31 August 2011

Why I Oppose the Anglican Covenant

About nine months ago, when I began this blog, I set out to explore a series of questions I had about the proposed Anglican Covenant, and to present the resulting analysis as a resource for others who were considering the document. I had already done enough preliminary analysis of the proposed Covenant to conclude that it was not a helpful document, so it would be fair to suggest that I was already biased against the Covenant. Nevertheless, I was not unalterably opposed to some kind of Covenant or agreed document, although I would have required some very serious convincing that this was the correct avenue to addressing the conflict and divisions in the Anglican Communion. (All the more so now that I have done some in depth analysis!) My concern in putting some thoughts into the aether was for the good of the Anglican Communion. I am a committed Anglican, and my Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, is an active and committed member of the Anglican Communion.

I set out to analyze the proposed Covenant primarily from the perspective of Canon Law, which is my area of interest. I hold a Master's Degree in Canon Law from Cardiff University, though I haven't made mention of it to date on my blog, in the hope that my arguments would rest on their own merit, and not on some perceived claim to status or expertise. For in the end, either my analysis is logical and demonstrably valid or it is not, and my credentials will not make any difference.

When I began my quest, I jotted down a half dozen questions about the proposed Covenant, mainly about the dispute-settling process in section 4.2. I thought that after writing six or eight blog posts I would sum them up with a post such as this one. Little did I know that more questions would arise with respect to the proposed Covenant, and that I would write over 30 articles about it!

Supporters of the Covenant have noted correctly that the preponderance of arguments against it focus on the shortcomings and concerns about section 4.2, the dispute-settling mechanism, They sometimes conclude from the relatively small number of concerns about sections 1-3 that these sections are perfectly fine. That is an incorrect conclusion. Sections 1-3 may be in the main less objectionable than section 4.2, but they do have some serious problems, as I have attempted to demonstrate. This was made even clearer to me because of the sequence in which I analysed the proposed Covenant.

Most people who seek to do a study of the Covenant start at the beginning, and begin reading it as a kind of theological consensus document. On this reading, most people will find little objectionable in section 1, not much objectionable in section 2 and a few points of discomfort in section 3. It's when the reader gets to section 4, which has a very different tone to it, that most people begin to get concerned. It's as though there were two documents: a theological consensus statement in sections 1-3, and a legal document in section 4. And many critics conclude that they could live with the first document – even if it's imperfect – but would prefer to drop the second. I began analysing the proposed Covenant with section 4, and then for completeness moved on to the first three sections. So in reading the first part of the Covenant the key question in my mind was not whether I could agree with what the document said as a consensus statement, but how sections 1-3 form a basis for the process in section 4.2. In other words, I read sections 1-3 not as a separate document of a different genre from section 4, but as an integral part of a whole legal document. And that approach revealed a number of serious concerns with sections 1-3.

So, to my concerns. In what follows I will provide links to relevant articles elsewhere on this blog to allow the reader to explore my arguments in more depth.

My first concern about the proposed Covenant has nothing to do with the text itself, but with the very proposal for a Covenant. The idea that it might be desirable to have some kind of agreed document laying out what it means to be an Anglican, and including some commitments and a dispute-settling mechanism was put forward in the Windsor Report. Most of the Anglican world seized on this idea and accepted it in a rather uncritical manner. In so doing, we bypassed the necessary question of Instrument Choice, that is to say, of whether this sort of approach is in fact the best vehicle to address the very real conflict that the Windsor Report described. In uncritically accepting the desirability of a Covenant, we ignored a number of crucial questions.

Turning to the text itself, this time in sequence, there are difficulties with every section of the proposed Covenant, some relatively minor and others which are significant enough to be deal breakers all by themselves. Section 1 of the proposed Covenant seeks first to define the faith in terms of existing documents such as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the historic formularies of the Church of England. It then goes on to commit signatory Churches to conform to this normative definition of authentic Anglican faith and any future developments. There are two principle problems with this section. First, the definition of the faith is sufficiently elastic and imprecise that whether a given development of the faith fits the norm will always be a matter of interpretation. And secondly, the commitment to live up to this norm, which pays lip service to the varying contexts in which the Churches of the Anglican Communion find themselves, does not adequately account for those contexts and how they will shape both interpretation and development of the faith. We must remember that this section is the foundation of the standards against which any “controversial action” will be judged. The question is whether the standards are sufficiently clear that such judgment will be demonstrably fair and credible, and more or less universally acceptable. Section 1's lack of clarity leaves the standards far too vague, which will inevitably lead to conflict over whether the Standing Committee's interpretation of a given Church's action is fair to that Church in its context.

