The architect's manifesto

Leonardo Ricardo at Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano has done us all a favour by bringing together many of the words of Archbishop Drexel Gomez, retired, chief architect of the Anglican Covenant.

Archbishop Drexel Gomez
 In 2001 Drexel Gomez co-edited with Maurice Sinclair (wikipedia) a short book called To Mend the Net: Anglican Faith and Order for Renewed Mission. It was published by The Ekklesia Society.

Please note the date: 2001.  Two years before Gene Robinson (wikipedia) was consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire.

To Mend the Net is a collection of essays with a conservative prescription for the reform of the Anglican Communion.   It is not available on the net.

(References below are to paragraph numbers)

The editors' focus was on The Episcopal Church's disregard of the Lambeth 1.10 resolution on sexuality, TEC's decision to monitor progress towards women's ordination in all dioceses, and the equal valuing of marriage and non-marital sexual relations within the Church (1.8) though the valuation of homosexuality within the church was their particular horror (1.6).

Amongst other things the book prescribes:
  • 'Enhanced Responsibility' for the Primates' Meeting (as commended by Lambeth 1998, Resolution III.6).  This was central to the book's programme. (1.2)
  • The 'need to be clear what kind of new practices can be accepted into a process of open reception, how necessary openness can be guaranteed, and how a proper collegiality among Anglican bishops can be restored when it is eroded or broken' (1.8)
  • 'Some may be tempted to imagine that democratic structures linked with democratic values will sole our problems.  Instead ...' [we choose] 'truth and holiness of life' 'We want to allow the authoritative Scriptures to speak into and redeem our Church and our world and we refuse to relativise or domesticate the Word of God.'  (1.10) (See an earlier post, A Richer Covenant)
  • They claimed no brief to put a legislative structure above Provinces, but espoused 'the exercise of a form of political authority at the international level.' (1.11)
  • 'Genuine collegiality will normally require a minority to respect decisions supported by a majority of Primates.'  Experiment in 'doctrine, discipline or ethics' would need 'a consensus or a very substantial majority of Primates' (2.2)
The Exercise of Enhanced Responsibility was summarised as:
  • Self Examination led by Primates' personal example (3.1)
  • Education: promoted by Primates who should also 'specify the limits of diversity and the frame of reference of provincial autonomy.' (3.2)
  • Advanced Sharing: especially sharing initiatives with one another in advance of implementation (3.3)
  • Preparation of Guidelines: if a significant minority of Primates disagree with the proposed initiative it should not proceed.  If such advice is ignored then 'guidelines' should 'address the situation created and identify its remedy.' (3.4)
  • Godly Admonition: the 'guidelines' would be sent to the errant province or diocese [to address the issue of 'local' action allowed but not authorized by a Province] for approval and acceptance. 'This step would be taken with a very positive intent.' (3.5)
  • Observer status: if the admonition was not heeded the Archbishop of Canterbury would demote the recalcitrant body from member to observer on international Anglican bodies. (3.6)
  • Continuing Evangelization: the Archbishop of Canterbury would also be asked to authorize 'appropriate means of evangelization, pastoral care and episcopal oversight' of the offending body. (3.7)
  • New Jurisdiction: And if resistance continued the Archbishop of Canterbury would be advised how to set up a new jurisdiction to replace the offending body as the legitimate Anglican entity in that geographical area. (3.8)  The 'intransigent body' would be suspended. (3.8)
  • Primates' Commission: a standing commission to assist the Archbishop of Canterbury would be established 'to the furtherance of priorities in mission and the re-ordering in cases of disorder.'  (3.9)
What remains in the Covenant?
Drexel Gomez was not chosen to chair the Covenant Design Group as a neutral chair.  His views of the present and future of the Communion were well known and the Archbishop of Canterbury must have chosen him with this in mind.

Most obviously the proposal to place the Primates' Meeting at the heart of the response to conflict has vanished.  Instead the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion has been given the equivalent responsibility.  This must be a bitter blow to Archbishop Gomez who regarded the Anglican Communion office and its officers as little more than the agents of the compromised, wealthy western church.  The Primates' Commission has died too.

The Covenant is, however, a mechanism to specify the limits of diversity and it intends to be the frame of reference of provincial autonomy.  Its proposal for an officer in every Province is explicitly to ensure advance sharing of possible areas of conflict.  Similarly the preparation of 'guidelines' (a strange term for the task) and admonition have been refined and are built into the Covenant mechanisms. So too is the possibility demoting offending Provinces within the international organs of the Communion.

