Ideas have their time and some ideas find their time does not come according to their supporters timetable. The Anglican Covenant may prove to be such an idea as a proposal for the Anglican Communion. (It has clearly proved in the last few days to be an idea whose time has not yet come for the Church of England). As the Living Church editorial I pointed to yesterday says, we can look back to 1963 and the Toronto Congress to see that the notion of mutual responsibility and interdependence has charted the evolution of the Communion for nearly fifty years:
"The [No Anglican Covenant] coalition’s opposition to the Covenant has principally centered on a sustained disinterest in global Communion structures, funded by an unhappy amnesia (at best, ignorance at worst) regarding the modern evolution of the Anglican Communion. Among other things, prescribed reading for all members of the NACC, and those tempted to follow them, would include the report from the 1963 Anglican Congress in Toronto, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ, which charted the course for inter-Anglican conversation of the last half century in a visionary, missionary mode."Will future historians look back and see that the Anglican Covenant's rejection by sufficient member churches to prevent its effective implementation was just a hiccup on the way to fulfilment of the Toronto vision? Were that to be so then the next period of Communion life will likely show signs of the situation being a hiccup rather than a dead end. Here is how our global life might play out over the next few decades.
(1) Synods and General Synods/Conventions will continue to make their responses to the Covenant through the next year or so. In the end a majority of member churches will support the Covenant because it is a good idea to bind together our talk of 'mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ' into a plan for action (i.e. a willingness to accept that there are consequences to failing to live up to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ). A sound communion ecclesiology is on the side of all those supporting the Covenant.
(2) Parts of the present Communion will engage with each other and with Covenant-minded members in an "association" manner: meeting, talking, tolerating, doing absolutely nothing about any disagreements. This will be pleasant for all concerned but within this association mode Anglican diversity will diversify further and "Anglican" will increasingly mean "AnythingGoes." Slowly but surely this "association" will fade away because it is largely supported by declining Western Anglican churches.
(3) A strong part of the present Communion, currently found across movements and meetings associated with GAFCON//the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and the Global South, will act as a "communion": a fellowship of Anglicans bound together in common cause, willing to hold each other accountable as those who are interdependent in the body of Christ. This version of the Anglican Communion will be supported by a good number of member churches with their full commitment, as well as by leaders from other member churches (and by ACNA). It will be the dominant expression of dynamic, growing Anglican Christianity for years to come.
(4) From within declining Western Anglican churches the dynamic, growing parishes and dioceses will send their leaders to join with the dominant expression of "Anglican Communion" in (3) above. When the GAFCON site tells us that some 200 leaders from 30 member churches are gathering in London in late April for a leadership conference (itself a preface to another GAFCON in 2013), we can be sure that the dominant expression of Anglican Christianity is stronger than the liberal/progessive expression which has fought against the Covenant. Even from within ACANZP, which is likely to reject the Covenant, we will have leaders, including bishops, at this April, 2012 event. Even more will go to GAFCON 2013.
(5) Effectively, that is, the present Anglican Communion of 38 member churches will work out its life as an Anglican Association of about 10-12 member churches and an Anglican Communion (or Fellowship) of about 26-28 member churches.
(6) Eventually the penny will drop, the idea of the Covenant will have its time: those within the Anglican Association who are tired of being part of an Anglicanism going nowhere and lacking common doctrinal accord will join with the (effective) Anglican Communion in a revised form of the (official) Anglican Communion which will have Instruments of Unity which work, a covenant which binds, and conferences which all member churches attend. However by that stage the 'covenant which binds' will have more in common doctrinally with the Jerusalem Declaration than with the Covenant doing the synodical rounds today.
(7) This means that the next ABC from a Communion perspective should be someone capable of seeing into the far future of the Communion, able to relate well to the leaders GAFCON/FCA while also connecting with the leaders of the Anglican Association, and, of course, competent to lead the C of E but not given to being anxious about the course of Communion life during the decade or so they will be in the ABC role.
Understandably ++Rowan has been anxious about the Communion, and that anxiety has served him well in pushing for the Covenant while not serving him well in respect of TEC: he was too anxious to please TEC!
The next ABC could be more relaxed about the Association and the Communion. My personal recommendation for "Lambeth 2018" would be to run twin events for the Association and for the Communion with a joint picnic on the lawns of the University of Kent for those from each who would like to break bread together (a la the 5000 rather than the Lord's Supper).
By 2028 we could see a Covenant-bonded Communion fully represented at the Lambeth Conference of that year. But 2038 would do.