Tuesday 27 March 2012

Boot and Reboot?

The boot goes into the Anglican Covenant. Time to reboot?

We could try to defibrillate the whole thing hoping that somehow this process that has just split the Church of England down the middle will somehow transmute into a great Focus of Unity. That way madness lies — stupidity that repeats the same mistake over again, hoping for a different result. Another very English option is to pretend nothing really happened, sit on our hands going “ho-hum” whilst, as Covenant supporters sometimes prognosticated, the sky falls in, or not.

Wouldn’t it be healthier to acknowledge reality? Take this as an invitation to look at the painful image in the mirror. Bishops were largely out of touch. In spite of, nay, because of our infantilised “Daddy knows best” culture, Daddy got it wrong. The troops did not buy a well-intentioned attempt to lick us into denominational shape. Much heavy covenant sell failed to persuade. It did not explain why or how bureaucratic accountability would improve on a free relationship of equals. Always start with “why?”

There were flaws way back down the line in signing up for the whole culture war that started this. Perhaps the real mistake was colluding in the first place with the foolish erection of homosexuality, hitherto a subsidiary ethical question, into a massive make or break worldwide custard pie fight. The dogs of war this unleashed did not want to be refereed by anyone.

Once upon a time, a bishop so loved chocolate he convinced himself that if he fed his chickens coco pops they would lay Easter eggs. People queried his pet scheme, only to be told “it’s the only show in town.” Questioned further, His Lordship said “but I thought you liked chocolate.” Backed into a corner, he accused his questioners of cruelty to animals.

In the cold light of day, much argumentation for the Covenant really was similarly barmy. I still don’t know whether I’m a bunch of grapes or a billiard ball. Neither do I care. Nothing in it would have made the slightest bit of difference to potential refuseniks on either side of any question that really mattered to them. The tone and content of Archbishop Okoh’s reaction to Rowan’s retirement makes this abundantly plain, as well as conveying the sheer crappiness of all he’s gone through these past ten years. The letter explains why people thought something had to be done, but also why this could never have worked.

All we are left with, as a diverse family of churches, is to talk with people directly rather than about them. This could be a great opportunity to think through the implications. The Anglican communion works wonderfully well as a network of people, but makes a lousy vatican-on-sea. If top-down doesn’t work, what does? It may be time to take stock, some would say grow up. But how?

Watch this space...


June Butler said...

We could try to defibrillate the whole thing hoping that somehow this process, that has just split the Church of England down the middle will somehow transmute into the great Focus of World Unity.

Oh, I hope not! But I'm not quite ready to rule out an attempt.

Benny Hazlehurst said...

Spot on as usual!

I used the CPR analogy in my blog today too - Anglican Covenant RIP.


There must be a better way based on mutual respect rather than corporate coercion.


Lapinbizarre said...

Thoughtful, perceptive & entertaining. Thanks.

Sam Charles Norton said...

There are much bigger issues looming...

Lay Anglicana said...

'It may be time to take stock, some would say grow up. But how?'

Confucius he ask the $64k question!

There has been a lot of pain on both sides of the debate, and a lot of hurt as people have lashed out. The only way we can justify this is if we do NOT go back to business as normal (always a temptation) but use as a catalyst for change this bonfire of the, well perhaps not vanities but collective pigheadedness. Maybe a better metaphor is Eustace's dragon or a ship covered in barnacles. If we scrape off the accretions, we can begin again to build the kingdom of God.

Anonymous said...

The problem with a boat when it springs a leak, is that you can bale out as much as you want, but the water will keep on coming in. Eventually you sink and have to swim for your life.

The Anglican Communion Covenant, was that boat, badly holed before it set out, now it's sinking fast, but it seems that one or two out there are going to try to get a salvage tug out to tow it to safety.

I've heard rumours that the next ABC will be encouraged to bring it back to the next Synod in 3 years time. What a daft idea?

The issue with Bishops being out of touch is self-evident. Out of touch with many of their clergy, but to my mind, more importantly, with their laity.

@layanglicana has striven via her website and blog to make a space in the Anglican Communion for the voice of Laity. Not the setup called General Synod, but a genuinely independent voice to overcome the general lack of attention paid to Laity.

The lack of provision for a coordinated, sustainable strategy or policy which crosses diocesan boundaries, which conserves resources by formalising training to identified roles to a common standard, seems to me to be one self-evidence way of empowering laity, and providing for Dr William's vision of a pastor (ordained or lay) in each community.

The Church Representation Rules need to be amended to give a wider voice than Synod, whether General, Diocesan or Deanery. If Parliament has only two levels, why does the Church need three, with the House of Bishops on top of it. It's undemocratic, out dated, slow, and a talking shop.

