Earlier this month, the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa formally adopted the Anglican Covenant. This might seem like a new development in the life of the Covenant, as the zombie Covenant refuses to die in spite of some clear evidence that it had already been buried. However, it is important to note that the same Synod had adopted the Covenant provisionally back in 2010, when the project still had some life to it.
The full resolution reads:
This Synod1. Notes the adoption of the Anglican Covenant at the Provincial Synod of 2010;
2. Recommits the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to playing the fullest possible role at the heart of the Anglican Communion, working to promote its unity in diversity and strengthening of bonds of affection, in a life of mutuality and interdependence, shared between autonomous churches, acting each as we are called in our own particular contexts and according to our own ordering, in response to this common gift and calling we have received in our Lord Jesus Christ;
3. Reaffirms its belief that this ordering of shared Communion life may be furthered as set out in the Preamble to the Covenant:We, as Churches of the Anglican Communion, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, solemnly covenant together in these following affirmations and commitments. As people of God, drawn from “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev 7.9), we do this in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the grace of God revealed in the gospel, to offer God’s love in responding to the needs of the world, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and together with all God’s people to attain the full stature of Christ (Eph 4.3,13).4. Resolves to confirm its adoption of the Anglican Covenant.
The key to understanding the actions of the ACSA lies in the first and last paragraphs of the resolution. Given that it had provisionally adopted the Covenant, the more recent action is thus best understood as nothing more than business arising from the previous meeting of Synod.
The reference to “autonomous churches” in paragraph 2 suggests that the ACSA does not intend its formal adoption of the Covenant to impair its own autonomy, nor does it seem likely that it will use the Covenant to interfere in other churches' autonomy, given the emphasis on diversity and “acting each as we are called according to our particular contexts.” Whether the Covenant will change anything, notwithstanding the ACSA's apparent understanding that it isn't intended to, remains to be seen. But for it to bring about any meaningful change, positive or negative, would require its widespread adoption.
My sense is that the Anglican Communion as a whole is generally moving on from this project, and the ACSA has simply cleaned up a bit of unfinished business