The Anglican Covenant continues to get some play in AnglicanLand news. As The Episcopal Church becomes more focused on the run up to General Convention 2012 essays for and against the Covenant continue to appear. The Living Church has done a fairly consistent job of defending the need for an Anglican Covenant and the latest effort of TLC was posted on August 19 by Andrew Goddard. "Section 4: Commitment in Word and Deed," is an effort to defend the most difficult section of the Anglican Covenant. If fails to satisfy.
Never the less, Andrew Goddard makes one remark that bears further exploration. He writes,
"The weakness of the Covenant lies not in the text and its alleged centralization but in the fact that many of the Covenant’s drafters and supporters now doubt that the standing committee and the instruments are sufficiently “fit for purpose.” Numerous resignations from the standing committee, concerns about the ACC’s new constitution, and the principled refusal of many to attend both Lambeth 2008 and the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin indicate that major reforms of the instruments are now urgent, not just for their own sake but for the sake of the Covenant.
The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order is considering such reforms. Unless these reforms come soon there is the real danger that Section 4 will simply plant this new promising seed of the Covenant in shallow soil or among thorns." (Emphasis mine)
Now the churches in the Anglican Communion were presented with the text of the Anglican Covenant as a "final" text. There are provisions in the Covenant for revisions, but they assume that sufficient churches have signed on to the Covenant or are still considering signing on to make such reforms or changes as those churches wish. That hasn't happened yet.
To change the text while churches are considering adoption, or to have a body of the currently constituted Anglican Communion commissions or committees engaged in reform of the Covenant document while asking churches to buy on to the current text raises a series of process issues. Most importantly it suggests that the current Anglican Communion Office believes the Covenant to need reform, even while it is asking churches to sign up.
Worse yet is the possibility that IASCUFO might be working to reform the nature and relation among the "instruments" of Communion in ways that will not themselves conform to the Covenant. This is not about changing the text of the Covenant, as it pertains to the work of the instruments (particularly in Section 4) but about changing the realities on the ground - that is the actual expectations of the various instruments.
The Anglican Communion website says this about the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order this way:
IASCUFO was established by the Lambeth Conference and the Primates' Meeting, and endorsed by ACC-14. The commission is building on work previously undertaken by the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the Windsor Continuation Group. It reports to the Standing Committee and its mandate is to review all issues of ecumenical engagement, and developments in the areas of unity, faith and order in the Anglican Communion and among ecumenical partners, in order to advise the Churches of the Anglican Communion or the Instruments of Communion in order to promote common understanding, consistency, and convergence. The Commission met for the first time in Canterbury in December 2009 and developed a vision that gives expression to its mandate.
So IASCUFO has every business in looking at issues about the Anglican Covenant. But their timing is way, way off and if they are indeed "considering such reforms" they are undercutting the foundational document even before it has gained approval from more than a handful of Churches.
Why would we sign a document we know is already being "reformed" without our input or say and which will become potentially even less useful as a unifying document than it now is?
We were asked to buy onto a "finished" text. If it's not finished, then perhaps we should wait. Not all has been revealed, let the buyer beware.