What do we get if we get the Covenant?

Apologies that the papers under discussion here are somewhat dated. I am grateful to my colleague Leonardo Ricardo for drawing my attention to the paper from the Province of South Asia which (with so much else) I had missed.

I blog it now because it continues to be relevant: the terms of signing the Covenant seen from Singapore are not the terms seen from where I sit.

Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory,
and promoter of the Covenant  in Ireland
Ireland subscribes
In May the Church of Ireland "subscribed" to the Covenant.

In doing so the Irish intended to subordinate the Covenant to the Church in Ireland; they were not willing to subordinate the Church to the Covenant (Press Release). Were they conning themselves? Mark Harris pointed out that they didn't really have the option: the only choice on the table was - take it or leave it.

But was something else going on? Did the Irish (or, at least, those in the know) believe that once the Covenant was in place all that would happen would be another round of negotiations?

To put it another way: what do we get if we get the Covenant?

Here the Church of South East Asia (wiki) has been very helpful.

A history of the Covenant
Their Preamble to the Letter of Accession (also May 2011) set out a history of how the Covenant was created. It stresses the significance of conservative Provinces in the creation of the document dating back to the Second South-to-South Encounter Kuala Lumpur Statement in 1997.

I find the historical narrative largely persuasive when seen through conservative glasses,  The story is predicated on the "unscriptural practices in some parts of the Church" and the providential way the 'crisis' enabled the diverse churches of the global south to create a shared identity and structures of consultation

It's not the whole story. (1) It omits contributions from England and other western sources. (2) The Archbishop of Canterbury is mentioned twice (outside quotations): to restate an instruction given to him by the Primates and, second, to disapprove a decision he made. It would seem that the future of Covenanted Anglicanism does not accord primacy to the Archbishop, his heirs and successors. (3) It ignores the listening process that was also agreed at Lambeth 1998. (4) It also leaves the impression that 'border crossing' followed, rather than preceded, the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson.

(l-r) Bishop Albert Vun, Diocese of Sabah)
Bishop John Chew, Diocese of Singapore
Bishop Bolly Lapok, Diocese of Kiching
 Bishop Ng Moon Heng, Diocese of West Malaysia
But for those global south churches which wish to remain within the Anglican Communion it is a persuasive and legitimating account.

The terms of accession
The Preamble "also outlines the raison d'être for the Church of the Province of South East Asia’s agreement to sign the Anglican Communion Covenant.":
Churches that accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant need to subject their common life to the reforming and transforming work of the Holy Spirit, so that the Communion may be built up until all “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4: 13). The Anglican Communion should adopt more uniform processes in the election and appointment of bishops, to ensure that such processes are not held hostage to local politics and to parochial understandings of the episcopal office.
For the Province of South East Asia, therefore, it is perfectly clear that the Covenant does indeed subordinate provinces to its provisions. Local church order must be changed to fit the programme.

our accession to the Anglican Communion Covenant is based on the following understanding:
(a) that those who accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant will unequivocally abide by Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its spirit and intent;
(b) that those Provinces and Dioceses whose actions violate Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as well as subsequent Primates Communiqué statements that have placed a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and the authorization and implementation of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, are expected to rescind their actions, and bring their public doctrine and practice in line with Lambeth 1.10, before acceding to the Anglican Communion Covenant; and
(c) that Churches that accede to the Anglican Communion Covenant should bear authentic witness to the orthodox faith by an unequivocal commitment to the standards of moral and ethical holiness as set by Biblical norms in all aspects of their communal life. (Mt 19:4-6; Rom 1:21-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:16-26; Eph 5:3-14; Col 3:5-14; 1 Thess 4:3-12; 2 Tim 3:1-5; Heb 13:1-5; 1 Pet 4:1-11; 2 Pet 2:13-22; Jude v18-21; Rev 18:1-8).
(d) that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Anglican Communion Covenant in its implementation (Anglican Communion Covenant Section 3.1.4.IV and South-to-South Encounter, Fourth Trumpet, 21).
Thus they sign the Covenant with one pen and with another write: everyone else must meet the demands of South East Asia.

Martin Reynolds (last comment at TA) also noted that, as part of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, the Anglican Church sought to criminalise lesbianism for the first time in the country's history and to sustain harsh punishments for gay men. There is nothing irenic in this Provinces' Covenant.

So what does it mean to sign the Covenant?
Clearly the Church of Ireland either signed a different Covenant, or it must withdraw its decision if these are the terms, or it expects the Covenant to be merely a staging post to further negotiations.

What would the Church of England be signing up to if it voted in favour?

What is the point of a treaty if we all think we're signing up to different things?


Coalition celebrates success

  Lesley Crawley, Coalition Moderator  
No Anglican Covenant Coalition
Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity
DECEMBER 6, 2011

LONDON – After slightly more than a year, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition can point to several  successes, according to Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley.

Four dioceses of the Church of England have rejected the Covenant (Birmingham; St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich; Truro; Wakefield). Where synod members were provided with balanced background material (i.e., material that presented both the case for and the case against the Covenant), the synods have voted it down.

Four dioceses, where little or no material was presented other than officially sanctioned pro-Covenant material, have approved the Covenant (Lichfield; Durham; Europe; Bristol). A total of 23 diocesan synods must approve the Covenant for the matter to return to the General Synod.
  • The Tikanga Maori defeated the Covenant at their biennial runanganui, virtually ensuring the defeat of the Covenant in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
  • The Philippine House of Bishops has indicated they will not support the Anglican Covenant, likely ensuring the defeat of the Covenant in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
  • Individual dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia (Newcastle; Sydney) and The Episcopal Church (California; Eastern Oregon; Michigan; East Carolina; and others) have indicated their opposition to adoption of the Covenant.
“In November 2010, we launched the Coalition to ensure that the case against the proposed Anglican Covenant would be given a fair hearing,” said Dr. Crawley. “Today we are seeing our efforts bear fruit. When fair debate has been allowed, the results have been gratifying.”

Critical to the success of the campaign, especially in the Church of England, has been the support of the Coalition’s Episcopal Patrons, Bishops John Saxbee and Peter Selby, who have encouraged diocesan bishops to allow for a full and open debate. In the coming months, 37 more English dioceses will vote on the Anglican Covenant. Only 18 additional no votes are needed for the Church of England to reject the Covenant.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition continues to provide assistance to those researching the proposed Covenant. The Resources section of the Coalition website is regularly updated with new material and analysis.

