The conflicted Standing Committee

The Standing Committee of the Anglican Comunion, on my reckoning and including some guesswork, has 7 members from Churches unlikely to endorse the Covenant and 4 members from Churches which probably will endorse it. For 3 I don't have enough hints to know and I could easily be wrong about Hong Kong.

Furthermore the endorsement of South East Asia came with a Preamble which effectively contradicted the Covenant they had just endorsed. Though whether the Preamble will have any weight in practice is another matter.

Butand this is critical, members of the Standing Committee do not represent anybody. As trustees they must exercise personal judgment and not defer to any other body. Constitutionally this is perfectly clear.

Covenanting cats, from
Stone of Witness
Politically, however, it's a mess. Supporters of the Covenant like Archbishop Rowan Williams, Canon Elizabeth Paver and others could very well continue to further the Covenant irrespective of the opinions of their provinces' decision making bodies.

Furthermore all members of the Standing Committee could participate in the processes mandated by the Covenant whether they belonged to signatory provinces or not. As trustees they could not be excluded from such decision making. (There would be no conflict of interest. A conflict of loyalty should probably be recorded but this is unlikely to be enough for a member to exclude themselves from discussion and decision.)

In fact, given the potential consequences of judgments under the Covenant - 'recommendations' to member churches and other instruments of the Communion - there would be a strong argument that, as trustees, they must take the decisions and cannot delegate it to a sub-group or the ACO officers.

Which incidentally raises the constitutional question of the 'Alternate members' listed on the website:
  • Bp Paul Sarker (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member) 
  • Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Burundi) (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member) 
  • Archbishop John Holder (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member) 
  • Archbishop Alan Harper (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member)
Either they are trustees and should participate in decision making. Or they are not trustees and, whilst possibly offering advice, they should not be involved in decision making.

The Committee's Q&A page doesn't mention the alternates. It describes itself as 'the executive arm of the Anglican Consultative Council' which suggests a degree of direction from the ACC that may not exist. It is very coy about using the word 'trustee' which only appears as the members 'fulfilling basic trustee requirements concerning finance, constitutional matters, and so on ...'. Otherwise their legal role and duties are not mentioned.

(Pictures are from the official site.)

Abp Rowan Williams (President)

England voted No to the Covenant
(See Alan Perry's reflections on some procedural implications if England votes against the Covenant.)
Bp James Tengatenga (Chair)

I guess the Province of Central Africa will vote for the Covenant
Canon Elizabeth Paver (Vice-Chair)

England voted No to the Covenant
Bp David Chillingworth (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

Scotland is likely to vote No to the Covenant
Abp Paul Kwong (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

Hong Kong has been very sceptical of the Covenant and may have constitutional difficulties in adopting it.
Bp Samuel Azariah (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

I don't know where Pakistan stands on the Covenant. However, as part of a United Church, there my be some difficulties in implementing the Covenant.
Abp Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

I don't know where Sudan stands on the Covenant. However it has recognised ACNA as the legitimate Anglican Church in the US.
Bp Katharine Jefferts Schori (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

TEC has a good chance of not making any decision on the Covenant one way or the other. But it isn't recognised by Sudan anyway.
Mrs Philippa Amable (ACC appointment)

The Province of West Africa could well vote for the Covenant.
Bp Ian Douglas (ACC appointment)

TEC has a good chance of not making any decision on the Covenant one way or the other. But it isn't recognised by Sudan anyway.
Dr Anthony Fitchett (ACC appointment)

New Zealand is highly unlikely to endorse the Covenant and Dr Fitchett is known to have concerns over the legality of Section 4.
The Revd Maria Cristina Borges Alvarez (ACC appointment)

I have no sense of where Cuba stands on the Covenant.
Dato’ Stanley Isaacs (ACC appointment)

The Province of South East Asia has voted for the Covenant – but with a Preamble that pretty well contradicts it.
Revd Canon Janet Trisk (ACC appointment)

South Africa will vote for the Covenant.

Manchester votes today

Manchester votes today

Manchester Against
Bishops  For: 1,  Against: 2,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 15,  Against:  25,  Abstained: 0
Laity        For: 12,  Against: 23,  Abstained: 7


Dioceses for the Covenant to date: 15
Dioceses against the Covenant to date: 25

There are 4 dioceses yet to vote 
Southwell and Nottingham 12 April (Thursday), Chichester on 21 April,  Newcastle and York 28 April.

Overall figures from the Ven Alan Perry
With Manchester's figures, we now have:
Bishops: 77.4% for, 16.7% against, 6.0% abstentions
Clergy:    45.0% for, 50.9% against, 4.1% abstentions
Laity:       48.1% for, 47.0% against, 4.9% abstentions
Overall:   47.5% for, 48.0% against, 4.5% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 46.7% for, 48.8% against, 4.5% abstentions
Total figures now show more against than for overall, even including bishops. Overall opposition has been strongest among the clergy.


