“So neither Ireland nor South-East Asia decided to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant – but neither felt able to just say no. Ireland voted to ‘subscribe’ to it, South-East Asia to ‘accede’ to it. As both provinces know, these are meaningless expressions; the Covenant will only come into force if the provinces sign on the dotted line to adopt it. Why are they pussyfooting about?
There is a good reason. Provincial leaders are under immense pressure to sign the Covenant, but few of them like it. It was originally conceived as a way of threatening the USA with expulsion over gay bishops. The present text makes two changes to that aim. Firstly, instead of directly threatening to expel, it sets up an international system which could respond to complaints by expelling but could decide not to; we wouldn’t know the result until after it had been set up. So GAFCON have decided this is not discipline enough and have gone their own way, leaving the rest of us wondering who still wants it.
The second change is that the Covenant makes no mention of same-sex partnerships. It would be possible for one province to object to any initiative by another and demand a judgement from the newly empowered central authorities. Anglicanism would become a confessional sect where we were told what to believe.
So what do provinces do? If they refuse to sign, they may find themselves effectively expelled. If they do sign, they will no longer be able to run their own affairs without constantly checking whether someone in another part of the world objects. So they opt for a third alternative. There isn’t one, but they act as though there is. Whether ‘subscribe’ and ‘accede’ end up counting as ‘adopt’ will no doubt depend on which side has the cleverer political manipulators.
I am grateful to ‘Wounded Bird’ for this revelation of a letter sent to the UK Church Times (but not published by them) from the General Secretary of ‘Modern Church’, Jonathan Clatworthy, on the present status and standing of the Anglican Covenant.
In his letter, Jonathan outlines the difficulties which lie ahead for any province which might want to remain within the Communion, but which also has determined to go ahead with it’s existing initiatives towards the inclusion of the LGBT people within the life and ministry of the local Church.
The ‘unknown’ aspects of what would happen to the self-governing principles which presently drive a province’s movement towards inclusivity of gay people – if such a province were to sign up to the covenant process – will probably inhibit any liklihood of commitment to the process.
As we all know – from the Church of England’s present ambiguity towards the whole issue of accepting women and gays in the ministry of their Church – the possibility of further ‘finagling’ in the Covenant process could prohibit clarification of what ‘signing up’ to the process could involve.
Father Ron, Christchurch