From Jonathan Clatworthy, who is both a member of Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant Coalition and General Secretary of Modern Church, we have received this analysis of recent actions by provinces.
So neither Ireland nor South-East Asia decided to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant – but neither felt able to just say no. Ireland voted to ‘subscribe’ to it, South-East Asia to ‘accede’ to it. As both provinces know, these are meaningless expressions; the Covenant will only come into force if the provinces sign on the dotted line to adopt it. Why are they pussyfooting about?
There is a good reason. Provincial leaders are under immense pressure to sign the Covenant, but few of them like it. It was originally conceived as a way of threatening the USA with expulsion over gay bishops. The present text makes two changes to that aim. Firstly, instead of directly threatening to expel, it sets up an international system which could respond to complaints by expelling but could decide not to; we wouldn’t know the result until after it had been set up. So GAFCON have decided this is not discipline enough and have gone their own way, leaving the rest of us wondering who still wants it.
The second change is that the Covenant makes no mention of same-sex partnerships. It would be possible for one province to object to any initiative by another and demand a judgement from the newly empowered central authorities. Anglicanism would become a confessional sect where we were told what to believe.
So what do provinces do? If they refuse to sign, they may find themselves effectively expelled. If they do sign, they will no longer be able to run their own affairs without constantly checking whether someone in another part of the world objects. So they opt for a third alternative. There isn’t one, but they act as though there is. Whether ‘subscribe’ and ‘accede’ end up counting as ‘adopt’ will no doubt depend on which side has the cleverer political manipulators.