We need fewer, slimmed down dioceses, fewer diocesan bishops and fewer expensive to maintain historic monuments. If the public want historic monuments, than let the public purse pay for them, while we retire to smaller, modern, environmentally friendly, purpose designed, multi-use worship spaces.

To be really revolutionary, return to cell church and house groups. Networked together, with oversight local and elected.

If the Anglican Communion is to continue, it needs root and branch reform, to reflect a network of friends journeying together, not a centralising, prospective papacy.

Steve Hearn said...

Interesting post on a hot topic that has at last come to the forefront of the CofE. The elephant in the room can no longer be ignored. There are a number of issues that have to be addressed and they will cause pain. The clergy from Bishops down to ordinands need to be clear on their own standing to help debate at the local level of the pew warmers, as in the end it will be the pew warmers who may have the final voice in these hot topics as in the last ten years, and let's be honest here, the Bishops have failed the pew warmers in their dissent and slowness to clear up the mess. Sure much of the detail requires time to work through but this past decade it is not just Rowan who is to blame. It is over a year since I actually left the CofE after the total mismanagement of millions of pounds that were lost in a bad property deal in New York. General Synod as far as I know never said sorry about this and I feel this has come back to bite them in the bum with some of the current problems. Amount other local issues in the parish that I used to be a member of, I now feel free to worship and follow Jesus in a real way. I feel sorry for the CofE as there simply does not seem to be a way forward. But I wish you all well and hope that in the end, whatever happens, Jesus is given the Praise and Glory in all the goings on!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bishop Alan, I'm so impressed with your understanding of the situation - vis-a-vis the Church of England's reaction to the covenant, that I'm going to post it on my New Zealand web-site, to try to impress some of my Kiwi Cobbers with what at least one Bishop in our dear Mother Church really think about the sad state of affairs with the likes of GAFCON, FCA and their allies.

Thanks, in advance!

Jeremy Pemberton said...

Thank you, Alan, for putting it so memorably as usual.

I do hope that when the two sexuality reviews (for let us not forget that this all began with New Hampshire and New Westminster and really is about sexuality)on civil partnerships and human sexuality in general come to the College of Bishops, that you will not allow them to produce something anodyne and defensive, and so permit the C of E to lose even more estimation and credibility in the eyes of the public.

L Buckland said...

A (lone?) voice raised here highlighting "loyalty" or even "fealty" Is there not a requirement by the church that Bishops support/uphold their Archbishop?
The critique of voting behaviour as infantilism is undeserved, where this loyalty exists.
The question that this begs, is what advice was discussed before launching ++Rowan on a course of such vulnerability.
And we must look forward to imagining the ways the C of E might provide better for the future Archbishops. Separating out some roles? Allowing the Archbishop space, relieving some of the colossal pressures, would permit leadership of the kind we - and ++Rowan- hoped he would give.

Mark Clavier said...

I suspect we'll only know the ramifications of all this when the Communion staggers into its next crisis (communicating the unbaptised?). I see nothing other than exhaustion that would prevent us from going through all the mess of the past ten years all over again. Indeed, I can well imagine the Communion being reduced to a kind of ecclesiastical version of the movie, 'Groundhog Day'.

I acknowledge that for many the argument about the covenant is nothing more than 'It'll keep us from doing what we want so I'm against it' and 'It'll keep them from doing what they want so I support it', which is too bad as both are immature responses. But I see little else that gives me hope that we can begin to handle any disagreements in a way that is, as you say, grown up. More likely, I think, that we'll become a collection of Anglican fiefdoms.

Archbishop Cranmer said...

"Perhaps the real mistake was colluding in the first place with the foolish erection of homosexuality..."


Integrity said...

Bishop Alan,
Everyone seems to be so negative about the Church. I do not believe it is split down the middle. The minority and the mislead always have the loudest voices. People will be led by the shouting and the crowd. Remember how they cheered Jesus coming into Jerusalem and a few days later they called for Barabbas.
If the Church was led by anointed preachers the people would listen and have respect. The Church should never veer from the truth to meet modernising claims.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Your Grace; surprised to see you in schoolboy smut mode... a day late. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

Mark, I hope not. I don't think people voted against it in England because of what they wanted to do, but because they see their Anglicanism as a means to being a Christian, not as a global denominational designation. How we disagree is something we must all take responsibility for, but we can surely say that with the covenant it would have been more legalistically sooner. All experience of people interacting suggests that when you get the lawyers in relationships deteriorate.