In the coming year:
  • The Episcopal Church will consider the Covenant at its General Convention in July in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Executive Council of the church has circulated a draft resolution to reject the Anglican Covenant.
  • The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will consider the Covenant in July at its General Synod/Te HinotaWhanui in Fiji. Given the rejection of the Anglican Covenant by Tikanga Maori, rejection of the Covenant by that church seems assured.
  • The General Synod of the Church of England is scheduled to consider the Covenant at its July session. However, unless 19 more diocesan synods have approved the Anglican Covenant by that date, the matter will not return to General Synod.
“Anglican Communion Office officials have repeatedly responded to criticism of the Anglican Covenant by suggesting that critics have not read the document,” said the Coalition’s Canadian Convenor, the Revd Malcolm French. “Ironically, we find that the more familiar people are with the document, the more likely they are to reject it. The Coalition is committed to ensuring a proper and balanced debate in churches throughout the Anglican Communion.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition is an international group of Anglicans dedicated to protecting the Anglican Communion from the dramatic changes that would be effected by the Anglican Covenant.


Alan Perry points out in passing that nothing in the proposed Anglican Covenant is defined.

The implication of this is, that if it is ever passed, there will be immediate pressure from all sides to work out what the signatories have actually signed up for. Lawyers (and Alan's a lawyer) will set to work with forensic relish.

Consequently, rapidly, there will be 'expositions', 'explanations', 'clarifications' of the Covenant. On current practice it is unlikely that much of this will be made public. These documents will effectively change the reading of the Covenant and guide its implementation.

I suggest that the priorities will be:
  • To clarify the procedures implicit or explicit in the Covenant. (A legal and bureaucratic process.)
  • To monitor and record the procedures and their results. (A largely bureaucratic process.)
  • To relate the development and consequences of Covenant procedures to non-signatory members of the Anglican Communion. (A primarily political process.)  
  • To relate the Covenant procedures to the Instruments of Communion, not least to clarify the legal position of the Anglican Consultative Council in relation to decisions made under Covenant rules. (A legal and political process.)  
Taken together these will amount to a slow revolution in the Anglican Communion undertaken by the Anglican Communion Office with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Norman Doe has contributed systematically to the Covenant
  • The procedures to implement and monitor the Covenant procedures will effectively become a new set of constitutional laws - canons - governing Communion relations.
  • The Communion will be reshaped: the difference of treatment of those inside and those outside the Covenant process will not lead to a two-speed Communion (except, possibly, in a transitional phase). Either all will eventually sign the Covenant or, more likely in my view, the Communion will split apart.  (This is setting aside the possibility that some bodies could sign the Covenant despite not being members of the ACC.)
  • Over time the ACC will be destroyed or assimilated. This is because it is the only Anglican international body currently with a legal constitution and therefore clashes between ACC and Covenant processes cannot simply be finessed away.
  • The record of consultative processes, and especially their results, will eventually lead to a single statement of the doctrine of the Anglican Communion. When an issue has been decided under the Covenant process no Province could subsequently act independently on that issue without risking eviction. As issues accumulate to the centre haphazardly, as decisions in one area have implications in others, and as anomalies proliferate there will be growing pressure to codify the whole. Doctrinal case law will become doctrinal statute law. 
You might have thought that these matters should have been thought through first. After all, signatories should have some idea of the consequences of signing.

But it's a matter of the politics of the possible.

When more detailed procedures were set out as an Appendix the the St Andrews draft of the Covenant they caused an outcry that threatened to derail the Covenant process. Therefore those pushing the Covenant decided to retreat into generalisations in order to get agreement first and set out the detail afterwards.   (My 2-page flow chart of the procedure - pdf)

Can you imagine a company or country working this way and surviving very long?

In practice, and if the Covenant is ever passed, the Anglican Communion Office and their lawyers will first go back to the earlier work on the St Andrew's Draft. I make this prediction with great confidence - after all, where else would you start?

That is to say: a procedure that very few people liked, which threatened to stop adoption when it was made public, will in fact (with further amendments and refinements) be the initial basis of Covenant procedures.

As my mother used to say, it'll end in tears.


Seven constitutional questions on the Covenant

Apologies that this is a one-off posting - and is much longer than is sensible. I blame 'changed circumstances' for an inability to post regularly.

1) The consequence of signing the Covenant
The Covenant will bring in significant changes to the way the Church of England is governed and there has been no public debate, to the best of my knowledge, about its consequences.

I believe that adopting the Covenant would entail constitutional change in the Church of England at least as great as the Synodical Government Measure of 1969 and the Enabling Act of 1919.  Both these steps opened the government of the Church to wider participation by its members. The adoption of the Covenant could - depending on the manner in which it is implemented - enable top-down, possibly unaccountable, decision making on key areas of the Church's life. It could preclude certain areas of discussion from General Synod's agenda. It could lead to a significant concentration of information and power in very few hands.

The Covenant and its defenders insist that signatories would not lose their autonomous status within the Communion.  However the Covenant clearly anticipates that Provinces will self-censure and it is not clear that this will be done openly and with full debate. I suggest that the way the Covenant has been introduced to date at the very least gives grounds for suspicion. See my Bouncing the Covenant through the Anglican Communion. It was written in 2004.

Unless strong safeguards are in place it is likely that General Synod will find it has inadvertently come to an agreement which will constrain and distort the conduct of its  business in ways it had neither anticipated no intended.

2) Where we are now
So far, if I've got this right, 2 Dioceses have voted in favour (Lichfield and Durham), and 4 against (St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Wakefield, Birmingham and Truro).

But there's a long way to go yet. So it seems worth raising at this stage a number of questions about the manner in which the Covenant would be implemented in England and, in particular, how it would relate to General Synod.

3)  Constitutional change
The two key elements of the Covenant which I believe will change the workings of the Church of England are,
  1. the creation of a 'mechanism' - a person or office - 'to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.' (4.2.9), and   
  2. the right of any signatory to the Covenant, or Instrument of Communion, to raise '... questions ... relating to the meaning of the Covenant, or about the compatibility of an action by a covenanting Church with the Covenant,'  (4.2.3)
I put them in this order because I think this will be the order in which the impact of the Covenant will make itself felt.

