Shabby and callous treatment of a faithful priest in the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Fr Bryghton Mankhaka on his wedding day

Fr Bright Mankhaka R.I.P.

The tragic death of Father Bright Mankhka, a young Malawian priest in the Diocese of Lake Malawi, on 1st December following a serious road accident, has revealed a callous approach to a man who has faithfully served the Anglican Church as a priest over many years.

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION have received a number of reports about this tragic case of vengeful action which we report as follows:

Bright Mankhaka’s funeral took place on 2nd December where he was buried outside his home church (a church he helped to build) in Bumphula, Ntchisi. A correspondent writes, “many people from all walks of life came to pay their last respects to Fr Bright and to console his young widow Gertrude. He was described as humble, hard-working and dedicated to God’s will.”

However, prior to his death internal political squabbling had led to a star chamber report condemning Fr Bright without it seems any evidence or reason. Dated 27th September 2010, a group of priests under the instruction of the new Bishop of Lake Malawi, Francis Kaulanda, produced the following originally secret report leaked to us and now widely available in the diocese:

‘A report on Rev. Bryghton Mankhaka

Lord Bishop Francis Kaulanda, as per your instructions that we, Canon A.M. Mkoko, Venerable Machemba, Venerable F. Dzantenge, Venerable M. Chilase, Venerable Gumbwa, Rev Fr. S. Matumbo and Canon Christopher Mwawa; interviewed the said priest, I am pleased to present to you the panel’s observations as follows:

i. He is a problem of problems
ii. He has no repentant heart
iii. He is not ready for the priesthood
iv. He is not sure of himself
v. He is not ready to abide by the Canonical obedience
vi. He has shown no remorse
vii. He is not ready to return [the diocesan] motorbike


He is not fit to be hired as priest in this Diocese or elsewhere

Rev’d Canon Christopher K. Mwawa
Chairman of the Panel’

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION observes that it would be hard to find such a shoddy piece of unqualified criticism anywhere. As a report it says nothing of the background or reasons for the seven accusations levelled against Mankhaka and rests essentially as a work of malicious libel. It is astonishing that Bishop Francis Kaulanda has accepted it.

We understand that it was effected during the two week long period that Fr Bright lay unconscious in hospital on life-support and led to the shockingly uncharitable circumstances surrounding the subsequent attempt to bury Fr Bright as a non-religious layman.

A correspondent writes: “Bright’s tragedy has opened up clandestine devilish machinations of some priests of the Diocese of Lake Malawi. When the accident happened we informed the Diocesan Chaplain … he came to see Fr Bright on a Wednesday, after the accident which happened on Monday evening. I understand that the Bishop came to see him on the following Thursday
(he has otherwise been in the U.K. including during the time of the funeral). However, we were surprised that the following Sunday no announcement was made or even a mention of him in the prayers.

The Diocesan Secretary refused to offer any kind of support for Fr Bright during his hospitalization or his funeral, saying ‘as a diocese we do not know him as a priest and he must be buried as laity’.

We have seen the Report of the Panel and this has surprised many members of the Church because they did not expect such heavy handedness to be given to a fellow priest who has committed no crime … the diocese has disowned him and only a few personal friends have been to see him. It is very unfortunate as the new Bishop (Francis Kaulanda) promised the Church a new beginning and to bury all past differences ... there are elements that want divisions to continue and are playing the tribal card in church. Now it is Likoma vs Ntchisi and Nkhota-kota etc. It is very pathetic to say the least. Fr Bright was victimised.”

ANGLICAN-INFORMATION notes that another correspondent writes: “In an act of compassion some of Fr Bright’s fellow priests debated the decision of the Report Committee and agreed (bravely) to bury him with the honours of an ordained Priest of the Anglican Church and he was interred as such. They had to open the casket to dress him in his priestly attire.”

So we sadly report another disgraceful picture from the Diocese of Lake Malawi, Province of Central Africa, of hard-hearted, vindictive and unchristian action meted out to a man lying on a life support machine for no reason other than that he had fallen out with the ruling elite.

A full explanation from Bishop Francis Kaulanda is now required.

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Not a real Church?

Perhaps I was wrong in my belief (yesterday) that the mystical hierarchy model of the church is practically defunct.

Lesley Fellows at Lesley's Blog (and referring back to the Church Mouse) highlights the contrast between the silence around the offer of Methodists to join the CofE and the brouhaha surrounding the Ordinariate created to enable Anglicans to join the Roman Catholics.

Perhaps, she speculates, the Catholic model of the Church is still so strong that the Methodists don't really count: they are not a real Church.

Perhaps, though she doesn't mention this, it is simply a matter of Anglican arrogance, even snobbery.

It is interesting to watch a vicar enter a meeting room.  You can often spot them a mile off: collar to the fore, they emanate an air of confidence, the presupposition of a right to be present and the expectation of being taken seriously, whatever the context.  (Not every one of them, of course, and a good number of those that do would be horrified to have it pointed out to them. I guess I did much the same in my vicaring days and I'm not convinced I've entirely lost it.)

