The Governance Working Group of the Anglican Church of Canada has released its report on the legal and constitutional implications of the proposed Anglican Covenant, as requested by the General Synod. In addition to the report, there is also an executive summary.
The report analyses the proposed Covenant under four headings:
Definitional Concerns lists no fewer than nine key terms in the proposed Covenant that are left undefined. This is a concern because, as the report states, “the Covenant is more than a statement of belief or intention; it is a legal document.” Exactly. And as a legal document it requires clarity of definition. For without clarity, the report says, it is “difficult to know the full nature and extent of the obligations which would be undertaken by adopting the Covenant.” That being the case, it is difficult to understand how any Synod can responsibly vote to adopt the Covenant.
Under the rubric of Procedural Concerns, the report discusses seven difficulties with the dispute-settling process in the proposed Covenant. For example, the report raises concerns about the vagueness of the process in section 4.2. (See my comments in this vein here.) It also notes that the process fails to guarantee the principles of Natural Justice. I have also analysed this issue in two parts here and here. Furthermore, there is no right or mechanism to appeal a decision of the Standing Committee.
The report also considers Constitutional Concerns for the Canadian Church. These include issues such as the assumption in the proposed Covenant that all Churches are unitary bodies, but the Canadian Church is not. It is thus not obvious how the obligations of the Covenant would be enforced in Canada, assuming we could accurately determine what those obligations are. (For non-Canadians, I suggest you read this section anyway and then ask whether the concerns apply to your own Church.)
Finally, the report discusses Consequences of Not Adopting the Covenant. Actually, aside from not being able to participate in the dispute-settling procedures and being exempt from those procedures, there don't seem to be any significant consequences. A point worth pondering.
The report also solicits feedback on a series of ten questions. I suggest that, having carefully read the report, those questions provide an indispensable framework for the study of the proposed Covenant. In my view, they should be asked by every member of every Synod prior to voting on a resolution to adopt the Covenant.
The report provides a thorough analysis of the legal and constitutional implications of adopting or not adopting the proposed Covenant. Although it is written from the Canadian perspective, I suggest that it would nevertheless be a valuable resource for Anglicans around the world.
General Synod also requested a theological analysis of the proposed Covenant. I look forward to it eagerly. The legal analysis has established a very high standard.