The Church of England took a step towards averting schism over gays yesterday when the General Synod backed a process that would allow the expulsion of rebel provinces from the Anglican Communion.So, what do you think? Is the proposed Covnant concept a Gay Expulsion Plan? Is that what it is all about?
Some liberals in the established Church oppose the introduction of an Anglican “covenant” outlining a common doctrine that is to be endorsed across all 38 provinces worldwide, because they fear it will limit the traditional diversity that has become a hall-mark of Anglicanism.
But the Synod, meeting in York, voted overwhelmingly to “engage positively” in the creation of the covenant after a series of speakers warned that the dispute over homosexuality had exposed deep flaws in how Anglican unity is maintained. The covenant would prevent any province from consecrating an openly gay bishop, as the US did in 2003 with the election of Gene Robinson to New Hampshire, without risking expulsion...
Let's look at how others are talking about it. Consider the presentation given to the Synod by Abp. Gomez, chair of the Covenant Design Committee:
...Rumours abound that there are plots to carry forward in some provinces a bold agenda on gay marriage, and to require toleration of it across the Communion. Other rumours inform us that the primates are plotting to impose a “collective papacy” on the Anglican Communion. Bishops and archbishops are taking over the care of churches outside their own provinces; new jurisdictions are being erected and bishops are being consecrated and set up in a spirit of competition. People are taking up more and more extreme positions and then defending them; no matter how well founded or sincere the objections...Is this a roundabout way of proposing the Gay Expulsion Plan (GEP)? If you are familiar with Abp. Gomez' previous statements on this issue, you are most likely quite aware that this is exactly what he hopes to accomplish.
...For decades, Anglicans have been wondering whether increasing diversity might force the Provinces apart, and asked what holds us together. The days of undefined affection are sadly over, yet this is also not a time when proposals which are brand new would win a broad consensus across the Communion...
Stephen Bates' report makes the intention of a Covenant quite clear:
The Church of England yesterday bowed to pleas from two archbishops to help draw up a disciplinary covenant for the worldwide Anglican communion, despite fears that it will lead to the expulsion of liberal believers..."It simply will not do to live with differences." It is difficult to believe that an Anglican, let alone a bishop and a scholar, could ever utter such a statement.
...The proposal for a covenant has been most strongly supported by conservatives and evangelicals within the church, confident that it will enshrine their theology and enforce doctrinal order. They see it as a means of disciplining member churches such as the American Episcopalians who have pressed ahead with the recognition and inclusion of gay members and elected an openly gay bishop in 2003.
Liberals claim the church has never needed a framework before and that the proposal goes against Anglicanism's traditional national autonomy and diversity of practice.
One member, Kevin Ward, representing the northern universities, said: "Gay Anglicans have reason to be suspicious of a covenant. Its sole aim is to punish and discipline dissent ... its whole raison d'etre is one of threat, hardening and solidifying a divisive neo-Anglican communion on a narrower, less tolerant and less joyful basis."
But Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham and one of the covenant's strongest supporters, told the synod: "Our present framework simply isn't working. We need a framework to enable us to live in the house together. We are not being asked to sign a blank cheque. It is a commitment to a way of working together. It simply will not do to live with differences"...
I suggest that any future Covenant proposal be referred to as the Gay Expulsion Plan. Lazy typists may want to use GEP. An additional advantage to using the acronym is that in explaining what it stands for one might have an opportunity to speak out about the real agenda behind this flawed Covenant concept.