First an appointment will be made of a Covenant Compliance Officer (or some other less specific title). Undoubtedly the role will be as an intermediary or ambassador: to listen to all participants, to represent the views and concerns of the Church of England to other signatories of the Covenant and vice versa, and to communicate to the wider Communion any action or decision or, critically, proposed action  or decision that might cause concern. In all these actions timing will be critical.

Second, questions could be asked under Section 4 of the Covernant. And, when asked, action will need to be taken in response.

Third, between these two points there are two, equally important, stages. The first, implicit in the Covenant (4.2.3) is bilateral or multilateral talks to iron out any difficulties. This avoids reference to the Standing Committee unless no agreement 'shared mind' is reached.

But it is at least as likely that another Province (say) would raises a matter entirely informally, that is without invoking the Covenant procedures.

The massed ranks of Synod in session
In fact, I suspect that this will be the normal mode by which the signatories to the Covenant will work. The majority of Provinces the majority of the time will want to foster good working relations - and this cannot be done by rushing off to the Standing Committee of the Anglican Church on the faint whiff of something undesirable in a far-away land. But a quiet word at a meeting, a private letter or a request for information might well be the way to proceed.

And this may pose a bigger challenge to the constitutional government of the Church than formal proceedings.

4) Constitutional questions
So my questions are:
1) Where will power lie over the Covenant Compliance Officer or Office?
  • Who will write their terms of reference and specify the boundaries and priorities of their work?
  • Who will appoint, task and oversee them? 
  • Who will hold them to account?
  • Who may and who must be informed and consulted on day to day issues?
  • Who may veto any proposed course of action?
The options, I guess are: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the House of Bishops or General Synod.  (Incidentally, I don't think an appointment can be made without further marginalising the elected members of the Anglican Consultative Council.)
2) How will the Covenant Compliance Officer or Office related to General Synod?
  • Will Synod have any powers to direct the work, or to direct them not to pursue a particular line of work?
  • How will communication between the Office and Synod be structured and maintained?
  • Will Synod appoint a committee to over see the work? Or have a liaison committee? Or, at the other end of the scale, will it merely receive a report on past work and, if so, will there at least be an opportunity for informed questioning?
3) What will happen if there is a bilateral or multilateral expression of concern about any proposed or anticipated course of action which may come before General Synod?
  • Where will primary responsibility lie for responding to such concerns?
  • Who will be involved in discussions and negotiations?
  • How will agreement (coming to a 'shared mind') be ratified? Will it bind General Synod? Will a simple majority suffice?
And, more generally,
  • Are there areas of decision making which should not be subject to external scrutiny? If so, which areas?
  • Should there be a means of voting (a Section 8 referral for example) by which the CofE as a whole could over-ride the concerns of the complainant and continue to pursue its own course?
Under the Covenant a single Province can lay a complaint and it is up the the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to pursue it through further conciliation (4.2.4), by asking a Church to delay a decision (4.2.5), or by declaring the action or decision “incompatible with the Covenant” (4.2.6 - in inverted commas in the original). 'Relational consequences' may then follow.
4) What will happen if there is a formal expression of concern by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion about any proposed or anticipated course of action which may come before General Synod?
In addition to the previous questions: 
  • Under what circumstances would it be appropriate for the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to impose sanctions on the CofE (e.g. by requiring members of international consultative bodies to step down because the CofE as a whole is pursuing an unpopular course)?
  • Who would be responsible for the CofE's response to such a measure?
5) And, much earlier in the process, what will happen if there is an informal expression of concern about any proposed or anticipated course of action which may come before General Synod?
I suspect this is the critical test. Given that the point of an informal expression of concern is to avoid making waves in public:
  • Who may and who must be informed?
  • At what point, and by what route, should Synod be consulted?  (E.g. would consulting the Standing Committee be sufficient? Will there be provision for the full Synod to debate an issue with press and public excluded?)
  • Should the expression of concern be made solely to the House of Bishops?
Of course the exact details of the expression of concern will make a difference - my focus is on what constitutional mechanisms are envisaged or would be appropriate.  My fear is that the instinct of officers would be to restrict discussion and constrain debate. The consequence could be that accountability will be limited and the role of Synod in the government of the church will be undermined.
6) How would the CofE discharge its duties under the Covenant towards developments in other Provinces?
  • What areas of concern should the Covenant Compliance Office monitor on behalf of the CofE? And, see (1) above, how will these be reported back, and to whom?
  • Could any member of Synod initiate a debate expressing concern about actual or potential developments in other signatory Provinces? 
  • If not, what other routes are available to raise an issue of concern? And how can trivial or vexatious complaints be avoided?
  • Could Synod mandate its Covenant Compliance Office to initiate the proceedings envisaged by Section 4.2.3 of the Covenant? If not, who could?
  • How will a judgement be made that the response has been satisfactory? Will a further debate be necessary? And who decides?
  • Times are hard enough already without
    signing an open cheque.
  • If Synod is not involved in this process how will it be possible to avoid damaging tensions within the CofE given the likelihood of a range of views on any issue?
And, last but not least, as I've asked before,
7) What will this all cost?
In the normal course of events Synod is not able to take a decision without examining the financial implications.
  • Why is the Synod's procedure not being followed in this case?

Now it may be that someone somewhere has drafted answers to all these questions and more. In which case it would be useful to have the proposals public so voters can see some of the ramifications of the options before they make their decision.   But if no-one has addressed the constitutional implications then I'm even more worried.


A clear NO

The Presiding Bishop and Prime Bishop Edward Pacaya:
differences and continued dialogue
It seems that the Philippines is the first Province to reject the Covenant. They do so from a firmly conservative perspective but they are not proposing to turn their back on the rest of the Communion. .