The Covenant does not purport to intervene below the level of the Province - but it is a very live question.  Kenneth Kearon raised it in relation to possible action against the Anglican Church of Canada, citing the Windsor Continuation Group Report para 48.  Canadians (and others) raise it against the Church of England.  Consider the Diocese of Sydney.

The formal authorization of intrusion by one Province into another's jurisdiction (Continuing Evangelization) and the creation of new, replacement, jurisdictions are more worrying.  So far as I know these are not on the agenda.

But what would happen if the the Covenant is signed and TEC and Canada are expelled?  I'll bet somebody's been thinking it through, and I'll bet these options are still on the table.



From The Guardian, with the caption: The archbishop of Canterbury who said 'The covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control.' Photograph: Katie Collins/PA 

The launch of the Modern Church / Inclusive Church campaign against the Covenant has been reported by

Ekklesia  ~  Thinking Anglicans  ~  The Lead  ~ Riazat Butt, The Guardian  ~ Episcopal News Service  ~

and from there by others.

Graham Kings, on the Fulcrum site, says the matter should go to the dioceses:
The irony of this campaign  - to reject the Anglican Covenant at General Synod in November and not allow it to be discussed by the dioceses of the Church of England - needs to be noted. Those who are calling for less centralised control wish to highlight the centralised control of General Synod to block any discussion in the dioceses...
As one of the comments on his post says, no-one is stopping debate elsewhere in the Church.  The fact is that there has been far too little discussion to date, and I think that's been deliberate - other Provinces have prepared discussion material. One, Mexico, has decided the issue and others have yet to begin debate.  There is no need to rush - unless, of course, you think the CofE should set a lead to be followed by others.

There is a question of the terms by which the Covenant is sent to the dioceses.  If it's commended or approved in principle or goes with some other similar blessing then (I guess) it will skew debate in favour of the Covenant.  If the Covenant is merely 'noted' there may be some chance for a less biassed start to discussion.

And, speaking of centralised control, Clause 1B of Section 8 says
The General Synod may by resolution provide that final approval of any such scheme as aforesaid, being a scheme specified in the resolution, shall require the assent of such special majorities of the members present and voting as may be specified in the resolution, and the resolution may specify a special majority of each House or of the whole Synod or of both, and in the latter case the majorities may be different.
As I understand it the Synod is not to be given the option of discussing special majorities - 50% plus 1 will do, and that's final.

The business managers have, I suspect, done their masters' bidding and planned things well.

The legal fiction at the heart of the Covenant

The whole Anglican Covenant turns on a necessary legal fiction.

The fiction is that no Covenant signatory is in any way subordinated to an external body.

The fiction is necessary because several prospective signatories could not sign the Covenant if it entailed any degree of external control.  The national laws which govern them would not permit it. This is probably the case for England and certainly for the United Churches of North and South India, and the Church in Hong Kong.  It may also be true for others.

Even Churches not explicitly prevented from such a step may well find their position in relation to their state authorities compromised if they were perceived to be, or could be portrayed as being, subordinate to external authority. I believe this would be the case for Sudan,  Jerusalem and the Middle East, Pakistan and Myanmar at least.

No subordination and be nice to one another
Therefore the Covenant stresses that:
(4.1.3)  Such mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 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. The Covenant does not grant to any one Church or any agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church of the Anglican Communion.
But the core question is the balance of autonomy with interdependence and so the Covenant also states broad, bland principles as to how autonomy is to be exercised.  Each signatory Church commits itself:
(3.2.1)  to have regard for the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, to support the work of the Instruments of Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it, and to receive their work with a readiness to undertake reflection upon their counsels, and to endeavour to accommodate their recommendations.
(3.2.2)  to respect the constitutional autonomy of all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, while upholding our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ, and the responsibility of each to the Communion as a whole.
Who could object? This is, after all, no more that the Communion has been doing since 1867.

What's new in this Covenant?
Those who want this Covenant do so because asking Churches to be nice to one another has not stopped the Communion falling into self-destructive conflict.  They want (to put it at a minimum) to have the capacity to step in to inter-Church conflicts, to head them off before they build up steam, to adjudicate on the issues in dispute and, finally, to remove Churches which offend against the consensus.

Subordination and autonomy
These goals clearly entail degrees of subordination. The processes are set out in Section 4.2:

1) On joining the Covenant Churches agree to the statement that
4.2.1 ... Participation in the Covenant implies a recognition by each Church of those elements which must be maintained in its own life and for which it is accountable to the Churches with which it is in Communion in order to sustain the relationship expressed in this Covenant.
The 'elements' are not only the broad principles of co-operation but also the practical step of a liaison officer in each Church. Although phrased as a 'recognition', i.e. an action of the member church, it is clearly an instruction.  (Incidentally, this is the only place that 'must' is used in the document though 'shall' is used frequently.)

