The following all originated on Pluralistspeaks weblog in April/ May 2012

Covenant and the future of the Church of England

The final tally was 18 for and 26 against. The province of York had a majority for but was well outnumbered by the majority against in the province of Canterbury.

The bishops were out of touch, with 6 dioceses against only: Bishops against: Liverpool, Bath and Wells, Derby, Salisbury failed to approve, Lincoln, Manchester.

18 for

Lichfield: Bishops: 4 for, 0 against; Clergy 39 for, 11 against, 1 abstention; Laity 57 for, 9 against, 1 abstention.

Durham: covenant approved

Europe: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy 21 for, 1 against; 2 abstentions; Laity 20 for, 3 against.

Bristol: Bishops 2 for, 0 against; Clergy 14 for, 9 against, 1 abstention; Laity 17 for, 3 against, 3 abstentions.

Chester: Bishops: 3 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; Clergy: 22 for, 14 against, 5 abstentions; Laity: 26 for, 23 against, 5 abstentions.

Norwich: Bishops: 3 for, 0 against; Clergy: 26 for, 10 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 19 for, 15 against, 1 abstention.

Carlisle: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 19 for, 13 against, 2 abstentions; Laity: 33 for, 17 against.

Coventry: Bishops 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 22 for, 7 against; Laity: 26 for, 2 against.

Bradford: Bishop: 1 for, 0 against; Clergy: 15 for, 9 against, 2 abstentions; Laity: 16 for, 15 against, 3 abstentions.

Canterbury: Bishops: 1 for, 0 against; Clergy: 26 for, 14 against; Laity: 39 for, 13 against.

Sheffield: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 16 for, 6 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 31 for, 9 against.

Winchester: Bishops: 3 for, 0 against; Clergy: 22 for, 11 against, 4 abstentions; Laity: 38 for, 10 against, 2 abstentions.

Blackburn: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; Clergy: 40 for, 7 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 33 for, 16 against, 1 abstention.

Peterborough: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 22 for, 19 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 28 for, 13 against, 7 abstentions.

Exeter: Bishops: For: 3, Against: 0; Clergy: For: 28, Against: 8, Abstained: 1; Laity: For: 30, Against: 20, Abstained: 2.

Southwell and Nottingham: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy 15 for, 5 against; Laity: 31 for, 6 against, 1 abstention.

Chichester: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 29 for, 9 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 39 for, 25 against, 1 abstention.

York: Bishops: 4 for, 0 against; Clergy: 26 for, 5 against; Laity: 38 for, 5 against,  1 abstention.

26 against

Birmingham: covenant defeated

St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich: Bishops 2 for, 0 against; Clergy 9 for, 29 against, 4 abstentions; Laity 8 for, 33 against, 9 abstentions

Truro: defeated by over a two thirds majority in both Clergy and Laity

Wakefield: Bishops 2 for, 0 against; Clergy 16 for, 17 against, 1 abstention; Laity 10 for, 23 against

Ely: Bishops: 1 for, 0 against, 1 abstention; Clergy: 16 for, 23 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 19 for, 19 against

Liverpool: Bishops: 0 for, 2 against; Clergy: 10 for, 26 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 8 for, 28 against, 5 abstentions

St Albans: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 21 for, 31 against; Laity: 17 for, 44 against

Ripon & Leeds: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 12 for, 22 against; Laity: 8 for, 17 against

Southwark: Bishops: 1 for, 0 against, 1 abstention; Clergy: 10 for, 27 against, 2 abstentions; Laity 21 for, 32 against

Worcester: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 5 for, 19 against; Laity: 6 for, 22 against

Bath & Wells: Bishops: 0 for, 1 against, 1 abstention; Clergy: 17 for, 22 against; Laity: 18 for, 23 against, 4 abstentions

Chelmsford: Bishops: 2 for, 1 against, 1 abstention; Clergy: 27 for, 29 against, 7 abstentions; Laity: 31 for, 30 against, 3 abstentions

Hereford: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 15 for, 15 against, 1 abstention; Laity 21 for, 23 against, 1 abstention

Derby: Bishops: 0 for, 1 against; Clergy: 1 for, 21 against, 2 abstentions; Laity: 2 for, 24 against, 2 abstentions

Gloucester: Bishops 1 for, 0 against, 1 abstention; Clergy: 16 for, 28 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 14 for, 28 against, 6 abstentions.

