I’ve been reviewing the Draft Covenant for the Anglican Communion over the last weeks, and continue to find it a strange document. Much of it is inoffensive and reads like a slightly expanded Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. But those very expansions, slight as they may be, void the soundness of the document, even were it not unacceptable due to the more serious implied threats folded into its latter sections. (As Petruchio observed, its sting is in its tail.)
The problems begin much earlier, with citation of the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer 1662, complete with its Ordinal, as foundational “historic formularies” to which “loyalty” is due. This is a particularly strange expansion, as the Draft Covenant itself is in direct conflict with these foundations in a number of particulars.
Most importantly, a characteristic mark of Anglicanism is the autonomy of national or particular churches, with a clear and absolute rejection of any and all episcopal authority from outside. This is clearly embodied in Article XXXVII of the Articles of Religion, which any interested reader can find at leisure in most versions of the BCP.
This clear preference for autonomy is also a crucial part of the 1662 Ordinal (which is much harder to find, as more recent editions of the so-called 1662 Book of Common Prayer were extensively amended over the years). But the original 1662 book contained, as a necessary step to ordination the swearing of an Oath which said in part:
...I do declare that no foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State, or Potentate hath, or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, Ecclesiastical or Spiritual, within this Realm. So help me God.This ecclesiastical independence is a formative element in the creation of the Church of England, and of The Episcopal Church, whose ecclesiastical independence from its Mother Church was seen as natural and necessary at the time of the American Revolution, as stated in the Preface to the First American Book of Common Prayer. The Draft Covenant is out of step with this principle, a principle at the heart of the very authorities in which its authors place so much stock.
I am troubled when authorities are so assembled without apparent engagement with what they actually say. I leave to one side, though I cannot resist citing it, the requirement of the Preface to the Ordinal of 1662 (amended only in 1964) that requires of candidates for ordination a facility “in the Latin Tongue” even before mentioning knowledge of the Scripture. One wonders how well-observed is this portion of the 1662 book among those eager to establish it as a touchstone or foundation? It makes me wonder how serious the authors of this Draft Covenant are in their appeals to these authorities; or if rather we are not witnessing the kind of debate in which slogans are waved like banners, and authoritative books are tossed about in virtue of their weight rather than their contents.
— Tobias Haller BSG