The Standing Committee, usurping power and thinking of financial implications.

Well, here it is boys and girls -  from the notes of the second day of the Standing Committee meeting:

"Primates on the Standing Committee
After extensive discussion on the Primates' Meeting 2009 request to increase its Standing Committee membership from five to eight, the Standing Committee:
  1. noted the request from the Primates' Meeting 2009 to increase from 5 to 8 the number of Primates on the Standing Committee
  2. affirmed that the proper body to make a decision about this request is the ACC
  3. without expressing a view for or against the request asked the Legal Adviser to draft constitutional changes to implement the following structure for the Standing Committee for consideration at the next Standing Committee meeting and eventually by ACC-15: The President, the Chairperson, the Vice-chairperson, 8 Primates, 8 other Trustee-members (non-Primates)
  4. requested the Finance and Administration Committee to advise on the financial implications of this proposal."
OK, now breath deep.  As it stands there are 8 bishops, 4 laity and 2 clergy on the Standing Committee, with one or two slots open. The change in the makeup would be that there be 8 primates + the ABC, 9 primates, and 8 other Trustee members (non-Primates) + the Vice-chair. Primates would then already constitue 50% of the make up of the Committee.  

Assume for the moment the Vice-chair is not a primate. Well, in the group of 8 others there will be a mix of bishops, clergy and laity + the Vice-chair.  Suppose there really is a distribution among the various groups with some reasonableness - say 3 clergy and 3 lay and 2 bishops. Depending on the position of the Vice-chair that could mean that all told there would be 11 or 12 bishops out of a 16 member Committee. That is, 6 or 7 of the 18 would be other than bishops (remembering that the primates are bishops).

The resolution "requested the Finance and Administration Committee to advise on the financial implications of this proposal." 

From at least my perspective I think here is one implication:  Not one thin dime of our money to fund this body. 

The Episcopal News Service notes that, "The Standing Committee usually meets annually but has met biannually for the past three years. It oversees the day-to-day operations of the Anglican Communion Office and the programs and ministries of the four instruments of communion." What ENS did not say is that the Standing Committee will have broad powers, which were exercised in part yesterday, to recommend excluding a church from active membership in the Communion. Actually the Standing Committee did more yesterday.  It usurped powers not its own.

Yesterday, the Anglican Communion Office indicated, there was a proposal to separate The Episcopal Church from the Communion.  "A proposal from Dato' Stanley Isaacs that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion led to a discussion in which Committee members acknowledged the anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues. Nevertheless, the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful. The proposal was not passed, and the group agreed to defer further discussion until progress on Continuing Indaba project had been considered."

What is astounding about this proposal is that it was considered.  The notion that the Standing Committee has the power to effect a separation is not even suggested in the Anglican Covenant being proposed. There the Standing Committee could recommend to various instruments of the communion a course of action, but those instruments would have to act.  

Here, in the context of the Standing Committee meeting itself apparently the proposal was discussed and failed to pass. It was not considered out of order. 

So, here it is, dear friends.  The Standing Committee believes it has the power to pass on a resolution that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Anglican Communion.  THERE IS NO RECORD OF OBJECTION. Further, we have no idea what actually went on in the discussion that followed because the meetings are closed.

So a closed meeting of the Standing Committee can consider a proposal to separate The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, supposedly with the understanding that such a proposal was in order.  It failed not because the power of the Standing Committee was challenged, but because it was felt to be premature and the Standing Committee awaited further input.

Given this, why in the world would TEC, or any other church in the Anglican Communion, believe the Standing Committee to be a servant of unity in the Anglican Communion.  It has only met under the new Constitution of the ACC once and already it has usurped powers supposedly those of the ACC itself.  The proposed change in the number of primates on the Standing Committee will bring further imbalance away from the ACC and towards the Primates, from any sort of representative governance to princely governance.

Before we know it the damn thing will be a college of Cardinals with a minority of minions in tow.

Financial implications?  You bet.  Not one thin dime in support.


  1. You buried the lead, Mark, with your numbers discussion, important though that is. The news is, they talked about kicking us out.

    I agree, not one thin dime.

  2. Not one thin dime of support.

    Absolutely! I'd hope that we would discontinue funding of these sinister exercises, immediately. Once the committee has its 8 primates and however many bishops, there will no longer be even the facade of a democratic structure.

  3. I'm sure I'm being too irreverent here, but really this DOES sound like spoiled little boys wanting to kick someone out of their clubhouse. Somewhere a teacher is ticking the box that says "does not play well with others".

  4. What I find most troubling is that two of these usurpers are American bishops. Not one word of objection from them in the notes. Where in the world are they on this?


