Friday, December 31, 2010

Federation, Communion or Church

CORRECTION: In this post, I referred to Archbishop Peers as "the senior primate of the Anglican Communion" at the time of his retirement. I know that I had picked up that piece of information during an earlier exercise unrelated to my anti-Covenant activities. It turns out, however, that this is not correct. Archbishop Robert (Robin) Eames was installed as Primate of All Ireland exactly 62 days earlier than Archbishop Peers, and continued in office more than two years afterwards. This doesn't really affect any substantive point of my post, but the Michael Peers I know and love is a stickler for getting things right. My apologies to both Archbishops.

One of the many annoying rhetorical fourishes of late has been the claim that opposition to the proposed Anglican Covenant constitutes a desire to "change" the Anglican Communion into a "loose-knit federation" of autonomous churches. Of course, this assumes an entirely revisionist view of Anglican history - actually, less revisionist than Orwellian.

International Anglicanism has always been a relationship among autonomous churches. While there were occasional communications among the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the United States in the early days, the actual relationship was largely one of (mostly benign) neglect. The English church did assist the Scottish 'Piskies to re-establish episcopacy, and the two British churches both ordained bishops for the Americans.

At the time, both the English and the Scots offered some guidance to the newly forming American church, but neither ever claimed authority. In each case, the Americans discerned for themselves what advice to take and what to leave aside. They did reinstate the Nicene Creed into the eucharistic rite, as suggested by the Church of England. They did not accept the English advice to accord more power to the House of Bishops than to the House of Deputies.

Mutual recognition of ministry was a bit of a dodgy issue. The legislation which enabled the English to ordain bishops for the Americans expressly stated that those so ordained and those ordained by them would not be permitted to function in England. The ordination of the fourth American bishop by the CofE was partly driven by the fact that the English thought the Scottish episcopal pedigree of America's first bishop a bit dodgy.

When he retired in 2004, Michael Peers (who confirmed and ordained me) was the senior primate of the Anglican Communion. Here is what he had to say in 2000, four years before this Covenant silliness ever raised its head.

[W]orldwide Anglicanism is a communion, not a church. The Anglican Church of Canada is a church. The Church in the Province of the West Indies is a church. The Episcopal Church of Sudan is a church. The Anglican Communion is a 'koinonia' of churches.

We have become that for many reasons, among which are the struggles of the sixteenth century and an intuition about the value of inculturation, rooted in the Incarnation, which has led us to locate final authority within local churches.

We are not a papal church and we are not a confessional church. We are autonomous churches held together in a fellowship of common faith dating from the creeds and councils, recognizing the presidency of a primus inter pares (the Archbishop of Canterbury), often struggling with inter-church and intra-church tension, but accepting that as the price of the liberty and autonomy that we cherish.

As I said to the members of the Council of General Synod last month, the price of this includes a certain measure of messiness.'

[Power in the Church: Prelates, Confessions, Anglicans The Arnold Lecture, December 6, 2000, Halifax, Nova Scotia]

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Allegory

My first Christmas at the parish where I currently hang my biretta, we had a great adventure searching for Jesus. I blogged it here.

Although the choreography was slightly altered this year (with Mary and Joseph at the front of the choir stalls on the north side and the shepherds on the south), and although one of the magi met with a mishap (Mind the Camels sign notwithstanding), I represent the story in its original. The picture at the top is the creche inside the altar.

Searching for the Christ Child
The title isn't quite so allegorical as you think. We actually spent about ten minutes before the Christmas Eve service desperately seeking the Baby Jesus for the main creche at the parish where I serve as interim priest.

It is actually a very interesting creche, set up inside the altar itself. A simple wooden chevron suggests the stable, while the remaining figures stand on black satin.

It was already in place on Sunday last. Actually in the Sunday before last as we compromised the calendar in the interest of the children's pageant. But Sunday last the creche had only its minimalist roof, one ox and one ass. Mary and Joseph were not far away - standing on the altar pavement - but they hadn't arrived yet. The shepherds weren't there yet either, out tending their sheep on the edge of the pulpit. And the magi were in the middle of the aisle at the back of the church, still some ways away.

Tonight, Mary and Joseph, and after some panicked moments, the Baby Jesus, were all installed in their places. The shepherds were "summoned to his stable" during the gradual hymn. And the magi were now half way up the aisle - accompanied by a helpful
Mind the Camels sign prepared by my good wife.

It was a good celebration in a community which seems increasingly hopeful and future oriented. And generally united. There is no parish on earth that doesn't have some divisions and tensions. But this little parish seem quite determined to be a
family together.

. . . snip . . .

We found Jesus tonight at St. James - literally, allegorically and eucharistically. We all came to the same table, together. That is where we belong in worship - at the same table, together.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let it be

I didn't recognize all of the A and mostly B List celebrities - and seeing the chap from Milli Vanilli begged the obvious question. But I did like the video.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unsolicited Advice

I've been stewing over this matter for a few weeks now, but this piece of information has moved me to say something.

It turns out the Diocese of St. Asaph in the Church of Wales (yr Eglwys yng Nghymru) is looking for a Communications Officer. That can only be a good thing, because the Bishop of St. Asaph desperately needs some competent public relations support.

You will recall that, around the time of the launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the Bishop of St. Asaph, Gregory Cameron embarrassed himself, describing critics, opponents and sceptics of the proposed Anglican Covenant as: "Little Englanders" and "the nearest to an ecclesiastical BNP."

Let us be clear. Bishop Cameron was saying that critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant - a document which he had no small part in drafting as Secretary of the Covenant Design Group - are fascists. The BNP or British National Party is the largest fascist political party in the United Kingdom.

Now, Bishop Cameron has since said that he didn't really mean it. Or at least, not part of it. Or perhaps he did. Except for maybe possibly he might not have meant all of it. Unless he did.

In an incoherent bleating quoted in The Church of Ireland Gazette, Bishop Cameron rambles as follows:
I have to accept that the comparison to the BNP has offended because some people have taken this as an accusation of racism. This was not my intention, and I have never wished to make such an accusation. The Church Times advert reminded me strongly of the rhetoric of the far right in British politics . . .

Now, I'd like you all to go re-read that quote. You'll notice that this isn't even the usual politician's non-apology apology:
I'm sorry you were offended.

Instead, this is:

I did mean to call them fascists. I just didn't mean to call them racists.

Here is my unsolicited advice to Bishop Cameron:

When you've said something bone-headedly stupid and mind-numbingly offensive, your clarification should include either the word sorry or the word apologize - or possibly both. Otherwise, don't bother saying anything at all, since you're only going to embarrass yourself further.

