The Anglican Covenant — Let's be clear

The proposed Anglican Covenant doesn't really do anything new. It seeks to put what up until now has been a form of discipline by adhocratic shunning into a moderately more formal structure in which there would be a central clearing house for making recommendations about the nature of the shunning and its extent. But contrary to what some have suggested, the Covenant establishes no new powers; rather it gives to the Standing Committee (of the Primates and the ACC) the function of a suggestion box or complaint department, with the ability to consider complaints and make recommendations to the bodies who have the limited ability to ask folks not to attend, to disinvite, and, at the most extreme, to remove from the schedule of membership altogether. These are not new powers, and some of them have already been exercised even without advice or recommendation from a clearing house.

So what the Covenant proposes is not so much new as differently organized. It is primarily about form rather than content, and what content it offers for the credenda of Anglicanism are nothing new.

I do have minor palpitations about the Standing Committee's charge to make "recommendations." Having observed how the "recommendations" of Lambeth 1.10 have morphed into consensus, then the "mind of the communion." and apparently virtual mandates, I am already bitten once, and so twice shy of setting up a new adhocracy specifically charged with making further "recommendations."

Nor is it clear that, significant portions of the Communion expressing little interest in adopting the Covenant, that any reorganized adhocracy is in fact going to emerge. It seems as likely that the usual suspects will continue to engage in the messy bilateral or multilateral clusterbuck of the fictive system already in place.

This seems to me to be the reality of the present situation. It does not appear to me to commend the Covenant or to stand against it. But it is also clear that any further ability to shape the Covenant into something better will only be undertaken by those who adopt it in its imperfect form. Were TEC to sign on, I would argue for increase in the section on mission, a shift to discipleship (rather than discipline), and recognition of the growth of actual on-the-ground structures for dialogue, such as Indaba as tools for working through difficulties as they arise, rather than the assumed "go to your rooms" approach that comes in handy with children. And if all but the Gafcon contingent (who are already announcing the next steps in solidifying their own coalition) adopt the Covenant with an eye to its improvement, that is a direction I could support.

Either that or scrap the whole thing and start over. It is already not a Covenant for the whole Communion, and whether there ever is one is doubtful, though time will tell.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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