I think this is right and I think it is important to make note of:

"But it seems that Provinces were given the option to opt in or to opt out, but that no Province was given any say in whether the Covenant itself should come into being."

As I said above, No voters can say No. They cannot coopt the Yes of possible adopters.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Monday, 19 March 2012 at 7:33pm GMT

Mr Seitz,

it is true, Indaba can continue, to that extent the pro Covenanters are right - the mere existence of the Covenant will not change anything.

I think my main problem is not that no voters can say no and yes voters can say yes.

It is the fact that all structures of national decision making processes in all Provinces have been bypassed and a Covenant has been presented that now allows only a Yes or a No vote but no input into whether the whole Communion actually wants to vote on it.
A legal entity has been established that will irrevocably change the Communion and the only say the usual decision making bodies of the Provinces had in this is a single one after the fact.

It is that that makes me very concerned for the future more than the words of the thing themselves.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 19 March 2012 at 9:52pm GMT

Your concern is shared equally or moreso by those who saw the decision of provinces to act on their own as fatal for the communion's cohesion. You needn't agree with their position, but you are not alone in your concern about where the Communion will now find itself. They share that concern.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 12:32am GMT
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