2) At any point 'a question' (4.2.3) may be raised as to what the Covenant meant or entailed in a particular context, or whether a particular action by one Church is, or is not, compatible with the obligations accepted in signing the Covenant.  (It's not clear whether 'action' would include 'teaching'.)

Such a question may be raised by any Church or Instrument of Communion.  Which presumably would include the parish of the Falkland Isles and the Archbishop of Canterbury as an individual.

Still, the asking of a question in itself does not imply any subordination, depending on what follows.

3) 4.2.4 opens with
Where a shared mind has not been reached the matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee. 
The ordinary process to achieve a 'shared mind' is outlined in 3.2.4: consultation, negotiation, bargaining takes place 'through the Communion's councils' and each Church 'will undertake wide consultation ...'.  Therefore any issue between any Covenant members inevitably becomes a matter for all the members.  The Standing Committee have presumably been deeply involved already.  However, under 4.2.4, the Standing Committee have to have another go to find a solution to the issue.

4) But this time they may do so with teeth:
(4.2.5)  The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion 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.
A request with sanctions is an instruction or command in any language.  This is a direct infringement of a Church's autonomy in that, first, an external agency may seek to control the timing of its actions and, subsequently, the Church may not determine for itself the degree or fact of its involvement in the central bodies of the Communion.

Then, 4.2.6, the Standing Committee seeks the advice [note 1] of the ACC and the Primates' Meeting (whose members will have been deeply involved in the dispute from its beginning) and, with it, may declare a Church's 'action or decision' [note 2] to be "incompatible with the Covenant" [note 3].

And this is the clever bit when it comes to autonomy:
(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.
From madimaginations
Thus the 'good' Churches are asked to turn away from the offending Church.  The autonomy of the offending Church is not technically infringed because nothing is demanded of it.  Everyone else sends it to the ecclesiastical naughty corner until it changes its ways.

In fact the threat of sanctions will always lie behind discussions seeking a 'shared mind' on any issue: therefore such discussion can no longer be free and open. Relations between individual Churches and the Instruments of Communion will always be marked by an awareness that any innovation may be constrained, even blocked, by objection from elsewhere or by self-censorship in the face of such a possibility.

Autonomy is technically respected and in practice it is limited by subordination both to the other signatories of the Covenant and to its central organs.  What the secular courts may make of it is unknown.

Of course, in real life, disputes are seldom between one Church and all the rest.  It is entirely predictable that some Churches will turn their back on the offender and others won't.  Perhaps blocs of Churches will be sanctioned together.  That is to say, the operations envisaged in the Covenant will have the consequence of splitting up the Communion.  Which is what some have argued that the Covenant was about from the very beginning.

1) the Standing Committee is not bound by the advice of the Primates nor the ACC (and, in British charity law, cannot be bound).  Although improbable, given overlapping memberships and a natural desire not to rip the instruments of communion apart, the SCAC may not follow the advice given - perhaps for legal or other reasons.

2) while a decision is presumably an action, all the other references in the Covenant are to 'actions' alone with no mention of decisions.
3) "incompatible with the Covenant" is in quotation marks in the Covenant presumably to indicate that it is a technical term for a semi-judicial judgement.


No Anglican Covenant

Modern Church and Inclusive Church have launched their campaign against the Covenant.  Neither seems to headline it on their respective websites.  Oh well.  Modern Church's pages A very un-Anglican Covenant start here.

Their Church Times advert is here (pdf).

I'm sure there will be all sorts of comment in the next 24 hours.  I liked Suem at Significant Truths, who addresses the aspirations of some conservatives that the Covenant portends a new Reformation.  It doesn't.

And TitusOneNine (Kendall Harmon) places both groups in the category "Reappraiser".  If someone could enlighten me about the spectrum of dismissive terms used by conservatives of those they oppose, I'd be grateful. I'm intrigued by the logic of the comments.


How to mount a successful coup in Anglicanism

Frances and John Colenso, from an earlier conflict
This is drawn from some work I've done looking at doctrinal conflict in the nineteenth century. It may be a basic primer on how to mount a reformation in the church:

Theological disputes periodically rack the Anglican Church. They have focused, for example, on the meaning of baptism, critical approaches to scripture, the significance of vestments, the limits of intercommunion, the ordination of women. 

Each conflict has been historically distinctive however they shared certain common characteristics.

First, conflict is normal
Conflict is normal in every church.  Differences between faithful christians have deep historic roots and are reflected in almost every aspect of the expression and embodiment of faith. Underlying differences are complex, extensive, often buried in people's everyday attitudes and may reflect incommensurable differences at the level of basic spiritual or philosophical presuppositions. 