Just for the record

London has voted against the Covenant

London Against
Bishops  For: 2,  Against: 1,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 17,  Against:  32,  Abstained: 1
Laity        For: 26,  Against: 33,  Abstained: 2
The Bishop of Stepney voted against, London and Kensington were in favour.


Dioceses for the Covenant to date: 15
Dioceses against the Covenant to date: 24

There are 5 dioceses yet to vote


A personal postmortem

Please forgive the unrelieved bullet points. This list has grown over the last few weeks as the defeat of the Covenant began, surprisingly at first, to look possible.

Comments particularly welcome

The Covenant
  • I doubt the Covenant is dead, but it is symbolically wounded.
  • There is a good chance it will die if (a) sufficient global leaders are luke-warm, even if their provinces vote in favour, or (b) schism ensues.  There is a possibility it will return to General Synod after summer 2015 - though it will presumably have to go through the Section 8 referral process again.
  • There is a possibility that Communion leaders will simply ignore the fact that England (and others) have rejected it and carry on regardless. This would be visible first in appointments to the various Communion-wide boards and bodies.
  • Even a failed Covenant will have a legacy, e.g. a shared credal statement, conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms. 
  • What's not clear is whether Covenant churches will set off in a shared direction on their own initiative. I guess not, unless the ACO supports and leads it.

The Anglican Communion
  • The signs are that there will be widespread opposition to the Covenant in TEC - not least because they anticipate being its first victims. If they decline to join the Covenant:
  • what will happen to their financial contribution to maintaining the Anglican Communion (and the additional costs of implementing the Covenant)?  Could they, perhaps transfer funds to bi- and multi-lateral links of various forms, circumventing the ACO?
  • I guess GAFCON is key. If they (or most provinces including the biggest African ones) decide to walk apart for the rest then this will (finally) crystallize the schism. They will add to their number conservative groups in the West (and the Philippines) - which in turn will sharpen existing divisions in the CofE in particular.
Relations between the Church of England and the Anglican Communion
  • There has been an upsurge (or, perhaps, just an increase) of information and interest in the structure and organs of the Anglican Communion - as opposed to solely diocese-diocese links - amongst diocesan synod members and perhaps a little more widely.
  • The CofE will no longer lead the AC in the same way (or, as strongly). But: the AC structures and bureaucracy are still focused on London and will be for the foreseeable future.

Schism and the Anglican Communion

If the Covenant is finally defeated it represents a rejection of, I guess, two decades of re-structuring of the Communion. This will have a profound impact, but it will be schism (not defeat of the Covenant) which will have the biggest effect.
  • The decision(s) on schism are in the hands of those who wish (or threaten) to leave. 
  • Insofar as the Covenant (and the exclusion of TEC/ACoC) was the price of remaining in the Communion then some provinces may leave. Personally, let them. Blackmail is no basis on which to build communion.
  • The Communion will be weakened by schism. But life goes on. 
  • There will be a(nother, probably internal) root-and-branch review of the structures of the AC, of its style of operating, its communications and its leadership.

The Instruments of Unity(!)

  • The present and next ABC will be in a very difficult position. As chief promoter of the Covenant in a province which has rejected the Covenant he will straddle two modes by which provinces relate to one another.
  • The legal and effective relationship between Covenanted and unCovenanted churches with the ACC is wholly unclear. Presumably any Covenant business at the next ACC will have to be separated out of the ACC agenda in some way.
  • The ACC is, I think, faced with a choice: to become (a) the Synod of the Anglican Church, (b) peripheral and of little consequence except as the electorate for the Standing Committee, (c) an effective and multi-directional consultative body.
  • The Primates embody the divisions of the Communion. This won't change. But if members continue to absent themselves as a form of blackmail the Primates will also (as at Nassau) effect the schism.
  • The Anglican Communion Office simply has to sit tight. Power will accrue to it more through division and conflict than through harmony.
  • Similarly, the Standing Committee gains power from all changes across the Communion. Only Schism will weaken it and, even then, it will be the key body to co-ordinate a response (e.g. to pick up the pieces as some established links break down, and to be the key conduit of communication during the divorce).
  • There are more general questions about the growth of international Ministries and Networks under the wing of the ACO. To what extent will their work be driven / distorted by the Covenant and/or the partial adoption of the Covenant? Will the budget just keep growing?

