Bishop Peter Selby’s paper to the Inclusive Church Conference has alerted me to take more seriously the warnings of some Changing Attitude supporters about the Anglican Covenant, warnings which they have voiced from the start – that it is bad news and should be opposed.
Peter Selby said the Covenant as proposed would be a disaster for the Anglican Communion. It would create a church in which the ‘insiders’, as he identifies the authors of the American paper produced by the Bishop of Durham and others, take ownership of the Communion and the Matthean ‘least of the brothers and sisters’ are dispossessed. The ‘insiders’ include, of course, the self-proclaimed majority which includes the Global South/GAFCON/FoCA coalition and the minority in England who support their schismatic movement.
Dispossessing the least of the brothers and sisters
If the Covenant is adopted it will almost certainly be used to dispossess not just the ‘least of the brothers and sisters – LGBT Anglicans – but everyone who thought they belonged to a church with a certain theological ethos and a familiar, recognisable character. There will be no space, at least not in the ‘track A’ envisaged by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Reflections, for LGBT people who are open about their sexuality or have been appointed to senior positions in the Church of England; no place for people who believe in generous openness towards those who are different – whether from other Christian traditions or other faith communities; no equal place for the women who are called to ordained ministry as deacons, priests or bishops, no place even for LGBT lay people who are called to be readers.
An Anglican Covenant, says bishop Peter, that excludes those who have come to different conclusions about sexuality is not fully Anglican and does not represent us. If this is the nature of the final draft of the Covenant, then the question, “how shall we make it clear that we do not wish to be included in that message?” In answering that question, says Peter Selby, we shall “have to take stronger action than simply to notice what is happening among us.”
Peter Selby says one of the most sinister implications of the Archbishop’s paper is the suggestion that “ecumenical discussions will on the Anglican side only have participants who are ‘signed up’ to the Covenant and whose provinces adhere to its provisions.” We who are excluded would have to take steps to notify ecumenical partners that ‘Anglicanism’ is not represented by the Anglicans they meet. The Archbishop now treats the issues that surround sexuality only as ecclesiastical problems, to be resolved as such rather than assisting the whole Communion, whichever ‘side’ we are on, to move to a larger perception of this complex reality from which might come a new paradigm of thinking which would change us all. It has become a forlorn hope. Instead we are to be divided into two tracks, those who sign up and those who don’t.
The Communion is already divided by schismatic groups and actions as is, effectively, the Church of England over the consecration of women bishops. The attempt to keep the Anglican Communion together will fail and in the process, the enterprise of ‘becoming the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclaiming of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ’ will also fail. Instead of engaging in the search for the truth together we will settle for stalemate – schism by another name.
Not in my name
What is at stake is our faith that God’s truth will be discovered. The response Peter Selby advocates is to find ways of saying ‘not in my name’. It would be suicidal for any group that advocates for the full inclusion of women and LGBT people in the Anglican Communion to support any further moves to impose the proposed Covenant.