Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Blog

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Analysis of the Provincial Votes By Jonathan Clatworthy

From Jonathan Clatworthy, who is both a member of Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Coalition and General Secretary of Modern Church, we have received this analysis of recent actions by provinces.


So neither Ireland nor South-East Asia decided to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant – but neither felt able to just say no. Ireland voted to ‘subscribe’ to it, South-East Asia to ‘accede’ to it. As both provinces know, these are meaningless expressions; the Covenant will only come into force if the provinces sign on the dotted line to adopt it. Why are they pussyfooting about?

There is a good reason. Provincial leaders are under immense pressure to sign the Covenant, but few of them like it. It was originally conceived as a way of threatening the USA with expulsion over gay bishops. The present text makes two changes to that aim. Firstly, instead of directly threatening to expel, it sets up an international system which could respond to complaints by expelling but could decide not to; we wouldn’t know the result until after it had been set up. So GAFCON have decided this is not discipline enough and have gone their own way, leaving the rest of us wondering who still wants it.

The second change is that the Covenant makes no mention of same-sex partnerships. It would be possible for one province to object to any initiative by another and demand a judgement from the newly empowered central authorities. Anglicanism would become a confessional sect where we were told what to believe.

So what do provinces do? If they refuse to sign, they may find themselves effectively expelled. If they do sign, they will no longer be able to run their own affairs without constantly checking whether someone in another part of the world objects. So they opt for a third alternative. There isn’t one, but they act as though there is. Whether ‘subscribe’ and ‘accede’ end up counting as ‘adopt’ will no doubt depend on which side has the cleverer political manipulators.

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Blogger Lionel Deimel said...

My guess is that both churches think they have adopted the Covenant. No doubt, the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks the same. I don’t know about other churches, but I am sure that the understanding of South East Asia will not elicit much sympathy.

Ireland’s action is likely to be more effective, as that church declared how it will interpret the Covenant.

South East Asia, on the other hand, is trying to tell others how the Covenant should be understood. It cannot impose its idiosyncratic view on other churches, however.

May 29, 2011 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger JimB said...

The public comments from Irish leadership emphasize the church's continued autocephalous standing and authority. While I think you are correct -- they think they have adopted it -- it is clear they also think they can and have limited its effect.

It is for instance hard to read what the Irish said and did and then imagine them accepting guidance from the GafCon primates on how to choose bishops.


May 30, 2011 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Alan T Perry said...

It seems to me that South-East Asia thinks it has adopted the Covenant and in so doing has issued an interprative framework for it which amounts to a de facto amendment.

But The Church of Ireland, according to the reports of its debate, has very clearly distinguished between adopting the Covenant and susbscribing to it. Whatever the latter means, it cannot mean the former.

June 1, 2011 at 1:29 AM  

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