Well, there is nothing like audacious undertakings at the end of a early summer weekend, so here it is: A Compact among the Churches of the Anglican Communion: Proposed. In an earlier age, where this would have been printed as a broadside or memo, the recommendation would have been that if nothing else the paper could be used to wrap dead fish. Regrettably, in a digital age such alternative practical use is lost and unwanted verbiage is simply consigned to cyber-trash. (Sigh!) We have lost something in a paperless world.
It is deliberately only one page long and thus is constricted in wording. Most covenant proposals, for example that of the draft Anglican Covenant, are quite a bit longer. It is also simple, written as if the Anglican Communion did not require fixing as much as clarifying its sense of self. It disperses authority among the instruments of Communion, it acknowledges the autonomy of Provinces, and it provides a means for disengaging a Province from active involvement in the workings of the Communion.
This "covenant" is cast as a compact, in a sense moving the conversation from the idea that we are doing something new to an agreement as to what we are. It begins with the recognition that de facto the two "lists" of who is part of the Anglican Communion are those of the Church of England (at the end of their canons) and the ACC, in their list of member churches.
This document attempts to clarify the issue about Faith and Order defined in terms of the Book of Common Prayer moving the focus from a particular book (CofE 1662) to a corpus of material. The Lambeth Quadrilateral and Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence are affirmed, recognizing that they both affirm the autonomy of the churches and seek means of transforming common life.
Finally this document briefly spells out a system of dispersed authority regarding Communion wide life. Executive authority consists of the power to invite and include and is exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council. Pastoral authority rests with the counsel from the bishops. Programmatic authority rests with the ACC and its support of specific agencies of the Communion. It assumes that each Church is indeed autonomous and that the Anglican Communion is not necessary but desired.
Perhaps it is destined for the trash bin, but here it is:
A Compact among the Churches of the Anglican Communion.
We acknowledge that the Dioceses, Provinces and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury are the constituent members of the Anglican Communion. We believe that God is calling us in Jesus Christ to the following affirmations:
Member Churches pledge:
To uphold and propagate the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, which statements of historic Faith and Order are to be found in the collective informing corpus of the 1549, 1552, 1559, and 1662 Books of Common Prayer of the Church of England, understood to be continued into the present in the books of Common Prayer of the several churches.
To invite ourselves and others into fellowship and, if God so wills, into organic union, with other churches on the basis of the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, such churches to be considered part of the Anglican Communion if in communion with the See of Canterbury.
To exhibit mutual respect and interdependence in the Communion, honoring Anglican faith and witness as it finds expression in the affirmation of the faith in the recitation of the ancient creeds of the undivided Church, the commitment to common prayer and sacramental life informed by Holy Scripture, in the witness and ministry of the autonomous churches of the Communion, and in the ministry of all the baptized, every Christian contributing to the life of the whole.
Member Churches agree:
That each church is autonomous within the generous orthodoxy of life in Christ. Every member church recognizes the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion of all churches in the Communion. All baptized persons command the respect of every member Church. The several vocations of the baptized may are exercised in a member Church by affirmation of that Church. Such license and affirmation in one church of the Communion does not imply affirmation of the practice of that vocation in the life of any other church of the Communion.
That the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council exercise certain executive powers within this fellowship. They hold the power to invite and include churches and persons into the deliberative consultations and programmatic activities of the Anglican Communion. No church can be a member of the ACC that is not in communion with the See of Canterbury; communion with the See of Canterbury does not guarantee membership in the ACC.
That Bishops express godly counsel and teaching as they meet in the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and at other times. Such counsel and teaching informs the Communion and must be held in high regard, but such counsel cannot direct or command actions of member Churches.
That withdrawal of a member church from the Anglican Communion may be effected only by declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury that the member church is no longer in communion with the See of Canterbury. The Constitution of the ACC may describe membership and conditions for withdrawal of membership in the ACC. Invitation to the gatherings of bishops and inclusion in the ACC are matters respectively of decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the membership of the ACC. Exclusion or disinvitation effectively limits fellowship but does not remove a church from inclusion in the Anglican Communion.
That no more than one church may have jurisdiction in a particular area except when for historical, ecumenical or pastoral reasons two churches both in communion with the See of Canterbury and with one another have mutually agreed to continue overlapping ministries.
This Compact will become effective when received and affirmed in a manner proscribed by the Anglican Consultative Council by two thirds of the current member Churches of the Anglican Communion.