The idea for an Anglican Covenant was first mooted in the Windsor Report (paragraphs 113-120). The Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and of the Anglican Consultative Council commissioned a study paper on the idea in March 2005, Towards an Anglican Covenant.
At its meeting in May 2006, the Joint Standing Committee asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a Covenant Design Group to further the project. This group gave a preliminary report to the Primates Meeting at Dar es Salaam in February 2007. The report included the Nassau Draft - a draft for the covenant on which initial consultation was taken in the course of 2007.
The Covenant Design Group met again at the end of January 2008, and produced a second report and draft - the St. Andrew's Draft - taking into account many of the submissions to the group. This draft was offered for further reflection to the Provinces, but extensive reflection and discussion were undertaken by the bishops at this year's Lambeth Conference.
The comments and discussion of the bishops were received by the Covenant Design Group at their meeting in Singapore in September 2008 - and a Lambeth Commentary has now been issued which picks up on the many points of the bishops thinking, as well as offering the further reflection of the Covenant Design Group.
In March 2009 the Covenant Design Group considered all of the submissions from Provinces received to that point, along with the bishops’ reflections, and produced a third text, the Ridley-Cambridge Draft, which was presented to the 14th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica in May 2009.
ACC-14 discussed the text in depth and welcomed its development, but expressed concern that the text of Section 4 had not received the same depth of consultation with Provinces which the first three sections had, and consequently requested that a small working group be set up to ‘consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision’, for approval by the Standing Committee.
That group met in November 2009, considered 18 responses received from the Provinces, and revised Section 4 in light of these responses (3 further responses were received after this work was completed). This text was presented to the Standing Committee, which has now approved it for distribution.
It is now with the Provinces of the Anglican Communion for formal consideration for adoption by each Province through appropriate processes.
As the final version of the Anglican Communion Covenant is sent to the member Churches of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given the following video message explaining the purpose of the Covenant and the processes surrounding its adoption, to be found at:
The Anglican Communion Covenant
The Covenant and accountability
The sections of the Covenant