I have suggested that section 2 of the Covenant text is probably the strongest part of the whole document, speaking to the vocation and mission of the Churches of the Anglican Communion. Centred on the Marks of Mission, this section speaks of the call to engage with the world around us to collaborate in God's mission to establish God's reign. (Section 2.1.4) But in quoting the Marks of Mission, section 2 also distorts them by adding a very definite gloss to each one. As with questions of the interpretation of the faith in various contexts, this gloss of the Marks of Mission assumes a single, monolithic interpretation of the mission of the Churches in their various contexts. Section 2 starts well but ends on a sour note.

Section 3 of the proposed Covenant, which addresses the question of how the Churches of the Anglican Communion live together, has a series of difficulties. This section speaks of living together in communion and describes the Instruments of Communion, though it never actually defines what it means by “communion”. But, as I have said, “there is one fundamental problem with this whole section of the proposed Covenant, and that is that it seems to assume both that Churches will have a tendency to act in a manner which is irresponsible, or that their mechanisms for discernment and consultation are inadequate. And it seems to assume that relations among the churches of the Anglican Communion will normally be marked by conflict.” In fact, those assumptions underlie the entire proposed Covenant, which says much more about the context of our current conflict than about our aspirations for life as an Anglican Communion.

And how to sum up the problems of section 4, which are legion?

Section 4 provides mechanisms for adopting, withdrawing from and amending the Covenant as well, most controversially, for dealing with disputes among signatories.

To begin at the beginning, Section 4.1.3 claims (echoing section 3.2.2) that adopting the Covenant will not affect the constitution or canons of a Church, nor impede its autonomy. Poppycock. The very purpose of the Covenant is to restrict the way in which the signatories exercise their autonomy. And by adopting it, those Churches will be sewing it into their ecclesiastical law. Indeed, adopting the Covenant will imply ceding jurisdiction over a number of matters. And still on the topic of adopting the Covenant, it doesn't seem to contemplate any minimum number of Churches required for the Covenant actually to come into force. Instead, it is in force for a Church as soon as it adopts it. Thus, for example, when Mexico became the first Church to adopt the Covenant, it was in force. Mexico could have raised a question about the activities of another Church, except that there wasn't another Church that had adopted the Covenant. In theory they could have amended it, too. Which would have been absurd.

As to the question of withdrawing from the Covenant, there is a naked threat that doing so can result in “relational consequences” or punishment for the Church that withdraws. How this logically can occur is a mystery.

And what to say of the dispute-settling mechanism? It provides for a process by which “controversial actions” can be assessed and, if such actions are determined to be “incompatible with the Covenant,” impose “relational consequences” on a Church that refuses to withdraw the offending action. But this process has more holes than Swiss cheese. For starters, there is no definition of what might constitute a “controversial action.” You might imagine that it would be something that is contrary to the standards of faith, but since, as mentioned above, these standards are not clearly defined, we're really no further ahead. Nor are “relational consequences” clearly defined. So we don't really know what the rules are or what the punishment is for violating them.

And if the standards are vague and the punishments undefined, the process itself is unclear. For example, it's not even clear how a Church with a question even starts the process rolling! What is clear is that the process violates the fundamental principles of Natural Justice, as I have demonstrated in a two-part analysis here and here. The trouble here is that we have a process which is ill-defined, vague, and demonstrably unjust. Not only is this a recipe for arbitrariness, these flaws in the process undermine any shred of credibility of any decision made by the Standing Committee pursuant to its powers in the proposed Covenant.

This is not an exhaustive analysis of the proposed Covenant, though I think it is fairly extensive. There are other questions that might be asked of it, and no doubt I will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead. But I hope that it is clear that there are some very grave problems with the proposed Covenant, which must be weighed by any Synod in deciding whether or not to adopt it.

