I am wondering if the proposed Anglican Covenant is as dead as many Episcopalians think it is. It seems to me that Rowan Williams is making slow but significant progress toward assembling a notional center that he can then play off against the left (constituted by us, the Brazilians, the Scots and maybe the Welsh) and the right (constituted by Nigeria, Uganda and the Southern Cone.)
Consider: The Churches of Mexico, Myanmar and the West Indies have approved the covenant, and the Churches of England and South Africa have embarked on a process that seems almost certain to end in its approval. Mexico and South Africa are two of the provinces that opponents of the covenant within the Episcopal Church hoped might keep us company if we declined to sign up.
The Australians and Canadians are in the midst of processes whose likely outcomes are not clear to me. But both are members of the British Commonwealth, and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia is a leading figure among the Primates, so covenant opponents would be foolish to presume that these two provinces won’t follow where Canterbury leads.
When Bishop Martin Barahona of El Salvador was primate of the Central American province, the province was firmly in the no-covenant camp, but his successor is a more conservative theological thinker, so it isn’t clear where that province will come down.
The Irish and Japanese may not sign the covenant, but their primates are pushing in that direction. I don’t know where the churches of Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong stand, but at some point, I do worry about a domino effect.
Numerous primates from the Global South have signed a statement saying that they will not adopt the covenant unless it is strengthened, but the Global South is not the monolith its American backers would have us believe. The primate of Rwanda is not the ideologue his predecessor is, ditto Kenya, which is actively seeking better relationships with the Church of England. The primate of Tanzania tries to raise money from everyone, and therefore tries not to alienate anyone permanently. The Primate of Sudan walks a tightrope, balancing his multiple relationships with Episcopal churches and dioceses with the reality of his surroundings, and his own convictions. The Church in the Congo is in a war-ravaged shambles, and making decisions based on survival, rather than any particular ideology.
Even among those who participated in the boycott, Archbishop John Chew of Southeast Asia is in favor of a covenant, and Archbishop Ian Earnest of the Indian Ocean is something of a mystery. He had close gay friends while a fellow at Episcopal Divinity School, but has taken a hard right turn since being elected to lead the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa.
I don’t know whether I would say it is likely, but it seems to me at least possible that Rowan Williams will gin up just enough support for his covenant to force provinces that oppose it to make some hard choices.
Which brings me to New Zealand. At the moment that province has ratified the first three sections of the document, but not the disciplinary fourth section. Maybe they will leave it at that. Is that an approach our church could be comfortable with?
This little survey is somewhat impressionistic and by no means exhaustive. Feel free to chip in facts and analysis in the comments. There is a running scorecard on whose done what regarding the covenant maintained by Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity.