Bishop Scot Wales (SW): First of all as an official of ACC it stands to me to introduce this fringe meeting, a very fringe meeting of Evastick, which we are nevertheless delighted to host, and without further ado I hand over to Canon Bootslick whom friends know as Phil Crumb, and I hope such informality won't be lost when he becomes a bishop of some corner in the south of England. He will introduce this evening's speaker.
Canon Philip Crumb Monarch Bootslick (PCMB): Well I am very grateful and just would like to tell the audience here that behind the scenes, so to speak, when we were coming in, Canon, sorry Bishop, Scot Wales has been telling me what it is like to be a new bishop, and of course you are not very far from the sea in a tourist area and I have a nice place to go to too, which I know has come in for some criticism from a senior bishop, Drum Raving - oops, who I see is in the audience. Now there are refreshments and we have a lovely brand of coffee here, being Fairly Traded of course, and chooses a refined form of customer, called AffCaff. So feel free to get your own at any point. What?
Naidoowell Rice (NR): Point of order... Mr Chairman!
Canon PCMB: Er yes? Do we have points of order?
NR: I wish to address the matter of the toilets.
Canon PCMB: What about the toilets?
NR: They are unbiblical.
Bishop SW: Erm. Could you tell us what biblical toilets should look like?
Canon PCMB: Are you a member of Evastick. I don't know you. Let me look to the membership list.
NR: I have just flown in from South Africa... a day return really to attend here... I have plenty of money you see as I have dabbled in financial matters... I'll be back in London tomorrow. I am a member, yes, of various biblical associations... and it is very important that we keep together and remain undivided.
Canon PCMB: Crumbs, well I hope you tithe with us.
Bishop SW: As an official here I suppose I ought to take this complaint. What is unbiblical about the toilets?
NR: They are all sit down. Now if you look at 1 Kings, 14.10, 1 Kings, 16.11, 1 Kings, 21.21, 1 Samuel, 25.22, 1 Samuel, 25.34 and 2 Kings, 9.8 it is quite clear that toilets for men should be against the wall and be part of - an extension of - the wall. I am a man and it is a biblical observation that we men should piss against the wall. If this is a biblical society then those toilets there should include some against the wall as the wall.
Bishop SW: Well thank you for that and I will take it to the organising committee. I should point out, however, that many of us wear cassocks and other finery, and it is very difficult for us to habitually piss against the wall. So in fact we chose a meeting place that maximised the number of sit down toilets. Just a minute, someone is here to see me.
Canon Haton Coaton (HC): I think you are needed, Scot. Something is happening where the real centre is regarding worldwide Anglicanism.
NR: It is part of the biblical definition of being male... and very important given the necessity to discipline those who have gone outside the Bible for sin... The fashion for sit down toilets comes from The Episcopal Church where men are not men and the Presiding Bishop is a woman. I contend that we are in danger of sin if we cannot piss against the wall. Cassocks and finery are part of the institutional Church... These are all human denominations... What matters is the biblical whole Church... not denominations and matters open to debate.
Canon PCMB: Well I am sure you can go outside.
Bishop SW: Not in Jamaica, if you get arrested. It's not an instant fine like in North Wales. You don't want to share a mass prison cell with other men who could be high as a kite and a bit randy to boot. Well I am sorry that I cannot stay to hear this lecture as something is going on where it matters.
NR: Well I have made my point... and as such I hope that my salvation is not affected when I need a wee... But people could be in danger... I hope you all know that.
Canon PCMB: I'll cross my legs. So he's gone. What's going on? Well, I know I'd better stay. Yes, well yes. Let me then introduce tonight's speaker, and hurry up, who is Dr. Pickwick Juniper, who is going to talk about Sexuality and the Anglican Communion, and comes to this from a Conservative Communion perspective like my own. And if you look over there we have a chart that shows the four positions, Conservative Communion, Conservative Federal, Liberal Communion and Liberal Federal. That took me quite a long time to do so I use it a lot. Thank you very much. What's happening over there in that room?
Bishop George Narrowboat (GN): Something to do with the Covenant. Look, I'm non-aligned. I'm neither Lambeth nor GAFCON so I'll stay here and listen. I don't care. I'm only a dogsbody in London anyway speaking my master's voice. Where are you going for your new job?
Dr. Pickwick Juniper (PJ): Well I'll start then. And we are dealing with the authority of scripture, that is a normative approach that gets us away from a sort of aimless scientific, historical-critical approach. And yet here we are in this postmodern, narrative age and so I wonder how many of you have been at a road side accident? People spend a great deal of energy studying road accidents, and this is a good thing. It is the equivalent of Anglicans being asked to listen, and of course remembering what we've heard. Though, of course, road actions are instant and unexpected, just as are consecrations of gay bishops and rites of blessings on gay people. However, having listened, we should be well equipped to deal with the situation, and indeed the emergency services are trained to deal with the situation. What we don't have is individual paramedics deciding first this and then that for themselves. No, there is a collective policy towards the rubble that we see on the roadside accident or incident. And so we approach a car crash and we have a response. Yes, we pull out any passengers, but in a car crash we would not pull out a gay bishop if he was injured or indeed anyone who was in the car having received gay blessings.