The internet and church governance
  • The internet enabled relatively lonely anti-covenant voices (bloggers) at the start of the campaign to hear one another and to develop their arguments
  • It enabled an international group to come together on the basis of personal opinion, not place in the system.
  • The internet was little used by those developing the Covenant except for official statements (and, presumably, for internal communications). They largely failed to use it to explain their programme or to assess support.
  • However it gave bloggers easy access to official documents.
  • The dominance of voices  in the blogosphere from the UK and US and, to a lesser extent, NZ and Australia, shows again the uneven distribution of cheap access to the internet and excludes or marginalises voices from other parts of the Communion.
  • It is unlikely that the powers-that-be will ignore the persuasive impact of the internet again. Whether they will also learn the lesson that their culture of secrecy needs to shrink markedly is another question.

The Church of England
  • The defeat will echo round the CofE's structures of governance for some time to come.
  • It puts a question mark against the relationship of bishop to diocese (or, at least, to diocesan synod). Some will draw the lesson that new ways must be found to reduce opposition to the leadership; others, that better - more open, more 2-way communication - working relations between leadership and the rest of the diocese is needed.
  • Synodical government itself came under great strain. Win or lose, the tactics used by some bishops, and the Covenant's inherent overweaning character, was designed to marginalise voters and thus, to diminish the whole system of synodical government. This was possible because it had been steadily weakened over years. The normal tone of deference, the occasional note of 'fear' of opposing the bishops, the appeal to loyalty as a motive to vote, all undermine rational and prayerful decision making.
  • The premium placed on the univocal character of the House of Bishops in recent times may either be reinforced or called into question. 
  • Will liberals feel emboldened again (after 20 years of Evangelicals making the running)?
  • If so, will an increasingly liberal Church of England move further away from the churches of the Global South, schism or no schism?
  • Establishment will be untouched by this - though it might have been had the Covenant been implemented.

What I'm pretty sure will not be learned
  • That monolithic structures are not an appropriate ideal for the C21 church - and therefore moving from a distributed to a more consolidated structure is undesirable.
  • That 'the people' 'members' are full persons in the Church, not an afterthought. Consequently,
  • that the church is best governed by inclusion, not by small coteries, at every level.
  • That shifts in the technology of communication are followed by changes in social structures.
  • That it is time the CofE considered its ecclesiology (including its many partnerships with the Anglican Communion, ecumenical agreements and links with civil society) in some frame other than the Establishment.
Not that anyone would ask, but I won't have a moment's envy for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Apart, of course, from missing out on his tied cottage.


News reporting of the Covenant vote

The BBC:
The Church of England cannot sign up to a plan aimed at preventing the global Anglican Church from splitting up after half its dioceses voted against it.
The Church of England General Synod backed the covenant in November 2010, despite the misgivings of many liberals within the Church, and referred it to the dioceses.
But the covenant received a decisive setback immediately afterwards when it was rejected by the Gafcon Primates' Council - the very Church leaders that it was intended to placate.
The Council said: "While we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate."
A proposed deal to hold the worldwide Anglican Communion together amid divisions over homosexuality and same-sex unions appeared to be in tatters on Saturday after the mother church, the Church of England, voted to reject it.
Analysts said the Church's decision effectively derailed the adoption of the pact throughout the Communion, a loose family of 38 national and regional churches, and raised questions about whether the Christian alliance could stay united.
The No Anglican Covenant Coalition said on Saturday it had gained the remaining two votes it needed from the Church of England's 44 dioceses to block the pact after a protracted voting process.
"The covenant is either buried or disabled," said Simon Barrow, co-director of the religious think-tank Ekklesia.
The Reuters story has been used in, of all places, the Daily Star in Lebanon, the Stabroek News (Georgetown, Guyana), and the Times Colonist (Canada, Victoria and Vancouver).

The Independent (the whole article:)
A proposed pact aimed at healing rifts in the Anglican church over issues such as same sex unions and gay bishops is in danger of collapse.

The Church of England voted against signing up to the "Anglican Covenant", despite support from the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The covenant called on members of the Anglican Communion not to upset colleagues in other countries. Critics said the move would undermine the indepedence of individual churches. A majority of the 44 dioceses in the CofE opposed the deal leading to fears the deal is "dead in the water".
Diarmaid McCulloch in The Guardian
Something very significant in the history of the Church of England happened on Saturday. An absolute majority of dioceses in the Church of England, debating diocese by diocese, voted down a pernicious scheme called the Anglican Covenant.
So now Anglicanism needs to move forward and forget this sorry diversion, into which many perfectly well-meaning people poured a huge amount of energy over a decade when they might have been doing something useful. Woe betide any attempt to revive it, though I notice that the secretary general of the Anglican communion (now there's an office that sounds ripe for culling) is clearly determined to keep it alive.
The Episcopal News Service, curiously slow off the mark. It includes:
In the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, the Executive Council agreed at its October 2011 meeting to submit a resolution to General Convention that would have it state that the church is “unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.”
The resolution also promises that the church will “recommit itself to dialogue with the several provinces when adopting innovations which may be seen as threatening the unity of the communion” and commits to “continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion” and dialogue “with our brothers and sisters in other provinces to deepen understanding and to insure the continued integrity of the Anglican Communion.”
The 77th meeting of General Convention will decide in July whether to pass, amend and pass, or reject the resolution. 
And from Bishop Yellow Belly
The votes are mounting against the Anglican Covenant. And yet somehow Bishop Yellow Belly seems to think that he is winning. Has he finally gone 'round the bend?

