Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reflections on General Synod

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.

1. Loyalty.
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.



Blogger Alan T Perry said...

Thanks, Lesley, for giving us the chance to be a virtual fly on the walls of General Synod.

I especially appreciate your final sentence. That is the key question.

November 25, 2010 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Lionel Deimel said...

Thanks, Lesley, for your reflections.

Personally, I would love to cast a no-confidence vote against Rowan.

November 25, 2010 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger June Butler said...

Lesley, thank you for your hard work - to the point of making yourself physically ill. I pray you're feeling better today.

In all of the covenant madness, I think of the cliché WWJD. Jesus would not have his disciples arranged in two tiers, or three tiers, or those beyond the pale. What is the Body of Christ? How does the covenant serve to build up the Body? As someone else said, if the covenant doesn't build up the Body, it is worse than useless.

November 25, 2010 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Thanks for the eyewitness report. No wonder there is no joy - it is the the last gasp and end stages of a dying era. Passing or not passing the covenant - the world has moved on to a new way of relating -- there is no stopping it. You can even see it in this news release from an African group of Anglicans.

November 25, 2010 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You gave us a word-picture of the tone and tenor of GS - not an easy thing to do. Thank you.

I think the most pathetic thing of the whole of GS, which should not have caused us surprise when we consider the outcome, was Rowan's speech. How insecure a leader could we possibly have? It's all about him??? I think not. He's so going to regret this, when he looks back on it in his dotage. Even someone in their dotage can spot this for what it is a mile away.

We're on to a new day, thanks to the foundation which you've helped to build.

November 25, 2010 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger JimB said...

I am with Lionel, where do I sign up to cast my no confidence vote?

The archbishops won the vote yesterday, they lost the campaign. The release of the GafCon statement which was clearly timed to be a slap in their faces, and their utter inability to marshal a positive element will be apparent to the English diocese and the other churches.

In spite of your inspired leadership we lost a vote yesterday. It is not given to any of us to command every result. But in the long run, there will not be a covenant and there will be a communion. Thank you so very much


November 25, 2010 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger SUSAN RUSSELL said...

I've got company coming, pies in the oven and a TINY bit of time to reflect on all this today but Lesley ... YOU ROCK!!

And the small bit of irony I'm mulling at the moment is however this foolishness all shakes out, at the end of the day we may well end up with a "second tier" made of precisely the constituents who LEAST want to be in the same ANYTHING together ... the GAFCON folks and US!

Go figure!

November 25, 2010 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

Thanks all! Yeah - it makes no sense AT ALL now the GafCon lot have exited.

Do you think that if I asked ++Rowan nicely to have a meeting with me I could ask him to stop what he has started with the Covenant and let it all calm down for a while. No one is now threatening to leave are they? We could get stuck with legislation that hurts our sense of being one body and for no reason at all.

November 25, 2010 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

Lesley my dear, you may be "just a fourth year curate," but you spoke more sense than the entire House of Bishops. The Guardian asks who will take Colin Slee's place as the standard bearer of the progressive cause, and I look to see that you have already taken up the standard to good effect.

November 25, 2010 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

LOL :) John Saxbee was pretty cool in the House of Bishops

November 25, 2010 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger Lionel Deimel said...


Yes, that irony struck me, too. Of course, we will have no ability to punish one another.

November 25, 2010 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Maybe we can have tea and biscuits

November 26, 2010 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

Or cappuchino

November 26, 2010 at 1:39 AM  

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