Sunday, 26 February 2012

Don't Open Those Bottles Yet

Just before the champagne corks start popping, Sheffield and Winchester dioceses voted in favour of the Anglican Communion Covenant.

Although such a measure ought to be at the level of a consensus, the Church bureaucrats will take a slim victory as enough for the 'importance' that the Church of England does not stand in the way of producing a worldwide Covenant, and fulfils its duties as having the role of Archbishop of Canterbury in the Instruments of Communion. As it was told before, in a kind of mirror logic, the Church of England cannot (be allowed to) stand in the way of the Covenant of others and it.

The slim defeat will also be enough for people to assert that they are the people of the Church, and that this Church as each Church makes its decisions itself, and is not introducing some new supra-Church authority or indeed extending the Communion into a Church.

However, I suspect that bureaucrats in small rooms are already considering how they can produce a situation where the Archbishop of Canterbury as a bishop in the Communion can continue to be an Instrument of the Communion when his own Church has said no to the potential new law, and in what ways the Church can continue to be 'in' rather than out. There might be, for example, a purple-only method, some sort of informal statement of the House of Bishops, that amounts to the Church of England being considered in rather than out, if only informally and by statement of the Instruments.

Whilst there are some very good arguments made, and that should be the means, the anti-lobby might consider some dirty tactics, working on the English psyche. While I am pro-European, and want to work against the current democratic deficit, I am not such a fool to realise I am in quite a minority. So whisper in the ears of some Church of England people aware of Henry VIII about this being a 1974 moment and a chance to have a referendum on the Common Market. Ask them if they know what they are signing up to in these terms? Is it a loose document of encouragement with few consequences, leaving things mainly as they are, but with a new centre of decisions, or is it instead the road to what will soon be a Federal Anglican Church where the Church of England won't be able to take its own important decisions without the nod from abroad?

By the way, I mean federal in the sense it does mean: decentralisation but where sovereignty is at the centre. And I know why I am pro-European in this sense and not pro-federal in a Church sense - because a Church (any Church) is a communion not a federation. One is about voting and having common democratic and liberal values whereas the other is about talking and deeper human relations. Communions are by their nature at least the equivalent of confederal, containing Churches, and as close to the parish and individual as possible.

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