My question here is: How well this common vision of the Anglican Communion matches God’s actual identity as I spoke of it before — the “it is finished” identity of Jesus Christ by which God orders the history of creation? On the one hand, much of this divine identity is implied by the theological introduction of the Covenant: the great vision of creation’s Christ-embraced end, in Eph. 1:10; the providential shaping of time; the sense that there is a temporal history that marks the very character of the “wider church” and her particular “families” of identities, and so on. Much is helpfully implied in all this. But what the Covenant clearly failed to do was to take these brief pointers and flesh them out in way that could properly describe the divine movement implied in all this and demonstrate its ecclesiological form, as it were. When it came to the debated Section 4 of the Covenant — revised several times more than any other part — the question of how in fact to deal with one another in the Communion became an explosive topic: drawn-out procedures of requests, committees, recommendations all seemed laborious; a reluctance to give anybody “power” to make any final decisions — primates, joint committees, and so on — made the process even more intricate and undefinitive. It wasn’t that none of this could work; it has seemed, rather, that the purpose of Section 4 was only vaguely coherent in the preceding vision. “Too juridical,” as some argued, as if mission had given rise to committees, and not the other way around. But, for lack of a Covenant, committees have been all that we were left with.
In brief, the Covenant’s over-scheme could not integrate communion and change together in a concrete fashion. What are we to do with our declining Christian and specifically Anglican churches in the West and their eviscerating Christian cultural contexts? What are we to do with clamoring expansion of African and Asian churches — including Anglican ones — that stand in deep tension with the deracinated cultures of the West? How to disengage political corruption from ecclesial affairs, or reengage societies whose political form has left the gospel behind? These are all very real elements of historical change that the Covenant’s vision of communion, rich though it was, failed to engage concretely. (No one else, by the way, has done so either.) That failure was embodied in the great debate over the final section of the Covenant dealing with common life and decision-making. And that debate, although it has abated somewhat in public terms, is still with us, and has stymied in some ways the practical adoption of the profound theological vision of the Covenant that deserved to be assimilated into our common life.