M. Buckland, real loyalty involves a duty to tell the truth to one's boss, not the kind of blind fealty that led, for example, Victorian admirals to crash their battleships into each other out of blind obedience. The tragedy, if there is one, was that there was extensive consultation on the content of the covenant (during which it was whittled down considerably) but no consultation at all about the whole strategy of having such a thing in the first place, that just seemed to fall out of the Windsor report process.

June Butler said...

I suspect we'll only know the ramifications of all this when the Communion staggers into its next crisis (communicating the unbaptised?).

Mark, why must differences be seen as crises? The members of the Communion hardly need to move into crisis mode each time an idea that appears controversial to some members is mentioned. That seems to me the wrong way to approach discussion and possible resolution of differences.

Mark Clavier said...

My sense is that people voted against it here for all sorts of reasons, one of which was a perception (often voiced on blogs) that the covenant was really about GLBT and another being that in the midst of debates here about women bishops and gay marriage, people didn't really care about the covenant. Indeed, the fact that the votes have been often fairly evenly divided without the typically overblown rhetoric and rancour (except on a few blogs) suggests a degree of apathy to me.

Grandmere, I agree entirely but this is not how the communion (or, indeed, many provinces) have operated for the past forty years or so and I see no reason for the future to be any different. Within polarised churches, I suspect that almost any disagreement will turn into controversy...especially when the disagreements are over perceived fundamentals.

My support for the covenant, despite its proposed bureaucracy, is due partly to my sense that it is the best and perhaps only hope for the Communion to remain together. My suspicion, though, is that the new prospect--a disparate collection of Anglican tribes networked together in different and often competing ways--is more to our liking. To refer again to the end of the Bishop's post, I don't see many signs of our being grown up enough to relate meaningfully with those who are not of the same mind as us.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

On the basis of m Lambeth experience in 2008, I'd say “Fear Not!" Mark. The Cvenant was in some ways a useful peg to hang discussions on, but actually those about the contentious subjects themselves were always better because people actually cared about them. All the points made in deanery synods were made, but taken by the management as critique of the fourth section (that was 90% watered down as a result) when in fact they called into question the whole exercise. Had there been a covenant in force it would have spoiled discussion, as some of the participants couldn't have signed it for reasons nothing to do with the gay issue, thus it would have excluded them. Frankly, it was a grand irrelevance, ad I see no evidence it would be anything else in future.

Erika Baker said...

You write "I agree entirely but this is not how the communion (or, indeed, many provinces) have operated for the past forty years or so and I see no reason for the future to be any different."

It is possible that this infantile way of interacting with each other will be with us for a while to come, but I don't think the conclusion should be that we must codify it in a Covenant. Rather, the task is to undermine it bit by bit.

I am not to pessimistic as you are. No other topic but LGBT equality has excercised the provinces in quite the same way.
The women priests and women bishops debates have torn shreds out of the CoE but has left the rest of the Community unconcerned, including those who oppose them.

Moves towards lay presidency in Sydney have been accepted by all without a single mutter of relational consequences.

And while we hear discussions in America about communicating the unbaptised, we don't seem to have a desire to wade in and stop them from doing it.

We are quite capable of returning to a more conciliatory way of living with each other.

Mark Clavier said...

Erika,I hope you're right, but I remain pessimistic. I think the women's ordination debate, which was rancorous enough as it was in the 70s & 80s, would have been far bigger had we had the Internet back then. OTOH, people do seem to get more worked up about moral questions than about doctrinal ones. But the Internet will keep all our debates very much alive, especially with the help of additional decisions and moves that aggravate the situation.

I think we will see things blow up again after GC, but now many of the moderate conservatives will not easily believe that there is a orderly way of responding to the controversy. I do not believe the covenant would codify infantilism but instead provide a way of emerging from it (since we seem incapable of doing this without a code).

I cannot emphasis enough the demoralising effect the failure of the covenant in the UK has had on what I would call moderate Anglican Catholics. I know of several very bright, relatively young clergy now seriously considering whether the AC is a place they can in good conscience remain, and none of them are sympathetic in the slightest towards FIF or the Ordinariate.

So, I can well envision a day when various decisions no longer cause debate, but only because the churches themselves have become monochrome.

Erika Baker said...

I think I called the Covenant an infantile approach because it ultimately encourages not agreement or toleration across a broad spectrum of views and practices, but it comes down on the side of one or two warring factions.

In the lgbt debate it is very clear that most people are not as exercised about their view becoming the only accepted one as a.) lgbt people and their friends and families on the one side and b.) extreme conservatives on the other.

If the Covenant had been passed, we would have signed up to a system whereby the most conservative part of the spectrum would have utilised formal powers to impose its views in the name of unity to the point of imposing "relational consequences" on those they disagree with.
That is not actually a mature way of finding lasting peace, that is using a formal structure to end a debate and to try and codify a status quo.