Leicester: Bishops: 2 for 0 against; Clergy: 15 for, 21 against, 3 abstentions; Laity: 21 for, 14 against, 4 abstentions.

Salisbury: Bishops: 1 for, 1 against; Clergy: 11 for, 20 against, 2 abstentions; Laity: 19 for, 27 against.

Portsmouth: Bishop: 1 for, 0 against; Clergy: 12 for, 17 against; Laity: 13 for, 17 against, 2 abstentions.

Rochester: Bishop: 1 for, 0 against; Clergy: 8 for, 30 against, 3 abstentions; Laity: 14 for, 26 against, 7 abstentions.

Sodor and Man: Bishops: 1 for, 0 against; Clergy: 5 for, 12 against; Laity     21 for, 15 against, 1 abstention.

Guildford: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 14 for, 22 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 23 for, 18 against, 2 abstentions.

Lincoln: Bishops: 0 for, 3 against; Clergy: 6 for, 28 against; 3 abstentions;     Laity: 2 for, 34 against, 2 abstentions.

Oxford: Bishops: 3 for, 1 against; Clergy: 14 or 15 for, 36 or 38 against, 2 abstentions; Laity: 32 or 35 for, 24 or 29 against, 3 abstentions.

London: Bishops: 2 for,1 against; Clergy: 17 for, 32 against, 1 abstention; Laity: 26 for, 33 against, 2 abstentions.

Manchester: Bishops: 1 for, 2 against; Clergy: 15 for, 25 against; Laity: 12 for, 23 against, 7 abstentions.

Newcastle: Bishops: 2 for, 0 against; Clergy: 8 for, 18 against; Laity: 14 for, 15 against.

In terms of the Anglican Communion, the balkanisation that was taking place will now obviously continue. There will be those Anglicans who do use the Covenant, which will be like a declaration to each other of being relatively conservative. There will be those Anglicans of the Jerusalem Declaration (who may and may not also Covenant - see below why probably not) who are producing a strongly doctrinal Protestant version of Anglicanism. Then there will be those leaving open a more flexible future outside any Covenant.

Whatever happens, Anglicans of the confessional and doctrinal type are going to be competitive. I can't see the Covenant as a process being sufficient for them, but then they have additional statements. The real issue for them is how they try on international oversight via their own Primates' Council and attempt to compete using fellowship structures. Churches 'taken on' by them will have to force the GAFCON/ FCA into independence, possibly then forming an Anglican Church of Northern Europe (or similar title) to parallel ACNA (or have one ACN).

The fact is that if an Anglican congregation decides to ignore the diocesan bishop and seek fellowship structures and international oversight instead, the congregation will lose its church building and the parish restored. Those seeking other oversight will have to leave and be self-sufficient, and this is the means by which 'entryism' if practised becomes separation. There aren't the property issues as in North America but there are issues of dioceses and structures.

The Church of England will have competition within from outside as one faction but it will also have those who dream of Covenanting. These hopefuls (of reintroducing legislation) will include diocesan bishops who can behave as if they are Covenanting. They might even declare themselves 'Windsor Compliant bishops', but some would do so knowing they didn't carry their own dioceses with them. But dioceses cannot join the Covenant, and it was invasive of Rowan Williams to suggest that some American bishops could escape their own province. Only by being competitive, can they: canon law is by Church, not Communion or Covenant. One could only see such an outcome of 'Windsor Compliants' popping up within the Church of England if the Conservative Evangelicals were invasive in terms of competition and nothing much was being done about them.

So Conservative Evangelicals cannot improve their position by getting ballast from other Anglicans if they wish to continue inside the Church of England. If 'international Anglicanism' is their pathway forward, then it means separation and testing their own strength.

And this is why they'd probably not want to sign a process Covenant that would impede their freedom of competitive movement.

