5/04/2009

Cabbages and Kings: The ACC at Work

The Anglican Consultative Council meeting is off to a bumpy start.

First off there is the complex matter of whether or not the Church of Uganda could appoint as its clergy representative to the ACC the Rev. Phil Ashey, a priest living in the US but part of Ruwenzori Diocese in the Province of Uganda. He got there by way of The Episcopal Church. He was at South Riding Church and he and some church members left and joined the Church of Uganda. On the way he was deposed by the Bishop of Virginia in 2005. He didn't buy it, nor did the Archbishop of Uganda. Since then Ashey has moved on and is now COO and Chaplain for the American Anglican Council.

Episcopal Cafe has all the particulars
on the problems his nomination presents. Up to a point the Archbishop of Uganda is right in his contention that the Church of Uganda can appoint who it wishes from its church to serve as a representative. But only to a point. Here is the relevant part of the Constitution for the ACC:

4. Appointment and Retirement of Members

  1. Each of the appointing bodies shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that any member appointed to represent it on the council shall be a member of its own representative structures and that such person shall be given appropriate opportunity to report the proceedings of the council to its own decision-making bodies and to convey the views of such decision-making bodies to the council."
  2. ...
  3. ...
  4. Any appointing body as set out in the Schedule of Membership shall have power at any time and from time to time to appoint any qualified person to be a member to fill a casual vacancy to hold office for the unexpired term specified in clause 4(b)
Archbishop Orombi quotes 4.d as giving the Church of Uganda the right to appoint, but 4.a in typical English English speaks of having "regard to the desirability of ensuring that any member appointed to represent it on the council shall be a member of its own representative structures." There is nothing to indicate that Ashey is a member of the Church of Uganda's representative structures - things like its provincial or even diocesan councils or even parishes. Indeed the Archbishop is clear that Ashey is part of the Church of Uganda as a stop-gap measure, while so called orthodox Anglicans in the US and Canada organize themselves.

Tobias Haller has the best pithy comment on all this, of course.

So on this one it is the Archbishop of Uganda who has to give way. So much for Kings and their appointments.

Meanwhile there is the matter of cabbage. The work up on the Anglican Covenant is taking place. Archbishop Gomez, the chair of the Covenant Design Group made a report which deserves a careful read. It can be found HERE. (as a download) ENS reported on it HERE.

Two things to note:

(i) Archbishop Gomez made the argument that the Anglican Covenant in the Ridley Cambridge Draft is the last best hope for the Anglican Communion. He said,

"One thing I have to say to you in all seriousness, the Communion is close to the point of breaking up.

If we can’t state clearly and simply what holds us together, and speak clearly at this meeting, then I fear that there will be clear breaks in the Communion in the period following this meeting. Many of our Churches are asking to know where they stand - what can be relied on as central to the Anglican Communion; and how can disputes be settled without the wrangle and confusion that we have seen for the last seven years or more."

He later in the text restated the matter of impending breakup unless the ACC passes the resolution affirming the text and passing it on to the churches for approval.

The problem is, of course, that this is not the only thing the ACC could do, even while passing the text. It could take a deep breath and decide to pass the Covenant on with a codicil or two indicating just exactly what it proposed the Covenant will mean when it uses the word "church" or when it speaks of the work of the Joint Standing Committee. It could also decide that the section on the Joint Standing Committee is out of line, as it proposes new powers for an agent of agencies. A committee meant to coordinate the work of the Primates Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Council is now essentially becoming the star chamber in the making.

(ii) The resolution that is put forward on the Covenant asks that churches respond by 2014.

However, there are reports that a number of churches are ready to sign on right now. The Anglican Journal has a quite fine write up on the day's doings. I quote extensively from it here:

"Asked what the reason was for pegging the 2014 deadline, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, primate of the Church of the Province of Australia and JSC member, said it was because governing bodies of some member churches would not be able to meet until that date. He also said that the polities of at least three or four member churches requires two meetings of their general synod to render a decision on the covenant.

Dato Stanley Isaacs, who represents the Anglican Province of Southeast Asia, expressed that the 2014 deadline was “too long,” adding that the “urgency of the situation” in the communion requires an earlier response. He said that, while he recognized the constitutional difficulties that some provinces might have “if we all recognize this urgency, you can always have an extraordinary meeting to consider this for adoption.” His own church, said Mr. Isaacs, was “ready to adopt it.”

Archbishop Aspinall said there was “nothing to prevent a church moving very soon should it wish to” but the process recognizes the principle in the draft that “the communion guides and each church decides,” while being mindful of the implication of the matter to the communion. The Anglican Communion, composed of 80 million Anglicans in 44 regional and national churches in more than 160 countries, has been deeply divided in recent years over the issue of sexuality.

