Saturday, May 28, 2011


The letter below is from Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary to Modern Church in England. The missive was sent to the Church Times but was not published in the newspaper. I thought the letter deserved wider readership, and, when I asked, Jonathan gave me permission to publish the letter here at Wounded Bird. My wee blog is not the Church Times, but the letter follows, unedited:
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.

Jonathan Clatworthy
General Secretary
Modern Church
Liverpool, UK

Provinces who adopt the covenant could still be expelled, so whether to adopt or not puts a province in somewhat of a double bind situation. Jonathan makes an important point about any province being able to report any initiative by another province. What a tangle of tasks the new bureaucracy could be faced with in having to judge the complaints. I can't help but imagine the future operations of the standing committee, or whatever group will judge whether the complaints are worthy of consideration or action, as similar to a teacher having to deal with a stream of tattling children and finally saying, "Enough!"

My guess is that the Anglican Communion Office, or whichever body has decision-making power, will conclude that if the term used by a province remotely suggests adoption, the province will be considered to have adopted the Anglican Covenant.


  1. I expect what Rowan Who is looking for is "Gracious Submission", like the Romans...

  2. Wade, how about a link to Real Anglicans.

    I suppose "Gracious submission" would work, too.

  3. Hopefully, the above should be a link to Real Anglicans.
    Laura (Sykes)

  4. "..... if the term used by a province remotely suggests adoption ...". For sure.

  5. Laura, thanks for the link. I left a comment over there.

    For sure.

    Lapin, they'll grab it and run with it.

  6. Thank you Grandmere and Laura. It is past time to be about our Father's business.

  7. Thanks for sharing this important letter. Perhaps an apt analogy would be what happens in many Roman Catholic dioceses now. The “traditonal” Catholics, who are small in number but passionate in their zeal to repeal Vatican II and all its “innovations” encourage their membership to act as watchdogs.

    They call and write bishops constantly to complain about the hated “liberal” priests, musicians, parish workers, etc. Some bishops respond and reprimand or even fire people. Some bishops ignore them and are then painted with the hated “liberal” label and the complainers start to write the Vatican.

    The Vatican responds in various ways, sometimes starting investigations (which some would call witch hunts; ex. - Apostolic Visitor for American women’s religious orders) sometimes they issue a statement. Benedict the XVI has allowed returns of several pre-Vatican II practices to appease them. But they will never be appeased until Vatican II is rescinded and the “liberal” influence is completely purged from the Church.

    After working for years in political causes I can unequivocally say that those who believe that one can compromise with the conservative faction are mistaken. There are a few good conservative people here and there who are earnest and sincere and willing to meet other halfway but the movement as a whole refuses compromise and will settle for nothing less than total and complete victory.

    This same dynamic that wastes so much time and damages so many lives in the Roman Church and American politics will likely overcome the Anglican Communion if the Covenant is adopted.

    Those conservatives who remain (not joining the shadow Anglican Communion of GAFCON) will utilize Section IV to present endless complaints and investigations of those they oppose. It’s like water dripping on stone -- it takes time but eventually the stone is worn away and their hope is that the powers that be will eventually give up and let them take over. I

    t’s how the political parties that these conservatives support do things -- just look at how skillful they’ve become with disinformation, propaganda, and outright lying in American media and politics. The same will happen to the Communion and that will be the end of it I fear.

  8. Brian, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    What an appalling way to run a fellowship of churches! How can enabling watchdogs and tattlers lead to any good result?


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