Dr. Ephraim Radner, a member of the Covenant Design Group, has written a lengthy reflection on ACC-14 and the Anglican Covenant. It is posted on both the Anglican Communion Institute pages and on Global South Anglican.
Towards the end of the essay he lists several next steps, among them is item four:
"4. I see no reason why there may not begin immediately a process of “in principle” acceptance of Section 4 as currently written – and of the Covenant as a whole — now by any province or diocese. Nothing forbids this, and it would in fact prove a far more clear “response” to the document (something the ACC says it wants) than any kind of committee statement. There is no reasons that non-provincial structures could not express their “in principle” acceptance; this would not contravene the ACC’s desire that “only” scheduled members be “invited”. (It needs to be said here that the ACC simply has no authority in this matter, period; but my suggestion does not even need to tread into those waters.) Furthermore, if the Archbishop of Canterbury were himself to make such an invitation for concrete positive response where desired, parallel to the gathering of other responses, some measure of trust might be restored in this process."
Once again the proposition is put forward that dioceses and not "churches" and "non-provincial structures" (read the Anglican Church in North America) can sign on to the Covenant. This is an idea that must please the Communion partner bishops and the ACNA folk.
Of course they can do so. They can do so quite independent of any permission by any body or person, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The question is not about who does or does not think the Covenant is a good thing or a "signable" document. The Anglican Covenant was commissioned by the Anglican Communion and the receiving agent turns out to be the Anglican Consultative Council. When it is given to them it is a report, in this case apparently the final report of the Covenant Design Group. What they do with that report is their business. Dr. Radner seems to believe that the CDG's work ought to stand as a whole, as did the Windsor Report, accepted or rejected as a whole.
Dr. Radner raises some serious questions about the difference between the CDG's expectations - that the Draft would be presented for an up or down vote of acceptance and on the basis of that sent to the churches - and the ACC's actions, which involved voting on each section and making changes that were felt to be necessary, and referring section 4 to a group for further action.
While I read with care his comments and appreciated the viewpoint of one who spent considerable time working on the several drafts, I am unpersuaded by his arguments. The CDG's product was essentially given over to the ACC as a report - the report of their work. At the end of the day the members of the CDG deserve a "well done, good and faithful servants" response and then should be expected to leave the matter with those who received the report.
Instead Dr. Radner now argues that the ACC should not have mucked around with the text, passed it on to the Churches, and barring that should ask the CDG to make what final changes might be made and pass it on to the Churches. After that thread of argument he then takes up the alternative, that since this is not going out in final form to the churches of the Anglican Communion until the end of the year at the earliest, why not send it around in its current form to all communion loving Covenant Anglicans or proto-Anglicans and let them show their fidelity now? That is, why not send it in its current form for a popular vote by dioceses and provinces and proto-provinces and whoever?
The object of such an exercise is to show that the ACC process is not the true sentiment of the Communion and that there is a rising groundswell for the Covenant just as it is. Supposedly this will impress the Archbishop of Canterbury who will then see more clearly the will of the people of Anglican land.
This is a very bad idea. Dr Radner has done great service in this matter, but he was in service to those who commissioned him to this work. Now is not the time to call for a groundswell popular action. To this point he has been the agent of representative (or perhaps monarchical) government. Now he is reaching for a different mandate for the content of this document.
Now the Covenant is no longer a covenant, it is a declaration of independence - a declaration that dioceses, proto-churches and perhaps even parishes and individuals can sign on to a rising wave of Anglican sentiment such that no agencies dare interfere.
Being a lover of independence I applaud Dr. Radner's suggestion that anyone can sign on. Being a lover of freedom and justice I would not sign this Covenant under the conditions he proposes or under any others, save within the community of a Church. The Anglican Covenant is not worth the paper it is written on, save as a document for the churches of the Communion. Otherwise its value as an aid to deeper bonds of affection among member churches of the Anglican Communion is completely compromised.
All of this is personally moot, of course. I am of no importance here, not being a bishop or a metropolitan, or archbishop or whatever. As a citizen of the faithful community I fine this covenant business interesting but not vital to my life in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, for which any institutional form existent is but a shadow.
As a deputy to General Convention and member of Executive Council I have considerable interest in the Anglican Covenant as a covenant among the churches (meaning the provincial or national and regional churches) of the Communion. That interest is because the Anglican Covenant idea is brought forward as an aid to the expression of the bonds of affection that makes us a communion. If it is not such an aid, it is not worth the attention. Dr. Radner's suggestion makes the Anglican Covenant less interesting and less worthy of attention.