Perhaps that new Communications Officer might be able to teach Bishop Cameron how to behave in public.

In the meantime, here is a good Canadian sketch about non-apologies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Obligations Met

Let it never be said that 'Rider fans don't fulfill their obligations. And the real winner here is the sick kids at Hopitale Ste Justine in Montreal.

The first picture is the Captain and crew of HMCS QUEEN - with the poor CO decked out in an Als jersey.
The second picture is the XO of HMCS REGINA being interviewed (in an Als t-shirt) about the wager. I wasn't able to download or embed the TV clip of the flag being raised on board Regina.
I will note three things.
  1. Darian Durant is only the second quarterback in CFL history to lead his team to back to back Grey Cup appearances in his first two years as a starter.

  2. The Saskatchewan Roughriders lost those two Grey Cup games by a combined total of four (4) points.

  3. A mere 13 months ago, people talked about how Anthony Calvillo was a guy who couldn't deliver the Grey Cup.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Marsupial Moot

Canon Alan Perry, a Canadian expert on canon law in the Anglican tradition, has started a amusingly named blog called Insert Catchy Blog Title Here. His latest post is well worth the read.

Having previously put paid to the pro-Covenant proof-texting claims that the autonomy of member churches is respected, Canon Perry has written yet another brilliant expose on the proposed Anglican Covenant. In this case, he focusses on the deliberate vagueness regarding the phrase controversial action in the final draft of the document.

Drexel Gomez's Covenant - whether negligently or deliberately - fails to establish any sort of due process for determining what is or is not a controversial action, what is or is not an action incompatible with the Covenant or how relational consequences are to be applied.

The Covenant’s assurances of Provincial autonomy have been likened to telling a child that he can decide for himself whether to eat his broccoli or not, but if he doesn’t eat the broccoli he won’t get any pudding. With respect to what the rules are, the Covenant is like putting dinner in front of a child with a vague warning that he must eat properly or risk some unspecified “relational consequences”. And what does “properly” mean? Using the correct utensils (without being told what that means)? Eating the various dishes in a correct (but unspecified) sequence? Correct use of condiments (whatever that might be)? Eating the broccoli? Cleaning the plate? Stopping when full? Some unspecified combination of the above? In the absence of a clear rule, what is the poor child to do?

It's difficult even for the most reasonable person to obey the rules if the rules are only to be made up after the fact based on the random grievance of people who don't get their way.

Canon Perry, ever so discreetly, says:

Lack of clarity of what the rules are is a recipe for arbitrariness. It is a denial of the concept of the Rule of Law, opposite of which is the Rule of Men.

Or, to put it another way, here is what canon law and procedural fairness will look like in the New and Improved Post-Covenant Anglican Communion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Naval Centennial Grey Cup Wager Benefits Charity

REGINA – The 2010 Grey Cup game has a special significance for the Canadian Navy. Coincidentally, the Canadian Navy and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are both celebrating their centennial. Furthermore, the Montreal Allouettes are from the same city as the Navy team that won the Grey Cup in 1944.

To mark the occasion the frigate HMCS Regina and Regina’s Naval Reserve Division HMCS Queen have made a wager with the frigate HMCS Montreal and Montreal’s Naval Reserve Division HMCS Donnacona. Each has put up $250 to be donated to a charity in the winning city. A similar wager prior to last year’s Grey Cup game resulted in a gift of $1000 to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Donnacona’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Kim Kubeck, is very confident. “In 1944, Donnacona became the only Navy team to win the Grey Cup. It’s only right that another Montreal team should repeat the victory in the Navy’s centennial year.” An Allouettes repeat would cause $1000 to be donated to Hospital Ste Justine, another children’s hospital.

Her opposite number in Regina sees things a little differently. “The Riders and the Navy share a centennial, and the Riders have always been very good to the Navy,” according to Lt.-Cmdr. Corey Thiemann. “As the Commanding Officer of Queen, I want to see the Riders crown their centennial year with a Grey Cup.” A Rider victory would cause $1000 presented to the Hospitals of Regina Foundation to support paediatric medicine.

In addition to the charity donation, the losing frigate will fly the Grey Cup champion team’s flag for one full week, while the Commanding Officer of the losing Naval Reserve Division will wear the winning team’s jersey on a subsequent training night.

HMC Ships Queen, in Regina, and Donnacona, in Montreal are two of 24 Naval Reserve Divisions across Canada. Their mission is to provide trained sailors for Canada’s Navy, and to provide a naval presence in their home cities.

HMC Ships Regina and Montreal are Halifax Class Frigates stationed in Esquimalt, B.C. andHalifax, N.S.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Free Market Explained

For a change from all the ecclesiastical politics, here is Tommy Douglas - voted the Greatest Canadian, the grandfather of Keifer Sutherland - explaining how the free market works.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Anglican Covenant - I'll lay me down and bleed awhile.

The poem itself dates back to the 16th century, and it has become almost a derivative cliché in Canadian politics when a candidate or a leader finds the tide against them. But it was Tommy Douglas who first brought the phrase to the Canadian consciousness when, after 17 successful years as Premier of Saskatchewan, he was defeated by Regina voters in his first election as federal leader of the newly reorganized New Democratic Party.

"Fight on my men!" says Sir Andrew Barton,
"I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed awhile,
and then I'll rise to fight again.

Earlier today, the Church of England General Synod approved the first step towards adopting the proposed Anglican Covenant. Technically, the matter before Synod today only sends the Covenant to the dioceses for consideration, and there were certainly many speakers in the debate who indicated they would vote for the Act even though they were far from convinced of the value of this Covenant - and for some, of any Covenant.

Those of us who are active in the No Anglican Covenant Coalition would have loved nothing better than to derail this Act today. We didn't get our wish. Our statement on the matter is here (warning - .pdf).

My Church of England colleagues can be proud of the fact that the Covenant is now a real issue with English churchfolk.

The CofE establishment will not be able to get this passed on a nod and a wink, with no real debate or discussion, as they so clearly hoped. They will be forced to square the circle of their odd narrative: that the Covenant is absolutely vital but doesn't really change a thing.

Earlier today, I felt a strong desire to "lay me down and bleed awhile." I looked for video of Tommy's speech from that night in 1962. It's just as well I didn't find it, for on reflection, I have remembered an even better speech to highlight.

Why is the Archbishop afraid of an honest debate?

It's been a very busy day, and I haven't had the time to blog about the developments in the No Anglican Covenant Coalition's campaign.

