The internet was all a dither for a while this morning. The Telegraph had interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury and reported that,
"The end of his reign is a good time to consider the future of the office he holds. The workload of priest, bishop, administrator, spiritual leader is enormous — has it become too much for one man? He discloses that the Church is considering spreading the load to a “more presidential figure” alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury. This would be a landmark moment for the Anglican communion. Can he imagine a time when the Archbishop of Canterbury is no longer its head? “It would be a very different communion, because the history is just bound up with that place, that office. So there may be more of a sense of a primacy of honour, and less a sense that the Archbishop is expected to sort everything.”
Exciting stuff at the end of a dull Anglican week. Very quickly blogs had it that the Archbishop and friends were about the business of setting up a second in command structure, supposedly with the ABC reigning and the second as Presidential (or perhaps Prime ministerial). Well, you would have thought the world had come to an end.
Enough chatter had taken place for the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to chime in with an official word for the Telegraph and for all agog bloggers.
"The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has responded to an article in today's The Telegraph newspaper that inaccurately stated: "The Anglican Church is drawing up plans... that would see the introduction of a 'presidential' figure to take over some of the global role of the Archbishop of Canterbury."
"The opening paragraph of this article is mischievous," said Canon Kenneth Kearon. "There are no such plans. The Archbishop of Canterbury simply said in the interview that he could see that in the future there might be some reflection on how the administrative load associated with the Anglican Communion might be better shared.
"The Anglican Communion has several decision-making bodies, one of which is meeting in a few months' time. Nothing like what this newspaper has suggested is on the agenda."
Well, there you are.
More or less.
The Anglican Communion does have second voice, precisely in the Secretary General in his or her role as the spokesperson for the Anglican Consultative Council, the only organ of the Anglican Communion dispersed governance that has a charter to speak as an organization on behalf of the churches that constitute the Communion.
Now the Secretary is not the President, or for that matter the Prime Minister, of anything. One of the power struggles going on in Anglican land is the matter of just how the Anglican Consultative Council stands in relation to the other "instruments of unity," in terms of governance and program. As it stands the ACC is its own thing, but it finds its vision and call in the work not only of its own committees and leadership but the work of the Primates and the Lambeth Conference.
It is unclear just what authority the Primates have, but the chairing of the Primates Meetings is an issue. If the chair was somehow determined by a Standing Committee, or the ABC himself, and that process in turn agreed to by the member churches the standing of that chairperson might become more and more "presidential" in character. But there are those who are trying to get such a change in place. And sure as there are little green apples, there will be an attempt by any such chairperson / president of the Primates meeting to begin to be, well, presidential.
So which is it: the ACC and its Secretary General, or the Primates meeting becoming a Primates council with a president of its very own? Well, we've got one, the Secretary General. Why do we need to even think about a second? If the ABC says the job is too big (which it is) why not use the Secretary General not as a bureaucrat but as a spokes person out in the hustings? Why not indeed?
Those who can't stand the ACC's quasi-democratic leanings and the fact that it is not all that episcopal / primate oriented might go for a Primate's Council, or worse yet a Standing Committee, with a president other than the ABC, whose officer would take on other duties. The Standing Committee idea is in some ways even worse than the Primate's council idea. The President of a Standing Committee, other than the ABC, acting as the second presence of the whole Communion would be an invitation to a coup.
Either way, it is a long trip from the ACC.
Anglican Land does not need a presidential figure, or even a prime minister figure. It needs a Secretary General who is given a wider latitude to speak for the Communion by way of the ACC. At least then there is some relationship between his statements and the only organization with charter that we have.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on the action at the ACC. They may not be talking about a president, but they are likely to be talking about spreading the wealth of duties in this next round with an new Archbishop of Canterbury.