A new dawn for gay people in the Church of England?

From Reuters Tue Feb 28, 2012
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the global Anglican communion, stepped on Tuesday into a row which is flaring at the U.N. Human Rights Council over the persecution of gays and lesbians.
Williams, who has faced strong opposition from parts of his own church especially in Africa for his stance on gays, did not directly refer to the current controversy at the Council, according to the text of a speech prepared for delivery at the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC).
However, he said laws against sexual minorities were equivalent to racism, and warned that legal regulation of consensual sexual conduct "can be both unworkable and open to appalling abuse - intimidation and blackmail."
 Reuters is concerned with the developing stand-off in the UN with Pakistan, on behalf of the 57-nation Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), opposed to the convening of the panel and refusing to accept any recommendations that it might issue.

How will Rowan's comments play with his friends in the Vatican?
More domestically, does this mean we will now see the removal of formal and informal barriers to homosexuals' participation in the Church of England? Is it possible that gay people can be full members of the Church?

Or will we have a justification of the Archbishop of Canterbury's expression of one set of views in an international forum (which are believed to be his personal views) - while continuing to endorse, support and enact attitudes 'equivalent to racism' in the Church of which he is head?

2 news items from Zmbabwe

Under the Headline Kunonga purge on Anglicans continues, NewsDay has an article about the ex-bishop's continued predations:
Excommunicated Anglican Church Bishop Nolbert Kunonga continued his onslaught on members of a rival faction after parishioners at St Andrews Arcadia Church in Harare were kicked out of their place of worship over the weekend.

.... Eighty-four-year-old Ada Adams said: I contributed immensely at the church. I have not known any church but this one. We built the church on our own, we bought bricks so as to put up this church.

I do not even know what to say, I had to take time to be able to talk to you because I have this huge lump in my throat, so I had to take a deep breath so that I am able to talk. People were crying, it was a real emotional service we had. more...
It's purely destructive greed - it's not as though he has lots of followers waiting to use the church.

On the other hand,
SW Radio Africa reports
A coalition of the main religious leaders in the country has embarked on a regional drive to urge SADC leaders to persuade Robert Mugabe to implement comprehensive reforms before the next election.
The offensive comes as SW Radio Africa is reliably informed that leaders in the Global Political Agreement are mulling calling for elections in the last quarter of 2012.
Rev Lameck Mutete
The church leaders, under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, have prepared a report detailing the stumbling blocks to free and fair elections, which they are presenting to justice ministers from the SADC bloc.
Anglican church Reverend Lameck Mutete told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that church leaders have taken it upon themselves to remind Mugabe of his constitutional duties.
‘It’s not a question of forcing or putting pressure on Mugabe to reform but it’s actually a reminder which is in line with what was agreed when the unity government was formed.
‘He has diverted from what he assented to during negotiations that gave birth to the GPA. The church leaders are simply reminding him of his constitutional duties,’ Reverend Mutete said.
I take my hat off to them. They breed tough, committed and resilient Anglicans in Zimbabwe.


What about the money?

I keep asking what the Covenant will cost? Or, to be more realistic, what might be a general figure for annual running costs and what might the additional cost be in case of a dispute being resolved through its mechanisms.

But there is merely silence.

And this silence is not solely from the powers-that-be but also from those I know to be critics of the Covenant. I feel as though I'm talking loudly on a phone about someone's vasectomy while the rest of the railway carriage are all studiously trying not to listen.

Which got me to thinking more about money, accountability and the Church of England in particular.

There are differences between different churches. When I attend Methodist worship I am always struck and amused by the fact that, where Anglicans stand as a mark of respect to status and power as the clergy process in, Methodists equally automatically stand as the money is carried forward to be blessed by the minister. It's a question of priorities.

I would also guess that attitudes to money are more significantly different where there is a more direct link between a particular congregation's giving and the employment of 'their' minister.

In mid-1950s in England one of the central arguments for more inclusive synodical government was that lay people deserved a bigger say in church government because they were the ones who paid for it. Fifteen years later, with the Synod in place, that argument had been almost completely forgotten.

In the Church of England the idea that clergy receive a stipend, not a salary, that they are office-holders, not employees is very strong. Whether or not it's right one consequence is that it conveys the message that parish clergy need not account to anyone: they fulfil they duty merely be being in place.

In my world - a small, local charity - you can't propose anything without costings, a budget and a funder. You can't do anything without the money. And, while a funder chooses to support your proposal it is also true that the project is bent to fit what a funder would approve of. Thereafter the need to report back on the questions the funder wants answering is an important part of the design of that project. I have to account for every penny spent to show it has been spent in accordance with the terms on which it was given - and rightly so.

But not in a church. All paid clergy and others who are employed by the church rely ultimately on the generosity of individuals in the pew. Yet there is little or no sense that clergy should be accountable to their congregations, let alone that archdeacons, bishops and other non-parochial clergy should account directly to those who pay. Clergy get accommodation, secure employment and a reasonable income and seldom say thank you, never mind have to show what they did for the money. Administrative procedures firmly separate donor from ultimate recipient.

No emotional blackmail here, then
I know, I know, not every aspect of this argument is true for every individual. And I know that, by law, financial information has to be collected, audited and available. But none of this seems to me to undermine the central argument: that clergy act as though they deserve payment, that congregations are exhorted to give out of Christian duty, and that those who donate have no right to ask for anything in return. Accountability is not part of our ecclesiology.

This is sustained by regarding money as a worldly thing and therefore beneath the notice of the truly devout cleric whilst simultaneously sacralising money that comes into the Church as for God's use - and thus out of the reach of the laity. The action of blessing money seems to move it out of profane into sacred hands.  Thereafter clergy alone can determine its use but they need not, perhaps must not, give any account.

I think this is unhealthy. It is an unhealthy attitude to money, to the material world, and to ministry.

I remember going to a meeting of Baptist ministers many years ago to talk about doing theology in the city (or something like that). Before the meeting they were all comparing house prices. In order to start the meeting they stopped that discussion. It was a secular topic and they met for theological purpose. They couldn't see how house prices might be (an example of) just what we were intending to talking about.

However - before anyone sets up an aunt Sally - do not I think that clergy should be paid by results, given bonus incentives for work above the minimum, or have to share their everyday household expenses with every member of the congregation who put a pound on the plate. I don't think clergy should be motivated by money and I don't think congregations should neglect the material needs of their vicar.

