The Anglican Communion Institute thinks that the failure of Rowan Williams in the Church of England to persuade it to join the Covenant and in the broader Communion in terms of follow-through of discipline is a positive opportunity for future the Covenant!
They accuse him of losing interest, and focussing on other things; but they also accuse him (before he lost interest) of irritating both sides at Lambeth 2008 and the 2009 ACC meeting was institutionally dysfunctional and the very opposite of what a Covenant would achieve. In other words, he did not do what the ACI would have wanted in a period of discussion amongst the purple and setting up a section 4 that he thought might bridge the gap.
Basically, now the Western Churches would seem to be outside the Covenant, those that are inside will get the opportunity to reform it. The ACI dreams of The Episcopal Church going bankrupt while this process of change takes place, and regards vital parts of Anglicanism as only in Asia and Africa. Only those inside the Covenant can reform it, and indeed the connection of the Archbishop, the Church of England and the Instruments needs some untangling if the Covenant is to work. For example, the ACC is an English company where membership for the purposes of English law is the Standing Committee, of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is an ex-officio member.
So the insiders make amendments and the Covenant becomes workable, and then they might even invite dioceses as members of it where the Churches they are in do not Covenant. Yes - imagine that in the Church of England. The dioceses as a whole process rejected the Covenant, the General Synod collectively is unable to consider the legislation, and yet dioceses go and join the Covenant? On what legal basis exactly? Some bishops might declare they are 'Windsor compliant' but it will have no more than the force of a slogan, and probably a redundant one.
All this forgets that a body of Covenanters might want to retain real relationships with Western Churches that do not sign up to the Covenant. It assumes African Churches will sign up, but signing up that would limit the freedom of movement to compete. To assume, as the ACI does, that the Covenant now represents the opportunity to do reverse mission into the West is in fact not the assumption of the Covenant, nor those that have signed it, but the GAFCON competitors. The Covenant would only be the basis of the reverse mission if there was a complete and final break into two Anglicanisms where one part, Covenanting on a revised basis, did not recognise the other part, the non-Covenanting.
This is so far down the road and not likely to be the outcome. The Covenant has been weakened, not strengthened, by the rejection of the Church of England. It has been weakened because Churches signed up to it already and would have done on the basis that a number of Western Churches including the English would have signed up too. There might still be such a conserving group of Covenanters, but they are not minded to be competitive - the rules of geographical monopoly still apply for them.
The ACI is allowing its hatred of the policies of The Episcopal Church and much of Canada to cloud its insight as to the purposes of altering the Covenant by its insiders. There is likely to be a competitive group of reverse mission, that of GAFCON and its forms, but we have yet to see how it will organise itself in terms of entryism regarding other Churches and what the targeted Churches will then do in response.
Julie Withers: Reflections from the North West (2nd – 4th Sept 2015) - I’m not sure what I expected but nothing could have prepared me for the Shared Conversations held in Cheshire between 2nd – 4th September. The conversatio...