Other and main Covenanting Churches will presumably not approve of the breaking of geographical monopolies, even against non-Covenanters. They might object to the boundary crossing/ new Church too (for northern Europe), and might seek to use the Covenant to prevent competition. But doctrinal and confessing Anglicanism is all about freedom of competitive manouvres. Why also sign a preventative Covenant if the Jerusalem Declaration is sufficient? If some do, then they may find themselves in the Covenant but then exercising autonomy as if they were not - their competition being declared incompatible with the Covenant!

There doesn't seem to be any direct effect on the Instruments of Communion as a result of the voting in the Church of England, in that the Archbishop of Canterbury can still do the gathering and organising type roles. He surely cannot be involved in dispute resolution, however, and the English provinces won't provide personnel into them directly for such resolution. It will still be represented in the Anglican Consultative Council. The real question though will be the obvious absence of authority of an Archbishop doing these things when coming from one of the non-Covenanting Churches, so it would seem more credible for someone else to be selected for these tasks. But the Anglican Communion formally is more than the Covenanting of some, and so matters like inviting to the Lambeth Conference etc. can carry on.

One can imagine a James Jones type Archbishop letting the Covenanters getting on with it via their own personnel as well as supporting those diocesan bishops facing competitive ill-discipline. This would involve a return to more broad conversations among the non-Covenanters and beyond. The one lasting legacy of Rowan Williams in terms of broad Anglicanism would be the 'Indabas' that don't make decisions.

If this all seems something of an incredible mess, then of course the whole Covenant policy should never have been launched in the first place. You cannot maintain a Communion and even Churches from schism by hammering nails in at the centre. You rather allow as much flexibility as possible.

This is why it would be better if, as a result of the Church of England vote, the whole Covenant did fail and became redundant. The bureaucrats of course will press on, and may even try and invite others to behave as if Covenanting even when they don't. Please come and discuss potential decision x as one of the Covenanting Churches doesn't like it...

Basically, there isn't a choice of paths ahead for Anglicanism, of A, B or C, but three paths ahead, A and B and C, and this balkanisation will now take effect quite quickly.

Perhaps the Irish will wish that they had not 'subscribed' to the Covenant, whatever 'subscribe' means, and the Scottish, Welsh (seem to be zigzagging), Americans, Canadians, Australians (most), Hong Kong and New Zealanders, Philippines, and some South American, will form the one flexible grouping along with the two provinces of England.

Even without the Covenant, Anglicanism was going in three directions. To that extent the Covenant itself just complicates things, rather than makes any significant structural difference. It is and was a pyramidal Weberian solution to a sacred problem of a religion prone to the shifting schisms of ecclesiastical authority.


