Will the covenant kill or cure?

The Guardian has begun a weeklong series of essays on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The question is posed as follows:

Next week the Church of England’s General Synod will be asked to take an apparently momentous decision. Should it sign up to a formal, international, disciplinary process which would allow other churches a voice on whether it is truly Anglican or not? The proposed Anglican covenant is presented as a means to deepen unity within the Anglican Communion, but it will do so by strengthening discipline.

It has grown out of the schism of the last decade, and the desire of the conservatives to exclude, and have declared un-Anglican, and in fact un-Christian, the inclusion of of gay people on equal or comparable terms to straight ones. The question really does divide the church. Globally, there is a clear majority against it. In this country, there is probably a vague majority of Christians in favour, and certainly no strong sentiment for a purge of gay clergy. So why should the Church of England sign up to a document which can only be either another piece of toothless waffle, or something that one day will turn round and bite it, painfully?

Bishop Alan Wilson has the first essay, in which he writes:

Selling section four requires a delicate balancing act. For Conservatives and Liberals both to sign up, the former have to believe the covenant will be a powerful weapon against innovation, while, simultaneously, the latter think the exact opposite. This is a tall order.

There is an additional problem. The only Anglicans who theologised culture wars in the first place were Liberal or Conservative zealots. Others never had a Communion-breaking problem anyway – enough for them to muddle through, trying to love their crooked neighbour with all their crooked heart.

Niceness may be enough to carry a measure through an inexperienced and supine General Synod, but it can hardly make the covenant a transformative consciousness raiser, let alone the turbine of a more mutually engaged global denomination. However the General Synod votes, the big issue for the covenant process thereafter will be securing buy-in, confronted by zealots’ disappointment and majority indifference.

Meanwhile, Inclusive Church and Modern Church are stepping up their campaign against the covenant, with a leaflet whose contents can be found at this webpage.

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