The present conflict is about large things. It is about the post-modern church, simultaneously dividing into smaller units and drawing together in globalised world.  It is about the legacy of calvinist, anglo-catholic and latitutdinarian conflict recast in contemporary terms. It is the exporting of the US Episcopal Church's divided and unhappy history across the globe, and about where the centre of the Anglican world really lies and should lie.  It is about the nature of a global Communion in a post-colonial world.

But all of this would remain confined to long books and academic conferences. Therefore,

Second, select your focal point
Because of this complexity, the occasion of conflict is often a relatively small matter, perhaps the actions or teaching of a particular individual. Conflicts take the form of synecdoche in which small matters encapsulate and represent much greater underlying differences.

Homosexuality is a synecdoche for the big things in conflict.  It was deliberately chosen (at least in the UK) as a battle ground because it united conservatives, and especially evangelical conservatives, who had been deeply divided over the ordination of women.  It is an emblematic issue of the US's culture wars.

Therefore whatever the occasion and focus of the conflict, the underlying issue is always greater. Almost anything can become a focal point of conflict - nothing is minor or adiaphora when the identity of the Church is at stake.

Third, challenge authority
Churches rest on authority: the authorities (scripture, traditions, the formularies, law) are made real by those people who are granted authority to interpret, apply and judge the authorities (clergy, bishops, biblical scholars, theologians, historians, lawyers and also - in their own lives - individual believers) .

All such authority is subject to challenge as normal, it doesn't take a conflict.  Church conflicts are the ordering of underlying conflicts around a focal point in order to mount a systematic challenge to the established authorities.

Therefore: a struggle about a matter of Christian belief or practice quickly becomes a struggle for the soul of the church and, equally quickly, a struggle to gain the right to determine how the church decides. 

Fourth, never ignore inertia.
However, most church members do not engage in conflict. 

Consequently leaders of the contending groups have to work hard to keep their supporters on side and engaged in battle. They do so by increasingly strident rhetoric. They declare the conflict vital to the authenticity of the Church as a whole while denying the possibility of middle ground or conciliation. The focal point of conflict becomes a shibboleth: a test by which to divide friends from enemies amongst people who would otherwise be indistinguishable. 

Underlying tensions embedded in the church are highlighted. Shared discipleship and good working relationships are minimised. Big guns (bishops, experts, court cases) are lined up on both sides.  Disputes quickly become critical conflicts of self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating seriousness. 

On the other hand, those seeking a resolution to conflict have the majority with them although, for the most part, the majority remain silent, dispersed and disengaged.  The longer the conflict goes on the harder it is to keep sufficient numbers fighting.

Fifth, change the structures
Those seeking to resolve the crisis perceive that they cannot find a way forwards by dealing with the occasion of conflict head-on. There are seldom clear-cut resolutions of the focal point of the conflict. Because the issues are too great and inherently intractable those driving the conflict and those seeking a resolution may find common cause in moving sideways and shifting the ground of debate onto organizational change. 

This has the immediate effect of transposing the conflict into new terms, away from its ostensible focus and onto the ultimate goal: the right and power to determine how the church makes decisions. The Covenant says nothing about sexuality.

Organizational change embodies shifts in ecclesial power.

The alternative is schism.  Although the Communion in general and the Church of England in particular likes to think of itself as having a single continuous and unitary history there have in fact been many departures, separations and schisms.  In a schism ecclesial power is placed in a new jurisdiction; if it is large enough it will also trigger a re-evaluation of the allocation of power within the parent body.

In conclusion,
In the end, no group wins an unalloyed victory.  The very process of the conflict changes all sides.

On the other hand the church we have now - in all its aspects - is a result of past conflicts.  Dire predictions seldom come to pass and consequential changes are seldom planned or anticipated.

All church conflicts have been waged in the name of truth, authenticity, righteousness and real people have been really hurt.

And still it's worth standing up for what you believe: this is the way the church lives.


Swiss Army Knife or Turkey Turner

Bishop Alan posed a question about how you might see the Covenant (here) and now you can vote on it:
Your chance to prognosticate about the proposed Anglican Covenant. Is it a Swiss Army Knife of an idea — complex but multipurpose and effective — or a Turkey Turner — well meaning but unnecessary and wrecks the food
 You can vote on his blog or you can vote here


all in the same boat

Colin Coward, as always, makes some sensible - grown up - comments about the threatened boycott of the Primates' Meeting here.  he asks, "Should we expect senior Anglican leaders to behave in a mature, adult, non-abusive way?"

