Religious Intelligence (here) is reporting that the Prayer Book Society are getting twitchy about the Covenant and the direction its heading (though I can't see anything on the PBS site).
In particular they are worried about the diminution of the 'needs to have a less Church of England basis, particularly in regard to the formularies'.
Early on in the St Andrew’s Covenant draft it currently declares that each Church of the Communion affirms the faith “which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear significant witness.” This prominent clause now looks set to be changed.
Well, perhaps it is time that the Anglican Communion grew up and became a family of equal adults rather than a family of mother and her children. (No-one outside the Church of England would see it otherwise.)
Adopting the Covenant would have a number of effects. Membership of the Anglican Communion will then depend of being a signatory to the Covenant not on being in communion with the See of Canterbury. It may be a significant benefit to the CofE to become no more than one communion amongst three dozen, but I guess it'll be a long time before it sinks in.
However the standing of the Archbishop of Canterbury will have to change. In a family of equal adults, all of whom elect their bishops except England, it will be impossibly anomalous for their leader to be chosen by the British Prime Minister at the time.
The options are:
- that the Prime Minister agrees to appoint as ABC a person commended to them by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
- that leadership of the Communion (chairmanship of the Primates' Meetings, convenor of a decennial conference etc.) be a person, being a Primate of a Province in good standing with members of the Covenant, and elected by the Primates or some other constituency.
- that the title 'Archbishop of Canterbury' be entirely separate from the Church of England and be granted to whoever leads the Communion.
Other changes might also be possible. How about:
- electing a leader for a single period of, say, eight or ten years?
- election by bishops across the globe, or by each Provincial synod, or by the ACC (and therefore leaving to each province whether they mandate their representatives or leave them to decide for themselves), or by an electoral college?
- demanding that leaders account for their actions to their people and that accounts and budgets are transparent.
The choosing of a leader is important. But it is less important than the powers that the new leader will have under the Covenant. To date additional powers are in the Appendix of the St Andrew's Draft and in the terms of reference of the ad hoc Commissions, Panels, Committees etc. Power is being taken to the centre in bureaucratic and unaccountable ways.
The standing of the formularies, though obviously of concern to the Prayer Book Society is, like them, peripheral. If the PBS wish to reassert The Book of Common Prayer, its Ordinal and the 39 Articles at the heart of Anglicanism they first need to watch very carefully what powers are being grabbed in the name of Covenant.