Yesterday, I challenged the leaders of the Yes to the Covenant group to:
join us in calling on the remaining 27 diocesan bishops to ensure that balanced material is provided to their synods and that appropriate speakers are invited to present both sides of the question when their synods meet.
As a courtesy, I sent an email through the group’s contact page to advise them of the published challenge. I went so far as to offer, should they take up our challenge, to coordinate a joint news release calling on the bishops of the 27 dioceses remaining to ensure a full and fair debate.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I should expect any response at all. Fortunately, they proved too mature for that sort of gameplaying, and there ensued a polite exchange of emails with the group’s founder, Miss Prudence Dailey. Miss Dailey has acknowledged by her final email that she had expected I would report on our correspondence. Rather than try to put words in her mouth, I will let her speak for herself. (I’ve edited out the polite pleasantries.)
The ‘Yes to the Covenant’ campaign was set up when we became aware that there was a good deal of anti-Covenant activism taking place, and no pro-Covenant activism; in that context we wanted to balance the debate. Beyond that, it is for each Diocese to decide for itself how to organise its deliberations.
Fair enough. But to avoid any confusion, I wrote back asking for clarification.
Given your suggestion that the debate has been unbalanced to date against the Covenant, I´m wondering if you could point to any example of diocesan synod delegates being denied pro-Covenant material, or where anti-Covenant speakers were given disproportional opportunity to sway the debate. Certainly I´m not aware of a single case like that.
I am aware of at least five cases where only pro-Covenant material was distributed and where only pro-Covenant speakers were designated to introduce the debate. I am not aware of a single diocese where the case for the Covenant has been disadvantaged.
Our position on this matter is clear. We want a full and fair debate where all sides of the question are set before synod members. Should you have evidence of a case where the pro-Covenant position was in any way disadvantaged, I can assure you that the No Anglican Covenant Coalition is more than ready to call for balance.
To which she responded:
Our initiative had the objective of offering an alternative perspective to anti-Covenant propaganda which seemed to be doing the rounds in public space. I really do not know in detail how the 44 dioceses are organising themselves and am taking the view that it is for church people in the dioceses to take up whatever local organisational issues may concern them.
Now, I agree with Miss Dailey’s words that members of diocesan synods need to make an informed decision about the Anglican Covenant. And I certainly agree that the debate to date has often failed synod delegates in this regard.
However any suggestion that the imbalance of the debate has been due to the small band of anti-Covenant campaigners is, frankly, dishonest. Neither Miss Dailey nor anyone else can point to a single diocesan synod where pro-Covenant material has not been provided or where pro-Covenant speakers have been put at a disadvantage.
By contrast, there have been several diocesan synods where members were not provided with anything but pro-Covenant propaganda. There have likewise been several synods where the debate was set up with a lengthy speech by an ardent Covenant supporter with no corresponding presentation by a Covenant critic.
It rather appears that Miss Dailey and her astroturf movement are quite happy to have a debate where only their side is presented. Their idea of fairness and balance could have been dictated by Rupert Murdoch, their idea of informed decision making by Karl Rove.
The reason, of course, is obvious. Every single time that delegates have been provided with balanced information, the Covenant has gone down to defeat.
The only hope for the Anglican Covenant in the Church of England is for members of at least 16 diocesan synods to be stampeded into a hasty decision with limited information, hand picked by its advocates.
The No Anglican Covenant Coalition will continue to press for a fair and balanced discussion of this issue in the remaining 27 diocesan synods. Should the matter return to General Synod, we will continue the struggle there. Over the next few years, as other provinces of the Communion consider the matter, we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that all sides are heard before decisions are taken.