But I do think more honest conversation about money and faith, cash and spirituality, and the relationships created in giving and receiving (both personal and institutional) ought to be a more normal part of church life.

In my experience clergy tend to be a self-validating lot who seek to conform to the norms and expectations set (informally) by other clergy. This reinforces myopia in a number of areas not the least of which is the relationship with those who pay.

But I'm not sure that any of this explains the silence surrounding money and the Covenant. Perhaps because the Covenant is presented as of overwhelming importance money becomes irrelevant - it will just have to be found somehow. Perhaps something else will be closed down so money can be transferred to the Covenant office. Perhaps the assumption is that the Americans will continue to foot the bill even when threatened with exclusion. I have no idea, no-one is saying.

All that said, I am repeatedly impressed by the brass-necked optimism of the 'vicar's hymn' (Fran­ces Ha­ver­gal's Take my life, and let it be):
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.

And, full disclosure: I have benefited from this system in the past and may wish to do so again. So I have a vested interest in the system continuing. That doesn't make it right.


Liberia: a Christian country?

Billboards after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's re-election
The campaign to declare Liberia a Christian country gathers pace (previous blog post here).

On February 18 rallies were held in which thousands of people are said to have lined up to sign the petition. The leaders of the campaign are looking for a million signatures (out of around 4m population).  They claim to have 45,000 already, more than enough to start the process for constitutional change.

The government seems a little wrong-footed on the issue:
Among the first batch of signatories were police and military officers fully dressed in their uniforms as well as some members of the House of Representatives and other public officials. ...
At a recent Church ceremony in Monrovia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared that Liberia is predominantly a Christian State, but was accommodating other religions. (report)
However, here
Speaking over the weekend while signing the book seeking one million signatures to make Liberia a Christian nation, Senator Taylor [a leading light in the campaign] said Liberia has a Christian dominance and there was a need to revert to the 1948 Constitution by declaring Liberia Christian state.
Providence Baptist Church, Monrovia
There are differences amongst Christians on the matter. This report also alluded to a dispute with the Old Providence Baptist Church, apparently over tactics, and in another report,
Archbishop Lewis Jerome Zeigler of the Catholic Archdiocese in Monrovia says he is opposed to schemes by some members of the Christian denomination "to return Liberia into a Christian nation."
"That (soliciting signatures to make Liberia a Christian nation) shouldn't be the point. We can remain a circular [secular?] state without disturbing others who believe in whatever they believe to practice their faiths...and we'll be the Christians that we are called to be," His Grace Zeigler told journalists Wednesday in an interview in his office here. ....
But, in his interview, the Catholic Archbishop denounced the call to declare Liberia as a Christian state, and reiterated that 'Christian principle' means "love for one another". ...
"I think something is wrong with this particular thing," he added.
There are other critics too. Some see the campaign as no more than an attempt to fuel sectarian violence.
Mr. Fofana Bility, a Liberian Muslim residing in Monrovia has cautioned. He thinks, changing the constitution to Christianize, Liberia will expose the country to instability and undermines peaceful coexistence amongst citizens of Liberia, who he further observes are from diverse religious backgrounds. (Report)
Whether or not sectarian violence is the intent, it will almost certainly be a consequence of both the campaign and its outcome.

The website of the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Liberia doesn't express a view on the matter.


What would happen if the Covenant were to be defeated?

Some time ago Concerned Anglican left a comment on this blog:
I assume that you have asked a real and not rhetorical question? What would happen if by the grace of God the Covenant were to be defeated? 
and answered it,
Why, nothing would happen and that would be the best outcome, except that Rowan Williams' exit would be hastened.
I think the question may deserve a fuller exploration.

If the Covenant were to be defeated in the Church of England 
I guess the likelihood is that the Covenant process would continue globally. Too much in time, money and reputation has been invested in it for it to be abandoned. Nonetheless it would be wounded in substance and symbol, as Kevin Holdsworth writes,
The significance of this is very great. The Anglican Communion is predicated on everyone being in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is consequently very tricky to have a communion divided into two tiers with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own province in the outer layer of somehow impaired or restricted communion.
Nonetheless (or, perhaps, therefore) I would predict a much geared-up campaign from the Anglican Communion Office to get it adopted in the rest of the Communion. If a sufficient number of Provinces adopted it then I predict it would be brought back to the CofE for another attempt. The arm-twisting and emotional pressure would then be much greater. 

It is possible that not only England but a number of other Provinces also decline to sign. One, the Philippines, has already rejected it, New Zealand is likely to reject it. There seems a good chance Scotland and Australia will say no. TEC and Canada too would be very leery of signing and, I think, will wait some time to see how the international wind blows before deciding. The constitutional implications are mind-boggling.

But the bigger group is the GAFCON churches. In my opinion, and looking through a small telescope to events far away from my window, I think there is an ever-increasing likelihood that they will withdraw from the ACC and Anglicanism. That will, finally, formalise the schism. (Some of the Global South Provinces, notably South East Asia, will, I guess, stay in but will find their allegiances very torn.)

The United Churches of North and South India and, probably, Hong Kong are most unlikely to sign because of state legislation which governs them.

and then ...
The Covenant was never a stand-alone document. It was part of a bureaucratic programme to reform the central organs of the Anglican Communion in the direction of greater interdependence, mutual accountability and narrower bounds of formal belief and expression of faith.

It is probable that those wedded to this programme will take a hard look at what remains, pick up the pieces and start all over again.

Yet, at my most optimistic, I would like to dream that the collapse of the programme would lead to a renewal of imagination of the church. As (I believe, but can't reference) Mark Harris said, the Covenant is a modernist solution to a post-modern problem.

So it is equally probable that the announcement of the death of the Covenant will trigger a creative flurry of writing, conferences and head scratching that will generate new ideas, reflection, alignments and church-political groupings. I think we need new ecclesiological thinking for a new post-modern world: global and local, independent and connected, ancient and renewed in recognisable but different configurations.

If the Covenant fails, I hope and pray that this will lead to a global Anglican church which none of us at the moment can imagine - renewed, reinvigorated, re-structured, and probably smaller.

Open Letter to Zimbabwe's Anglicans

To be an Anglican in Zimbabwe is to suffer police harassment and state sanctioned violence. Ex-bishop Kunonga has the backing of the state and uses it to extend his reach and his grasp. 

President Mugabe has said there will be elections this year (though he first said they should be held by March and Tsvangirai is opposed). There is already increased pressure on NGOs and civil society bodies - just as preceded the last elections.


February 2012
Bishop Chad Gandiya of the Diocese of Harare 

To all the faithful in the Diocese of Harare CPCA,
Warm greetings to you all! May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

We are writing to ask you to kindly take note of the following:

1. There is still a lot of confusion regarding the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) and the ‘Anglican Church in Zimbabwe’ also referred to as Province of Zimbabwe. We want to clarify this position to all our parishes and the members of the public so that our members can continue to congregate and worship God freely as members of the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) which is different, independent and has no communion with Dr. Kunonga’s ‘Anglican Church in Zimbabwe’.

2. The Diocese of Harare, Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion with over 70 million members. It is not a part of the ‘Anglican Church in Zimbabwe’ or Province of Zimbabwe which was formed and headed by Dr Nolbert Kunonga.

3. There is no confusion about the leadership of the two different churches.  The Diocese of Harare (CPCA) is led by  me  Bishop Chad  Nicholas  Gandiya.  The confusion is created in the use of the name ‘Anglican Church in Zimbabwe’ by Kunonga making it appear that any church in Zimbabwe with the designation ‘Anglican’ or that is part of the Anglican Communion is his church.  In the Anglican Communion, there is no Diocese or Province called the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe or Province of Zimbabwe.

Dr. Kunonga is deliberately playing on words and words associations to confuse people. Let it be known therefore, that the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) is a legal church organisation in Zimbabwe whose operations are above board. Anyone who disturbs the activities of the Diocese of Harare (CPCA)  is  breaking the law.

Christians anywhere in Zimbabwe when they meet for worship or church business do not need to be sanctioned by the police. You only need to look at the number of congregations throughout Zimbabwe who meet under trees to worship. They do not need police to give them permission to gather. Any police officer who demands any of our congregations to be sanctioned by them or Kunonga is simply abusing his/her authority, breaking the law and infringing on the constitutional rights of the people of Zimbabwe to assembly, association, expression and worship.

4. The dispute that remains between  Dr.  Kunonga and his Anglican Church in Zimbabwe and us in the Diocese of Harare CPCA centres on the properties that he took with him when he withdrew and was subsequently excommunicated from the Church of the Province of Central Africa and therefore the  Worldwide Anglican Communion in 2007. This matter is still before the courts and we wait for the final resolution of the matter by the courts of law in Zimbabwe.

5. The issue of homosexuality is also being used to confuse our members and members of the public. The position of the Diocese of Harare and the CPCA on homosexuality is clear. Canon 22.5 states that: “The Church of this Province believes that marriage, by divine institution, is a lifelong and exclusive union  and partnership between one man and one woman”. It does not encourage or approve same-sex unions or relationships.

6. As far as the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) is concerned, and as far as all those who are in communion with us are concerned, Dr. Kunonga is not a part of our church, and we are not a part of his church. Let no one be fooled by the deliberate confusion between the Diocese of Harare (CPCA) which is headed by me, Bishop Chad N. Gandiya and Dr.  Kunonga’s “Anglican Church in Zimbabwe”.

Kunonga is closely aligned with Mugabe
While the Diocese awaits the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe to determine the issues around the properties taken by Dr.  Kunonga, we are free to worship at any place and at any time that we find convenient other than our church buildings which he was given custodianship until the matter is resolved. There is no law in Zimbabwe that forbids us to worship God. The same applies to those who do not want to worship with us – there is no law in the statutes of Zimbabwe that forces any one to worship with someone they do not want.

In the name of God, please do not allow yourself to be fooled. If there are things about what is happening that you do not understand, please ask us and we will gladly explain it to you.

Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

With every blessing as you seek to draw closer to the Lord this Lent,
+Chad, Harare.
The Rt. Revd. Dr. Chad N. Gandiya
Bishop of the Diocese of Harare (CPCA)

"this ill-thought-out and potentially disastrous measure"

This is the full text of Diarmaid MacCulloch's letter to the Church Times. (The printed version was slightly edited.) I have divided up the paragraphs as more suitable for a blog.

Anglican Covenant: where next?

Prof Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, 
(credit: Chris Gibbions)
Twenty years into the reign of that good and pious monarch George III, in 1780, John Dunning MP tabled a motion in the House of Commons that ‘The influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished’.  It was passed, despite much fury from the government of the day (which had just inadvertently created the United States of America by its stupidity).  

Dunning’s Motion did not end the efforts of the executive to accrue power and centralise; those efforts are with us still.  Nevertheless, to use a phrase which Dunning would not have recognised, but would have relished, it was a reality check: it reminded royalty and the executive to preserve a delicate balance amid parliamentary politics and not try undue self-assertion.  Although George III was pretty cross at the time, his successor still sits on her throne, while the descendants of many monarchs contemporary with King George look back on the guillotine, the firing-squad or ignominous exile.

A triumphalist whiggish anecdote from British history, yes, but on the weekend of 18 February, a very whiggish event happened in England.  

Four Anglican diocesan synods were asked to vote in favour of the Anglican Covenant, with every pressure from the executive (that is, the vast majority of the Bench of Bishops), and all four synods declined to do so.  

It was a sign that the incoherence of the arguments in favour of the Covenant was beginning to become clear.  

We have been assured that the Covenant is vital for the future of the Anglican Communion, and so not to approve it will lead to break-up and theological incoherence. Equally, we have been assured that the Covenant has been watered down so much that it won’t change very much really, so it is perfectly safe to vote for it.  Above all, not to vote for it will be very upsetting for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who supports the Covenant.  

This argument, widely if a little surreptitiously canvassed, irresistibly reminds me of a MacCulloch family anecdote: my grandfather was taking morning worship in St Columba’s Episcopal Church, Portree, around 1900.  It was a hot day; a party had come to church from one of the great houses on the Isle of Skye, and one of the young ladies said to her hostess in a stage whisper, ‘Oh, I think I’m going to faint’.  The matriarch majestically retorted ‘You will do no such thing.  It would be disrespectful to Almighty God, and distressing for Canon MacCulloch.’  Although the admonition was on that occasion successful, that is no way to do theology.  

