From Canon Nicholas Sagovsky
Sir, — You published an article by me last week under the headline “The Covenant could harm ARCIC” (Comment). Your headline suggests the opposite of what I was arguing, and has, I gather from personal correspondence, puzzled some readers. For the avoidance of doubt, may I make it clear I was arguing that “Rejection of the Covenant could harm the ongoing work of ARCIC”.
[Our apologies for the slip. Editor]
From the Revd Alan Crawley
Sir, — Last week, you carried two articles, one reporting that the Archbishop of Canterbury “describes as ‘completely misleading and false’ suggestions that the Covenant is ‘some sort of centralising proposal . . . which has the right to punish people for stepping out of line’” (News), and the other by Canon Nicholas Sagovsky saying that “The Covenant offers a way of doing just that” — “that” being “to deal with disputed matters, striving for reconciliation and implementing appropriate sanctions when necessary” (Comment).
As I took the latter article to be in support of the Covenant, please could its supporters make up their minds whether it is, or is not, about implementing sanctions?
The Rectory, 25 Upper Hale Road
Surrey GU9 0NX
From the Revd Jean Mayland
Sir, — The Bishops of Bristol and Oxford, in their long letter defending the Anglican Covenant (2 March), tell us that it “is vital for the well-being of the Anglican Communion”. They also tell us, however, that it “does not invent anything new”.
If there is nothing new in it, how can it be so vital? This dilemma runs through the whole project. On the one hand, the idea of a Covenant began (in the Windsor report) as a means to threaten the Churches in the United States and Canada with expulsion from the Communion because of their liberal policies on same-sex partnerships.
The Province of South-East Asia has “acceded” to the Covenant on this basis. On the other hand, most provinces are unwilling to renounce their own self-government just for the sake of imposing their views on North Americans. So the disciplinarian element has been watered down.
The text on which we are now voting proposes to expel dissident Churches not from the whole Communion, but only from certain functions, thus creating a two-tier Communion. When and how this would happen is mainly left to the discretion of the Standing Committee. It is hardly surprising that many Synod members are unsure what it would actually do.
If the Covenant comes into force, it is theoretically possible that it will, in practice, do nothing new, and therefore be irrelevant. Alternatively, its disciplinary powers may prove quite effective. Some hope for such a change; others think we would be better off without it.
Over and above its dubious intentions, the uncertainties about how it would work should be reason enough to vote against it.
JEAN M. MAYLAND
5 Hackwood Glade, Hexham
Northumberland NE 46 1AL