And what of the other side? What are the arguments for the Covenant? I wish I knew! In fact, I have seen a few attempts to defend the Covenant, for example by claiming that the punishments in it (relational consequences) are not in fact punitive. Then there is the claim that it actually won't make any difference at all (except that adopting it is vital to the life of the Anglican Communion!) Hmmm.... “this placebo will save you from your terminal disease.” And of course there is the claim that There Is No Alternative. But beyond these claims and an assertion that adopting the Covenant will demonstrate our loyalty to the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury, there has been very little put forward as a convincing argument for the proposed Covenant. Which raises a number of serious questions:

If there is no significant argument for the Covenant, why adopt it? If its adoption is merely symbolic, why not choose another symbol? If its dangers are even partially as bad as I have suggested, in what way are these outweighed by whatever benefits might come from the Covenant? Are there any benefits? And is there not an onus on those who would propose significant change in the Anglican Communion to make a convincing case for that change?

I oppose the proposed Covenant because I do not believe that it will benefit the Anglican Communion, and worse because it risks weaponizing the already serious conflict among the member Churches. I oppose it because in place of a mechanism to build up the Communion it provides a dispute-settling mechanism that is vague, arbitrary, and demonstrably unjust. I oppose it because, on the basis of careful analysis, I believe that it will cause serious and possibly irreparable harm to the Anglican Communion to which I am committed.

23 August 2011

Send in the Theologians

Andrew Goddard has written a defence of the controversial fourth section of the proposed Anglican Covenant. Goddard focuses on the fourth section because, as he correctly notes, it “for many is most troublesome. It was the section which changed the most through the various drafts and the section which continues to be most objectionable to critics of the Covenant.” Of course, as Goddard notes, it is really section 4.2 that is the most controversial part. Sections 4.1, 4.3 and 4.4 on adoption of, withdrawal from, and amendments to the Covenant are less controversial and necessary in some measure. Not that these are perfect, but they do seem to be necessary elements of a Covenant if one is to be adopted. Not much controversy there. Move along.

But what of section 4.2? Well, it's self-evident that some kind of dispute-settling mechanism is necessary in an agreement in case someone breaks it. Really, Dr Goddard? It's funny that such a notion never occurred to the authors of the Porvoo Common Statement. But, asserts Goddard, “if we covenant together by making joint affirmations and commitments to one another then someone is clearly wronged if another party to the covenant denies those affirmations or breaks commitments.” Actually, it's not at all clear that “someone is wronged” in such circumstances. The whole idea of a Covenant emerges from a very nasty conflict over who is allowed, and at what level of the Anglican Communion, to determine what constitutes legitimate development of the faith and practice of the Anglican expression of faith. The conflict exists because: (1) some churches have described developments in some other churches as tantamount to denying or illegitimately altering the faith; and (2) because those churches claim to have been wronged or injured or aggrieved as a result of said developments. But in fact, the first claim has not been satisfactorily proven. And the claim to be wronged has never been demonstrated, but merely asserted. Yes, these churches, or at least their leaders, do seem to be genuinely upset. But being upset or offended is not the same as being wronged. So in fact, Goddard's assumption is at the very least open to debate.

But if the need for a dispute-settling mechanism in the proposed Covenant is not so self-evident as Goddard would have us believe, the process itself is not as benign as he depicts it, either. Goddard tells us that “part of the aim of the Covenant has always been to discern if we can agree together what is to be done in such circumstances rather than having to make up processes in the context of addressing the conflict.” Well, if such a mechanism were necessary, it would certainly be better to have a clear process in place in the event of a dispute than to make it up as we go along. But in fact the whole process of developing the Covenant has been an exercise in making it up as we go along. And, as I have shown, the process the Covenant proffers isn't very clear at all, and in fact will lead to rather a lot of improvisation.

And not only is the process vague, but the role of the Standing Committee is not as benign as Goddard would have us believe. Goddard tries to reassure us that the Standing Committee is not some kind of Star Chamber. But he's not very convincing.

Goddard suggests that “the Covenant both embeds the standing committee within the wider structures of the Communion but also severely constrains its powers.” For evidence he cites the provisions in section 4.2.2 that the Standing Committee is responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting and that it “shall be supported by such other committees or commissions as shall be mandated to assist ... and to advise it....” But far from giving comfort these two points are worrisome. First, the Standing Committee is indeed responsible under the Covenant to the Anglican Consultative Council and to the Primates' Meeting. But let us recall the composition of the Standing Committee. It is made up entirely of people who are members of either the Anglican Consultative Council or the Primates' Meeting. Or both in at least one case. So if this is accountability it is circular.

