The question of the “seat” on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. (revised)

(The primary correction is that Bishop Douglas has resigned Executive Council. He will at some point not be the ACC clergy member from The Episcopal Church, but when is still in question.)

The Church of England Newspaper, one of several church wide newspapers for (but not of) the C of E, has just published an article by George Conger titled, “Row looms over ‘vacant’ ACC seat.” (This was posted yesterday, Sunday May 16)

It concerns the issues surrounding the fact that Dr. Ian Douglas has become Bishop Ian Douglas (much to the delight of many of his friends.) In the move from one state to another (ontological or otherwise) he will have to relinquish his seat as The Episcopal Church clergy member of the Anglican Consultative Council.

t the same time the bishop member position has come open. We may assume that at the next meeting of the Executive Council in June Bishop Douglas will be nominated (perhaps along with others) to take that seat on ACC. Someone will be elected then and take the place of Bishop Catherine Roskam whose term is now complete. A clergy person will also be elected to the ACC.

At the ACC meeting in Jamaica last year Bishop Douglas was elected by ACC itself to be a member of the Standing Committee, sometimes called the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and sometimes the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

This Standing Committee (without the phrase “Anglican Communion” or “Joint” is described in the Constitution of the ACC (section 7 of the Constitution) having 14 members, which will include the five members of the Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting, the Chair and Vice Chair of ACC, and members elected from the ACC.

The issue that has been raised is whether or not Bishop Douglas has, because he has resigned from Executive Council and no longer will have the position as TEC Clergy member o
f ACC and has not yet been elected by Executive Council to any other position as part of the TEC membership on ACC, forfeited his position on the Standing Committee.

What is at stake is not Bishop Douglas, who by every measure is well liked and appreciated by a wide range of Anglican leaders around the world. What is up for grabs is the shift in makeup of the Standing Committee, the group tasked, under the proposed Anglican Covenant, with review and recommendations of matters that challenge the common life of the Communion. The Global South Encounter participants do not like the Standing Committee idea, but given that it is a reality, they really don’t like that it seems weighed in favor of the West/ North. What is at stake is the future composition of the Standing Committee.

At this point a careful reading of the ACC Constitution and bylaws is perhaps in order.

Members of ACC from the various churches are chosen
by their own churches. “Members shall be appointed as provincial, national or regional machinery provides.” … “Any appointment of a member or alternate member may be revoked by the body that made the appointment.” (Constitution 3.b)

Bishop Douglas announced his resignation from Executive Council and will have to vacate the ACC position as clerical member from TEC. Tenure on ACC begins with the next meeting of ACC following election, so it was felt that election for his replacement could wait until such time as Dr. Douglas was in fact bishop, i.e. until the June meeting of Council. At that time the Council can as well elect a bishop to the ACC.

It is entirely in order that Bishop Douglas both resign from the one seat and be nominated for the other. The period between ACC meetings is precisely the time for this to happen.

But what does the Constitution of ACC say about membership on the Standing Committee? The answer is, very little. And what it says is sometimes obscure.

It appears that membership on the Standing Committee requires three things:
(i) That members be drawn from the “schedule” of membership in the ACC, which includes five members of the Primates: (Constitution 7a) “The Council shall appoint a Standing Committee of fourteen members which shall include the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Council, and the members listed in category (e) to the Schedule to the Constitution. The Secretary General shall be Secretary of the Standing Committee.”

(ii) Members then are currently serving members of ACC. (By Laws 2f) “Members of the Standing Committee shall hold office from the end of the Council meeting at which they are appointed until the end of the last ordinary Council meeting which they would be entitled to attend but subject to earlier termination in the event that such elected member shall for any rea
son cease to be a member of the Council.”
(iii) The conditions under which a person ceases to be a member of council seem to include: (a) the Appointing Church (for example TEC) rescinds the appointment, (b) the person resigns from the ACC for personal reasons, (c) the person resigns or is asked to resign because no longer belongs to the class of persons for which the seat is held (i.e., he or she becomes a member of another class) and (d) “retirement from ecclesiastical office.” This last item, taken from the Constitution (4d) is most peculiar in that it is interpreted as meaning ‘giving up’ one order of ministry for another, or ceasing to be of whatever order one is in, or who has ceased to be active in order. Apparently this would cover someone who resigned from ministry as a bishop, or ceased to hold any ecclesiastical office as a clergy person. It is unclear how this would apply to Bishop Douglas who has in no way retired from ecclesiastical office (whatever that means.) Lay members seemingly are exempt from this rule.