The future of Anglicanism can’t be decided on whether a momentous theological decision will hurt any one person’s feelings.

The Anglican Covenant is bad theology for many reasons: the most important of which is that it gives to central bodies the authority to decide who is fully an Anglican, in a way that offends every canon of Anglican history.  

It also makes an elementary mistake about discipline in our tradition.  There is no question but that the Covenant originated in a wish on the part of certain primates of the Communion to put the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the Naughty Corner.  If anyone tries to deny that, let she or he read a collection of essays from 2002, To mend the net, co-edited by Archbishop Drexel W. Gomez of the West Indies (Chairman of the Covenant Design Group, no less) and by Archbishop Maurice W. Sinclair of the Southern Cone.  

Now it is obvious that every body with a common purpose needs rules which may amount to discipline; but discipline in our Church is exercised against erring individuals, not against entire ecclesial bodies which have in prayer and careful thought about real pastoral situations, have come to their own decision about what is right for their own situation in a God-given place.  

It is a nonsense to try to spank an entire Church, although authoritarian-minded folk have often tried it over the centuries of Christian history.  On 18 February, four Anglican dioceses made that point.  

So far, ten dioceses in England have voted down the Covenant, and only five have voted for it.  Now, perhaps, those bishops who back this ill-thought-out and potentially disastrous measure should get the message, and let the Covenant quietly subside into the swamp of bad ideas in Anglican history.

Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford and a Patron of the No Anglican Covenant Campaign.


Comments have been disabled

Suddenly there's a little flutter of pro-Covenant publicity. Clearly the No Anglican Covenant Campaign has got people rattled.

There is one very good reason why those who want the Covenant have been so tardy in asserting their case: serious opposition was never expected.

I am confident that there was a conscious policy of not provoking discussion, of not dealing with the issues or the detail. I believe that the planned tactics have been to assert the merits of the Covenant in bland and general terms and to repeat there is no alternative. The calculation was that if this twin message was reiterated often enough, people would be lulled into passing  the Covenant on the nod.

Reception of the Covenant
Hence the new talking-heads videos described as  "empty of critical content" by Mark Harris. They come from a sub-group of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO). This group is tasked with facilitating the reception of the Covenant across the Communion.

But, please note, this is reception after the Covenant has been adopted. It was never anticipated that the group would need to explain or justify the Covenant in order to convince the voters of each Province to vote in favour. Here 'reception' means a PR exercise to induce people to like the Covenant once it was a legal fact that they could do noting about. (Admittedly 'reception' has always been a poor starveling in the spectrum of Anglican ecclesiology.)

Therefore the tone of the videos is mellow and reassuring: the Covenant is entirely benign, a Good Thing, motherhood-and-apple-pie, so don't worry your heads over it.

This is the Covenant of fairy land. It is as though To Mend the Net had never been written or GAFCON created, as though Gene Robinson had never been consecrated bishop, as though no same-sex couple ever had their union blessed in church, as though there had never been any intrusion by one Province into the territory of others, as though Primates have always shared bread and wine together without demur, as though no Province had already declared itself out of Communion with any other.

The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe
Bishop Emeritus of Kurunagala
References to any of this are child-like in their blandness: 'challenging times', 'some differences and some challenges', 'difficulties', 'some kind of opposition to some of the things that we are trying to do', 'there may be times of differences and concerns that could create some measure of dissension or disturb the peace'.

The one near-exception is the video in which Bishop Kumara Illanginghe compares events in the Communion to civil war in Sri Lanka. He starts by saying of Sri Lanka that 'our agony' has been that 'we have failed to deal with the causes that led to the war'. Yet he makes no attempt to address the causes of the civil war in Anglicanism. Instead he leaps to mutual accountability. This is surely a missed opportunity.

So, tell us about this Covenant ...
So far as I can work out the PR message is 'we need this Covenant'. The reasons are:

Q) How can Anglicanism resolve its identity crisis?
A) The Covenant articulates more clearly than before what Anglicans hold in common.

Q) How can we avoid division?
A) Sign the Covenant.

Q) What is the Covenant?
A) It is a constitution for the Anglican Communion. A reminder of our common life together. A means to resolve dissension for the smooth operation of the Communion. An aid to our mission.

Q) What form should our unity take?
A) Be accountable to one another and committed to each other by checking out decisions with one another. This is explicitly associated with the will of God. Deepen and strengthen our partnership. Be more Christian and more charitable. Some are concerned about the Covenant, especially section 4, 'as having to do with external control and authority': this is not well founded, but understandable.

Q) What will be changed by the Covenant?
A) Nothing: no new tests of doctrine, belief or ethical standards.

The Rev'd Dr. Katherine Grieb,
Professor of New Testament,
Virginia Theological Seminary
Katherine Grieb implies (though her language of 'false choices' leaves a lot of wriggle-room) that TEC will continue to be able elect gay partnered bishops, that we could 'work towards' blessing same-sex marriages (she doesn't say continue to do so in the mean time) and she wants, in the future, 'to work things out in ways that are acceptable to everyone'.

This beggars belief. If it's true then no conservative Province will sign. If it's not true then it's duplicitous. And to subordinate local change to universal agreement means making oneself a hostage to everyone else's prejudices, a recipe for disaster for all concerned.

So let's all sign up?
The immediate and obvious problem with these presentations is that they are aimed at reassuring those who are already on board or who know nothing about the Covenant.

They don't address the text in any detail. They don't explain the context of organizational change in the component parts of the Anglican Communion. They don't acknowledge the sanctions embedded in Section 4. They don't specify the entailed changes in relations between Provinces or between Provinces and the central organs of the Communion except by the bland phrase: 'mutual accountability'. Any 'concerns' that they acknowledge are simply denied.

Nor do they specify what is wrong with the present arrangements. In the absence of a clear description and diagnosis of the wrongs and inadequacies of the present Communion there is no way to judge whether this particular Covenant is going to redress any of the issues. Nor is there any discussion of what might be changed or lost as a result of implementing the Covenant.

So, take my advice, don't buy a pig in a poke.