Who's looking where we're going?
I remember being told by an assistant  bishop that the Senior Staff of that diocese had once had a consultant in.  They did the lifeboat exercise (you know: what / who would you throw out if your survival was at stake, that sort of thing).   He told that individually they had scored around 80%; as a group they scored just 50%.

I think this is symptomatic.  Clergy are trained into individualism and don't know how to work together.  It becomes a way of life which does not change just because clergy become senior and have to manage people.  Indeed, Dioceses are structured around one person to whom all deference is given - neither factor encouraging effective corporate work.

I've met a couple of people who might attend the Primates' Meetings (one current and one previous) and I've read the words of others.  For the most part I have been impressed by their ability and piety, their perceptiveness and wisdom, as individuals.  It's such a shame that when they get together they can't seem to step from being the big cheese to being merely a large cog in the one machine.

So, yes, we should expect senior Anglican leaders to behave in a mature, adult, non-abusive way.  Or, at least, we should hope so.

Two conversations not talking to one another

Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. 
Photo: M. Vedhan

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been talking to the Hindu Newspaper.  David Virtue has been talking to Bishop Orombi.  It would seem as though they were talking about events they had seen through somewhat different spectacles.

From The Hindu:

Interviewer: You became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003 at a particularly difficult time in relations among the different churches that comprise the Anglican Communion. There was even talk of the Communion being on the verge of fragmentation. Yet your attempts to keep all sides talking to one another have been notable. Could you tell us how it has been going, and what you see ahead of you?
Archbishop: I think that after the Lambeth Conference of 2008 many people felt that we found ways of talking to one another, and perhaps exercising some restraint and tact towards one another. And it was very significant that at the next meeting of the Anglican primates, which was in the early part of 2009, all major Churches of the Communion were represented.
Unfortunately, the situation does not remain there. The decision of the American Church to go forward, as it has, with the ordination of a lesbian bishop has, I think, set us back. At the moment I'm not certain how we will approach the next primates' meeting, but regrettably some of the progress that I believe we had made has not remained steady. Alongside that, and I think this is important, while the institutions of the Communion struggle, in many ways the mutual life of the Communion, the life of exchange and cooperation between different parts of our Anglican family, is quite strong and perhaps getting stronger. It's a paradox. We are working more closely together on issues of development than we did before. We have the emergence of an Anglican health network across the globe, bringing together various health care institutions. We have also had quite a successful programme on the standards and criteria for theological education across the Communion. So, a very mixed picture.
VOL: It seems to me that orthodox and liberal Anglicans are now so far apart that it is nearly impossible to imagine how you can meet or stay together with any sort of integrity? Dare I say we now have two religions in the Anglican Communion?
OROMBI: Our [Anglican] house was divided right back when the vision became clearer where it was all going. From 2005 in Dromantine we knew our house was divided. In 2007 it became even clearer and by 2009 it was completely clear, the elephant had come out of the bush and out into the open. By August in Entebbe (Uganda) the CAPA bishops and Archbishop John Chew (Southeast Asia) from the Global South were very categorical about our position and we stated it in no uncertain terms to Rowan Williams. Sadly he plays the diplomacy game but we won’t buy into it anymore. He talks to one group and agrees with them and then he talks to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Fred Hiltz (Canada) and agrees with them. We will no longer play that game. It is over. We want to know definitively if he shares the theology of Mrs. Jefferts Schori.
VOL: It sounds like a game in which the orthodox cannot possibly win?
OROMBI: Those who understood knew he was hiding something. He double dealt. We never knew where he stood with the other group. He constantly played hide and seek. No more. We won’t play that game anymore with him. He avoided any finality in discussions with him. He avoids a final scenario all the time.
VOL: Do you see any orthodox archbishops turning up in January 2011 in Ireland to the next meeting of the Primates?
OROMBI: No orthodox primate will go to Ireland. Unless Rowan Williams uninvites the US and Canadian Primates, you can count us out.

Orombi also described the ACC as 'irrelevant to us'.
You tell me: is the Communion actually going to break up, having teetered on the edge for so long, or is it not?
It would seem difficult to go back to unity if either the conservative primates or the primates of TEC/Canada boycott/are banned from the next Primates Meeting.
Or, to ask the question in a different way: how many sections will the Communion divide into? And will parts of each section still remain friendly with parts of the others - thus creating a new Communion de facto which is neither a simple schism nor centrally commanded? 
Perhaps (and I've suggested with various mutations along these lines before)  there'll be 3½ broad alliances: those bound by the Anglican Covenant, those assenting to the Jerusalem Declaration, those aligned with TEC/Canada (who disdain any such document), and (the half) the Churches of North and South India who cannot legally sign up to any international treaty but who might like to belong to one or other grouping.
So much for a merely two-speed Communion.  We will need a new set of much more imaginative metaphors to describe this post-modern network of overlapping alliances and enmities.   If that's what happens, of course.


