Right Reverend Nicholas Roderick Holtam is the Bishop of Salisbury in the Church of England. In his Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod on February 18th, he expressed what many have thought about the proposed Anglican Covenant.
Living with diversity creatively is one of the most pressing issues of our times. It is the background to our decision about whether or not to support the Covenant for the Anglican Communion. There has been a good discussion in the Deaneries which reflected the sense of there being good arguments, both for and against, opportunities and dangers on both sides. Voting in Deaneries was in favour, almost exactly the same percentages among clergy and laity: 54% in favour, 32 or 31% against and 14 or 15% abstentions, a high number which might reflect the complexity of the subject.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has put a huge amount of effort into this as the way forward for the Communion. I have thought long and hard about my own position which, as a matter of public record prior to my appointment as bishop, is against. It seems to me that the Covenant will indeed create a different set of relationships in the Communion but that this will on balance be unhelpful and un-Anglican, like a piece of unshrunk cloth sewn on to an old cloak. I am particularly concerned that the effect of section 4 will be to exclude some Provinces from the heart of the Communion, particularly because the views being excluded are represented within the parochial life of our own Province. I have asked the Bishop of Sherborne to propose the Covenant and the Dean to oppose it to show that at a senior level in the Diocese we are not in agreement and that we can live with our differences.
Bishop Holtam’s reference to how the proposed Covenant changes relationships goes beyond business-as-usual. He gives pause to his consideration and conclusions around the Covenant and gives equal deference to both the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and its current occupant, Rowan Williams. He’s never disrespectful.
I hear him saying that that not only would the proposed Covenant change relationships, but that indeed it already has, and that it is hoped that staking a claim based on conscience will not prove any further relational injury. A delicate situation to be sure.