Saturday 15 May 2010

Covenant Shifts

The Anglican Communion Institute (and let's include Fulcrum) continues with its dodging and weaving to get a Covenant it wants rather than the one on offer.

It claims that the recent 'no' from the Anglican authorities at New Zealand is the wrong question. The question New Zealand is asking is whether the Anglican Consultative Council's own Standing Committee acting as the Standing Committee of the Covenant cannot act according to Section 4's punitive provisions because such punitive action would be a restriction on to the members of the Standing Committee regarding ACC membership that is not in the ACC constitution (and by the UK law it would come under).

Christopher Seitz, the Geoffrey Boycott of evangelical Anglicanism, is instead saying it is the wrong question: is it rather not that the Standing Committee for the ACC is not the Standing Committee for another body, the Covenant. But, actually:

Is the standing committee of the ACC as governed by the ACC constitution and UK law legally permitted to perform the functions required of the ‘Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ as defined by Section 4 of the Covenant?

Er, it may be a question, but if it is (and presumably the drafters of the final Covenant draft thought so) then the New Zealand question is the one that applies. However, then we find the the ACI actually is not really interested in the legal question at all, for:

If, on the other hand, the legal advice is that the ACC's standing committee can in fact comply with Section 4, including Paragraph 4.2.8, under current UK law, it nevertheless leaves unanswered the other questions that have been raised concerning the ability of this committee to function under Section 4 with the confidence of the Communion.

Ah, so if it is legal, it is still not wanted because it does not do the punitive job that these evangelicals want the Covenant to do. It wants instead an 'Advisory Committee' apparently allowed by the ACC and Covenant and:

...the Advisory Committee consist of the three ex officio members of the ACC standing committee (Archbishop Williams, Bishop Tengatenga and Canon Elizabeth Paver) and one member (either the Primate or one of the ACC members) selected by each church when it adopts the Covenant.

Nevertheless, Seitz and the ACI still needs the two representatives from The Episcopal Church removed from the ACC standing committee because it would retain the legal authority over the advisory committee. This can be achieved by not inviting Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the Primates Meeting and thus she is not in good standing to be ex-officio on the ACC and the standing committee. This absence of invitation thus falls into the lap of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. As for Ian Douglas, he is bishoped and therefore cannot attend without bending the rules [but he can take the other vacated bishop's space, as can another bishop], and someone else clerical has to be invited to take his place (and need not be?). Well, someone else then is still one not none even assuming the Archbishop does not invite the Presiding Bishop (but he may well).

What is missing in all this giggery-pokery is that the outlook is that New Zealand does not want Section 4, and because the Archbishop himself has said it stands and falls as a whole then presumably on his terms it must fall, however useful are sections 1, 2 and 3 for defining Anglicanism. If it stands as a whole, legally too, then the New Zealand question is a solid one: 'Doesn't the Covenant impose decisions on the ACC that restricts the ACC's constitution?' It is similar to asking, 'Doesn't the Covenant impose decisions on the Church of England that violates its autonomy from outside rule?' The point is that the Church of England may not be able to adopt the Covenant.

It's all something of an unworkable mess, isn't it? The Covenant has become something to kick around, to prefer only in one adaptation or another, which means it isn't going to bring together those different parts (that would have sections 1 to 3 only, or really want back the moved-on-from Ridley Cambridge draft). Rather larger chunks of the Anglican Communion than those to be excluded will not accept a Covenant if it intends to exclude, and thus it should not see the light of day other than as something the Global South might want to adopt for itself under its own preferred wording. Thus the Covenant or Covenants would balkanise the Anglican Communion, the most likely of outcomes.

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