The reported grounds for rejection are ecclesiological - it's unAnglican.
The Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines have rejected the proposed Anglican Covenant, saying the proposal to centralise authority in London was an “un-Anglican” attempt to “lord it over” the Communion’s national provinces.
Bishop Malecdan stated the Philippine Council of Bishops “noted that the document provides for the creation of a Standing Committee that will be the ‘Supreme Court’ as it were, for the Anglican Communion to lord it over all Anglican Provinces. This, to the Council is very un-Anglican because of the autonomous nature of each Anglican Province. Hence, we are not in favour of the document.”
Their way forward is not to follow GAFCON into schism. Rather, as evidenced at the Dublin Primates' meeting:
We recognised that Anglicans have many disagreements as a Communion but we still can be agreeable to one another. We can still move towards reconciliation as sisters and brothers as a gift of God to us by persistently talking about our differences. This is the beauty of Anglicanism.
“Unity in diversity which is a recognized uniqueness of the Communion is preserved,” the prime bishop said.
The logic being that, if the GAFCON churches are to go their own way then there is no need for the Covenant. Therefore the remaining churches are grown up enough to persist in their differences. 

It also means that other provinces uncomfortable with the Covenant no longer need to equivocate by finding a form of words which seek to avoid them 'adopting' the Covenant. They can just say no.

Also at The Lead.


Alan's Covenant Questions

The Anglican Church of Canada
Alan Perry, at Insert Catchy Blog Title Here, has been writing solid, sustained pieces on the Covenant and its detrimental consequences for the Communion and individual Provinces.

In May he summarised the attitude of too many senior people in the Anglican Church of Canada that the Covenant is mostly harmless. He's being told, in summary,
I don't actually believe that the Covenant will accomplish what it is supposed to do. It won't really address the tensions in the Anglican Communion. But I don't believe that it is the Abomination of Desolation, either. I don't think it's going to have any ill effect. Recommendations of Relational Consequences are nothing to worry about.
This is precisely the attitude that ACO business managers have tried to encourage to make the medicine slip down the throats of the Provinces' various legislatures:

Of course it's not harmless. An awful lot of energy, political capital and a publicly undisclosed amount of money has gone into pushing the Covenant through because those who still believe in it believe it will be effective.

It will, its promoters hope, enable the rest of the Communion to expel TEC and ACoC for their wilful and reckless ways in including homosexual people as full members of the Church. Or, more broadly, for not taking the anti-modern stance which the conservative evangelicals have adopted and which they have focused and symbolised in attitudes to homosexuality. Rowan Williams put Archbishop Drexel Gomez in charge of the programme after he had, with Maurice Sinclair, edited a booklet setting out the necessary steps to punish the north American church. That was why Gomez was chosen.
The Covenant will centralise the Communion and give unprecedented powers to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Anglican Communion office. It will re-write the Anglican Communion with barely any discussion about whether this is the Communion we want or need. Alan writes more recently about the value of provincial autonomy. Let us hope this will not be of merely antiquarian interest.

The Covenant is not 'mostly harmless'. It's pernicious in its intent and dishonest in its route to adoption. No good can come of it.

Alan goes on to explore Canada's legal analysis of the Covenant and the serious concerns that this document raises. It poses questions which are important for all Anglican Churches, not simply for Canada. His answers to the questions are here.

The first two questions are general ones and should be addressed by all Provinces:
1. Should the imprecision in the definitions of a number of terms used in the Covenant concern General Synod when it considers whether or not to adopt the Covenant?
2. Should the lack of natural justice and procedural fairness in section 4 concern General Synod when it considers whether or not to adopt the Covenant?
There was greater precision and clarity of process in earlier drafts. These were attacked and removed from the text. But if the Covenant mechanism are ever invoked these processes (or something very like them) will have to be created. Only now, because they are not in the text or its appendices, they will be under the control of the bureaucrats and almost certainly not open to scrutiny or challenge. (My 2-page pdf of the suggested process is here.)

The next 4 questions address consultation and the impact on the constitution of the Anglican Church of Canada. In England we are assured that there will be no canonical or constitutional impact. But, even if that is true, does that mean it is proper to seek to force other provinces to fit themselves to our norms? I think that a steady process of homogenisation is built into the Covenant.

I believe the Covenant was deliberately phrased to avoid any clash with the Established nature and legal constraints of the Church of England. That courtesy has not been extended to other provinces. There will, I strongly suspect, be legal and constitutional questions in at least USA, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, and the United Churches of North and South India.

Some version of Question 7 should, I think, be put in each Province:
7. Is the strong synodical place of the laity in the Canadian Church sufficiently upheld in the decision-making processes in the Covenant?
In England, it seems to me, the place of the laity is increasingly marginal and subordinate in constitutional terms - but not in reality. They pay, and they pay an ever increasing proportion of the church's current bills and future liabilities. Perhaps the question here should be:
7. To what extent does the decision making processes in the Covenant enhance or diminish the place of the laity in the synods of the Church of England?
Question 8 asks what would be the difference if the ACoC used some verb other than 'adopt' to accept the Covenant. And the answer is none. You're in or you're out.

Question 9 asks what the consequences would be of not signing. This deserves more exploration.  I believe the legal answer is 'not a lot'. The ACoC (and any other church which didn't sign) would still be a member of the Anglican Consultative Council which remains the only legally constituted body of the Communion. 

Politically, however, the answer is unclear. The General Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury have already taken it upon themselves to deselect members of particular committees on the grounds that that are members of a province which is not complying with one or other of the moratoria that are supposed to be in place - and appoint people too, if they see fit. They have no legal or constitutional grounds for these actions and they are certainly prejudging the outcomes of debates that are not yet concluded. (And, you might ask, why bother with a Covenant if General Secretary and the Archbishop already act as though there is one. It's clearly superfluous.)

The Covenant won't do what it says on the tin. It will reshape the Communion in ways I believe will be wholly deleterious to the Communion. What is the point of passing global powers to a tiny group and then giving them only one power - the power to get rid of people and churches? Isn't the consequence obvious?


Pressure mounts on the Vatican

From the New York Times:
Ex-bishop William Morris of Toowoomba
More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony that purported to ordain a woman as a priest, in defiance of church teaching.
Well, not surprising in the States, perhaps. But the article also cites 300 priests and deacons in Austria signing a 'Call to disobedience' and, in Australia, the bishop of Toowoomba, Willaim Morris, has been forced to resign after saying he would be prepared to ordain women and married men.

attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order, incur an excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.
But it is not enough to punish actions. The Vatican seeks to expunge even discussion of the idea from the church.