We issued a release yesterday (warning - .pdf) emphasizing the importance of having a real debate about the proposed Anglican Covenant prior to today's vote at the Church of England General Synod.

It appears that the establishment do not agree. The Archbishop of Canterbury used his presidential address to the Synod to dismiss Covenant critics without answering a single one of the concerns that have been raised. He blithely repeated the meme that the Covenant has no impact on the autonomy of member churches, completely ignoring the concerns repeatedly raised about the "relational consequences" referred to in Section 4. (Terry Martin, who blogs at Father Jake Stops the World helpfully reproduces the list of "relational consequences" as described in the Lambeth Commentary on the Covenant (warning - .pdf) which include insignificant acts like suspending voting rights in the Communion, revoking membership in the Communion and demanding that other provinces individually suspend intercommunion with the blacklisted provinces. No, nothing punitive there.)

So, instead of making a compelling case FOR the Covenant, Dr. Williams has joined the former Secretary of the Covenant Design Group, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion Office and the Communion's Director for Unity, Faith and Order in offering up insulting condescension. No compelling case for. No honest response to the legitimate concerns of a range of Anglicans. Simple dismissal.

I swear, I couldn't tell if I was listening to Rowan Williams or to Glenn Beck.

Of course, one can take some solace from the fact that the Communion establishment have come out with all guns blazing. We have forced them to abandon their original plan of sneaking this through quietly, and we have rendered them feart that we may actually have the capacity to hand them a serious setback.

Here's the thing. It seems to me that there are all sorts of decent and honourable people who support the Anglican Covenant because they honestly believe (whatever reservations they may have) that this is the best way forward. They aren't evil, nasty people. I just think they're wrong.

So let's have a debate.

Whoever has the rights of it, an open and honest debate is only a good thing.

I just don't understand why Rowan Williams and the people around him are so determined to avoid one.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light,
look favourably on your whole Church,
that wonderful and sacred mystery.

By the effectual working of your providence,
carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation.

Let the whole world see and know
that things which were cast down are being raised up,
and things which had grown old are being made new,
and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Covenantskeptic developments

We launched the No Anglican Covenant Coalition just over two weeks ago. About ten days earlier, two progressive Church of England organizations, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, had run ads (warning - .pdf) in English church media decrying the Covenant.

Since then, it has been a flurry of activity - including some frankly bizarre antics from a handful of Covenant supporters. They should perhaps consider that namecalling is not the best way to persuade people.

Whatever else may be said, at least now the Covenant is being discussed and debated - although the satirical Mr. Catolick (see below) suggests that putting a complicated piece of business before a newly elected session of the Church of England General Synod is both unprecedented and manipulative.

This week, The Guardian is running a series of articles on the question Should the General Synod sign up to a document that might change forever the Church of England? Today's provocative piece by Simon Sarmiento suggests that is a waste of time and money since it won't accomplish any of the things it is supposed to accomplish. He also mentions something quite disturbing - that some bishops have been advised that bucking Lambeth on the Covenant will "harm their promotion chances." Coalition members have heard of similar dire advice (warnings? threats?) to ordinary clergy who have questioned the value of the Covenant.

To date, I have neglected to mention that the Coalition has also established a blog, in addition to our website. In the most recent entry, my fellow Canadian, Canon Alan Perry, takes on the assurance offered by the Lambeth establishment that section 4.1.3 of the Covenant protects the autonomy of the members churches of the Communion. Canon Perry - who has actually studied canon law - suggests that this is pure bunkum.

A month ago, it appeared that the Anglican Covenant would go through on a nod and a whisper - exactly the way Lambeth Palace wanted. Thanks to a band of obstreperous skeptics, the Covenant is now being discussed, debated and dissected. That can only be a good thing.

Now, as promised, we have Mr. Catolick.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Relational consequences

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the Anglican Communion's Director of Unity, Faith and Order, has issued a statement - distributed through the Anglican Communion News Service - responding to recent criticisms of the proposed Anglican Covenant. The last two weeks have seen a flurry of critical articles and blogposts - and not all of them from members of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

In her statement, Canon Barnett-Cowan does make one very valuable suggestion:

[F]or any Anglican or Episcopalian to be able to properly enter into a discussion about the Covenant it is vital that they first read it for themselves here.

Well, one can hardly disagree with that. Of course, the comment itself is a devious bit of spin, repeating the misleading meme that Covenantskeptics clearly haven't read the final draft of the Covenant and that therefore our criticisms can't be taken seriously. It's actually quite an insulting comment - though I suppose we should be grateful that she hasn't called us fascists.

Alyson, I assure you that I have read the Covenant. I've read it and I find it appalling - and more than a trifle disingenuous.

Canon Barnett-Cowan then answers the criticism that the Covenant constrains the autonomy of member churches by pointing to the convenient fig leaf of section 4.1.3, which does clearly say:

. . . mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance . . .

To my mind, this is the single most disingenuous piece of the entire sorry process. Nothing limits autonomy, we are told. "Trust me."

Nothing limits autonomy . . . until we get to sections 4.2.5 and 4.2.7, where the newly rejigged Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion is empowered to recommend:

. . . [R]elational consequences . . .

These relational consequences may include limiting the offending church's participation in the various bodies of the Anglican Communion. You will recall, as a child, being told that you were free not to eat your turnips - but that in consequence you wouldn't have any pudding. Now tell me that you didn't feel a trifle threatened by a sanction intended to constrain your autonomy.

Over the past few weeks, even absent the Covenant, we have seen the Archbishop of Canterbury unilaterally (and perhaps illicitly) imposing relational consequences on the Episcopal Church, for pushing the boundaries on issues of human sexuality and on the Province of the Southern Cone of America for uncanonical border crossings. (One also notes that Cantuar was only prepared to act against the smallest of the poaching provinces, letting Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda off scot free. Not only are relational consequences imposed unilaterally, they are imposed arbitrarily and capriciously.)

Relational consequences, of course, is a euphemism for sanctions. To suggest, therefore, that the Covenant does not impinge on the autonomy of member churches is highly disingenuous. Where international Anglicanism once held autonomy and interdependence in creative tension, we see autonomy eviscerated and interdependence replaced with centralization.

Now, while Canon Barnett-Cowan doesn't go there, certain other Covenant apologists have made much of the fact that the Standing Committee does not impose, but merely recommends these relational consequences.

In order for one to take solace in this, one would need to have slept through the past few years of Anglican history. In Lambethspeak, recommendation does not mean what it means elsewhere in the English speaking world. A recommendation from a duly constituted Anglican Communion committee has (or at least very nearly has) the force of law.

