The recent murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay activist, has occasioned much comment and pronouncement, including one by the primates at their just concluded meeting. Good may yet come of his death if homophobia is checked rather than further fuelled by the kind of language we read reports of from both the country at large, and from some sections of the Anglican church there.
One thing that interests me as an Anglican pondering the nature of our communion together around the globe, is the manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Uganda have absolute certainty not only that homophobia is wrong in all human contexts, but is endemic in Uganda, and entwined into the character of Uganda Anglicanism.* Consequentially, many Anglicans outside Uganda have no hesitancy, indeed seem to feel strongly that it is an obligation to speak into the situation there. (The concern about homophobia in Uganda was there before the murder which now highlights it with renewed intensity).
This speaking up is a good thing! At the heart of true evangelical faith, of the central interests of the English Reformation is the presupposition that what is true is true everywhere. There may be local developments in practice (the 39A understands that) but not in doctrine. There may be localised pastoral responses to difficult human situations but there is one morality: murder is wrong everywhere, telling the truth is right in all places. The outrage over David Kato's death is the outrage of subscribers to belief in the universality of morality.
One question then is whether other aspects of Communion life today involve universal doctrine or local practice. Where universal doctrine is involved we might usefully reflect on whether we are consistent around the globe in promoting it (or, conversely, resisting change to it).
My understanding of the Anglican Covenant is that it is a 21st century document which reiterates the presupposition that Anglicanism is not an expression of Christian faith in which truth is relative. Truth matters to Anglicans and the Covenant will be a modern endorsement of that fact. It is precisely the document which would enable member churches of the Communion to formally call the Ugandan Anglican church to account for accusations that it is intrinsically homophobic (that is, intrinsically bound to demonise homosexuals in a manner contradicting doctrines of neighbourly love and prohibition of hatred for fellow human beings): a call made on the basis that what is true is true everywhere (and thus there is no local Ugandan truth justifying homophobia).
The Ugandan church may be able to account for these claims (for which, after all, people such as myself are aware of through media reports and are thus unaware of the extent to which they may involve exaggeration such as moving from the statements of a few individuals to drawing conclusions about a whole church). But on what basis, without the Covenant, would a 'fair trial' of this church take place in the context of the Communion?
As a Communion we seem able to objectify what is going on in Uganda on the basis of a universal understanding of what is true and right with consequential accusations and charges. There are no voices being raised which say 'this is not what we should be doing because local development of the faith means it is up to Ugandan Anglicans how they conduct themselves.'
But this only makes the contrast all the more clear when we observe the obstruction which occurs when global Anglicans raise questions about what is going on in TEC (that is, an attempt, under the rubric of 'pastoral provision', to change doctrine concerning marriage): We are autonomous. The Communion has neither authority nor power nor right to speak to member churches. Local development of the faith is the Anglican way.
What is good for Uganda's goose is not good for TEC's gander.
[*Sentence slightly rewritten after discussion in comments].