An afterthought:
Oh, and there's one last small but perfectly formed symbol of the relationship between those preparing the 'reception' of the Covenant and the rest of us. It's a statement tucked underneath each clip: 'Adding comments has been disabled for this video.'


New pro-Covenant website

I was, in an odd sort of way, looking forward to a pro-Covenant group.

I thought, perhaps it would sharpen up debate. At least it might ensure a better informed debate.

kinda says it all, in a way
But no. The new 'Yes to the Covenant' group (all 3 of them to date) is as vague and vacuous as other defenders of the Covenant have been.

Once again, they don't tell us what the Covenant actually says - though at least they have the grace to link to the text.

Instead they work by insinuation and assertion.

In their strapline Serious about uniting Anglican worldwide, and why they think we should support the Covenant, they imply that they and they alone are concerned for the unity of the Communion. They're not.

They assert that there is no alternative. Of course there are always alternatives.

They assert that to reject the Covenant would tell those Provinces which have already signed that they are not needed. Nonsense. Provinces may quite properly come to different conclusions on the issue.

They ask one sensible question (albeit phrased tendentiously):
How can we really call Anglicanism a single global entity, when some Provinces subscribe to radical new doctrines which others cannot accept, and when Provinces set up new churches within each other’s territories? In 2008, divisions deepened when some bishops, and some whole Provinces, boycotted the Lambeth Conference.
But the question merely restates the starting point of the Windsor Report. It doesn't move us forwards. Though I assume they wish us to draw the conclusion that those who boycotted Lambeth 2008 are telling those Provinces of the Communion that did attend that they are not wanted.

What the site doesn't do is to engage in any serious way with arguments against the Covenant. How about, for starters,

  1. How are the new structures envisaged in the Covenant to be accountable to the Provinces?
  2. Legally members of the Anglican Church are those which are named in the Appendix to the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council. What are the legal implications of a Covenant - and of Section 4 in particular - in relation to Anglican membership?
  3. What are the ecumenical implications? Will all current agreements that are less than Communion-wide need to be re-negotiated?
  4. How, if some Provinces sign, some don't and some can't, is the unity of the Communion helped by the Covenant?  
  5. Are GAFCON or Global South Provinces all likely to sign the Covenant
  6. How will introducing a combination of policing and sanctions strengthen the bonds of affection between Provinces?
  7. How is objectivity or natural justice to be served if all the decision makers are inter-linked? Or, conversely, will the manner in which the Covenant is likely to re-shape Anglican politics serve the whole church or merely the international elite?
  8. How will the Covenant reduce conflict - as opposed to providing new routes and arenas through which conflicts are fought, or storing up resentment in those places which, led by the Spirit, wish to try new faithful developments?
  9. What will be the constitutional implications for the Church of England?
  10. And, will someone please tell me, what will it cost?


Two voices against the Covenant

Professor McCord Adams appealing for
your vote against the Covenant
The Canadian Anglican Journal picked up the NACC press release that Professor Marilyn McCord Adams had agreed to become a Patron of the campaign against the Anglican Covenant.

The Journal says,
McCord Adams herself minced no words in the press release when speaking of the covenant. “The proposed Anglican Covenant was conceived in moral indignation and pursued with disciplinary intent," she said. "Its global gate-keeping mechanisms would put a damper on the Gospel agenda, which conscientious Anglicans should find intolerable. The Covenant is based on an alien ecclesiology, which thoughtful Anglicans have every reason to reject.”
Giles Fraser who used to be at St. Paul's
In the Church Times Giles Fraser also had a go at it.  He says,
To recap: the Anglican Covenant is an international treaty, cham­pioned originally by the Bishop of Durham at that time, Dr Tom Wright, among others. It was a re­sponse to the threats by conservative Anglicans that they would walk away from the Communion if other provinces became more gay-friendly. It is rather like bankers’ saying that they would walk away from the City of London if they had to face the Tobin Tax. This sort of blackmail ought never to be pandered to.
If you allow one province a quasi-legal mechanism for pushing out another province, then you are providing a context for acrimony, not for reconciliation. Recon­cilia­tion comes when those divided by differences learn to see Christ at work in each other. Mostly, this is achieved through patient friendship and listening.
~~  ~~ 

I did wonder, in passing, about the explicitly gendered quality of the term 'patron'. Appointing Professor McCord Adams as 'matron' of the campaign just wouldn't have the same impact - though it might have been fun to designate Bishops Saxbee and Selby as our Matrons.  I guess we need a new word.

Either way NACC is delighted they joined the campaign and grateful to them for playing an active role.


A newly Christian nation?

From the New Dawn in Liberia
In the midst serious controversy over the religious foundation of Liberia, a group of Church leaders here are hearing [gearing] up to launch a campaign to solicit “one million signatures” from the Christian community to petition the House of Representatives to repeal a constitutional clause, which states that Liberia is a secular nation. 
The luncheon, which is slated for Saturday, 18 February, is expected to be held in the Old Providence Baptist Church on Ashmun Street, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1847 by 11 men, in conformity with Christian beliefs and principles.
That clause was however, amended along with other provisions of the constitution in Gbarnga, Bong County in 1985 by a special constitutional review committee chaired by the late Dr. Edward Binyan Keselley.
Well, there's a thought. What exactly would constitute a Christian State? Options include:
  • The exclusion of non-Christians from government (e.g. Great Britain before 1828). 
  • A State which sought to apply in public life principles drawn explicitly from the Bible. Of course, the question of which principles is a tricky one and would immediately become the substance of politics in such a State.  For example, would there be Christian banking in parallel and contrast to Islamic banking?
  • Theocratic government, i.e. government by those whose qualification to govern is formal recognition by Christian churches.
  • A State which privileged one particular Church over all others and wove it into the fabric of governance  (e.g. Britain now, however tenuous the threads have become). 
  • Or, less precisely, a State which privileged Christianity in general over all others. For example the old Ottoman empire was, for long periods, largely tolerant of non-Muslim religions but subjected them to various disabilities, not least taxing them more heavily.
Of course, none of these options are compatible with democracy. Democracy has some roots in Christian theology but it's dominant motif has been the rejection of religious rule. Which perhaps puts the question the other way round: is it possible to be a Christian, to aver 'Jesus is Lord', in a democracy?

And Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights would certainly not be applicable:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitation as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Guarding Christians in Iraq
Fair enough, from the complacent comfort of a white man in the UK, I can treat these issues a bit flippantly. But I know that these are key issues: one of the deep things dividing the Anglican Communion at the moment is divergent attitudes to the place of the Church in / against / over the State.

I think democracy and human rights are important. Whilst force is never absent from a State I believe it's a good thing to reduce violence to a minimum - and, on the whole, democracy and human rights together tend in that direction. 

Religious countries are liable to persecute members of minority religions because the simple presence of such people represents an existential threat to the State. That too is the basis of the violence of North Korea's atheism.

The New Dawn has also published a long article arguing against the proposals and the principles beneath them. Its introduction says,
The proponents of this idea say that the campaign to legalize gay marriage in the country has reinforced their resolve to launch the campaign. Others say this is not a Moslem country, but the Moslems are acting “frisky.”
This is a new development, and it seems to be gaining traction, as many professed Christians and anti-Moslem figures join the crusade.
Liberia has seen too much recent bloodshed and this proposal can only inflame tensions and cause minority groups anxiety and fear. 

Votes on the Covenant today

Initial post 18/2/12, amended 19/2/12

Information on today's Covenant votes so far says:

Salisbury voted against:
Bishops: For: 1 (Bishop Graham, Sherborne)' Against: 1 (Bishop Nicholas, Salisbury), Abstentions: 0
Clergy: For: 11, Against: 20, Abstentions: 2
Laity: For: 19, Against: 27, Abstentions: 0
Graham Kings' speech proposing adoption of the Covenant is here.

Portsmouth voted against 
Bishops: For: 1
Clergy: For: 12, Against: 17
Laity: For: 13, Against: 17, Abstentions: 2
Rochester voted against (figures not yet confirmed)

Bishops: For: 1
Clergy: For: 8, Against: 30
Laity: For: 14, Against: 26, Abstentions: 7

Leicester voted against
Bishops: For: 2, Against: 0, Abstentions: 0
Clergy: For: 15, Against: 21, Abstentions: 3 
Laity: For: 21, Against: 14, Abstentions: 4 
Thus it fell in the house of clergy.

By my reckoning that makes 5 Dioceses for and 10 against. Given 44 Dioceses this means 12 more Diocese (of the 29 yet to vote) need to reject the Covenant if it is to fail. This is a good day for opponents but there is a long way to go yet.

Further updates when there's further information.

Also added 19/2/12
From Archbishop Cranmer
The Anglican Covenant was the ‘Tory’ mechanism by which the Anglican Communion might be held together over differences on the issues of gender and sexuality, with the incorporation/adoption/imposition of a bit of papalism to deal with ‘scandalous and ungodly behaviour’ – a move quite contrary to Anglican ecclesiology. Yet the Covenant is being trounced in diocese after diocese as the Whiggish hordes defend their historic liberties.
And from Father Jonathan,
It seems the Anglican Communion Covenant is losing momentum. Arguments in favor are becoming increasingly shrill and unreasonable. Its popularity in dioceses (in various national churches) is quite low. Given General Synod’s rebuke to Archbishops Williams and Sentamu over women bishops, it would seem not even an appeal to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury will be able to sway the Church of England.

Facts, not judgment, please

The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover 
The Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, has been quoted by  Anglican Down Under (Peter Carroll) and Preludium (Mark Harris) make points for and against the Covenant respectively.

Neither mentions that the Bishop is factually incorrect. He is quoted as saying,
Contrary to what some might argue, it [the Covenant] does not, in my judgment, create new structures or new authorities.
In fact, first, the proposed Covenant explicitly requires new structures:
(4.2.9) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.
These new 'mechanisms' will, of course, require a Communion-wide co-ordinating mechanism. They are necessary because the Covenant require much greater mutual scrutiny. The process will inevitably constrain decision making inside provinces.

Second, I agree that the Covenant does not create new authorities, but only so long as you hold a narrow understanding of the term.

However the Covenant would give existing authorities significant new powers. The simple existence of these new powers, even before they are exercised, will change the nature of the authorities concerned. For example,
(4.2.2) The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, shall monitor the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion on behalf of the Instruments. In this regard, the Standing Committee shall be supported by such other committees or commissions as may be mandated to assist in carrying out this function and to advise it on questions relating to the Covenant.
Thus the Standing Committee adds to its current, extensive roles that of 'monitoring' the Communion. The relationship between the Standing Committee and the Provinces is thereby modified. When combined with the mechanisms of 4.2.9, the Standing Committee moves from being the civil service of the Communion to being its overseer.

The 'Instruments of the Communion' (the Primates' Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury) would also be accorded new powers. In 4.2.5, acting on the recommendation of the Standing Committee, they may implement interim sanctions against a member province. I.e.
 (4.2.5) ... relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.
In 4.2.6 & 7 this process moves from 'provisional' to final:
(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.
OK - now let go, and then grab someone else's wrist
In effect the Standing Committee judges the case and the Instruments of the Communion are joined with the judgement. The Standing Committee then hands over to the Instruments of the Communion the execution of the judgement.

The Covenant schema uses the existing authorities of the Communion: in that sense they are not new. But I would argue that the changes are so fundamental to relationships within and across the Communion that this amounts to re-constituting the authorities. In that sense the Covenant will create new authorities vested with powers that currently do not exist.

I dare say the Bishop is a busy man and was ill-advised. But to argue for such fundamental change without understanding the text and minimising the extent of the practical and conceptual changes to the Communion that the Covenant, if adopted, would usher in is, at the very best, careless.

The detail matters because it is the detail that will be implemented, not any individual's judgment.


Paradox of God and City

1) What if the city is antithetic to God?
This was the thesis of Jacques Ellul's The Meaning of the City (1970)
Jacques Ellul

It's a couple of years since I read the book so I'm not going to tackle the detail now. But I have repeatedly come back to the idea as a (or the) starting point for contextual theological reflection.

The city, it seems to me, is the continuous embodiment of hubris - the realisation of the assertion that humanity is wholly self-sufficient and has no need of God.

Cities themselves are spinning tops. They stay upright solely by the energy of their own momentum. They are always about to collapse and the fear or anticipation of collapse keeps them spinning. Water, food, power, waste disposal, social order, communications, transportation - indeed every aspect of urban life - are always about to decay and collapse (we are all just three meals from anarchy). Yet, mostly, they don't.

