Will good manners kill the C of E?

Andrew Brown thinks that passing an Anglican Covenant would ensure that that the Church of England will both become disestablished and split along ideological lines, but that most members of the CofE synod would not vote for it. MadPriest has asked around and finds that at the moment there is no organized response to the Anglican Covenant among progressives and liberals in the Church of England.

Brown writes:

Has Rowan Williams just set the Church of England on the road to disestablishment? Or does he envision it as standing outside the central body of Anglicanism that he is trying now to erect? I have just read carefully throughhis response to the American Church’s recognition of equal gay rights, and there are two things that are really striking about it. The first is familiar from his earlier struggles with the matter: a certain airy disdain for the facts of the struggle in hand and the simple mutual hatred which has driven it for the last 20 years….

…English Anglicans have enough trouble taking seriously the opinions of their own bishops. The covenant would require them to obey foreign bishops as well. That’s just not going to happen. The only churches to sign up to such a covenant will be those who are entirely certain they will never be outvoted in it. So it’s quite possible that the Church of England itself might stand outside such an arrangement if it came to a synod vote. But what is still more likely is that it would split on the matter. The synod, after all, exercises its authority over the church on behalf of parliament. That’s what establishment means. And I cannot imagine any parliament in 10 or 15 years’ time agreeing to hand over powers to some wider Anglican body so that it can preserve the tradition of Christian homophobia. What would sooner happen would be disestablishment.

The Rev. Jonathan Hagger, aka MadPriest, at first assumed Brown was right–that the Church of England Synod would never pass on a theologically restrictive Covenant that shares authority with foreign Prelates– but after asking around he has changed his mind.

Hagger finds that, as far as he can tell, there is no organized response to the Anglican Covenant among progressives. He writes:

I contacted some of the organisations within the Church of England that ought to be campaigning against the covenant. I discovered that there is no cohesive plan to mobilise Synod members to vote against it. There isn’t even any real discussion going on in these organisations concerning what will happen if the covenant is adopted by the Church of England.

Basically, my church is sleepwalking into disaster. We are going to die because we are so damn polite and we don’t like offending people.

Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any understanding among Synod members of the importance of the Church of England in the debate over the covenant. Basically, if the English Synod was to vote against the covenant then it would be dead in the water in the rest of the world. You simply cannot have an Anglican covenant if the archbishop of Canterbury is not a fully signed up member of it because of the role of that office as an instrument of unity.

It seems to me that it is of the utmost importance that the progressives, liberals and radicals of the Church of England, along with anyone who is protective of our church’s national identity and its establishment role of being a church for English society and the English culture, must get off their arses pretty damn quick and do something to stop the covenant now. If they do not, then not one of these people will have a place in the Church of England in a few years’ time. If they vote for the covenant they will be voting for their own censorship. They will be voting for an end to freedom of thought and the right to speak their thoughts.

Read Brown here and MadPriest here.

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