I suspect the presupposition of a representative of the Established Church, a certain standing in society, an organization which builds vicars up and congregational deference which means that many never get the corners knocked off, all contribute to this arrogance.  A high view of priesthood would certainly contribute to this attitude but it seems to apply to vicars wherever they are on the candle.

John Henry Newman
As John Henry Newman said in Tract 1 (1833):
... on what will you rest the claim of respect and attention which you make upon your flocks? Hitherto you have been upheld by your birth, your education, your wealth, your connexions; should these secular advantages cease, on what must CHRIST’S Ministers depend? Is not this a serious practical question? 
And maybe some residue of his next comment remains:
We know how miserable is the state of religious bodies not supported by the State. Look at the Dissenters on all sides of you, and you will see at once that their Ministers, depending simply upon the people, become the creatures of the people. Are you content that this should be your case? Alas! can a greater evil befall Christians, than for their teachers to be guided by them, instead of guiding?
His solution was,
There are some who rest their divine mission on their own unsupported assertion; others, who rest it upon their popularity; others, on their success; and others, who rest it upon their temporal distinctions. This last case has, perhaps, been too much our own; I fear we have neglected the real ground on which our authority is built,—OUR APOSTOLICAL DESCENT.
(from Project Canterbury)

While I would heartily reject Newman's answer it is interesting that the question remains cast in much the same terms: how do the clergy know who they are, individually and as a class, except by placing themselves over against the laity?



I signed off yesterday's post and then thought: 'formation', as you do.

"St Thomas, Count of Aquino, Dominican Friar and
the Angelic Doctor of the Catholic Church
understood hierarchy and taught popes
and bishops, emperors and kings,
 how to exercise it." 
For the most part the idea of formation has traditionally been focused on priestly formation in the more Catholic tradition: the shaping of a malleable man into a priest; and thence the shaping of a priestly elite more educated, more deeply spiritual, more endowed with the qualities of leadership and pastoral wisdom than the laity.  An elite defined by being separated out from ordinary people.

Add in a belief that, in the divine hierarchy, to be a priest is to be nearer God than the laity and yet to be a priest is to be but the shadow of a bishop's closeness to God, and you have a powerful, driving ideology which once achieved great things in the Church.

Yet it is an ideology which is now almost (not quite) intellectually and practically defunct.

The concept of formation remains significant, however, and deserves to be revisited.  Just how do we form, shape, create disciples - lay, clerical and episcopal disciples - adequate to the tasks of mission, service, holiness in today's world? How do we form the whole church, not merely a top slice of it?

This is the perennial task of the church: to make real and consequential what it is to be a Christian today. To reverse this sentence: the way Christians act and speak (as Christians rather than as, say, engineers) is what it  means to be Christian.  Christians form the Church which formed them.

This is based on an epistemology profoundly antagonistic to the epistemology which saw the universe as fixed in a great pyramid stretching up towards God in which the most Godly humans stood just a feathers' breath below the angels.

To the contrary, it is based on the understanding of a world continually coming into being, in which every moment closes down some possibilities and opens up new ones, in which beauty and passion are as important as facts and analysis, in which ideology (theology, world-view, common opinion) is an essential building block in the creation of organizations, and organizations are essential to the development of knowledge and understanding.

That is: the Church is as the Church does.  As the Church does, so its members corporately make real the idea of the Church that they embody and enact.  Each action closes down some possibilities and opens others.

Clearly some decisions and actions have much more extensive and longer-lasting consequences.  Some (do I need to mention the Covenant?) appear to be much more likely to close down options than to create new opportunities.  The rhetoric of order and discipline is intended to signal that the desirable path of formation is to curtail and prevent innovation and new expressions of faith.

Fun in St Neots Church
But instead of putting 'discipline' and 'order' first, foremost and final as the concepts which should guide the formation of the future Church, I suggest we should look for other ideas.  Perhaps holiness and compassion, devotion, sacrifice and, who knows, even fun can be guiding concepts.

Though I would add quickly that I am not opposed to either discipline or order per se. I think both are necessary elements of any structure.  I recognise the reality of sin in any church or group.  I think, however, that when discipline is needed it will be because of some failure of the Church. The actions of discipline and the re-imposition of order should be seen as causes of shame and sorrow, occasions for repentance, not celebrated as guiding principles of the Communion.

I also suggest that the ontological hierarchy which so elevated bishops remains with us in a changed, and cheaper, version.

The Catholic tradition placed hierarchy on the foundation of divine law made visible in natural law.  In the Anglican Church that foundation is (a somewhat dated) organizational thesis.  The centralization of the Church, the elevation of the primates, the focusing of power in the General Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury, is being pursued for organizational efficacy: to better enable the control of member churches.

Surely we can do better than this.


Why worry?

The Covenant is, as I've said before, part of a twin strategy to change the Communion for ever.  Most recently the focus has been on the Covenant for two reasons: it's now out for adoption by Provinces, and because it is a document in the public domain.