  5. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only thing that defines a province being "a part of the Anglican Communion" is the Archbishop of Canterbury's blessing. The Standing Committee has no say in the matter, though I suppose they could recommend it to ++Rowan.

    Oughtn't we be more concerned with that?

  6. Did I miss the part where they went from Standing Committee to Star Chamber? Oy vey!

  7. Damnation. If I wanted to be a Roman Catholic, there is an RC parish right down the street. I have no interest in having a curia, much less paying for one!

  8. Why are we giving these people money, again? Aren't there enough people in need of the Gospel and material help who _aren't_ part of some bloated bureaucracy?

  9. Well, to be clear, we are only sure that one member of the Standing Committee thought it had the authority to effect such a separation, and that is Isaacs. Granted, it would have been nice to see in discussion that someone said, "We're not able to do that;" but from just the news story we can't say that it wasn't said. We can say that the ACNS focused on a broader point, that such a separation would be a bad idea whoever might have the authority or the inclination. So, the suggestion is that it's not a good idea even if the majority of the primates want to do it, or if the ACC has the authority.

  10. Yes, you are wrong Eric. That idea that the ABC sets his/her own list for whom s/he is in communion is a bit overblown. The General Synod of the Church of England decides with whom the Church of England is in communion, with influence from the ABs of York and Canterbury. The ACC itself sets the roster of its own membership, not the ABC or the Primate's Meeting. And I have yet to see where the Standing Committee has that authority on behalf of the ACC.

    Folks remember that the Primate's Meeting has already tried to make itself de facto members en masse of the ACC. However, the ACC membership voted that idea down. Now they are attempting a power grab with a more backdoor approach.

    Surely, even though not reported because the meeting was after all sequestered, ++Katharine and +Ian spoke against the motion to remove TEC from the ACC's roster.

  11. What I would submit is in order is a reassessment of the entire concept of the Standing Committee. Not because it has bishops, but because it has primates. The Primates Meeting has no authority in the Anglican Communion. The Primates Meeting in its original concept at its inception was but a Spa Retreat for the primates. To borrow from the Wizard of Oz, a gathering where primates hobnobbed with their fellow primates. The only body with authority in the Anglican Communion is the Anglican Consultative Council. And yet there is this Standing Committee that supposedly holds interim decision making authority between ACC meetings that consists of, in addition to members of the ACC, a group of primates. Why is any authority of the ACC handed over to a Committee that includes voting members from a Meeting that is otherwise powerless? Primate membership on the Standing Committee with voice and vote now gives this group of 5, perhaps soon 8, primates more power than all of them combined hold when they get together in their own little soiree.

    The primates tried to get themselves appointed en masse as de facto members of the ACC. ACC 14 voted that proposal down. What we should be doing is raising up an opposition to this capitulation of any of the ACC's authority to primates by the backdoor, which the Standing Committee provides. It is an unprecedented power sharing. The primates as a whole have no authority in the AC, and yet a group of them who have not been elected by the ACC are handed the authority of interim decision making for the ACC by way of the Standing Committee.

  12. What I do not note in these comments is: this is all a usurpation of the Liberal West. You have the SC your leaders have wrested away. If you do not believe in it, you can be very sure the 80% of the Communion that ought to have proper representation and has effectively none will ignore it and declare it what it is: the creation of TEC, Wales, Canon Rees and their coworkers. TOH

  13. Hi there,

    Just to comment on the power of the SC to remove/add churches, its brand new constitution states in section 7.2 that "with the assent of 2/3 of the Primates of the Anglican Communion...the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule" (the Schedule of Membership, that is). So, the most the SC could do would be to recommend to the Primates that TEC should be removed from the Schedule of Membership of the ACC. It would then require 2/3 of them to agree. I'm not sure of the wording of the motion, but it would have been out of order if it went beyond that.
    Note that two of the other instruments of Communion - namely the Primates Meeting and Lambeth Conference - convene at the invitation of the ABoC. He has the power to invite whomever he likes. The ACC has no power to decide the guest list for those events.
    Andrew Reid

  14. "Not One Thin Dime Of Support"....my feelings exactly. Every one of our dollars that goes to support the soon-to-be "Anglican Curia" needs to be immediately diverted to evangelism and mission work.

    From what I have heard from others, this opinion is widespread among those of us in the pews. I am glad you are on the EC, Fr. Harris, as you have the power to make sure our voices are heard.

  15. The discussion of separating TEC from the Communion was not out of order. According to item 7.2 of the new Articles of Association, “with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion (which shall be deemed to have been received if not withheld in writing within four months from the date of notification) the Standing Committee may alter or add to the Schedule.” The Schedule, of course, specifies the membership of the ACC (and, arguably, of the Communion). Of course, the Standing Committee would have needed the primates to throw out TEC, but it could legitimately have started the process.

