Stephen Noll has posted a critique-and-improvement article on the Covenant. He is particularly concerned that the Covenant in its present form makes void the great historical role of bishops in the governance of the Anglican Communion by placing so much Covenant-led governance in the hands of 'the Standing Committee'. Presupposed here is the virtue of conciliarism rather than curialism (i.e. bishops-in-council led churches are better than papal led, bureaucracy administered churches). An excerpt:
"I believe the Anglican Communion Covenant is a positive development in the history of Anglicanism. In a sense the Covenant has emerged from a theological identity crisis just as the first Lambeth did. As the GAFCON Statement forcefully points out, this crisis is more than just about church politics. It is about Gospel truth. The problem with the Covenant proposal and process, from its first appearance in the Windsor Report to the “final” draft, is that it skirts the crisis of truth in the Communion. I believe the Covenant is adequate in what it affirms – “Our inheritance of faith” – though I think that affirmation could be strengthened in a number of ways. However, the “two-track” idea is going in precisely the wrong direction, building into the governance an impossible paradox: that a portion of the Communion agrees to abide by a certain doctrine and discipline and another portion does not. The end result of such a polity will be another decade of chaos.
There must be only one track: those who adopt the Covenant are members of the Communion; those who do not adopt it are not. Bp. Mouneer Anis is right: when a sufficient number of Provinces have adopted the Covenant, the ACC and its Standing Committee should stand down and be constituted solely from Covenant-keeping Provinces.
This paper is not intended to give a precise proposal for how these two imperatives – the restoration of episcopal governance and the consolidation of the Communion under the Covenant – be incorporated into the Covenant text. It does strike me, however, that two simple but critical amendments could be made to the latest draft to put the Covenant process on the right track:
1. Replace references to “The Standing Committee” in section 4 with “Primates of churches that have adopted the Covenant.”120
2. Change the wording of section 4.1.4 to read: “Every Church of the Anglican Communion is expected [instead of “invited”] to enter into this Covenant according to its own constitutional procedures.121
These changes are minimal but crucial. Some will say: “Sign on to the Covenant now and perfect it later.”122 I myself made such an argument after the Ridley Cambridge Draft was published.123 The utter manipulation of the ACC Meeting in Jamaica, the revelations of the secret ACC Constitution, and the make-over of the Standing Committee have convinced me that I was wrong. Those who would buy into the Covenant hoping to change it from within, I fear, are like “the young lady from Niger, who smiled as she rode on a tiger.”124
The autonomy of the Anglican Provinces actually offers an alternative to the “sign now, change later” position. Since the Provinces of the Communion have the final say to adopt a Covenant, they also have the final authority over what text to adopt. There is nothing sacrosanct about the covenant drafting process set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, especially given its final outworking. The “final” Covenant draft is not final. The Archbishop of Canterbury has endorsed it; the Standing Committee has endorsed it – without any independent authorization by the Primates‟ Meeting or the ACC.125 But Canterbury and the Standing Committee have no authority to command the Provinces to adopt it as it stands.
Adoption of the Covenant is necessarily a political process itself and as such may result in an amended version. There is a relevant analogy in the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The draft of the Constitution was approved by the Convention of 1787. However, it became clear as ratification was taken to each state legislature that the Constitution would not pass without certain guarantees of personal and states‟ rights. Therefore the supporters of the new Constitution agreed to add the first ten amendments, the so-called Bill of Rights – as part of the overall adoption of the Constitution.126
I see no reason why a Province or a group of Provinces and their Primates should not exercise their autonomy by adopting an amended form of the Covenant. I think that a large number of Anglican bishops and churches would have no problem with the gist of the changes I have suggested. If enough Provinces and Primates adopted an alternative text, there is no reason it could not supplant the present version within the wider Communion. The Global South Provinces and Primates, or the FCA Provinces and Primates alone, could take the lead in this matter and render a great service in restoring the proper relationship of authorities within the Communion and the integrity and effectiveness of the Covenant."
The whole is here. (Numbers above refer to footnotes which are not included in my post).
I had not thought of the possibility that member churches might propose amendments to the Covenant ... but for them to be agreeable to the whole Communion they would need to line up with each other.