Secondly, it is not at all clear what “other committees or commissions” might “be mandated” to assist and advise the Standing Committee, nor by whom they might be mandated, nor with what role. Is the Standing Committee bound to receive their assistance and to accept their advice? And what of the Standing Committee's discretion to “take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate” in doing its work? (Section 4.2.4) In fact, the Standing Committee has complete discretion to consult whomever it sees fit to consult, or no-one, in coming to its conclusions. And given that it has no criteria to follow either in determining whether a controversial action is “incompatible with the Covenant” or what “relational consequences” should ensue, the whole process is bound to be arbitrary.

Ah, soothes Goddard, but the Standing Committee has no real power anyway, merely to request that a Church defer a controversial action, and to recommend relational consequences. (Section 4.2.5) And, of course, declare an action or decision “incompatible with the Covenant.” (4.2.6) But, says Goddard, “it cannot do these on its own initiative but only 'on the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting' (4.2.6)” Actually, that's not clear from the text at all. For one thing, the Standing Committee is not necessarily required to solicit the advice of the Anglican Consultative Council or the Primates' Meeting. The Standing Committee has discretion to consult whomever it pleases, and to determine whether it is appropriate to include either of its parent bodies in that list. Section 4.2.6 seems to assume that the Standing Committee will have received some advice from these two bodies, but what if it has not? Or what if the advice of one of these two bodies is incompatible with the advice of the other? It does not follow that the Standing Committee is precluded from coming to is own conclusions on the matter at hand.

And even if Goddard's reading were correct, let us recall the circularity of the whole set-up: members of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primate's Meeting consult their own groups and confer together to come to a conclusion, and then to make recommendations back to those bodies, which will determine whether or not to act on those recommendations. They are consulting themselves, advising themselves and then making recommendations to themselves. There is a word for that: overlapping roles. And overlapping roles is a violation of the principle of nemo judex in sua causa debet esse (“no-one must be a judge in his own case”), a fundamental principle of Natural Justice. The problem here, as I have shown, is one of institutional bias.

If the absolute discretion given to the Standing Committee to act without criteria, consulting whom it pleases following a vague process, and then issuing its decisions does not make it a Star Chamber, then I don't know what would. Section 4.2 is a recipe for improvisation and arbitrariness. And even if in this improvisation the Standing Committee manages by happenstance to fulfil the requirements of the first principle of Natural Justice (audi alteram partem – “hear the other side”), given the overlapping roles of Anglican Consultative Council, Primates' Meeting and Standing Committee (not to mention Archbishop of Canterbury, who is a member of all three!) section 4.2 of the proposed Covenant violates the second principle of Natural Justice.

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has put out a public call for the best arguments in support of the proposed Covenant. So, send in the theologians. I'm sure that Andrew Goddard is a very competent theologian. But his comments on section 4.2 of the proposed Covenant suggest that he is out of his depth when it comes to international canon law. We really shouldn't send a theologian to do the job of a canonist.

09 August 2011

Withdrawing from the Covenant

Section 4.3 of the proposed Anglican Covenant allows for a Church that has adopted the Covenant to withdraw from it. As autonomous entities, it is obviously the right of any Church to reverse a decision to adopt the Covenant. One can imagine a number of reasons why a Church might decide to do so.

For example, it might be that a given Church decides reluctantly to adopt the Covenant for political reasons rather than because of the merits of the document itself. Certainly this course of action has been suggested. No-one relishes the optics of rejecting the Covenant, given that any Church doing so is likely to be depicted as self-centred, not a team player, and not really committed to the Anglican Communion. So a Church that is of a mind to reject the Covenant on principle might decide to avoid that reaction, hold its collective nose, and adopt it anyway. Perhaps in doing so such a Church might hope to introduce some subsequent amendments to make the Covenant less unpalatable. But if attempts to amend the Covenant prove fruitless, the Church might decide that it would have been better not to adopt it in the first place and withdraw. Of course, there would be some optics to deal with in that event.

