The Report of the Covenant Design Group has been out now for a little under two hours. Since the final press conference has been delayed (obviously signifying that the Primates are having an inordinately difficult time coming to consensus on their final communique), the covenant draft is the only piece of fresh meat on the floor.
I have not yet read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested it. But I have given it a couple of looks, as well as monitored some of the initial reactions. The chorus at Stand Firm is, as one might imagine, overwhelmingly gloomy in its assessment. To some extent, I think it's because they were expecting a dog and what they got is a cat, and now they're upset because the cat won't bark. But if they had been paying attention to the clues recently dropped by Ephraim Radner (a member of the CDG) at Epiphany West and Archbishop Gomez just last week in a Dar es Salaam press briefing, they should have known a cat was on the way.
A "dog" would have been a doctrinal covenant that clearly addresses the currently present issue: sex. I won't get too deeply into the quagmire of whether Anglicanism is a "confessional" movement. I have always been under the impression that it's not, but my ecclesiological formation has always been on the Catholic end of the Anglican spectrum. In any case, what we have to consider now is a relational covenant--a set of ground rules for how the autonomous provinces are accountable to one another interdependently. In our present condition, this is something we need very badly.
There will be time in due course to get into the details, but let's cut to the chase here: Would this text, had it been in effect four years ago, have affected the chain of events that led to the consecration of Gene Robinson and the passage of C051 (that public rites of blessing for same-sex relationship is "within the bounds of our common life")? The answer is definitely, Yes. Whether it would have prevented those events is difficult to say, but at least General Convention 2003 would have had a clear-eyed view of the consequences, rather than have it be a matter of speculation.
One thing I like about the draft covenant is that is formalizes the status of the four Instruments of Unity. Episcopalian liberals have protested loudly for months into years now that the Instruments are "so-called" and have earned no deference. This covenant would remove that talking point from their arsenal. Member churches would be expected to "heed the counsel" of the 4IU. It also lends a lot more heft to the authority of the Lambeth Conference, which would function as a college of bishops, charged with "guarding the faith and unity of the communion."
Most significantly, it has teeth. (Cats can bite, you know!) The final paragraph spells out the consequences of a member church failing to live up to the spirit and terms of the covenant.