"Thus far there is little or nothing that is not descriptive of the life we already live, and is therefore wholly uncontroversial. Section 4 turns to those moments when, being human, and therefore part of a human institution we disagree. Very often we can agree to differ, bearing in mind the contexts of our mission, but just occasionally an issue arises of such import that it threatens the fabric of the Communion. The last decade has been an object lesson in how not to deal with these, and section 4 proposes a means of enabling an exploration of differences that is Biblical, and careful. It does not lay down restrictions, nor does it impose anything. Indeed it recognises the right of autonomous provinces to carry on regardless if they so wish.The whole speech is at Fulcrum.
It does envisage a situation in which a church might be asked to delay a decision whilst it is thought through. It recognises that sadly there may be times when a church presses ahead with a change that others cannot accept, and at that point it places upon the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the ACC a requirement to spell out what the relational consequences of such a decision might be. It absolutely does not, anywhere suggest that it can prevent anything. As to the relational consequences, this is nothing new. We have seen relational consequences of unilateral action over the last ten years, and the Covenant merely seeks to bring about some order in discussion where previously there has been chaos.
Think of another Covenant relationship, that of a marriage, where neither party is in fact prevented from any action or decision, but they may hopefully choose to regard the wellbeing of the other before they proceed. If they do not there may be relational consequences varying from the dog eating dinner, to divorce. There is nothing novel in this, but a tidying of how we resolve matters. In essence we are moving to the model of Matthew 18 when we speak with one another, then before witnesses, and only then lay the matter before the church. In marriage preparation it is always my custom to exhort a couple that if they find themselves at an impasse, to seek a mediated conversation. This is healthy, and mirrors real life to us.
I have heard this is the language of pre nuptial agreements. I demur. That refers to contracts, this is a Covenant. Yes it may have moral force, but it is not legally binding. If you doubt it we have the word of the Legal Officers as well as the Archbishop to reassure us.
I have heard it argued that this will cause many unnecessary delays. Let me put it in context. The average life of a Measure’s progress through Synod is three years. In the case of a change thought by some (but not me) to be controversial like Women Bishops it has taken twenty years. The truth is that our own processes are so tortuous that any delay requested from elsewhere will easily be incorporated within the normal progress of our own proceedings. I don’t anticipate many in any case.
I have heard that it is judgemental, and punitive. That is wholly inaccurate. It provides a means of mediated conversation, and in extremis outlines the issues that may arise if, after careful conversation churches decide to walk apart. That merely defines fact existing now, when some provinces members are already excluded from representative functions because of the stance of their sponsoring church. It does however provide a rather less messy route than happens today, allowing for patient conversation and quiet diplomacy.
I have heard people call it unAnglican, which is a strange criticism indeed as it encapsulates our much loved heritage, it sets up no additional structure, but utilises present ones, and has been drawn together in many drafts by careful consultation across the globe, including a substantial contribution from our own church, and the strong endorsement of our own Archbishop."
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Good speech here, by Simon Cawdell, to the Diocese of Hereford Synod. This excerpt deals with the main criticisms directed against the Covenant: