Robert Prichard has an article in the most recent Living Church magazine (Sept 25) titled "The Anglican Communion: a brief history lesson." It is one of a series of articles by the Living Church, whose editor Christopher Wells is doing his best to see that good arguments FOR the Anglican Covenant are in place. No doubt this series will become a "packet" of material available for Deputies and Bishops at General Convention.
Professor Prichard's beginning point is an odd one. He says, "The response of many Episcopalians to the proposed Anglican Covenant is based in part upon a historical reconstruction about the relationship of the Episcopal Church to the Church of England. According to this reconstruction Episcopalians sought and gained their independence from the Church of England during the American Revolution. The Church of England, however, adopted a strategy to undermine this hard-won independence: it created the Anglican Communion as a means of control."
He then goes on to tell the tale as he understands it. He does a good job of that, except for the odd drop off of the proviso that the first Lambeth Conference was distinctly not to be understood as a synod making decisions for the churches gathered. Mostly the short history lesson is just that, short, history, and mildly relevant to the issues concerning the Anglican Covenant.
The problem is, however, at the beginning of the essay. Prichard posits the opinion of Jack Miles as a "reconstruction" of history that somehow has been taken up by "many Episcopalians" concerning the Anglican Covenant.
Miles, if characterized correctly, is just wrong. Prichard has him pegged. But Prichard has set up a straw-Episcopalian. I know of no one articulate in their opposition to the Anglican Covenant that would suggest that "The Church of England, however, adopted a strategy to undermine this hard-won independence: it created the Anglican Communion as a means of control." This is just foolishness.
Some of us opposed to the Anglican Covenant precisely believe the Anglican Communion to be a vital gift of God for the Churches in the communion and that the Anglican Covenant runs contrary to the best principles of Anglicanism as it is practiced by the various Churches in the Communion.
For example, the notion that The Episcopal Church might claim "The Book of Common Prayer" as an instrument of its common life and claim its relation to the BCP of the Church of England, while at the same time understand it to be a book that also offers opportunities not yet possible in England to work some reform and improvements in the BCP, is entirely based on the experience of the Church of England in its reform efforts of earlier years.
Both tradition and experience played a hand in the changes, and the American experience worked changes in many areas of Church life. Most notably the American experience changed the role of bishops in the life of the Church. For the first time the role of lay people in church governance became a reality, and the role of State (later Diocesan) Conventions and General Convention marked a new direction for our common life as a church.
The problem with the Anglican Covenant is not some nonsense about the Anglican Communion being a means of control, by the Church of England, over life in its former colonies. (Why in heaven's name would any church want that?)
The problem is that the Anglican Covenant relies too heavily on bishops, and particularly on Primates - that new level of hierarchy only possible in the Anglican Communion by virtue of Arch -Episcopal patterns absorbed and adopted by some, but not all, of the churches of the communion.
To put it plainly, if there is a strategy of control it is one produced by "heads of churches" bent on making the Anglican Communion a world wide Church, one much like those produced by Rome, or perhaps more generously, like the Orthodox Churches. But that strategy has to begin at the beginning, with the assurance that people have been talking about an Anglican Church for a long time (which is why Prichard mentions it) and even longer about a world wide synod (which is why he mentions that as well, leaving out the part about not meeting to make decisions).
The Living Church is doing us all a service. It is mounting the best it has to offer in support of the Anglican Covenant. The series to date is listed HERE. We may hope that Prichard's article will be added to the list.
TLC is also trying to drum up interest at a time when there is little energy for this odd document. But I find the articles are far short of what is needed to convince. Perhaps they are there not to convince but to gently assure deputies and bishops that the Anglican Covenant is no danger to the church, so why not be nice and good and cooperative.