Monday, August 23, 2010

Let's get this right

The ACI has made a helpful suggestion about the body which is key to the effectiveness of the Covenant, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. This is the introduction to their essay:

"As we have noted several times in recent months, the final text of the Anglican Covenant assigns important tasks defined in Section 4 to a committee designated the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.” There is currently no committee in the Anglican Communion bearing that title or capable of performing those tasks. The ACC standing committee was briefly referred to by the Section 4 title, but that name was not given it by the ACC. In any case in July 2010 the standing committee of the new company intended to replace the former ACC, noting objections to the title, agreed that it would be known simply as the standing committee.

Moreover, the ACC committee cannot fulfill the role defined by the Covenant, which makes the Section 4 committee “responsible to” both the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC, in the case of the latter as it was defined by its former constitution. Under the ACC’s new corporate arrangement, the members of its standing committee now comprise the entire membership and management of the ACC for legal purposes. Nor is there any meaningful way in which that committee could be said to be responsible to the Primates’ Meeting as contemplated by the Covenant."

Read it all here.


Suem said...

I haven't really kept abreast of Anglican Covenant matters since that spate of resignations awhile back, Peter. It looks like it is falling apart a bit ( though that might just be my perception.) How much life does it have, do you think? Will it be workable?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I think it is 50:50 whether the Covenant will become an effective, working document in the life of the Communion.

Andrew Reid said...

The ACI ought to be renamed the CSI - they're pretty forensic in their examination of Communion matters!

While I agree with their assertion that the current Standing Committee is unsuitable for covenant oversight, I'm not sure we should establish yet another committee for oversight. Why not do as Stephen Noll suggests, and simply make the Primates Council responsible for covenant oversight? It is bishops who are responsible for discipline and doctrine in the Anglican system, not synods or committees. See it argued in full here.

He also argues for other changes to the covenant text, which would need a coordinated approach from at least the Global South and GAFCON movement to gain traction. However, given the chicanery (look, I used your new favourite word in a sentence, Peter!) at ACC-14 around adoption of Section 4, I think they would be quite within their rights to insist on a revision of the Covenant Text, that they could then sign up to.

Peter Carrell said...

I agree that the Primates Council would be a good way to go!

Howard Pilgrim said...

Really, Peter? When you write, "I agree that the Primates Council would be a good way to go!" it leaves me wondering how far your agreement with Andrew reaches. He bases his preference on a conviction that "all matters discipline and doctrine should be decided by bishops, not synods or committees", which he takes to be "the Anglican system". Do you share his view of Anglican history and ideology?

In particular, how does this leave you feeling when you take part in diocesan and provincial synods? Is our established way of doing things in ACANZP really just a second-best, unhappy compromise with the essentially disordered desires of laity and clergy to have a say in the governance of our church? Is all our current strife just the sort of disorder that arises whenever we lose our godly submission to bishops?

One bishop - good
Many bishops - better
Many Primates - best of all!
(All others - remain silent, like good children)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
My willingness to support the Primates Meeting of the Anglican Communion as the key body for any discipline associated with the Covenant is a recognition that some body or council or committee needs to be named; it is simpler to work with an existing body or council or committee than to create a new one (given the crazy state of Anglican life whereby we have no grand synod of the Anglican Communion to determine anything such as a constitution and code of canons for the Communion). I trust the primates to represent well the episcopal, clerical and lay houses of their respective churches.

I would want to keep open a nuanced view of how discipline and doctrine works in Anglican churches in respect of bishops and synods, but it may be worth remembering that in the church you and I know best, (1) no changes to doctrine can occur without the say so of bishops, (2) bishops are specifically charged in their ordinations with upholding the doctrine of the church (and to ensure that we trust them to do this well, we give the whole church, via General Synod members, the opportunity to veto any nomination to the bench of bishops), (3) bishops, ultimately, have a dominant role in the determination of discipline in our church according to Title D.