It's Ash Wednesday and the Covenant Design Group decided its a good day to put out its next draft of an Anglican Covenant. It is called The St. Andrew's Draft, following the questionable practice of naming documents after the place of writing. Well, here it is, Draft II, aka The St. Andrew's Draft, or perhaps naming it after the day of publication, The Ash Wednesday Draft. The text, along with an introduction, appendix and other related matters can be found HERE.
The primary texts are the Introduction, Draft and Appendix.
On first scan many of the concerns raised about the first Draft have been addressed. A detailed commentary is provided so that we can read just how the CDG cut open the doves and read the entrails. There will be plenty of time for the bishops going to Lambeth to work over the text and distill the meaning of this document.
One thing struck me on reading the Introduction, Draft II and Appendix all together, something out of the American amalgam of church and social contracts : These three are rough approximations of a declaration, a constitution and canons (or law).
(i) The Introduction makes various declarations and ends with this prayer, "Our prayer is that God will redeem our struggles and weakness, and renew and enrich our common life so that the Anglican Communion may be used to witness effectively in all the world, working with all Christians of good will, to the new life and hope found in Christ Jesus." If one removes the "our prayer is that" at the beginning of this last sentence, it has the ring of declaration. "God will redeem our struggles and weaknesses, etc."
The Introduction is a declaration by the CDG itself, and if incorporated into the life of the Communion will become somewhat like the preface to the Prayer Book.
(ii) The Second Draft emerges as the equivalent to a constitution, although because it contains no provision for revision at all, it is indeed an extended version of a covenant, not subject to revision, but only subject to being broken.
(iii) The Appendix is effectively the beginnings of a canon of law, the purpose of which is to spell out the consequences of threatening the covenant. It begins with this statement, "All processes for the resolution of covenant disagreements which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission shall be characterised by the Christian virtues of charity, humility, patience and gentleness and the canonical principles of fairness, transparency, and reasoned decision-making." Would that that were true. What follows however, is a somewhat detailed effort to provide a process for dealing with threats to the unity of the communion. Interestingly, there seems to be no means of revising this body of directives or laws. So, unlike canons in the Church, these laws, subtly promulgated as an "appendix," are not subject to revision either.
Several questions arise from all this: Do we really want something out there that begins to look like constitution and canons? What is the process by which Draft II and its ancillary documents will be considered by the member churches of the communion?
I would suggest that at least Draft II and its Appendix ought to be considered as separate and unequal documents.
The first is a document of covenant among autonomous equals, joining together for common purpose and out of a common faith.
The appended matters are referred to in the Draft text, "3.2.5.c to be ready to participate in mediated conversation between parties, which may be in conflict, according to such procedures as are appended to this covenant." That needs revision. Perhaps "according to such procedures as may be appended to this covenant and revised from time to time by an agreed on process." As it stands, the specifics of the Appendix are an extension of the Draft Covenant itself. That must be challenged.
The Appendix makes it apparent that the whole of the effort to produce an Anglican Covenant is driven by the possibility of matters that "threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission." The fact that such procedures are needed is spelled out in the Draft itself, but he procedures are spelled out in greater detail in the Appendix. The threat to unity is addressed finally by authority vested in one of the several instruments of communion.
The connection between the Covenant and the appended matters needs careful attention.
One way to explore what this all might look like in practice is to consider three cases:
(i) The Church of Nigeria continues to produce new bishops for work in the United States contrary to the explicit requests that it not do so.
(ii) The Archbishop of Sidney determines to license lay persons to celebrate the Eucharist in spite of many objections from other provinces.
(iii) A diocese in one of the Provinces of the Communion by due process in its own Church nominates and then ordains a person as bishop whose "manner of life" makes him or her unacceptable to some other Provinces in the Communion.
How will the procedures specified in the Appendix work?
The Draft II deserves our careful consideration. I will return to look again at it later. On the surface the whole body of material seems cold and without heart. Perhaps it is just the juxtaposition with the day.
For now, it is off to Ashes and repentance, and for matters of the heart.