Sigh. When I first heard about the concept of the Anglican Covenant, I thought it was just a very stupid idea and would quickly disappear. I have taken little notice of it, but I keep seeing it crop up on the Thinking Anglicans Blog. Hence, I guess I have to educate myself, so this is my attempt. I believe the Covenant was first written in reponse to a number of people who are annoyed with TEC (The American Anglicans) for having partnered Gay Bishops. They wish to show a clear separation between the provinces that agree with Gay Bishops and those who don't, and to prevent provinces from acting on future issues such as this without first having the permission of others. Hence, the covenant aims to obtain a greater centralisation of the Anglican Communion.
Currently each province has its own rules and laws and they come together to debate things every so often, but the provinces do not have any power over each other, and indeed nor does the Archbishop of Canterbury. So under the proposed Covenant if a province changes important things without the permission of the others they will be disciplined. A great explanation of it all is here.
It seems that Rowan Williams has been investing a lot of time in the Covenant, believing it will solve the problems that we have in the Anglican Communion and stop us splitting. I disagree, I think it will simply ossify the church, and that will be unbearable.
I have heard (probably apocryphally) that the difference between American cattle ranches and Australian ones is that in the US there are long fences keeping the animals in, whereas in Australia they dig a deep well, and the animals will keep returning. I think this analogy can be used for churches and for marriages. I prefer the idea of digging a deep well than constructing fences. For more objections to the Covenant see The Simple Massing Priest.
Bishop Alan's Blog makes the point that it all depends why you are having a covenant - a spade can be used to dig a garden or bash someone over the head. He quotes Bishop John Pritchard:
How does a family keep eating together? First, by having house rules, and, second, by having attractive meals. Covenant was biblical, from Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant, and more recent covenants such as Porvoo and with the Methodists. The Thirty-Nine Articles were a form of covenant. The Windsor report had covenant embedded in it, and it was the best chance of digging ourselves out of the deep hole we are in.I don't think there are any house rules that will keep us together. I think if that was possible we would have come up with them. Do you have house rules for adult children anyway? Furthermore, the covenant doesn't feel like house rules, it feels like policing, and we have never been a Church with a covenant - we have worked on the basis of the well, not the fences.