The Ash Wednesday / St. Andrew's Draft Covenant: On First Read

It's Ash Wednesday and the Covenant Design Group decided its a good day to put out its next draft of an Anglican Covenant. It is called The St. Andrew's Draft, following the questionable practice of naming documents after the place of writing. Well, here it is, Draft II, aka The St. Andrew's Draft, or perhaps naming it after the day of publication, The Ash Wednesday Draft. The text, along with an introduction, appendix and other related matters can be found HERE.

The primary texts are the Introduction, Draft and Appendix.

On first scan many of the concerns raised about the first Draft have been addressed. A detailed commentary is provided so that we can read just how the CDG cut open the doves and read the entrails. There will be plenty of time for the bishops going to Lambeth to work over the text and distill the meaning of this document.

One thing struck me on reading the Introduction, Draft II and Appendix all together, something out of the American amalgam of church and social contracts : These three are rough approximations of a declaration, a constitution and canons (or law).

(i) The Introduction makes various declarations and ends with this prayer, "Our prayer is that God will redeem our struggles and weakness, and renew and enrich our common life so that the Anglican Communion may be used to witness effectively in all the world, working with all Christians of good will, to the new life and hope found in Christ Jesus." If one removes the "our prayer is that" at the beginning of this last sentence, it has the ring of declaration. "God will redeem our struggles and weaknesses, etc."

The Introduction is a declaration by the CDG itself, and if incorporated into the life of the Communion will become somewhat like the preface to the Prayer Book.

(ii) The Second Draft emerges as the equivalent to a constitution, although because it contains no provision for revision at all, it is indeed an extended version of a covenant, not subject to revision, but only subject to being broken.

(iii) The Appendix is effectively the beginnings of a canon of law, the purpose of which is to spell out the consequences of threatening the covenant. It begins with this statement, "All processes for the resolution of covenant disagreements which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission shall be characterised by the Christian virtues of charity, humility, patience and gentleness and the canonical principles of fairness, transparency, and reasoned decision-making." Would that that were true. What follows however, is a somewhat detailed effort to provide a process for dealing with threats to the unity of the communion. Interestingly, there seems to be no means of revising this body of directives or laws. So, unlike canons in the Church, these laws, subtly promulgated as an "appendix," are not subject to revision either.

Several questions arise from all this: Do we really want something out there that begins to look like constitution and canons? What is the process by which Draft II and its ancillary documents will be considered by the member churches of the communion?

I would suggest that at least Draft II and its Appendix ought to be considered as separate and unequal documents.

The first is a document of covenant among autonomous equals, joining together for common purpose and out of a common faith.

The appended matters are referred to in the Draft text, "3.2.5.c
to be ready to participate in mediated conversation between parties, which may be in conflict, according to such procedures as are appended to this covenant."
That needs revision. Perhaps "according to such procedures as may be appended to this covenant and revised from time to time by an agreed on process." As it stands, the specifics of the Appendix are an extension of the Draft Covenant itself. That must be challenged.

The Appendix makes it apparent that the whole of the effort to produce an Anglican Covenant is driven by the possibility of matters that "
threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission."
The fact that such procedures are needed is spelled out in the Draft itself, but he procedures are spelled out in greater detail in the Appendix. The threat to unity is addressed finally by authority vested in one of the several instruments of communion.

The connection between the Covenant and the appended matters needs careful attention.

One way to explore what this all might look like in practice is to consider three cases:

(i) The Church of Nigeria continues to produce new bishops for work in the United States contrary to the explicit requests that it not do so.

(ii) The Archbishop of Sidney determines to license lay persons to celebrate the Eucharist in spite of many objections from other provinces.

(iii) A diocese in one of the Provinces of the Communion by due process in its own Church nominates and then ordains a person as bishop whose "manner of life" makes him or her unacceptable to some other Provinces in the Communion.

How will the procedures specified in the Appendix work?

The Draft II deserves our careful consideration. I will return to look again at it later. On the surface the whole body of material seems cold and without heart. Perhaps it is just the juxtaposition with the day.

For now, it is off to Ashes and repentance, and for matters of the heart.


  1. Mark,

    You've hit the nail on the head. How would the processes outline in the SA Draft (I don't mind drafts being named for places, BTW) address the ongoing problems or the past presenting problems? In other words, if this were the Covenant and Canons in place in 2003, would +Robinson still have been consecrated? I think the answer is yes; the only question is whether the referall process would have generated a finding that TEC has broken the Covenant. Same with New Westminster - I don't see anything that would have precluded their approval of SSBs, given that the referral process apparently only kicks in when something has actually happened.

    I like the Covenant itself in general, although I do have qualms about Bishops and synods as having the primary teaching authority. But the Appendix seems at first reading indeed problematic, both from a workability perspective and, as you note, from a solvency perspective, i.e., I don't know that it can or could have stopped the unravelling.

    Both documents definitely deserve more study.


  2. For what it's worth in the CDG's commentary they specifically request that folks take a careful look at the appendix and suggest improvements. They also exp;icitly recognize that the covenant will almost certainly be changed again before it can finally be accepted by the churches of the communion.


  3. Yes, Jon. I've heard from one of the group's members that it will not be ready to be voted on at Lambeth -- the Group intends it to face further amendments before it would be ready for a vote.

    Also, I've hear that Stand Firm hates it.

  4. Michael,

    The Stand Firm folk are not always wrong, even when they are right for the wrong reasons. ;-) They hate it because it does not excommunicate all of North America outside CANA and the rest of the alphabet schism soup.

    This is the same old covenant in sheep's clothing. We are not, I guess, to notice that it elevates the primates to a semi-judiciary role while simultaneously saying there is no judiciary. One wonders if ++Gomez really thinks we are all stupid? I think we know +Durham thinks something close to that.

    The draft carefully deletes some of the specifics the first draft commenter's objected to seeing: the 1662 BCP as nearly Scripture, the 39 Articles as confessional. But it offers the same idea that the "instruments of unity" are to become the elements of magisterium.

    I continue to think we do not need any covenant, but if we must have one, it should not be one that makes primates a separate order of empowered demi-cardinals.


  5. While the previous draft was an appalling mess of primatial poo, this one is merely dreadful, grasping and foolish.

    I am particularly struck by the last paragraph of the Appendix (or, more accurately, the enforcement provisions). According to that paragraph, a Province may decide not to aceded to a request from another Province or from one of the Instruments.

    The striking piece? The Angllican Consultative Council will decide AFTER THE FACT if the issue is of sufficient import for such a delining to constitute departure from the Communion.

    In other words, we won't throw anyone out. Instead, we'll get together after tha fact and arbitrarily decide that they've thrown themselves out.

    This draft is a little more subtle, but it is still crap.

    Just say "no."

  6. but TEC HOB will not say no...will it?

    it will bend over backwards to stay in Rowan Williams' club, regardless of who in TEC it has to sacrifice in order to do so.......but the question is, why?

  7. I leke the Mad Priest's take on this. Here's the URL:


  8. I agree with Malcolm+ & would like to point out to anonymous that even a craven HOB (which sometimes show real backbone) is not enough -- I suspect the resentment caused by B033 will pretty much guarantee that the HOD would reject anything that gives any instrument of unity the right to expel constituent members of the Anglican Communion.

  9. Prior Aelred,

    I hope you are right. I fear you aren't. The willingness of Dr. Williams to stiff his friend, of Dr. Jefferts Shori to put other in a, "crucified place" all to appease central Africa makes me rather less optimistic. Ah well, I have been wrong before -- sI have raised teenage sons so I know!



OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.