And it would not even have worked because lgbt people and their friends and families won't go away, they won't fall silent, they won't stop lobbying. They'll either continue to cause disruption in the church or they'll eventually leave.

And the provinces on which relational sanctions have been imposed would be a visible sign that this unity is purchased by de facto disunity and is a unity in name only.

We either grow up and find a way of living together peacefully or we don’t.
I think what the Covenant has shown us is that the responsibility for this lies with every single one of us and that it cannot be simply handed to our elders and betters at the top of our churches.

Truly peaceful states are democratic ones who live with diversity.
Truly successful businesses are those with flatter hierarchies and with solid employee participation.
It is completely counter intuitive to think that the church alone can buck this trend and become successful and an oasis of peace and unity by becoming more hierarchical, with more controlling powers.

Erika Baker said...

I agree with you that we may not be able to hold the Communion together.

The real question is whether it is better to have a system where those who feel they can no longer stay leave voluntarily, or one where those who would like to stay but are deemed to be unacceptable are pushed out.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

That's interesting, Erika. IN the middle of all this a mailing came round all bishops with an attachment by the Librarian of Norwich Cathedral, an American working in England, denouncing the US Church as children of the enlightenment who needed to be whipped into line. The injustice, historical fatuity and biased nature of this circulation played a significant part in my decision to climb off the fence. The whole pattern looking back was unjust. No relational consequences if you set up an alternative church in the US, but immediate discipline if you ordained a gay. So it becomes the story of a holy man, manipulated by bullies and cheats in what they believed to be a righteous cause. Utterly shoddy.

Mark Clavier said...

Erika,this is where our differing interpretations of what the covenant is trying to accomplish come into play. If it were primarily about punishing TEC, then I think it would have received accolades from GAFcon types. The fact that almost all of them have rejected it, suggests that covenant serves a different purpose; namely, to provide a framework for conducting our debates. Again, the only punishment really imagined is removal from communion committees that 99.9% of Anglicans either don't know exist or don't care. Might it slightly restrain controversial actions? I would like to think so, as I think we're an incredibly impatient church. I also suspect that the broad middle would be happy for that to happen as well! (Actually, I'd like to see the CofE be more timid about doctrinal changes and much more gung-ho about structural and regulatory ones!)

Bishop Alan: I actually think that the Norwich essay had some important insights, though I can well understand why it annoyed many. Much of what he argued is not all that different from the views of someone like Hauerwaus. Christianity, including TEC, is an altogether different beast in American than it is here...for good or ill, and has often been characterised by American exceptionalism (not unlike here during the height of Empire). And Christianity there is incredibly polarised (far more than here) and within that polarised debate, TEC does, by and large, take sides. As a Yank serving in the CofE, I am daily reminded that how incredibly different the CofE is from American Anglicanism. Whether any of that is pertinent to the merits of the covenant is, of course, another matter altogether.

Erika Baker said...

I don’t doubt that people like Rowan Williams will have had exactly the same hopes for the Covenant you have.
My difficulty is that it presumes precisely the kind of cooperative spirit it is designed to establish.

TEC would not say they are changing doctrine, they would argue that they are simply changing a second order issue that needs affect no-one but themselves.
It was other Provinces who styled this to a first order issue that would affect all of Anglicanism.

And this pattern would continue after a Covenant was established. Liberal groupings would never use it against anyone. There’s nothing more instinctively appalling to liberals than to tell others how they must conduct their own affairs, as long as they don’t try to impose them. This is true for most moderates too.

The ones who would resort to the Covenant are precisely those who have elevated a difference to a crisis in the first place. And they tend to be the kind of people who are not willing to live and let live but who require order – their order – to reign throughout the Communion. Let’s not forget that Gafcon rejected the Covenant because it was not punitive enough.

These forces will not go away and a system that rules between right and wrong rather than encourages large scale toleration and cooperation is precisely the wrong system to solve the crisis.

I suppose, ultimately, we have to accept that the Anglican Communion will experience some kind of split.

I, for one, would much rather it was a split resulting from people no longer wishing to be part of it than a split resulting from people being relegated to a lower status.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Mark, it wasn't so much the content of the Norwich essay that caused me disquiet, however unhistorical and tendentious, as the whole notion that the prime argument for the covenant was to contemplate the sins of US religion. And there was I thinking this was something for the whole communion; actually all it was, this proved, was a crude tempt to punish TEC that fell off the back of the Windsor report — itself somewhat discredited now. We remain, rightly, in communion with dioceses that behave far worse vis-a-vis corruption (breaking commandments about lying and stealing for example), extending to them every understanding that in their missional context things might be necessary or look different, but in the face of a tiny second order spat, about which there is next to nothing in the BIble, we all go ballistic and get out bell book and candle. Then this is dressed up, dishonestly, as some kind of even-handed process reform. It simply wasn't. The worst sin of (some) US Anglicans was to export their culture war to the third world, where it had been off the radar, nonexistent, in order to summon reinforcements for an argument back home. That manipulative imperialism is what blew this thing up out of all proportion in the first place, and there is no good to be had until it is addressed fairly and missionary, not manipulatively.