More reports as I trip over them

Statistical summary

The Ven Alan Perry
Executive Archdeacon of Edmonton
Alan Perry has once again worked the numbers through the spreadsheet. He says:

Oxford's confusion has made the update of the statistics difficult, because I had to decide how to include them. In the end, I chose to average the numbers, rounding. 

So, I have included for Oxford:
Clergy: 15 for, 37 against, 2 abstentions
Laity: 34 for, 27 against, 3 abstentions.
Bearing that in mind, total voting statistics now stand at:
Bishops: 79.5% for, 14.1% against, 6.4% abstentions
Clergy: 45.7% for, 50.1% against, 4.3% abstentions
Laity: 48.6% for, 46.4% against, 5.0% abstentions

Overall: 48.1% for, 47.2% against, 4.7% abstentions
Overall (clergy and laity only): 47.3% for, 48.1% against, 4.7% abstentions
The overwhelming support for the Covenant by the bishops pushes the total to a slim plurality of support for it, but when their votes are excluded from the counting (as their votes don't actually count in the diocesan totals) the reverse is true. Except amongst the bishops, it is clear that the members of the diocesan synods that have voted to date are almost exactly evenly divided as to whether the Covenant ought to be adopted by the Church of England, though there is a significant margin and a majority against adoption amongst the clergy.

Where the votes actually count, of the 38 dioceses voting to date, 23 have voted against the Covenant and 15 for. Thus, regardless how the remaining 6 dioceses vote, a majority of the 44 dioceses has already voted against the Covenant, and its consideration cannot return to the General Synod during the current quinquennium.

We are miffed

Canon Kenneth Kearon 
Secretary General of the Anglican Communion 
An ACNS press release conveys the General Secretary's comments on the English vote by barely mentioning it:
What next steps are taken by the Church of England is up to that Province.
It lists 8 provinces as having signed or subscribed:
  • The Church of Ireland 
  • The Anglican Church of Mexico 
  • The Church of the Province of Myanmar 
  • The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea 
  • The Church of the Province of South East Asia 
  • The Anglican Church of Southern Africa subject to final ratification
  • The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America 
  • The Church in the Province of the West Indies
It omits to mention that the Episcopal Church in the Philippines has also rejected the Covenant.

Presumably these provinces are already taking steps to implement the Covenant amongst themselves as envisaged by clause 4.2.8 should any matter arise within one of them which may be of concern to any of the others.

It is hard to imagine that the Covenanteers did not anticipate a Communion in which some signed up and others did not.


I've just come across a word that's new to me: extispicy -  'the inspection of the entrails of sacrificial victims for the purpose of divination; haruspicy' OED. I guess there's going to be a lot of extispicy in the next few days. Some in public and much behind closed doors.

Members of the No Anglican Covenant Campaign (and blog) generally believe that as the Covenant has failed in England it will deal a serious, possibly fatal blow to the whole programme.

We hear very little about the progress of debate in other provinces. We can't be sure what's happening unless ACNS tell us.

GAFCON in London
But we may not have long to wait. Next month, in London, we may find out a lot more.

According to a GAFCON press release more than 200 delegates from 30 Anglican provinces and 20 countries will meet to "help turn the present crisis moment into a visionary future".
“We are committed to building networks and partnerships of orthodox Anglicans, strong in their witness to Jesus Christ and the transforming power of His Spirit, to face the challenge of mission around the world” said the Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council.
The Communion will undoubtedly continue its tectonically slow process of realignment.  Some of that will be experienced as walking away, some as drawing together - and both judgments depend on where you stand.

The Covenant will not hold
But it seems fairly clear that the Covenant-based programme for restructuring the Anglican Communion is at the very least stalled. Some will undoubtedly want to keep it going. Others will know they need to start again. How many provinces wish to continue as part of the conversation will probably depend more on the GAFCON churches than any other.

