The Anglican Covenant Crapshoot: Prognostications for mid April.

The Anglican Covenant is out there being evaluated, questioned, yawned at, stomped on, dragged through the dirt, and on occasion lauded.  In the last few days we have Pluralist speaking out, yet again, in his usual pithy way on the mutterings from the pro-Covenant crowd. Wounded Bird notes that one of the New Zealand dioceses thinks poorly of it. (She copped it from No Covenant facebook page.) Meanwhile, The No Anglican Covenant Website continues to give a running list of resources on covenant matters. The Chicago Consultation just published a new set of essays on the issues behind the issue of the Anglican Covenant.

On the supporting side there are a variety of papers and commentaries coming out on Covenant-Communion's website (a effort of the Living Church and others). These are mostly lengthy papers full of complex sentences and scholarly sounding opinions. Still, worth the read.

So it is high time to give a reading of the tea leaves. It is high time for the Anglican Covenant Crapshoot, whereby, by guess and by golly, a chart of the impending frightful mess is uncovered, complete with some wild guesses as to the number of National or Regional Churches (that's what Provinces are) willing to buy into the Anglican Covenant, and why.

The handy-dandy pie chart below tells all.

The reasons for supporting the Covenant are:

We need to support the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he is for it.
We have to stay at the table, no matter what. Really.
It's got to be changed, but we can buy on and change it later. (Remember the Bill of Rights?)
We are scared of being thrown out of the Communion, even though they keep saying that won't happen.
And, last but not least, we really really like it.

The reasons for opposing the Covenant are:

It's nonsense and by the way, who cares?
It is too hard on spirit led change agents.
It is too soft on heretics, particularly from the faithless West.
It is not Anglican but something out of Alice in Wonderland. 

So, here it is.

You will note that the Preludium prognostication holds that for various reasons something like 40% of the Churches in the Anglican Communion, or 15 member churches, will vote for it. Of that number only one will really really like it. (I have no notion which one that will be.)  Most of the rest are what we have know in the past as Anglophiles - people who for one reason or another can't bear the possibility that they are not part of England. 

The 60% (roughly 23) who are opposed (or will be) to the Covenant are not at all united in their reasons, but Preludium predicts that the group that thinks the AC is not Anglican and the smaller group who thinks it is nonsense will make nice with both the progressive left and the firmly stomp-out-the-heretics crowd and will declare that the nonsense of the Covenant's proposal ( 4.1.6)  that it becomes effective for a church when ever that churches sign on is simplistic and  rot.

The Anglican Covenant Crapshoot is really this: Will the Anglophiles be able to drag the rest of the  Churches into their playbook by shooting craps with loaded dice?  The loaded dice are the two dice - Loyalty and Fidelity - Loyalty to the Church of England's idea of a church of and for the nation, and fidelity to the idea of the Anglican family.  IF family means everything AND we all wish our Churches had the power that we used to think the CofE had vis a vis the state - namely that it was THE church of the State, then we are sunk.

The thing is, the Anglican Communion is a good idea and can be a better idea.  The notion that churches with shared heritage, working within a context where prayer greatly influences belief and ancient truths on important matters are respected, should identify themselves with one another, is a good thing. It can be a better thing, and our common work on how we do ministry and understand mission, how we serve the poor and give voice to more than our own needs, can lead us to new reasons to be glad to be Anglicans. There is good work being done in Anglicanland, and better to come.

But the Anglican Covenant "idea" is not part of that.

The discussion of the Anglican Covenant is a good thing, and I am glad we are having to struggle with the idea. We are talking more about the Anglican Communion these days than ever before.  But in the end the Anglican Covenant will interest not too many, and not too well.

So, there it is. Preludium's gauging of the percentages on the Anglican Communion crapshoot. 

To quote the MadPriest, "Of course I could be wrong."


