Anglican Covenant Flow Chart and other matters

Here it is:  What readers have waited for. The real truth about the Anglican Covenant process of adaption. A handy-dandy flow chart.

The observant reader will note that the ONLY process that counts is acceptance, as is (that is absolute). In which case the Church in question is in the Anglican Communion with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.  

Any other path: rejection, in whole or in part, or acceptance in part or with reservations, leads to a dead end or simply out. 

We are assured that not accepting the Covenant does not mean that a Church is not part of the Anglican Communion, but does mean that its level of engagement in the instruments of unity for the Communion are limited. 

The chart however is meant to make it clear: acceptance (or subscription or accession or some other variation of adopting is the only way into the full life of the Anglican Communion.

All other hedging of bets is a dead end. And, of course, not adopting the Covenant means a Church is opting out of the full participation in the life of the Communion.

So let's get clear. Adopting the Covenant means we are in. Every other option means we are out.

Being out does not mean we are totally separated from the Communion, but only that we do not take part in its central governing structures as full participants.

Adoption has taken several forms: subscription, assent, adoption. The list of Churches that have said "yes" now stands as follows:

South East Asia
Southern Africa (almost)
West Indies.

Rejection has taken only one form so far, unofficial but well publicized non-engagement (the GAFCON primates):
West Africa
Southern Cone

They have signaled their disdain of the Covenant on several occasions, but I believe they have not individually as Provinces rejected the Covenant.

Everyone else is in process. 

But the important thing to realize is that the only recognized process of becoming part of the new improved Anglican Communion, including participation in the instruments of communion, is acceptance of the Covenant, absolutely. 

Now, who made this a reality?  Several of the Instruments of Unity themselves - that is the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. 

The demand that the Covenant be understood as the entry card into full participation in the Anglican Communion structures is a demand that comes from the designers of the Covenant  and the bodies that commended it to the Churches of the Communion for consideration.

The operant structural priming of the pump is this, (from the Anglican Covenant itself)  "(4.1.6)  This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons." That is, the Covenant begins to be operational as soon as some churches activate it. The churches that activate it, along with those in the current list of participating churches who are still considering acceptance, constitute the core of the Anglican Communion, vis a vis participation in various instruments, committees, commissions, etc.  So the Covenant is a self fulfilling prophecy.

All the other ideas - accepting against the day that we can change what we don't like (a moderate fantasy) or rejecting it in the belief that "they will be sorry" and change the Covenant to be more to our liking (a right wing fantasy) is a dead end.  Those who accept the Covenant as it is are the players in the new improved Anglican Communion.

Now suppose all the moderate and progressive Churches in the Communion signed on, just as they are (with women bishops and or primates, with gay clergy in stable relationships, etc), how long would it take other members to point out the moral dilemma in joining with fingers crossed?

No, dear friends, Jesus is right. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. 

If you buy it knowing that in the present the Episcopal Church will be restrained by the Covenant from ordaining any more partnered gay persons to the Episcopate, or that we will be restrained by the Covenant from same sex blessings until such time as the whole Communion comes around, then say yes. 

There are those who argue that if we come in as we are, and there are no nasty churches in the mix who will hold our feet to the fire on the matters of Lambeth 1998,1.10, or to the Windsor Report moratoria, then we can just coast. But we will be coasting on a don't mention it, don't talk about it, doctrine. That has its problems.

Otherwise, say no.


  1. Thank you for this clarity, Mark, which is a picture of the dysfunction in the Anglican Communion under Rowan's leadership - strike that - autocracy.

  2. In the end, Mark, I think I will never understand why TEC (as represented here on this blog) is so desperate to belong to a Communion which continues to disagree with it on a range of matters. It is not just gay bishops, it is whether doctrine is important, whether a Covenant is a good idea, whether Lambeth resolutions count or not. The list goes on.

    Further your most admiring commenters here, such as Elizabeth Kaeton, regularly diss the Communion with jabs about its dysfunctionality, its autocratic leadership, etc.

    Would it not be simpler to argue that TEC should finish with this terrible organization with its disagreeable attachments to things shunned by TEC?

    No flow charts would be required to explain the decision.

    If you do not like us, our intentions, or our leadership, why stay?

  3. Peter - I can't speak for Mark, but the Anglican Communion is like family. One does not criticize the family of others. The Romans do what the Romans will. One can criticize one's family not only because one is part of it but because one loves it and wants to see it improve.

    Our present leadership (Rowan) will not always be with us. The damage he will have done, however, may be irreversible - especially if the Anglican Covenant is passed in a majority of provinces in the Communion.

    I think Tobias Haller's thinking "In A Godward Direction" is absolutely spot on. He is now hearing the call to slow down the Lambeth Steamroller and say, "Let's be in conversation with the communion partners. Isn't that the purported goal of the AC in the first place?"

    That's what families do, Peter. We work through out difficulties.

  4. Mark, my main concern here is in your cussgetsion (which Peter reflects from the other POV) that TEC is somehow "crossing its fingers."

    I think the mistake we made from day one was in "repenting" (however nuanced) from the election and consecration of Gene Robinson. I stand by the position that his election etc., as much as some may have disapproved, is in fact in accord both with Scripture and Reason, but the obvious long Tradition of gay bishops! If the AngCov is about conversation and not necessarily uniformity, then I think we can be part of that process. I am currently of a mind that we ought not accept unreservedly, and also point out that we have not had the communion-wide discussion of the current draft (as we did of the earlier drafts to a limited extent.) By its own terms important matters are only to be entered into after extended communion-wide conversation. Right now each Province seems to be acting in its own little box, a hub-and-spoke model for what is in essence a network. Round peg, square hole stuff.

    We need further exploration with our colleagues.

  5. sorry about "cussgestion"! fingers got in a tangle.

  6. I think you misread Ireland's action? Their leadership made it clear that they only adopted the thing subject to the primary authority of the Irish instruments of governance. Sort of like saying "OK but we are in charge of us."

    That is not gonna sell in England.
    Where historically, the English are not accepting of the Irish being in charge of anything Irish.


  7. Marc, I'm more a tactician than a strategist. I'm thinking of the movie "War Games," where the computer, gaming alternatives to nuclear holocaust, comes to the conclusion "the only way to win is not to play". For another time can we discuss how a computer can draw that conclusion.

    I suggest TEC's best strategy at GC next year should be to form another study committee on the Covenant and report back in three years. As the principal subject - the defendant, if you will - of the Windsor Report and the subsequent Anglican Covenant, we should be savvy enough to reserve our opinion until the plaintiffs have their say. This is the equivalent of not moving out of the first box in your flowchart.

    Should our chief antagonists elect not to sign on to the Covenant, then assenting to it should not present a problem. OTOH, should the Covenant's subscribers be our most virulent adversaries, how would TEC benefit by joining them?

  8. I am with Jim (above) and would not put Ireland and Southeast Asia onto your "yes" list.

    Peter Carrell does not think they have adopted the Covenant: http://anglicandownunder.blogspot.com/2011/05/adoption-urgently-required-for-orphan.html

    And you have already pointed to my post on this: http://www.liturgy.co.nz/blog/anglican-covenant-meaningless/5857

    So by that reckoning, the list stands no longer than Mexico, Myanmar, West Indies?

    What is a new interesting phenomenon is that the Covenant is such a mess that it is already disputed who has adopted it and who hasn't!



  9. Australia will take quite a while to make a decision as the General Synod meets only once every three years. It's unclear to me whether legislation will be required, the processes for which are complex -- and potentially slow.
    There will certainly be disagreement among the 23 Dioceses on the Covenant.


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.