In large part the proposals for ordination reflect an increasing shortage of celibate men training for the priesthood. The 'Call to disobedience' is a call to more extensive reform:
The initiative ... suggested saying a public prayer at every Mass for church reform; giving Communion to everyone who approaches the altar in good faith, including divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment; allowing women to preach at Mass; and supporting the ordination of women and married men.
The response, predictably, has been to seek to expel or silence those calling for reform. The lineal descendent of the Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, works in secret. Those accused are not allowed to see the evidence against them and may not know they are accused until they are condemned. Attempts to seek a just procedure have been ignored.

There are effectively two possible sentences (and some more minor penalties derived from these). There are expulsion and silencing. The former is the more severe temporal penalty, the latter the more spiritually abusive.

To seek to control the words a person may or may not use, to immure them in silence, to bar them from discussing certain issues are actions which are destructive of the soul, of the person's interior relationship with their own integrity and with God. Power, authority, dictate: and the Spirit is silenced.

I don't suppose the Vatican is too worried, though even they may catch the straws in the wind. One day, another Pope will simply change direction. Then the church will always have believed in the ordination of women and married man - only it had not been fully discerned by the start of the twenty-first century. Along the way no-one will have been burned to death, thank God, but they will have been badly hurt and will carry the scars for the rest of their lives.


The death of a pioneer

From the New York Times:

The Rev. Mary Michael Simpson, the first Episcopal nun to be ordained a priest and the first ordained woman to preach a sermon in Westminster Abbey, died Wednesday in Augusta, Ga. She was 85.....Even though the Church of England said it had no official objection to women joining the priesthood in the Anglican Communion — which includes the Episcopal Church — lay opinion and the private views of the clergy were often more conservative. By 1978, women had become priests in Anglican Communion churches in the United States, Canada and New Zealand, but not yet in the United Kingdom.
Canon Simpson addressed the issue directly in a sermon at Westminster Abbey on April 2, 1978, in which she asserted that the church treated women like “second-class Christians.”
“Christian creativity for the present age must not depend on male leaders,” she told a gathering of about 700 people. “Woman’s contribution — from women properly trained and authorized — is essential.”

And as a male in the church, I say Amen.


Drought is natural, famine is not

Somalian women wait at a refugee centre in
Mogadishu in July 2011. 
Paul Rogers comments on the famine in the horn of Africa:

Since the previous trans-national famine (1973-74), he says,
There have since been nearly four decades of “development”, with contrasting outcomes: the world has grown very much richer yet the great bulk of the new wealth has benefited the richest 1.5 billion in a global population that the United Nations estimates will reach 7 billion in October 2011. A far wealthier world is more divided, and contains nearly twice as many malnourished people, as was the case in the early 1970s. These facts alone are a damning criticism of the way the world economic system has evolved, and in particular of the neglect of food security for tens of millions of poor and vulnerable people.
Climate change will make things worse. 

One inevitable consequence [I add] is that many more people will be forced to migrate. Yet the rich world's barriers against forced migration from the poorer world have been growing higher and higher.

It is a recipe for greater conflict.  How little can the wealthy world pay to keep the poor away from their doors and out of sight? 


1-page Covenant introduction

Coalition Publishes One-Page Covenant Introduction

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has today published a one-page handout titled “A Short Introduction to the Anglican Covenant.” The document is intended to provide a brief but useful view of the Covenant for those unfamiliar with it. It describes the Covenant, explains where it came from, and offers an evaluation of its possible effect. Anglicans around the world are encouraged to download “A Short Introduction” and to use it to educate their fellow Anglicans.

A news release about the new handout can be found here. A letter-size version of “A Short Introduction” is available here and an A4 version is available here.

A brief summary, honest

And while, we're in the area, it seems that there have been no takers of the invitation to make the case for the Covenant.

The probable reason, of course, is that we all live in our bunkers and those in favour of the Covenant are unlikely to want to be seen supporting their opponents.

But at the same time silence does help those who want to bounce the Covenant through the Provincial decision making bodies.  From the beginning they have recognised the difficulties of getting it through so many different fora - and have tried to keep publicity to the minimum necessary. In England at least all official documentation is in favour of the Covenant, and none of the difficult issues have been given a public airing. It's a strategy of success by keeping people, voters, uninformed.

It is entirely undemocratic - but, the Church is not a democracy. Therefore a vote of members' representatives is an embarrassment and a problem, not an opportunity to engage people openly and constructively.

And I can give chapter and verse of statements made in the early days of the Covenant process which evidence this approach. More recently the failure of Dioceses and the Church of England nationally to distribute arguments against the Covenant alongside supportive literature bears out that the initial strategy is still in place.


Airbrushing gay people out of the church

Lesley, of Lesley's blog, has posted another account to a Church's response to the possibility someone was gay:
Homophobia is alive and well in UK churches
Though, to be fair (as some of the comments point out), not in all UK Churches. 


Getting worse in Zimbabwe

You may well have seen these reports, but I'm afraid I missed them until now:

