First, is a Covenant of any sort desirable, or would something else (or even nothing) be better? This comes back to the question of Instrument Choice which I have written of previously. It seems to me that much of the project of drafting a Covenant has been an exercise in doing something, at a time when there has been a great deal of pressure to get on with it. That pressure, and the sense of urgency it has created, has in my view caused us to ignore some pretty fundamental questions in favour of simply being busy. But have we been going down the right path? We really haven't explored whether there was another path to begin with. Surely doing nothing would be better than doing the wrong thing? But sometimes people wind up doing the wrong thing simply in order to avoid seeming passive. Governments do it. Churches do it. Is this one of those times?
Second, what do we actually hope to achieve with the proposed Covenant? That’s a big question! Should it be a visionary statement of hope, calling us into a better future as a communion of churches? In other words, do we want a document that will inspire? Or do we hope to set up mechanisms with which to conduct future conflict? Personally, I would prefer the former, but what we have on offer now is very much the latter.
Third, what ought to be included? Should it include a confessional element? Should there be a dispute settling mechanism? Should it say something of what we mean by the term “communion”? Should there be some commitment to respect not only the constitutional autonomy of the other churches, but also the legitimacy of their canonical procedures?
Fourth, how detailed ought the Covenant to be? The dilemma here is if we say too much it may be too cumbersome, and if we say too little it may be of little use. As we evaluate the proposed Covenant, I think that in some ways the design committee has chosen to err on the side of saying too much, but then having chosen that path has paradoxically left some important things unsaid.
Fifth, what is our timeline? The authors of Towards an Anglican Covenant suggested a period of 5 to 8 years, which I thought at the time was unrealistically optimistic. Here we are after just four years pressing down the final stretch toward adoption of the final draft. What’s the rush?
Finally, I noted
Even if an Anglican covenant is desirable, there is a very real danger that the current climate of conflict and the sense of urgency to resolve it would so shape the finished product that we would lose an opportunity to produce a visionary statement of hope for the Anglican Communion in favour of the development of processes with which to conduct our present and future conflicts. In other words, even if a covenant is a good idea, it may be an inopportune time to draft one.You can read the original article here.
It seems to me that those who would introduce a significant change into the life of the Anglican Communion have a responsibility to make a serious case for the proposed changes. And the rest of us should be asking the sorts of questions I have been trying to ask so we don’t wind up sleepwalking into a change that we will awake to discover, too late, has been disastrous.