First, the Presiding Bishop went unambiguously on record that she intends to actively discourage next July's General Convention from even considering a resolution that would either opt in or opt out of whatever version of a proposed Anglican Covenant is on the table at that time. There are some strong indications that an actionable draft will become available next May, and Bishop Jefferts Schori contends that there would be too little time between May and July for Deputies and Bishops to give adequate consideration to so weighty a step as signing on to an Anglican Covenant.
It doesn't require a very high degree of cynicism to smell a rat here. Although the Covenant Design Group has not yet completed its work, it seems a pretty safe bet that the document they unveil in May will look in most important aspects like the most recent working draft (the St Andrew's Draft). And it is manifestly clear to any sentient observer that nothing even remotely resembling the St Andrew's Draft would have the proverbial snowball's chance in you-know-where of being concurrently approved by both houses of General Convention. Just not gonna happen.
The Presiding Bishop obviously realizes this, and, indeed, would be among the majority voting in the negative. However, she is not eager for the headlines coming out of Anaheim to read "Episcopal Church to Anglican Communion: Drop Dead!" Such a stroke of finality would play right into the hands of her opponents across the communion who are awaiting a solid reason to yank the Anglican franchise from TEC and award it to some emerging coalition of orthodox Anglicans, both in and out of TEC, perhaps. The outright rejection of a covenant would be just such a reason. So she needs to buy time, and since only General Convention can approve opting in to a covenant, and General Convention meets only every three years, she's hoping to keep the matter unresolved until 2012, at least, and who knows what might happen between now and then?
Of course, the claim that we don't have enough time to consider something like an Anglican covenant, and that doing so would distract the convention from other vital business (like overhauling the canons on clergy and lay discipline to make it even easier to stifle dissenting viewpoints), rings awfully hollow. On the first count, the time that it took us to get into this mess in 2003 was shorter than the time a final draft covenant would be available for study and inspection. On the second count, since connection to the Anglican Communion is part of our defining identity as a church (see the preamble to the constitution), what more important business could the convention possibly consider than our relationship with that communion?
The second item of breaking news from Helena is that Council approved a resolution seeking the initiation of some sort of dialogue with the Common Cause Partnership. On its face, this is really quite remarkable. The CCP is the group that has evolved from what was earlier the Anglican Communion Network (a coalition I had a hand in founding back in 2005 when everyone concerned was committed to operating within the constitution and canons of TEC). It is headed by none other than Bishop Robert Duncan, whom the House of Bishops just purported to depose from the ordained ministry only last month. (It apparently didn't take, since he was this week received in Lambeth Palace with all customary episcopal honors.) The CCP is the group that has petitioned the GAFCON Council to recognize it as a ("the"?) legitimate Anglican province in North America.
Taking Council at its word, this is commendable and is deserving of positive reinforcement. I'm not personally in a position to give it very much, but I hereby lend whatever weight I have to the project. I hope the CCP will respond in a timely and generous (though not necessarily public) way. Actually, the longer I think about it, the more stunning it seems. I would dearly love to have had a hidden microphone in the room when this was being debated. Merely mentioning the name of the Common Cause Partners, let along expressing a willingness to actually talk to them, is a rather significant concession. It's like a Palestinian nationalist starting to talk about Israel as if it were a legitimate state. What are they thinking? Is there a measure of fear behind this move? Inquiring minds want to know!
It will not surprise me, however, if CCP adopts a very Reaganesque "trust but verify" attitude (with plenty of "linkage"), and rightly so. 815 does not have an exemplary track record as a good faith negotiating partner, and is in fact at this very moment a plaintiff in several legal actions against some of the entities embraced by the CCP. Nonetheless, I don't believe any olive branch deserves to be rejected out of hand, and the CCP will in fact cover themselves with shame if they do so.