Bishop Douglas falls into “c,” because he will need to resign from ACC
because no longer “clergy” as understood in the Constitution. But because appointment to the ACC takes place in the “gap” between the last meeting a person served and the first meeting a new person serves, there are times when a person moving from one order to another, could be a candidate for a second position in the new order to which he or she is a member. But for a brief time (in this case four months) that person is not by some readings strictly a member of ACC. Apparently nothing quite like this was envisioned as a possibility in the Constitution.

The question is, does this odd situation make that person no longer eligible to continue as a member of the Standing Committee.
The intent seems clear: Members of the Standing Committee are members of the ACC.
ACC membership is determined by appointment by the various churches according to the schedule of the ACC Constitution.

Here the phrase from the Constitution is important. Persons serve on the Standing Committee “…subject to earlier termination in the event that such elected member shall for any reason cease to be a member of the Council.”

Knowing the circumstances under which Bishop Douglas rightly must resign his current seat on ACC, and provided he is elected to fill the Episcopal seat from TEC, and provided the Standing Committee and the ACC have neither one met, it would appear that TEC would then have essentially reconfirmed his membership on ACC and established a continuity of service on his part to the wider work of the Anglican Communion. My guess is that something like this reasoning will prevail.

It may be of course that Bishop Douglas is not elected by Executive Council to serve as bishop member of TEC on ACC. In which case there is no issue.

But assuming that he will be so elected, (and I hope that is the case) it seems to me the Chair of the Standing Committee could either rule him a continuing member of the Standing Committee, whose chair on ACC was changed; could declare the position held now vacant to be filled by
election at the next meeting of ACC; or could appoint someone (perhaps Bishop Douglas) to fill the vacancy. So much for reasoned possibilities.

The struggle, as I suggested before, has to do with the composition of the Standing Committee, the strong dislike of the Standing Committee by the Global South Encounter and the GAFCON Primates, and (given that there is such a Committee) the desire to change its membership. (Drawing to the left is the work of Adrian Worsfold whose comments on the situation can be read HERE.)

The current membership of the Standing Committee is as follows:

· Archbishop Rowan Williams of England (chair)

· Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia
· Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda
· Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church
· Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales
· Bishop James Tengatenga of Central Africa (ACC chair)
· Canon Elizabeth Paver of England (ACC vice chair)
· The Rev. Ian Douglas of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church
· Anthony Fitchett of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

· Dato Stanley Isaacs of the Province of South East Asia

· Bishop Azad Marshall of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East
· Philippa Amable of West Africa
· Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe of Ceylon

The Global South would like nothing better than to kick the Presiding Bishop off the Standing Committee, along with The Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion, but that would have to be later. For now, it appears, the object is to kick Bishop Douglas off.

Mr. Conger in his article wastes no time in describing the issue as a “battle,” and a “fight.” The backdrop for the struggle at hand, he suggests, is the ongoing criticism of the current Anglican Communion structures, staff and rules leveled by the leaders of the Global South to South Encounter #4. If there is a battle (and news hounds are always looking for a fight), it has nothing to do with the spirit of the law, but with finding the most useful narrow definition of matters such that Bishop Douglas, if elected to serve on ACC as a bishop, will find himself no longer on the Standing Committee.