  1. Well, Mark, you are a brave soul!

    If you are correct—and that is certainly possible—we may get the worst possible outcome. That would be a Communion that had been split over sexuality split also over the covenant. We would have two nearly equal tiers, neither of which was homogeneous on the homosexuality issue. Not only would the Communion be split, but even its major blocs would be split.

    It would serve Rowan right, but Jesus will weep.

  2. I'm beginning to wonder if Jesus isn't all cried out over our nonsense.

  3. I am afraid that the damage is already done and Jesus is already weeping: whether or not the provinces sign up, they have spent the last several years bickering about this topic.

    Not only may the Anglican Communion split up, so may its constituent churches. I, for one, would not want to remain in a Church of England that had put its name to such a shameful and un-Christian document.

    When tectonic plates shift, earthquakes follow.

  4. Thank you, Mark. A very good analysis that results, in the end, with my own prognostication, but you have done it with your usual blend of insightful analysis, attention to detail and eloquence.

    I do not fear a further split, as some do. I suspect the "final vote" on the "final draft" will be a real wake up call about just how dangerous and ill-conceived this Covenant actually is. We'll have something "on record" but ultimately, I think, the Covenant will be relegated to a place in history just behind the 39 Articles in the BCP - except, it will never be placed in any new addition of the BCP.

    Instead, it will be a rolled up and stored in an ornate box, high up on a shelf in a dusty library at Lambeth Palace. It will only be taken out, unfurled and waved around menacingly whenever anyone wants to object to the next thing that provides "offense" to someone's understanding of what it means to be a "true" Anglican.

    In another 30 years, we'll all look back on this time, scratch our heads in dismay and say to each other, "What the WHAT was THAT all about?"

    And, we'll all have a good laugh. Even Jesus.

  5. Mark, I think your guesstimates are just about right. One of the "reasons to sign" you omit plays in some circles: "So we can be a real Church just like Rome and then she will talk to us seriously..." Probably not a huge slice of the pie, but worth remembering. (I think Rowan takes his with ice cream.)

  6. Good comments by all. I do hope Elizabeth is right! I suspect we should take the old Scottish advice, "Dinna fash yersel'" about the Covenant -- if it ends up doing real damage (and it might), it's probably damage that would have been done sooner or later anyway. Those of us who follow sites like "Thinking Anglicans" know that much (not all) of the Church of England is already a train wreck.

    Tobias, you are (as usual!) on target. A lot of us have been around long enough that we remember the salad days following Vatican II, before the Curia locked Paul VI in a closet (or whatever they did to him) and then followed him with JP2 and B16. (Hmm. I wonder what the real story was about JP1? Let's revive a conspiracy theory!) Some day we can hope for union with Rome, and we should be praying for that, but I Am Not Holding My Breath. (Rome's refusal to talk to us seriously is, I think, Not Our Problem.)

    Meanwhile. good for the Maoris.

  7. Are we witnessing the Communion splitting up (culprits are to blame for wielding their axes)or snapping (no one to blame, it always was something held in tension ...)?

  8. I would like to be t that we will spend more time on the Anglican Covenant than say, feeding the hunry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, saving children from malaria, freeingthe hostages in Nigeria, reuniting the children of the night in Uganda, setting up Women's shelters in Zaire, protecting the poor and homeless in the USA, saving meidcare nad social security, and generally following the footsteps of Jesue combined! So, how do we chart that?

  9. Peter C: I suspect it is snapping. Many feel that national churches are a better way to go, as in the Lutheran World Federation. Where there is confusion is over a) 'this has always been so' assumptions; b) this new federal thing is a good way to move forward (no more instruments, etc)but what will it actually look like in terms of global gatherings as catholic Christians; and inside TEC, c) how to get everyone to agree to a) and b) as the heritage described in the BCP, esp if dioceses want to hold onto a genuine communion of accountability.


  10. Snapping would be healthier, because organic snaps can heal, gently, bit by bit, when the arguments have subsided and the fog has cleared.

    Institutionalised splits are rarely healed and even more rarely formally removed.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.