It's impossible to know just what turned voters against it. My guess would be a combination of autocracy, punitiveness, centralisation and a complete failure to bring the majority of members of the Church of England on board before putting it to the vote. The arrogant assumption that if leaders said as little as possible it would be waved through on a nod from the bishops proved a disastrous miscalculation.

command, control and moving backwards
Lessons in leadership
I suggest that one lesson is that, in the days of internet and instant communication, an introspective and insulated leadership is wholly inappropriate and, now visibly, ineffective. The Spirit does not merely move through the hierarchy and God's call is not heard solely by those in mitres.

In the words of the Book of Common Prayer, the Church is 'the blessed company of all faithful people'. I believe that this should be in the front of the minds of all Anglican leaders internationally, nationally and locally.

Work from where people are already
In effect members of the Church of England were asked to 'receive' the Covenant and a majority declined to do so. Reception of change has always been a weakness of Anglican ecclesiology. Perhaps that too is starting to change. (But you can't build an ecclesiology out of one straw in the wind.)

From the Botswana - Diocese of Newcastle upon Tyne
companion link
What we can do as a starting point of leadership is to hear and value the views of the very many members of the Church of England who have had wonderful experiences of links across the Communion - personal, parish, diocesan, interest groups and other.

Let's share these stories and reflections - and use the narrative of difference and commonality to begin to build new working relationships.

But however it's done what's clear is that leaders must lead from the front - but if they leave their followers behind they're not leading at all.

Covenant defeated in Church of England

Covenant defeated in Church of England

MARCH 24, 2012

LONDON – No Anglican Covenant Coalition Moderator, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, has issued the following statement on the defeat of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant in the Church of England.
“With today’s results from the dioceses of Oxford and Lincoln, the proposed Anglican Covenant is now dead in the water in the Church of England. This also poses serious problems for the Covenant in other Provinces as it seems nonsensical to have the Archbishop of Canterbury in the second tier of the Anglican Communion and excluded from the central committees.

“When we launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition 18 months ago, we were assured that the Anglican Covenant was an unstoppable juggernaut. We started as simply a band of bloggers, but we would like to thank the hundreds of supporters and our patrons for their dedication to promoting debate. The Covenant needed the approval of 23 diocesan synods, as of today, that result is no longer possible.
“Especially we would like to congratulate people in Diocesan Synods across the Church of England who, despite attempts in many dioceses to silence or marginalize dissenting voices, endeavoured to promote debate, ensuring that the Anglican Covenant was subjected to significant and meaningful scrutiny. We found, as the debate went on, that the more people read and studied the Covenant, the less they liked it.

“Under Church of England procedures , this proposal to centralize Communion-wide authority in the hands of a small, self-selecting group cannot return to the agenda of General Synod for at least three years.
“We are seeing the momentum turning internationally as well. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines has officially rejected the Covenant, the opposition of the Tikanga Maori virtually assures that the Covenant will be rejected in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and we are seeing increasing opposition in other Provinces of the Communion.
“While today’s diocesan synod results are exciting and gratifying, we are well aware that there is still work to do. However, if the proposed Anglican Covenant does not stand up to scrutiny in the Church of England, we are confident that it will not stand up to scrutiny elsewhere.
“We hope that the Church of England will now look to bring reconciliation within the Anglican Communion by means of strengthening relationships rather than punitive legislation.”


Magic in Oxford

What will surely prove to be the most entertaining moment of the day, and nothing to do with the Covenant, was a tweet from Bishop Alan Wilson:
Christ church giftshop criticised 4 selling Harry Potter magic wands; inquiry decided it was OK cos they didn't work 
I will set aside the triviality and absurdity of the complaint, and the pusillanimity of the shop for not just telling the complainant exactly where they might go for a more magical life.

Remember - you don't choose the wand,
the wand chooses you.
Perhaps that's why it didn't work.
What I'd like to know is:

  • just how rigorously were the wands tested? 
  • Where the proper incantations used with the proper intonation? 
  • Was the correct wrist movement used? 

It is clear from a documentary I saw that learning to use the wand was no simple matter and required considerable practice.

There are significant organizational questions too:

  • Just how much time and money was expended on the inquiry? 
  • How many committee meetings considered it? 
  • Was the inquiry of a sufficiently high standard? 
  • Did they consult the Ministry of Magic?

Clearly muggles could not be expected to enquire into the efficacy of wands so I assume it was a wizard who undertook this task.

And, finally, has Christ Church gift shop managed to source effective wands? The website's Harry Potter page doesn't say.

Covenant votes March 24

The Covenant has failed in the Church of England

If two more dioceses vote against the Covenant it will fail in England. 

There are signs of dioceses presenting the hard sell and limiting voices against the Covenant. I find this destructive of synodical government as a whole. It turns what should be a process of discernment and reception into a rubber-stamping exercise. It says that the views of synod members count for little unless they agree with the powers-that-be.

