Thursday, 3 March 2011

Heads you Lose, Tails you Lose

Here's a further thought about the Anglican Communion Covenant and all that.

I remember going to court with nearby residents, to argue against access forced into nearby land via our tenfoot. Another resident led the way, and she took the risk. The court judgment was absolutely all or nothing, and was in her and our favour. We won, and the nearby landowner lost, and he had a bill of at least £25,000 and all for nothing. The court was everything and absolute. When you win, you open the champagne. When you lose, you stare down a black hole and wonder about the future, and look at the wasted past.

I suggest it is similar regarding the vote of the Anglican Communion Covenant at the Church of England General Synod. So far one side proposing the thing has shown nothing but sharp practices and failed in its second role as being a referee.

At the moment, it looks most likely that the Covenant will be passed by the General Synod of the Church of England and that many if not most provinces will give it approval. If it passes at the Synod then the effect on the Church of England will be like an ice cube, preventing inclusion until the Ugandans would have it and constraining many on the liberal side of things.

Imagine, however, what happens should the House of Clergy defeat the thing and throw it out.

It is necessary to stop it if the Church of England is to remain flexible about the future. My guess is that the biased powers that be will then panic, and try desperately to bend the rules to bring the thing back in. If not, and if they cannot, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will have to resign because it is his policy, steered and forced through so far by him. It is his flagship. Also arguments will be made beforehand to support the Archbishop, and so if he then loses he really will be done for. Even the Archbishop of York might go too (gosh, this gets better!). I actually think Rowan Williams should go, and should have a long time ago as he has been nothing but a disaster. But, with or without that resignation, the level of recrimination will be huge, especially against those who have led the campaign.

The people who have led the campaign against, and who will open the champagne, will be marked people, and they will be accused (as they have been already) of misinformation. They will be named, tracked and hounded. They will be marked regarding jobs, promotion and future projects because of the damage apparently done to the institution (rather than for saving the Church!) and having presumed to have undermined the hierarchs apparently in control.

The fact that a victory against will be a great victory and will have been one for the lesser people will only increase the bitterness from the opposition who built and steered the Covenant. Furthermore, the opposition will likely have had most if not all dioceses on their side, and will have had every vote in favour so far, and likely two houses of three would have said yes to the scheme. So it will have failed because of a tricameral legislature, although (of course) the real argument is that it should have had a two-thirds majority threshold anyway.

A weakness of the campaign against is that it has come from the liberal side of the Church, and that means it will be easier to target the recriminations. The hierarchs and bureaucrats as well as evangelicals will set about marginalising the liberals through various legislative and other means, if that is the way needed to reattach to the Covenant or something similar.

It has to be said, though, that a vote against should kill the Covenant. So much now centres around the Archbishop of Canterbury that it would be a farce if he and his replacement was part of the Covenant's procedures when his own Church was in the second tier of the Anglican Communion. It just could not get off the ground in such circumstances. It is why the vote against is so crucial - it really does kill the thing - and why the victors will be in the firing line.


Lesley said...

Ah Adrian, thanks.. I think. Personally, I think the world is a worse place if we don't stand up for justice... and counting the cost and fear gets in the way

Grandmère Mimi said...

Adrian, your title may be right, but Lesley is right, too. Whether we (bonds of affection, you know) lose even if we win, or if we go down, we must do so fighting.

Paul Bagshaw said...

If the Covenant was to be defeated in England:

Sadly you may be right about possible recriminations.

But I don't think you'd be right about the response to a defeat. I think, under Rowan William's continued leadership, they'd merely find a way to come back for a second try.

Jonathan Clatworthy said...

Dead right, Adrian.
But I don't care. I'm retired. And I look back with horror on the days when I wasn't, and did all sorts to get the outward signs of success. Such a liberation to have no reason to worry about all that. But then, how did the church get into such a state that everyone's anxious not to offend those higher up the greasy pole?
Now for the real reason for writing. My eyes are brown, not blue. Otherwise, all well and I shall dine out on being worthy of a Pluralist picture.

Daniel Weir said...

I am still unsure about the Covenant, finding myself in much the same place as Tobias Haller. As I see it, the Covenant could only make more formal what has already happened with certain member churches declaring themselves to be in states of impaired communion with other member churches, and with some bishops and archbishops absenting themselves from meetings or, if present, refusing to share in the Eucharist with other bishops. I'm not at all sure that adopting the covenant will make matters any worse or any better. As a member of the Episcopal Church (USA), I'm concerned that our refusal to adopt the covenant would be perceived, wrongly IMV, as an indication that we had no interest in relationships within the Communion. I remain undecided.

Lionel Deimel said...

Adrian, it is unfortunate that there are not more laypeople in the forefront of Covenant opposition. They are less subject to retaliation.

Daniel, why cannot The Episcopal Church take a principled stand against the Covenant? We will be condemned if the adopt the Covenant and condemned if we do not. Why not do what we know we should do and reject it?