After Williams: End the Managerialism

The death of Eric James (1 May 2012) is one of those passings that acts as something of a marker. His kind of open, critical, investigative liberality in regard to Christianity is in some crisis today within Anglicanism and could even be a lost cause now. Eric James is the chap associated with Honest to God (1962) by John Robinson and The Honest to God Debate (1963). Of St Albans, he moved in important circles but he never made it further up the greasy ecclesiastical pole after his friend Robert Runcie made his mark.
This has come about as I was considering this well praised Tom Sutcliffe article on Rowan Williams. It is a long article and indeed too long, even repetitive in places. I think there is an error at the heart of the article, and it is that Rowan Williams is liberal in theological sympathy but was trapped into a managerial all-Church solution to problems, following on from the managerialism of George Carey. The assumption is that whilst George Carey was an outside, bumbling, ineffective clot acting well above his abilities, Rowan Williams was a trapped, wasted talent who was disastrous by default not intention.
I actually think that Rowan Williams very nearly achieved what he wanted, and knew what he was doing and did it with intent. The reason is because he is not, and was not, a liberal - certainly not of the kind of Eric James. People keep making this mistake.
Rowan Williams is, I suggest, on the Catholic side of postliberal. That is, there is an ecumenical standard of Christianity that is born out through performing its narrative. This is collective first, and is not individualist in the terms that being liberal involves being individualist and exploring from the bottom up. Rowan Williams certainly deals in narrative detail - very detailed - but always in the context of the overall story that you live by and through. The truth of something is born out through its practice.
The Covenant was his tool and he was clever at promoting it. He could annoy and get past both the doctrinal and the liberal at the same time. It was consistent with his theology to have something that was process based, that favoured the whole, big picture, even when it would be discussed in the details. That was the Covenant - to first apply the brakes, second to present the problem, and then discuss the problem at length and in detail at the centre and to make a kind of ruling about where any Church was relating to the wider Communion-into-a-Church.
Williams knew perfectly well that to achieve this involved now and for the forseeable future the 'sacrificing' of the gay community. He did it with Jeffrey John, and others could do it, and the people themselves could do it. This was because it was for the greater good of the collective. He bent his biblical pronouncements towards the fundamentalist not because he believed them but because they could support the collective.
Along with this conserving postmodern theology went his ecclesiology, that of Catholicism, Western mainly but Eastern as well. That meant the purple system of hierarchy, and that across Anglicanism meant links across the purple made large gaps in the walls between Anglican Churches and their otherwise autonomy. It might only be that the purple people together discussed and learnt from each other, but they were together and there was therefore a larger Church in the making.
In Radical Orthdoxy - and Williams's position is similar - the Church is its own ethical guarantee. So if the Church discusses, then it is the proper forum for the outcome.
What scuttled Williams's grand plan was the clergy and laity of the Church of England and its divergent synodical processes. People could see what this Covenant would do in terms of freezing things, which after all is what Radical Orthodoxy and Yale Postliberalism does. They are both non-objective systems and snapshots of a kind of cultural moment. One is an imaginary Middle Ages Platonism and the other a little later terms of ecumenical agreement.
Williams can talk about male and female bishops in terms of derived and delegated roles in that the Catholic view has this given and performative basis. It comes as close to the old objectivity as possible, except that it is based instead in language. There is always wriggle room in language. But the rules as to the language were set some time ago, when people didn't think it was principally about language, symbol and communication.
It is why Rowan Williams can discuss the Qur'an or the Bhagavad Gita and do so with the intentions of those books; it comes from someone who indeed speaks many languages.
None of this is incompatible with seeking a fair debate and being something of a ringmaster - but a ringmaster when the circus has an objective, and that was the Windsor Process into a Covenant.
If it sounds like he doesn't believe all that he pronounces, it is because he does become collective within the role. For example, he rather likes Richard Dawkins and Richard Dawkins simply goes 'by the evidence'. Straight talk is efficient and direct. In one of his later books, Don Cupitt realises the importance of direct and straight talk. Of course, when Dawkins starts to say that the universe is wonderful and awesome and majestic, I want to come in with religion-words to heighten the sense of smallness, largeness, wonder, thankfulness, wishing, and let's bring in art and music to these. But Rowan Williams cannot do direct talk. He does round about talk, because he is committed in advance to the collective talk outcome of Christian performance. So he will go into detail about birth narratives as Christmas and death narratives at Easter and be quite convinced that he is talking sense and that a kind of reality is involved, even if there is not a scrap of science involved and not much in the way of history either (though he said it was to Simon Mayo, in a reply to one of those 'trap' questions). So, since his job, Rowan Williams has thought that the virgin birth matters more, but is hardly in his round about talk going to just call it poetry as suggested by Richard Dawkins - it becomes a kind of self-legitimating round about talk because it is needed.
So such a person will give a collective view -  an 'I am an Archbishop and this is what I teach' answer.
Yes, he tried to impose a managerial solution on the Church of England to solve a problem of a too broad Anglican Communion, and the good folks of the Church of England stopped him. He was stopped at the second to last hurdle - the last one being back at the General Synod itself, when it would have been driven through.
The next chap who comes along will find a bunch of GAFCON primates waiting to force a vote that the Chair of their meetings should be elected among themselves. The new person will have to be pretty quick in sitting on that one, and indeed to put something of himself over and into his various duties and let the divisions and separations go where they will. The managerialist solution as a method ought to be brought to an end.

Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful