A great many comments on the Covenant are now buried in the 322 responses to the Windsor Report. Comment addressed the principle of a Covenant and all comments, especially those of detail, were coloured by Appendix Two: Proposal for the Anglican Covenant which was widely panned and quickly hidden at the back of a filing cabinet.
A caveat: I do not pretend these are adequate summaries of the papers. I have largely tried to pick out the salient points. [Links are mostly to pdf documents]
Norman Doe’s analysis of the responses was that
Approximately one third favours the covenant principle and Windsor draft, a third supports the principle but not the draft, and a third rejects both principle and draft. Though many agree (eg) about the nature of a covenant, within these three groups respondents are divided as to:
(a) whether a covenant accords with the spirit of Anglicanism
(b) its capacity to achieve unity, reconciliation, order and stability
(c) its form (whether it should be descriptive or prescriptive or both)
(d) its subject-matter (whether it should treat (eg) adiaphora, scriptural interpretation)
(e) its content (some welcome the draft, but others feel (eg) that: its commitments are unworkable; its understanding of autonomy-in-communion is incorrect; and giving in contentious communion issues a pastoral ministry to Canterbury and a jurisdiction to the Instruments of Unity is too curial); and:
(f) mode of adoption and a disciplinary mechanism to enforce the covenant (many feel the use of law ensures commitment, but for others a covenant should not bind).
(Professor Doe was almost certainly the most significant contributor to the Windsor Covenant draft.)
The Australian response, has a great deal to say about autonomy and the relationship between member churches based on 60 experience with their own constitution. They propose that:
(5) … each member Church has plenary authority at its own discretion, to make statements as to its faith ritual ceremonial or discipline and to order its forms of worship and rules of discipline and to alter or revise such statements, forms and rules, …
provided changes comply with the fundamental declaration set out in the document. Autonomy requires subsidiarity (17). Autonomy is balanced by a duty on members to ‘self-limit the exercise of autonomy where to do so is in the interests of the Communion.’ (18). They propose processes for reception of change (22-25) and conflict resolution (27-31).
They also set out what seems like a demand. Only if the Covenant were to follow the ‘Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles in the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia’ would it be acceptable – remove or add anything and they would find it ‘more difficult’ to adopt.
The Scottish Response proposes that ‘Covenant’ should not mean a document or legal framework binding the Communion together, but should be a verb describing the process by which members of the Communion work together. There would not need to be ‘a’ covenant but as many covenants as there are members describing the relationship between the ‘mother plant’ and its offshoots.
The Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (IATDC) report naturally calls for more theological input into the resolution of ecclesial conflict. It begins (section 1) with a theological exposition of the term and substance of ‘covenant’ (noun and verb) on the assumption that conflict has been the normal condition of church life from the beginning (3.1) [a shameless plug here for the Seminar on Conflict Ecclesiology]. The Covenant should clarify and simplify, reflecting both ‘narrative’ and ‘visionary’ aspects of covenant (2.2). It should reflect the history of Anglicanism as well as the present and a covenant for vision (as opposed to a narrowly juridical covenant 2.5) must be effective in energising mission (2.3). It must be dynamic(2.4). Subsidiarity is important (3.2). Time will need to be taken (4.2).
IATDC raises, but does not resolve the question of interpretation:
(3.3) These observations suggest an important corollary to the concept of covenant-making: any covenant requires an instrument to interpret it. There is no such thing as a self-interpreting covenant any more than there are self-interpreting scriptures. A covenant implies an interpretive body to decide on what level of polity it is best addressed and whether or to what extent it has been breached.
The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations welcomed a Covenant in principle. It endorsed a foundation in canon law (7) but dissented from the IATDC suggestion that theologians should be the primary interpreters of the Covenant (9). Its concerns (14) were the possibility that Anglicanism might become a confessional denomination with implications for ecumenical partners; the ambiguities of ‘covenant’; and the danger of fossilising the structures of Anglicanism. However it saw potential benefits for ecumenical life.
There were responses from four voluntary groups: Affirming Catholicism (for further discussion) [Website ~ Report], Global South (a draft Covenant which contributed significantly to The Draft Anglican Covenant) [Website ~ Report], InclusiveChurch (supporting an aspirational covenant; opposing a contractual covenant) [Website ~ Report], and the Modern Churchpeople’s Union (against a covenant – theological and governmental discussion of issues and implications of covenant) [Website ~ Report].
Individual responses (I believe these were all solicited contributions but may be wrong in that):
Paul McPartlan reflected on primacy and inter-communion.
Tom Brown endorsed a covenant on the experience of the Diocese of Wellington (NZ) where covenant is a statement of ‘working friendship’ between bishop, priest and people – addressing relationships, not legal minutia.
Michael Doe was suspicious of the agenda driving the desire for a Covenant and its possible application and implications.
George Bruce recommended starting discussion with some greater clarity of terms. He questioned the need for and value of a legal Covenant, as opposed to a relational one.
Richard LeSueur saw the debate as a search for a new language of unity. A legal, contractual covenant would enable Anglicans to enter a new future as a Communion.
Cathy Ross felt that a mission-centred Covenant would be understood and attract support. It should be relational, dynamic, short, and fairly quickly achieved.
Martyn Percy was concerned about how a Covenant would be used – what would it add and who would effect it? He wished for more patience and opposed premature closure of either doctrinal conflict or debate on the Covenant.
Alan Perry commended the example of the Waterloo Declaration. (Between the Anglican and Lutheran Churches in Canada: its merits are brevity, simplicity, and a long slow period of implementation.)
Eileen Scully The process is being pushed faster than members’ decision making processes can properly accommodate: reception, including laity, is important. She would want a Covenant that was personal, integrative, honest about the past, not fixated on conflict resolution, owned by members. The key question remains: what is a Covenant for?
Stephen Noll proposed a constitutional Covenant focused on identity and polity with scripture as foundation and sufficient, interpreted in the plain and canonical sense. He explicitly excludes the North American Church as having ‘walked apart’. (See also an article on Global South site.)
Bruce Kaye (a response to the Draft Anglican Covenant 2007) said the process was too rushed and politicized. The Draft Covenant would probably exacerbate conflict and reduce mutual engagement. The Covenant is an experiment and should not be too rigid. He has interesting reflections on the way the Primates used the Covenant to legitimate attempts to intrude on TEC before a Covenant had been adopted. The language of Section 6 (with its mechanism to expel a member) is ‘disingenuous and to any ordinary reader looks plainly deceptive if not deceitful.’