How authority is transferred

Signing the Covenant will slowly, inexorably convert the Anglican Communion from a family of Churches into one global Church.

Of course it will always carry the DNA of its heritage - not least its anglo-centric culture, its propensity to fit comfortably, complacently with secular power structures, and its manner of grumpy accommodation to changing times and circumstances - it will never be another Roman Catholic Church or World Lutheran Federation.

But it will become a single Church and the Standing Committee will slowly mutate into its government.  You may think this is a good thing, but I don't.  I would like those who do think this development is desirable to campaign for it openly and honestly.  But the opportunity for them to do so has now passed.

The key mechanism by which authority and power will be transferred from currently autonomous churches to the centre lies in section 4.2 of the Covenant.

Photo by Scott Gunn & pinched from KinnonTV
Any signatory may question (4.2.3) a decision or actions of another signatory body or, indeed, decisions or actions they are considering taking.  In itself this would seem to be a good and proper means by which mutual accountability is effected. It sets in motion a process (albeit one that is currently opaque) with the possible result that the central organs of Anglicanism will make a determination of the issue. As things stand at present they can't impose their determination - merely recommend 'relational consequences' (4.2.7).

But don't be deceived.  Once a determination is made it will be 'the teaching of the Anglican Communion', even if no province enforces 'relational consequences'.  From that point on there will be two classes of teaching: (1) official, Communion-wide teaching and (2) local, provincially authorised teaching.  Anomalies will become more visible. The pressure will only be in one direction: to harmonise teaching across the Communion and to do so by seeking more and more central decisions.

I guess that relatively few disputes will in fact trigger the official conflict resolution mechanism.  More likely provinces will look over their shoulders, will self-censor and will seek the informal opinion of the Standing Committee before they act.

And, steadily if unevenly, official, Communion-wide teaching will grow and local decision amking, and confidence in local decision making will shrink.

I also guess that, as soon as the tension drops and decisions are no longer measured as homophobia/homophilia, the very bitterness of the conflict from which we are beginning to emerge will entice all provinces to be more sensitive to one another.  Junior players in today's war will become the Archbishop-Generals of tomorrow. They will seek to effect the lessons they thought they'd learned while fighting.

So: formal determinations, informal organisational actions and personal predilections will all tend in one direction: centralisation.  And once powers have stepped, drifted, been gifted to the centre they will not be returned.

Perhaps, looking some way ahead, the following generation will rediscover the term 'subsidiarity'; perhaps some archivist will read the Windsor report and find it there.   But by then it will be too late, the Anglican Communion will have been rebadged as The Anglican Church.


  1. Is that the lovely Ruth Gledhill journalist extraodinaire in pink but not purple?

  2. I hope that these articles are receiving the widest possible coverage as they are amongst the few that are flagging up the real dangers of the Covenant.

    Scenario, the General Synod of the Church of England decided something say about pensions for partners of those in civil partnerships and an objection is lodged by the Province of Uganda - what then?