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‘Peace In Our Time’?

Lambeth Palace

Picture the scene. It is late summer 2012, the NACC have lost the battle and the General Synod of the Church of England has voted to sign up to the Anglican Covenant.

This news, as you can imagine, was greeted with jubilation by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. They celebrated by carousing  late into the night with the meister spinners of Lambeth as they downed shandy after shandy until the small hours, basking in a warm glow of mutual congratulation.  But now it was the cold grey dawn of the morning after. Nursing an only slightly sore head, Archbishop Rowan presented himself at the breakfast table.  What a relief it was going to be not to have to worry about that infernal (sorry, tiresome) document ever again! He tucked into his bacon and eggs before striding out to the red carpet and dais, which had been set out in front of Lambeth Palace so that he could announce this triumph to his assembled people and wave the Covenant at them.


An Anglican Subject Writes

At this point, dear reader, I invite you to explore with me a tangential thought. Recall, if you will, the two recent Gulf Wars, each with a President George Bush at the helm. The first had limited but defined aims; when these had been achieved the allied troops left Iraq. In 2003, however, GWB’s premature announcement of ‘victory’ was followed by a further eight years of military occupation. Do you share my suspicion that this was, at least in part, because no one had made any plans for what was to happen after the fall of Baghdad?  Do you go on to share my suspicion that no one at Lambeth Palace has made any plans for what is to happen as a result of the signing of the so-called Anglican Covenant, which is no gentlemen’s agreement sealed by a handshake as you might infer from the use of this word, but a legally binding international treaty? In the Church of England, Canon Law will have to be re-written to incorporate the provisions we have now committed ourselves to.


‘Those Who Do Not Remember History Are Condemned to Repeat It’

I apologise if you think the following parallel is melodramatic, not to say histrionic. But consider:

  • Belligerent forces apparently intent on world domination assert their demands
  • Attempts to deflect warfare by talks and international enquiries do not succeed in silencing the belligerents
  • Finally, in a last desperate attempt at appeasement, the leader offers a piece of paper giving in to almost all the demands in the hope that this will secure ‘peace in our time’.

Neville Chamberlain, announcing the Munich Agreement in 1938:

…the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine (waves paper to the crowd – receiving loud cheers and “Hear Hears”). Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you …My good friends, for the second time in our history a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.”


Winston Churchill, denouncing the Agreement in the House of Commons:

“We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat… you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude…we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road…we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting”. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”


Personal Entreaty

Archbishop Rowan, I appeal to you on behalf of  the Anglican Communion as a whole: in the name of God, please reconsider. Today Chamberlain is remembered in disgrace, Churchill as a national hero. Let it not be said of you: ‘Thou wast weighed in the balance and found wanting’.

9 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I don’t actually think we have an modern ‘Churchill’s’ in Parliament, although I sense a feminine one here in the Author of this blog.

The reality of ‘unforeseen consequences’ won’t hit home. The ABC will probably retire to Academia to blind new audiences with Theological prevarication, while whoever succeeds him with have to deal with the bitter suicide pill that is the Covenant.

I’m unwilling to speculate on where we’ll be in five years time, except it will be in a worse place than if we turned down the Covenant.

I’m still hoping that there remain some good ‘Prayer-book Catholics’ present in both Parliament and the Lords who will look at this legislation and campaign with the vigour that it deserves to have it thrown out.

Perhaps we need something more militant, like enlisting the National Secular Society in the cause, by pointing out to them that they’ll have a lot more to complain about in the Church, one foreign bishops get the upper hands in the Anglican Communion.

Lay Anglicana said...

Oh dear, you seem to think the battle is lost? Thanks for the comments, though – thought-provoking as always. I am still looking for volunteers to help me with the daily emailing of people who might be able to help us by influencing public opinion. I was all for trying Richard Dawkins – for the reasons you give among others – but wiser and cooler heads have dissuaded me from this. And it is not as though there are not plenty of parliamentarians and journalists left!

23 January 2012 18:05
23 January 2012 16:36
UKViewer said...

I don’t think that the battle is lost, I’m of the view that unless the Covenant is given a fair hearing at Parish level via PCC’s and Deanery and Diocesan synod, how do General Synod members form a view?

I’m unclear how far this has got across the dioceses as there is very little publicity about it. I think that Canterbury discussed it last weekend, but there’s nothing on the website about it. I will ask my Vicar tomorrow.

I’d love to help to email those people, but I wonder if it might not compromise my position in other areas.

Lay Anglicana said...

Yes, Ernie, I wasn’t going to ask you to join the band of ‘conspirators’ at this point, with you at such a crucial juncture. Moral support is gratefully received and very welcome.
I think we are assuming that Canterbury is a lost cause (it would be a very brave/?foolhardy priest who spoke out against it).
I do know that it was suggested that the whole thing not be discussed until the winter General Synod at Lambeth, but apparently if Archbishop Rowan does indeed intend to stand down after the Queen’s jubilee celebrations, this would cut across his plans.

23 January 2012 18:56
23 January 2012 18:37
Susan Snook said...

Laura, writing from across the pond, I’m a bit unclear about Church of England polity. Is it in fact the case that Parliament must approve this Covenant if the Church of England adopts it? And that it will not have binding force until Parliament approves it? If so, it seems to me that Parliament should be very wary of approving a document that gives foreign prelates a measure of control over the English state church. After all, the C of E was founded precisely in order to shake off such control. (And indeed, the Anglican Communion was founded for the same reason, beginning with the establishment of an independent American Anglican Church after the revolution, since American priests could not swear allegiance to the English monarch.) And I can’t think that Parliament would be very sympathetic to the anti-LGBT sentiments that gave rise to this covenant, since the C of E is evidently allowed to discriminate against homosexual persons only as an exception to otherwise established English law. Please correct me if I am mistaken about the English legal system.

Lay Anglicana said...

Oh, Susan! My delight in hearing from you is only outweighed by my weeping at the topic you raise! No wonder you are puzzled. We (well, I) have now discovered that Parliament is only obliged to approve the Covenant if it is described by the Church of England as a ‘measure’. If the Covenant is classified by the Church only as an ‘act of Synod’, then it does not have to be referred to Parliament. (I do hope I have now got that the right way round – to me ‘act of synod’ sounds more serious than a ‘measure’ so I was writing it wrong to begin with!). You will note the fiendish cunning of this. It is the Church of England which decides on its own whether a particular policy decision is to be regarded as an act of synod or as a measure. So the Church can decide whether it should be debated in the Parliament. Parliament seems to have no say, at least in the routine conduct of business. Parliament can, however, debate whatever it likes. It would theoretically be possible for it to be raised by an individual member of Parliament (whether an MP or member of the House of Lords) In practice, though, I do not think it has ever discussed Church business which has not been referred to it. We are trying to lobby individual parliamentarians in the hope that this might change, but it has to be said that this is an uphill battle with small chances of success. We are also trying to create a
political stir generally in the country, by rousing academics and journalists. Please pray for us!

Susan Snook said...

Oh yes, Laura, now that is amusing! The hens get to decide whether to let the fox into the henhouse! I always have found the state-church status of the C of E puzzling. Apparently the Church receives the benefits of being a state church without having to shoulder the costs – i.e., being subject to the official state policies on discrimination, definition of marriage, employment, etc. What a delightful position for the Archbishop! Honestly, given the fact that most of the conservative provinces have already determined that they will not sign onto the covenant, and the bad old U.S. (which is acting in the traditional Anglican way of doing what is right locally without being overruled by foreign prelates) is not likely to sign (the major question being how politely we refuse, and how long it takes), I really don’t understand why the Archbishop is continuing to insist that the Covenant is the only way forward. Asking plaintively what other solution there is doesn’t preclude more creative minds from finding one. Well, you do have my prayers as you lobby for an informed debate – and we will ask for yours as we take this matter up at General Convention this summer.

24 January 2012 00:53
23 January 2012 21:47
23 January 2012 21:32
UKViewer said...

The clever old CofE, in a typical fudge, denies Parliament the opportunity to discuss giving away part of our Soveriegnty. I wonder if anyone has bothered to tell the Supreme Governor that the ABC is about to capitulate to foreign bishops, without a fight.

If we’re confused, what about the poor people in the pews. The Covenant is not mentioned in any sermons etc. Perhaps it’s something I’ll take up with my Vicar.

Off course, at Parish level it won’t really mean any visible change until the Church senses that being inclusive is an option we should take up, instead of fudging it with committee’s of men hiding behind their clerical skirts. Than the muck will really hit the fan.

Freedom of action sold down the river to foreign prelates, who will decide or punish as they see fit.


Lay Anglicana said...

I of course agree with all that you say here. I believe that steps have been taken to alert the Supreme Governor to what is happening, and hope that she will inquire further. I suppose the point of this post was to encourage people (including Lambeth!) to consider exactly what would happen the day after the Covenant is signed. We will have to re-write Canon Law for a start (and then the clergy might sit up and take notice). But it will take a while for it to hit the people in the pews, I’m sure you’re right!

26 January 2012 11:17
24 January 2012 20:08

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