The clearest and most unambiguous example of this is the Anglican Covenant itself, which arose originally as a recommendation of the Eames Commission in the Windsor Report. From that point to this, no official body of the Communion has had a serious discussion about the merits of the recommendation, or whether the recommendation should be accepted or rejected. Instead, by executive fiat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it was determined that there would be an Anglican Covenant come hell or high water. By executive fiat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Covenant Design Group - heavily tilted towards those who openly sought the sanctioning or displacement of the Episcopal Church - was established. By executive fiat of the Archbishop of Canterbury the present draft of the Covenant was declared to be the final "take it or leave it" version. By executive fiat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the relational consequences are being imposed even without the Covenant having been adopted.

I will agree with Canon Barnett-Cowan that people should read the Anglican Covenant. But I would caution people that the Covenant should not be read in isolation, and must not be read without a realistic understanding and appraisal of the context in which it was written.

It is clear to all but the willfully blind that there is a hunger for the centralization of authority in the Anglican Communion - and that the pressure for an Anglican Covenant arises from this hunger. It is likewise clear that the power to recommend and to impose relational consequences, having been established, will be expansively exercised - for it is already so.

Monday, November 15, 2010

By the Numbers

The number of Church of England clergy proposing to seek admission to the Anglican Ordinariate:
That number as a percentage of CofE clergy:
The number of people David Virtue falsely claimed to be the total membership of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition:
The real number of people involved in launching the No Anglican Covenant Coalition:
The number of people signed up to the No Anglican Covenant Coalition in less than two weeks:
The number of people who Like the official No Anglican Covenant Facebook Page:
The number of times so far this month that supporters of the Anglican Covenant have violated Godwin's Law in the pages of the Church Times or on the BBC:
at least 2
The number of responses usually received on a Church Times Question of the Week:
~200 to 250
The number of responses received last week when they asked if the Church of England should reject the proposed Anglican Covenant:
The percentage of respondents who wanted to reject the Anglican Covenant:
The percentage who did not want to reject the Anglican Covenant:
The percentage who, having been frightened by the hysterical rhetoric of the Bishop of St. Asaph, were presumably checking under their beds for fascists:
The percentage of the Anglican Communion's bureaucratic infrastructure that is financed by North American Anglicans (excluding donations from the mostly American Compass Rose Society and from Trinity Church, Wall Street):
~36 to 38
The percentage increase in the Anglican Communion's expenditure on Travel and Subsistence between 2008 and 2009:
The percentage increase in the Anglican Communion's expenditure on Accommodation and Meetings between 2008 and 2009:
The total increase expenditure in those two areas in GBP:
In US$:
In C$:
The percentage of Simple Massing Priests who question the financial propriety of spending an extra GBP 491,717 / US$ 791,428 / C$ 799,287 on Travel and Meetings when there are better things to spend that money on:
The percentage of that extra expenditure dedicated to advancing the Anglican Covenant - and the exclusion of North American Anglicans from the Anglican Communion:
The percentage of my blog readers who would sooner spend GBP 491,717 / US$ 791,428 / C$ 799,287 on developing safe drinking water infrastructure or buying anti-malarial mosquito netting or supporting and expanding HIV treatment programs in the two-thirds world:
You Tell Me

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Diocese of Saskatoon - a step closer to same sex blessings?

Last weekend, the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon voted - narrowly - to ask their bishop to authorize the blessing of same sex unions, but only once the national church has lifted the implicit moratorium. The motion apparently carried by one vote among the clergy with six abstentions, and by one vote among the laity with one abstention. CBC coverage of the story is here. As of this writing, there is nothing on the diocesan website. Integrity Saskatoon comments here. The bishop has apparently declined either to assent or to withold his assent until at least the next meeting of the House of Bishops. This all follows a vote at a previous synod in which blessings were narrowly defeated.

Saskatoon is the not the first diocese in Canada to pass such a motion. Blessings are already a fact of life in the dioceses of New Westminster (Vancouver and area) and Niagara (Hamilton and area). The Archbishop of Toronto has just given his approval. The dioceses of Montreal, Ottawa and British Columbia (Vancouver Island) have all passed similar motions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How would you say "Godwin" in Welsh?

It's called Godwin's Law. It's the internet adage originally asserted by American lawyer Mike Godwin:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Meaning that, as an internet discussion goes on, eventually someone will - as night follows day - draw a comparison between the other person's position and the Nazis. It's also known as Reductio ad Hitleram.

In internet culture, it is a corollary of Godwin's Law that whoever uses the Nazi / fascist analysis first, automatically loses.

Of course, this is one of those "rules" that isn't really a rule. Sometimes people really are advocating fascism, and it is perfectly reasonable to call them on it.

But describing someone or something or some idea as "fascist" when it is manifestly not just makes the person drawing the comparison look silly. Or worse.

I mean, what sane human being takes Glenn Beck seriously?

The ill-considered use of fascist comparisons can have serious consequences. I have a friend who had to resign from a job and was essentially blacklisted because he had considered using a cartoon loosely comparing the opponent to the Nazis. (In fact, he had decided quite on his own that it was over the top, but the very fact of having considered the idea was enough. If only Glenn Beck et al could be held to account.)

In the past couple of weeks, a pair of British bishops have found themselves mired in the consequences of Godwin's Law.

John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, was made a bishop to provide "sacramental assurance" to a certain segment of AngloCatholics that their priests (and therefore their sacraments) had not been infected with girl-cooties. As the Church of England slowly begins to drag itself into the 20th century (that is not a typo), Bishop Broadhurst has accused advocates of woman bishops of being fascists. Most people, quite rightly, have been treating Broadhurst like a bit of a joke.

Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St. Asaph in Wales apparently missed the nearly universal derision directed to Bishop Broadhurst. Cameron, one of the chief architects of the proposed Anglican Covenant accused Covenant-skeptics of being "Little Englanders" and compared them to the fascist British National Party. His letter to the Church Times - quite an extensive missive - buries his only substantial point underneath five or six paragraphs of namecalling.

Now, I understand that it may hurt one's feeling when other people pan your stuff. Heck, as a professional writer from time to time, I've seen my deathless prose butchered by any number of semi-literate hacks. One has to learn not to take it personally.

As to his one substantive point - that the Covenant explcitly says that it does not require "submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction" - I've already dealt with that particular legal fiction here.

Ironically, Godwin would appear to be a name of Saxon origin. It seems odd that Godwin's Law should fall so close to a Scottish bishop of the Church in Wales. I wonder what's Welsh for "Godwin."

