Talk to the Governing Body, September 2007

I wonder if I can crave your indulgence. I said I would not give a presidential address at this Governing Body and I do not want to give one as such. Things, however, are not in a good state in the Anglican Communion at the present time, and what I would like to do, is not so much give an address but an outline, of how I think we have got ourselves to this impasse and then later in introducing the motion on the Covenant, to continue the story there. You will be better able to understand that motion if I give you some background first. Forgive me if I oversimplify the arguments.

The spark that set the tinder alight was undoubtedly Gene Robinson’s consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire, USA – a divorced man living with his male partner being consecrated bishop, and the blessing of some same sex unions in the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada. The word ‘new’ in the names of both these places was indicative to some in the Communion that these were new steps and ought to be stopped. It would not be an exaggeration to say that many were incensed and outraged. Why?

These actions were seen as being contrary to scripture and a total disregard of a scriptural prohibition on homosexuality as well as the Lambeth resolution of 1998 rejecting “homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture” and the words of the same resolution “not advising the legitimising or the blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”. So the ‘mind of the Communion’ was being disregarded as well as the strictures of scripture. Scripture, tradition and the voice of the wider church were seen as being ignored.

Moreover, the churches of North America were seen as ‘hell bent’ on following a liberal agenda whatever the rest of the Communion thought and determined to do as they liked, when they liked, and the rest of the Communion would have to put up with it. Yet the growing churches are in Africa and Asia , not in America and the West which are in decline. Moreover, the Western churches who had given the Gospel to Africa through its missionaries, were now seen as reneging on that gospel and seemingly preaching a different gospel. Nor was it a question of many provinces in the Anglican Communion being unhappy about these developments, parts of the Episcopal Church in America were also unhappy. The primates in 2003 warned the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church that if Gene Robinson were consecrated there would be a “tear in the fabric of the Communion”.

Those who had advocated these steps in America and Canada responded in this way:

  1. They had not abandoned scripture. It was central and authoritative for them, but it needed to be interpreted against its cultural background. There were only a few texts dealing with homosexuality and those which did, did not deal specifically with homosexuality as such, but with wider issues such as the violation of male superiority in treating another man as a substitute woman. Paul’s strictures on the subject deal with heterosexual men resorting to relationships with male temple prostitutes rather than homosexual relationships as such. Scripture does not answer the kind of questions that are being asked in today’s world because the concepts of homosexual orientation, identity and the idea of a loving relationship between people of the same sex, did not exist in the first century. Moreover, if the centrality of scripture was the issue, Jesus has nothing to say about homosexuality but a great deal to say about marriage and divorce, and the remarriage of divorcees in church is accepted by many provinces. For them the culmination of the biblical story was the revelation that love was God’s chief characteristic and Jesus’ ministry was one of reaching out to the marginalised and the oppressed, and those today are the gay people of our world. Should the church condemn a whole group of people for what is regarded as a personality trait not of their own making?
  2. As far as Lambeth 1:10 was concerned it was a resolution, but while the resolution had moral authority it did not carry the force of law, and all the other resolutions passed by Lambeth were not being treated in the same way, including parts of 1:10 which said that sexual relationships outside marriage for heterosexuals were forbidden. The Lambeth 1:10 resolution did not “advise the legitimatising or the blessing of same sex unions”. That was seen as being very different from bitterly denouncing people who did so and threatening to exclude them from the Communion. The resolution on Homosexuality in 1998 was certainly less sympathetic than previous resolutions on homosexuality and Lambeth 1:10 also stated “the need to listen to the experience of homosexual people, giving them an assurance that they were loved by God and the need to minister pastorally to them”. They point out that that has certainly not happened in some provinces and in some parts of the world the church has encouraged their persecution and even their death at the hands of the state.
  3. America and Canada do not see themselves as pursuing a liberal agenda. Archbishop Rowan at the ACC in Nottingham in 2005 said, “If one view is that the churches of the North have sold out to the culture of the age, another is that it is aware how the church has in the past been oppressive to minorities and the Bible used to justify evils. There has been a huge change in the general understanding of sexual activity. Can the Gospel be heard in such a world if it clings to ways of understanding sexuality that have no correspondence to what the most apparently responsible people in our culture believe?” In other words the understanding of sexuality has moved on and theological viewpoints have to adapt to these new insights.

