6/24/2011

The Standig Commission on Constitution and Canons' report. There it is.

There has been considerable rumblings about the report from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons (SCCC) to the D020 Task Force, an entirely internal request between two agencies of the General Convention, and what it had to say about Constitutional implications of signing the Anglican Covenant. Today that report is released to the general public.

As a member of the Task Force I must say I am of two minds on the issue of its release. On the one hand (particularly as a blogger) I strongly believe that opinions from high places - and the SCCC is one of them - ought to be available to the wider interested public.  This is particularly true in the context of an emerging need to produce useful legislation to the next General Convention. So part of me believes the report should have been distributed widely and quickly. 

The problem, however, is that the report does not solve anything. It opines. It does not suggest specific resolution language, it does not tell us what must be done. It tells us only what the SCCC believes to be the issues. Some rather vitriolic voices will claim otherwise.

The Task Force, having asked for an opinion, puts that opinion in the wider net that gathered in all sorts of opinion. It has a primary place, of course, but not a definitive one.  We have the task of producing from all we have heard, and from all that we understand about legislative procedures, and all that we glean from expert opinion, a first whack at a resolution or set of resolutions that would satisfy the legislative desire to respond to the Anglican Covenant "adoption" issue.  

So I also wished that we could have kept this opinion as one among many until our Task Force had a chance to review it in the context of all we had heard and read.  It would have been helpful to have the primary document as a stand alone, and not as a document that will itself come with  critical side-bars and partisan commentaries.  It would have been helpful to have the document as a simple response to a request, with out the neighbors chiming in.

So, given the two different pulls, I am content that after some days of deliberation on the criticism from various quarters, we decided to release the document. Content, but not satisfied.

Now that it is public, I urge that you read it.  It can be found HERE (read below the first commentary.)

As far as I can see, the report opines that there are indeed Constitutional and Canonical issues. The form of the resolution that might come to Convention then would either take the conditional form ( we adopt the Anglican Covenant conditional on passage at two General Conventions of the following change in the Constitution and the appropriate changes as required on second reading if it passes, to the Canons) or it might come as an absolute statement, (we adopt the Anglican Covenant confident that we will live into the reality of  its implications for our common life in legislation that will be forthcoming.)  The first cannot come to fruition until 2015. The second could declare intention and make the Covenant operational and assume rapid passage of the various Constitutional and Canonical Changes, and could be passed in 2012.

The slower method is more, well, methodical. The second is perhaps more assuring, but has several traps in it.  We will in all likelihood be presented with an election of a candidate for bishop who falls outside the moratoria requested in the Windsor Report and further pressed by meetings of the Primates within the next three years. That we (TEC) would allow such candidates to get so far in the process as to be considered at all is viewed by some as a sign that we can not sign the Anglican Covenant in good conscience. So the "good faith" adoption of the Covenant may not fly.

The most the SCCC report does is make us aware of the two options in covenants - pres or post covenant adjustments in our understanding of self-directed life.

But, if we take the SCCC report seriously we cannot accept or adopt the Covenant without some form of rapid change in our Constitution and Canons. In the meanwhile, the moratoria on ordaining bishops who are gay and in a relationship continues and continues to be disavowed. I do not see TEC changing its current willingness to consider such elected bishops as bishops of this Church.

The SCCC report is good reading. They did what we asked them to do. They did not propose specific language for legislation. Doing that is up to the legislative committee in which the issue lands and to the review that surely must come from the legislative committee on Constitution and Canons. The Task Force will try its hand at such legislation and propose it to the appropriate committee. There it will be tested by the variety of other resolutions that are forthcoming. Something will come out of committee and we will have then to deal with it on the floor.

At the moment all I can say is that I believe the resolution that comes to the floor must be couched in positive terms and if the committee proposing it wishes to make a recommendation about it, it can recommend passage or defeat.

As it stands, I can vote for no motion that does not affirm that our governance remains our own to exercise. The Anglican Covenant says it does not require change in our canons, but in this I strongly agree with the SCCC report - the AC does require change in our canons. Our response, if positive, must be in some form conditional.

So the report is out. Read it. What does it call us to do?


4 comments:

Mike R. said...

Mark
We can also simply pass a resolution rejecting the Covenant as now framed, citing many of the clashing ambiguities and non Anglican intrusion into our polity. The report is clear that our present Constitution and Canons nowhere presume anything like the Covenant. It he fully identifies all the places where unspecified people might try to push our polity or take offense at what we do.

And unless we are willing to step away from inclusion, there is no path for us to sign this.

Mike Russell. San Diego C4

Point of Order said...

The report from SCCC calls me to pause and reflect.

Aside from my general concerns about the proposed Covenant, the one thing that really bothers me is the overwhelming feeling that we're being hustled. I really don’t like the feeling that our nose is being rubbed in it.

While no specific language is proposed, the absolute number of Articles and Canons implicated by adoption of the proposed Covenant is staggering (to me) let alone the issues it raises. Even if we were to pursue these changes, there is no guarantee whatever, they would be adopted in a form that would actually implement the covenant. Where would that leave us? (exhausted and worn out with nothing productive to show for the effort, I suspect)

Perhaps discernment isn’t the problem. Acting on what we’ve learned is far more difficult. I believe we (TEC) want to give the proposed Covenant the diligent and prayerful consideration it deserves. The demands of the proposed Covenant are difficult for us to reconcile. But if they can be reconciled to our satisfaction, will that process be honored by others in the Communion?

If the proposed Covenant is going to resolve more issues than it raises, perhaps I can abide its adoption. If the proposed Covenant gives warrant to an intrusion that has never been permitted in the past, we need more time to consider it. If adopting the proposed Covenant is simply a prelude to a re-enactment of the TV show “Branded,” I say just skip the whole matter. After all, I’m not an Anglican, I’m and Episcopalian.

Dunstan said...

There sure are a lot of "some say"s and "arguably"s in the report.

I'm also struck by the fact that, if we have to change our processes for major things like prayer book revision and episcopal elections as this report seems to suggest, then the CoE also has to make similar changes. However, at least some of those would require the consent of Parliament, and yet, as far as I've heard, the CoE hasn't made any moves towards getting Parliaments approval and Parliament hasn't yet complained about the CoE usurping Parliamentary authority.

I'd hate to think that the British government is clueless or incompetent, so perhaps we don't actually have to change our constitution and canons in the ways suggested in this report. Has the CoE or the British government made any comments on this subject recently?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Mark. Good thoughts and questions.