June Butler said...

Episcopalians in New Hampshire, not exactly a hotbed of liberalism, elected Gene Robinson their bishop, He had worked in the diocese for 12 years, so Gene was not an unknown. A sufficient number of the members of the House of Bishops and the Standing Committees of the dioceses in the Episcopal Church gave consent to Gene's election. The process was orderly and done in accordance with the canons of the church Who was to say that Gene was not a duly elected bishop of the church? Who was to say that the diocese of New Hampshire could not have the bishop that they chose? There was no nefarious, exceptionalist plot.

At the time Gene was elected, I would have preferred if the folks in New Hampshire had not chosen a partnered gay man, but in all honesty, I could see no valid reason why they should not have their choice as bishop.

What changed my mind about partnered gay and lesbian clergy were the folks who, like me, did not want a gay bishop, many of whom were so thoroughly nasty about Gene and his partner Mark that they pushed me to the other side. Thanks be to God, I became a champion for equal treatment for LGTB clergy and church members.

Mark Clavier said...

Erika, do we, by the same logic, then do away with all disciplinary measures? I mean, I'm amazed by how many regulations within the Church of England tell me what to do: services I may use, how to conduct meetings, minimum size of PCCs, who may be married in my parishes, etc. After all, we Anglicans are the 'Conformists', aren't we?!

So, I can't see why we can accept the provincial disciplinary measure but not intra-provincial ones. Sure, some will argue that this would lead to a papal curial system, but there are different forms of international governance (for example, Britih Empire vs United Nations or Napoleonic Empire vs European Union). I don't see why a similar difference might not be achieved within the Anglican Communion.

Finally, as one who once was quite conservative and even now on many issues is moderately so, I can tell you that most conservatives in the Church are not nearly so sanguine about the open-mindedness of liberals. One reason for the extreme reaction in the States by conservatives is that they have felt marginalised for a long time. They may not be told what to do on an individual level, but they are told that they must be willing to conform to the new system or depart. For example, my old parish in the States tripled in size after 2001 and oversaw 4 mission churches largely because local TEC clergy made them feel unwelcome because they found it hard to accept Robinson's consecration. In almost every case a modicum of pastoral care would have kept them within the fold.

It may already be too late, but I suspect that some meaningful gesture will need to be made toward conservatives in the near future or Anglicanism will not split but fragment. But, as I've said before, despite our claims to pluralism, we live in an age of absolutism.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

The issue for me, Mark wasn't why have ay disciplinary measures — any civilised body needs law in some form as part of its infrastructure. the question was how big a part, and why this particular expansion of legalism over a peripheral issue? Our ecclesiology is that there are two levels of "Church" — the mystical whole company of all Christian people of which the prayer book speaks, but which it did not regulate. The Bishop of Rome, for example, was acknowledged to be the Bishop of Rome, but not to have any jurisdiction within this realm of England. There didn't have to be some legal arrangement as part of that acknowledgement. Then there is the diocese and, as a subsidiary legal link between dioceses, the province. But we are an episcopal not a Caesaropapal Church, and in this we are closer to the primitive Church than Rome. Linking up some transnational global denomination is colossally different from the tradition represented by the BCP. Fnally, I think the whole Toxic "Liberal Conservative schematisation is stale and obsolete. The real divide is around the extent to which people feel at home int he culture; some Conservatives, for example, do — take Tim Montgomerie on gay marriage. We need a new and more accurate way of understanding where people are coming from, or we just spin off into our own la-la land.

Erika Baker said...

I don’t know what you mean by people being told they must conform to a new system. Especially in America the election of Bishops and the discernment process for new developments are wonderfully democratic compared to what happens in Britain. If you advocate discipline, doesn’t it cut both ways?

I’m not on the whole very fond of discipline. In family life I have found that firm boundaries but extensive freedom within those boundaries work best to produce a happy family in which everyone feels loved and respected. From toddlerhood onwards I would sit my girls down when they had an argument and I would ask one to tell her story uninterrupted first, then the other, then ask each to comment on what her sister said. By the end, they had genuinely listened to each other, sometimes resolved the argument in the process, and other times at least understood enough to tolerate my final decision.
Now they’re nearly adults we no longer have a final decision maker and we find that we don’t need one. They are mature enough to accept things they don’t really want to accept, to do things they don’t really want to do because they can see the reasons behind them. They understand compromise and the idea of unity not uniformity.
And they expect the same from the 2 adults in the household.