In the meantime, the Church Times Question of the Week is: "Should the Church of England reject the Anglican Covenant?" As I write, it stands results are: Yes 81% - No 18%. Presumably the other one percent are searching under their beds for Nazis.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Comprehension for the Sake of Truth

O God of truth and peace,
you raised up your servant Richard Hooker
in a day of bitter controversy
to defend with sound reasoning and great charity
the catholic and reformed religion:
Grant that we may maintain the middle way,
not as a compromise for the sake of peace,
but as a comprehension for the sake of truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Many of you will have noticed my last few blogposts - not to mention the odd Facebook Status - that spoke of a major announcement to come today. Many of you will be completely unsurprised that this announcement has been planned for the commemoration of the definitive Anglican theologian, the Judicious Divine, Dr. Richard Hooker.

At 11:00 a.m. GMT (that's 7:00 a.m. EST and 6:00 a.m. here in the centre of the universe) the No Anglican Covenant Coalition was formally announced through the international media, and the Coalition's website was formally launched.

From the publication of the Windsor Report in 2004 until today, the Anglican Communion has been sleepwalking towards the ratification of a proposed Anglican Covenant - a Covenant that would radically alter Anglican ecclesiology by the unwarranted centralization of unprecedented punitive power in the hands of a small committee. At six this morning my time, the alarm went off to wake us from our collective slumber.

I'm very proud to have played a role in the genesis of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, and to have accepted the role as Canadian convenor.

Here is our official news release:

No Anglican Covenant Coalition
Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity



LONDON – An international coalition of Anglicans has been created to campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant. Campaigners believe the proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would prevent further development of Anglican thought. The Coalition’s website ( will provide resources for Anglicans around the world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican Communion would not wish to endorse this document,” according to the Coalition’s Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows, who is also the Coalition’s Convenor for the Church of England. “Apart from church insiders, very few people are aware of the Covenant. We want to encourage a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the Covenant will cause.”

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in 2004 as a means to address divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft of the Covenant, which has been unilaterally designated as the “final” draft, has been referred to the member churches of the Communion. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.

Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant, including members of the new Coalition, believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small number of bishops. Two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, ran anti-Covenant advertisements in last week’s Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper aiming to make more members of the Church of England aware of the dangers of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

"If the Anglican Communion has a problem, this is not the solution,” according to former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby. “Whether those who originated the Covenant intended it or not, it is already, and will become even more, a basis for a litigious Communion from which some will seek to exclude others."

The launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website coincides with the commemoration of the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker. “Hooker taught us that God’s gifts of scripture, tradition, and reason will guide us to new insights in every age,” according to the Canadian priest and canon law expert, the Revd. Canon Alan Perry. “The proposed Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a particular moment. Anglican polity rejected control by foreign bishops nearly 500 years ago. The proposed Anglican Covenant reinstates it.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition began in late October with a series of informal email conversations among several international Anglican bloggers concerned that the Covenant was being rushed through the approval process before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new structures would affect them.


Revd. Dr Lesley Fellows (England) +44 1844 239268
Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA) +1-412-512-9087
Revd. Malcolm French (Canada) +1-306-550-2277
Revd. Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384

Monday, November 1, 2010


And here's a little Avril Lavigne.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Two Days

In Three Days

Legal Fiction

Many of those who would defend the proposed Anglican Covenant (when you can find them) will argue that there really is no centralization of authority involved at all. After all:

(4.1.3) Such mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance. The Covenant does not grant to any one Church or any agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church of the Anglican Communion.

Of course, this conveniently overlooks the fact that the proposed Covenant also empowers the unaccountable Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to:

(4.2.5) . . . recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument . . .

So, there is no control or direction . . . but if you don't toe the line, there will be consequences.

Over at Not the Same Stream, in an excellent and thoughtful article, Paul Bagshaw calls this a legal fiction.

I have a shorter, pithier word for it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Aesop on the Anglican Covenant

Apparently this really is one of Aesop's fables. It seems appropriate to our discussions of the Anglican Covenant. (h/t to Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside, who was on about something else entirely.)

The Frogs Desired a King

The Frogs were living as happy as could be in a marshy swamp that just suited them; they went splashing about caring for nobody and nobody troubling with them. But some of them thought that this was not right, that they should have a king and a proper constitution, so they determined to send up a petition to Jove to give them what they wanted.

"Mighty Jove," they cried, "send unto us a king that will rule over us and keep us in order."

Jove laughed at their croaking, and threw down into the swamp a huge Log, which came down - splash - to the swamp.

The Frogs were frightened out of their lives by the commotion made in their midst, and all rushed to the bank to look at the horrible monster; but after a time, seeing that it did not move, one or two of the boldest of them ventured out towards the Log, and even dared to touch it; still it did not move. Then the greatest hero of the Frogs jumped upon the Log and commenced dancing up and down upon it, thereupon all the Frogs came and did the same; and for some time the Frogs went about their business every day without taking the slightest notice of their new King Log lying in their midst.

But this did not suit them, so they sent another petition to Jove, and said to him, "We want a real king; one that will really rule over us." Now this made Jove angry, so he sent among them a big Stork that soon set to work gobbling them all up. Then the Frogs repented when too late.

Better no rule than cruel rule.

I'm sure I don't need to draw a diagram here, except to note that the picture on the right suggests that some of the frogs will resist.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Innocuous - like a fox in your henhouse

Lesley of Lesley's Blog (a relatively recent addition to my ecclesiastical blogroll) has posted a column by guest blogger Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of Modern Church. In it, Jonathan takes on the widely held assumption that the Anglican Covenant in a bit of innocuous fluff, or at worst, a benign inconvenience.

My favourite bit:

In practice, once the Covenant was in place there would be immense pressure to toe the line on whatever issue the most intolerant chose to campaign about. One by one the Standing Committee would build up a set of pronouncements which became the Anglican teaching. We would be turned into a confessional sect demanding of our members assent to an ever-increasing list of doctrines.

The way to avoid this absurdity is to make sure the Covenant does not come into effect in the first place.

Go read the whole piece.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Courage, my friends. 'Tis not too late to build a better world.

The title of this post, a quote from the late Saskatchewan premier, Tommy Douglas, seems the only possible title to apply to this courageous video.

While all of the "It Gets Better" videos have spoken a profound measure of hope, this courageous statement by Fort Worth, Texas Councilman speaks that hope so poignantly while presentingg the raw devastation of the despair he felt as a young adolescent. He skips over two sentences that he finds simply too hard to read, but the context makes it clear that he came perilously close to taking the same path of despair that far too many LGBTQTS teens have taken.

