Now that the sound and fury have abated, a bit, let's breath in and out slowly and look at the Anglican Consultative Council's actions on Friday. What did the ACC actions accomplish?
Concerning the Resolution on the Anglican Covenant:
(i) The Anglican Covenant idea and the Third Draft text did not die. They are both very much in place. Parts 1-3 have been accepted as written. Part four has been sent forward to a small working group and directed from there to the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and ACC
for action. All of which means that a text might well be in place to be sent around the communion by the new year (2010).
(ii) If the internal-to-the-text argument holds - that the Covenant does not impinge on the Constitution or Canons of member churches - then there is no reason why The Episcopal Church can't vote on it at one convention. For TEC that would mean in 2012. That is no later that predicted before ACC. All the wringing of hands about delay is just histrionics.
(iii) The ACC decision makes it possible (although only possible) that a resolution to the problems of certain subsections of part four might be found and the Covenant might in fact be more widely acceptable.
(iv) The ACC resolution also makes one matter clear: That the text will only go for signature to the churches that are listed as part of the ACC, not to individual dioceses within such churches and not to churches not part of the ACC defined list of Churches part of the Anglican Communion.
In sum, the ACC Resolution on the Anglican Covenant has not killed the Covenant but rather confirmed the considerable reservations around section four and offered a possible solution.
Concerning the resolution on the work of the Windsor Continuation Group:
(i) This is a disaster. The core of the wreckage is part c:
c: affirms the request of the Windsor Report (2004), adopted at the Primates’ Meetings (2005, 2007 and 2009), and supported at the Lambeth Conference (2008) for the implementation of the agreed moratoria on the Consecration of Bishops living in a same gender union, authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for Same Sex unions and continued interventions in other Provinces.
The major problem here is that there are no "agreed moratoria." The constant effort to turn the requests of the Windsor Report into moratoria agreed on by all the Churches of the Communion is a failed one. For one thing, as has been pointed out on many occasions, most recently by Ms. Josephine Hicks, representative to the ACC from TEC, interventions in TEC
from other Churches in the Communion began before the Windsor Report and have continued unabated. For another, as indicated at Dromantine, the Primates there still understood that the best they could do is encourage the Primates to use their influence to encourage their churches to exercise moratoria. (See my post on "Implementation of the agreed moratoria...")
(ii) The rest of the Windsor Continuation Group resolution essentially empowers the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee to do more or less what Section four of the Covenant is proposing. To the extent that the ABC or the JSC can argue that there are moratoria in place, they can on that basis condemn actions, make recommendations for redress, argue for or against representation in the instruments of communion meetings, etc.
The Skunk is on the Table:
The flaw in the Ridley-Cambridge Draft Covenant is that it is in reality two documents in one: parts 1-3 constitute an effort to describe the elements of Christian belief and community expectations that hold us together; part 4 constitutes a beginning canon of organizational structures for dealing with membership, conflict, resolution of conflict and possible disengagement. The two are not parts of a single narrative, rather they are different sorts of narratives.
ACC was quite right, for right or wrong reasons, to separate them.
A Possible Solution regarding the Covenant:
Make Sections 1-3 the Covenant. These three are reasonable pieces, fairly well perfected over the span of the three drafts. Let's do as was suggested in the debate and have an Anglican Covenant consisting of these three sections, plus the final declaration.
Make Section Four an "advisory paper" for the Instruments: Send Section 4 as advisory to the "Instruments of Communion" with the note that each instrument is currently empowered to determine who may or may not be included in the life of that "instrument." That is as it should be. The material in Section 4 goes to those instruments with the hope that it is helpful to that instrument's determination of just how each church will engage with that instrument.
What that would mean concerning inclusion in Anglican Communion life is that:
The Archbishop of Canterbury (and the Church of England by implication) would determine the list of churches with which it is in communion as it does now. It might take the advice or not of the Joint Standing Committee on the advisability of communion with a particular church.
The Anglican Consultative Council would determine the schedule of churches that belong to the ACC by its own internal processes and Constitution and could make use of the advice of the JSC concerning inclusion or exclusion of Churches from membership.