Covenanters: Bishop Gregory Cameron and
Archbishop Drexel Gomez in 2009
The second (chronologically the first) part of the strategy has had much less attention.  This is the creation of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (SCAC). This is because change has been done in long slow steps, many of the changes have been buried in official documents, it has been seen as a matter in internal concern, and because documentation has been less easy to find.  And it's dull.  A Covenant has a symbolic resonance in the Church; constitutional change has not.

The Constitution of the Anglican Communion is now on the ACC page of the Anglican Communion website.  A Q&A style presentation of the Standing Committee is here.

The changes in the constitution of the Communion would give effect to the proposals contained in the Covenant; the Covenant would would give significant powers to the Standing Committee of the Communion (and here).  It would, in effect, make the SCAC a new Instrument of Communion in its own right.

The result of the changes that have already taken place and those which the Covenant may instigate would change the nature of Anglicanism for ever.

The consequences will, over time, stretch right to the heart of each church.  It may be that this will be a good thing (though I don't see it myself) but surely it can't be good to do this by default, without informed consent, without some sharing and general acceptance of a vision for the future.

First, it will turn the Communion into a Church, instead of a family of Churches (irrespective of who's in and who's out).

Local synods will grow less independent, autonomy will be constrained, episcopal authority will be circumscribed.  I don't think this will happen all at once; I think it will happen step-by-step, issue-by-issue and probably with no-one outside the Anglican Communion Office taking stock as it goes on.

From here to eternity, via the SCAC
Second, it will stretch the distance between pew and centre still further.  There's already a long distance between pew and General Synod, let alone pew to Archbishop.

To turn this round: ordinary worshippers will feel even further from the places decisions are made.

Third, the manner in which these changes have already been effected will predispose the manner of future decisions.

In particular the bureaucratic-political nature of the Church will be reinforced with the great majority of people effectively excluded by an glass wall from decision making.  The international elite of fixers and global leaders will talk to one another and operate in ways that most others (including all but the best funded and staffed lobby groups) will not be able to follow, let alone influence.

What is already an overwhelmingly clerical church will become even more so.

Fourth, the voluntary nature of adherence and expression of faith will shrink still further.  In 1828 the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in England effectively made membership voluntary.  That fact has never been part of the church's self-image.  Instead, monarchical (strictly princely) attitudes have characterised the exercise of episcopal authority, mirrored by excessive deference.  In England at least lay members of the Anglican Church are subjects, not citizens.

Fifth, there will be an impact at the local, parochial and deanery level.  Curiously the tendency to ignore or circumvent the rules, and for self-confident clergy to do their own thing, may grow stronger. (This capacity is an internalisaton of monarchical attitudes turned back against the official monarch).

The future of the Anglican Church?
For most people, most of the time, I guess the greater likelihood will be that initiative is further stifled, passivity, dependence and deference will continue to be the order of the day, and the effective engagement of the laity in making decisions that will realise the potential of the people of God will continue to be minimised.

Sixth, there will be a little less money in the local church and an even higher ratio of (relatively better paid) senior clergy and bureaucrats to regular worshippers.

*   *   *

Sometimes I wonder why I worry.  I was once ordained and now I am without episcopal permission to officiate (no-one's refused - I just haven't asked).  This leaves me (and other retired / resigned clergy in this position) unable to be members of the Church.  There is simply no space for us in the constitution.

But I do worry.  The shape, flavour, rhetoric, financing, decision-making, trust, suspicion, competence, clarity, history, vision, style, values, ethos of any organisation predispose how it functions on the ground.  All of these elements are predominantly set by the top. The words and actions of the few senior leaders are setting the church on a particular spiritual path to the future.

I have not seen or heard anything in the debate around the Covenant any official consideration of its impact in the pew.  It's all about inter-Provincial relationships, as though they were separable from the people who constitute the membership, the foundations, the purpose of the Church.  And who are the source of its funding. Could we not seek to shape the Church as though it served the spiritual needs and potential of the people of God?

Covenant between God and the people of Papua New Guinea, signed by the Prime Minister, 2007


Where the Covenant came from

Rev Dr Caroline Hall
I commend an article on the history of the Covenant by Caroline Hall at the Walking with Integrity site.

She sets out a number of things I had not previously known, especially that
In fact, the concept of an Anglican Covenant was first suggested in the Dallas Statement in 1997. This was the statement from a conference attended by 45 conservative bishops and 4 conservative archbishops from 16 nations to develop an anti-gay strategy for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. They outlined what they saw as “a shared and coherent orthodox Anglican framework” and called for discipline as a “necessary corollary of accountability” in keeping to the “bounds of eucharistic fellowship within the Anglican Communion”.
I also hadn't realised that To Mend the Net was 'considered by the Primates Meeting and, in 2003, the InterAnglican Theology and Doctrine Commission.'

There is, however, another strand to the history of the Covenant which she omits - and which now makes more sense to me in the context of the story Hall sets out.  