Every bully should be forced to watch this.

(Note for my non-Canadian readers, Tommy Douglas is also the grandfather of film and TV star Keifer Sutherland.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Criminalization of Dissent

In Toronto, an adult common-law couple are not allowed to be alone together, cannot communicate by cell phone and must be chaperoned by one of their parents. A 21-year-old woman is not allowed to leave the house unless she is accompanied by her parents. Last week, an Ontario judge ruled that attendance at a Ryerson University seminar violated parole conditions of a Toronto activist.

Read more about the stupidity of it all here.

This weekend will mark the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the end of Canadian democracy - the anniversary of the day that Pierre Trudeau imposed martial law in peacetime based on a completely false tale of "apprehended insurrection." We are a mere 100 days from when Stephen Harper essentially pulled the same authoritarian stunt in connection with the G20 protests in Toronto.

The student has surpassed the master, with Harper's arbitrary arrests more than doubling the number under Trudeau.

With the vantage point of history, it has become fairly clear that Trudeau's fantasy "apprehended insurrection" was nothing but a Reichstag Fire to justify a massive crackdown against his ideological foes. It is swiftly becoming obvious that Harper's $1 billion police state in Toronto was based on much the same authoritarian hysteria.

Stephen Harper is the new Pierre Trudeau - and I don't mean that in a good way.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When will it get better?

My daughter has written a moving and disturbing reflection on the issue of bullying and violence targeting LGBTQ people. As always, I cannot say enough how very proud I am of my daughter, who is now a columnist with an online parenting magazine, Connected Mom. She is a wonderful parent and an incredibly gifted writer. Her blogposts and her columns move me, challenge me and more than once have left me in tears.

Please go and read the whole thing. But here is the most challenging part:

When will it get better?

When will the hatred and cruelty and Dehumanizing end? When will LGBT couples be recognized and afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples? When will LGBT people be allowed to live freely and openly no matter what their profession? When will the ‘alternative’ LGBT lifestyle be awarded more consideration and respect than flamboyant pantomimes on prime time?

When will cowardly men stop hiding together in alleys waiting to extinguish all that they have been taught to hate about themselves? Which generation will it be that finally breaks free of the learned hate & teaches the next to be peaceful and accepting?

The bullying, unfortunately, doesn’t end at the doors of high school. It is institutionalized, it is ingrained, it is everywhere. Maybe our capacity to deal with it gets better, maybe we find a little more power in our lives, more independence and control and feel a little more at home in our own skins. But the bullying doesn’t end with high school.

We keep saying it will get better but people are dying and I am tired of waiting.
At her baptism, her mother and her godparents and I promised on her behalf that she would "persevere in resisting evil," that she would "strive for justice and peace," that she would "respect the dignity of every human being."

She is keeping those promises we made on her behalf. That is why she is tired of waiting.

How do I proclaim hope to my daughter? To the families of those countless young men and women - not just the six we heard of in the last few days, but all of them - who saw no way out of hopelessness and despair? To the next victim? And the next? And the next? Where is the Gospel, the Good News?

It does get better.

Not fast enough. Not by a long shot. And too late for some to see the victory this side of the Jordan.

But in the end, evil will not triumph, even when evil steals the mantle of righteousness and blasphemes God by speaking hate in his name.

Evil will not triumph.

In the Words of Dr, King:
When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A litany for children who have died from bullying

From Kirkepiscatoid:

In September, 2010, four gay children died from bullying. Children are being bullied, tormented, and abused for many different reasons, and there is a distinct upswing on bullying in our schools. Please take this to prayer with me. (Note: If you wish to use this prayer in a service, you are free to use with attribution for non-commercial use. I'd love feedback on how you used it.)

Remember, all bullied children are "somebody's babies."

A Litany for children who have died from bullying
--by Kirkepiscatoid

O God of justice and mercy, we pray that no more daughters and sons in this world die as the result of bullying simply because of who they are; be it race, religion, sexual orientation, or social awkwardness. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That our schools become places of nurturing and hope rather than shame and derision. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That our teachers instill values of charity and acceptance in all children so there is no need for one child to feel superior over another. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That parents can put aside what they were sometimes taught, in order to promote tolerance and diversity at home. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That our communities support children who feel “different from the others” and show them lives that are theirs to claim, lives they cannot begin to imagine to see at home. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

That all children can grow up feeling self-empowered and truly loved simply as themselves, and not suffer beatings and psychological abuse at home or school. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

O Lord, you understand this above all others, for your only Son hung among thieves on a rough wooden cross on a barren hill, just as Matthew Shepard hung from a rail fence on a lonely road. Be our light in the darkness, Lord; protect our children and fill them with the love of your Holy Spirit; hold them in your Son’s loving arms in their most fearful hours, and be with them always.

Oh, and for the record, the anti-Christians at Focus on the Family have not bothered to respond to my email.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Who Would Jesus Bully?

My blog friend Grandmére Mimi has been keeping a posted tally of teen suicides as a result of homophobic bullying. Children being harrassed to death because they are (or are perceived to be) gay. There is no defence.

What appalls me is that there are those who would blaspheme the Name of Jesus by opposing anti-bullying programs based on a warped and twisted abuse of the idea of religious freedom.

Here is the email I have just sent to Focus on the Family:

In the name of the Living God, I admonish you to repent of your opposition to anti-bullying programs. This is not about religious freedom. This is about young men and women and little children being hounded to death by bullies.

Your opposition to anti-bullying programs is a disgrace to authentic family values and authentic Christianity.

Father Malcolm French

It is reassuring to know that there are people taking action. Talk show host Ellen Degeneres is using her celebrity to raise public awareness with a video (which I can't seem to embed). And the It Gets Better Project is speaking directly to the kids themselves.

Who would Jesus bully?

Not the tax collector nor the prostitute.

Not the Samaritan nor the leper.

Not the gay nor the lesbian.

And those who claim otherwise are doing the work of the Father of Lies.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"It is important to give thanks in a way that will change lives"

Some weeks ago, there was an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. While there was significant damage, there was no loss of life and limited injuries. There was, however, significant damage to property.

The Bishop of Christchurch happens to be a Canadian. Victoria Matthews is the former Bishop of Edmonton. And. longer ago than either of us would likely care to admit, she was doing an advanced degree at Trinity College while I was doing my MDiv. (I recall one of those ever so serious discussions about what we should call female priests - and Victoria's startling assertion that we should call them "Father" as well. I once heard someone refer to her as Vicky. Somehow, I can't imagine her answering.)

