The last bit of the Covenant text is the one thats perhaps been the most controversial, because that's where we spell out what happens if relationships fail or break down. It doesn't set out, as I've already said, a procedure for punishments and sanctions. It does try and sort out how we will discern the nature of our disagreement, how important is it? How divisive does it have to be? Is it a Communion breaking issue that's in question - or is it something we can learn to live with? And so in these sections of the covenant what we're trying to do is simply to give a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts, recognising that they're always going to be there.So what happens next? This Covenant is being sent to all the member Churches of the Anglican Communion. Each church will, within its own processes, decide how to handle it, and by the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in three years time we hope that many provinces will already have said yes to this and adopted it into their own understanding and identity. Clearly the process won't all be over by then, but we're hoping to see some enthusiasm, some general adoption of the principles. We hope to see a new kind of relationship emerging. We hope to see people agreeing to these ways of resolving our conflicts.Beyond that, what's going to happen? It's hard to say as yet, but the Covenant text itself does make it clear that at some point it'll be open to other bodies, other Ecclesial bodies as they're called, other Churches and communities to adopt this Covenant, and be considered for incorporation into the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, it's open to anybody that wishes to affirm the principles of the Covenant - to say that this is what they wish to live with.
Here is a video of the Archbishop's talk:
And here is the text of Section 4 of the Covenant as it relates to who may join it (the Standing Committee's analysis of the changes it made may be read here):
(4.1.4) Every Church of the Anglican Communion, as recognised in accordance with the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, is invited to enter into this Covenant according to its own constitutional procedures.
(4.1.5) The Instruments of Communion may invite other Churches to adopt the Covenant using the same procedures as set out by the Anglican Consultative Council for the amendment of its schedule of membership. Adoption of this Covenant does not confer any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion, which shall be decided by those Instruments themselves.
(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.
At the same time, the Covenant spells out that commitment to it does not "represent submission to any ecclesiastical jurisdiction":
(4.1.3) Such mutual commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance. The Covenant does not grant to any one Church or any agency of the Communion control or direction over any Church of the Anglican Communion.Nevertheless, the Standing Committee may make recommendations to the Instruments of Communion concerning the "relational consequences" for Churches who, having signed the Covenant, then carry out a "controversial act" against the declared wishes of the Standing Committee:
(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.
(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.
(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.And this is the clincher: if you do not sign the Covenant, you do not participate in the deliberations of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion with respect to those "relational consequences":
(4.2.8) Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.
The Statement previously released by the Standing Committee with respect to the election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool may thus be seen as the first warning shot across the bow of ECUSA:
Resolved that, in the light of:
1. The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate
2. The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings
3. Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion
The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
ECUSA will never sign on to the Covenant, because it would have to extend the moratoria recommended by the ACC, and it will never go back on what it decided at GC 2009 with regard to abandoning those moratoria when it felt like it, and not because the rest of the Communion pleaded with it not to do so. Also, by not signing the Covenant, it will not subject itself to a declaration by the Standing Committee that its confirmation of the Rev. Canon Glasspool to the episcopate would constitute an "act incompatible with the Covenant."
Nevertheless, the other Churches that do sign on to the Covenant can still take steps that will have "relational consequences" for ECUSA if it goes ahead. And by not signing on to the Covenant as a Church, ECUSA opens up two cans of worms: (1) as the ABC makes clear, the Instruments of Communion may well invite individual Dioceses to sign on to it (as I showed in this earlier post, the individual Dioceses will have to make the decision in any event); and (2) the way will then be clear for ACNA to sign on to it.
ECUSA is choosing its own path to walk apart. This will all play out in accordance with the path it is choosing for itself.