General Synod meets today and over the course of the next few days will discuss a number of things, including the controversial (for some) Anglican Covenant. The debate will take place on Wednesday morning and will finish with a vote that to all intents and purposes either accepts or rejects the Covenant in its current shape.
Of course, not everybody is happy with the Covenant in its present form. Liberals see it as far too restrictive, recognising that in its current form it is highly likely that ECUSA and the Canadian church will very rapidly be relegated to the “outer ring”. On the other hand, some conservatives believe that the Covenant in its current form is too lax and needs to be tightened up. These conservatives are threatening to abstain. In the middle is a large group of Evangelicals, Catholics and Broad Church peeps who support the Covenant.
I think those of us who are broadly in agreement that something substantial needs to be done about the direction of ECUSA et al need to face the following realities.
- There is very little chance of amending the Covenant at this point. The choice for Synod is to either have the Covenant in its current form or have no Covenant at all. If the Church of England refuses to ratify it it is very much dead in the water and the liberal side wins.
- There are three possible scenarios as to how the voting will go.
- The first is that the Covenant gets a large amount of support and passes easily. In this scenario there is then a huge amount of impetus behind the pro-covenant position and the liberals are seen to have been soundly defeated. When this happens, those who abstained on the vote will be pushed to the side of the argument and will lose any political momentum they may have established thus far for a reworking of the Covenant to a more conservative line.
- The second scenario is that the vote is very tight and that the fact that some abstain means that the Covenant is narrowly defeated. In this scenario the liberals emerge with a very definite “Synod made clear right from the start in its response to the covenant that it believed we and all provinces should be free to develop as the Spirit leads us….” narrative and the message sent to the wider Communion is “nothing is going to be done about ECUSA and the game is over”. On top of this, it is widely understood that the conservatives who abstained are to blame for the victory of the liberals.
- The third scenario is a vote which the “Yes” camp wins with a broad coalition including the conservatives. In this scenario it is seen very clearly that one of the key reasons the vote passed was because of the support of the conservatives, who in doing so gain a seat at the table in how to move the process forward.
If conservatives want to act strategically and politically there is simply no alternative to voting for the Covenant in its present form. Whilst I fully understand the position they are articulating, if they abstain they risk being pushed to the fringes of the debate (with no influence at all) or worse, handing the liberals a major victory on a plate (which is the last thing they want).
For the sake of the Communion, vote yes.