Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, The Director of the Unity, Faith and Order Office of the Anglican Communion Office, has written a short statementt encouraging fair and accurate debate of the merits of the Anglican Covenant. Good. We do indeed need a fair and accurate debate, however we may come to understand accuracy and fairness.
Unfortunately Canon Barnett-Cowan gets off on the wrong foot. She writes, "The first thing to say is that for any Anglican or Episcopalian to be able to properly enter into a discussion about the Covenant it is vital that they first read it for themselves here http://anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm." This is a very unfortunate beginning point. It makes the assumption that critics have either not read the Covenant at all, or that they have not read it carefully and well. Good manners, not to mention good politics, might better have guided her to write, "I know that many who are critical of the Covenant have read and reread the Anglican Covenant with great care. Never the less, I urge that they read it again, but suspending the interpretations that have already been applied to the text. I urge they read the text again assigning nothing to it that is not evident from the text itself."
The thing is, Canon Barnett-Cowan, many of us have read the text very carefully, and while we are well cautioned to read it again without blinders of suspicion, it is no help to treat us as if we were students who did not read Plato's Republic but came to class prepared to debate its merits anyway.
We have read the text. That is the point. The text is, let us say, less than helpful at times. Canon Barnett-Cowan does her cause no good by later maintaining that, "Regarding the Covenant, it (the Standing Committee) would have the role of monitoring developments and has no power other than proposing to the Instruments of Communion (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting) steps to be taken to encourage discussion and discernment about disputed questions among the Provinces, or, if processes of mediation have broken down, what the relational consequences might be."
Thinking Anglicans has stated about the euphemism relational consequences that, "Frankly, this phrase needs very careful handing before can possibly be applied to Christians."
It is precisely the text that is bothersome, and it does not help to have the schoolteacher whack our knuckles with a ruler.