The then Presiding Bishop told the primates that he had warned his church of the possible consequences of ordaining Gene Robinson, but he had been canonically elected and once endorsed by the dioceses, he had no choice but to ordain him.

So there is an impasse between various groups in the Communion on the question of sexuality, the interpretation of scripture and the role of Lambeth Conference resolutions. This ought not to be seen as a simple struggle of the West versus the global South because Australia and New Zealand are in the global South and do not side with those normally regarded as being global south churches and there are parts of the American church as well that do not agree with what has happened in that church. Parts of the province of South Africa disagree with other African provinces. In fact there are differences of view within provinces, dioceses and parishes and different groups have allied themselves with those of like minds across the world.

There is no doubt that things have got bitter in the Communion. Primates have briefed against one another; primates have refused to receive communion from one another or indeed from the same communion table; primates have intervened in one another’s provinces and at least three primates have appointed bishops in provinces, other than their own, to offer pastoral care to those who feel dissatisfied with their own bishops or primates. All of this has also led to bitter property disputes within the Episcopal Church.

It also has to be said that, to a certain extent, splits in the American church are being played out on the world stage. To an extent too, this is a struggle for power, with churches in Africa re-acting against what they see as the colonial mentality of the Episcopal Church pursuing its own agenda in the world, much as the USA government does, without regard to the consequences. The result of all this has been that the American and Canadian Churches were asked by the primates to withdraw their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council and all its Committees. They were also to give theological justification for taking the decisions they had, at the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham in 2005 and asked not to repeat them. They were also asked by the Windsor Commission, of which I was a member, a commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to examine these issues, to respond to the findings of that report which tried to clarify the points of difference and asked for responses to certain questions. The Episcopal Church was also asked to apologise. The primates endorsed these requests of the Windsor Commission. A small group, of which I was one, was asked to respond to these responses of the Episcopal Church.

That group concluded that the American Episcopal Church had taken the Windsor report seriously and the General Convention of that Church had made a positive response to Windsor as a whole. The Convention agreed that “bishops should exercise constraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”. This was a seismic shift from its position in 2003 when bishops consented to the consecration of Gene Robinson. It agreed not to do that again. However, whilst General Convention declined to take further a number of resolutions authorising same sex blessings and so did not authorise such blessings and whilst the bishops of the Episcopal Church pledged in 2005 not to authorise any public rites for such blessings, nevertheless same sex blessings do occur in some dioceses in that church. General Convention also expressed its regret for straining the bonds of affection and apologised to those in the Communion offended by its failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of its actions on other parts of the Communion. It also asked for forgiveness. Our group concluded “these are words of apology, regret and a request for forgiveness. They are not lightly offered and should not be lightly received”.

Our group therefore felt that on the whole, the primates’ requests had been met by the Episcopal Church in their response to the Windsor Commission. The primates, however, meeting in Tanzania this year felt there was a lack of clarity about the stance of the Episcopal Church on the authorisation of same sex blessings, and a mismatch between the statements at General Convention and what was happening in dioceses and they asked for a guarantee for all such blessings to end by 30 September.

The primates also said they wanted to establish a pastoral council to act on their behalf, in consultation with the Episcopal Church, to set up structures for pastoral care for those whose relationships with their own bishops in the American Episcopal Church had broken down. A primatial vicar also needed to be appointed for this purpose.

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, however, has turned down the request for a primatial vicar and pastoral council on the grounds that these contravene its Constitution and Canons. As a result, the Primates Standing Committee (and I am a member of that as well) and the ACC Executive, accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, are going to America tomorrow to talk to the House of Bishops.

All that by way of background. The crucial sticking point for the primates, is the inadequacy as they see it, of the response of the Episcopal Church to Windsor requests and its refusal to have pastoral care initiated by the primates. You could be pardoned for thinking that the only issue of importance in the Communion at the present time is sexuality. For many provinces there are other priorities. Sudan , Burundi and Japan for example, for different reasons have said that this issue is not at the top of their agenda. As the province of the Sudan puts it “ Sudan has just come out of war, and the Episcopal Church of the Sudan has more acute issues to deal with than human sexuality. These include resettlement of the people in their original villages and towns, trauma healing and building trust among one another”.

