The Church of England has come one step closer to formally adopting a major new mechanism aimed at holding the Anglican Communion together. All three houses in the General Synod, its parliamentary body, voted overwhelmingly today to send the draft Anglican Communion Covenant out to diocesan synods for further consideration.

The chamber at Church House in London was full for the lengthy debate, which saw a number of Synod members express their reservations about the Covenant. In his last speech to Synod, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev John Saxbee, said the Covenant represented “factory farmed religion rather than free range faith”.

“I entirely support the process – so long as it doesn’t end,” he quipped.

He said a Covenant would only lead to a two-tier Communion and second-class Anglicans.

His comments reflect the concerns of opponents and even supporters of the Covenant who fear it would stymy diversity and centralise the Communion in such a way as to make it too authoritarian and overly focused on discipline.

Although the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Michael Perham, said he would vote in support of the Covenant, he admitted that he did so with some reluctance because of his concern that the Covenant could be used to take “punitive action” against some Anglicans who hold a different position.

Speaking in support of the Covenant was the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Rev Michael Hill, who proposed the motion asking Synod to send it out to diocesan synods for consideration.

He denied that the Covenant was “un-Anglican”, as some opponents have suggested, and told Synod that it offered a framework for ongoing conversations “so that hopefully we can engage with each other as adults”.

The bishop warned that delaying the Covenant process any further would be a “serious blow to the whole process and to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s efforts to keep dialogue going across the fault lines within the Communion”.

The draft Covenant needs to receive the consent of the majority of diocesan synods in order to return to General Synod for final approval. If this happens, the Covenant is likely to be adopted some time in 2012.

COMMENT: Despite my Google grabbing headline, this vote does not mean that the majority of the members of General Synod approve of the Covenant. They are merely putting off the decision so that they don't upset that nice, old man with a beard. The real fight, as I have suggested elsewhere, will be in the dioceses and, in particular, in the deaneries, where Gospel based Christians can bring the full facts concerning the abrogation of our national sovereignty to the attention of our laity. I am still convinced that if the laity can be bothered to take notice of this gay bashing legislation they will not like it because, if there is one thing the English laity hate, it's being told what to do (especially by foreigners).

Furthermore, the vote today was based on a simple majority. Some inclusive bloggers have complained about this but, to be honest, as this was only a motion to pass the matter on to the dioceses for discussion, it was never going to be anything else. Between now and 2012, the anti-covenanters must work hard to persuade Synod that the decision to adopt  the new legislation is on a par with the decision to ordain woman as priests and should, therefore, require a two thirds majority in all three houses to be passed. They must also work on the government. I don't think we have done enough to alert Parliament to the constitutional havoc that will be reeked by the adoption of this damnable thing. The Church of England is established and is the only body apart from our Government that can pass legislation which effects all English citizens. Such a constitutional body within England accepting a status that allows foreign powers to dictate English policy would be like Yorkshire unilaterally deciding that it is only going to abide by legislation from Westminster if the Chinese government says they should do so.

Thirdly, the decision by General Synod to continue to make the lives of gay people throughout the world a living hell will mean that all future proposals for the allowance of female bishops will go through on the nod. The liberals on Synod who were happy today to become Biblical fundamentalists for the sake of their leader's pride will we be scared stiff of being labelled a bunch of lilly-livered bigots and will try and deflect this accusation by going all out for female equality in the Church. The Grand Tufti himself, will continue to avoid owning the evil he has set in motion by giving this his full backing as well. It's not like he is gay whilst, on the other hand, he has to live with a woman.

Finally, the delay gives Gospel based Anglicans in England time to decide what we will be forced to do, to distance ourselves from such a false description of our own beliefs, should such an evil document become part of the faith we adhere to. A TEC Personal Ordinariate springs to mind and that is going to take a couple of years to set up. Remember, Bishop Gene will have a lot of time on his hands then and will most likely be bored of retirement. He will probably be looking for a new project to get his teeth into.



  1. I do not think they actually voted for the thing. They voted to duck and let the diocese and deaneries do the dirty work. The vote was cowardly but predictable.


  2. They are merely putting off the decision so that they don’t upset that nice, old man with a beard.

    Santa? They’re delaying the vote to forstall any coal in their stockings, yes?

  3. In the mean time, GAFCON has announced that they won’t be attending the next Primate’s meeting anyway. They cite the flawed Anglican Covenant as one of the primary reasons.

    ++Canterbury is trying to lock the barn door after the horses have already fled (and can be seen galloping away towards the horizon). And he’s alienated middle-of-the-road to progressive Anglicans in the process.

    I’m trying to imagine in what way he could have handled the whole situation worse, but can’t for the life of me see how.

  4. Mad Priest and Jim have got it in one. This is not a vote in favour of the Covenant, this is a vote for further consultation.

    I’m against the Covenant but if I were a Synod member I too would have voted to refer it to the dioceses.

    How the dioceses vote (and Rowan won’t be at those Synods) will be critical. If just one votes against I guarantee that that will unleash a great deal of latent opposition.

  5. Voted to duck? Cowardly?
    Are you joking?
    They’ve done the only right thing and referred it to a larger base of voters so that more people than just the bishops get a say.

    That’s the way decisions should be made, especially decisions that have a major impact on the whole church.

  6. Erika, As John Adams said, “A magistrate is responsible to his electorate after his conscience and God.” Those people get the vote not to say “oops hot potato” but to make the tough calls.


  7. And I don’t think Rowan Williams would particularly mind if GAFCON relegated themselves to the 2nd tier of Communion members. In fact, he might be banking on it.

  8. You are correct, MP. I will be interested what happens in this next round in England. I’m sure this vote at General Synod was a way of giving ++Rowan a lollipop so he wouldn’t be so depressed. If only he’d see that he has been his own worst enemy!

  9. I stand by my blog post yesterday – which proved unusually prophetic.

    Don’t underestimate the cowardice and apathy of the “people of God.”

  10. SCG
    Unless the Bishops wanted to reject the Covenant outright (and considering what a major piece of legislation it will be I think that would have been a mistake because it needs much wider discussion and participation from other bodies in the CoE), they had no choice but to follow the next stage of the process, which is to commend it to Diocesan Synods.

    The 44 DS will now have to vote on it. If a 51% majority approves of it it goes back to the House of Bishops who can then return it to General Synod for a final vote.

    That’s perfect democratic process and absolutely as it should be.

    If I had a member of General Synod, even if I didn’t support the COvenant and had no intention of voting for it at the end of the process, I would still have handed it to other bodies to discuss and vote too. Unless you’re as power crazed as the Primates we’re all criticising for their power drive, that’s the appropriate thing to do.

  11. Trivial English alert:

    “which effects all English citizens”

    should be:

    which affects all English citizens

    Most of the arguments for a yes vote were arguments in favour of the thing. The pressure will be on each diocese to pass it for the General Synod to decide. Passed to the General Synod, the pressure will be to follow the dioceses and their approval.