We will soon see what happens today.

I will update the chart through the day as news comes in.

Updated: 14.33 - Peterborough figures were incorrectly reported and have now been updated

Blackburn  For
Bishops  For: 2,  Against: 0,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 40,  Against: 7,  Abstained: 1
Laity        For: 33,  Against: 16,  Abstained: 1
Exeter  For
Bishops  For: 3,  Against: 0,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 28,  Against: 8,  Abstained: 1
Laity        For: 30,  Against: 20,  Abstained: 2
Guildford  Against
Bishops  For: 2,  Against: 0,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 14,  Against: 22,  Abstained: 1
Laity        For: 23,  Against: 18,  Abstained: 2
Lincoln  Against
Bishops  For: 0,  Against: 3,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 6,  Against: 28,  Abstained: 3
Laity        For: 2,  Against: 34,  Abstained: 2
Oxford  Against
Bishops  For: 3,  Against: 1,  Abstained: 0
Clergy     For: 14 (or 15),  Against: 36 (or 38),  Abstained: 2
Laity        For: 32 (or 35),  Against: 24 (or 29),  Abstained: 3 
There is some dispute over exact voting figures - indeed apparent disagreement over the total number of voters. All - except the result - subject to confirmation. 

Peterborough  For
Bishops For: 2,  Against: 0,  Abstained: 0
Clergy   For: 22,  Against: 18,  Abstained: 1
Laity     For: 28,  Against: 13,  Abstained: 7

Dioceses for the Covenant to date: 15
Dioceses against the Covenant to date: 23

Therefore the Covenant has been rejected and the issue will not be brought to the General Synod again before a new Synod is elected.

There are 6 dioceses yet to vote (including those above).

Still to come:
London 29 March (Thursday) 
Manchester 31 March
Southwell and Nottingham 12 April (Thursday)
Chichester on 21 April 
Newcastle and York 28 April.


People of Synod! Arise!

People of Synod! Arise!

Vote For the Covenant!
Vote Against the Covenant!

Vote out of conviction
Vote with your best judgement
Vote for what's best for the Church

But don't be rail-roaded!
Don't be bounced into a vote on the future of the Communion!
You were elected to bring your best judgement to the issues.

People of Synod! Arise!

You have nothing to lose
except church government itself!

More detail of how the Covenant process undermines synodical government and how several Bishops are stifling debate.

Bishop James Jones' speech  The way things worked in Sodor and Man

Dissing Synods

From its beginning the Covenant project was based on not taking national or provincial decision making assemblies seriously.

Nor could it: after all, it was decision making by autonomous provincial synods and church leaders that was perceived to have led the the current impasse - whether in the US or Canada or by those provinces that set up structures to intrude into the autonomous provinces of US, Canada and latterly, England.
At the launch of the Windsor Report

The trouble started with the Windsor Report ...
Instead  provincial decision making  were a problem to be got round or bypassed. The Windsor report said,
The Commission considers that a brief law would be preferable to and more feasible than incorporation by each church of an elaborate and all-embracing canon defining inter-Anglican relations, which the Commission rejected in the light of the lengthy and almost impossible difficulty of steering such a canon unscathed through the legislative processes of forty-four churches, as well as the possibility of unilateral alteration of such a law. (§117)
Thus, irrespective of any content, it was envisaged from the outset that the Covenant would have to evade any effective scrutiny by the representative, legal and supposedly autonomous decision making structures across the Communion.

The following report, Towards an Anglican Covenant, added another option to the Windsor Report's proposal:
b. alternatively, ACC could adopt the Covenant and incorporate it into its constitution (ie, no adoption by each church) subject to confirmation by two-thirds of the Provinces. (Para. 25)
This was the nadir of suggestions as to how the Covenant might evade provincial decision making. The attitude, however, has pervaded the whole process: provincial decision making bodies are a hindrance and a nuisance and are to be evaded or marginalised wherever possible.

... and got worse with the Covenant

Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, now retired
When Archbishop Drexel Gomez took over as Chair of the Covenant Design Group his watchword was Urgent! If the Covenant was not passed urgently, he insisted without giving his evidence, the moment would be lost and the Communion would crumble. The corollary was that there was no time to waste on getting the Covenant through provincial synods. Get it signed first, and worry about persuading people when it was already a done deal.

But this was clearly too much for enough people and it was agreed that the Covenant had to be sent to each province for ratification according to its own legal procedures.

How different Provinces have responded
Each province has its own system and this is indeed the problem the Windsor Report envisaged. In New Zealand, for example, each of its three Tikanga (Maori, Pakeha and Polynesian) must agree before major change can be introduced. The Maori Tikanga has rejected the Covenant therefore it should not be passed by the New Zealand Church. I don't have any detail but I understand that attempts have been made (or may still be being made) to find ways round this 'problem' - again potentially undermining provincial governance for the sake of the Covenant.

