Not merely patronising

Bishop Victoria Matthews is not merely patronising, she is actually wrong.

Wait, you want me to back up a bit? OK.

The story so far: We’ve been considering the idea of an Anglican Covenant for years and this year the Scottish Episcopal Church decided to reject it and did so in a very clear synodical decision. The Anglican Consultative Council is currently meeting in New Zealand and Bishop Victoria has been making statements about those who can’t agree with the Covenant that are, at best disingenuous. (Which is Anglican for “Completely Wrong and Verging on Deceit”).

Here’s part of the report from the Anglican Communion Office:
Bishop Matthews… was introducing a session on the history and progress of the Covenant as part of the 15th ACC meeting in Auckland.
She stressed the point that it was not the work of IASCUFO [The International Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order] to promote the Covenant, but rather to monitor its reception.
“As we have sought to do that,” she told delegates, “I have often thought that the document people discuss and the actual Anglican Covenant are two different documents.
“One is the document that people have in their mind and the other is the Anglican Communion Covenant on paper. So I really want [people] to read the Covenant and be focused on that. Because often, when people start talking about the Covenant, what they describe in their mind as the Covenant is unrecognisable.”

I have to say that I find the suggestion that we really need to read the actual Covenant quite insulting. No church could have done better at reading the thing than the Scottish Episcopal Church. We’ve discussed it at our annual General Synod over years. We’ve looked at each different version of the text. We’ve discussed it in dioceses. We’ve discussed it in regional councils. Some have discussed it in Vestries and in some places whole congregations looked at it. People preached on it. People studied it. We went over the text itself with a tooth-comb. The Standing Committee discussed and implemented every possible way of discussing the document. We talked about it until people were sick of talking about it. We printed it out so many times that people complained about the environmental impact of the Covenant process.

And then we finally made a decision and the decision was a resounding “No.” We really don’t need to go back and read the text. We read it plenty and we made up out minds very clearly and overwhelmingly.

Bishop Victoria also said, “Remember most of the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ.”

You know, the predominant thing that we said was not that we were worried about the punitive sections. That was true for very many of us. However the thing I heard people saying again and again was, “This just doesn’t represent who we are”.

The claim that the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ is a rather foolish one. The Covenant is an imagined identity which we have firmly rejected.

It is certainly patronising of Bishop Victoria Matthews to imply that we in Scotland just have not read the Covanant enough. More than that though, it isn’t true.

She’s just plain wrong.

Scotland Says No!

The Scottish Episcopal Church has resoundingly rejected the Anglican Covenant as a way forward for the Anglican Communion. At the same time, the Synod passed a motion rejoicing in our commitment to the Communion itself. What we have said is No to the Covenant, but Yes to the Communion.

The vote was decisive – 6 in favour of the motion adopting the Covenant, 112 against and 13 abstaining.

Interestingly, I didn’t speak in the debate. I didn’t need to.

Once upon a time, I would have been on my feet encouraging, threatening, cajoling. I’d have been sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt. I would have been at work behind the scenes, bending people’s ears, twisting people’s arms – all to get them to reject the Covenant.

In the end, I didn’t need to. It just turned out to be something that the church overwhelmingly felt was not the way forward.

We should not underestimate the significance of the decision though. It will resound around the communion. In the Church of England, there was not enough support in the dioceses to bring the thing to Synod. In Scotland, we took a different strategy – ensuring that it did come to Synod. We took a clear vote and said a clear no. We are the first province to reject the Covenant in a synodical vote, I think.

No to the Covenant. Yes to the Communion.

You heard that on this blog first.

It is now the policy of this Province.

Thanks be to God.