Dear John,John writes back with what is unquestionably a brilliant technical solution to what he thinks is the real problem, worthy of a high powered deisgn group:
I hope you can help me. The other day I set off for work, leaving my husband in the house watching TV. My car stalled, and then it broke down about a mile down the road, and I had to walk back to get my husband’s help. When I got home, I couldn't believe my eyes. He was in our bedroom with the neighbour’s daughter!
I am 32, my husband is 34 and our neighbour’s daughter is 19. We have been married for 10 years. When I confronted him, he broke down and admitted they had been having an affair for the past six months. He won’t go to counselling, and I’m afraid I am a wreck and need advice urgently. Can you please help? Sincerely. Sheila.
A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Start by checking there is no debris in the fuel line. If it clear, check the vacuum pipes and hoses on the inlet manifold and also check all grounding wires. If none of these approaches solves the problem, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the injectors. I hope this helps. JohnEh voilà! A perfect 10 of a solution, sincerely meant, technically flawless, but completely useless to address a relational problem! You don’t build trust by inventing a third party body to talk about people behind their backs and adjudicate. People who go to court usually end up feeling worse, sometimes even when they have won. Trust comes, in my experience as a bishop, from openness, listening skill, direct speech, compassion, accountability, stability and hope, experienced relationally in as low-key a register as possible.
It may be that the Anglican Communion needs an Anglican Covenant, but the troops are as yet unconvinced and all I seem to be hearing from its proponents, I'm very sorry to say, are rather testy responses to criticism, blaming everybody else for misunderstanding it, whilst everybody else seems to think they understand it only too well.
Meanwhile the Church Times has set its readers a question of the week about the adoption of the Covenant. Normally they get about 200 votes, split about 60/40. This week, I see it’s over 800, 86%, yes 86%, against the Covenant. That's hardly a scientific poll, but if the powers that be have any interest at all in what active Anglicans think, they ought surely want to try and work out why so many people are as yet unconvinced. Is it just a communication thing, or is it something about the proposal itself that hasn’t yet connected with everybody?
Because the Church of England has only a limited ability to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the non-elite faithful, it may be that habitual deference, lack of moral courage, infantilism and amateur inexperience can sail such a thing through the General Synod with less than 20% of the punters actually believing in it. The kindest thing that may end up being said was that it seemed like a good idea at the time of the Windsor report, whose child it is, but it represents a rational/legal solution to something that wasn't essentially a rational/ legal problem, and never mind because everybody has now moved on.
I very much doubt that places where they are less into deference, infantilism and amateur inexperience than England will buy the covenant wholesale on this basis. So come, on, Covenant people. Please explain to us positively how this helps build a closer and more relational communion that is not a super-denomination, and we will consider your advice very seriously. Right now, the kindest one can say is that the case appears “not proven.” yet?