The Windsor report also advocated the establishment of a Covenant for the Communion in order to re-establish the interdependent life of that Communion and to ensure that each province might realise that any action it might take might impinge on the life of the wider church. It is to the concept of the Covenant that I now turn.

I was a member, as I said, of the Windsor Commission and was and am in favour of a Covenant. The kind of Covenant that I envisaged was one that I set out to you in a Presidential Address at this Governing Body in September 2006 and I said that I would not be averse to a Covenant that reminded us that we were mutually accountable to and dependent on one another and that any unilateral steps we took might have wider repercussions. And I would not be averse to a Covenant in principle because we do have Covenants with our ecumenical partners and the Lambeth quadrilateral is a kind of Covenant since Anglican provinces accept the authority of scripture, creeds, the two dominical sacraments and the historic episcopate. Let me remind you of the kind of Covenant I envisaged:

  • A Covenant that would affirm a commitment to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and sought to live into the highest degree of communion possible.
  • A covenant that would affirm the fact that it was in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

Globalisation and instant communication have changed the nature of our world and church, and an event in one province, can affect other provinces for good or ill. A Covenant, setting out our mutual inter-dependence would remind us all of that fact.

In the meantime, a Design Group has been working on framing a Covenant for the Communion and we in Wales have, through the Bench and the Standing Committee, produced this Statement for your approval of noting the process undertaken and of promising to consider in detail a definitive Covenant text when it has been produced. Why are we being so cautious and why are we inviting you to be so cautious? The Bench did not at this stage, have to bring any kind of resolution to this Governing Body, because synodical approval of the document we have in front of us is not required. All that each province is being asked for, is to respond to the draft text by whatever means it chooses. However, although we have got a response from a group set up by the Bench, we felt it right to bring it to your attention, so that you might know what is being done in your name and might comment upon it.

What I am now going to do is to speak openly about my own personal position. I am encouraged in my conviction to do so by words of Archbishop Rowan himself who in a recent address said that “the Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people to be honest”. Let me re-iterate, that what is being asked of us is to approve the principle of a Covenant not an actual Covenant and lest there be any doubt I have no problem with that. Also, before any detailed Covenant is approved it will have to be examined in detail by this Governing Body in due course and it will have the chance to approve or reject the proposed Covenant. I think, however, the Design Group has in the document produced, shown clearly the kind of Covenant it has in mind and here the alarm bells begin to ring.

For obviously, if we agree to the concept of a Covenant, we will want to see what will be proposed in detail and the case for its content made out convincingly before we could agree to it. All that goes without saying, because a Covenant will have constitutional implications for us as a Church. We are not being asked to do this at the moment – that will come later.

The fear I have, however, is quite simple, that this draft Covenant is an example of the kind of Covenant that might be introduced. Although it sets out in broad terms how we ought to behave towards one another, and much of it is unexceptional, it also appears to be a contract with clear and binding terms, which if we were not to observe, would necessitate us explaining ourselves to the primates. They could then censure us as a province or deem us to have put ourselves outside the Communion by not observing the terms of the Covenant. In other words, we would have moved from a relationship of grace, which is the Biblical meaning of Covenant to the concept of a contract which if deemed broken would lead to the possibility of putting ourselves outside a Covenant relationship. Although in the Bible, it is true that in their relationship to God his people often let him down and fail him, they are still regarded as his people. God’s people never put themselves outside his Covenanting relationship of love. Now this document does not talk about exclusion but in the penultimate paragraph it says, “In the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the Covenant as understood by the councils of the Instruments of the Communion, we will consider that such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the Covenant, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their Covenant relationship with other member churches”. That is a subtle method of excluding people. If we do not observe the terms of the Covenant, we will be deemed to have put ourselves outside the Communion and before we can be restored, we will have to satisfy the rest of the Communion or at least the primates or the Instruments of Communion. That is a clear indication of the kind of Covenant this design group and the primates have in mind. It is more akin to a contract with punitive clauses than a Covenant which is a relationship of grace.