Another ACC delegate asked what would happen to member churches who choose not to sign on to the covenant. Bishop Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said the Covenant Design Group had “wrestled hard” on this matter but felt that “we’re still entering a period of transition.” He said that it remained to be seen how many would adopt it. He said “at the moment, there is no linkage” between adoption of the covenant and participating in the life and activities of the communion. He said that if 15 or 20 member churches approve the covenant “it might move quite quickly and give it more gravity…”

Bishop Cameron’s statement was in contrast to a statement made earlier at a press briefing by Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, who said that the membership and participation in the communion of provinces which decided to opt out of the covenant would not be altered."

So the chopped cabbage that is the Ridly Cambridge Draft Covenant is quickly being morphed into the Anglican Covenant we dare not sign, must sign quickly, and "man, it's important." All of which one supposes gives support to a resolution to General Convention on adhering to the Draft Covenant's text while considering signing on new vigor. The steamroller is up and moving and the hand wringers are out in force. "Now, now, now!" is the roar. Doom otherwise.

Now we have Canon Kenneth Kearon giving one interpretation of the meaning of signing on and Bishop Gregory Cameron another. Making Bishop Cameron a bishop seems not to have motivated him to pay attention to his boss's views.

This thing is a mess. It is moving on to become another idol, not unlike the Windsor Report. It is moving rapidly from being a report of a committee to an iron-clad, no-nonsense, buy it or leave us proposition.

Life in Canada comes with a different history, but here in the US we have a history with constitutions in the making. The one we have looked pretty good and was an improvement on the Articles of Confederation, but it took only three seconds to realize that more was needed to even begin to address the problems it raised. A bill of rights was needed. We Anglicans at least need some assurance that there will not be wheels within wheels, except in visions.

The notion that we must rush to sign on so that things are not broken for good is too late. The GAFCON crowd has made that moot. The only question is whether or not GAFCON, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the Anglican Church of North America, etc, burns the village in order to save the villagers. The real value of the Anglican Covenant concerns those of us who remain, not those who have set their path on a different way, and for us the need for rush is less convincing.

The Anglican Communion is a fragile thing and will not bear up well under the meddling that is going on.

The last of the four items in the Lambeth Quadrilateral reads, "The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God int the unity of His Church." Perhaps it is precisely the historic episcopate that is locally adapted to varying needs that both gives rise to differences in decisions on moral and theological matters as well as on matters of "administration." Unless of course one believes for a moment that administration has no echo in theological or moral matters.

Those who believe there is no connection between the two also are likely to believe that the Anglican Covenant has no impact on Constitutions and Canons of the several churches of the Anglican Communion.

But then again denial is a wonderful thing to behold.

17 comments:

  1. The last time we were rushed into something and told that the situation was too urgent and dire to read the fine print, we ended up in the middle of Iraq.

    "Trust us" we were told.

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  2. Robert Dodd5/5/09 9:15 AM

    What dazzles me is that a bare majority of provinces and only a third of the Gafcon primates bothered to comment on the previous draft of the covenant. This show of disinterest contrasts sharply with +Gomez's apocalyptic "sign or else" sermon.

    Just who, other than the Covenant Design Group, the Anglican Communion Institute, and the Communion Partners, needs an Anglican covenant? Given charity and mutual respect, it would be redundant. In their absence, it would quickly join other dust gatherers in our growing collection of false idols.

    I hope GC 2009 will have the courage to say "No!" I fear we shall have to settle for "Not yet."

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  3. Communion officials are playing good cop-bad cop, though my personal opinion is that there are only bad cops here. The purpose of the covenant is to stop time and to punish those churches who want to move forward. It is a bad idea badly implemented.

    The business with the Church of Uganda is symptomatic of what is wrong: if a communion is really a fellowship and not a church, provinces need to respect decisions of other provinces. If one province deposes a priest, that priest should not be able to run to another province to be reinstated. The covenant is silent on such matters, which need to be addressed before the Communion starts thinking about becoming a confessional church.

    We must ask ourselves what the Communion should be (and perhaps what we think Anglicanism should be). For my money, the Communion has long been going in the wrong direction, and it is time for The Episcopal Church to pull the emergency cord and stop the train. If necessary, it should get off the train before the train goes somewhere we don’t want to go.

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  4. Sigh. I still think the Covenant is like a pre-nuptial agreement about 100 years too late.

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  5. Lionel Diemel points out that in a true communion "provinces need to respect decisions of other provinces".
    What if the provinces urge another province not to consecrate a bishop?
    How can we listen to each other if we are a fellowship?
    These are not easy questions to answer.

