If you had asked me last week which diocesan synods in our church in these islands were most likely to approve resolutions against the Covenant and for the blessing of same sex relationships and/or ordinations of partnered gay or lesbian ministers, then I would have said that Waiapu and Auckland would be high on the list, along with Dunedin.
So it has come to pass at the Auckland and Waiapu synods that predictable motions have become resolutions of these dioceses, as you can read in Taonga here, here and here (with a general Covenant round up here).
Is the writing on the wall concerning the Covenant and our church? With two (of five) hui amorangi of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa and two (of seven) dioceses of the NZ Dioceses voting against the Covenant, even if all other episcopal units vote for the Covenant, we are a church divided on the Covenant at a synodical level (i.e. not just at the level of bloggers and commenters exchanging opinions). Since the Covenant is a document expressing the catholic longings of global Anglicanism to be coherent in theology, consistent in praxis and united in fellowship it is a-catholic of our church to think that a divided General Synod can sign the Covenant. If we are not united about the Covenant then we should refrain from signing.*
It seems that the substance of the anti-Covenanters' theology is protestant in the sense of exercising the right to protest against an attempt to develop the substantive catholicism of our church as a body with coherent doctrine measured against the doctrine of global Anglicanism. In terms of style, ironically, many of those voting against the Covenant will have been catholic (or should that be 'catholic') - our church is an odd beast these days, trending in some places towards greater catholic style in liturgical worship which often obscures an increasing liberalism in theology.
Our church is a confused church in many ways, but most importantly I raise the question whether we are confused about the nature of the church. As simply as I can put it the confusion concerns the church as the body of Christ, a unified body with diverse members. In our church we often seem to wish to preserve diversity at any cost and look suspiciously on all attempts to enhance our unity. This is a deeply unbiblical theology (cf. Ephesians 1). I wonder if the Auckland and Waiapu synods reflected on the implications of their protestantism? Were chasubles left hanging in the vestries as an expression of renewed protestant fervour?
*Astute readers may wish to ask whether I think it worth my own local diocese, Christchurch, pursuing its discussion of the Covenant in its next Synod in March 2012. I think it is worth pursuing on the following grounds:
(1) The Covenant is a great idea and Christchurch Anglicans should not be deprived of the opportunity to say so.
(2) It is early days yet for seeing where the global trend of reception or rejection of the Covenant is heading. Suppose by our General Synod in July 2012 we learned that 30+ churches in the Communion were accepting the Covenant, we might go into that GS wondering whether the GS decision itself ought to reflect diocesan and hui amorangi resolutions against the Covenant or those for the Covenant. Representatives of the anti-Covenant episcopal units are not bound to vote one way or another at GS. The members of GS must vote in the interests of the whole church, viewing the Covenant from a different vantage point to episcopal units. On this matter they may need to consider whether going against a tide of catholicism sweeping the Communion is in the interests of our church.
Support for the Covenant by the Diocese of Christchurch (possibly Nelson, Wellington, Waikato and Taranaki, and Polynesia too) would be a sign to our GS that our whole church voting for the Covenant had some support at the level of episcopal units.
Of course by July 2012 it might be crystal clear that a tide of protestantism is sweeping the Communion ...