The final text of the Anglican Communion Covenant pleased the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, who has served on the document’s design group since its inception in 2006. Dr. Radner, an Episcopal priest, is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto, Ontario.
“My sense about it is that they didn’t really change anything substantial,” he told The Living Church, referring to the working group charged with revising the document from its previous iteration as the Ridley Cambridge draft.
“They salvaged what could have been a bad mess from May ,” when the Anglican Consultative Council met and, after a chaotic legislative session, ultimately asked for revisions to the document’s fourth section, which proposes how provinces will be accountable to the Anglican Communion as a whole.
Because changes to the fourth section did not reflect what Episcopal Church leaders were seeking, Dr. Radner said, the document helps change that province’s standing. He described it as being part of a pattern, along with the ecumenical dialogues of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission and the recent meeting of the Archbishop of Canterbury with Pope Benedict XVI.
“You take this, with the restarting of the ARCIC dialogue and what Rowan was engaged in at Rome, and there is a shift going on, and that shift is leaving the Episcopal Church behind,” he said. “There’s nothing the Episcopal Church can do about it at this point.”
While acknowledging the archbishop’s explanation that the Covenant is “not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply,” Dr. Radner said of Episcopal Church leaders: “They’re not going to be able to claim any moral high ground. They’ve been sidelined.”
Those leaders are not being shown the exit, he said, but “they’re on a path that’s going around the side of the building.”
He highlighted Section 4.1.6, which says simply, “This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.”
Conservative provinces in the Global South “ought to be able to go ahead with it,” he said about adoption of the Covenant, “whatever problems there are with this or that detail.”