Bishop Gandiya worshipping in the open air in Harare (USPG)
From Titus Mission 26 June 2011, from an open letter from Bishop Chad Gandiya,
Last Sunday a Kunonga priest forced himself into the house of our priest (Rev’d Muzanenhamo) at Mubayira in Mhondoro while he was on trek taking services. He was informed and came back immediately and pushed Kunonga’s priest out of the house. The police came and instead of arresting the intruder they arrested our priest and charged him with assault. He spent the night in cells and we had to bail him out.
That same evening our newly ordained Deacon was evicted from the church house by Kunonga’s people. Police were called and they sided with those evicting our Deacon. In both cases there were no eviction orders as is required by the laws of the land.
From George Conger, 24 June 2011
The Bishop of Masvingo writes from Zimbabwe that Dr Nolbert Kunonga has expanded his depredations beyond Harare and has tried to take control of a diocesan mission hospital in the southeast of the Central African nation.
In an email to the Central African bishops and supporters in the West, Bishop Godfrey Tawonezvi said the breakaway Bishop of Harare “continues to destabilize” the mission hospital in Daramombe “in an effort to forcibly take control of the institution.”
Dr Kunonga’s invasion of the Diocese of Masvingo comes amidst heightened uncertainty in the bitter dispute. On 2 June, Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare also sent an email to supporters reporting that 16 Anglicans had been arrested by the police after protesting against the invasion of the Rev Julius Zimbudzana’s home by supporters of the breakaway bishop. Several priests were jailed overnight on trumped-up charges, Bishop Gandiya said.
From the New York Times, 29 May 2001,
Nolbert Kunonda sitting pretty
Mr. Mugabe, a Roman Catholic, recently denounced black bishops in established churches as pawns of whites and the West, singling out for special opprobrium Catholic bishops who have “a nauseating habit of unnecessarily attacking his person,” the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.
But it is leaders of the Anglican Church, one of the country’s major denominations, who have lately faced the most sustained pressure. Nolbert Kunonga, an excommunicated Anglican bishop and staunch Mugabe ally, has escalated a drive to control thousands of Anglican churches, schools and properties across Zimbabwe and southern Africa.
“The throne is here,” declared Mr. Kunonga, who has held onto his bishopric here in the sprawling diocese of Harare through courts widely seen as partisan to Mr. Mugabe. He has also been backed by a police force answerable to the president, whom Mr. Kunonga describes as “an angel.” ....
 and on page 2
Mr. Kunonga’s aim, he and his adviser, the Rev. Admire Chisango, said, is for their breakaway Anglican church to control about 3,000 churches, schools, hospitals and other properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi — a treasure accumulated since Anglican missionaries first arrived in what is now Zimbabwe during the 19th century.

Mr. Kunonga, who earned a Ph.D. in religious studies from Northwestern University and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary outside Chicago, says that his success in controlling church properties is due to the persuasiveness of his legal arguments in court, not Mr. Mugabe’s influence. 
“I’m superior intellectually and from a legal point of view,” he said. “I’m very superior to them.”
He vociferously supports Mr. Mugabe, and like many loyalists, he has been richly rewarded. The ZANU-PF government bestowed on him a prized commercial farm confiscated from white owners. Mr. Kunonga argued that his forebears had lived on that very spot for centuries and that he was just repossessing what was rightfully his. 
One recent Sunday morning, the magnificent Anglican Cathedral in downtown Harare, once thronged by thousands of congregants, was mostly empty. Mr. Kunonga sat among a smattering of parishioners. 
Not far away, a thousand Anglicans packed a plain rented church not under his authority. Beneath bare light bulbs dangling from unfinished rafters, they joyously danced and sang to the beat of drums and listened raptly to their charismatic young priest, Barnabas Munzwandi. 
As the priest’s voice wafted into the yard outside where the overflow crowd sat on the grass, Victoria Ngwere, a 38-year-old housewife, explained that she had pushed her son, Raymond, miles in his wheelchair to get to services rather than attend a Kunonga church nearer her home.
“Here I can feel free,” she said
Amen. All here.


Lenin in the Cathedral

We attended the Durham Miners' Gala last Saturday (pronounced gay-la, not gar-la, if you're not from these parts; it's important). (Wiki, news report, BBC slideshow, Guardian Video)

I took a lot of pictures of the backs of people's heads
It was a tremendous day. We went at the invitation of a retired miner who says he's only missed 1 Gala since he first began at the pit. The brass bands played and over 100 banners marched past for hour after hour in a tremendous display of historic and current solidarity, community pride and a continued determination to fight for the workers against the bosses. There are no deep mines left in the area now.

The rain was on and off. As the very last band played outside the County Hotel the heavens opened and everyone was drenched. There was a band of young women playing (I'm not sure which band) and a police van with lights and barely audible siren pushed passed them. They were soaked to the skin, pushed out of order and never stopped playing - and they deserved and got the longest and loudest applause.

We didn't go the the race course for the fun fair or the speeches. We went, at the urging of our host, to the service at Durham Cathedral. 'Makes the hairs on the back of my head stand up' he said, but not mine.

The Cathedral was packed and there was a tremendous atmosphere. But the service seemed disconnected from the events outside. It felt like a standard Cathedral service tailored for this audience as they might for the Mother Union or Durham County Council Civic Service. Nothing about it echoed the enthusiasm or community feeling of the marchers. It didn't even pick up the religious iconography and slogans of the banners.  It certainly didn't pick up the dominant feeling of working class solidarity. Somehow the choir's anthem (Hubert Parry's Hear my words) just didn't cut it in style or content. Many sang the hymns but, where we were sitting at least, a lot didn't.

We also commemorated the deaths of 81 miners at Easington Colliery and 9 at Eppleton Colliery in two disasters 60 years earlier. Memories are long and these events are a constant reminder not only of the dangers miners face (one of the trapped Chilean miners was a guest of honour at the Gala) but also that these dangers and deaths were for the sake of the owners and bosses. (The industry had been nationalised in 1947.)

The sermon was a bit of a disappointment too. The motif was: coal, caused by sustained pressure, aeons later shaped the region and brought wealth and work. This time of pressure will also pass and new hope will grow (see what Sunderland has done).

It missed the note of opposition to pressure, of standing together against the oppressor who is not a force of nature but the beneficiary of an unequal society. It missed the fact that it is people who are crushed, not merely trees, in our inequitable ordering of society. It was, I think, meant to offer people hope despite the present troubles but it felt as though it was just counselling fatalism.

Perhaps I shouldn't have expected any different. After all the Church, epitomised in Cathedrals, embodies hierarchy and status, not nascent egalitarianism.

So I was highly intrigued that, amongst the new banners that the Bishop of Jarrow blessed, was that of Follonsby Lodge. The original had been destroyed in 1938 in a fire.

The banner has Lenin in the place of honour. (Wiki has the advice "Not to be confused with linen, a textile made from flax.")

J. Keir Hardie was a founder and leader of the Independent Labour Party. He was the first independent working class Member of Parliament.

Arthur Cook was leader of the National Union of Miners during the 1926 General Strike and subsequent lockout. (Autobiography)

George Harvey was one of the leaders of the Ruskin College strike,1909, a founder of the Plebs League and the Industrial Union of Britain. He was also the Wardley colliery check weighman.

James Connolly was a founder member of the IWW (the 'Wobblies'), the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and the Irish Citizen Army. He was executed by the British in 1916 after the failed Easter Rising.

What I'd love to know is, what was in the mind of the bishop as he blessed this banner?