This from an article I wrote in 2004 called What has law got to offer the Church published in Modern Believing, Summer 2004.
In April 2002 the Anglican Primates stated that the ‘… unwritten law common to the Churches of the Communion and expressed as shared principles of canon law may be understood to constitute a fifth ‘instrument of unity’ …’ adding, ‘Given that law may be understood to provide a basic framework to sustain the minimal conditions which allow the Churches of the Communion to live together in harmony and unity, the observances of the ministry of Word and Sacrament call us all to live by a maximal degree of communion through grace.’1 In October 2003, as storm clouds seemed about to break, the Primates established a commission whose mandate included an examination of the canonical understandings of impaired and broken communion2. The old order, in which Anglican churches were ‘… bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.’3, having been eroded, now seems to be slipping away. A new legislative order with centralised structures appears to be growing.
1 Report of the Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, Canterbury 10-17 April 2002, ACNS 2959, 17 April 2002. The other instruments are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Conferences, Primates Meetings, and the Anglican Consultative Council. They are supplemented by a range of informal linkages.  Canon law encompasses constitutions, statutes, canons, quasi-judicial regulation and codes of practice, as well as ecclesiastical courts, judgements and their enforcement.
2 Commission announced. Statement from Lambeth Palace, 28th October 2003, ACNS 3652. The Commission included Professor Doe.  Members of the Anglican Communion have been in varying degrees of communion with one another since their differential responses to the inauguration of the Church of South India in 1947, as well as over the ordination and consecration of women. It has not required a legal framework to date.
3 Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1930, London, SPCK, p. 53.  
Professor Norman Doe
It would seem as though it was that 2002 Primates' Meeting which took the fateful turn that the Communion's leaders have since followed.  It may be well worth re-visiting the reports of that meeting.

Norman Doe has continued to contribute to the Covenant since then.  He was the primary author of the Appendix in the Windsor Report and, I believe, of the Appendix to the St Andrew's Draft.  Both were widely rejected as 'over' legalistic.  He was a member of the group which produced Towards an Anglican Covenant, and thereafter an adviser to the Covenant Design Group.

Doe has, I believe, the small-c conservative instincts of a lawyer but not the radical conservatism of those who wish to reject secular values.  To some degree his programme of harmonisation of canon law through the Communion is furthered by the Covenant; the Covenant we now have, however, is so deeply political in its operation I suspect that the goal of unity through canonicity may still be a long way off.


What will we do about Uruguay?

Miguel Tamayo Zaldívar, Bishop of both
Uruguay and Chile for 6 years.
Little noticed, given the focus on the Covenant, was the announcement that the tiny Diocese of Uruguay wished to dissociate itself from the oversight of the Province of the Southern Cone and to seek alternative oversight.

After a patient wait of nine years it sought permission to decide for itself whether to ordain women. The Provincial Synod decided that this would remain a Provincial decision and no diocese could act separately on the matter.  Uruguay promptly decided to seek another jurisdiction.  ACNS Press release, Thinking Anglicans  Father Jake (in both the comments have more information about the Diocese).

This is significant because

  1. It is a reminder that the split in the Church is over sexuality. Homosexuality is (just) a concentrated focus of a wider debate.
  2. The Canons of the Southern Cone appear to make separation easier than it would be in most provinces.  However, the English Act of Synod enabled the balkanisation of the CofE and GAFCON is carving up the Communion, so this would seem to be the way the Communion is going.  A group which doesn't like present arrangements make new ones.  Centralising the Communion in the Standing Committee may be whistling in the wind, the horse having  bolted and the stable door left blowing in the wind.
  3. In an globalised world it is easy to align any one place with any other.  Modern electronic and personal communications mean effective oversight can be a reality almost anywhere.  The Bishop's personal responsibility for two different places reinforces the point.
An invitation to all
Therefore, as self-appointed Primate of the Province of the Antarctic, I hereby invite Uruguay to consider whether they would wish to be part of our jurisdiction.  Uruguay has acceding status within the Antarctica Treaty System.

Indeed, I extend this invitation to any Province, Diocese, Parish or Person who would care to join us.

I have asked Archdeacon Penguin to draw up a framework to enable this to happen and this is his first draft (subject to revision through debate).

*   *   *

Any person who, or oganization which, wishes to join the Province of the Antarctic may do so irrespective of location.
  • all weapons are to be left outside the door.
The Antarctic is sufficiently violent and dangerous in its weather without the additional help of the Christian Church.

In particular, successive Synods have held that blackmail (the threat of punitive consequences should a decision be taken or not taken) is regarded as a weapon and its use a kind of violence.  Therefore any suggestion of resignations or departures or other action in the face of Synodical decision making will be taken at face value and accepted.

Rev Tony, Provincial Missioner to Giant Petrels
We recognise the strength of passionately held views and, where appropriate, we set a high threshold for voting on contentious issues.  However, once a decision is made, all members are enjoined to conform to it: it is true and certain, until a subsequent decision be made.

Note: we do not currently own any property although we are hoping to build a Cathedral one day on Deception Island.  Any real and movable property we may one day acquire will be legally held by the Province and entrusted to the relevant local people or body for proper use and safekeeping.