Now some of you may be shocked to hear me say this, but yes (for the press and media out there, and countless blogs) I did say this and in all bluntness, because it shows where the debate now is within certain sectors of the Anglican Church. We have moved beyond the speculation to real, concrete examples of the application of scripture in a doctrinal and apologetic way, though I'm not saying sorry for my examples and use of language.
It is true that the debate has become something of an obsession. The Anglican Communion is in a car crash situation. It has been a crash in slow motion ever since 2003, or even earlier. You see, back in 1998 we could see a clear road ahead that could be occupied by any sexual deviancy, and so we made a policy for the whole Church which was to tell these people to stay off the roads, keep out of cars and not to travel. Now they are occupying the open road, travelling and what we have is the accident - I should say incident - of it all, and no, we are not going to rescue people who we label as different from us. And people say we must not label, but this is mamby pamby secular theology we get these days, to quote my friend in Nottingham, who thinks I am an intelligent evangelical and that's because I espouse Platonism, though he comes to different personal conclusions about gay people for his Christendom project.
Now how is it that such moderates as me and Evastick as an organisation can say these things which, to ordinary ears, are utterly appalling and as sectarian as can be? Because, of course, we are utterly committed to that First Aid Box we call the Bible as a normative document using the model of law and prophecy from the Deuteronomistic age. And in the Bible there are no medicines and no sticking plasters, never mind crutches and head supports, for gay people. No, it is only idolatry, like having the wrong make of vehicle and dodgy parts. St Paul, of course, is our rule maker, and we obey all his prejudices because we think there was a big gassy spirit that was able to dictate the essentials of the Book through his handwriting, if indeed this was his handwriting. But whatever we may think about this, we now have the Jerusalem Statement which revives that historically specific document, the Thirty-nine Articles, which is a very prescriptive whole document and which John Henry Newman was able to affirm by standing it on its head.
It is this ability to affirm one thing and actually believe another, as demonstrated in the Advent Letter of 2007, that advances our ecclesiastical position when it comes to isolating minorities for the purposes of Anglican institutional advancement, and I am grateful that the writer of that epistle, our magnificent Archbishop, Roald See O'Vee, in his recent lecture, used extensively the image of Jesus as the man in the guard's van and Peter as the train driver. We had extensive insight there about staying on the right rails and signalmen and signalwomen (because we have both sexes in the threefold ministry) taking their lever-pulling cues from the management and moving the points accordingly. However, I do want to suggest - whilst not thinking this is the battle of the theologians - that the motorway is the better analogy for considering the current Anglican car crash.
Let's be clear. The Episcopal Church is its own vehicle make, like from a car giant going bust, and decided on the freedom of the road. The signposts are clear, and there are no signalmen or signalwomen to tell them to go this way not that. It is down to the driver alone to obey the signs.
NR: The warning signs are all there... Romans, Corinthians...
Dr. PJ: Indeed they are. Thank you for that. Now I don't know if you know about motorways in Britain, but we have compulsory signs in red and we have advisory signs in white. And what colour is the Anglican Communion choosing to deploy? White, if that! No wonder vehicles ignore such warning signs. These signs are clear in display and should be followed in their plain and canonical meaning, according to the Highway Code, and this is our model for the primacy of scripture understood literally but without those throwaway notions such as literally and inerrantly and supernatural, though we affirm all of these.
Referring to sociolinguistics, I think I want to offer the point here that railway signals aren't actually signals, but only pass on information where points are against and that you can move on. That's like the objective world of literalism, which of course we reject while we affirm it. Whereas there is a more dynamic relationship from the overhead motorway signs, especially those that stick out from the side rather like railway signals, which is more like the Yale School theology regulative principle of who we are by how we perform our foundational documents. And just as these signals are word-conveying, unlike railway ones of a simple rocking arm and colour choice, so our foundational documents remind us of Highland poetry in the west and north of Scotland where they spoke and in some cases still speak Gaelic.
And now there is every possibility that the Jerusalem Declaration along with a new Covenant can become foundational documents, which we as Anglican believers are going to perform. The reader of these documents, like Pharaoh’s daughter, picks them from the reeds and hears their cry. If we will not read these seriously, we shall miss the instruction of former times, prisoned in the village parochialism of our little moment in civilisation rather than the big sweep of Anglicanism since the point that Henry couldn't get his rocks off with papal permission.
And let's hear it for the author, because the reader and author are not equivalent. The paramedic is not some 'let's interpret it this way' this time person, as if a Star Trek vehicle is going to come along and beam up the victims and bingo they're healed, but has due respect for authorial intention and a devotion for Jesus Christ over that of Captain James T. Kirk, following our own ecclesiastical founder T. J. Hooker. No, it is a public reading of his rules and thus the nuclear core of what he does thanks to Paul. And so it should be for us, having learnt and disseminated. And thus, in our revelatory freedom, if we see a gay bishop in the mangled car, we let the bugger rot in there because of ancient hatreds and taboos of things that make us go all woosy and icky, and the same for blessing people who ought not to be celebrated, sorry celibate or is that celery.
