February 18, 2012

Two More Nays to the Covenant

I'm happy to say that the diocesan synods of Leicester and Salisbury [UPDATE: and Rochester and Portsmouth] have voted against the proposed Anglican Covenant, the latter in spite of, or perhaps because of, an exceptionally double-minded address by Bishop Graham Kings. I read his speech before hearing about the result of the vote, but found it an astonishing example of the kind of ideological blindness I referred to in my previous thought for the day.

I say this because I would like to think the half-truths and outright misrepresentations in this address were the result of self-deception rather than a desire to deceive. However, a statement such as

The Anglican Communion Covenant – and the full title is very important for ‘Communion’ is at its centre – is the proposal backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. This is considerable backing and should not be dismissed today ‘unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly’, to use words from the Book of Common Prayer Marriage service. Sadly, some of the dismissal of it has been along those lines. I suggest it should be accepted ‘reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God’.
can hardly bear the standard of truth, since the proposed Covenant was not, for instance, available for review by the Lambeth Conference, and the extent to which the current draft is "backed" by anyone other than the Archbishop is surely open to question. It can fairly be said that all of the above approved the idea of a Covenant, but Bishop K here implies that the current proposal is their dish of tea. There is also some deeply revisionist history about the ordination of women, particularly omitting the disuasions from their ordination to the episcopate. I perhaps need say little more about using the analogy to the marriage service for something many recognize as a pre-nuptial agreement with dissolution clauses built in!

Then there's that ironic urging of heeding Deanery Synods in favor of the Covenant, and voting for it so that the General Synod, rather than the Diocesan Synods (such as he's actually addressing, and to which it was referred), can be the final arbiter. This odd leap-frogging of authority is a phenomenon I've long noted in Covenant advocates -- every other level of authority is appealed to, so that dioceses and the world-wide communion are imbued with ecclesial reality, but the maligned "national or provincial church" is seen as a kind of legal fiction. I think ultimately, like water, ideologues want to seek the level where they think they will succeed, regardless of any intrinsic logic of authority.

In any case, it is reported that the two dioceses named above have turned it down, and Salisbury by a substantial majority: House of Laity: 19 for; 27 against; 0 abstensions.House of Clergy: 11 for; 20 against; 2 abstensions. House of Bishops: 1 for; 1 against.

Other synods may be meeting today as well, but this puts the current score, if my calculations are correct, at 5 dioceses for, 8 against. [UPDATE: now 10 against... that's two to one] We shall see how this goes over the coming weeks and months. But if England says No to the "Anglican" Covenant, those scare-quotes will have been well-earned.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

UPDATE: notice I've added two additional dioceses that both voted no. I also did some additional research on the claims about "backing" the Covenant in Dr K's speech. The ACC did not have the final draft in hand when it supported the draft it had with the proviso that revisions be made to Section 4; and the Primates' Meeting in 2011 appears not to have addressed it at all, though they could have.


Roger Gentile+ said...

Thank you, Fr. Tobias, as always, for trenchant comment. I could read the bishop's address as far as "less than half," when he meant to say "fewer than half."
And I keep hearing the voices of many GTS professors in various contexts saying, "the diocese is the basic unit of the church."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

And thank you, Fr. G!

Closed said...

Well the idea could have been an attempt at embedding more firmly comprehensiveness and a mission-orientation. The actual product is anything but and cannot separate itself out from the fear out of which it is responding and the particular persons to whom it is responding.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Christopher. That is in part what is so unfortunate about the whole process, and why I have been reluctant to be part of the "No Anglican Covenant" movement. That is, I'm not against a mechanism for greater responsibility and comprehension, but find the current offer far from acceptable, and even inimical to the aims it purports to advance. It is the "particularity" that is the problem: this particular covenant is unacceptable, but I am not prepared to rule out some future proposal.

June Butler said...

Good news abounds this day. I don't know what the future holds, but I rejoice today.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Mimi. Could this be a trend?

June Butler said...

Could this be a trend?

One can hope.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Someone at TA noted that in those dioceses where a fair hearing is given, and both sides of the argument fairly discusses (unlike Bp Kings' mendacious representations... there; I've said it!) the PAC is voted down. The problem for the pro=PAC side is that the arguments are out there in the internet, and I do wonder what Bp Kings thought he was playing at with his light hold on the facts -- did he think no one knows the history?!? The more I think of it the more I am offended by his "this proposal is backed by..." line.

Ah well, let's hope this trend continues. As it stands, only just over a third of the votes are in; so it's likely too soon even for CNN to call it... but at 2-to-1 against there will have to be quite a rally. Where's John King and the magic video map?

Brother David said...

I was going to accuse you, good Padre, of being overly gracious and diplomatic, but then you came through and called a spade a spade in your own refined manner.

"the diocese is the basic unit of the church."

Only when is it convenient to one's ends is it so Father.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Hermano. I try to be gracious until the evidence becomes overwhelming, and even then I try to be civil!

As I've said before, the diocese is a "unit" of the church only in the way a brick is a "unit" of a wall. A diocese alone does not have the fullness of the church, since it cannot create its own bishop to succeed its former bishop -- for that it needs the province.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Tobias, for your reasoned opposition to the 'strategy' of the Covenant process. There can be little doubt now about the Church of England diocesan opposition to the Covenant. To my mind, any move that seeks to exclude - rather than include - is counter productive to koinonia among our Anglican Provinces. Agape1