There were a number of interesting articles about the role Victoria played in the aftermath of the earthquake. For some time, she slept on the floor of her study, since ther rest of her house wasn't deemed safe. She held crisis team meetings in that study each morning - presumably after rolling up the matress. There were issues of communications, since office emails were in an unsafe building. There were concerns about diocesan payroll being paid out on time. She directed that all diocesan clergy were to wear their collars - whatever their usual practice - so that they might be recognized and approached by people still in distress.

One of the most striking images was of Victoria presiding at the impromptu deconsecration of a chapel. The engineers had declared the structure unsound and in danger of imminent collapse - with the possibility that it could damage the seniors home next door. Here we see +Victoria Christchurch - not in cope and mitre, but in raincoat and hardhat - pronouncing the deconsecration moments after the engineer had given his verdict.

I emailed Victoria - as one does. She was obviously busy, so the delay in her reply is entirely understandable. The content proclaims a gospel message with startling clarity.

Today, as an act of thanksgiving that there was no loss of life, Victoria has asked her diocese to raise $100,000 (NZ$, I presume, so about C$75,000 or US$73,000) for Haiti, where the earthquake last January caused far greater devastation, including substantial loss of life.

It is very easy, in the midst of our own crises great or small, to maintain a proper perspective, to look beyond one's own devastation to see the greater devastation of another.

I close with Victoria's closing words from her email:

It is important to give thanks
in a way that will change lives.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Happier Church (or at least a happier vicar)

The following manifesto comes from the Church Times. When I open the link, it's all mushed together and unreadable, so for ease of revolutionaries everywhere, here is the advice of the Rev'd Hugh Raymond-Pickard, Area Dean of Kensington, Diocese of London, Church of England from 2006. Some are CofE-specific and one is dated, but you'll get the point.

  • There will be mandatory microphone training for all clergy. I never want to hear another child asking: "What's the Vicar doing?" as a member of the clergy fumbles in an unseemly way inside his or her clerical robes in order to switch on a radio microphone.

  • Signs are to go up outside all churches and vicarages saying, "Please do not apologise for swearing in front of the Vicar." Clergy really have heard all commonly used obscenities, are not shocked, and, in my experience, swear like celebrity chefs when out of earshot of the churchwarden.

  • To cheer up dull church meetings, members of the Prayer Book Society will be required, when speaking at PCCs and synods, to talk in Elizabethan English.

  • There will be a fine every time the word "just" is used in prayers. ("We just want to thank you, Lord" etc., etc.) There is no biblical precedent for it; there are no "justs" in the Lord's Prayer, for example. All proceeds to charity.

  • Once a year, all Evangelical clergy will have to dress up and use incense; and all Anglo-Catholic clergy will preside in knitwear, and display the liturgy on an overhead projector.

  • There will be a compulsory five-a-side football league at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Teams will be chosen at random, except for Archbishop Akinola, who will have to play goalie on Bishop Gene Robinson's side. (Imagine the conversation in the showers afterwards.)

  • This notice is to go up in every church porch: "Thank you for not wearing high-gloss lipstick when receiving the chalice."

  • Once a year, all clergy must sit through a videotape of themselves presiding and preaching at worship. This will remind the clergy how long-suffering the lay people of the Church of England are.

  • The phrase "lady vicar" will be banned.

  • Just for fun, beards must be worn by all male clergy engaged in ecumenical discussions with the Orthodox Churches.

  • T. S. Eliot may be quoted in the vicar's sermons only once each year.

  • There is to be a ten-year moratorium on reading The Journey of the Magi at carol services.

  • A contract will be negotiated with an international coffee-house chain to supply nice-tasting hot beverages after church services around the country. (Instant coffee may only be used in an emergency.)

  • Bishops will be required to attend drumming workshops. Archbishop Sentamu can then lead an annual massed procession of drumming bishops through the streets of London.

  • PCC meetings will last no longer than 60 minutes; members will be encouraged to make their contributions once only and as briefly as possible.

  • The definite article will be inserted into the phrase "fresh expressions of church" so that it reads "fresh expressions of the Church" and at last makes some sense to baffled non-churchgoers.

  • Electric buttons marked "I don't know this hymn" will be fitted in all pews and will relay to a display in the incumbent's stall.

  • Hymns Ancient and Modern will at last be renamed Hymns Ancient.

  • Adverts for clerical jobs will no longer be allowed to carry boasts about the previous incumbent: "Owing to the appointment of the Revd Joe Blogg as Dean/Archdeacon/Bishop (delete as appropriate) we are seeking a new Vicar."

  • At services where the clergy speak in sing-song voices, the congregation will be authorised to respond in kind.

  • At weddings, the mother of the bride will be allowed only to do the flowers if she can produce a recognised flower-arranging qualification and references from satisfied customers.

  • Deanery synods will be suspended for five years. After which time, it will require a two-thirds majority to bring them back into existence.

  • Finally, the following strap line will be carried on all CofE literature, websites, T-shirts, and bumper stickers: "Taking small steps towards a happier Church of England."

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast this story of a Church that wants to hold someone accountable for failing to deal with sexual misconduct with this story about a Church that ignores serious accusations of sexual misconduct.

The tell me again how the so-called Global South has the moral high ground.

(Thanks to We Like Sheep for the illustration.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When all else fails, spew hate

Some progressives of my acquaintance like to blame Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the degrading of political discourse in Canada. He certainly shows that he has little if any grasp of the concept of civility. To disagree with him is to be vilified by an army of vapid spokesthingees armed with misleading talking points and odious innuendo.

On more than one occasion, Harper has paid the price of his own asshattery. He was on track to win the 2004 election against a feckless Liberal Prime Minister and a Liberal Party awash in scandal. Then, the Conservative attack machine issued a pair of news releases accusing Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and prominent New Democrat MP Bill Blaikie of supporting child pornography.

Having managed to keep his political Tourette's Syndrome under control during the 2006 campaign, he had managed to eak out a minority government. He was on track to win a majority in 2008 when his baser instincts took over, his mask slipped, and he launched into a nasty attack on the cultural industry - costing him seats in Quebec and his desired majority.

Since then, his entire public persona has been turned to demonizing anyone who disagrees with his far right political views.

Seriously, our doufus of a Prime Minister makes Rush Limbaugh look thoughtful, Sarah Palin look smart and Glenn Beck look sane.

But it's not really fair to blame the debasing of our political culture solely at the feet of Stephen Harper. In fact, he's a Stevey-cum-lately to the process.

