One of the chief objections to the Anglican Covenant has been the following:
"(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations."
The removal of persons from various ecumenical conversations and the reduction in status of two members of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) has been widely seen as precursors to the the full implementation of the notion of "relational consequences." Katherine Grieb and Tito Zavala were made consultants rather than full members of IASCUFO in the aftermath of the ordination of a second person in a same sex committed relationship. Grieb, from The Episcopal Church was first removed and then Zavala, whose Province of the Southern Cone was involved in cross Province interference, were removed from full member status of IASCUFO. At the same time several members of ecumenical commissions were removed from those committees.
Preludium and other blog writers noted at the time that since these persons were appointed not as representatives of their churches, but as persons of considerable expertise and ability, it was strange and wrong to suddenly consider them representatives of their respective churches.
Now it appears that the chair of IASCUFO and the Archbishop of Canterbury have reassessed the usefulness of these particular "relational consequences." The Anglican Communion News Service has just posted this:
By ACNS staff
Two consultants of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) have been reinstated as full members at the request of the Commission’s chairman.
The redesignation of Dr Katherine Grieb and Archbishop Tito Zavala as consultants took place as a result of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’ Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion issued in May 2010.
This latest decision follows a request by IASCUFO chairman Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi that Archbishop Williams reconsider the application of the letter to IASCUFO so that the consultants can be reinstated as full members for the sake of the work of the Commission.
Acknowledging that members of IASCUFO are present in virtue of skills relevant to the work of the Commission and are not present as representatives of their Provinces, Archbishop Williams has requested that the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon reinstate Archbishop Zavala and Dr Grieb.
Now, having done this, we might hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury would also reinstate those members of various ecumenical conversations as well, since they too "are present in virtue of skills relevant to the work of the Commission and are not present as representatives of their Provinces,"
The Anglican Covenant 4.2.7 is at the heart of what is viewed by many of us as an unclear mechanism of control. The lifting of the prime example of such control, as actually practiced in the current context, gives some hope that the Anglican Covenant would not in practice lead to such actions in the future. If "relational consequences" do not look like what has already happened, that is good news. The lifting of these gives hope that the object of such consequential actions is not punishment by proxy.
It seems to Preludium that "relational consequences" that have to do with the Churches themselves (that is the Provinces) might involve exclusion of consideration of members of those churches for positions, even if it does not involve removing members. One might say, well, TEC is in violation of Covenant norms, so on this round we will not consider members of TEC for inclusion on this or that committee." That would involve a reduction in status of TEC as a member church in the Communion. That is quite different from "we are now going to remove TEC members from this or that committee." Removing current members seems like a slap down.
Most importantly "relational consequences" have to do with those places where membership is representative, and it is there at further conversation needs to take place, prior to any final approval of the Anglican Covenant by member churches.
At the moment, this is good news. Now, how about the members of ecumenical conversations. Reinstate them as well.
Here in The Episcopal Church we have an upcoming General Convention where we will be voting on some resolution regarding the Anglican Covenant. It would be very useful to have a high-level person from the Anglican Communion say more about the rethinking of the use of "relational consequences," so that we, who are likely to be subject to threats of such consequences might have a better idea of what is going on.