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Scots reject Anglican Covenant by 112 to 6 votes

by Madeleine Davies

Click to enlarge

COLIN HATTERSLEY

COLIN HATTERSLEY

Anglican Covenant

THE Scottish Episcopal Church has become the first member of the Anglican Communion to reject the Anglican Covenant at the level of a General Synod. Last Friday, the Synod voted against the adoption of the Covenant by 112 votes to 6, with 13 abstentions.

The Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, Dr Gregor Duncan, referred to the indaba discussions that had taken place at diocesan synods since the General Synod last year, and suggested that the Church was “as well-informed and prepared to decide as we could possibly be”. Although it was “pointless to deny that since Synod last met the context had changed” — the Covenant had been rejected by more than half of the diocesan synods in the Church of England — it was important that the Scottish Episcopal Church “make our own decision for our own reasons”.

The Revd Professor David Atkinson (Aberdeen & Orkney) suggested that it was possible to reject the Covenant for “positive reasons”. “I will be voting against the motion, not for a negative reason, but because I believe, without being in it, that we will have far more freedom to develop our mission for Scotland.”

Jim Gibson (Glasgow & Galloway) spoke in favour of the Covenant, arguing that it was neces­sary to regard it “from a worldwide perspective”. He warned that “if we don’t adopt it, we run the risk of being seen to be selfish and unhelp­ful,” both to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who “has worked very hard at a lot of personal cost to try and find some way of working together and getting the Com­munion together”, and also to “our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who, in a time of political and economic uncertainty and difficulty and strife, are looking closely at the lead the Church in Britain is going to give”.

The Church needed to decide what it believed in, he said. Did it prefer “some kind of agreement which we subscribe to as members of this club”, or “some kind of free-for-all, wishy-washy nothing, which will bring all kinds of difficulties in future”?

Professor Alan Werrity (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) expressed concern that “the world we seek to change looks on in be­wilderment,” as the Church dis­cussed sexuality — something to which Christ made “brief” refer­ence.

Ian Kerry (Edinburgh) ques­tioned why the leader of the An­glican Communion was “an English­man”. Provinces in Africa and North­ern America were “enormous, vibrant, joyous entities. . . Why not give them the opportunity?”

Canon David Bayne (Glasgow & Galloway) said that the fundamental question for the Synod to consider was whether the Covenant offered a way to help the Communion live with “genuine differences” over issues including the mission of women and gay people.

Having previously described the Covenant as “95 per cent sugar, five per cent strychnine”, he now characterised it as “a blancmange with shards of glass in it. . . Not so much spiritual milk as spiritual milk pudding — large and wobbly, sweet and easily swallowed, if not satisfy­ing. Completely unexceptional, until you come to that awful crunch.”

The Covenant contained an “over-emphasis on episcopal ministry, as opposed to the ministry of the whole people of God”, he suggested, while the “disciplinary procedure” set out in Section Four was “profoundly un-Anglican”. There was “no need to have structure and hierarchy and discipline to be together in Christ”, he concluded.

Howard Thompson (Edinburgh) questioned what the position of women in the Church would be now, had the Covenant been signed 30 or 40 years ago. The Covenant “tries to tell us what we believe now will be what we believe in the future”.

The Revd Shona Boardman (Argyll & The Isles) expressed concern about how the Church was per­ceived by those outside it. She challenged Mr Gibson’s earlier com­parison of the Communion to a club: “We are not a club: we exist solely for the people who do not belong to our Church.” The “navel-gazing” of the Church over issues such as sexuality was “just appalling”.

Nan Kennedy (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) said that the word missing from the Covenant was “justice”. By adopting it, the Church would be asking other provinces to be making a “costly witness to justice”. In voting against it, she was choosing justice over unity.

Canon Malcolm Round (Edinburgh) said that his “natural position” was to support the Cov­enant. He had heard “impas­sioned pleas” to do so from those working in Africa and in countries where there was oppression and interfaith violence.

Larry Scrimgeour (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) said that the Scottish people had “traditionally longed for and nurtured the idea of independence” — something that the Covenant would put “seriously at risk”.

Communities

RELIGIOUS communities with a private chapel can be permitted by a bishop to elect a lay representative to diocesan synods and the General Synod, the Scottish Episcopal Church has decided.

