Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Intervention before Super Saturday

Archbishop of England Rowan Tree addresses the Dioceses mid term, before the big vote on Super Saturday that could end the innovation of the Anglican Communion Covenant.


Debate in the Church in England about the proposed Anglican Covenant is still going on and I admit I am getting worried, if not a little desperate. So I thought, I know, I'll go on You Tube and try to rescue the situation.

And so this is quite a desperate moment to repeat some of my points surrounding that debate and perhaps also to remind you little people of what I want.

The Covenant, as it sits, is a document that was drawn up over a period involving pretty well no one of unimportance in the Anglican Communion. The Church in England itself played virtually no part in successive drafts of the Covenant, other than the few high level contributions we up here have made over there.

This is why I have to keep saying what the Covenant is about, either me or through the UFO. Essentially, it's about going slow in the Communion. As in any argumentative family, what we do can annoy your mum, dad, sister, brother or grandparents. Well, Anglicanism has a lot of brothers and sisters and some wayward cousins. The Covenant is about not upsetting any of your brothers and sisters in terms of the Communion's life. Think about how all the arguments at bedtime could be avoided if we didn't use the bathroom, didn't go to bed or didn't stay up at night.

But one of the greatest misunderstandings around concerning the Covenant is that it's some sort of mummy, daddy or grandparent proposal creating an absolute authority which has the right to punish people for how they use the bathroom, go to bed or not go to bed. I have to say I think this is completely misleading and false, and of course I would say this wouldn't I, as someone already acting as a grandparent in the case of that naughty little cousin Kathy Grieb in a recent video like this one. Yes, I put her on and then let her off the naughty step, where we should find The Episcopal Church.

Now I really don't want the Church in England to join other Churches already volunteering to be on the naughty steps. So come on, please.

The Covenant instead says that brothers and sisters can work it out among themselves, so that if any one of them wants to do something new, for whatever reason, then before budging an inch he or she needs to see what would be happening if they did. To do this there is designed a new process of scrutiny so that all the relatives can have an input upon what another relative does. Instruments at the centre are beefed up for this to bring in these others but where the decisions are not made among the brothers, sisters and cousins unless they are obstinate.

Because, of course, it may be that at the end of the day there are real incompatible possibilities. You can't stay motionless all your life, but when you decide something new this new system puts into action how relations may suffer as a result. They do already, and they will. And what the new Covenant proposes is not a set of punishments, but a way of punishments by putting Churches - the brothers, sisters, cousins - on the naughty step.

But who needs the Covenant, it might be said? I might for one; in fact I do need it. What I need is my Church to do it so I don't end up looking like a bit of a chump.

But don't think about me. Think about the poor little ones, the tiny tots brothers and sisters scattered in the wider family. Other children, big children, say, "Ner nerdy ner ner" to them and "Your big sister is a lezzie" - and really we have to take away the words of the bullies by not allowing our children to look like lezzies or homos. If we all dress smartly and delicately, the bullies might go away.

And so, as you in our dioceses think about the Covenant, think about the little ones instead of being, as I think you are being, such selfish westernised sophisticates. Think yourself lucky that you are even being allowed to have a say in this. Do you not think, if you defeat this, that there won't be relational consequences across the Church in England? I'll be very angry, you'll see, and I might even scupper the female bishops things where the dioceses ignored me before. So think of the little ones you selfish lot and how they might feel, or at least how I might feel.

Oh yeah, they say, the first three sections are uncontroversial - but then the difficulty comes with the fourth section. But when are any of you going to listen to me? Are you deaf? That fourth section is not a disciplinary system! How many times? It's about a process of discernment and discussion and putting Churches on the naughty step. It's not as if we're committing violence, is it? Nobody has the power to do anything but recommend courses of action of relational consequences into a two tier system to formalise division. Nobody is forced by that into doing anything, in fact the whole idea is to do nothing, ever, and then no one would be on the naughty step.

And don't go on and on about the gay thing, like I do behind closed doors. It could be about anything. That's the point. It really does shut the door on all sorts of developments.

We've had ways of scrutinising before, but these have suddenly vanished and I can therefore clearly say that if we don't have any way of scrutinising, discerning and discussing, then I think we're a great deal the poorer.

Perhaps it's actually time we stopped scrutinising in the dioceses, and if you give me a good kicking I just might introduce proposals to streamline Church in England procedures to allow us as bishops under my hand to decide things.

Then I could go to other denominations like that one with the pope and say look we are now coherent like you are. I am changing things - making the Communion more like a Church - because I want them to understand us more easily. We Anglicans ought to be able to talk to each other intelligently, sympathetically, and critically, and this being absent it can be put in place via a document and some beefed up centralised instruments that are not about centralising or instruments. Not to have new centralised instruments (that are not centralising or instruments) puts us me on the back foot when I talk to the pope.

But let's get down and dirty, like at your irritating level, and ask what do we gain from it. We cease to be less like the Adams Family, with Uncle Fester, and become more like The Waltons. I believe this passionately and with all my heart, like that document-making character in The Wizard of Oz where the yellow brick road needs a touch of paint.

So we are not being asked to sign off our freedom but rather to sign away our freedom. And look, I am getting desperate because, really, you little people in the dioceses have got no right to scupper our high-level plans and it is time you did what you are told. Read the ordinal. My prayers will be that you do as I am saying.

And don't worry. I'll be gone soon so any mess made won't be mine to sort out.

Rowan Tree.

3 comments:

Lay Anglicana said...

Wonderful! I thought I had exhausted all ability to smile at our dear Archbishop's goings-on, but you have revived my sense of satire. Thank-you. I have tweeted and put on facebook in homage.

Erika Baker said...

This is one of your best. posts. ever.
Thanks for alerting me to it, Laura.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Superb snapshot and translation!