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On A Knife Edge

Vote For the Covenant!
Vote Against the Covenant!

Vote out of conviction
Vote with your best judgement
Vote for what’s best for the Church

But don’t be rail-roaded!
Don’t be bounced into a vote on the future of the Communion!
You were elected to bring your best judgement to the issues.

Anyone who follows Paul Bagshaw’s ‘Not The Same Stream’ blog knows that he is normally the most restrained and sober of men. But this is an extract from his blog of yesterday, a clarion call in glorious technicolour to the people in the six dioceses who are to vote today and the remaining six who are to vote before the end of April.


Today is the turn of:


Because the voting tally so far is 20 against the Covenant, with only 12 for, it is tempting to project that the outcome of today will be in a similar proportion. Sadly, however, the laws of probability do not work like that.  The reason for this is that, pace the Bishop of Sherborne, the people of the Church of England are much more like marbles than they are like grapes: they do not live, move and have their being in neat, predictable ways.


In situations like this, people have always consulted oracles. The most famous one of ancient times was the one at Delphi, of which Heraclitus said ‘it neither reveals nor conceals but gives a sign’. Teenagers since Victorian times have consulted The Ladies’ Oracle, which has now been turned into an Android game. Between the two, many people who were looking for a sign from God to help them come to a decision used to open the Bible at random and light on a verse, equally randomly. This verse would then be read and re-read, looking for illumination.


I had thought these days that I was no longer susceptible to that sort of fatalistic approach to messages from God. Well, life (and God) still have the capacity to surprise. Have you seen the lectionary for tomorrow, the fifth Sunday of Lent? The first reading at the principal service, according to Visual Liturgy, is Jeremiah 31.31-34

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt – a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

The bold emphasis is of course mine, and you may read the passage completely differently. But to me, the message from God could hardly be clearer:

There is no need for a written Covenant, because I will write it in your hearts.

Nor is there any need for you to teach your neighbour how to know me.

7 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

Great rallying cry.

NO TO THE COVENANT you know it makes sense.

24 March 2012 08:34
Nancy Wallace said...

Praying for those debating and voting on this issue today. I’m against the proposed covenant, but still think our prayer should be,’Lord, your will be done’. I’m preaching tomorrow on the Jeremiah passage you quote – a covenant of the heart – what does that look like?

Lay Anglicana said...

I would be very interested in your interpretation of the passage. As to what a covenant of the heart might mean, I interpret it as meaning that the Bible and creeds give us the basic grammar, as it were. But that we form our own covenant with God based on these and then speak our own idiolect, our own form of the language. Getting into deep waters, here, and of course I am not licensed to preach so this may be heretical. But it strikes me that if you took all the Christian saints and put them into one room, you might have difficulty in getting them all to agree on exactly what Christianity is, beyond generalisations such as ‘God is love’. God has given us individual hearts and minds with which to interpret his word, to make our own covenant with him.

24 March 2012 09:09
UKViewer said...

Well, good news today’s votes seem to mean the defeat of the Covenant. It’s still not free and clear, but hope springs eternal…..

Lay Anglicana said...

Well, I think it is clear that it is defeated in England until at least 2015. And it is hard to see how it could be resurrected after that,Dracula-like, under a new Archbishop of Canterbury. The Anglican Communion News Service seems to be spinning the story to say that if the CofE don’t join in, there are plenty more fish in the sea, but I’m not sure they are right about that in this case!

24 March 2012 20:45
24 March 2012 19:17
24 March 2012 08:44
Charley Farns-Barns said...

“Idiolect” from “idios” the Greek for “own” & “legein” for “speak”. Gosh, you learn something new here every day – its like reading the “Church Times”.
But I spose you all knew it anyway. Charely F-B.

Lay Anglicana said...

Sorry, Charley – I studied languages and forget that other people did different things (like quantum mechanics, about which it is my turn to be woefully ignorant!) Idiolect is a sort of one-man dialect…

25 March 2012 20:53
25 March 2012 20:07

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