All four sections of the proposed Anglican covenant were sent to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration on Dec. 18 after the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion approved a revised version of the document's text. The Standing Committee had been presented with a revamped section 4 of the covenant during its Dec. 15-18 meeting in London, after a small working group had spent six months consulting with the provinces about its revision.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in a Dec. 18 video message, said that the covenant is not going to solve all of the communion's problems.
"It's not going to be a constitution, and it's certainly not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don't comply," he said. "But what it does represent is this: in recent years in the Anglican family, we've discovered that our relations with each other as local churches have often been strained, that we haven't learned to trust one another as perhaps we should, that we really need to build relationships, and we need to have a sense that we are responsible to one another and responsible for each other. In other words, what we need is something that will help us know where we stand together, and help us also intensify our fellowship and our trust."
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said in a Dec. 18 letter to the communion’s primates and moderators that the member churches should consider the text and decide "on acceptance or adoption." Kearon said those member churches would be expected to report to the next Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in 2012 "on the progress made in the processes of response to, and adoption of, the covenant." The ACC is the communion's main policy-making body.
The Episcopal Church's Executive Council has said that only General Convention, which next meets in 2012, can formally endorse the Anglican covenant. At its January 2009 meeting, the council said it predicts that such approval could not come until at least 2015 should endorsement require changes to the Episcopal Church's constitution.