Section 4.3 reads:
Any covenanting Church may decide to withdraw from the Covenant. Although such withdrawal does not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments of Communion or a repudiation of its Anglican character, it may raise a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, and of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it, and trigger the provisions set out in section 4.2 above.
So, withdrawal from the Covenant is explicitly stated to mean nothing more than that. It doesn't mean a desire not to remain in the Anglican Communion, just a desire to stop being part of the Covenant's processes. As an aside, this raises the question as to why possible rejection of the Covenant is depicted as carrying the meaning I have outlined above: that a Church isn't committed to the Anglican Communion. But that's another issue.

What strikes me as very strange in section 4.3 is the suggestion that withdrawing from the Covenant “may raise a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant” and even “of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it.” I don't see how this follows. The Covenant allows a Church to withdraw. If a Church avails itself of that provision, the meaning is pretty clear. What question could there be about the meaning of the Covenant? Oh, I suppose that the withdrawing Church could state as its reasons the sorts of things that I have been arguing should have prevented it from adopting the Covenant in the first place: it lacks clarity of definition, is overly ambiguous, and the process for settling disputes is unclear, arbitrary and intrinsically unfair. I suppose that the remaining covenanting Churches might decide to take a look at the document and start working on some improvements, such as introducing respect for Natural Justice for starters. But that sort of question about the meaning of the Covenant exists already. It would be sad if it were to require a Church to pull out of the Covenant for the Standing Committee finally to notice the document's myriad deficiencies.

And as to compatibility with the Covenant, the action of withdrawing is provided for and thus compatible.

But even more troubling is the final phrase in section 4.3, that withdrawing from the Covenant could “trigger the provisions set out in section 4.2....” Beyond some deep soul searching by the Standing Committee and the remaining covenanting Churches, it's hard to imagine anything in section 4.2 that would be remotely appropriate as a response to the withdrawal of a Church. Given the familiar lack of clarity in the proposed Covenant, we are left to speculate as to what might be implied here, and frankly the only possibility seems to be the imposition of some “relational consequences” on a Church that withdraws. There are two problems with that prospect. First, the provisions in section 4.2 apply only to covenanting Churches. (See section 4.2.3) How could it be otherwise? And once a Church withdraws from the Covenant, it would cease to be a covenanting Church, to state the obvious. The second problem is worse: applying relational consequences to a Church that avails itself of the provisions to withdraw from the Covenant would be petty and vindictive, and threatening to do so to prevent Churches from withdrawing would be blackmail. Who would want to be party to a process that is not only arbitrary and unfair, but also petty and vindictive?

Withdraw from the Covenant? Better not to adopt it in the first place.

05 August 2011

Critical Mass

Five years ago, I suggested that the proposed Anglican Covenant might be understood as a new species of Canon Law, analogous to an international treaty. The analogy is straightforward: a treaty is a binding and enforceable agreement among sovereign states who incorporate the undertakings in the treaty into their domestic law; the proposed Covenant is intended as a binding and enforceable agreement among autonomous Churches who would presumably incorporate the undertakings in the Covenant into their domestic Canon Law. If we thus understand the proposed Covenant as a kind of International Canon Law, I suggested, it would be useful to include an expert in international treaty law in the drafting team, to provide a perspective on how to draft such a document.

I know nothing of international law or international treaties beyond what one might read in a newspaper. My area of interest is Canon Law. But usually when I read of a new treaty, it specifies a certain number of signatories required before the treaty comes into force. Consider, for example, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Article 17 of that Convention requires 40 states to sign on before it comes into force. Or the Montreal Protocol onSubstances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which had a more complex formula, requiring a minimum of 11 signatories representing two thirds of the estimated 1986 global consumption of the banned substances, and also specified a date before which the Protocol would not come into force.

I assume that this sort of provision is the norm in a multilateral treaty. The reason is not hard to imagine. A multilateral treaty without a critical mass of signatories isn't of much use, and there's really no point in holding preliminary signatories responsible for maintaining the provisions of a treaty without that critical mass. What constitutes a critical mass depends, of course, on the subject matter of the treaty.

According to section 4.1.6 of the proposed Anglican Covenant, “This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.” There is no specification of a critical mass of signatories required to make the proposed Covenant meaningful. So, evidently now that there are four signatories the Covenant is already in force, for those four at any rate. Already those four Churches are responsible for the undertakings in the Covenant (whatever those might be, given that they are not defined) and are free to make use of the procedures in section 4.2 to “raise questions” either about the meaning of the Covenant or about each others' actions. But would that really be meaningful in the life of the Anglican Communion? Surely, it makes little sense to engage the dispute-settling mechanism before a critical mass of Churches have signed on to the Covenant. Perhaps if Mexico decided tomorrow to raise a question about something the Caribbean was up to – which it could, on the face of it, both Churches having already adopted the Covenant – the Standing Committee might well ask them to wait until a few more Churches have agreed to the Covenant. But how many would that be? Since the Covenant doesn't say, it would be an arbitrary decision of the Standing Committee. (Of course, given the appalling lack of definitions in the proposed Covenant, virtually all decisions of the Standing Committee will be arbitrary.)

Similarly, any of the four Churches could now propose an amendment to the Covenant text, ratification of which by three of them would bring the amendment into force. Again, presumably the Standing Committee would ask them to wait for a critical mass. Under section 4.4.2 the Standing Committee is required to submit any proposed amendment to the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting, and the Covenanting Churches, and then to formulate a recommendation with respect to its adoption. In submitting the amendment to the Covenanting Churches, the Standing Committee could recommend that it is premature to amend the Covenant, but there's no provision in the Covenant allowing the Standing Committee actually to stop a proposed amendment.

For the Canadian Church, in my view, adoption of the Covenant wouldn't really be meaningful unless the Church of England has adopted it already. And it would be awkward for us if the Covenant were to come into force before all the Churches of the Anglican Communion adopt it. This is because of the statement in the Solemn Declaration – the cornerstone of the Constitutional Framework of the Anglican Church of Canada – that we “declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world....” Surely, notwithstanding the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments about a two-track Communion, adoption or otherwise of the Covenant has implications for the nature of our relations with the other Churches of the Anglican Communion.

Is there a critical mass of Churches required before adoption of the Covenant becomes meaningful, and which ought to be required before it comes into force? Should that critical mass of necessity include the Church of England? Should it count not just Churches but also a percentage of the Anglicans in the world? And if there is such a critical mass, why is it not specified in the proposed Covenant itself?

In the absence of such a definition, perhaps it would be useful for each Church proposing to adopt the Covenant to specify a critical mass in the legislation by which it adopts the Covenant. I have in mind a clause such as “the adoption of the Covenant shall become effective for this Church at such time as three quarters of member Churches in the Anglican Communion, representing not less than two thirds of Anglicans, and including the Church of England, shall have adopted the Covenant.” That sort of bypasses section 4.1.6, or at least qualifies it, but at least it would make it clear what the Church in question thought would be a critical mass of signatories before the proposed Covenant is meaningful.

04 August 2011

A Tale of Two Covenants

It was the best of Covenants, it was the worst of Covenants.

The proposed Anglican Covenant, we are told by those who support it, is a straightforward statement of what Anglicans believe, along with a straightforward commitment both to be cautious in introducing new ideas or practices, and to participating in mediation when a question arises about the propriety of a Church's new development. Nothing much new, certainly nothing scary.

No, say the proposed Covenant's opponents. For them the document is neither a straightforward statement of Anglican belief nor a straightforward commitment to adhere to that belief. For opponents, the proposed Covenant is vague, and includes a dispute-settling mechanism that is arbitrary, without clear definitions or procedures, and which violates the standards of natural justice. Very scary.

These two views of the proposed Covenant are obviously quite incompatible. It is as though there were not one proposed Covenant, but two. The Covenant that the supporters are supporting is not the Covenant that the opponents are opposing. And both sides seem to shake their heads and say, “if only the other side understood the Covenant properly, they would agree with us.”

As an opponent of the Covenant, it should go without saying which Covenant it is that I oppose. In fact, if I truly believed that the proposal before us were more or less the Covenant depicted by its supporters, I am not certain I could muster either much enthusiasm for it nor much energy to oppose it. But my careful study of the proposed Covenant text convinces me that it is not as depicted by its supporters.

I wonder how many Covenant supporters would support the Covenant that I oppose?

I suppose a fundamental question confronts those who will be responsible for voting on whether to adopt or reject the proposed Covenant, which is to say, members of the various General Synods in the Anglican Communion. The question is, which Covenant is really the one on offer? Is it the Covenant that the supporters support, or the Covenant that the opponents oppose? Much will turn on that question.