19/06/2012

Something strange in the woodshed

The picture is intriguingly entitled
Anglican_Communion_corrected. By whom?
Some funny things are going on in relation to the Covenant.  I guess they reflect divided attitudes amongst those who might regard themselves as 'players' in this particular game.

1) The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion
The first was the announcement by the SCAC that there was now "no timeframe" for the adoption of the Covenant:
The Standing Committee received an update on the progress of the Anglican Communion Covenant. It was noted that eight Provinces had endorsed the Covenant to date, in some cases with a degree of qualification. They were the only responses received so far by the Secretary General. The committee also noted that the President, Chair, and Vice-Chair all hold their offices other than as representatives of their Provinces. 
There was general agreement that no timeframe should yet be introduced for the process of adoption of the Covenant by Provinces. The Standing Committee will return to this question following ACC-15. Press Release
While it was entirely understandable that the Church of England should not yet have informed the  Secretary General of the result of its deliberations on the issue, has not the Province of the Philippines told him that they have rejected the Covenant, or did he just forget to mention it?

"No timeframe" and "following ACC-15" keep options open. Drexel Gomez' drumbeat of 'urgent, urgent' has clearly been ignored. Instead an open-ended process would allow the Anglican Consultative Council to kill the Covenant if enough members wished to do so. Alternatively it would allow one province after another to sign up till those who had initially declined to do so became overwhelmed by its popularity and conceded.


Conditional trusteeship of the Anglican Communion?
The reference to the standing of ex-officio members of the Standing Committee strongly suggests a worried conversation on the lines of 'what is the role of members of the Standing Committee who represent provinces which have not signed the covenant?' (Which could easily be 5 out of 11 elected members.)


My understanding of English charity law (which governs the Committee) is that it is pretty straightforward: as trustees they must all act in the best interests of the charity and not of any nominating or electing body; they cannot be excluded from decision making (except in cases of conflict of interest) nor delegate their responsibilities to others. Some could, of course, voluntarily step back from certain questions or decisions. 


But this would result in the farcical position of overlapping layers of decision making within the governing body of the Communion. Once again, the Covenant would be a source of visible disunity in the Anglican Church.


2) GS1878: report by the Business Committee on the reference [of the Covenant] to the dioceses


GS1878 is a masterclass in hints and insinuation in an objective report. Having noted the defeat of the Covenant under the rules, it says,

6) ... For the record, there is nothing in the Synod’s Constitution or Standing Orders that would preclude the process being started over again, whether in the lifetime of this Synod or subsequently, by another draft Instrument to the same effect being brought forward for consideration by the General Synod before being referred to the dioceses under Article 8. The Business Committee is not, however, aware of a proposal to re-start the process in this way.

General Synod in session
Now why would you comment on a matter which has not been proposed? 


I don't doubt the first sentence is factually correct but I wonder whether this paragraph was included in any earlier report on a defeated Article 8 business. It sounds like a snub to those who confidently stated that that the matter cannot be brought back to Synod before 2015. But even if this is not absolutely and constitutionally correct it is certainly politically impossible to bring the issue back in this Synod: so to whom is this hint directed?


More worrying is the extended discussion on the votes. While, again, I'm sure it's accurate in every detail it is completely irrelevant. Its sole purpose seems to be to obfuscate the result and imply that the vote is in some way unreliable. 


Whether by intent or not, the discussion is undermining of synodical government. In the 18 years' debate which led to the creation of General Synod the repeated refrain was: 'the Church is not a democracy'. Voting by houses and dioceses was an expression of the synodical character of the government of the Church of England. It deliberately avoided making individuals the constituent element of church government (as, for instance, did the refusal to give all lay members a vote for their representatives in General Synod).


Thus the CofE's governance does not ask, are a majority of members or their representatives content with a proposal, it asks: are a majority of local synods content? And they were not.


Yet now we are told that if a few individuals here or there changed their mind or their diocese the result could have been quite different (paras. 8&9). Correct, I'm sure, but so what? Members voted the way they voted, synods divided accordingly and the motion was lost. 


The only 'so what?' I can think of which might justify the Business Committee endorsing such a report is that they were thoroughly brassed off with the result. If this isn't an abuse of process it is certainly playing fast and loose with the interpretation of the result.



6 comments:

  1. The map was probably corrected by me. When the original map came out and was sent to us by Southwark Diocese, the Episcopal Church dioceses of northern South America (Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador), Haiti, and Taiwan were coloured as if they were not part of the Anglican Communion. When I presented the Covenant to several Deanery Synods, I had to point out that the map provided was incorrect and that, in fact, Haiti was the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church by population. I complained to the Deputy Diocesan Secretary about it, but the map wasn't corrected here. I suspect that someone from the Diocesan Office contacted the people who constructed it and they corrected it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris,

    Wonderful - thank you. It was the ambiguity of the title - whether the map or the Communion itself which had been corrected - that I particularly enjoyed. Now I also enjoy your account which implies - both.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Is obfuscation counted as bearing false witness? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Grandmère I believe yu are suffering from what one of your countrymen described as a 'terminological inexactitude'.

    ReplyDelete
  5. theme, I believe it was your countryman who coined the phrase.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think there are lots of Anglicans in South America however only few thousand (real ones)in the Province of the Southern Conealone.

    Leonardo Ricardo, Guatemala

    ReplyDelete