A challenge for you

My colleagues at Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog have launched a competition:
Where are the best arguments for the Covenant?
... there seems to be a dearth of argumentation on the other side, and much of what there is comes from Lambeth Palace, the Anglican Communion Office, or people who have had a direct role in producing the Covenant text.

Although there have been many reasons advanced for scrapping the Covenant, reasons that have been carefully laid out and fully explored, arguments for the Covenant seem to rely on the notion that no one can think of anything else—the Covenant is the only way forward we are told—or on what can only be called naïve hopefulness.
So, What do you think are the strongest arguments in favor of the Covenant, and where can the best articulation of those arguments be found?
And there's a prize - you can set out your arguments on the NACC blog (good taste being the only constraint).

Answer in the comments box and the platform may be yours for a day.


NoW and British conservatism

William Davies in Hack-gate: the latest cultural contradiction of British conservatism? has an interesting take on the News of the World debacle, linking it to the 'unwieldy and self-destructive' character of British conservatism.
The inconsistency and incoherence of the rightwing tabloid press have always been part of its popular appeal and political strength, thereby harnessing the cultural contradictions of conservatism to its own advantage. It has represented the interests of big business and ‘white van man’ with equal gusto; it has portrayed society as decadent and lawless on one page, whilst celebrating hedonistic consumption on the next. It has demanded that the state look after the old and infirm in one editorial, then raged against the ‘nanny state’ in the next. Its exuberance lies in its irresponsibility. The tabloid media might almost have shared the motto of the French social theorist, Michel Foucault when he wrote “do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order” – except that our bureaucrats and our police are now rapidly discovering that their papers are anything but in order.
While the rest of the conservative establishment was tearing itself apart in Thatcher and Reagan’s wake, the tabloid press was benefiting and growing in influence. When Conservative politicians were caught in sex scandals during the 1990s, the tabloids harnessed outrage to sell papers. When investment banks nearly collapsed the global economy in 2008, under the guise of market ‘efficiency’, the tabloids harnessed outrage to sell papers. Whether a teenager had committed murder or been murdered, The Sun and its cohort scarcely cared, so long as it was outrageous. The establishment could be represented as both institutionally racist (the Stephen Lawrence case) and institutionally liberal (the ‘flood’ of immigration), without any concern for consistency.
Free from the constraints of consistency or responsibility, the conservative media has been the great survivor of the ‘new right’ coalition that emerged in the 1970s, and fragmented in the 1990s. One question that hack-gate poses is how much longer it can retain this status.
All here.

And from the Guardian:
Police are investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive, in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard's inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.
The archive is believed to have reached back to January 2005 revealing daily contact between News of the World editors, reporters and outsiders, including private investigators. The messages are potentially highly valuable both for the police and for the numerous public figures who are suing News International.
Now who would have thought that anyone would could behave in such a way in the days when one 'rogue reporter' and one 'rogue investigator' were held to be the extent of the problem?

No Anglican Covenant Press release

There has been coverage of the recent NACC press release on Ekklesia and in the Anglican Journal so far, as well as a number of blogs both for and against the Covenant..

There were a couple of paragraphs in the Church Times.

It's also been included in the Church News Ireland lists and Christian News Watch.


Rowan, Beware MitCoE

Grandmere Mimi
Time to head over to Grandmere Mimi's place to see what message she's bringing to the Archbishop of Canterbury when she visits the UK next week.

You'll never read the acronym MitCoE the same way again.

NoW is yesterday

The sudden death of the News of the World has been announced.

Of course there are cynical suggestions as to why this step should have been taken. Perhaps it was a token gesture whereby the Sun on Sunday will imply replace it. Or maybe this is a fire break: to protect Murdoch and the rest of his businesses from taint or to evade a legal duty to compensate those the newspaper intruded on. Or both.

Tom Watson MP in full flood
However it is clear that we are not (and never were) talking about 'rogue operators'. The willingness to hack anyone and everyone, from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to a man who helped a victim of the 7/7 bombing was systemic.  A list of known names to date is here but up to 4,000 people may have been hacked and quite possibly more.

But what is clear is the complicity of all involved: the police, the DPP, politicians, David Cameron (assuming he was adequately briefed and if he wasn't he should have been) and his predecessors.

News of the World was effectively running a criminal enterprise (which included paying police officers and, in at least one case, full scale surveillance of a police officer). But it was powerful and no-one, until now, was prepared to take it on and had sufficient power to do so.  Nor was it alone either in hacking or in illegally paying for information though it may have been particularly egregious .

Complacency is the least of the accusations. News of the World staff appear to have regarded themselves as above the law. That others tolerated this constitutes corrupt relationships. Insofar as police and other individuals benefited from such relationships they are personally corrupt. Insofar as regulatory and prosecution authorities, including the police, have minimised or turned a blind eye they participate in and further such corruption.

So perhaps it's more accurate to say, the whole media-police-politics nexus is corrupt. But within that nexus not every individual is tainted. Tom Watson MP at least must count as one of the good guys in this matter.

We say peace and they chant War

From SW Radio Africa
Video footage has emerged showing how police in April this year violently disrupted a church service in Glen Norah that had been organized by a coalition of churches to pray for peace in Zimbabwe. ZANU PF youths are also seen marching around the church chanting 'war, war, war.' ....

Under the theme "Saving Zimbabwe, the unfinished journey" the service was initially meant to have been held at St Peters Kubatana Centre in Highfields, but was changed to the Nazarene Church in Glen Norah after police camped in Highfields overnight and sealed off the venue to block access to the grounds.
Ten church goers and four pastors were arrested and taken to Glen Norah police station, where they were denied access to lawyers. One of the detainees, the MDC-T's Shakespeare Mukoyi, was brutally assaulted inside the church building.
Full story here.


Bishops back No Anglican Covenant campaign

Press release

Bishop Saxbee blessing the gritters in the hope
of reducing the number of crashes. Exactly. (Story here)
The Right Reverend Dr John Saxbee and the Right Reverend Dr Peter Selby have been appointed Episcopal Patrons of the international No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

“The Anglican Communion doesn’t need a Covenant because Anglicanism is a Covenant, predicated
on grace and goodwill,” Dr Saxbee said. “If there is grace and goodwill, a Covenant is unnecessary.

