Hence, what he takes up is the Windsor Report’s call for a “covenant” between the various Anglican churches, which would entail giving up key elements of sovereignty and in turn strengthen the authority of the communion. This, along with a harmonization of church law, would allow the church to govern itself. Those churches that opted in on the covenant would become constituent members of the communion. Those who refuse would become merely churches in association (Williams likens them to Methodists—historically connected but politically separated). The unspoken threat is plain: if Americans (and Canadians) do not adopt the covenant, they will lose membership in the communion.

The archbishop’s address merits two comments. The first is that he is offering a “pig in a poke”: There is no covenant to approve or reject. There is a covenant in the Windsor Report , but it is only a possible draft. What would be included in an actual covenant remains to be seen. Second, it is not clear that it is only Americans (and Canadians) who might have problems with such a covenant. As I have noted, the creation of a transnational authority is a revolution in Anglicanism. It in turn raises all the questions about sovereignty that political scientists have been debating for centuries.

Is centralization a good or a bad thing? This is a question that is far larger than the current debate over sexuality. It is not, contrary to what one hears, a “conservative” victory, but rather an institutionalists’ victory. Such a covenant would be adjudicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a group of advisers. And clearly, a transnational authority could cut different ways depending upon who controls power, and could impact “conservatives” as easily as “liberals.” The Windsor Report was as critical of African bishops extending their jurisdiction into the American church and claiming oversight over dissenting congregations as it was of the actions taken by American Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans, and such oversight is what the conservatives are asking for. Such a covenant is not the quick fix desired by dissenting Episcopalians.

The question of such an authority has not been really raised, to date, among Anglicans. It is by no means certain that when called upon the independent churches will back this shift in sovereignty.

Archbishop Williams has now put the issue forward. Let the debate begin.