If Bishop Douglas is elected as Bishop from TEC to ACC, and is understood to continue on the Standing Committee, then the Global South will have no gain from their chasing after the narrow read of a not very clear Constitution.
If the narrow spirit prevails, which I doubt it will, then it will behoove the next Anglican Consultative Council to elect him again as a representative from the ACC to the Standing Committee. They did so last time with clear majority support.

Bishop Douglas is too good a mind and spirit to waste.


  1. "The issue that has been raised is whether or not Bishop Douglas has, because he has resigned his position as TEC Clergy member of ACC and has not yet been elected by Executive Council to any other position as part of the TEC membership on ACC, forfeited his position on the Standing Committee." -- thanks for breaking this news. I'm not sure this has been stated in the public record. Many assumed Douglas was claiming he was STILL a member of the ACC. Can you tell us when he resigned?
    James in SC

  2. PS--I wonder if anyone beyond the Exec Council knew of this resignation? Did +Tengatenga, for example?
    J of SC

  3. As a brand new bishop of a significant diocese, I don't think it's wise for Ian to take on the monumental task of serving on the ACC at this time. To do so - at this time - would be unwise for his episcopacy and new responsibilities.


  4. "The issue that has been raised is whether or not Bishop Douglas has, because he has resigned from Executive Council and no longer will have the position as TEC Clergy member of ACC and has not yet been elected by Executive Council to any other position as part of the TEC membership on ACC, forfeited his position on the Standing Committee."

    Why has this been changed and how does it really alter anything? If he 'no longer has the position as TEC clergy member of the ACC' (revised version) then has he not effectively 'resigned his position as TEC clergy member' (original)? Is this semantics or is something being sought here?
    James in SC

  5. James in SC. I am afraid I condensed two things: Bishop Douglas did resign as a member of Executive Council. It is clear that he cannot at the next meeting of ACC be the TEC clergy member. It is unclear if he has resigned or when he will resign. I was in error to conflate the two. The ENS articles on Executive Council reflect his resignation at the close of the meeting as a member of Executive Council. Nothing is said about his position with ACC.

    Part of the problem is that ACC representation is only of importance when ACC meets. Between sessions of ACC there is apparently no great rush to effect a replacement.

    My apologies for having folded the two positions - on Executive Council and on ACC.

    I hope my revised remarks in the blog suffice to make the two offices distinct.

  6. If he cannot be at the next ACC meeting what is the point in saying he has not resigned... except to cover for something we have not been told about? I mean this with all respect. How is resignation something different than not being an ACC rep? If one is not an ACC rep, then one for all intents and purposes has resigned.
    James in SC

  7. Bishop Ian has such an encyclopedic knowledge and history of the ACC that to continue on the ACC would not have as much impact on him as it might on others. I trust he will be able to discern whether or not to continue... if elected!

  8. Ah, with these comments, the tempest in the teapot spills over - as a clergyperson in Connecticut, who voted for Bp. Ian, I see no reason why he should not continue on the international stage. After all, we knew this about him when we elected him, in only two ballots, the laity taking the lead in the first ballot.

  9. No surprise here that Baby Blue of Truro, ACNA would feel it "unwise" for Bishop Douglas to take on the ACC (and presumably re-elected to its steering Committee) at this time. She is very politically astute. If the idea is to remove TEC from a presence on the committee, surely Ian's removal would help. Then, should the Archbishop of Canterbury choose not to invite ++Jefferts Schori to the primates meeting, the Steering Committee will be shy two TEC supporting votes. This may give its remaining right leaning members enough clout to suspend TEC from membership (as TEC voluntarily removed itself from voice and vote three years ago), and, again while TEC lacks voice and vote, influence the ACC to remove it permanently from the Anglican Communion? My memory may be right or wrong on this, but I believe that the new Ridley draft includes provision for such "suspension" during inquiry? EmilyH

  10. Emily, that was five years ago, 2005 in Nottingham, UK. How time flies when we are having fun!

    Yes, I picked up on whose opinion it was that +Ian was getting too much on his plate. Not anyone that has had anything good to say regarding TEC, so a very suspect opinion offered.


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.