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.

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