Anglican Covenant: Don’t Panic

Helpful reflection on the Anglican Covenant, entitled, “Don’t Panic”…posted at No Anglican Covenant:

In his recent defence of the controversial fourth section of the proposed Anglican Covenant, Andrew Goddard said that there were some reforms of the Instruments of Communion in process:

Numerous resignations from the standing committee, concerns about the ACC’s new constitution, and the principled refusal of many to attend both Lambeth 2008 and the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin indicate that major reforms of the instruments are now urgent, not just for their own sake but for the sake of the Covenant. The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order is considering such reforms. Unless these reforms come soon there is the real danger that Section 4 will simply plant this new promising seed of the Covenant in shallow soil or among thorns.

Mark Harris, a thoughtful and reliable Episcopalian blogger took this to imply that there were some changes to the Covenant being considered. This is a reasonable inference if Goddard is correct. Naturally, we at No Anglican Covenant Central were concerned, so we decided to check at the source.

Here is the response from the Revd Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the Anglican Communion’s Unity Faith and Order Officer.

ACC 14 gave the following task to IASCUFO:

Resolution 14.08 (g) “IASCUFO to undertake a study of the role and responsibilities in the Communion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting; the ecclesiological rationale of each, and the relationships between them, in line with the Windsor Continuation Group Report, and to report back to ACC-15”.

This work is being taken forward by a working group of IASCUFO which is looking at the history of the Instruments and writings about them, consulting within the Communion, and developing a discussion paper.

The mandate for IASCUFO taking this on came before most of the the concerns listed in the Living Church article occured, and they are not (so far as I can tell) part of IASCUFO’s consideration. The work is primarily one of ecclesiology – not, of course, without political ramifications, but politics are not the focus of the task.

The Covenant simply lists the Instruments and does not speak to their interrelationship. Thus there is work to be done here, not least because many Anglicans have different ideas as to how they should best be interconnected to strengthen the Communion. It is not envisaged that this work would lead to amendments to the Covenant.

IASCUFO has no power of its own. Any recommendations it would make would go to the Instruments themselves. Were there to be any concrete proposals for substantial changes that touched the Constitution they would have to go to the Provinces for consideration. But I doubt we’ll be very far down that road soon. There will be a progress report, and probably some questions for discussion, at ACC-15.

In other words, Don’t Panic. Yes, there’s some work being done on the Instruments of Communion, but not for the reasons cited by Goddard. And there are no foreseen implications for the proposed Anglican Covenant.

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