    It used to be the ACC itself that had this power, but it decided in 2002 to give it to the (then) Joint Standing Committee. It was a bad idea then, and it is a bad idea now. See my post “Rules? What Rules?

  16. Out of some loyalty to the two of our bishops who serve on the committee, I won't speculate on how they responded to the resolution about our church's membership in the communion. I will assume for the moment that they did their best to keep that resolution from being passed and were, in part, responsible for the outcome. It was not an ideal outcome, but then very little in the communion is ideal these days.

    It is interesting to note that both progressives and traditionalists have been displeased with the reports form the committee.

  17. I do think we need to be careful about "If I don't get my own way I'll pick up my marbles and go home." On the other hand it is not good stewardship to fund immoral idiocy. Perhaps we could take the funds currently allocated to the Anglican Bureaucracy and make it available for grants (upon application) to dioceses, parishes, or other ministries that are doing (or trying to start) good effective works of the Gospel, ANYWHERE in the Anglican Communion beyond TEC (yes, even there). Agreement with The Episcopal Church about specific issues would NOT be a requirement or precondition.

  18. Josh Thomas was right.. I buried the lead, although when I began the note I was interested in the numbers, not the resolution. When I got to the resolution I realized just how angry I was at that being allowed to go forward for discussion that my passions moved there. So, next time I'll lead with the punch.

    That being said, both spicksandspecks and lionel deimel's comments require a return comment.

    I am aware that under the new revised and improved Constitution the Standing Committee can recommend that a church be removed from the sacred list. But as both point out it has to go to the Primates for final approval. What I found most objectionable was that the Anglican Communion Office reported out on the day's doings with simply the remark that "A proposal from Dato' Stanley Isaacs that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion..."

    I envisioned wording to this effect, "proposed, that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Anglican Communion...."

    There was no reference to the fact that the Constitution seems to require that such a decision be referred to the Primates. If that had been considered the wording might better have been "proposed, 2/3 of the Primates consenting, that TEC be separated..."

    In any event what happens now to the Angican Covenant part IV which states,

    "4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

    (4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.
    (4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations."

    The Anglican Covenant assumes that recommendations from the SC are just that, recommendations. It assumes that the SC does not make final decisions regarding inclusion on the "Schedule" but that the "Instrument of Communion" does. But of course in the revised Constitution of the ACC it appears that the Standing Committee IS the voice of the ACC between meetings and therefore is in receipt of its own recommendations.

    This thing is a mess, and likely to get worse.

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  20. After reading this post, and commenting on it, earlier today, I was reading the current issue of the Anglican Theological Review (92:3, Summer 2010): "A Dim Mirror: Archbishop Rowan Williams's Reflections on the 2009 General Convention," by James F. Turrell (Liturgy at Sewanee). I commend it.

  21. David: "The General Synod of the Church of England decides with whom the Church of England is in communion, with influence from the ABs of York and Canterbury."

    Actually, it's the two primates (Canterbury and York) that make that decision. Section 6(2) of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 provides:

    "If any question arises whether, for the purposes of this Measure, a Church is in Communion with the Church of England or whether the Orders of any Church are recognised and accepted by the Church of England, it shall be determined by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, whose decision shall be conclusive."


    You are correct though that being in communion with one Province of the AC (even England) does not make a Church part of the Anglican Communion. The Church of Sweden (for example) is in communion with the Church of England, but it isn't part of the Anglican Communion.

  22. The key phrase Paul being for the purposes of this Measure which is concerned with licensing clergy from outside England to serve in an ordained capacity in the CoE.

    I do not think that is generally what we are referring to when we speak about one province being in Communion with another. The CoE certainly did not become "in communion" with the Church of Sweden merely on the say so of the ABs based on this measure!

  23. I think the following from the C of E's Secretary General's "Background Note" on Lorna Ashcroft's motion for the C of E to declare itself in communion with the ACNA may clarify the matter:

    "Most churches of the Anglican Communion were formerly dioceses or provinces within the Church of England or the Episcopal Church (USA); when their independence was recognized the existing relationship of communion continued and no fresh decision was needed. In the case of other churches (including united churches that incorporated former Anglican dioceses), the Archbishops’ decisions have always been informed by the mind of the Church of England, _as expressed by the synods of the Church._

    So, instead of the Synod deciding, with influence by the ABC and ABY, it's the ABC and ABY who decide, with influence by the Synod. So, it's the archbishops who make the final decision.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.