Although the Covenant Design Group says it is not proposing anything new, the text speaks of the need for, “A clear commitment in those areas of Anglican faith about which there has been the most underlying concern in recent events”. That obviously is a reference to human sexuality. That same paragraph goes on to say that every church needs to “uphold biblically derived moral values”. It does not say what these biblically derived moral values are or who defines them. But given what has been happening in the Communion the reference is obviously to sexuality. That seems to put sexual morality interpreted in one particular way at the heart of what might cause exclusion from the Communion. In other words, the Lambeth quadrilateral of scripture, creeds, sacraments and historic episcopate is no longer a sufficient credential for being an Anglican. A particular view of human sexuality is also required. That devalues scripture by restricting its moral values simply to what it might be saying about sexual relationships and turns the Bible into a kind of rule book where texts can be wrested out of context.

The present document says that, if there are matters of serious concern regarding observance of the Covenant then it goes to the primates for resolution. There are lots of difficulties here. Firstly, the primates do not meet all that often, once every eighteen months. Secondly, they do not have the administrative and theological resources at their disposal to be able to resolve disputes, nor is this a synodical way of governing the Church because primates are by definition ordained and mainly elderly males. It also changes the nature of the Anglican Communion. Instead of provincial government, there will be a new layer of government and a centralised jurisdiction.

Now I know that the draft states that “the Instruments of Communion have no juridical or executive authority in our provinces and no intention to subordinate provinces to the jurisdiction of the primates meeting”. In practice, however, that is what could happen since I am not convinced that all primates understand the proper constitutional autonomy of provinces of the Communion.

There will be obvious constitutional implications for us as a Church because we may be asked to subject decisions to primates and this will alter the nature of the Church in Wales and its provincial autonomy. Our Constitution allows the Governing Body the authority to make new articles, doctrinal statements and formularies. If we make a doctrinal statement, which the primates think breaches the Covenant, we may face censure. Nor is it clear what safeguards there are for appeal or against the abuse of power. Substituted for a governance that is local and synodical will be one that is distant, unaccountable and prelatical. You may think that I am being paranoid but I have genuine fears about this because the primates have already shown the kind of power they wish to exercise. Let me elaborate.

They have already exercised powers beyond their jurisdiction. The Windsor report asked the Episcopal Church to give reasons for its decision to ordain Gene Robinson and to apologise to the Communion. The primates at Dromantine in 2005 went further and asked it and the Church of Canada to withdraw from the ACC and the Councils of the Communion. It had no right to do so, as the Chair of ACC has pointed out. In 2007 at Tanzania, after General Convention had responded, in the main positively, to the request of the Windsor Commission, according to a group set up to consider the response of the Episcopal Church, the primates were not as convinced and wanted the setting up of a pastoral council and the appointment of a primatial vicar, even though the Windsor Commission had accepted the Episcopal Church’s own plan for delegated episcopal oversight to meet the pastoral needs of those disagreeing with General Convention. In other words, in both of these instances the primates made greater demands than the Windsor Commission and the group with primatial representatives on it. The primates group set up in 1978 to provide time “for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation” has changed to being a body that seems to make recommendations to provinces that have the character of edicts. Canon Sedgwick has drawn attention to the fact that in 1870 when Italian troops invaded the Vatican , by way of reaction, the Roman Catholic Church propounded the doctrine of infallibility. In other words a threat led to centralisation. In a crisis about sexuality the danger in the Anglican Communion is that we will have reacted by setting up a kind of central curia of primates.