Or, more accurately, cities are continuously collapsing and dying. And it is the real, immediate possibility that they will fall over, combined with the personal and organisational interests of those who continuously risk being impoverished, which keeps everyone running round and round to keep the top spinning.

And everywhere is city. The countryside is shaped by the needs of the city. Remaining wildernesses are defined as 'remote' by relation to the city. It may be possible to retreat from the city but it's not possible to leave it.

2) How do I pursue a liberal theology from this starting point?
The Dome of the Rock overlooking Jerusalem
In the spectrum of Christian attitudes I am cheerfully of the liberal tendency. I'm not going to read Ellul's book (or any other, I guess) and suddenly decry the world, the flesh and the devil, declare we're all going to hell in a handcart, or proclaim repent and be saved. (Not even if I knew what any of these looked like in practice.)

But if I take seriously the thesis that the city is antithetic to God, then neither am I going to endorse providence or Leibniz' 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds', though I might debate the matter over a pint with Pangloss.

Ellul struggled with what, for him, was the paradox of Jerusalem. God made this city his own. God adopted the city knowing it to have been born in defiance of God. I don't remember whether Ellul extrapolated this relationship to all cities but I'm inclined to do so.

For me, paradox is a key term. Holding incompatible opposites together is a methodological nightmare but it seems to me necessary. As Christians, as churches, we are in-and-against the world around us.

God is, I assert, cause, continuation and conclusion, word and audience, transcendent and imminent, judge and broken, the resolution of all paradoxes. However, until the resolution when none of it will matter any more, paradoxes remain normal.

Therefore paradoxes will have to be a presupposition of contextual theology. But that doesn't tell me anything about their content nor how to deploy paradox in a manner which isn't simply self-serving.

Comments, observations very welcome. I'm just beginning on this road.


No Anglican Covenant Coalition ~ new Patron

The Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, and Dr Lionel Deimel, the Coalition’s Episcopal Church Convenor, have announced the appointment of Professor Marilyn McCord Adams as a Patron of the Coalition.

Professor McCord Adams joins Bishops John Saxbee and Peter Selby, and Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch whose appointments were announced previously.

“Professor McCord Adams’s experience in both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England gives her a much broader understanding of the workings of the Anglican Communion,” said Deimel. “Coming on the heels of the decisive synod votes in Derby and Gloucester, it is an exciting time for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.”

“The proposed Anglican Covenant was conceived in moral indignation and pursued with disciplinary intent,” according to Professor McCord Adams. “Its global gate-keeping mechanisms would put a damper on the gospel agenda, which conscientious Anglicans should find intolerable. The Covenant is based on an alien ecclesiology, which thoughtful Anglicans have every reason to reject.”

McCord Adams is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From 2004 to 2009, she was RegiusProfessor of Divinity at Oxford University and Residentiary Canon at Christ Church, Oxford.

She also served as a member of the Church of England General Synod at the time when the Anglican Covenant was being developed. She has written two books on the religious understanding of evil, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God, and Christ and Horrors: the Coherence of Christology. Her most recent book, Some Later Medieval Theories of the Eucharist: Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010.


Anglican Refugee and Migrant Network

A press release from the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) intrigued me because of the work I do. I've not heard of the Anglican Refugee and Migrant Network and so I did a bit of ferreting round the Anglican communion site to find out more - necessary because there is no link to it in the 'Networks' section of the site, and the website's own search engine is very selective. 

The history:
The network was first set up in 1984 at ACC6. The previous year the Primates' Meeting had called for greater attention to refugee issues across the Communion. Provinces were asked to set up contact people, to promote education, a Day of Observance, and involve dioceses and parishes. It would also 'determine and eliminate root causes' of forced migration. It seems not to have achieved much though a consultation was held in Zimbabwe in 1985.

In May 1992, meeting in Amman, Jordan, the Anglican Refugee and Migrant Network called on Anglican Churches throughout the world to use their influence with their respective national governments to eradicate conditions creating refugees. At the subsequent ACC9 meeting this formed part of the background to a resolution concerning Palestinian deportees:
Resolved, that this Joint Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Consultative Council calls on the Israeli Government to comply immediately with United Nations Resolution 799, returning Palestinian deportees to their homes in the West Bank and Gaza;
In 1998, at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the network was re-established by the Archbishop of South Australia, Ian George. It then aimed to be
... a forum for the exchange of information, ideas and encouragement to Anglicans around the world who are supporting refugees and advocating for their better treatment. (ACNS  2527)
The principle of non-refoulment
ACC12 (2002) received a report from the network which, while thankful that most provinces had a contact person, also noted that it had not met since 1992.

In 2009 ACC14 welcomed its re-establishment (again) and that the Province of Hong Kong hosted it. (Proposal, .pdf, from which some of this history is taken.)

In March 2011 the notes of the Standing Committee of the ACC included the paragraph,
The Anglican Refugee and Migrant Network has a new co-ordinator the Revd Catherine Graham who will be located in Hong Kong, the Province that is a significant supporter of the network. Canon Kearon said he believed that networks that had such support from a Province were often the ones that were most active and productive. “I think that’s the model for the way forward, Provinces adopting networks,” he said.
Process, not product, was clearly the most important thing to note. However, now, in February 2012 under the odd description of Anglicanism's 'newest network', ACNS 5035 reports
A letter sent to nearly 800 diocesan bishops by the Revd Terrie Robinson, in her role as Anglican Communion’s Networks’ Co-ordinator, introduced ARMN’s new co-ordinator, the Revd Catherine Graham, and asked them to share with her insights and information from their dioceses about issues of refugees or migration.
Revd Robinson is looking for statistics, which could be overwhelming if a large number reply and not much use if only a small number do. UNHCR Global Trends (.pdf) is probably a better source.