  • the Province of the Antarctic is a Synodical church.
That is, we are governed by councils of members at each level of the Church. The words of Bishops, clergy, teachers and prophets weigh heavily with the synods and no synod is complete unless they have contributed.

However every member of the Church is an equal member.  Chicks are not the future of the Church and elders do not represent the Church as it used to be. They are the Church in the present.  All members, Emperors and chinstraps, albatross and petrel, elephant and human are equal merely by virtue of membership.

We recognise that those who hold certain views of the nature of the priesthood and episcopacy may find this unacceptable.  They are welcome to argue the point in any forum.  The current position reflects the foundation of the Anglican Church in Antartica by the Protestant Mission Society (PMS).

  • the Province is a Church without walls.
Assembled for worship during the recent summer Synod
46 nations have some claim in the Antarctic, there are 17 species of penguin (depending how you count) 4 of which breed in the Antarctic, and many more birds and seals. All are welcome.

We acknowledge the reality of human evil but we do not put walls or bounds around members.  As the current prayer book says: there is skua in all of us, within and without.   We know that, while some may be tempted by barren paths or stand on false ice, all will come to the true feeding grounds and those who feed well will benefit most.  God has given us such an abundance of riches that there is enough for all and more, though not enough for greed.

Antarctic spirituality is marked by (amongst other things) the fundamental conviction that we thrive together and we die alone.  Therefore the gifts of the Spirit of hospitality and care, of generous sharing, respect and mutual building up are particularly valued.

Note: The theoretical possibility of skua joining the Church has been debated over the years and the birdist notions implicit in this prayer book phrase have been recognised.  No decision has yet been reached.
  • financial and formal arrangements for new members
There is no membership fee.  However members are expected to contribute from their wealth whether financial, spiritual, artistic, technical or other.  Donations made be made in international red herring or other convertible currency.

Membership is non-exclusive.  You may simultaneously be a member of any other ecclesial body as you choose (respecting, of course, the rules of that body).

Please send your application through the membership page on the Provincial website.

Archdeacon Penguin
Advent, 2010


'effective and forceful'

From the Church Times: caption competition anyone?
Given that GAFCON have turned their backs on the Covenantwhy pursue it further?  

It seems, according to the Church Times, that at least 10 Primates - a quarter of invitees - won't be at the next Primates' Meeting in Dublin in January.

Drexel Gomez' repeated assertion was that, if we didn't agree the Covenant asap, it would be too late and the Communion would break up.  Only the Covenant could save the day.

But as it is evident that the Communion is already breaking up - why do we still need to sign a Covenant?

I suggest there are four mutually-reinforcing reasons: 

  • I've started, so I'll continue:
The Covenant has been coming since the Windsor Report (2004). It wasn't inevitable. In fact the draft in an appendix to the report was pretty extensively panned. 

But when the Archbishop of Canterbury took it up as the way forwards for the Communion it moved centre stage and a lot of political capital was invested in it.  It has developed a momentum of its own and referral to the Provinces mean that there is no way of stopping the process without so much egg-on-faces that at least some of those faces would not have wanted to appear in public again.

Never underestimate the imperative power of institutional inertia.

  • lor'n'order demand it
I think that the Archbishop of Canterbury believes deeply in an ordered church. Or, more precisely, that if a church is to be ordered it must have the means of enforcing that order.  

That is, what sort of church is not ordered and what sort of order can't be ordered?  If you see what I mean.

Therefore, if the Anglican Communion has no means of enforcing the ordering it purports to have, it follows that (a) it is disordered and (b) it's not a Church.  If it's disordered so too is its faith, its witness, its criteria to judge what constitutes a faithful development in the expression of the Gospel.  

The key phrase of the Windsor Report turned out to be nearly at the report's end:
This Commission recommends, therefore, and urges the primates to consider, the adoption by the churches of the Communion of a common Anglican Covenant which would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion. The Covenant could deal with: the acknowledgement of common identity; the relationships of communion; the commitments of communion; the exercise of autonomy in communion; and the management of communion affairs (including disputes). ... (Para. 118)
In effect  the Eames Commission asserted that, when loyalty and affection could no longer be presupposed, force remained.

  • To make a Church
The Communion is not a Church but a federation or flotilla of Churches.   

But although that is a statement of legal fact it was also perceived to be a statement of the problem.  A 'real' church, not least in the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is Vatican-shaped: centralised and definitive, clear in the key areas of doctrine, worship, the discipline of clergy and ecumenical relationships.

And the Communion had been moving in the direction of greater centralised decision making for a long time.

The Covenant is only one tine of a two-pronged strategy.  The other, locating power within the ACO / Standing Committee, is already in place and beginning to work.

The Covenant is still necessary even if only a proportion of the present membership of the ACC sign up because it gives powers to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (and thence to the officers in the Anglican Communion Office) which they don't currently possess.

The resultant Church may be Vatican-lite. But it will be much more ordered than it is now.  Instead of a bunch of untidy and ill-dressed strangers who just happened to be on the same pilgrimage at the same time it will be a bit more of a guided tour wearing company branded jackets.