I know this is an idealised model and it doesn’t always work in a community as diverse as a worldwide religious communion, especially as passions ride higher than they do in families who are already deeply connected.

But it is still an ideal that has proved most successful everywhere. It is not accidental that the most peaceful countries are democracies with as much structure as necessary and as much freedom as possible.
It is not accidental that German companies with all their workers’ participation to better than many in Britain where there is still much more of a “them and us” feeling.

I don’t object to the principle of a Covenant. But the structure of this particular proposal was precisely the opposite of what creates good relationships. There were accusers and accused. Accusations did not have to be based on objective criteria but based on their own feeling of injury. The accusers were also judge and jury. The kind of decisions they could make were not known but it was clear that they were punitive (relational consequences doesn’t suggest reconciliation parties). There was no mechanism for the defence to bring its case There was no right to appeal. There was no arbitration.

There was not even a discussion whether the Communion wanted this Covenant. It was presented as a fait accompli by those who chose to assume that power and it now leaves us in the position that some provinces are bound by it and others aren’t. Unlike laws that only come into force if a majority in Parliament votes for them the adoption process did not even permit the possibility that a majority of the Communion might decide to try another route to stabilise relationships. And so the instrument of unity has, even before the end of its formal adoption process in the worldwide Anglican Communion formalised disunity.

The Covenant was designed to give a small group of people more power, not to devolve power to the millions who would be affected by the decisions. This is just appallingly poor psychology if, indeed, genuine unity is your goal.

Whether TEC could or should have been more pastorally sensitive is a really good question. A Covenant I could support would ensure that there are no major winners or losers in any battle, whichever side I might personally support. Although that invariably will mean that some very rigid people from all spectrums will leave.
A Covenant I could support would accept that due process has been followed and the new ways are, indeed, where a particular church is going, but that the task is now to find a way of helping everyone to be able to live within the new structure with as much individual freedom of choice as possible.

The key is unity not uniformity.

Erika Baker said...

There’s another question we have not yet taken into account.
There are things we can happily compromise on and others were it is intrinsically impossible.
I can compromise about the size and the structure of the PCC, about how the church marries people, about whether you have to take the creeds literally nor not.

But what is exercising the Communion is much more fundamental than that, it is about deciding whether people who were previously considered to be unequal to the point of being immoral are equal to us or not.
This is genuinely a fairly black and white issue.
Once you have understood in the depth of your bones that gay people are exactly the same as straights you cannot go back from that knowledge and treat them “slightly equal”.
Nor can you, while you still believe that gay people are an immoral abhorrence accord them the same rights as those who are not an immoral abhorrence. It just cannot be done.

The CoE’s wrangling about creating women bishops who are at the same time equal and unequal to male ones just to placate everyone is a potent example for how not to do things.

People cannot be a little bit equal just like you cannot be a little bit pregnant.

What we need is a mechanism or at least an understanding about how the Communion should and could deal with 2 diametrically opposed positions where there simply cannot be a compromise.

The Covenant did not provide such a mechanism, on the contrary, it was designed to create a uniform solution.

Can we think of a Covenant that creates a multifaceted solution that genuinely allows 2 conflicting discernments to be lived within the Communion?

Mark Clavier said...

I almost didn't go into the whole question of conservative vs liberal as I dislike the distinction.

What I was trying to do briefly, though, was to suggest that a) having lived in that conservative world once upon a time in the States, I know first hand how hard it can be to walk that road without rancour and b) that almost all our decisions (especially, collective ones) make demands on others. So, we can't easily wash our hands of the accusation that our decisions aren't imposing on others. That's what living in a social world means.

As for the democratic process of episcopal elections in the States, even many 'liberals' I know think the process doesn't work. But that's another topic altogether.

I still don't see how the covenant as worded would have introduced caesaropapism unless we believe that any kind of legalism automatically leads to this. Believe me, I dislike intensely both legalism and bureaucracy (which makes being a priest in the CofE trying at times!), but I detected little of this in sect. 4 of the covenant. Just a process that might allow us to avoid some of the confusion of the past 10 years. I mean, how much energy has been wasted during the past decade just arguing about who has the authority to do what or what the proper next step ought to be? Part of the reason why we're in the mess we are now is due to the chaos of process.

Which raises a question for me. We now know that controversial reactions will cause a response from other provinces from around the communion. That being the case, is there any process anti-covenant people would support for such occasions or is the belief that each province ought to mind its own business or is the preference for the status quo of the past decade?