Three of the primates have also ordained bishops specifically to exercise ‘pastoral oversight’ in North America, and this has won the approval of a fourth primate, the Chair of the Covenant Design Group who has said that their consecrations could lead “towards a creation of a viable, stable and orthodox Anglican presence in the USA”. To intervene in the internal affairs of another province in this way has hitherto been regarded by the Communion as totally unacceptable. The Windsor report condemns such activities as did previous Lambeth resolutions. Although the primates in Tanzania also condemned these actions, they seemed to accept the fact that some primates did not feel able to refrain from such actions, until sufficient provision had been made, for what are regarded as faithful Anglicans in North America. That totally subverts the polity of the province concerned and Anglican ecclesiology in general, (if it happened in this province, we would not find it acceptable), but the primates seem to give it passive acceptance. The implementation of the Covenant will be in their hands, and they seemingly condone ‘the breaking of the bonds of affection’ in a very substantial way by some of their number. As they said in their press statement at Tanzania , “Those who have intervened believe it would be inappropriate to bring interventions to an end until there is change in the Episcopal Church”. They then go on to propose pastoral strategies with a pastoral council and a primatial vicar for the Episcopal Church to be in place by the end of September. That would possibly end interventions by individual primates but it would be a massive intervention in the affairs of the Episcopal Church by the primates as a body and all of this before a Covenant is even in place.

Moreover the primates at Tanzania went further. They said, “Pastoral needs are not limited to the Episcopal Church alone. Until a Covenant is secured, it may be appropriate for the Instruments of Communion to request the use of this or a similar scheme in other contexts should urgent pastoral needs arise”. In other words, there could be wholesale intervention by the primates in any province until a Covenant is in place and then obviously intervention by them again if any province was deemed to have breached the terms of that Covenant. Not surprisingly the Episcopal Church has refused such requests. In an attempt however to be irenic the Episcopal Church says, “The proposed pastoral scheme is injurious to the Episcopal Church but we pledge ourselves to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the primates compatible with our own polity and canons”. In other words, before a Covenant is even established the primates are imposing deadlines and demands. What will happen if a Covenant were to be in place?

The way primates have dealt with the Episcopal Church is an indication of the way they have in mind how the Covenant would work. The Episcopal Church is asked, “to make an unequivocal common Covenant that the bishops will not authorise any rite of blessing for same sex unions in their dioceses and that the Resolution passed at General Convention means that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent” and to respond by 30 September. The primates go on to say that, “If the reassurances of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship of the Episcopal Church remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion”.

The text of a future Covenant will go to the Lambeth Conference next year and my fear is that what happened in 1998 might well happen in 2008. Before we realise what has happened, the Covenant could become the new Lambeth 1 10 binding morally on all provinces even though only approved by a majority of bishops. Some primates have also said that they will not come to Lambeth if the invitations to the bishops who consecrated Gene Robinson are not withdrawn. They are not willing to come to talk and deliberate with those who differ from them. That seems to me to deny the very nature of Anglicanism. The first Lambeth Conference was called in 1867 because Bishop Colenso was believed to hold unorthodox views on eternal damnation. No bishop refused to come because Colenso was invited and Colenso was not censured in any way. It used to be possible for Anglicans to hold a diversity of views about a whole range of topics and to hold a healthy discussion about differences. Moreover, if we as a Church have a message of reconciliation for our world and urge its leaders to meet and talk, how can we do that with integrity when some of our own members are not willing to do so and are even talking about an alternative Lambeth? The way therefore that some of the primates have behaved does not give me great hope of entrusting the interpretation and the implementation of the terms of the Covenant to them. Some seem to be encouraging a mentality of breaking relationships when things get difficult instead of working at those relationships.

Moreover, important as human sexuality is, and let us concede for a moment that it may be a doctrinal issue as stated by the Church of Canada, it is not a credal issue or a Communion breaking issue. Many of the primates, however, see it as both a credal issue and a Communion breaking issue and are determined that only one scriptural interpretation on this issue is possible.

Yet classical Anglicanism has always averred that there can be no infallible source of theological truth. Scripture, tradition and reason all have their part to play and the interplay among the three has allowed new insights to emerge. As Richard Hooker put it, “So the church has authority to establish that for an order at one time, which at another if may abolish, and in both do well”. However, as the Modern Churchpeople’s Union has pointed out, there is a move away from this way of doing theology to a position whereby divine revelation is to be accepted without question, a revelation given in scripture, “As revelation is complete and inherited from the past, there can be no new revelation. When a revelation is known with certainty, a person who disagrees must certainly be wrong”. There is no value therefore in creative thinking, or in seeking new information from other sources. Thus, for example, genetic, physiological and psychological research into homosexual orientation cannot add to, or subtract from, divine revelation about homosexuality already given in scripture. That has been given once and for all and the implication is that this issue cannot be re-examined. No suggestion here, that divine revelation is mediated through fallible human minds and no suggestion either that change is possible, as it has been possible on such subjects as slavery, evolution, remarriage after divorce and the position and value of women in society – all subjects on which the Bible to our forebears spoke unequivocally but which we now interpret differently.

