A strategy for the settling of doctrinal disputes
The Church of England arose from the Elizabethan settlement of 1559, which settled half a century of disputes and became the first ‘broad church’, with governance that included bishops, priests and the laity. If the synod passes the motion unamended, the way will be open for bishops to agree a document without recourse to the clergy and the laity. This looks curiously like the papal form of governance which the Reformation abolished - a Curia, rule by the bishops. It will pave the way for the ‘covenant’ between provinces of the Anglican communion worldwide and, however widely drawn that is, some decision-making power will be ceded overseas, exporting some of its historic inheritance.
As previously reported, the Archbishop of Canterbury will be absent from the meeting.
It is a matter of history that the Church of England helped form the English national character. While some may question what any of this have to do with setting the downtrodden free, relieving oppression and suffering, or setting an example of being peaceful, it is a crucial vote for a solution to increasing doctrinal differences, especially over the ‘gay’ issue. How else may one achieve unity in doctrine, without a degree of papal authority?
The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, proposed a motion committing the Synod to engaging "positively" with the Covenant.
An amendment from Tim Cox (Blackburn) sought a simpler declaration of communion only with provinces that were wholehearted about scripture, upheld the historic formularies, and believed that "sexual intercourse belongs solely within the lifelong commitment of a man and woman in marriage".
This was lost. But more support from the floor was forthcoming for an amendment from Justin Brett (Oxford) which sought to tone down "affirm its willingness to engage positively with" to "note", in case the Synod did not like the final result of the drafting.
There was another amendment, too, which would have required the Archbishops' Council's response to the consultation about the draft Covenant to be brought back in November or February for the Synod's approval. The Synod was warned that any text that had been approved by the Lambeth Conference was likely to be presented to it on the basis "Take it or leave it."
But after strong speeches against the Covenant, and expressions of doubt that it would achieve what it had set out to, the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, almost dared the Synod not to go along with it. It mattered to millions of Christians in a less fortunate position, he said; the Synod had voted "massively" in favour of the Covenant in 2005; no classical Anglican would have embraced the contemporary idea of inclusivity; and if the Synod voted against it, it would be undermining the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, also sought to reassure the Synod that the two Archbishops could be trusted, and it was not signing up to a "confessional document".
The chairman of the House of Laity, Dr Christina Baxter, advised that someone should bring a private member's motion about the Covenant which would go "straight to the top of the list" at the next group of sessions, and so ensure that a further submission could be made, without holding up the official response, which had been requested before the end of the year.
The amendments were lost, and Bishop Hind's motion was carried.