I'm reposting the following from my other blog. Often we discuss matters of the "public sphere" here on Facts & Other Stubborn Things, but much of my own work involves what goes on within the Church. This body is a public in itself, however, and many of the same considerations apply when living out one's religious life in communal order and with a critical spirit. For those who are not familiar with the Anglican situation, I hope these thoughts are stimulating and perhaps can offer an introduction to new ways of looking at social life.
The Anglican Covenant
Last week Canterbury released what is apparently the final version of the Anglican Covenant, which has gone through a number of drafts under a number of names over the course of a number of years. The response to the covenant has not been very pronounced so far, perhaps out of exhaustion at the whole affair. The election of Rev. Glasspool to the episcopate in Los Angeles and the release of Anglicanorum Coetibus by the CDF have received more attention amongst Anglicans, even though neither event is arguably as important as the Covenant is for ecclesiastical affairs.
In the past I have expressed doubts about the covenant process in the Anglican Communion... not because I'm opposed to it or find it a problematic way of ordering churches, but simply because it does not seem to advance the churches beyond their current impasse. If we cannot establish order through communal discernment as it stands and in accordance with already present canons, affirming a new set of standards and ideals does not seem obviously to get us anywhere different than where we currently are. That is, a covenant seems to only be as strong as the covenanting community that enters into it. If parties to a newly stated covenant have already fallen out of covenant relationship with one another, this new affirmation doesn't strike me as offering anything different simply because it is newly affirmed.
That said, I'd like to give the Covenant a fair hearing now that it's out. I've skimmed it, and will surely look into it in some greater depth when I can set aside the time. Rowan Williams apparently envisions the reception process to last until the next ACC meeting, which means we all have plenty of time (as is usual in Anglicanism, for better and worse) to digest this. My initial sense in reading through it was that I've perhaps been shortsighted in thinking about this much-anticipated covenant in terms of the current conflicts of the Anglican Communion. While these conflicts are indeed the reason why the Covenant was written in the first place, the document certainly also suggests some wider ecumenical implications. I wonder whether this contribution will be the most lasting, years after current disputes run their course. That possibility, if nothing else, will probably be my reason for paying some close attention to the Covenant process over the next few years. My prediction, however, is that its impact on the future of the Anglican Communion will not be as pronounced as Canterbury seems to hope.
Below is a short video of Williams introducing the Covenant.
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