  • In the end trouble makers will just have to go
It follows entirely logically that the road the Communion is on means that some of the group will just have to leave. Some are simply misbehaved and won't listen to leaders or to anyone else.  Some have decided they want to go on a different pilgrimage altogether.

From the perspective of the Archbishop it was always evident that some would have to go.  An ordered Church required the visible enforcement of discipline so that all members would understand the new kind of Church they no belonged to.  Second, the Communion had simply become so widespread on any dimension you could imagine that only a narrower Communion had any future.

The Archbishop of Canterbury envisaged a two-tier Communion from the outset.  Not, I think, as second best but as inevitable, even desirable.  Therefore even if the GAFCON Church won't participate any further then TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada must still be penalised.  Authority has no substance in the abstract: it only exists when it's exercised.  The Covenant will make this possible.
Future Directions
The idea of a 'covenant' between local Churches (developing alongside the existing work being done on harmonising the church law of different local Churches) is one method that has been suggested, and it seems to me the best way forward. It is necessarily an 'opt-in' matter. Those Churches that were prepared to take this on as an expression of their responsibility to each other would limit their local freedoms for the sake of a wider witness; and some might not be willing to do this. We could arrive at a situation where there were 'constituent' Churches in covenant in the Anglican Communion and other 'churches in association', which were still bound by historic and perhaps personal links, fed from many of the same sources, but not bound in a single and unrestricted sacramental communion, and not sharing the same constitutional structures. The relation would not be unlike that between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, for example. The 'associated' Churches would have no direct part in the decision making of the 'constituent' Churches, though they might well be observers whose views were sought or whose expertise was shared from time to time, and with whom significant areas of co-operation might be possible.
The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Tuesday 27 June 2006

Thus the future holds a new Church, a new order and, in my view, a diminishment of the vision which sustains us as pilgrims, an impoverishment of the spiritual imagination, which is the life-blood of faith.


A kicking on the Covenant

The English General Synod, from the Daily Telegraph
General Synod's vote on the Covenant was certainly a kicking for those of us who oppose it.

I was out of radio contact all day so I haven't been able to hear or read any of the detail.  

However my instinct is not to think that the great majority of Synod members have read and considered the issues and on that basis have come to a considered judgement in its favour.  

The Covenant has always been a minority interest, this is a new Synod, and the general rule is that things, even threats, that are far away (in geography or time) seldom give people cause for concern.  The campaign to oppose it was, I think, as good as we could have managed given that we started very late.  (The No Anglican Covenant press release.)

I am afraid my initial suspicion is that General Synod will (almost) inevitably acceded to any proposal strongly led by senior bishops and the Archbishops.  And a flaccid, compliant legislature cannot be good for any aspect of the Church.  

But what about GAFCON?
However, from the other end of the theological spectrum, the news that the GAFCON leaders reject the Covenant is very interesting.  It's not a surprise, and the timing of their announcement was intended as a grenade lobbed towards the Archbishop, though it didn't explode. The emphasis on a Covenant as the way forward for unity in the Communion has generated a predictable but unintended consequence: a different Covenant (the Jerusalem Declaration) can be the basis for a different Anglicanism.

As I read the statement the GAFCON leaders are asserting that, led by God, they will no longer be part of the future of the Anglican Communion as lead by the Archbishop of Canterbury - not the Primates' Meeting and not the Covenant.  In fact,
3. We believe that we are now entering a new era for the Anglican Communion. 
4. As we have made clear in numerous communiqués and meetings those who have abandoned the historic teaching of the Church have torn the fabric of our life together at its deepest level. We have made repeated attempts to bring repentance and restoration and yet these efforts have been rejected. We grieve for those who have walked apart and earnestly pray for them and the people under their care.
5. For the sake of Christ and of His Gospel we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy 
From Enough About Me: An Autobiography
9. We are, however, determined to lead our churches away from unhealthy economic dependency and to teach our people the importance of becoming effective stewards of their own resources. We must reclaim a vision of financial self-sufficiency.
11. We remain convinced that the unique character of GAFCON/FCA with its diversity of cultures and its embrace of the Jerusalem Declaration as a common theological confession is a vital contribution to the future of the global Anglican Communion. [I.e. without churches which have " 'bowed the knee' to secular liberalism".]
The glacially slow schism has taken another step forward.  I believe it's now irrevocable.

Which raises a question for the rest of us: What is the point of the Covenant without 8 (or more) of 39 Provinces? Why is it still important? Who will it be important to?


A simple request

Today members of General Synod will vote on the Covenant.

If I had the opportunity, I would ask two things:

  • that those who argue for the Covenant present clear and convincing rationales, 
  • and that those who vote do so for positive, informed reasons.

but who am I to ask?


Three papers to note

Colleagues at No Anglican Covenant have posted a significant paper by Ronald Stevenson, QC.