    Obadiah Slope/ John Sandeman

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  6. Deacon Charlie Perrin5/5/09 9:17 PM

    "Sigh. I still think the Covenant is like a pre-nuptial agreement about 100 years too late."

    There was once in the Diocese of Long Island a priest who would not officiate at the wedding of a couple with a "pre-nup." Such a thing demonstrated a defect in intent.

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  7. What if the provinces urge another province not to consecrate a bishop?
    How can we listen to each other if we are a fellowship?
    Well, Obadiah, we explained why we had a valid reason to consecrate, it was a valid reason, and we were told that we never explained and that "time was needed" for others to understand.

    We kept being told we were moving too fast and others just "wanted to understand" when we told you - quite clearly - that we had had ample time and opportunity to evidence that the "other side" not only refused to make an effort to understand, but was using delay as a gambit to further the aims of silencing us.

    You need to look at your own "listening." For me, I feel it's a little late for the cry of "Brother! Brother!" from the extreme right.

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  8. What if the provinces urge another province not to consecrate a bishop?

    This has never happened. No province has ever come to a conclusion after considering such a theme and made a request to another province. Because no province has ever taken such a matter under consideration. That might open up the province to actually listening to others. Wow, a listening process.

    All that has happened is loud mouthed prince bishops have been screaming for the past few years and trying to convince us that their entire province believes as they do.

    I do not believe them. I believe that they are lying. And we gain evidence almost daily that this is so, as various folks come in contact with the common people of these provinces. And they tell us they are not interested in these subjects. They do not know why their so-called leaders are so obsessed with these subjects. Leaders who the common folk have no part in placing as bishops. It is a self-promoting old boys club, and you have to already be on the inside to join.

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  9. Mark B,
    I am unaware of any evidence that the TEC gave early notice to other provinces that they were going to consecrate a partnered gay bishop.
    The Chronology with "to set our hope on Christ" is clear about this.
    David,
    Because of that chronology the only group able to voice objection was the primates.
    But I think it is a mistake to assume that the African provinces share you view based on anecdotal evidence. It might serve the progressive point of view better to take on the task of convincing the people in the African provinces rather than blithely assuming they agree with you.
    However I am making a more general point, rather going over well worn arguments. In the Anglican Communion does not appear to have a mechanism to help us listen to each other.
    Robert Dodd makes the point that given charity and mutual respect a covenant would not be needed. He is right. We can agree on that, surely.

    John Sandeman / Obadiah Slope

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  10. David notes: "...various folks come in contact with the common people of these provinces. And they tell us they are not interested in these subjects.Sounds just like the usual conversation here in the US on the topic. Only a small percentage of people give sexual orientation much thought unless someone else starts the conversation.

    If ever I get a questioning look these days about being an Episcopalian, I just say "everything you have heard is true. The Bishop of New Hampshire is an openly partnered gay man." Sometimes I get questions, often a laugh - and you'd be amazed how at all the comments as people wonder about all the fuss.

    Obadiah, I know you don't understand. And I don't know how to tell you that I've known forever that sexual orientation is not the measure of a person. Their souls do not need to be saved on that count; God did not give them a dirty, damning flaw. No one is endorsing unbridled sexual activity. It's time to measure people by other standards - personally, I go for the big 10.

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  11. Nom de Plume6/5/09 12:54 PM

    If one province deposes a priest, that priest should not be able to run to another province to be reinstated. Quite right, Lionel. This is at the core of Full Communion, in my view, for if being in Communion means anything it means the full recognition of Holy Orders. This implies acceptance of the legitimacy of the other Provinces' canonical, administrative and liturgical processes by which Holy Orders are conferred. The other side of that coin is surely recognition of the canonical processes by which Holy Orders may be suspended, relinquished or deposed from. In short, transfer of a cleric from one jurisdiction to another can only be done legitimately where that cleric is a cleric in good standing in the originating jurisdiction: properly selected and ordained; not under discipline; and not following the relinquishment or abandonment of ministry. This is fundamental, and is a glaring omission from the Daft Covenant.

    Two other serious omissions:

    First, the Covenant says virtually nothing about recognizing the full authenticity of "Church" and of "Anglican" in the other members of the Communion. It's a given, obviously, but it really should be spelled out with clarity. Each church sort of claims it for itself in section 1.1 (but only sort of), but it needs to say it about the others.

