General Synod Day 2 as it happens

November 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Covenant

Sorry people – slighly late start, and no sound in the coffee room, but am now cooking on gas. Got in just in time to hear ++Rowan tell us what the Covenant is not (a measure of central control), but a structure of assent – a means of being adult about our relationships.

Perhaps it’s just the people I know, but most of the stuff I hear has been v. anti – and from a wide range of sources. A friend has just made a very long journey indeed to come and vote against – it’s unchristian, unbiblical and unanglican, he said.

Many speeches and much writing have seemed to come down to this. If we are anglicans we don’t need to tie ourselves down to a written formula. OR – if we are anglicans we are bound to try to agree with each other and that means writing it down in this way. Nice speech has just happened saying that accepting the covenant is a means not of denying grace but demonstrating grace. That makes it complicated for me…I’m all into grace, after all.

Someone has just expressed the fear that the Covenant might just name our differences in such a fixed way that we might not be able to agree to differ – we need better ways of negotiating our disagreements. The Bishop of Bath and Wells is now reminding us about the differences between Covenant and Contract – I guess those who want to vote against are doing so because they think it’s a contract. He says the key question is “how much do our relationships matter, and will the Covenant help hor hinder them?”. With reservations he’s for it – he reckons it will help the process.

Jackie Humphries, a lawyer, points out the paragraph in the Covenant (4.2.4) which enables the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to ‘determine a view’ – and therefore to stand in judgment over individual provinces. She’s a sceptic.

The feeling emerging for me is that there is enough detail in the Covenant to enable the wrong kind of centralisation, and that will be an unintended consequence of a laudable aim to encourage us to be a Communion which respects difference but does not enable one part to ride roughshod over another. Hmmm.

[Small illustrative diversion: was at a meal last night with some people who minister in a multi-cultural setting. People there have a ‘loose’ attitude to rotas and timekeeping. The church is in this country – how much do you allow people to turn up to do SundaySchool 20 mins late and not challenge them because it’s part of their culture? To come down hard might be counter-productive…I think that’s the Covenant discussion in miniature]

Elizabeth Paver, who is on the Standing Committee, says that it is so representative that it can do its discussions on behalf of the whole Communion. I guess that’s true, but one of the points of making a Covenant is to say that we can’t rely on goodwill alone. And any structure which defines stuff will allow that body to make judgements. The question is whether we want it to…She says that to vote against the Covenant is to vote againts inclusion. The Anglican Communion needs the Covenant. Warm applause.

John Saxbee has just said that the Anglican Communion doesn’t need a Covenant because it is a covenant. If there is grace around, you don’t need a covenant. If there is no grace around then a Covenant will be unavailing. He believes the Covenant to be simple, straightforward, and probably wrong. But our motion is to continue the process of discussion, and it may be that we have to continue that discussion without ever reaching a conclusion, because in that way we will be in Communion. V. warm applause for his final Synod speech.

Interesting dilemma now – you can vote for the Covenant today and still believe it’s inappropriate. Hmmmm indeed.

The Bishop of Blackburn has just said that the Four Instruments of Communion are not enough – they are purely consultative. The Covenant is an agenda for relationships, not a means of control. We must vote for it.

Sally Muggeridge – used to work for a major international organisation. Their key question was: “will the whole be greater than the sum of the parts?” The Communion is “untidy but loveable”. She is worried about the phrase in 4.2 about “relational consequences”. Think again.

Mark Russell (Church Army and Archbishops’ Council) says the Archbishop of Canterbury has “the most impossible job in the history of the world”. Unusually ++Rowan has asked us for support, and in this regard we should give it. We need to trust our leaders. He was involved in making the Good Friday Agreement – a document he hates but which was vital for taking the next steps. But (I ask): is the Covenant as necessary as all that?
Warm applause for him.

Bishop of Gloucester says he will vote for, but with reluctance. To vote against makes ABC’s job more difficult. To carry on discussion will enable a better solution. But the Covenant as it stands could be used in a punitive way. The Continuing Indaba process might just be the way forward, even perhaps a better one. To vote for the motion will be a better way of continuing our discussions. I’m becoming persuaded by that line…

Now then: Mary Johnston (London) wants to adjourn the debate until July 2011. We are discussing important stuff very early in the life of the new Synod. We need more time. Bishop of Bristol is unwilling to delay – this enables us to discuss in the Dioceses, and teh texts have been around for ages. He wants us to send a strong message, not a lukewarm one. ++Sentamu agrees – let’s get on. Simon Butler notes that all the Bishops who have spoken from the floor have expressed reservations…do we not time to think?? Motion for adjournment lost.

We are about to vote on the main motion…need to go downstairs to vote.

We have agreed to vote by houses.

First number is for.
Bishops 39 – 0 (1 abs)
Clergy 145 – 32 (11 abs)
Laity 147 – 25 (8 abs)

Carried in all three houses.
Now on to amendments of following material. They ask us to leave out bits when we send it to the Dioceses, or to reword the punitive bits. 1st amendment lost. So was the 2nd. The Covenant will be discussed by Dioceses.

Now on to an attempt to delay the Diocesan Synod motion – DS’s already have Women Bishops to do and need time to resource their discussions. I can see the point, but reckon it might give us something meaty to do!!

+Bristol says let’s get on with it, and Dioceses have been warned.
Arguments saying we need more time always fail in Synod….
and it has.

And that was it really. Some tweaky legislative stuff, and a warm farewell to the Bishop of Lincoln. Roll on February.

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