Today, however, the Anglican Church of Canada released a document that, although it does not draw the obvious conclusion that the Covenant should be rejected because it is incompetently written, most definitely establishes that it is incompetently written. One cannot, in fact, read “Legal and Constitutional Issues Presented to the Canadian Church by the Proposed Anglican Covenant” without concluding that the text of the Covenant is a train wreck.
The report is the product of the Governance Working Group of the Canadian church. The same body also issued an Executive Summary that provides, in two pages, a good sense of the conclusions contained in the full 33-page report. “Legal and Constitutional Issues” has four main sections. (These are numbered 1 through 4 in the Executive Summary but A through D in the report.) They are
- Lack of Definitional Clarity. Many of the terms used in the Covenant are undefined and are often used in different contexts or with clearly different meanings. This makes it virtually impossible to say definitively what the text means. (Examples: “communion,” “a shared mind,” “relational consequences”)
- Procedural Concerns. The unnamed authors of the report find myriad problems with Section 4. The procedures described are not defined with any precision, institutionalize conflicts of interest, and fail to incorporate basic fairness principles. Criteria on which actions are based are unspecified, as is the significance of situations likely to arise.
- Constitutional Issues for the Canadian Church. I do not pretend to understand the full discussion here, which involves a church polity that seems more complex than that of The Episcopal Church. Nevertheless, certain questions raised in this section of the report are clearly relevant for any Anglican Church. (Examples: Is the Covenant “doctrine”? How does the Covenant relate to fundamental documents such as a church’s constitution and canons?)
- Consequences of Non-Adoption. The discussion about what would happen if the Anglican Church of Canada failed to adopt the Covenant is especially interesting. The conclusion: virtually nothing. The authors conclude that the only significant result of rejecting the covenant would be the inability to participate in disciplining other churches. On the other hand, the Canadian church would thereby be free from prosecution under the Covenant. Actually, this section may be unduly sanguine.
That said, I’m sure there are supporters of the Covenant who will be unmoved by the Canadian analysis. These people mostly fall into one of two groups. The first group—the bishops of South East Asia are in this group—see the Covenant as a weapon against heresy. That it is an imperfect weapon is irrelevant; a poor weapon is better than no weapon at all to these folks. The second group—I suspect that many English bishops are in this group—are of the why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along school. For these supporters, the Covenant is an article of faith—God will somehow make it all work out in the end. Personally, I have more respect for the first group.
I find the Canadian report devastating. Regular readers of this blog are likely to as well.
South of the BorderMeanwhile, there was an interesting Covenant-related development in The Episcopal Church. Executive Council ended its three-day meeting in Maryland today, and Episcopal News Service ran a story about the meeting. The article included this interesting item:
[The Executive Council] heard a report from Rosalie Ballentine, council member and chair of its Anglican Covenant Task Force. She said that there were “a few” among the 64 responses the group received from a request for comment on the final draft of the covenant who would approve the covenant in full. “Almost all” respondents objected to Section 4, which contained a disciplinary process, she said. Ballentine also said that the group will not yet release a report it requested from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons outlining the changes that would be needed if the General Convention decided to sign on to the covenant. “We’re reluctant to have it out there” because some people may assume that decisions have already been made, she said. The report will eventually be appended to the task force report to General Convention. Council will receive a draft of the Blue Book report in October, according to Ballentine.Ballentine also said that the group will not yet release a report it requested from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons outlining the changes that would be needed if the General Convention decided to sign on to the covenant. “We’re reluctant to have it out there” because some people may assume that decisions have already been made, she said. You have got to be kidding!
Jim Naughton, who has a talent for getting to the heart of any matter at hand, commented on The Lead that the Anglican Church of Canada “apparently regards its members as adults,” the implication being that Ms. Ballentine (or Executive Council) does not so regard ordinary Episcopalians. What possible reason is there for withholding the report from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons? When it does become available, it will be interesting to compare the Episcopal Church report to the Canadian one. Will the American report be as scary as its Canadian counterpart, or will it be a whitewash? Inquiring minds want to know. NOW!
Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.