I spent Tuesday and Wednesday watching the General Synod debate in London from the Public Gallery, the main item on the agenda was whether we were going to send the Anglican Covenant to the dioceses for them to consider or not. If the Dioceses approve the Covenant then it will come back to the General Synod for a final vote to make it legislation. These are my reflections on the two days.
The Presidential Address from ++Rowan focussed heavily on loyalty. Those who opposed the Covenant were seen as disloyal to each other, to other countries, to the quest for unity, and by implication to ++Rowan. It became apparent over the two days that whether you liked the Covenant or not, a vote against it would be a vote of no confidence in Rowan. Ironically, during the debate GAFCON said they won't sign, so there will be at least eight Provinces in the second tier.
Giles Fraser, President of Inclusive Church seemed less than impressed, saying, "All the archbishop's hard work in getting it through and using up one of his lives, seems rather pointless."2. Continuing the 'Discussion'.
Archbishop John Sentamu said that General Synod had voted for the Covenant four times already, so why not vote for it a fifth time. This surprised me because my understanding was that all the other times they were just voting to continue the discussion of the Covenant. ++John then went onto say that this vote wasn't about agreeing to the Covenant, it was merely to continue the discussion in the Dioceses. The problem is that the Dioceses do have a tendency to think that General Synod pass things down to be rubber stamped and we will need to work very hard to achieve good debates in the Dioceses. If it is passed by the Dioceses then I hope when it comes back to General Synod that ++John won't say that General Synod had now agreed to the Covenant five times already!
3. Depression and Joylessness
One speech reminded us that when people Covenant it should be a celebration. There was no joy in the hall, just much anxiety. The good people of General Synod were signing up to a document that would create a two-tier communion, this had the feeling of divorce rather than marriage, and the seriousness and sadness associated with that.
4. Odd thinking
People were told by ++Rowan that they shouldn't come with their minds made up but one wondered whether that meant Rowan had came to the debate without his mind made up? Campaigning and leafleting was heavily criticised and seen as the worst sort of secular politics. I'm not sure that secular or politics are necessarily bad, in this case they gave information which informed the debate. Also, ++Rowan's speeches reminded me of secular politics - it reminded me of Margaret Thatcher's TINA (There Is No Alternative) and Tony Blair's speech telling us we had to go into Iraq.
5. Good debate
Most of the concerns that we have written about here were aired during the debate. It is fair to say that there were more voices of concern than voices in support of the Covenant. Someone tweeted that my blog was being quoted, and it did sometimes feel like that. I was amazed that the Bishops in general seemed concerned too. However, as ++Rowan had made it clear that it was a loyalty test, no Bishop voted against him.
I hope that as we take the debate to the Dioceses we will have a chance to consider what a church looks like when it is based on the radical and recklessly generous love and inclusiveness of Jesus Christ. We can ask the question of whether the Anglican Covenant takes us closer to this or further away, ask ourselves whether we are signing up to the Covenant because of love or fear.
Labels: General Synod