And always keep a-hold of Nurse ...

 I wrote this for another context but it seemed worth repeating here, with a few corrections and some footnotes.


Church and State: the Church of England's capacity to determine its own worship and doctrine.

Until 1965 the CofE had no legal power to alter its own worship [Note 1].  There was a revised Prayer Book in 1928/29. Parliament refused to authorise it and after a major row Church-and-State row the bishops issued a statement that they would never sanction prosecution of clergy who conducted worship within the parameters of the revised book and no-one tested it legally [Note 2].  A revised book (again, technically illegal) was published in 1945 on the personal authority of Archbishop Fisher.

In 1961 the New English Bible was published and enthusiastically welcomed by clergy. However, legally, they could not use it in the Eucharist as the reading were printed in the BCP which could not be changed. A Measure (Church law authorised by Parliament) was prepared to allow the New English Bible to be used as an alternative to that printed in the BCP. [Note 3]

However, while this was in preparation, negotiation between the Church and the government of the day suggested that the Government would allow 'delegated legislation' i.e. Parliament delegated to the Church the power to determine its own worship - but only for a limited, experimental period of 2 to 7 years - in the Prayer Book (Alternative and Other Services) Measure.

That experimental period (taking 14 years) produced Series 1, 2, 3 styles of worship.  In 1974 the Doctrine and Worship Measure gave the Church further powers which led to the Alternative Service Book 1980 (to give it its full title - the date showed it was meant to be temporary).  This was valid for a decade and then a second decade's life was added.  The original intention had been to produce a single New Book of Common Prayer which Parliament would have been asked to authorise and which would have been set in legal stone.

But the Church had pulled off a coup: the temporary delegation of powers was finessed into a permanent delegation. The Church acquired - for the first time in its history - the power to determine its own worship.

The Doctrine and Worship Measure also gave the CofE power over its own doctrine. Thus was tested in law in 1994 and again in 1996 [Note 4] over the question of the ordination of women.  The court determined that, so long as the Church followed its own rules in making doctrinal decisions (explicitly or implicitly), there was no legal power to interfere in the substance of those decisions.

This autonomy was gained, critically, without the Church ceasing to be the Established Church. It was an invisibly amazing achievement: the goal had first been articulated in 1840 or 50 and it had been pursued for 120+ years.

And the relevance of this to a Covenant is:
(a) because the CofE is a State Church it has no ecclesiology - it has had no capacity to think for itself what kind of church it is and should and could be, 
(b) the CofE has had centuries of training in the arts of being subordinate and acting as though it was autonomous - it exists through a sophisticated systemic exercise of willful blindness and realpolitik.
(c) The point at which it acquired the power to determine its own doctrine was too late for it to exercise such power.  From the mid-1980s ecumenical agreements and the changing shape of the Anglican Communion meant that in practice it could only make definitive doctrinal statements in concert (if not uniformly) with other churches and the rest of the Communion - see, for example, the statement on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry.

So to adopt the Covenant for the CofE would simply be to accept a new overlordship while continuing to pretend it is superior to it. It will make sure its officers are embedded in the operation of the Covenant so that nothing potentially embarrassing comes to the light of public debate. And thus it will ensure it still doesn't have to think about its ecclesiology - what principles - actually and ideally - underlie, predispose and can be used to judge the words, structures and action of the Church of England?

1. ‘... a clerk has no right in performing divine service to alter, omit, or add anything to the prescribed form, including the lessons to be read.’ Ecclesiastical Law, reprinted from Halsbury’s Laws of England, Third Edition, (London, Butterworth & Co., 1957)

2. "... the Upper House of the two Convocations, with the acquiescent cognisance of the Lower Houses, recommended, with only four dissentients, that the bishops should not, in their administration, feel bound to interfere with clergy whose deviations from the Book of Common Prayer were within the limits of the deviations which the Prayer Book Measure of 1928 would have sanctioned."  Church & State: Report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Relations between Church and State, 1935 (London, The Press and Publications Board of the Church Assembly, 1935) [The Cecil Report], p. 39.

3. In the first version of the Prayer Book (Versions of the Bible) Measure no other version of Scripture was to have been permitted.  But, on a steer from the Government, the Measure was redafted to permit any versions which Church Assembly (General Synod's precursor) might approve.  It became law in 1965.

4. The case (in fact a series of cases) was brought by a Rev. Williamson whose persistence led to him being formally barred from further action as a 'vexatious litigant' in 1997.  The nineteenth century had several examples of the same process: convinced litigants brought cases which only strengthened the causes they were arguing against.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_Service_Book


Utterly negative

Mark Harris, amongst others, comments on the self-authorised action of the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion in demoting Bishop Tito Zavala of the Southern Cone from his place on the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO).

He comments, in particular, of the weasel words 'gracious restraint' and the use of 'request' to mean command.  When those with power use language in this way something more than ordinary Anglican circumlocution is going on.  It is the use of language to attempt to shape reality, to create a obfuscatory cloud which gloves force in sweeter terms, and it pervades the thinking which informs the Covenant.

But there is another important point.  Bishop Tito Zavala is not (nominally, in any case) being demoted because of the intrusion of the Southern Cone into the jurisdiction of its northern neighbours.  He is being demoted because the Secretary General has not had an answer to his letter.  In other words the punishment for a substantive offence (e.g. consecrating a partnered lesbian) is identical to procedural offences.

What this reveals is the poverty of the Secretary General's toolbox.  All he can do is to demote or sack.  He has no mechanism for constructive engagement, nor for graduated punitive responses. All he can do is to threaten and, if the Province fails to be impressed, he excludes.  There is nothing here for building up the Communion.

Thus the Covenant. The one element of constructive engagement is the requirement to seek agreement (twice - 3.2.4, 4.2.4), which is all very well but things have presumably only got into the hands of the Standing Committee because the parties can't agree.  After that the only options are exclusion or steps on the way to exclusion.  Utterly negative.

High time we started a different discussion: how can we build a truly international, diverse, cantankerous and holy communion in which its differences are strengths, not occasions for pushing people out of the boat.  See previous post.

A richer Covenant

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

 The Province of South Africa has
partly endorsed the Anglican Covenant - it has passed the first stage of the constitutional process and will be brought to the next Provincial Synod for ratification.
The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority, although some speakers who supported it expressed reservations. The Revd Drake Tshenkeng of the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman asked whether the Church was not giving “centralizing power” to the communion's Standing Committee. The Dean of Grahamstown, the Very Rev Andrew Hunter said the covenant raised the questions: “How far does diversity stretch, who defines diversity and who sets the boundaries?”
The sadness from my perspective is that Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has a rich understanding of covenant and its potential, a vision I would delight in - but unfortunately it's a vision I don't see in the Anglican Covenant on offer today.

Covenant and South Africa

Thabo Makgoba discusses the idea of Covenant in relation to the South African State and its Constitution.  There is too much to set out here in full - I recommend the Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture: ‘Constitution and Covenant’ and 'Moral State of the Nation Address'

In the Harold Wolpe lecture he addressed the current state of South Africa.  
In South Africa, we have to learn how to become a democracy, and all of us who stood together in the past, are still feeling our ways into the new relationships appropriate to constitutional democracy. Government, political parties, the private sector, academia, the media, civil society, faith communities and so forth, now each have our distinctive and separate contributions to make to the life of the nation as a whole. We are still learning where we should stand in solidarity, and where we should be critical. We are still learning what it means to hold and to exchange legitimately diverse perspectives. We are still learning both how to deliver and how to receive criticism that is constructive. The way to pursue such maturing democracy is to abide by – or, in the words of St Paul, be subject to – our Constitution.
There is a clear parallel with the Anglican Communion (setting aside the democracy bit).  Just how Anglicans stand together and criticise one another, how we hold and exchange legitimate and legitimately diverse perspectives, is the driving issue behind the Anglican Covenant.

He sets the question in scripture and in Noah's Covenant with God:
This is a covenant for all of humanity, and for all of creation. It is a covenant about the sanctity of human life, about the integrity of the created world, and about the dignity of difference, symbolised by the rainbow. God says that people matter. God cares that his beloved children should have adequate food, clothing, shelter and so forth. God cares that everyone should be treated with complete respect by everyone else, with no-one marginalised, excluded, voiceless in the ordering of our common lives (which is, of course what democracy is all about).
Amen. Amen.  Again, the contrast of the Church with a democracy is significant.

The Archbishop draws on Chief Rabbi Sacks' speech to the Lambeth Conference which contrasted Covenant and Contract. He summarised the contrast as:
Contracts concern our interests, while covenants concern our identities. · Contracts deal in transactions, while covenants deal in relationships. · Contracts benefit, while covenants transform. · Contracts are about competition – if I win, you lose; while covenants are about cooperation – if I win, you also win.
He then talks about the right and need of the government to govern - and, vitally, the duty to listen. The government, he argues, has a duty to create and sustain a space for free public debate - and to accept criticism as well as praise. He calls for 'the effective participation of all, at every level.'  This is not easy and (he doesn't say this, I do) the experience in so much of Africa directly contradicts this vision.

