The Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) is making waves at Lambeth. Essentially they have proposed that the trajectory of the Covenant idea lead to a form of Covenant that will include a process of punitive or coercive judgment. The end result would be the development of an Instrument of Communion with teeth.
The Windsor Continuation Group has been making reports to the bishops at Lambeth. Reports I and II are now in hand. They are billed as "preliminary observations" as if that would cushion the blow, but the content has been anything but preliminary. Additionally a report on principles of canon law has been added to the mix. Matt Kennedy has a good effort at a verbatim of a press conference on the Principles document. You can read it HERE. These reports have been billed as "discussion starters" but they have an air of certainty about them.
The front edge? "This thing will get out of hand and we will be lucky to live through it." (A quote in the movie "The Hunt for Red October" from a naval officer played by Fred Thompson.) If Anglicans don't stare this one down we will have everything we never wanted - foreign lords spiritual, tribunals, and most of all an Anglican patriarchy. It will be a mess.
Now some background.
First, remember what the charge to the Group is and who is on it. This is from my post on Preludium 2/13/08:
(Quoting the Lambeth Palace announcement of the WCG) "The WCG will address outstanding questions arising from the Windsor Report and the various formal responses from provinces and instruments of the Anglican Communion.
The members of the group are:
The Most Revd Clive Handford, former Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East (chair)
The Most Revd John Chew, Primate of South East Asia
The Right Revd Gary Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas
The Right Revd Victoria Matthews, former Bishop of Edmonton
The Very Revd John Moses, former dean of St Paul's, London
The Most Revd Donald Mtetemela, Primate of Tanzania
They will be joined as a consultant by:
Dame Mary Tanner, Co-president of the World Council of Churches
and assisted by:Canon Andrew Norman of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Staff and
Canon Gregory Cameron of the Anglican Communion Office."
My comment at the time was that
"This has all the makings of a disaster."
I posed a set of questions about the Windsor Report: "(i) How did this report come to be an idol, (ii) how soon can we consign it to a less deified place in the scheme of things in the Anglican Communion? and (iii) when will "Windsor compliant" be an expression known only to those who delve into the arcane?"
Of course the WCG was not about to ask those questions.
What they have done, however, is reopen a discussion about the Appendix to the St. Andrew's Draft of the Covenant. They did so by suggesting the formation of something called "The Faith and Order Commission."
The Appendix has been widely criticised as another effort to get a coercive legal system and process in place to deal with the "resolution of Covenant disagreements." It is a complex piece. I comment on it HERE.
Section six of the Appendix says this:
"6.1. When the Archbishop of Canterbury decides to refer the matter to a Commission in the Communion, he shall choose which Commission in consultation with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.
[NOTE: This is without prejudice to the entitlement of any other Instrument of Communion requesting the Archbishop to set up Commissions or to any other Instrument of Communion likewise setting up such Commissions.]
6.2. The Commission shall engage in study of the issues involved in the matter, bringing in expertise as needed, and shall evaluate the acceptability of the act or proposed act of any Church involved.
6.3. Within eighteen months of the referral, the Commission shall submit its evaluation to an Instrument of Communion other than the Anglican Consultative Council as determined by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Having considered the evaluation, the Instrument shall issue a request to any Church involved.
6.4. If a Church accepts the request, the Instrument of Communion to which the evaluation is submitted shall certify as soon as is convenient that the matter is closed subject to Articles 3.2.1, 3.2.4 and 3.2.5b of the Covenant.
6.5. If a Church rejects the request, the Instrument of Communion to which the evaluation is submitted shall send the request and rejection to the Anglican Consultative Council which shall process the matter in accordance with Paragraph 8."
The notion of a "commission" is not well spelled out in the Appendix, but it would appear that the WCG has found a way of amplifying that commission's form and status by suggesting the establishment of a "Faith and Order Commission" on an equal level to the four instruments of communion.
What the WCG is proposing is a permanent place to lodge the issues of Communion and Covenant disagreements. While the Faith and Order Commission might have other matters to consider - positive commentary on the ways in which we are ordered as Anglicans - its ultimate role seems to include producing the beginnings of Anglican Communion wide standards, codified in a way that would make it clear just what being a part of the Anglican Communion entailed, what was required in the way of Covenant obedience, and how correction or punishment might be effected.
Here is what Preliminary Observations II has to say, "The Common Principles of Canon law Project ( Anglican Communion Legal Advisers Network) gives a sense of the integrity of Anglicanism and we commend the suggestion for the setting up of an Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on ecclesiological issues raised by our current ‘crisis’." In other words, the combination of some form of Covenant that has binding character and some sort of body (the commission) that can recommend to some body the course of action to be taken will constitute what is now being talked about as "the fifth instrument of unity."
Hold on to your autonomy, it's hard to sing without it.