Thursday, February 07, 2008

Another Proposed Anglican Covenant: The St. Andrew's Draft

You can find the text of the new and improved proposed Anglican Covenant here. It is referred to as "the St. Andrew's Draft."

We had many discussions of the previous Covenant draft, now known as "the Nassau Draft." You can find some of the previous discussions here, here, here, here, here and here.

The idea of developing some kind of Covenant was introduced by the Windsor Report. As most of us were aware as soon as the Windsor Report was released, regardless of it being a worthy effort, it is also a very flawed document. Unfortunately, it appears some members of the Anglican Communion, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, seem to have forgotten that the Windsor Report was a set of recommendations, not a set of laws. It is from this misunderstanding of the status of this flawed document that we now have the insistence from some in the Communion that we MUST have some kind of Covenant in place as soon as possible.

I think any kind of Covenant is a bad idea. The St. Andrew's Draft is a great improvement over the Nassau Draft, but still contains language that would give veto power to entities outside the Episcopal Church.

How is it an improvement? The concept of being "autonomus churches" is emphasized, as is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. How is it still flawed? The insistence on including the 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer bothers me. The Articles are so dated as to make the language and the cultural context so foreign to most people in the world today that they have little if any relevance. The same can be said for the 1662 Prayer Book.

The section that should give us the greatest concern is not found within the body of the Draft. It comes from the Appendix:

...8. Rejection of a Request from an Instrument of Communion

8.1. If a Church rejects a request of an Instrument of Communion, that Instrument shall send the request and rejection to the Anglican Consultative Council.

8.2. At its next meeting, the Council shall decide whether the rejection of the request is compatible with the Covenant.

8.3. If the Council decides that the rejection of the request is compatible with the Covenant, the matter is closed subject to Articles 3.2.1, 3.2.4 and 3.2.5b of the Covenant.

8.4. If the Council decides that the rejection is incompatible with the Covenant, then during the course of that meeting of the Council either (a) the Church involved may declare voluntarily that it relinquishes the force and meaning of the purposes of the Covenant, or (b) the Council shall resolve whether the Church involved may be understood to have relinquished the force and meaning of the purposes of the Covenant.

8.5. If a declaration or resolution of relinquishment is issued, the Anglican Consultative Council must as soon as is practicable initiate a process of restoration with the Church involved in consultation with all the Churches of the Communion and the other Instruments of Communion.
Although there has been an attempt to hide the impact of this section with positive terms, it is clear this is the "discipline" section. You don't abide by the Covenant, then you are not part of the Communion.

If the members of the Communion must wait for a consensus from everyone else before making any changes, we will quickly become frozen in time and will have surrendered any semblance to our own autonomy. As I've already said, I think this is a bad idea.


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