I have no idea what the answer are to these questions, but I believe they have something to do with what is at stake regarding the Anglican Covenant.
First let me say that I continue to look forward to spirited debate and discussion at General Convention. Like some others, The Rev. Tobias Haller, for example, I have decided opinions regarding the Covenant and the Covenant "idea," (I am opposed to them) but remain (I hope) open to other opinion.
Some of the best of the essays and comments in support of the Covenant are to be found in the comments of people like Peter Carroll of New Zealand and the occasional essays in The Living Church, notably the recent comment by George Sumner, "Recognizably Anglican." They deserve to be read with respect.
Still there are questions that require some sort of answer.
(i) I raised one in my last post, The Strange Case of the Province of South East Asia and their Letter of Accession. While I am not holding my breath waiting for an answer from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion regarding these questions, they remain. The primary question is this,
"If the Letter from South East Asia is taken as a "yes" vote for the Covenant and that vote is predicated on the assumptions South East Asia has made, does the Anglican Communion office acceptance of that letter as "adoption" mean that the Anglican Communion Office, the Archbishop of Canterbury or any of the instruments of communion agree to or abide by South East Asia's interpretation of the limitations placed on member churches by the Covenant?"
That question is all the more important given the just released disclosure that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apparently "twisted arms" to get Dean Jeffrey John, gay, etc, off the list for possible choice as bishop. In an article, Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops, Andrew Brown wrote, "The leadership of the established church remains tied in knots over how far it can comply with the Equality Act in its treatment of gay people. Church lawyers have told the bishops that while they cannot take into account that someone is homosexual in considering them for preferment, they also cannot put forward clergy in active same-sex relationships and, even if they are celibate, must consider whether they can "act as a focus for unity" to their flocks if appointed to a diocese."
(ii) So another way to state the question is this: If the Church of England's leadership, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is also the "focus of unity" for the Anglican Communion, stands ready to stand down on the matter of putting forward the names of gay persons for preferment, can we in any way expect him not to stand with South East Asia in its salute to Lambeth 1998 1.10?
If South East Asia's estimation of the entry fee for legitimate signing of the Covenant is not challenged by Anglican Communion leaders, it means (at least on an initial read) that for the Episcopal Church to sign the Anglican Covenant in a legitimate and honest way, we must be prepared to say that we will at least not ordain any more gay people in partnered relationships to Bishop and that we will stop this business about moving toward formal church wide liturgies for blessing same sex relationships. I can not image that we will do this.
(iii) One big question for us at General Convention will be this: If we sign on with the Anglican Covenant and proceed with any further elections of gay persons to the episcopate or move towards church wide liturgies of blessing of same sex partners, will our adoption be accepted by the Anglican Communion leadership?
Well, we won't know until we try it. Or we may simply decide that "trying it" is not worth the trouble, since we can predict with some certainty the outcome - relational consequences such that we are effectively reduced to friend of the family status. Is that assessment about right?
(iv) Now to another question:
There seems to be some clarity from Anglican Communion leaders that no one is being asked to adopt the Anglican Covenant at this time save the already established Churches of the Communion, (the Provinces). As Churches sign on (adopt) the Covenant it becomes effective for them. Presumably when enough churches do so the preponderance of support will move towards the Anglican Covenant as normative for inclusion in the Anglican Communion.
Some Provinces are apparently disinterested in the Anglican Covenant, going instead for the Jerusalem Declaration and an alternative Anglican world wide fellowship. Suppose less than half the Churches in the Communion buy on... what then? How normative will the Covenant be when the Churches asked to join don't?
(vi) And finally, there is the fake-province, The Anglican Church in North America. It says at the close of its Internet newsletter, "The Anglican Church in North America unites some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada. The Anglican Church is a Province-in-formation in the global Anglican Communion." Note the phrase, "a Province-in-formation in the global Anglican Communion." Says who?
Of course ACNA says this. They are waiting the day when because we don't sign the Anglican Covenant, or better sign it and get blown off anyway, they can let the dust settle and step in saying, we have been preparing for years.
The questions is: Is anyone in Anglican Communion authority going to step up and say something like, "ACNA is not a Province-in-formation in the global Anglican Communion. There is no such category or activity called "Province-in-formation."
ACNA and CANA (The Convocation of Anglicans in North America) are apparently delighted to assure their constituents that they are part of the Anglican Communion. That their delight leads to excessive claims would appear obvious.
But perhaps not. If they say it long enough, and if The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada and others do not accept Lambeth 1998, 1.10 as the settled mind of the Communion, and if there is no clear renunciation of their claims by Anglican Communion authorities, the unfolding of events may lean towards their interpretation.
All of which makes the matter of the Anglican Covenant all the more complex. If we sign without reservations about Lambeth 1998 1.10 (a la South East Asia's interpretation) we betray gay and lesbian members of this Church, will have revolt on our hands in dioceses and among bishops. If we sign without clear signs of repentance, some Churches will work to void our adoption, and it might not be accepted. If we sign with reservations, I think that is a dead end, as it will not be adoption. If we don't sign, ACNA is waiting in the wings.
The questions here have mostly to do with how "Anglican Communion authorities" understand the South East Asia letter of accession, what they make of limited success in garnering adoption statements, and whether or not these authorities have had private conversations or sufficient reservations about TEC and ACoC trajectories such that they believe ACNA might be a better alternative.
(vii) Perhaps the basic question is: Is a Church in which gay and lesbian members exercise leadership and are included in sacraments of vocation (ordination and marriage), understood by Anglican Communion leadership (particularly the ABC or the Anglican Communion Office) as finally a rotten apple and unworthy of being in the barrel called the Anglican Communion? If so, get honest and out with it. Say it. Then we can forget about the Covenant thing.
If not, then we could use some positive encouragement towards signing the Covenant - like support against South East Asia's interpretation, ACNA's contentions and some sense of what we do if the Anglican Covenant gets only partial support from within the existing Provinces.