Friday, May 25, 2012

Wrecking amendments and modern heresies

The term "wrecking amendment" refers to a parliamentary tactic where an opponent of a piece of legislation introduces an amendment which, if passed, would likely ensure the legislation is defeated.

The Church of England House of Bishops seem to be determined to maintain themselves as an all-male club since they've introduced wrecking amendments that may to lead to the defeat of the measure allowing the appointment and consecration of female bishops in the Church of England.

Like the proposed Anglican Covenant, the Women Bishops Measure had to win the approval of a majority of English diocesan synods.  Unlike the Anglican Covenant, the Woman Bishops Measure was wildly successful, carried by 42 of 44 dioceses.  What's more, each approval saw a following motion demanding additional "protections" for opponents - and in the vast majority of cases, these following motions were defeated.

Pretty clear, you'd think.

Apparently not to the pointy hat brigade.

The Church of England House of Bishops had a last opportunity to "tweak" the draft Measure.  They did so, seemingly determined to prove Dean Stanley's observation:

Whenever bishops have met in councils, even in the earliest times, they have almost invariably done an infinite deal of mischief.

Of course, the tweaks are not sufficient to assuage the concerns of the intransigents.  But it seems they may be sufficient to defeat the measure since they essentially ensure that any female diocesan bishop would not be the equal of her male colleagues, but rather would be a second-tier bishop.  And because General Synod cannot simply undo the epicopal mischief making, there are few other options available.

There are, to be sure, sincere and credible opponents of the ordination of women.  This isn't really about them.

You see, the loudest opponents of women bishops are demanding the appointment of a parallel episcopacy with bishops who are not only male (which would be a legitimate conscession to their consciences), but are also opponents of woman bishops (which isn't).

Of course, this parallels what they had under the idiotic "flying bishops" regime after the Church of England started ordaining women to the diaconate and the priesthood.  What was truly wierd about that scheme was that a male bishop wasn't good enough for them.  They needed a bishop who also opposed the ordination of women.

This is a modern heresy - the unprecedented belief that every Christian is entitled to have a bishop who agrees with them on whatever particular issue happens to be their personal obsession.

I've had four bishops.  I've disagreed with all of them over something or another.  (I also had a retired archbishop as an honorary assistant, but that's another story.)

Mr. Pusey did not, so far as I know, ever get a "flying bishop" appointed to agree with him, nor Mr. Keble nor Mr. Neale.  I don't recall Mr. Newman ever writing about how the lack of a bishop who shared his prejudices motivated his departure to Rome.  Indeed, I don't recall the Oxford Fathers ever claiming that they were entitled by right to have a bishop who agreed with them.  Perhaps that was to be the subject of Tract 91 - or perhaps not.

Fr. Green, Fr. Dale, Fr. Enraght, Fr. Cox and Fr. Tooth all ended up in jail for lack of bishops who agreed with them, yet not once did they submit that as part of their defense during the ritual trials.

Many of the heroes of the evangelical revival likewise found themselves in disagreement with their bishops.  None of them ever proclaimed this novel entitlement.

No, what the opponents of female bishops are demanding is not a secure place in the Church.  Their fear of girl-cooties has driven them to embrace a principle so inherently unprincipled as to be entirely laughable.

And the English Bishops have abandoned any pretence of wanting to see their ecclesiatical treehouse go coed.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On to Indianapolis and Nadi

Members of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition did take a moment to bask in the unexpected success of our campaign in England. 

When we first launched the Coalition in November 2010, it seemed unlikely that we could possibly put a dent in a scheme that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Comunion apparatchiks had determined was the only outcome allowed.  Every institutional advantage was on the side of the Covenanters. Yet somehow this "band of bloggers" managed to ensure that the Anglican Covenant didn't just go through on a wink and a nod.  Here we sit, 18 months later, with the proposed Covenant defeated in 26 of 44 English dioceses and effectively off the table in the Church of England for the next three years.

Some have concluded that the failure of the Covenant scheme in the Church of England means the Anglican Covenant is a dead letter.  That is not correct - no matter the absurd possibility of an Anglican Covenant that excludes the Church of England (and, contrary to the posturing by ACO General Secretary Kearon, also excludes the Archbishop of Canterbury).

No, the Anglican Communion Covenant is sorely wounded, but it is not dead.  This is not the end.

So after taking a moment to enjoy the victory, the Coalition is now focussed on the next skirmish.  We have had a turnover of leadership at the international level, with the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley having concluded that it was an opportune time to step down as Moderator.  As announced at the beginning of this month, I have been appointed the new Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

Both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will be considering the proposed Covenant in early July.  The TEC General Convention is in Indianapolis July 5 to 12 and the ACANZAP General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui is in Nadi, Fiji Islands July 6 to 13.

In ACANZAP, seven of the four Pakeha dioceses have already voted against the Anglican Covenant, although I believe these votes are advisory and nonbinding.  However Tikanga Maori has officially rejected the Covenant and, given the unique constitutional structure of ACANZAP, it is highly likely that General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui will reject the proposed Covenant.

The situation in TEC is a little less certain.  While a few dioceses have debated the proposed Covenant (with most of those voting against it), the American situation seems, in many respects, quite similar to the Church of England at the beginning of the process, with many folk inclined to believe the bland if contradictory reassurance of +Cantuar and the ACO that the Covenant is both meaningless and vital.

Along with the Coalition's Episcopal Church Convenor, Dr Lionel Deimel, I will be in Indianapolis for General Convention to assist in making the case against.  I expect the ACO will run a desperation campaign to get their derailed scheme back on track.  While a yes vote from TEC would not necessarily undo the setback they suffered in England, it would recoup them a lot of ground.

The defeat in England hurt the Covenanters' campaign far more than they care to admit.  Wales, which had seemed certain to adopt the Covenant (if only in deference to Archbishop Williams, their former Primate, and under pressure from the Bishop of St. Asaph, the Covenant's effective author), chose to give it "an amber light," specifically citing events in the Church of England.  Scotland seems increasingly likely to vote against.  And statements at the recent Irish General Synod strongly suggest that Ireland's "subscribing" to the Covenant was significantly distinct from adoption.

It was clear from the start that the bulk of the GAFCON provinces would not sign.  By the end of July, it is likely that the bulk of the provinces outside the Global South will have done likewise.  If so, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out when the Anglican Consultative Council (the only Anglican Communion body that is not all bishops) gathers in Aukland NZ in late October.

The Anglican Covenant is so incompetently drafted that there may exist no effective way of ending the charade, even if every remaining province rejects it.  However, the ACC may have the capacity to suspend the flagellation of deceased equines from that point forward.