The Rt Revd Edward Pacyaya Malecdan 
Prime Bishop of The
Episcopal Church in the Philippines  
In Mexico, I understand, Archbishop Carlos Fuentes simply signed the Covenant on behalf of the Province with no reference to its synods at all.

And in The Philippines the Covenant has been rejected - an inconvenient fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury in his video omitted to mention. Understandably, perhaps, but he did try to persuade people to vote for it in part to benefit and support smaller provinces. The Philippines has experienced a schism on its own soil with the formation of the Anglican Church in the Philippines (Traditional).

In England: another nail in the coffin of synodical government
In England Norman Doe, an influential contributor to the Covenant in its early days, argued (in An Anglican Covenant: Theological and Legal Considerations for a Global Debate) that no reference to the Dioceses would be necessary. Clearly his view did  not prevail.

And now, faced with the prospect of defeat in the Dioceses some Bishops are going to considerable lengths to exclude reasoned debate:
  • In Blackburn Canon Elizabeth Paver, Vice-Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, will make a speech in favour of the Covenant. She has 30 minutes. There is then 10 minutes for questions before the Archdeacon of Lancaster presents the motion. There will be 30 minutes for debate.
  • In York a 4-page letter from the sainted Archbishop of Capetown endorsing the Covenant has been sent to all Synod members. A request to circulate material opposing the Covenant was refused.
  • In Oxford the Archbishops' video (but not my riposte, or anyone else's) has been sent to all voters.  
  • In Lincoln the Archbishops' video is probably to be shown at the Synod Correction: the video was considered but I'm told the decision was NOT to show the video. [And added later: better still, links to both the Archbishop's and Diarmaid McCulloch's videos were sent to synod members.]  My apologies for misleading you.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, sitting comfortably
I do not think bishops should be above the fray. Of course they are partisan. Of course they wish to see their views enacted through 'their' Synods - and they wish to avoid the embarrassment of defeat.

But this whole process trivialises and diminishes Diocesan Synods. Whatever happens in the debates - and whether the Covenant is passed or not - I think synodical government will have been the greatest loser of the whole process.

Taken together it is no wonder that I and others perceive it to be an attempt at a putsch, an affront to participative membership in the church and an attempt to take power away from its present locations and to pass it to unaccountable Communion-wide (central) bodies.


The Bishop talks sense

Bishop James Jones - Presidential Address - Diocesan Synod March 2012 from Diocese of Liverpool on Vimeo.

Bishop Jones sets out his reasons for opposing the Covenant. It is no easy thing for a Bishop to break ranks, but sometimes necessar.

Hong Kong and the Covenant

I thought I'd have a look back at some earlier official critical comments on the Covenant after a look at the papers from Wales suggested that - despite the fact that Wales has done a volte face - many of their critiques (and suggestions) remained unanswered and ignored. 

Hong Kong rejects the Covenant in 2008.
In January 2008 the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui submitted its formal response (pdf) to the consultation on the Nassau Draft of the Communion. (All formal responses.) It was the outcome of extensive consultation and debate across the three dioceses of the Province and the Missionary area of Macau and therefore reflected the collective wisdom and opinion of the Province.

In Anglican terms it was scathing:
1.1 A decision to transfer  authority from the autonomous Provincial Churches of the Anglican Communion, together with a dilution of the authority  inherently vested in the historic role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as  spiritual leader  (primus inter pares), to a credal document would be received by many members of HKSKH as incompatible with Anglican  tradition.
The Province valued 'traditional Anglican comprehensiveness and diversity'. It was essential in the plural and international context of Hong Kong to hold majority and minority traditions together. But
1.2 A covenant, if allowed to impose a prescribed, monochrome reflection of received truth, ecclesiastical correctness and  accepted  behaviour, would seriously undermine communal tolerance.
Li Tim-Oi, her mother, Bishop Mok her father,
Archdeacon Lee Kow Yan after her ordination
as Deacon by Bishop R 0 Hall at St John's Cathedral HK. Ascension Day 22 May 1941 
They cited the 'vehement disapproval' that the ordination of Li Tim-Oi had attracted in 1944, pointing out that
What was new and controversial was, within a generation, found to be desirable and legitimate by a large part of the Church around the world.
They leave implicit the inference that things might have been even more difficult for her had the Covenant been in place. As it was the post-war Lambeth Conference, without denying the validity of her ordination, sought to ensure this was no precedent. In an act of sacrificial loyalty,
To defuse controversy, in 1946 Tim-Oi surrendered her priest's licence, but not her Holy Orders, the knowledge of which carried her through Maoist persecution. Li Tim-Oi's Story (1907-1992)
Section 2 of the Hong Kong paper questioned the practicability of a Covenant.
2.2  A system of punishment, in whatever terms, would need to be established in tandem with a covenant in order to provide a deterrent to systematic violation. It has already been mooted that the judicial authority would be vested in the Primates’ Meeting, which would transform a consultative Anglican-style ‘talking shop’ into an authoritarian Vatican-style curia, which would not be welcome.
Section 3 set out the specific conditions of HKSKH.
During the years between 1984 and 1990, Archbishop Emeritus Peter Kwong, then Bishop of Hong Kong and Macao, worked tirelessly as a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee. He succeeded not only in greatly contributing to the preservation of Hong Kong’s religious freedoms but also in forging close and enduring relationships with the senior officials of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (directly under the State Council of the PRC) and the leaders of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (the only registered postdenominational Protestant Church in China), including its Chairman for many years, Bishop Ding Guangxun – the last Anglican bishop in China.
St John's Cathedral, Hong Kong
There is no doubt that the autonomous governance of our Church, together with the affectionate but non-interfering ties with the See of Canterbury and other churches of the Communion, sit easily with the familiar crystal-clear policies of the PRC government with respect to religious affairs.