She is also looking for 
any information you are able to give concerning the church’s mission and ministry among, or on behalf of migrants, internally displaced people and refugees. This work might cover a broad range, for example, helping congregations to become aware of global situations giving rise to the displacement of people and the gospel imperative to respond to those in need; providing pastoral care and opportunities for worship for new arrivals; offering practical support.
which I reckon is excellent. Anything gets my vote that might help people see migrants as real people who are worthy of assistance and who, in my experience, are often very capable themselves but facing adverse circumstances created by the host country. 
The Network’s objectives are:
  • To share information, ideas and experience, and to provide affirmation and mutual support for front-line programme-workers and programme-managers working with refugees and migrants on behalf of the Anglican Church through the creation of an active informal network.
  • To provide, when appropriate, practice-based information and briefing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, other Anglican Church leaders, and the Anglican Observer to the UN, to inform and strengthen their prophetic, advocacy and pastoral work on behalf of refugees and migrants;
  • To promote awareness, concern and commitment to action within dioceses and parishes, to the benefit of local refugees and migrants;
  • To encourage and collaborate with the wider ecumenical family and other faiths in promoting active ministry to refugees and migrants;
  • To help tackle the root causes contributing to the creation of refugees and migrants through advocacy;
  • To network with other institutions working on behalf of refugees and migrants; and,
  • To develop and share theological reflection on the causes, issues and consequences relating to refugees and migrants.
Tackling root causes is a big task. But for a thought provoking reflection on a world without borders by Bridget Anderson, Senior Research Fellow at COMPAS at the University of Oxford, I recommend:

City of Saints

I've just tripped over, in the Google way, a puff for a building development in Grahamstown, South Africa.
With its elegant English heritage and beautifully preserved architecture, Grahamstown is one of the best-preserved Victorian colonial towns in the world. It is also the City of Saints, a diocese of the Anglican Church in South Africa and home to many faiths, whose church spires and buildings of worship define the skyline. But Grahamstown is better known as a centre of education, arts and culture, the host of the popular annual National Arts Festival and home to some of the country’s finest institutions of learning, including Rhodes University, St Andrews College, The Diocesan School for Girls, Graeme College and Kingswood College.
What I especially liked was the conjunction of  '... the City of Saints, a diocese of the Anglican Church in South Africa and home to many faiths, whose church spires and buildings of worship define the skyline.'

Could such a place be really possible - Saints, Anglicans, and many faiths all enjoying the South African sun together?

Perhaps only in a sales brochure. Though the housing development is called Lindisfarne so, perhaps, anything's possible.


Three points for the Covenant

I was party to some correspondence a little while ago which suggested that the official line to promote the Covenant had three strands:
  1. The Covenant will introduce regulation where there is currently little regulation
  2. The Covenant initiates a mechanism for building relationships and communication allowing the Churches of the Anglican Communion to stay in communion both nationally and internationally
  3. There remains room for local freedom with connectedness to the whole
local freedom will remain
The third of these is not an argument for the Covenant. It is merely an assertion that this Covenant will not be as prescriptive or as constricting as some critics suggest. It implicitly cedes the point that the Covenant will constrain local freedom - probably to a significant degree - only not too much. 

There has been no discussion of subsidiarity in the whole Covenant process, despite it being significant in the Windsor Report. As a result 'local freedom' is vague to the point of vacuous. 

I read the Covenant as suggesting that Provinces will indeed be able to do anything they wish - unless and until someone objects (or 'raises a question'). Consequently, to ensure that there is capacity to raise a question, there will need to be a whole new skein of mutual monitoring. Each Province will have freedom - but CCTV will be installed in every governing body and monitored by the Anglican Communion Office. 
(4.2.9) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.
Whatever 'autonomy' means, this is not it.

Consecrating Gene Robinson
bishop of New Hampshire
The first and second arguments rest on a particular way of seeing the disputes which have divided the Communion. 

The narrative goes something like this: 
The North American Churches, TEC especially but the Canadian Church too, have erred and strayed from the path of orthodoxy for a long time. Consecrating Gene Robinson simply put the tin lid on it. The defence of 'we followed our own canonical procedures' only makes matters worse. If the rules result in circumstances where 'the devil has clearly entered the church' then the whole church is structured demonically.

Or, less graphically, the American Churches have not listened to the deeply held concerns of the rest of the Communion. And, right now, there is nothing anyone else can do about it.

Price £1.95 or $3.07
If this is the narrative then the response is relatively straight forward: create the power to do something about it - and then do it. Specifically eject TEC and ACoC from the Communion unless and until they repent their decisions and turn from their erroneous ways. 

The first part of the plan is the most difficult. It entails persuading enough of the Communion to give up their autonomy and to cede these powers to a central authority. They must discard inherited patterns of working together voluntarily and replacing them with 'regulation', enforceable rules. 

The Communion will thus cease to be a company of pilgrims walking together in their distinctive localities in the common service of Christ. It will instead become a single Church with one government, one set of rules, one order.

Once this is done, once the rules are in place and power centralized, the task of expulsion should be simple. For the prosecutors the case is already adjudged and proven; all that remains is for sentence to be effected.

But what will we lose? The narrow focus on the expulsion of TEC and ACoC, which predates the consecration of Gene Robinson, has distorted our vision. The difficult task of walking together alongside those with whom we disagree has been discarded in favour of a draconian and simplistic solution: excise the offender. The carefully nurtured history of autonomous churches co-operating will be replaced by an authoritarian Church regulating. And, at the heart of the programme, world-wide Anglicanism would lose TEC and ACoC.

Furthermore this is the immoral logic of fighting a war in the name of peace: we will end up deliberately creating schism in the name of unity.

In summary:
  1. The Covenant will introduce regulation where there is currently little regulation. Yes. It will. But is it justifiable? Is it wise? Why should we lose the diverse Anglicanism we have inherited to replace it with a new, centrally governed Church? How will regulation and enforcement stop faithful people exploring new avenues of the expression of faith?
  2. The Covenant initiates a mechanism for building relationships and communication allowing the Churches of the Anglican Communion to stay in communion both nationally and internationally. This is disingenuous as we already have such mechanisms. The question is: are the terms of the new mechanism any better than those we currently enjoy? And what will happen once TEC and ACoC are expelled? Will relationships be better, or will every member have in the back of their mind the question: who will they come for next?
  3. There remains room for local freedom with connectedness to the whole.  Yes, some, how much? How will any one part of the global, unified, regulated Church be able to respond to new insights which the Spirit is revealing? How will we be sure we will not have to go at the pace of the most conservative and the most intransigent? How will the prophetic voice be heard?