If there is no grace or goodwill, a Covenant will be unavailing.” Dr Saxbee was Bishop of Lincoln from
2001 until his retirement in January of this year.

Bishop Peter Selby
Dr Selby, Bishop of Worcester from 1997 to 2007, has been a supporter of the Coalition since its launch last November. “This proposed Covenant is not the solution to the tensions in the Anglican Communion,” he said. “It will inevitably create a litigious Communion where every serious disagreement will become a possible occasion to seek a province’s exclusion.”

“More and more questions are being raised about the potential pitfalls of the proposed Anglican Covenant,” said the Reverend Dr Lesley Fellows, Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

“We have consistently seen that support for the Covenant tends to collapse in the face of full and fair discussion and analysis. We are very pleased to welcome Bishops Selby and Saxbee as our first Episcopal Patrons. They are well respected in the Church of England and throughout the Anglican Communion. We expect that their views on the Covenant will persuade many more people to take a harder look at the risks inherent in this radical proposal.”


Wippel's new range

Wippell's are rumoured to have already ordered the new episcopal ensemble for 2014. A source in the buying department also let slip, on consideration of a G&T heavy on the G, that the new colours will be lilac and light blue. The cut will fit their new customers.

On a too well-buried page Women and the Church - WATCH - has set out the results of the first 10 Dioceses to vote on whether women may be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England.

According to Inclusive Church they have all also turned down requests for extra provision for opponents, again mostly by large margins.
The detail gives great hope for the rest of the Dioceses. Only in Europe did the bishop vote against; and in its houses of clergy and laity the proposal just scraped past. In the other 9 dioceses the majorities were unequivocal. In Guildford and Chelmsford the clergy and laity voted roughly 3:1 in favour. In all the other dioceses the majority was much higher - in Birmingham there were just 4 votes against out of 86 recorded votes (including abstentions).

Can we now put the Act of Synod with all its baleful consequences behind us? Probably not. But it is time to say to those who continue to oppose women as full persons within the church that, though they may not like or want it, the church as a whole is moving on.

I'm not sure whether Wippell's, as a commercial enterprise, takes a view on these matters. But it is a shame that, as a cutting edge company in the Anglican firmament since the French revolution, Wippell's website should be almost as old as their origins.

Anglican Mission in England

Looking away from the mainland from Ynys Enlli  
Thinking Anglicans has the CofE's statement on the Anglican Mission in England ( GAFCON announcement and Church Times report earlier).

To summarise Lambeth speak, they're not happy.  They can spot a threat at fifty paces on a foggy day.

The statement points to a lack of clarity of relations between the existing episcopal structures and to AMiE's newly appointed 'panel of bishops'. Or, as has been said elsewhere, tanks on the lawn.  Pluralist has a clear take on the politics despite a somewhat meandering approach.

It then says "The issue is one of episcopal collegiality." But it isn't, it's a question of jurisdiction.

The difference is crucial.  In this context to point to collegiality is to cringe before a bully, to say 'lets talk' even when you know from experience that no talking will suffice. To that extent it's willful self-deception. To be clear about jurisdiction is to make a legal assertion which can be followed by substantive action.

If people wish to leave because they disagree with the majority it is a matter for regret and repentance. But there must come a point where people of goodwill who cannot agree decide that parting is the only acceptable step. Leadership entails recognising and acting on the inevitable no matter how much it goes against the grain.

While he was passing, the Archbishop of Canterbury dropped in on the people in Kenya responsible for AMiE. We don't know what was said but we can deduce that the Archbishop was not persuasive.  So the statement has the delicate words,
it seems that there were misunderstandings of the precise requirements of English Canon Law and good practice as regards the recommendation of candidates for ordination and deployment in mission.
Which, being translated, is that they were spitting feathers and using entirely unsacramental language in Lambeth Palace when they first realised what was happening - and then realised their impotence. After all, wasn't all the effort and expense of the Windsor Report and bulldozing through the Anglican Covenant supposed to end all this misbehaviour by giving the Communion to the conservatives?

With the Ordinariat clipping one wing and AMiE the other there is some prospect that the future Church of England will be smaller, more cohesive and happier. By that time the present Archbishop of Canterbury will be serving out his retirement somewhere like Ynys Enlli.


City and church

It's not enough, not nearly enough, merely to see the city as antithetical to God and churches as places of alternative discourse and practice (See my previous post Church and city).

Nalanda temple, Bihar, India. This ancient seat of learning 
flourished between the 5th and 12th centuries CE and is described 
as "one of the first great universities in recorded history."
It's also important to acknowledge and celebrate that cities are places of human flourishing. Cities hold a critical mass of people in structures that generate so much more than would be possible in communities with smaller numbers distributed further apart.

Universities are, perhaps, one of the oldest examples of this phenomenon: pack a lot of capable people together and they come up with so much more than any of them would achieve on their own.

The arts, culture, commerce, the intellect, engineering, cooking and, inevitably, crime all flourish in cities in ways that would never be achieved in an agrarian society.

The church has been part of and has benefited from this flourishing. As beneficiary it should thank God. It is enjoined to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6) and those exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon were told to seek its peace and prosperity. (Jer 29:7). More to the point, the church has no choice. Almost everywhere is city or has been landscaped by the demands of the city (for food, water, power, labour, communications). It is inescapable.

The art or goal, it seems to me, is for the church collectively and faithful Christians individually to be in-and-apart-from the city. For most faithful people, I suggest, holy living is not a search for a world-denying asceticism but is a struggle to be both Christ-centred and engaged in the quotidian business of making a living, sharing family life, growing up and growing old. Christians are normal, but they choose in some way to set themselves apart.

I don't think there are any easy answers to the immediate questions: what might a proper 'apart' be - and what would be the criteria by which to judge - and how can the separateness  be a positive element in both personal growth and community engagement? These are questions of identity, to be lived out in practice in changing circumstances, characterised by judgements of value rather than doctrine, and all but impossible to determine in the abstract.

To stand apart can (should) give a critical distance by which Christians may both critique the secular world and contribute constructively to it; to do so while knowing that we are ineluctably part of the secular world should also place a critical brake on the tendency to self-righteousness and complacency.

I guess the only way is to keep practising.