The Honourable Ronald Stevenson, QC, is a recently retired Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Canada.  He says,
As one trained in the law (60 years a law student) and who has both written and interpreted documents that define relationships and prescribe processes for the resolution of differences my principal concerns are with the quality of the language of the Covenant and with the processes set out in Section Four for the maintenance of the covenant and dispute resolution.
He cites, as an example, the various uses of the central term 'faith' and questions how they relate to one another. He point to the ambiguities of Section 4, not least the differences between raising a question of interpretation of the Covenant and raising a question of compatibility with the Covenant, and he points out that Section 4.2 does not seem to envisage the possibility that the matter under dispute could be deemed to be 'compatible with the Covenant'.

He concludes:
A final concern. Much emphasis has been placed on section 4.1.3 of the Covenant the second sentence of which says, “Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance.” If a Church adopts the Covenant without qualification or reservation it might be argued that the Act of adoption does have the effect of altering the Church’s Constitution or limiting its autonomy. In my opinion any Church planning to adopt the Covenant should consider including in its Act of adoption a statement such as “The adoption of The Anglican Communion Covenant by this Church does not, and shall not be deemed to, alter any provision of the Church’s Constitution or Canons or limit its autonomy of governance.”
Enough, I would have thought, to make even strong advocates of the Covenant think twice about how future lawyers will interpret this Covenant.

Jonathan Clatworthy
Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of Modern Church has written a response to Andrew Goddard (Goddard's article is here.)  A central difference is that where Goddard focuses on the words of the Covenant as a stand-alone document, Jonathan focuses on how the Covenant could be used.

One key question is the punitive potential of the Covenant.  Jonathan says:
What counts about the Covenant text is not whether it claims to be punitive, or even whether its framers intend it to be, but whether it can be used in a punitive manner, and the answer is clearly yes. Although the text states that provinces continue to be self-governing, when one of them refuses to accept the 'recommendations' of the Standing Committee there will be 'relational consequences': withdrawal from some, many or all of the international structures of Anglicanism. If a province rejects 'recommendations', it can be excluded from the Covenant's 'enhanced' relationship with other provinces and international committees. Given that this 'enhanced' relationship turns out to look very much like the relationship most provinces thought they already had with each other, the effect would be a demotion.
Is this a punishment? For some it is not punishment enough; others including Goddard claim that it not a punishment at all. Such a claim is hardly convincing. It is like telling a child 'You are free to eat your broccoli or leave it, just as you like, but if you do not eat it you will not have any chocolate'. Whether this is called a 'punishment' or a 'relational consequence' is irrelevant: the child feels only too acutely the limitations on freedom caused by an unequal power structure. In the same way provinces would have their autonomy limited by the threat of exclusion from international structures: they will in effect be told 'Unless you toe the line we shall no longer count you as one of us'.
The article reinforces the argument that Anglicanism would be re-defined by the Covenant, reasserts that the Covenant would encourage provincial introspection and that it would create new dogmas.

Third, Mark Clavier at Living Church News Service has a world-weary and well-written article What Gentle Anglicanism.  I share his thesis that Anglicanism has been a church in conflict through its history with the loudest cries for liberty coming from those who felt (and generally were) on the losing side at the time.  I was amused to be told - and to accept without qualms - that as a liberal I am 'playing to script'.

I guess the question is what we draw from this reading of history as a moral for today.  I would point to the historical and present day failure of all sides to so dominate Anglicanism as to exclude any of its strands for ever.  The liberal Dean Stanley pointed out that nineteenth century ecclesiastical court judgements had even-handedly found for Evangelicals, Conservatives and Liberals in  different cases.  But instead of being equally pleased (and relieved) each party merely saw this as greater cause for annoyance.

Even the overwhelming preponderance of Anglo-Catholics in the 1920s did not squeeze out the rest and, as the wind changes, so liberals came to have their day after 1945 while Evangelicals have grown strong since the mid-1980s (which, I think, largely caught Liberals by surprise - but perhaps that's also part of the script).

As a Liberal I fear that the upsurge of neo-Calvinist conservatives in some parts of the world will do more than simply tip the scales in their direction.  It feels to me as though they will effectively expunge liberal tradition (not just TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada) perhaps for more than a generation.  Script or no script, it is a prospect I abominate and wish to oppose as strongly as I can.

I also fear that, in the US, the organised structures of schism, and the circling Provinces willing to offer legitimacy to their allies, will soon erupt into still greater schism and conflict, Covenant or no Covenant.  And this, I think, has hardly any historical precedent in Anglicanism and none on this scale.

*   *   *

I expect the recent flowering of posts and papers will subside soon after Wednesday's vote on the Covenant at General Synod.  But I also know that, however the vote goes, it will be a long haul before it is finally defeated.


Reasons to abstain or vote against the Covenant

Reasons to abstain

  • If you think dealing with the Covenant in the first session of a new Synod is too soon with insufficient time for new Synod members to consider the issue
  • If you are unhappy about the Covenant but don't want to vote against the Archbishop of Canterbury 
  • If you think a Covenant is a good idea - only not this one

please abstain.