We need to look back just a decade earlier, to see the way in which Jean Chretien, with his creature Warren Kinsella, framed a series of federal elections around the demonization of Western Canadians, of people of faith, and in particular, of anyone who thought that owning a firearm wasn't necessarily an evil thing.

The touchstone of this mutual demonization has been the Canadian Firearms Registry.

Since this is the only substantive issue on which the Harper Conservatives and the Ignatieff Liberals actually disagree, both parties have an interest in stoking up the temperature of the debate. Both parties use the Registry as a shibboleth - and as a serious source of fundraising.

The Liberals say that the registry is a useful tool for law enforcement and for enhancing public safety.

The Conservatives say that the registry is an unwarranted intrusion into the lives of firearms owners - the vast majority of whom are responsible and law-abiding citizens.

Frankly, they're both right.

While one might question whether the registry is the best public policy option (especially considering the cesspool of waste and corruption involved in creating it), it seems pretty obvious that it is useful to be able to trace individual weapons to individual owners.

But it is also perfectly reasonable to ask why even the most minor omission (ie, late filings) should be treated as a criminal offense. Not to mention the entirely odious enforcement provision that essentially allows the police to set aside the need for a warrant if they claim that there might be an unregistered weapon.

Now, a sane person (that is to say, a person who is neither a Liberal nor a Conservative) might wonder why we can't find a way to fix the current regulatory regime. Why can't we get rid of the anti-democratic search provision, decriminalize minor violations and reduce the cost of registration?

But for the past 15 years, the Liberals and the Conservatives have conspired together to ensure that there could be no reasonable consideration of firearms regulation. Both parties have far too much invested in the registry as wedge politics. Both parties play on fear, both to mobilize their voter base and to raise pots of money. (Of course, the Conservatives are far more effective at raising money of the issue, but that's because of Liberal fecklessness, not want of Liberal trying.)

Both parties are playing the ugliest kind of wedge politics, stoking the worst fears of their respective voter bases. The Conservatives pretend that registration will inevitably lead to contemptuous urbanites confiscating grandpa's duck hunting rifle, while the Liberals pretend that registration is the only thing standing between civilization and armies of crazy farmer descending on Toronto in an orgy of lead and death.

A pox on both their hatemongering houses.

Yes, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives like to drive wedges between Canadians, encouraging a culture of regional envy and demographic distrust. They have watched the Liberal Party under Jean Chretien and they have learned from the masters.

At least when Bowser and Blue Three or Dead Trolls in a Baggie play wedge politics, they're only joking.

Better we should all remember that we're all in this together.

And finally, a bit more Bowser and Blue. Dedicated to both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saying no to the Anglican Covenant

There are no end of articles online setting out the weaknesses and dangers of the Anglican Covenant as currently proposed. Ironically, Rowan Williams's pet project seems to have almost as many detractors on the far right as it has among moderates and progressives.

Last week's meeting of the Anglican Provinces in Africa saw the current draft of Williams's Covenant dismissed as inadequate for its lack of punitive clauses. The demand on the right is for all power to be placed in the hands of a new Curia made up of the Primates, based on the far right's belief that Williams is a weak reed.

The Anglican Covenant is the greatest attempted centralization of authority since the de facto creation of the Anglican Communion due to the final disestablishment of episcopacy in Scotland (1689) and the consecration of the first American bishop (1784). Despite the pretty words of 4.1.3 that the Covenant "does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction," nor "grant to any one Church or agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church," 4.2.7 is very clear that the newly minted Standing Committee (whose creation has been a sideshow of smoke, mirrors and skullduggery) will have authority effectively to direct "relational consequences" to be imposed on recalcitrant Provinces.

Several commentators have already laid out the dangers of this authoritarian usurpation, including The Modern Churchpeople's Union here, MCU's General Secretary Jonathon Clatworthy here, and Guardian columnist Savitri Hensman here and here. There are countless others, and they aren't hard to find. Among the best are the semi-satirical briefing notes by Paul Bagshaw which purport to be the internal analysis of the non-existent Province of Antarctica, see here, here, here and here. (The picture at the right shows the Executive Archdeacon of the Province with his family. Is it any wonder I so love Antarctic Anglicanism?)

The biggest challenge Covenant-sceptics face right now is that the authoritarian centralization this Covenant entails are not immediately obvious to people who haven't been closely following the Anglican wars over the past year or two. They are unaware of the way in which the "necessity" of a Covenant has been foisted on the Communion by the effective fiat of a British government appointee taking a non-binding recommendation of an advisory committee and essentially declaring it to be an article of faith. They are unaware of the dubious provenance of a Covenant Design Committee presided over by a Primate who has actively engaged in schism, or the effective exclusion of all but the most conservative voices in the entire process. They look on the Covenant as an abstract exercise, and they do not see the problem in the abstract.

But the "final draft" of the Covenant (final because one man has decided it is final) is not an abstract. It is a profoundly unAnglican coup d'eglise, which would see Anglican theology and ecclesiology redrawn as a Frankenstein's monster with the authoritarian centralism of Rome and the reactionary instincts of the American religious right financiers of the ponderous prelates who have manufactured the present crisis.

So, what do we do?

Like any other political campaign - and ecclesiastical politics is no less political than secular politics - we need education and organization.

It is imperative that Covenant-sceptics not sit quietly while the centralizers try to sneak the Covenant in through the back doors of our synods and conventions. We need to speak up in parishes, deaneries, archdeaconries and dioceses about the authoritarian centralism of the Covenant. We need to write letters to diocesan and national papers, to the Church Times and pretty much to anyone who will publish our letters. We need to speak to our friends and colleagues, to our fellow parishioners, both clerical and lay. We need to speak to our diocesan synod / convention delegates.

But education is not enough. Successful campaigns are successful because they organize. Covenant-sceptics must offer themselves for election as delegates to diocesan synods or conventions. We need to offer ourselves as delegates to every level of synod or convention in our respective Provinces. We need to identify as Covenant-sceptics openly, honestly and fearlessly.

We need to develop key messages that appeal to particular constituencies. For example, no honest observer can pretend for a moment that we would have female deacons, priests and bishops in the Angllican Communion today had the Covenant been a reality in the 1970s. Every female cleric should be considering the implications of that - as should any person, ordained or lay, who supports the ordination of women.

Education and organization are the key. And now is the time.

Of course, even if it were approved, the authoritarian centralization of the Anglican Covenant is doomed to fail. After all, as Eddie Izzard says, "The Spanish Inquisition wouldn't have worked with Church of England." And on this, I think Eddie Izzard is far wiser that either Henry Orombi or Rowan Williams.