March 5, 2011

The Quotable John Saxbee

Bishop John SaxbeeOne of the highlights of the debate in the Church of England’s General Synod last November was the address of the Bishop of Lincoln, John Saxbee. Saxbee voted to continue the discussion of the Anglican Covenant, but he expressed serious reservations about the wisdom of adopting it.

I was reminded of Saxbee’s speech the other day because the Rev. Dr. Lesley Fellows posted video of it—audio with a photograph, actually—on YouTube. Last November, she posted a transcript of the speech on Lesley’s Blog.

Listening again to Saxbee’s address, I was struck by its containing one quotable passage after another. If you don’t have time to read or listen to the speech—it is only five minutes long—at least read the notable passages below. (I have produced my own transcript independently.)
In relation to the Anglican Covenant, I’m on record as saying in this Synod that I entirely support the process, as long as it never ends.

The Anglican Communion doesn’t need a Covenant because Anglicanism
is a covenant.

And if there is grace and goodwill, then a covenant will be unnecessary, and if there is no grace and goodwill, then a covenant will be unavailing.

The Covenant may, of itself, not be tyrannical, but there are those in the Communion whose treatment of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers has had at least a touch of the tyrannical about it. And if I ever come to the conclusion that a covenant of this kind would give them comfort, then I would be bound to resist it.

It frankly feels like we will be sending sincere and faithful Anglicans to stand in the corner until they have seen the error of their ways and can be turned to the ranks of the pure and spotless.

We can draw ever tighter circles of sinfulness, or we can draw ever wider circles of acceptance, so that all provinces, and not just some, hear our Lord’s injunction, “Go and sin no more,” but also echo his reassurance, “Neither do I condemn you.”

As an answer to a difficult and complex problem, this Covenant is simple, straightforward, and, I still believe, probably wrong.

There is too much religion in the world and not enough faith, and I think this Covenant seems to be more about factory-farm religion than free-range faith.

And as I ride off into the wonderful sunsets of West Wales, I wish you all well and hope and pray that, as this process continues, you will enjoy discussing the idea of a covenant and hesitate long and hard before signing up to one.

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