The Primates Meetings and the Lambeth Conference would be invitational based on confluence of the two lists - the ABC's, and the ACC's. A church not recognized by Canterbury or not part of the ACC would not be invited to Primates Meetings or Lambeth. This does not preclude other heads of churches or bishops being invited as guests or observers, but such invitation would be at the pleasure of the gathered group.
What that would mean in terms of "relational consequences" in times of dispute or disagreement is this:
The fourth section observes in 4.2.5 that regarding relational consequences of disputed actions taken by any Church , "the Joint Standing Committee may make recommendations as to relational consequences to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion. ... each Instrument to determine its own response to such recommendations."
The notion that the JSC recommends and the Instrument determines provides a sufficient basis for dealing with disagreement and dispute. The role of the JSC would be to provide recommendations to ACC and the ABC regarding invitation, limitation on participation, and possible exclusion from the common life of the Primates Meetings, the Lambeth Conference or the ACC.
This of course gives precisely the powers to the JSC that the Windsor Continuation Group and the Draft Covenant envision, but it does so only to the extent that the JSC is advisory. The Instruments themselves determine the action taken.
A possible solution regarding the Windsor Continuation Group Report.
It appears that the ACC in its resolution on the matter has already determined that the JSC, with or without the Covenant, will proceed to act on Section four. Fine. It will remain a matter for the churches and the Instruments of Unity to determine just what to do with their recommendations.
It would appear that the so called orthodox Churches will continue to ignore any and all calls that they not intervene. It would appear that the churches struggling with concerns for inclusiveness will go to considerable pains to honor both the cautions of the moratoria, the realities of their own communities and their needs, and the call to see some choices of the faith community as involving matters of justice - matters in which justice delayed is justice denied. The realignment conservative crown will continue to blatantly ignore the moratorium on interventions, the inclusion-liberal crowd will try (unsuccessfully) to be all things to all people.
Meanwhile, because TEC is not a monolithic structure or people, TEC will continue to weigh carefully the development of public rites of same sex blessing and ordination of anybody to the episcopate. If General Convention 2009 were to ask for the development of such rites it will take nine years to have them be fully recognized. By that time the number of states in the United States in which same sex marriages are taking place will be large enough to where the federal law will have to demand that those marriages be recognized as contracts in all states. By that time the number of dioceses providing short term responses (forms or suggested patterns for blessing) out of perceived pastoral need will grow. By that time there will have been considerable attention given to the fact that with very few changes the existing marriage rites will suffice for all marriages in places where same sex marriages are legal.
Meanwhile TEC episcopal elections will continue to weigh the candidate against a wide variety of concerns, legitimate or otherwise, that arise in these times, including whether or not the persons manner of life is a source of concern in TEC or beyond. Dioceses will make decisions by election and the rest of TEC will confirm or not. There will be blood on the floor and wreckage in the fast lane, and some good men and women will not be elected for foolish reasons, and some astounding dullards will be.
And life will go on both in TEC and in the Anglican Church of Canada and in the Church of Uganda and everywhere else.
That's the way it is.
And the Anglican Church in North America will take its place among the denominations in North America claiming to be Anglican. The other churches of the Anglican Communion will have to decide who to have among them, or if they might try to have several partner churches in the US and Canada and if TEC or the ACoC will continue to partner with them.
And while all that is going on, day by day people will come to live inside the love of God in Jesus Christ and they will be called Christians.
And perhaps we in TEC can get on with being who we are as a band of Christians who find ourselves together through all this.
The recommendation concerning the resolution on the Windsor Continuation Group report? Ignore it. If the Joint Standing Committee wants to make investigations, recommendations, reports, etc, fine. If the Archbishop of Canterbury wants to send Pastoral Visitors, bishops on his behalf, hold Pastoral enquiries, etc, fine. But not on our dime, not unless we welcome them to be among us.
The relationships we have with other churches, dioceses, parishes and individuals across the Anglican Communion are jewels without price. We ought to value those relationships and cherish them. But they are not for sale, not for the price of belonging to the institutions of the Anglican "instruments of communion," not for the honor of being the holder of the Anglican "franchise" in North America, not for the hope of a third patriarchy to go with Rome and Constantinople, not for NADA. (Pardon the double negative.) Our real relationships with real people and churches will remain. They are not for sale at any price, including our own integrity as a church that struggles with its efforts to do justice and love mercy.
Let's get on with it.