The gist of the report is to recommend an effort at centralization and another at standardization (a distinction I note because the second supports the first but doesn’t require it; while the first certainly requires the second).
The effort at standardization would be further work of the group examining canon law across the Communion to release what Gledhill describes as “a ‘blueprint’ of canon law,” a step short of a single “code of canon law,” but certainly a tool for consistency. I suppose, like so much else, the result would depend on the extent to which the report might embrace variations in process and variations in content. If it were instead to be simply a tool to build from the “blueprint” a “code” of canon law, it would be something different – something of what Gledhill describes as “a fifth ‘instrument of communion.’”
The effort at centralization is more explicit. According to Gledhill, the report says, "We commend the suggestion for the setting up of an Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on the ecclesiological issues raised by our current crisis." Were this to be an arena for further discussion and listening, I suppose it could be useful. If instead it were to become an Anglican equivalent to the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition), defining by content the limits of the Anglican tradition, once again it would be something quite different from the Anglican tradition as we have known it.
Where would we find support for such an effort? According to Naughton,
"It is a flag raised to see who salutes at this stage," said the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. "I think there is a kind of head of steam behind [it], said Williams, adding that he was "quite enthusiastic" about the proposal.
He said without additional governing structures "we shall be flying further apart."
"There have to be protocols and conventions by which we recognize one another as churches," Williams added.
The last statement says a lot to me. I have written before of my convinction that Archbishop Williams would like to have a Communion more like what the Roman Catholic Church would officially recognize as “a church” (as opposed to a “defective ecclesiastical structure,” as they see us now). These efforts, sustained by strengthening of the Primates and weakening of the Anglican Consultative Council (something else that the Windsor Continuation Group supports), might well accomplish that, but at the expense of the Anglican Communion, not only as we have known it but as we thought it might shape up post-GAFCON.
Here’s how that shapes up for me. The Episcopal Church and some fellow-travelers will not embrace an Anglo-catholic centralized structure any more than we will embrace an Evangelical centralized structure, a la GAFCON/FOCA. However, neither will the GAFCON/FOCA types embrace the new Anglo-catholic structure just because it’s centralized. A new content-oriented approach will fail because ++Williams et al will still represent and be open to a progressive Western culture far more than the GAFCON/FOCA folks will find acceptable. The new Anglo-catholic centralists will likely be too sacramental and too focused on tradition to be comfortable with the sola scriptura crowd.
As a result, this will really only aggravate the divisiveness within the Communion, and especially within the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Australia, and, critically, within the Church of England. The Evangelicals won’t come back; the Latitudinarians will leave; and structural Anglo-catholics will wonder what happened. In the meantime, in those cultural contexts the churches of the Anglican tradition will only look weaker, meaner, and less consequential.
As I said, we need to wait for more – preferably, to see the document itself. However, these first reports suggest that in the interests of stability the Windsor Continuation Group will actually stimulate fragmentation. ++Williams would indeed have his “church,” perhaps; but it will be a lot smaller than he would hope.
Update: Matt Kennedy has offered his transcription of the Group's verbal presentation here. Anglican Mainstream has it here. It is all that we've already heard, and more....