Currently, organisations must have a least 30 lay members to be eligible for representation. The amend­ment to Canon 63, Section 2, proposed on behalf of the Faith and Order Board by the Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, Dr Gregor Duncan, was proposed to remove this criterion, taking into con­sideration the relatively small size of many religious communities.

The Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, raised three concerns about the canon. First, that many members of religious communities would already be represented at synods by the churches they attended on Sundays.

Second, he argued that membership could mean that religious communities were subject to quota.

Finally, he suggested that “one of the great values to me of religious communities has been very precisely that they are not part of diocesan structures . . . they are a refuge from diocesan synods.”

Dr Duncan said that Provost Holdsworth’s points were “well-made”. The Board thought it “reasonable” to offer religious communities membership.

The Secretary General, John F. Stuart, said that quota was not regulated by canons; “so it would be up to each diocesan synod to decide who is subject to quota and who is not.”

The motion was carried, although the Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, voted against it, telling the Synod in jest: “That will teach you not to assume compliance.”

Communion is 'complex', says Primus

THE Anglican Communion required healing that the Covenant could not deliver, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church said.

Addressing the Synod after a vote rejecting the Covenant, the Primus and Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, the Most Revd David Chillingworth (right), said that the Covenant had been a “genuine and honour­able attempt to heal the life of the Communion”, but that it was “not the right way” to do so. The Church needed a number of responses to consider, and wanted to recognise that the causes of “division and difficulty” within the Com­munion were several — “not just the single complex of issues around human sexuality.”

The Primus said that his past life — his parish ministry in Ireland had been focused on reconciliation — had taught him that conflict was “always a complex of interrelated issues” rather than the clash of two views. This complexity was actually good news, he suggested, because it meant that the stances people adopted had been “much less clear-cut and predictable”.

In the case of the Communion, the “sharp word” was colonialism — “people assert inde­pend­ence of thought and action more strongly . . . when relationships are shaped and con­ditioned by the legacy of history”. In addition, episcopal authority operated differently in differ­ent parts of the Communion, and “misplaced expectations about what each of us can promise and deliver” had arisen.

He introduced a motion calling on the Arch­bishop of Canterbury to “encourage the develop­ment of bonds of shared mission, respect, and mutual support”.

The Communion “matters deeply” to the Scottish Episcopal Church, he said. As a small Church, it was “enriched by being part of a bigger whole”. The Communion was a “gift to the world”, which is ready for a “rebirth”.

Canon Dominic Ind (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) suggested that relationships, which required work, were “the heart of what we are about”. He called on the Church to invest in “friendships held together with our commitment to Christ”.

The Revd Anne Haselhurst (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) praised the dedication of the Archbishop of Canterbury, comparing it to that of the Queen in her commitment to the Com­monwealth. She expressed a hope that, despite the difficulties he might experience, Dr Williams would “still be able to find joy in being part of Anglican Communion”.

Larry Scrimgeour (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) said that he would “like to send the Primus back across the border with something which demonstrates . . . our positive attitude”, and the sense that “we can at least be unanimous on some things.”

The motion was passed nem. con., with one abstention.

Changes afoot for scheme

Pensions

CONCERN about the affordability of the pension scheme of the Scottish Episcopal Church has prompted a consultation on various changes, which could include asking members to make contributions.

The Convener of the Standing Committee, David Palmer, told the General Synod on Thursday of last week that the trustees of the pension fund were “concerned that the cost of benefits is reaching a level that may not be affordable”. A change in the financial climate could result in a “significant” increase in the size of the deficit, and thus the need for a further increase in contributions, which “might not be affordable for many congregations”.

Mr Palmer said that the Com­mittee was “keen to take any steps which may be necessary to safeguard the future of the final salary scheme”. It was also keen, however, “to ensure it is affordable and sustainable”. This could mean altering future benefits, although past service would be unaffected.

The report on the fund suggests other possible reforms, including changes to the level of spouses’ pensions and whether the employer should remain the sole con­tributor.

A valuation of the Church’s pen­sion fund in 2008 revealed a “sub­stantial” deficit of £8.8 million, prompting the design of a recovery plan that increased the total con­tribution rate of the scheme to 34.9 per cent from 1 January 2010.

The Chairman of the Trustees of the Pension Fund, Sam Mackintosh, said that the 2011 valuation made for “mixed reading”. Although assets had increased “very substantially”, the extent of the scheme’s liabilities had also increased because of the way in which the cost of future benefits was assessed, which was linked to the Government’s financial policy. The current deficit stood at £3.5 million. The plan to eliminate the deficit within 15 years was on track, but even maintaining contributions at 34.9 per cent “still leaves the scheme vulnerable”, he warned.

The Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, said that there was “particular concern” among the bishops about pensions. The cost of pension contributions has meant that the level of liability for estab­lishing an incumbency had become “more difficult to meet”, he said.

Although the Primus reiterated that there was no intention of relin­quishing the final-salary scheme, and that the “low” level of stipend meant that the pension was “really import­ant” to clergy, he warned that the nature of the scheme meant that the “bulk of the risk” was borne by the employer.

“We need to do this consultation,” he said. “I am not frightened of it, and I don’t think that clergy should be. . . This is not just about the figures on the pension-fund report, but the viability of the future of our ministry.”

The Synod approved a motion to hold a consultation on the afford­ability of the scheme before its next meeting in 2013.

New policy 'has been helpful to mission'

Confidence

THE Scottish Episcopal Church was enjoying renewed confidence, after being “frightened that we were going to disappear”, the Bishop of Argyll & The Isles, the Rt Revd Kevin Pearson, told the Synod.

In discussion with the Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, the Rt Revd Mark Strange, Bishop Pearson said that a new attitude of confidence had been reflected in this year’s debates, which were “more measured, in much more depth, much more accepting of each other” than in the past.

He praised the impact of the Whole Church Mission and Min­istry policy.

Bishop Strange also welcomed the policy. For many communities, the question “how do we build the Church . . . or survive the Church?” had been replaced with a new one: “Why should you simply be expected to survive, when you have as much ability, as many gifts, to be missionaries in your community?”

The Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, was “delighted” to see new ministry and new congregations appearing. The Church was “moving from models based on membership to a life based on discipleship . . . in mission to the whole of our society”.

The implementation of a vocations strategy was under way to address the challenge of providing a number of pathways for full-time training. This was part of an aspiration “to bring into ministry a core group of younger and life-time committed clergy”, from whom future leaders would emerge.

Far-reaching changes would be necessary, including finding new ways to finance ministry in those places where “traditional models” no longer worked, as the policy of augmentation was abandoned.

The Revd Tim Daplyn (Moray, Ross & Caithness), Mission Rector of an area “180 miles as the crow flies”, reported that the membership and attendance figures of three existing congregations had in­creased, and that it had been necessary to install new pews, “because we had standing room only”.

The Revd Professor David Atkinson (Aberdeen & Orkney) expressed concern that the Whole Church Mission and Ministry policy was “dominated by the leadership of clergy”, and that it was important to explore how to involve the laity in “real, important” leadership roles. He compared clergy to MPs, who arrived in Parliament having not worked in the “real world”. The Church needed to “broaden our concept of leadership”.

The Revd Shona Boardman (Argyll & The Isles) asked what was being done to retain clergy. “What what will we offer our young people? . . . We are not martyrs.”

The Primus agreed that retention was a “big issue”, acknowledging some “tragic losses” that the Church must try to prevent from recurring. He rejected, however, the suggestion that those who spent a lifetime in ministry “don’t know about the real world”.

Lay ministries

CHURCH ARMY officers may be authorised for ministry by bishops, the Scottish Episcopal Church has ruled.

Although this is already happening in some dioceses, Canon 66, a new canon, was tabled at the General Synod to recognise the practice. The canon also leaves the door open for other lay persons serving in this capacity to be recognised in a schedule currently limited to Church Army Officers. Such lay people must have completed a validated course of pastoral or theological study ap­proved by the bishops.

Kennedy Fraser (Glasgow & Gallo­way) raised objections. The addition to the canons “should have been done in a more comprehensive manner”, and the schedule should “reflect all the ministries already taking place”.

He said that the canon made refer­ence only to the authorisation of lay ministry, not representation at the Synod, and raised the question how it might relate to permanent deacons. “Passing this will create another layer to be unpicked in the near future, as we look at ordained and lay ministries in this Church.”

The Provost of St Paul’s Cathed­ral, Dundee The Very Revd Jeremy Auld (Brechin), said that the reason this had come before Synod in relation to Church Army Officers was “they have occupied positions . . . which are pretty much exactly the same for all practical purposes as an incumbent.”

The motion was carried: Clergy 41 to 9; Laity 61 to 4; with 8 absten-tions.

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