Canon PCMB: There does seem to be something going on in the other room. Can you hurry up? There's no point coming all this way if we are going to miss the action.
Dr. PJ: Well I've finished.
Canon PCMB: Right everyone, scarper to the next room! The toilets are over there!
Dr. Narrow Godguard: I must protest. I think it is a great shame that we cannot continue this discussion here. My friend, Naidoowell, next to me, and I agree we should keep together, and are trying to narrow down these issues even further. I mean, since the schism I had with that other Godguard bloke, I have continued to produce some very biblical material that could be dialogued now with Pickwick Juniper here, a fine opportunity lost... Oh come on, Naidoowell.
Canon HC: I see we are being joined by the people from Evastick. You missed the vote!
Canon PCMB: Bugger. Have we missed much?
Bishop Pattercake-Baker (PB): Well subsequent to not allowing any old Tom, Dick or Harry sign this thing, which would have been a way for the biblical literalists and GAFCON to worm their way into the destruction and reformation of the Communion their way, we are not going to accept the current draft as it is and send it to the Churches without altering all that stuff about disciplining, which is unacceptable, though it was a close vote 33 to 30. So we just about managed to stuff the evangelicals and wreckers.
So the resolution now reads:
1. Thanks be to the Covenant Design Group for their effort so far and sorry that they've got to do a bit more or someone has to as it is still not quite good enough, and can you make the document even less like it was intended?
2. recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may but actually may not provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion because really no one has a clue any more;
3. asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to pull his finger out for once and appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the provinces but be quick about it on Section 4 and its possible revision or otherwise, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee, so that's about half a year more of tinkering;
4. then we can leave it to them by asking the JSC, at that meeting, to approve a final form of Section 4 if it survives;
5. and then only member Churches of the ACC can sign up to or not sign up to the Anglican Communion Covenant as they see fit, though outside Churches can only not sign up to it, so the Secretary General must limit the number of envelopes he licks and where they go;
6. asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 somewhere in the distant future, probably 2012, on the progress made in Churches signing or not signing and whether we should put the thing in the bin.
Bishop GN: Can I just say, as someone completely non-aligned and would not attend either GAFCON or Lambeth, that that is the most pathetic thing I have ever heard. If anything has been kicked into the long grass that is it. The bloody thing is as effective as a wobbly jelly, and it's being kicked about even more. None of this Communion Conservative or Federal or anything else has any meaning any more. In the end, it comes down to asking whether we are a fellowship of believers or a Catholic Communion and the days when we had both are over. It is a matter of when but I remain completely non-aligned.
Canon HC: Look, the thing may not matter a jot. Whether you are signed up to it or not up signed to it has no effect whether you are in or out of the Communion, with no impact on autonomy, or anything else, but the members here on a divided vote felt, even then, that any sniff, any homeopathic whiff of impact this document might have had has to be removed. So we can all come back next time, totally weary and fucked up, still playing with this thing.
Archbishop Roald See O'Vee (RSV): I am sorry that Bishop Narrowboat was unable to feel the warmth of the Lambeth Conference last year, which could be the last ever Lambeth like it. Now I would like to make some closing comments to this probably not landmark meeting. It is a landmark meeting in that the Covenant document seems to be limping towards its death, but also not a landmark meeting in that I will ask...
Reverend Doctor Art Tickle Righter (ATR): Oh God, do I have to? I thought I'd managed to slip stuff past everyone, and now you've closed the loopholes I can't see the point. And I mean - yes, he's nodding - Diesel Addams is sick of it. He said, 'Get this thing to the Churches or this Communion is breaking up,' and what are you all doing? Jelly wobbling into the long grass. By the way, can I just say to some critics, that rumours I am related to Fred Flintstone are utterly unfounded, and if they go on I will grow my beard again.
Archbishop RSV: Well I wish once again to suggest the value of patience but how long is a piece of string? Already the listening process is to go on pretty much forever without resolution. However, at a time when my local Church may ordain women bishops and become more like The Episcopal Church - by the way, where is Canon Emmerdale, or Archbishop Henley Ugandaman, or Dr. Stephen Niall N. Coffin? They all seem to have gone and I wonder why - we face a pincer movement of irreconcilables. Now my very good friend Pope Benedict said one to one that I was to present to him a worldwide Anglican Church he could do business with, or he would start to pick it apart from the Catholic end, and frankly I wanted to create something he could recognise from having stronger instruments of Communion but this now looks unlikely and I wonder whether you should rather have been Methodists and me a Roman Catholic. But I now declare this meeting closed, so go away; and where is that AffCaff I was drinking before I took this job and supped with people of opinions once upon a time I agreed with but now I sup with those then I could not stomach?
Canon PCMB: I recommend it, Archbishop: it has done me the power of good. AffCaff promotes a career stimulant like no other drink.
Archbishop RSV: I think you could go far; I value loyalty. Not the sort of person I have to ask to stand down. I value that sort of thing. Good to have met you at last.