Reasons to vote against
I've set out far too many reasons against and I won't repeat them.  I'll just add:

  • Innovations should come to Synod with a financial statement, yet nothing official has ever been said about the costs of implementation.  So: how much will it cost?  Is this a sensible use of church money? And why is there no financial statement?  It would be wrong to vote for the Covenant without some idea.
  • The world - and relations between churches as much as anything else - is becoming increasingly complex. Trying to centralise decision making and simplify issues is understandable, but it won't meet the needs of the future church.
  • In fact the Covenant is retrospective. It is designed to bring an end to conflict over the place of homosexuals in the Church by expelling The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada from the decision making bodies of the Communion. But it won't change anyone's opinion, nor stop other churches taking comparable stances towards homosexuals as the North Americans. And homosexuality is a short-hand for for a much bigger war against social change that is not going to go away.  There is much of value in Sections 1-3 of the Covenant; Section 4 means the Covenant will be used to break down, not to build up.
  • The Windsor Report included 'subsidiarity' (that decisions should be made at the lowest appropriate level of an organization) amongst its concerns.  There are no such safeguards in the Covenant.
  • The Windsor Report (and the authors of Towards an Anglican Covenant subsequently) were concerned that the Covenant should be 'owned' by a sufficient majority of Anglicans and that adequate time should be given to enable this to happen.  Instead debate has been muted and largely confined to the most senior levels of Provincial and Communion-wide bodies.  Except for certain Provinces taking their own initiative, no effort has been made to engage the wider membership.  This is a bosses' Covenant from which members - those who pay - have been almost wholly excluded.
  • The Covenant is a Very Bad Idea.

Please vote against the Covenant

Links: Reasons to vote for/against the Covenant - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

How much will the Covenant Cost ~ The legal fiction at the heart of the Covenant ~ The coup has already occurred ~ The architect's manifesto ~ A response to the briefing paper for General Synod (GS 966) pdf.

No Anglican Covenant: Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity


Reasons to vote for/against the Covenant - Sunday

Vote for the Covenant - Sunday
The Covenant will make Provinces properly accountable to one another and to the 'shared mind' of the Communion.
Vote against the Covenant - any day.

Accountability and agreement is at the heart of why a Covenant was proposed and what it is supposed to achieve.

Yet, once again, it all depends what you mean by 'accountability' (proposed Anglican Covenant clauses 2.2.1, 3.1.2, and 4.2.1) and by a 'shared mind' (3.2.4 and 4.2.4 which seems to use 'agreement' as a synonym).

The Covenant does not define either term.

'Accountability' generally entails having to report to another body or group which has some power to act against you if it disapproves of your actions. Thus politicians are nominally accountable to voters as, more pertinently, trustees are accountable to a charity's membership.

The Anglican church is an episcopal church - that is, its bishops govern unaccountably. It may be desirable to change this - but not as a side-effect of the Covenant.

The Covenant sets up duties, commitments and processes by which Provinces may give an account of their actions and decisions - and proposed actions - to other Provinces. (Going through the central switching station of the Anglican Communion Office.) Disapproval cannot be expressed positively - because that would breach each Provinces' jurisdictional autonomy. But it may be expressed negatively by asking - or telling - an offending Province to withdraw from aspects of the Communion's work or, ultimately, from the Communion itself.

A Communion presupposes voluntary mutual accountability. The Covenant wants to convert this into a contract with clauses that say that if a Province acts, or fails to act, in certain ways punitive action may follow.  

But, to harp on an old theme, accountability between autonomous bodies is a matter of choice - it will not be achieved by contract and threat.

A 'shared mind' is a critical idea which has run through all the drafts of the Covenant. Yet it has never been defined.

No draft has set out exactly how a 'shared mind' would be determined. Would a 50% plus 1 of the Standing Committee be sufficient (or fewer if it was just those at a particular meeting)? Or unanimity amongst the Primates? Or the Archbishop of Canterbury and the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion acting together? Would all parties be advised by lawyers?

And, more to the point, would any mechanism be accepted as sufficient by those who disagreed with whatever decision these bodies came to? Historical examples suggest they would not.

In fact a 'shared mind' is a will o' the wisp - it vanishes as soon as you try to grasp it. It does not depend on what people think, it depends on how exact you need the agreement to be. General words get general agreement; the more precise the words the fewer the people who will agree.

The whole rationale of the Covenant is that Anglicans have failed to find a 'shared mind', whatever it is. We share one faith and that faith divides us. So it is at best playing with words, and at worst a church politician's playground, to make the notion of a 'shared mind' the test of what shall be referred to the Standing Committee for further action (4.2.4).
  1. Accountability between autonomous bodies is a matter of voluntary mutual submission. To add sanctions, even the threat of possible negative sanctions, compromises the voluntary nature of the compact and will inevitably encroach on Provincial autonomy.
  2. To vote for the Covenant with key terms undefined is to grant a blank cheque to ecclesiastical bureaucrats and lawyers to write the rules as they see fit. You would not sign any other contract or agreement on this basis - please don't vote for this one.

Vote against the Covenant.