The Anglican Covenant stands as much chance of ratification as the Lisbon Treaty. This seems to be a practical and sociological reality.
When working relationships have become difficult, it is a fatally unwieldy exercise to get a very large number of sovereign nations (or autonomous provinces) which are linked together in one federation (or communion) to come to a common mind on how to adapt their structures to hold a tighter reign, especially if those involved fear that this will involve losing the ability to decide for themselves about tax (or sex).
Those leading the negotiations, and building relationships and understanding as they do so, may think they can pull off the changes which are needed to make things work smoothly again, but, if the matter is then put out to a referendum (or synodical vote) in each of a large number of partners, it is almost inevitable that it will fail to gain the necessary support in at least a few.
This is at least the thought which developed in my mind listening to a talk about the Anglican Communion on Monday evening, attended by half the clergy and Readers in North East Lincolnshire, a talk which seemed to assume that the Emperor of the Covenant was fully clothed.
The best bit was when the lecturer told us that he’d found all the books on the Anglican Communion in an American ecumenical seminary catalogued and shelved under ‘Sacraments’; the Librarian appeared to assume that they must be about some peculiar Anglican version of Holy Communion.
For the rest, the material was so basic that my mind had to play with the idea of the Lisbon Treaty instead. It took him some time to reveal that the balance of numbers and power are shifting to the churches in Africa, and even more time to venture that different approaches to biblical interpretation was a significant underlying issue, and by the time he apologised for being too technical in suggesting ‘western post-modernity is sometimes seen as being in tension with southern modernity and pre-modernity’ I was quietly gnawing at my arm behind a pillar.
I’d taken this picture earlier in the day: the sculpture is on a wall next to Grimsby Parish Church and shows the Vikings arriving to establish the town.