There is a difference between taking scripture seriously and taking it literally or as being inerrant or infallible. The books of the Bible are the inspired response to revelation, but the responses are fallible, and responses are not identical with the revelation for the “word of God comes to us through the words of men” to quote one theologian.

All of this poses the question about the place of theological innovation. The history of both Christianity and Anglicanism shows that what tends to happen is that one part of the church innovates and the rest of the church eventually catches up. Peter baptised the Gentile household of Cornelius without reference to anyone. It was only later at the Council of Jerusalem that the early church decided that Gentiles could become Christians without first becoming Jews. The same thing happened in Anglicanism over the ordination of women. Some provinces did it, and whilst keeping in dialogue and in communion with other provinces, nevertheless did not seek permission from them. This kind of covenant might well quench any kind of theological change, development or innovation.

That is why the motion says that we note all this, not that we enthusiastically welcome it, nor as the Church of England has done “affirm our willingness to engage positively with the recommendations of the primates for a process designed to produce a Covenant”. I fear that that will be construed as us accepting, not just the concept of the Covenant, but the Design Group’s draft Covenant as we have it. Although the Design Group says that we will have a definitive text upon which each province will in the end have to decide, the fact that the Church of England has passed the kind of resolution that it has, will be used by some to say the Church of England has approved all this in principle and what is good enough for the Church of England is good enough for the rest of us.

It can also be inferred that what the Design Group has in mind is minor modifications, because in its February 2007 report to the primates it spoke about “committing itself now to the fundamental shape of the Covenant” and the primates were “invited to express an appropriate measure of consent to this text and express the intention to pursue its fine tuning.” In other words, it is not envisaging much change from what it has already submitted on paper. So although we are being asked to sign up to the principle of a Covenant, we may find that it will be assumed that we have accepted the core of this draft Covenant unless we are careful.

The Press reports on the Church of England’s debate on the Covenant described it variously as ‘a disciplinary code’, ‘designed to expel those who did not toe the line’ and ‘a means of enforcing doctrinal order’ and although the press can often be wrong, it is not always wrong. It is also interesting to note that when the concept of a Covenant was floated by the Windsor Commission a third of the provinces of the Communion were not in favour and although another third accepted it in principle they wanted input on how it would all work in practice.

There is little in Canon Law on how Anglican provinces relate to one another when trust has broken down. My fear is that we are trying to solve the problem juridically as a matter of law instead of in terms of relationship. There is also the danger of turning the Anglican Communion from a conciliar family to a confessional family where you sign up to a test for membership and are excluded if you are not deemed to be up to the mark. Instead of a relationship of equals we are moving into a situation where provinces may be deemed to have put themselves outside the Communion, even though that is not where they might want to be, because they refuse to accept a particular interpretation of scripture on one particular topic. So I ask you, just to note this process, not even to accept it, since my fear is, as I said, that to accept it would be to give a message that we are happy not just with the principle of a Covenant but with this actual draft Covenant. Canon Sedgwick’s group has also listed its reservations and I ask you also to accept those and to pass this motion. You are free to say anything you like about either my views or the Sedgwick group’s comments and that will help the Bench finalise the Church in Wales ’ response.

The original intention of a Covenant was good. It was meant and I quote, “To clarify the identity and mission of the churches of, or in association with, the Anglican Communion. By articulating our ecclesiological identity, a Covenant will help the ACC in self-understanding, and in ecumenical relationships. It could provide a basis of trust, co-operation and action in relationship with one another and relation to the whole Communion”. I am willing to sign up to that kind of Covenant.

But whatever the original intention of such a Covenant, intended to affirm the bonds of affection, the indications now are that many see it as a contract, a means of ensuring a uniform view on human sexuality enforceable by the threat of exclusion from the Communion if one does not conform. I certainly do not want to sign up to that kind of Covenant.