Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This plea for clemency does not work

Two days ago I said the ACC should be abolished. This post by Chris Sugden on Anglican Mainstream is worth reproducing in full since it includes apologia for the confusing process of debate re the Covenant by its outgoing Chairman (and Anglican down under) Bishop John Paterson of Auckland.

"Today the outgoing chairman of ACC, the incoming chairman and their legal adviser admitted that the ACC had no formal procedures for debate in order to facilitate open conversation. “A great weight is placed on the chairman” said Mr John Rees their legal adviser. “The chairman has extensive powers for steering the debate”.

It was noteworthy that the legal adviser came to the press conference unannounced to deal with any questions that arose about procedures. Most of the questions from the press, starting with the Episcopal News Service were on the matter of procedures.

The chairman, Bishop John Paterson, admitted that the significant amendment with the key clauses that delayed the covenant, was initially resisted by him when it was at last put. However “ The president came to my rescue, “ he said. “He had foreshadowed that parts of it might be placed in the resolution. He sensed what he felt might have been the view of the meeting.”

Bishop Tengatenga, the incoming chairman, said that “people want to look at different resolutions differently. Sometimes take them clause by clause, and at other times they take the whole thing.”

Bishop Paterson indicated that some of the criticism had come from people who had viewed the meeting on TV but had not been in the room at the time.

Bishop Paterson was asked how as chair he could have made the debate less confusing.

“ I tried to be as fair as possible by being measured and slow. With the benefit of hindsight I could have been more deliberate and slow. The council is made up of intelligent people. They knew what they were voting on . My style of chairmanship allows them to ask questions of me and they did not.”

Asked how he would direct matters differently, Bishop James Tengatenga answered that ”One learns from what one sees. One of the problems we see ourselves is that when there are different resolutions we have a different process. People want to look at different resolutions differently. Sometimes it takes items clause by clause, and at others we take whole thing.”

John Rees as legal adviser said there was a simple solution: “that ACC develops a large body of standing orders. In a multi-lingual cross-cultural assembly it is difficult if we have a big body of standing orders. We have moved away from that in response to lot of criticism that the process was western parliamentary dominated.”

One can only reflect, that when there is no clear procedure, the door is open for the arbitrary use of power. That does not empower people, since they have no access to appeal to what all have agreed on. In this case, when the chairman sought to follow the normal rules of procedure he was trumped by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The question remains: what confidence can the Anglican Communion have in a body where those who come to make decisions have no given ground rules for how those debates and decisions are going to be conducted ahead of time, but rather are dependent entirely on the will of the chairman and above him of the president to interpret their mind?"

Chris Sugden is right. We can have no confidence in a body which constitutes an 'Instrument of Unity' for our Communion but has inadequate procedures for ensuring that the 'mind of the Communion' is represented through its decisions. If we have no confidence in the ACC it should be abolished ... or, so radically overhauled that it becomes a different body!

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