HKSKH Anglicans are bound to approach any movement within the Anglican Communion towards the centralisation of power and governance with considerable reluctance and great caution.
That is, given the often difficult attitude of Chinese authorities to religion generally and to Protestantism in particular, and given the sensitivity of the Chinese authorities to any suggestion of outside control, there would be a significant risk that the Covenant could turn the Anglican Church in Hong Kong into an undesirable religious group from the authorities' perspective. This is not a good idea.

(HKSKH was recognised as a Province in 1998 - some of the earlier history is here - search for 'China')

Then what happened?
A year later, February 2009, as a response to the St Andrew's Draft, the Province sent a letter (pdf) making no criticisms of the Covenant.  It said,
Thank you for your letter of 1st September 2008, regarding the responses from the Provinces with respect to the St. Andrew's Draft for the Anglican Covenant.
After consulting widely with the bishops, clergy and laity of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui in the dioceses and at provincial level, and then engaging in serious discussion and study in the Standing committee of the General Synod, the Committee has resolved to express our support in principle for the progress revealed in the content of the St. Andrew's Draft and our commitment to the continuing progress towards realization of a Covenant acceptable to the Anglican Communion at large.
The contrast is striking. The first document engaged forcefully with the key issues as seen from Hong Kong. The second sounds to me as if the Province was leant on and told that only positive responses were required. If not, then at the very least the letter of the 1st September (from Kenneth Kearon, then General Secretary of the Anglican Communion) had simply ignored their concerns.

Paul KwongArchbishop and
Primate of Hong Kong 
Either way the HKSKH committee could only go as far as supporting 'in principle' (i.e. with no further commitment) such unspecified progress as the next draft had made. The section on the acceptability of the Covenant to the communion at large could be read as acceptance of the will of the Communion expressed through majority vote; it could equally be saying the each province should have a veto.

After that comes complete radio silence. Because much of the website is in Chinese and Google only seems willing to translate certain pages, I can't be absolutely sure. But that's what it feels like: certainly there were no more official responses to subsequent Covenant drafts.

What does it matter now?
Things have moved on and the Covenant has been revised. The threat that the Primates would be all-powerful has been removed.

But I think several aspects of this story are still relevant:

  • The willingness to discount the considered views of a province, apparently because they didn't accord with the view of those driving the Covenant project, is indicative of a single-minded, blinkered and institutionally deaf commitment to one particular vision for the Communion.
  • The apparent willingness to risk jeopardising any province's relationship with its State or, indeed, to dismiss or marginalise such a real possibility, is unforgivable. 
  • The lack of concern for a smaller province indicates that what was important to the Covenant Design Group was not inclusion but Anglican power politics.
  • Critical voices were never accorded the respect of an answer. Key criticisms (the Covenant's centralisation, new powers and punitiveness, for example) have been ignored, dismissed as simply wrong, or generalised out of existence, but there has been never been any serious official engagement with critics. 

In the end it will be the words on paper that count if the Covenant is ever passed. Its history will be forgotten by all except a few academics. But the words and their implementation express not only the considered judgment of its drafters but also the manner in which it went about its work. In this case that manner was either bullying or dismissive or both.

Now, I don't know, I wasn't there, and official sources aren't telling. Perhaps I've got this all wrong - I am very willing to be corrected on the basis of better information - and to apologise publicly. But although I'm certain there's a lot more detail and more nuance to the story, I suspect I'm right about the core issues.