Now off to conduct my first wedding in the UK!

Erika Baker said...

I would like to see a transparent process for mediation that is guided by an independent body who does not have a stake in the outcome and who can therefore be impartial.

I would like the recognition that a Province’s internal structures and Canons must be respected.

There must first of all be some agreement on how contentious decisions might be tested in an international forum before they are implemented and that process has to be transparent and fair.

The burden of proof has to lie with those who want to restrict the independence of a Province and mere “hurt feelings” are not enough. It has to be shown how, precisely, a Provinces proposed actions impacts the others so negatively that intervention is necessary.

Any resulting restriction of the Province’s right to govern its own affairs must be time limited – you cannot have open moratoria that are designed to stop all conversations and all future change.

There must be a process to revisit the issue until proper agreement has been reached.

The emphasis is on mediation and learning to live together, not on establishing a victor and a loser.

And if there are any ultimate relational consequences, they must be agreed in advance by everyone signing this Covenant.

There has to be a right to appeal and a transparent appeal process.

I would also like to see a fair mechanism that gives ALL those who will be affected a fair hearing. If the argument is about lgbt rights, all bodies implementing the Covenant must include lgbt representation. If the argument is about women bishops, all bodies must include women priests and if the argument is about lay presidency, all bodies must include lay presidents. The custom that we talk about people but not with them must not be tolerated in that process.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I think the key is talking to people, not about them in little political bundles. At Lambeth it was perfectly posible to talk about everything, including lbgt issues with African brothers, who characteristically showed considerable understanding and grace about a subject that some could have been imprisoned for discussing back home. The concerns of many Western bishops about governance issues in African dioceses were also possible to voice. All this happened without any covenant, indeed happened more easily because there was no legalistic pricetag on the conversations and we communicated as equals.

Erika Baker said...

can I ask why you think that this was possible at Lambeth but not in the actual process of dealing with Gene Robinson's consecration?
Where is the faultline and what can be done to change it?

Mark Clavier said...

Thanks, Erika, that's helpful. So, basically, you'd be open to a covenant that errs on the side of autonomy and progressivism and you perceive the currently proposed one as erring in a more autocratic and conservative direction? I can see where a more open discussion would have been helpful (and perhaps less heat, too) in trying to square a view like yours with one like that of Uganda, Kenya, or Nigeria who would want something far more restrictive.

Bishop Alan: do you think the experience would have been different at Lambeth had all the bishops come?

Part of me wonders if the present impasse isn't due to the fact that we've reached a level where no party has any actual legislative power over the other. Within provinces we can pass all sorts of resolutions that will make life uncomfortable for the minority (whoever they are), but we can't do that internationally. In that respect the Anglican Communion may be more Anglican than any given province, since historically liberals, evangelicals and anglo-catholics had to get along as they had no means (i.e. synods) of exterting legislative power over another (in England, that is). If that's the case, we may replay the conformist / non-conformist battles of the 18th-20th centuries but now on an international stage. I hadn't thought of it in that way before...I'll have to reflect on that more when I have less nuptial champagne in my system!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I think the two big factors were that Lambeth was residential, and prepared for superbly by a retreat that Rowan led — the experience of a lifetime in its own way. Therefore it wasn't politicised, and the indaba process flew, partly as the result of that. Secondly it was managed in such a way that associated extreme lobby groups had only very limited access to the discussions themselves. This meant that unlike the primates' meetings around that time there wasn't a large caravanserai of manipulative hotheads running bishops down to the cashpoint and organising counter caucuses within the body of 600 bishops.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Mark, I love the nuptial champagne context for this discussion... wish I could join in! Quite honestly I don't think Lambeth would have been the faintest bit different if more bishops had come. An immense amount of pressure was put on some by their bosses not to come (including, rumour said, threats of actual violence in one case). The indaba process was strong enough to allow everyone a hearing, including the most Conservative, some of whom did of course participate. What might have been different was the hearings segment in the afternoons. I remember going to the Sexuality one and noticing that of the 23 people who made statements, 21 had been to a US University or English public school. Soem suggested the intense fear and hysteria demonstrated by GAFCON bishops who pressurised colleagues into staying away was precisely because they knew their own people would be given their own voice, and that would compromise the party line. or the vast majority of third world bishops homosexuality was way off the radar, and radicalising them about this subject was not easy.

Erika Baker said...

I really struggle with the idea that we must have legislative powers over each other.

I don't know what you wish for the future of the couple you just married but I'm fairly sure that legislative powers that allow one to sideline the other are not among them.
These things don't belong in a context of personal relationships.

Let me ask this the other way round - what value is there in a relationship that is only held together by legislative powers and the threat of applying them and not by mutual consent?