The Archbishop says:
But, whatever the limitations of experience, mature democracy requires mutual acknowledgement that political opponents seek the good of the country and its people, however great the policy disagreement on the best means for achieving this. We must accord everyone freedom of speech: freedom to debate issues, to put differing arguments, to propose alternative policies, and to persuade – but never to coerce. Anyone who threatens, or intimidates – or stands by while their supporters do so – is not worthy to be a leader. Anyone who incites violence, or advocates harm to their political opponents – or allows others to do so – is a disgrace to democracy and deserves only our contempt. Anyone who pursues power to further their own interests, or the interests of those around them, is unfit to hold office.
In fact, he says,
Let me put this in other words. Effective democracy needs ubuntu. Ubuntu says, ‘I am because we are.’ Ubuntu says ‘My full humanity is dependent on your full humanity.’ Ubuntu is shared covenantal living – living through loving and caring, honesty and respect, compassion and trust. Ubuntu is upholding good morals. Ubuntu is helping those in need. Ubuntu is saying that if any other person is diminished, then I too am diminished.
And, from 'Moral State of the Nation Address'
Covenant is entirely ubuntu-shaped – we find our humanity through the humanity of others – we flourish through promoting the flourishing of others. SePedi has a proverb for this: Mphiri o tee ga o lle – one bangle makes no sound. But working in harmony can create a beautiful symphony!

The Anglican Covenant
The South African initial adoption of the Covenant may have been overwhelming but it was not enthusiastic.  
As I said in my Charge, this is not a perfect document, but it certainly offers a way of affirming our desire to live together as Provinces, within our global family;  a means of getting the balance right through an autonomy that is neither imposed uniformity, nor unbounded independence.  My prayer is that we will now be able to share our unique experiences of letting Christ hold us together in difference, within the life of the Covenant, and help it to work as well as possible. (Here)
The earlier Synod of Bishops had supported the Covenant with the observation 'It can be a tool for healing and for helping the Communion move forward.'

This is a vote for a hope.  And if such hope is realised I will happily welcome it.  

But, in my view, all the signs point in the opposite direction.  Fundamentally there is no democracy, nor any desire for effective participation, nor any valuing of the ideals of democracy.  There is no evident desire of the international leaders of the Communion to create and sustain a public space for diversity and difference, criticism and praise.

The Covenant grew from a desire to expel TEC from the Anglican Communion - an exercise of force, not the recognition that opponents seek the good of the community - and who started it is the politics of the playground, not of an adult community.

The process by which the Covenant has come about is deeply anti-participatory.

The Covenant we are presented with is a contract - a mutually binding deal by which we all focus on the things we distrust and dislike in one another.

It is not ubuntu.  

English and Welsh Bishops

The gorgeous Grandmère Mimi

Grandmère Mimi says (comment, here):
I have the sense, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the bishops in the Church of England who do not like the Covenant will not speak against it, for they are too polite to - what? - hurt the ABC's feelings? The Welsh bishops won't cross him either. 
Sadly I think she's right.

It may be a little more complex than simple politeness, though. There is a mix of loyalty (and not wanting to seem publicly disloyal) with a generation of bishops trained into the collective mould (both senses) by having individuality trained out of them: mini-princes in their own domains and courtiers on the larger stage.  I'm not sure that government by nineteenth-century unaccountable autocrats was any better (and there was a different structure of checks and balances in place). However, the result today is that the bishops have become like a one-party state: divisions are kept within the club, the public face must be united. (Unless, of course, you retire to Rome, but that's a different story.)

However that's assuming there has been structured debate in which differences of episcopal opinion have even been aired.  There was, of course, discussion at the Lambeth Conference.  I'm not at all sure what debate has been had within the English college of bishops - not that I would know, you understand, one way or the other.  But I am led to believe that the new Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council - the other half of implementing the Covenant - went through on the nod.

The Welsh bishops are a different kettle of fish, so to speak.  There are only 6 diocesans, after all, and one of them is Gregory Cameron.  And, yes, they do feel a loyalty to one of their own - after all, how many welshmen have ever been Pope? I have no feel for the way the wind is blowing there but I would be very surprised if they all leaned the same way.  It's a relatively small Province but there is a noticeable difference in culture between north and south Wales.

And, in dealing with the episcopacy never forget the old joke that the bishop's symbol is a crook and the sign of an archbishop is a double-cross.