Mrs Thatcher famously made TINA - There Is No Alternative - her mantra.  I wish to introduce TAAA - There Are Always Alternatives.

From time to time those promoting the Covenant wish to give the impression it's a done deal.  All the negotiations have been concluded, everyone who's anyone has bowed to the inevitable, so TINA.

Bishop Wright in mufti and Donegal
Thus Bishop Tom Wright, speaking to the Church of Ireland Gazette, on bonfire night (in England):
Asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said: "I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative." 
This is not really a failure of imagination.  It is part of a political programme and it means: 'do not use your imagination, the matter has been decided for you, daddy knows best.'

It is, however, particularly important for those around Bishop Wright's point in the spectrum of conservative Evangelicalism to deny any alternative.  To his right there are a good many who think the Anglican Covenant will not be strong enough to expunge the evils of the Communion, and a good many glances looking towards the alternative with the most political traction, the Jerusalem Declaration.

The Primates Council of GAFCON/FCA said in April,
We recognise that the current strategy in the Anglican Communion to strengthen structures by committee and commission has proved ineffective. Indeed we believe that the current structures have lost integrity and relevance. We believe that it is only by a theologically grounded, biblically shaped reformation such as the one called for by the Jerusalem Declaration that God¹s Kingdom will advance. The Anglican Communion will only be able to fulfill its gospel mandate if it understands itself to be a community gathered around a confession of faith rather than an organisation that has its primary focus on institutional loyalty.
And in Australia the Jerusalem Declaration has been sent to Dioceses for consideration alongside the Anglican Covenant (by two separate votes).  George Conger's report says,
The votes by General Synod meeting from Sept 18-23 [2010] at Melbourne Grammar School came as a surprise to observers as the degree of support for the Covenant was weaker than expected, while support for the Jerusalem Declaration produced by the 2008 Gafcon conference was stronger than anticipated The Church of England Newspaper has learned.

Moving away from the right:

In New Zealand there's a different alternative: the General Synod was happy with Sections 1-3 of the Anglican Covenant but decided to seek legal advice on Section 4. The Covenant was sent to the Dioceses for further consideration - and the possibility remains that they will eventually endorse only part of what's of offer.

Within the pages of the Anglican Communion website there's a Covenant for Communion in Mission offered by the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (IASCOME).  Those who covenanted would:
  1. Recognise Jesus in each other’s contexts and lives
  2. Support one another in our participation in God’s mission
  3. Encourage expressions of our new life in Christ
  4. Meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements
  5. Be willing to change in response to critique and challenge from others
  6. Celebrate our strengths and mourn over our failures
  7. Share equitably our God-given resources
  8. Work together for the sustainability of God’s creation
  9. Live into the promise of God’s reconciliation for ourselves and for the world
This is brief and general (and thus easier to endorse) and yet its implementation would have posed tough questions to all Anglicans: just how would we have put these statements into practice?  It is also a much more positive and outward-looking Covenant than the bureaucratic one we now have in front of us.  This was tabled long ago (2005/6?) and has been entirely sidelined since then, but it remains an alternative.

And there's the delightful richer covenant which South Africa's Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has explored - albeit over against the political reality in South Africa (and the Communion).


and, while we're on the matter of political rhetoric,
After the quote from Tom Wright above the article continued:

He said the Communion could not afford to have "the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had".
Bishop Wright said that the Covenant "doesn’t foreclose on particular issues". Rather, he explained, it "provides a framework within which you can have the discussion in a way which tries to keep all parties at the table. obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business, but without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight."

'unstructured mess'?  that's a bit harsh on the Communion since 1867 and its steady evolution of structures.  And the next paragraph is accurate as it relates to the Covenant but which 'loudest voices' did he have in mind?  He's not the retiring type himself.  Wright has the knack of setting up rhetorical opposites such that the answer is always his own view on the matter.

So, if you accept 'unstructured mess' as accurate and sufficient then the Covenant is the answer. QED.  And if the dominance of loudest voices is the problem then the Covenant is the answer. QED.  But what if these are superficial and inadequate descriptions of the issues at stake?  And what if the Covenant proves to be a charter for the most implacable voices - even those of a minority view?



  1. The problem with a democracy is that it is always messy! But, why would we want anything other than a democracy -- we are senscient beings. The ability to choose or not is central to our relationship with God.

  2. Thanks for this article. I like TAAA! To me it is what being an Anglican is about.