The MCU and the Covenant

from Signs of the Times, No. 26 - Jul 2007

The MCU is a theological society. Good theology, like all good scholarship, depends on certain procedures. When opinions differ in the search for truth, it is essential to all scholarship that the arguments for the contrasting positions are opened to public examination, and that debate is allowed to continue until such time as consensus is reached. Our view stands in the tradition of what is often called 'classical Anglicanism' - as expressed, for example, by Richard Hooker, Jeremy Taylor and Joseph Butler.

Some Christians oppose theological scholarship and instead believe that true Christian faith demands accepting their doctrines without question, examination or debate. They have usually been in a minority. Now, however, they are dominating the agenda. The focus of their demands is that every Province should formally condemn homosexuality, without waiting for informed debate to reach a consensus.

The primary motivation for the proposed Covenant is to achieve this aim. This has been made clear in the Windsor Report and successive Primates' statements. The Church of the USA would be presented with an ultimatum: either undertake not to consecrate any more gay bishops - and perhaps also 'repent' (or similar) for having consecrated one at all - or be expelled. The effect would be to suppress open debate by imposing a particular view on the whole Communion.

It is unlikely, of course, that the Covenant would specifically mention either homosexuality or any one Province. To achieve its aim, it would be so worded as to establish the disciplinary powers needed to put the required pressure on The Episcopal Church, while making them more generally applicable. This, however, increases the danger; a Covenant which served this year's purpose would be a permanent tool, and the wider its remit the more generally available it would be to suppress other differences of opinion which might arise in the future. Good theological scholarship and research would thus face ever-increasing obstacles.

The time to reject the Covenant is now. At the Synod debate of the Scottish Episcopal Church in June 2007, Canon David Bayne described it as '95 per cent sugar and five per cent strychnine-and the strychnine will get you'.

We believe that the debate about homosexuality, like other debates, should be allowed to continue, with laity, priests and bishops on both sides free to express their views, until such time as a consensus is reached.