Thinking Anglicans has highlighted an open letter from the Bishops of Oxford and Bristol concerning the Proposed Anglican Covenant and urging its adoption. By the voting record, Bristol appears to have been very persuasive on his home turf. Oxford has yet to cast a ballot, and it may be moot by the time they do, as it is possible, though unlikely, a majority of Church of England dioceses will have rejected the PAC prior to Oxford's Synod.
Paul Bagshaw has penned a thoughtful response to the bishops' asseverations, and I need not say more than a Bravo to his thoughts. I do want to note one of my chief complaints with Bristol and Oxford on this, however, and that is their statement
A luke-warm response, or worse, rejection, of the Covenant in the Church of England would meet with bewilderment in the wider Communion. Some would ask with the prophet Isaiah, “Can a mother forget her children?” ... It would also impoverish the Church of England. Our church life and mission is infinitely the richer for the relationships we share around the Communion. The Covenant offers us a precious opportunity to consolidate those relationships and to demonstrate our commitment to one another as churches. Let’s not miss this opportunity offered to us in our time.Aside from the hand-wringing about forgetful mothers, it seems very odd to suggest that a Church of England rejection of the Anglican Covenant will in any way be seen as a desire to distance itself from the Anglican Communion! I say this for two reasons:
First, a number of England's "children" have already made it clear they wish to have nothing further to do with the PAC because it isn't punitive enough; and a few have expressed their reservations about it because it is punitive at all. It has little or nothing to do with relationships with the Church of England.
Second, and like unto it, is the reality that the Covenant has no mechanism for improving relationships, and only explicit threats for diminishing them, in the text itself. It is full of good intentions towards "commitment to one another as churches" but when it comes to brass tacks it is all about the management of difficulties through the imposition of "relational consequences." The carrot is only a picture of a carrot for future reference, while the stick is real. Rejecting the Covenant is the surest way to indicate a desire to continue to live in peace, and to consolidate relationships without any coercive "consequences" imposed as a result of disagreements that have arisen, or may arise.
I certainly hope that the rest of the dioceses in the Church of England actually take the time to read the PAC before suggesting it be adopted, rather than the smooth words of those who seem comfortable in believing that this proposal is absolutely necessary but really changes nothing. Sed contra, It will change everything, and give us nothing.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG