John Richardson at The Ugley Vicar rightly draws attention to the latest round of reasons to say No to the Covenant from the No Covenant coalition blog Comprehensive Unity. 'Rightly' because these ten reasons are not very good reasons. Here I attend to one which I find particularly odd: unevidenced, and highly ironic.
It is no. 2 on the list: "Under the Covenant, churches will be inhibited from undertaking new evangelical or mission initiatives for fear of offending other Communion churches and becoming embroiled in the disciplinary mechanisms set up by the Covenant."
Interestingly this reason, unlike the other nine, has no additional unemboldened comment.
Perhaps this reason needs no further comment; or, perhaps this reason is so vacuous, no additional comment can be given!
Nevertheless this reason for saying 'No' is worth examining: on the face of it, if this reason is based on truth about the Covenant, then the Covenant is truly a terrible thing.
There is, in fact, no evidence for this reason for saying 'No' to the Covenant. Further, it is highly ironic: 'disciplinary mechanisms' speaks of a Communion with rules. But every member church of the Communion has rules. Every member church gets on with mission and evangelism within the framework of these rules. Are the No Covenanters saying, or trying to say that rules in a church or Communion necessarily inhibit mission? This is a very odd position to take for an Anglican group. If member churches having rules does not impede mission, why should a Communion having rules impede mission?
In any case, this reason skips a step in Covenant thinking! The Covenant is not concerned with fear of giving offence, but with common accord as member churches of one Communion. The only fear a member church need have in respect of the Covenant is the fear of stepping out of common accord, for instance on the meaning of mission, or understanding of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To step out of common accord could be to risk a member church asking a question as to whether this step is consistent with shared Anglican understanding of mission and gospel. Actually, there is nothing to fear here, because we would want to be in common accord with one another in a Communion, wouldn't we?
You can see the response coming a mile off: but, but, but, Anglican diversity and all that, we might not be in common accord as we do our thing and they do their thing; we have the Spirit, they have the Spirit, the Spirit can lead in two different directions at once, but that blasted Covenant will set up a perilous situation where diversity will become uniformity, and the Spirit will not be monotoned down to a shadow of its former rainbow self ...
In other words, the real reason for saying 'No' to the Covenant is that we do not agree that Anglicans should be accountable to one another for assertions as to what Anglican mission means because whatever our life in common means, it does not mean accountability for our common life.
As often asked by me on this blog, do we want to be a Communion with things in common or a Something in which diversity knows no bounds?
Those wishing for the former should welcome the Covenant as yet another bond. Those wishing for the latter should be saying 'No' to Communion fullstop.