Vote for the Covenant - Thursday
OK, this is a cheat. I've never heard anyone argue this. It's just an excuse to set out some significant aspects of the implementation of the Covenant which I believe have not been part of the general discussion and which ought to be aired.The Covenant will give the Standing Committee the powers it needs to govern the Communion.
If the Covenant is agreed it will give the Standing Committee significant additional powers:
- The power to 'monitor' events in the Communion (4.2.2). This is not trivial - information is power. It will have significant consequences:
- Each province will appoint a link person (4.2.9 - I abbreviate somewhat). They will have two key roles: (1) to warn the Standing Committee of issues in their own Province which might possible cause offence to others and (2) to communicate from the Standing Committee to each Province. Incidentally, this is likely to sideline elected representatives on the Anglican Consultative Council.
- Thus information will flow to and from the centre. No equivalent structure is proposed to ensure that information flows equally around the Communion from one Province to another. It will be quicker, easier, normal for a Province to communicate with all other Provinces through the centre.
- The link person (or office) in each Province will be very powerful, especially in smaller Provinces. They will either reinforce one location of power within a Province or become a significant new factor in its politics. Either way it will change the dynamics within the senior leadership of each Province.
- Long before any public conflict arises, and no matter how punctilious the officers are, the link person will quickly be the route for informal influence from the centre on the internal affairs of a Province.
- The power to instigate a further attempt to achieve agreement between disputing churches, seeking advice as appropriate (4.2.4). This can only be to the good.
- The power to 'request' a province to defer an action (4.2.5)
- The power to declare a Province's action or decision was 'incompatible with the Covenant' (4.2.6) and then
- The power to 'recommend' to the Instruments of Communion or [not 'and'] the Churches of the Communion 'relational consequences' to follow a breakdown of communications and relationships (4.2.7).
With powers in its own right the Standing Committee will be a new Instrument of Communion in its own right.
And consider how this will work in practice: The Anglican Communion Office will sit at the centre of the web and deal with daily matters. The General Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Therefore, as a consequence of the Covenant:
- power will rapidly concentrate at the centre.
- the budget of the ACO will have to rise significantly.
Vote against the Covenant - any day.
These are fundamental changes to the structure and work of the Communion. I judge they are changes for the worse.
I do not believe the Communion should be governed from a single international centre: I fear and suspect that the attempt to do so will store up ever bigger problems for the future.
Those who want the Covenant should set out clearly how it will be implemented and the changes it will entail. Then it can be properly debated by an informed audience. To fail to do so is a significant failure of leadership.