After Inclusive Church and Modern Church published their advertisement assailing the Anglican Covenant, Bishop Gregory Cameron created quite a sensation when, in a letter to Church Times, he accused the two organizations of resorting “to the old tactics of misinformation and scaremongering.” Perhaps his most offensive remarks characterized opponents of the Covenant as “the nearest to an ecclesiastical BNP [the far-right jingoistic British National Party] that I have encountered” and “Little Englanders.” Since then, the good bishop seems to have spent much of his time trying to dig himself out of the rhetorical hole he created.
Today, Cameron, who identified himself in his now famous letter as “Secretary to the Anglican Communion Covenant Design Group 2006-09,” seems at least a little contrite. In a front page story, The Church of Ireland Gazette reports that Cameron “accepts that the comments he made … caused offence.” The Gazette includes this quote from the bishop:
I have to accept that the comparison with the BNP has offended because some people have taken this as an accusation of racism. this was not my intention, and I have never wished to make such an accusation. The Church Times advert reminded me strongly of the rhetoric of the far right in British politics because it claimed that the Covenant was all about the subjection of the Church of England to outside powers, and even suggested it imperilled freedom of speech.The Covenant’s Paragraph 4.1.3 is its self-declaration of innocence of the charge of destroying provincial autonomy. It has been repeatedly cited by Covenant proponents. Like any pleading, however, it should not be taken at face value. (See, for example, my own discussion of the matter, “If it looks like a duck…,” which has just been added to the No Anglican Covenant Resources page.)
The Covenant itself excludes such an interpretation and clearly seeks to preserve the autonomy of the Anglican Churches - see clause 4.1.3 - while seeking to find ways for the Communion to articulate where it stands as a whole.
Another apparent slur against Covenant opponents is repeated in the Gazette story, this time by Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon: “Bishop Gregory was responding to the recent advertisements that contained a number of incorrect statements. A full and engaging debate on adopting the Covenant can only be had when everyone has read it.” We have read the Covenant, Canon Kearon, which is why we are so alarmed. Like Cameron, Kearon should practice making his point without insulting his opponents’ intelligence or integrity.
In the same issue, The Church of Ireland Gazette carries an editorial about the Covenant discussion and about the prospects of the Covenant itself. The editorial ends with this paragraph:
The Covenant has already been through a considerable ‘mill’ in the Church of Ireland, with the Archbishop of Dublin having been drafted in last year by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Canon Kearon to help sort out its contentious Section 4, which includes ‘dispute resolution’. However, despite this, will the No Anglican Covenant campaign take root in Irish soil and threaten an easy passage for the Covenant when it next comes before our General Synod? It is, indeed, quite possible that the campaign will find a certain resonance within the Church of Ireland because, while there undoubtedly is a widespread concern in our ranks about the extent to which diversity of teaching in the Communion is acceptable, there is also a natural caution about centralised ecclesiastical power and just where it can lead.