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Posts Tagged "La Peste":

Yes to the Anglican Communion; No to the Anglican Covenant

A new voice has joined in the debate on the Anglican Covenant, the ‘yes to the covenant‘ website. They have a page giving reasons why people should support the Covenant, among which is:

 “The Covenant is ‘the only game in town’ if the Church of England is to remain in any meaningful sense apart [sic] of the third largest world church. There is no alternative.  So the Church of England’s choices are to adopt the Covenant, or to disappear from the world’s radar as a significant voice in the world.”


Do you know the feeling when some thought or memory is bubbling away in your subconscious but  refuses to surface? It niggles away, sometimes for weeks or months.I have finally had that ‘Eureka!’ moment of remembering what all the statements by the Pro-Covenanters remind me of.

John Knox , a Hebrew Jeremiah set down on Scottish soil, sought to destroy what he felt was idolatry and to purify Scotland’s religion in a relentless campaign of fiery oratory :

“The sword of justice is God’s, and if princes and rulers fail to use it, others may.”

John Lloyd writes: There’s an old saying, which Scots still exchange with each other, usually humorously: “Aweel, ye ken noo” – well, you know now. It harks back to when Scots life was dominated by the stern Presbyterianism engrained into it by Calvin’s disciple, John Knox: when…’the Kirk’ policed the morals of society with enthusiastic rigour. “Well ye ken noo” was the generic cry of the godly to the un-godly, faced with the prospect of the fires of hell, having ignored the warnings of the faithful in a life of dissipation. On the left is a portrayal of John Knox admonishing Mary Queen of Scots, who looks suitably chastened and uncharacteristically subdued.

We have had a spate of attempts recently to crank up the guilt amongst those who would oppose the Covenant, partly at least because we do not believe it would have the beneficial effect that its proponents believe. Here is Bishop Gregory Cameron:

“The Bottom Line: Do we value the Communion?  Do we care enough to work together with our sister Churches?  Do we think that it is possible to describe what holds us together as Anglicans?  A “yes” to these questions is surely a “yes” to the Covenant.  A “No” to the Covenant says:  We can’t say what it means to be an Anglican, we want to be able to ignore our sister Churches when it suits us, and we won’t mind if up to half the Communion walks away.”


All three statements, the yes-to-the-covenant’s ‘only game in town’, John Knox’s ‘sword of justice’ and Bishop Gregory’s ‘ bottom line’ have one thing in common. They are examples of  False Dichotomy:

Definition: In false dichotomy, the arguer sets up the situation so it looks like there are only two choices. The arguer then eliminates one of the choices, so it seems that we are left with only one option: the one the arguer wanted us to pick in the first place. But often there are really many different options, not just two—and if we thought about them all, we might not be so quick to pick the one the arguer recommends.

Example: “Caldwell Hall is in bad shape. Either we tear it down and put up a new building, or we continue to risk students’ safety. Obviously we shouldn’t risk anyone’s safety, so we must tear the building down.” The argument neglects to mention the possibility that we might repair the building or find some way to protect students from the risks in question—for example, if only a few rooms are in bad shape, perhaps we shouldn’t hold classes in those rooms.


The first time I came across this alarming form of reasoning, which is difficult to answer because it is so sweeping, was in the novel of existential angst by Albert Camus, La Peste (The Plague), which was perhaps the equivalent for British teenagers of J D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ in the 1960s. The priest, Father Paneloux, gives two sermons. The first is very much in John Knox Calvinist mode. The second asks the following:

“My brothers, a time of testing has come for us all. We must believe everything or deny everything. And who among you, I ask, would dare to deny everything?”

What happened to ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief’?


So what does the Covenant really say, should you vote yes or should you vote no? Alan Perry (a Canadian archdeacon with a background in canon law, in case you do not already know his blog) has written tirelessly about every conceivable aspect of all four sections of the Covenant. Here he writes on ‘A Tale of Two Covenants’. And here he writes about the frequent problem that those who are in favour of the Covenant often seem to read into its text provisions which sound attractive but are not actually in the printed text.

The Revd Tobias Haller, an American priest, has also blogged at length about the Covenant, here on possible alternatives. He concludes: ‘the proposed Anglican Covenant is not the way forward for the Anglican Communion, either as a Communion, or for the sake of its members, or for our ecumenical relationships.’

Finally, in the words of Kelvin Holdsworth of the diocese of Glasgow and Galloway:

‘We don’t want the Covenant. We do want the Communion.’


The main illustration is of course the logo of the Anglican Communion. The stained glass portrayal of John Knox comes from the Covenant Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, California. And the photograph of Albert Camus was taken in 1957 and made available through a CCL.

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