    Second, there needs to be some commitment about participation in the life, Instruments and Commissions of the Communion. This needs to involved commitments to support the Instruments and Commissions through financial contributions, through seconding personnel to work for the Communion, through prayer and active presence at meetings, through engaging in study processes requested by the Instruments and Commissions, through responding in a transparent and timely manner to requests for information, comment or response. (It should go with out saying that deadlines for comment need to respect the processes and timelines of the Provinces. e.g., you can't ask TEC to give a definitive response from General Convention between meetings of GC.) This is not an exhaustive list, but I think the idea is clear. We cannot have the spectacle of Primates ordering their bishops to boycott Lambeth, or refusing communion, or of Provinces playing games with ACC membership a la Uganda. Nor can we have repeated requests from Lambeth for study of human sexuality (1978, 1988, 1998) ignored by certain Provinces who then leap on others for doing the requested work and then acting on their conclusions. Or were all those requests merely academic?

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  12. Well, John, the four primates of North America cannot speak the mind of their province, without actually having been authorized in synod to do so, regarding such a topic. And please correct me if wrong, but neither can yours or New Zealand's.

    Former Primate Chicken Little of the West Indies, on the other hand, seems empowered to dictate just about anything in the name of his province, even when based on the sure foundation of rumor.

    The fabric of the Communion was rent by the threats and then the dictates of big mouthed Primates of the self proclaimed Global South. And they have not stopped spewing hatred, threats rumors and lies for one minute since! Never have they stretched out a hand of siblingship for Christ. It has been relentless, non-stop judgement and condemnation, as well as, underhanded, back room, covert shenanigans. Followed by pitiful cries of persecution and torment when their plans are exposed, or they loose in court!

    I am so fed up with the lot of them. And as you can tell, sized by anger over it all.

    ¡Basta, por favor! ¡En el nombre de Dios, basta!

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  13. ::Having regained my composure::

    BTW John, you misread me. I did not propose that the folks of the African provinces agreed with me (us). I related that they say they do not have opinions on such matters, because they have more important survival issues at hand.

    Living in a 2/3s world nation myself, the one that is a world-wide pariah at present, I know of which they speak! We are too concerned about keeping a real roof overhead, and food, a tooth or two with which to chew it, daily utilities, clothing, fees for education, and jobs to pay for those things, to be concerned about who our neighbors love and cherish, and so perhaps with whom they share a bed!

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  14. Some few years ago I worked with a Nigerian preist colleague on his first coming to the US (my bishop asked him to work in my parish to get the American "swing of things" liturgically, as I was head of the diocesan liturgical commission at the time.) In one of our first conversations, he asked, "Now why did they go and appoint a gay man as a bishop?" I explained that he was not appointed, but elected by the clergy and representatives of all of the parishes in the diocese, and then confirmed by a majority of the bishops of the whole church and a majority of the deputies from every diocese. His response, "Oh. So what's the problem, then."

    Kind of says it all, don't it...
    Tobias

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  15. David,
    I was browsing the minutes of the general Synod of my province and came across a passage where the ACC representatives were seeking the mind of the Synod on the shape of the covenant. ISTM that the ACC has the same potential weakness that you point to with the primates.
    The Primates have the "virtue" of at least being visible. You could ask a Nigerian or US Anglican
    "do you agree with Bp Akinola? or Do you agree with Bp Jefferts Schori" with some hope of name recognition at least. But the average pewsitter will not know who their lay rep at ACC is.
    To go back to Lionel Diemel's point. If some provinces believe that a certain sort of person should not be ordained or seated and another province ordains or seats them, are the provinces forced to recognise the latter's priests or bishops?
    This is why the seating of Bp Robinson has led to breaches in communion. And to beven handed, were my diocese to change the rules on presidency, it would have the same sort of effect.
    This is not to say that one "side" or the other is "right" in this situation, but that in the matter of mutual recognition of ministries our communion comes closest to being a "church".
    Obadiah Slopedco

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  16. If they were unaware, it's because they weren't paying attention. We don't owe it to Africa, or any other national church, to tell them our every concern in-house. If that is their view of family, then it is a skewed and dysfunctional one.

    I didn't say the Africans or anyone else agreed with us. Frankly, that's not my concern. You seem to think I'm arguing for preserving this "communion." I'm not. This "communion," in consistently serving the interests of centralizers, has become a hindrance, if not an outright evil. It's clear that we've never been considered brothers and sisters by those wilfully trying to ruin us and blindly supported by an over-ambitious Canterbury. Even should our leadership approve this "covenant," they'll simply find themselves having lost the confidence of their flock, who have a higher degree of dedication to Truth, and who will not adhere to this covenant.

    You seem to think that you've been listening - you haven't and those you hold up as leaders have been shown to ignore us wilfully.

    What do you think we owe you?

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  17. Mark B,
    I don't think you owe me anything.
    Nothing.
    Do you think I have mis-represented you? I am far from infallible in my listening and so much else besides.

    Obadiah

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