Giles “O’Brien” Fraser
Now, Giles Fraser on the best of days makes a habit of annoying as many people as possible (see the letters in today’s Church Times for the simple proof) but his column in today’s Church Times takes the principle to a whole new level. What Fraser now wants is that what’s sauce for th1e goose not to be sauce for the gander.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the engaging New Zealander Don McKinnon, steps down at the end of this month. By all accounts, he has done a terrific job. Although it is often dismissed as the fag end of the British Empire, the Commonwealth continues to flourish. It celebrated Commonwealth Day this week in good heart.
Really? Hands up anybody who celebrated Commonwealth Day? Anybody? ANYBODY?
Made up of 53 nation states containing 1.8 billion people, it draws together 30 per cent of the population of the planet. The extraordinary thing is that, decades after the collapse of British colonialism, so many countries want to be part of it.
Many have made the comparison between the Anglican Communion and the Commonwealth. I have written dismissively of the Communion as the “Commonwealth at prayer”. Perhaps it was a cheap shot, presuming that the Commonwealth is nothing more than a post-colonial aberration. The reality speaks against me. The Commonwealth seems in considerably better moral and political health than its Christian cousin. It interesting to ask why.
You’re going to do it aren’t you Giles? I can just tell you’re going to answer your own question. And by the way, before you bring it up again, remember you were the one who raised the issue of "moral health".
The answer might be found in the founding documents, specifically the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles of 1971, and the Harare Declaration, 20 years later. In Harare, Commonwealth leaders agreed to work for the fundamental values of democracy, human rights, individual liberty, and just government. These documents emphasise that each country works for the good of the other from an agreed platform of national autonomy.
Yeah!! There it is that wonderful word "autonomy", the one that Jesus preached when he famously said "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be autonomous as we are autonomous." (or words to that effect – obviously – john 17:11).
The Gospel of autonomy. Don’tcha just love it?
The documents are similar in form to the proposed Anglican Covenant. Both contain the possibility that members can be thrown out if they do not go along with the core principles. Zimbabwe is a case in point, having been suspended from the Commonwealth for human-rights violations.
So let’s be clear what Fraser is saying here, because he’s about to apply the principle he draws from this marvellous secular example to the Communion. Ready? The Commonwealth Principles work because they allowed the evil Zimbabweans to be expelled when they broke the rules on what were acceptable forms of behaviour in their own autonomous state? Doesn’t sound like a triumph for autonomy to me. Sounds like a triumph for Commonwealth catholicity on Human Rights.
Yet, despite the exclusionary potential in the founding documents of the Commonwealth, they state clearly that the autonomy of each state is to be respected. The emphasis is on valuing difference and promoting freedom. In contrast, the Anglican Covenant is something that has been designed, at a time of emergency, with the express purpose of rejecting freedom and narrowing the possibilities of Anglicanism.
That’s right!!! The Commonwealth members may have suspended Zimbabwe’s membership, but they still value the different way Mugabe implements human rights by beating up and murdering opponents. The Commonwealth members positively promote the freedom of Mugabe to destroy his country’s economic infrastructure and print more and more money leading to the worst inflationary spiral known since the German economic collapse of the early 1920s.
How evil it would be to narrow Mugabe’s opportunities for autonomous freedom. How wicked. How deplorable. How un-Christian.
We love autonomy – autonomy is good. Doubleplusgood.
The Covenant is all about control by those who want to remake a new, purified Anglicanism, free from liberals (such as me) and other undesirables. It is a sad carry-on when the secular communion, with its greater differences, gets along a good deal better, and models greater inclusivity, than its Christian counterpart. We could learn from it.
I’m confused. Either Giles Fraser loves the idea of autonomy (in which case why does he oppose the Mugabe regime) or he hates it, in which case what’s his problem with TEC being expelled from the Communion? Surely he can’t have it both ways?
Or is it rather that Fraser wants to engage in doublespeak, to have "autonomy" mean two entirely different things in different environments to suit his purpose, good when applied to TEC and bad when applied to Zimbabwe? Autonomy for TEC and Canada is a wonderful thing right, because it maintains love and community!
And of course, at the moment liberals are all love and community. They’re so full of love and community it’s why they’re throwing orthodox parishes out of their buildings, inhibiting their clergy and deposing their bishops. Love. Community. Community. Love. Happy. Happy. Happy.
Inner Party Member O’Brien would be proud.