Is that really a system we ought to be following?

Yes, we might need a little more structure than we have at present. But we are, actually, an assortment of Provinces who for historic and present reasons wish to be in relationship with each other.

If that relationship is no longer satisfactory, should we not have a mechanism for mediaton, possibly followed by a mutually agreed separation rather than a trial followed by legal consequences?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Interesting because in some ways the Covenant did strike me as being a kind of prenup. Or "Solomon Isaacs" in Noel Coward's Brief Lives - the words the couple agreed they would say before they had an argument to prevent any rows hotting up. (Lasted half a scene and then collapsed in Noel Coward's play)

Mark Clavier said...

Erika, I wasn't advocating legislative authority over provinces (heck, if I had my way I'd do away with the whole synodical government as presently conceived!), but only noting that there now exists a certain comprehensiveness internationally that we've lost or are losing provincially because no one has legislative power over the other.

The problem is that we find it almost impossible in this day and age to exercise the patience, self-discipline, and vision to live together without something forcing us to. To use your analogy, I'd love for the communion to function as a marriage, but we can't seem to make it beyond partnership. As much as I find some of the rhetoric coming out of African provinces distasteful, I wonder what it might mean for the western churches to be willing to let go of their power and dominance and give more space for their concerns. It seems that we are once again dictating to them (with a few exceptions) of how our relationship will be.

Anyway, time to turns my thoughts to Holy Week....

June Butler said...

Alan, you say:

I think the key is talking to people, not about them in little political bundles.

At Lambeth it was perfectly posible to talk about everything, including lbgt issues with African brothers, who characteristically showed considerable understanding and grace about a subject that some could have been imprisoned for discussing back home.

Gene Robinson was locked out of Lambeth. He was talked about, but he was not permitted a voice in the discussions.

Erika Baker said...

if your analysis is right and if we need someone to force us to live together, isn't the question then why we would bother?

What kind of Communion is it if I have to be forced to be part of it? That's like Islamists punishing people for changing religion. The resulting "faith" and belonging are false, they're not the real thing.

The whole point about structured relationships, Christians ones in particular, is that they are based on a genuine wish to work closely with a group of people.

All this forcing is already contributing to a shocking level of rhetoric about love and friendship when underneath it's really about control and barely concealed dislike.

If that is really what it takes to hold us together, if we really must abandon all hope for genuine relationships, then let's end this game now, it's not worth it.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

In normal human relationships the use of "relational consequences" to accomplish powerplays is definitely a sign of serious sickness — "Eat your greens or mummy will be so upset she'll have to leave home and it'll all be your fault" — "If you don't change your girlfriend you will force Daddy and I to move out" — what kind of family is it that carries on like that? I Corinthians 13 tells us what love is; not some manipulative fandango based on dishonesty that feeds off compulsion.

Mark Clavier said...

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Bishop Alan Wilson said...

GM, you're right. I think the INdaba process could have included Gene and Akinola. Akinola wouldn't, and Gene was blocked, only appearing for an informal reception. I'm sad about that. It expressed exactly the same fundamental bias as the logic that punished TEC for consecrating gay bishops but tolerated territorial incursions from African dioceses. The injustice inherent in these decisions slimed the whole Windsor process fatally.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erika Baker said...

"forced to relate to" and "forced to tolerate" - yes, but that was precisely what the Covenant wasn't about.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bishop Alan Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Well, that was another aspect of the covenant project that troubled me. People seemed to be going round Singapore and Nigeria promising the Covenant was a sure stick to bring TEC back into line on the gay issue, whilst others were going round the UK swearing on their mothers' graves that it wasn't intended to punish anyone at all, and wouldn't really be able to do that anyway. In the dioceses, a substantial proportion realised it couldn't be both those things at once. Disingenuous is a posh word for hypocritical...

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Well, that was another aspect of the covenant project that troubled me. People seemed to be going round Singapore and Nigeria implying the Covenant would be sure stick to bring TEC back into line, whilst others were simultaneously going round the UK swearing on their mothers' graves that it wasn't intended to punish anyone at all, and wouldn't be able to anyway. In the dioceses, a substantial proportion smelt a rat under the floorboards. Disingenuous is a posh word for hypocritical...

Pierre said...

Just saw this... Thanks, Alan. The Communion works as a communion of churches, not "vatican-on-sea" as you put it. The Francophone Network and the ACO just helped Bishop Jean Molanga, provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of the Congo, get from death's door to new life via a heart operation in Paris. Tons of stories like that show what the Communion really is.
On the other hand, Nigeria's comment to the Archbishop was ridiculous. By African standards, astoundingly rude, as well. Probably ghostwritten too, like his predecessor's.

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