To help me understand just what the draft says, I drew a couple of diagrams, and I offer them here for your edification or amusement. (My apologies to Dave Walker for treading on his turf. I’m not really a threat to Dave, of course, since he can actually draw.) My first diagram attempts to set out the players and their responsibilities. I think it should be reasonably self-explanatory. The numbers in brackets refer, of course, to the notes, which explain, inter alia, the location in the covenant draft providing justification for the corresponding element in the figure. Recall that the Standing Committee comprises representatives of the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is therefore heavily weighted toward bishops generally and primates in particular. Since it meets so seldom, the Lambeth Conference is unlikely to have much to do with dealing with conflicts unless a Conference is scheduled at a time of ongoing disputes. The figure below is hard to make out, so you can click on it to see a larger version.
I’m not sure what it means that the Standing Committee monitors the functioning of the covenant on behalf of the Instruments of Communion but is only described as responsible to the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.
More interesting is the next figure, which illustrates the specifics of how the Communion proposes to deal with conflicts. Again, you can click on the figure to see a more readable version.
Notice that, according to paragraph 4.2.8 of the draft covenant, “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.” This could mean, for example, that, if Parliament decides that the Church of England cannot subscribe to the covenant, the Archbishop of Canterbury could not play a role in settling disputes. But what does “in the process of adoption” mean? Since The Episcopal Church cannot act on the covenant before the 2012 General Convention, are we now “in the process of adoption”? Can we draw out the discernment process indefinitely, remaining part of the decision-making process by looking at, say, only one paragraph of the covenant at each General Convention? Who knows? This is only one of many imponderables embedded in the draft.
The Standing Committee only gets to grapple with an issue when “a shared mind has not been reached.” What does that mean, and who makes the determination? We are not told how this provision is made operational. Also, when is it “appropriate” for the Standing Committee to refer a question to the Primates’ Meeting and Anglican Consultative Council? The covenant has those bodies delegating authority to the Standing Committee. Can the Standing Committee give the authority back?
The big question, of course, is what sanctions can be imposed on churches that do not “behave,” i.e., ours (at least primarily)? The covenant is silent on the question, merely saying that “relational consequences” can be recommended to the Instruments of Communion and the churches, which, in fact, do not have to accept the recommendations. The “Covenant Working Party Commentary on Revisions to Section 4” is helpful here:
A further question has concerned the “relational consequences” which may follow a declaration of “incompatibility with the covenant”. A reality which has to be acknowledged is that if there is autonomy of governance in the Churches of the Anglican Communion, then a necessary corollary of this is that the autonomy of a Church’s relationships of Communion also cannot be constrained. What the covenant seeks to do is to find an ecclesial framework by which a common response to tensions can be discerned and articulated. This contrasts with the present situation where no agreed mechanisms for action exist, and this lack has seriously threatened the integrity of the Communion. What the relational consequences might be were explored by the Covenant Design Group in their meeting in Singapore in September 2008, and were set out in the Lambeth Commentary at page 25. There they were deliberately listed in a range from the lightest “no action”, to the most serious “breaking of ecclesial communion and walking apart”.I don’t know that I fully understand this paragraph of Anglican-speak, but the “Lambeth Commentary” referred to can be found here. No obvious authority exists for the imposition of some of the suggested sanctions.
I hope this is helpful. I have made every effort to faithfully represent the content of Section 4 of the covenant draft. Do let me know if you think I have made any mistakes.