Monday, May 11, 2009

When an Instrument of Unity is not united, should it be scrapped?

It is now time to abolish the ACC. Whatever the events of the last few days have revealed about who did what in the excruciating debates and voting over resolutions concerning the Covenant they have revealed that the ACC is not competent to 'indifferently minister justice'. Whether this is through conspiracy or cock up (as Chris Sugden puts it in a very diplomatic way), or money of a certain currency talking louder than sense, including the sense of where other Instruments of Unity had been leading the Communion, matters little. The body is out of sync with the mind and mood of the Communion. There will be repercussions.

And the Archbishop of Canterbury, an Instrument of Unity, himself now seems disunited on the Covenant. I suspect his interventions in the debates of the last day of ACC were well-intentioned, and, under pressure of the moment, not properly expressive of his united and determined commitment to the Covenant. But he now has to reclaim his reputation on the matter.

If the ACC were to be abolished what would replace it? One possibility is nothing. There are other Instruments of Unity. Lambeth, for instance, could meet more often (but for shorter length, spouses only coming every second meeting, etc). Another possibility is an Anglican General Council that is truly representative of the Communion. One weakness of the ACC is that it has variance in its representation relative to the shape and size of member churches of the Communion. Some churches send a representative from each of its synodical houses, some do not. Tiny Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia had three 'normal' representives (bishop, clergy, lay) plus a co-opted member. Its four members trumped three from mighty Nigeria! But even with four members of ACC our church had neither Polynesian nor woman nor conservative representation among the four!

Can anything be salvaged from the debacle? I think so, but it will require tremendous good will on all sides. As I understand the effect of the decision made about the Covenant, one section was not satisfactory, and has been referred on for further work. Committees do that sort of thing all the time with reports from other committees. It need not be a big deal. But what is a big deal is whether or not this next stage in the process will be seen to be the indifferent ministering of justice or subject to the partiality of politics. It is also going to be a very big deal whether some other part of Anglican Communion process can offer a welcome to ACNA and to those dioceses in member churches who want to sign up to the Covenant when their own church does not.

There is still everything to play for, but some of the players are injured. Whatever the result, the ACC should be taken out of the game.

Postscript: if you think I am being a bit tough on the ACC, or miscalling the situation in the final session, note this criticism from the ACI, one of the most vigorous supporters of the Anglican Communion from within the ranks of TEC:

'Friday’s session of the Anglican Consultative Council is an embarrassment to Anglicans everywhere, and a sad display of procedural confusion ... These events unfolded live on Anglican TV to people watching around the world. It is beyond question that these procedures were improper, confusing and manipulative. The credibility of the ACC, already questioned by the Communion’s own advisory groups, has suffered lasting damage.' Read the whole article here.


Anonymous said...


You do not give sufficient credit to the intelligence of those who make up ACC, the way that they are master of their own process, and - just because the vote did not go your way - the acknowledgement that people knew what they were voting for (or please find sufficient members stating "I did not know what I was voting for" to support your case).

There is common reference to "Instruments of Unity" - but you may need to remind your readers that in your church ACANZP, other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, these have no canonical status and are not even mentioned. Your constitution has ACANZP a member of the Anglican Communion which it defines as those in "communion with the See of Canterbury". You will be aware that what you call "mighty Nigeria" does not even include him in their constitution!

You will also be aware that the property, stipends, etc. of ACANZP are tied to "who is actually Anglican" by your Empowering Act to those who keep to the Formularies. Because everyone is playing pretty nicely together in ACANZP there are no court cases about this. But should these ensue you also know that not even your bishop's stipend would be safe!

Your encouragement and determination to have people outside ACANZP, in fact even outside New Zealand, determine "who is actually Anglican" and to have the possibility that even different bodies in the same place both be "Anglican" has lawyers everywhere sharpening their charge-every-six-minutes-and-part-thereof pencils! Just to alter your constitution and your Empowering Act to incorporate your determination will be very costly.

Had your scenario been not many years ago, with ACANZP loose morals, women priests and bishops, divorce etc. the small continuing Nelson Anglican church you write of would long ago have ended up with all Anglican property and stipends.

So if anyone is following your lead - I suggest a large "Carrell Fund" be started by your General Synod to pay for the lawyer fees.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
You need have no concern about people following my lead. They rarely do, and the ones that do so are few and far between.