A proposal from Dato' Stanley Isaacs that The Episcopal Church be separated from the Communion led to a discussion in which Committee members acknowledged the anxieties felt in parts of the Communion about sexuality issues. Nevertheless, the overwhelming opinion was that separation would inhibit dialogue on this and other issues among Communion Provinces, dioceses and individuals and would therefore be unhelpful. The proposal was not passed, and the group agreed to defer further discussion until progress on Continuing Indaba project had been considered.Dato' Stanley Isaacs is a Malaysian attorney, and one of four lay persons serving on the fifteen-person Committee. The next meeting of the ACC will be his last, because he has already served at the two previous meetings. The fact that his motion did not pass is a reflection of the composition of the Committee, as discussed in this earlier post. Its membership now comes largely from ECUSA and those provinces sympathetic to it.
Canon Kearon, the Secretary-General of the ACC, delivered a verbal report which closed with the following remarks:
He concluded by noting that the credibility of the Primates' Meeting and the ACC was being openly questioned by some and this criticism was increasingly focused on the Standing Committee itself. Chair Bp James Tengatenga stressed it was important for everyone to remember that ACC members were elected and sent by their own Provinces and Synods and represented a very wide spectrum of views across the world. Vice Chair Canon Elizabeth Paver said the Committee needed to respond to criticisms "positively and robustly", welcomed the appointment of the ACO's new Director for Communications and said that improved communication and openness would promote trust and better understanding of the work of the Instruments.Bishop Tengatenga would seem to be unaware of the problem Canon Kearon identified. The problem is not that the (non-Primate) members of the "Standing Committee" are each elected by their respective Provinces; it is, as I documented in this earlier post, the the current membership of the Committee reflects only a minority of those provinces, with no representatives from the major provinces of the Global South. A full one-third of its fifteen members come just from ECUSA, the Church of England, and the Church of Wales (whose archbishop previously announced his intention to ignore Lambeth Resolution 1.10 from 1998).
However, moves appear to be afoot to alter further the structure of the ACC and its "Standing Committee" significantly in the coming years. First, the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated that he would like to see some changes:
Archbishop Rowan Williams questioned whether the ACC's committee structure was appropriate for this new century. He said questions needed asking about whether revised Instrument structures were required to better foster the relationship-building parts of the Communion's life, "so when it comes to looking at the complex questions of the Communion we have a better foundation upon which to build."Moreover, it appears that the ACC is finally getting around to dealing with the 2009 request made by the Primates to give them a majority of eight positions on the fifteen-member Committee, instead of the current five (however, see the Note below -- it would appear that the "Standing Committee" [inadvertently? deliberately?] changed the Primates' proposal somewhat):
Later in the meeting, the Committee asked a small group of Standing Committee members to prepare a proposal for ACC-15 on undertaking a strategic review and planning process relating to ACC membership and meetings and Standing Committee structure and operation.
After extensive discussion on the Primates' Meeting 2009 request to increase its Standing Committee membership from five to eight, the Standing Committee:(And don't forget that the ACC passed a resolution at ACC-14 asking the Primates to "include an equal number of non-Primatial members of the Standing Committee as non-voting participants in the Primates' Meeting." If that happens, we would see a gradual fusing of the two bodies over time.)
1. noted the request from the Primates' Meeting 2009 to increase from 5 to 8 the number of Primates on the Standing Committee
2. affirmed that the proper body to make a decision about this request is the ACC
3. without expressing a view for or against the request asked the Legal Adviser to draft constitutional changes to implement the following structure for the Standing Committee for consideration at the next Standing Committee meeting and eventually by ACC-15: The President, the Chairperson, the Vice-chairperson, 8 Primates, 8 other Trustee-members (non-Primates) [Ed.: Note that this proposal would increase the number of Trustee-Members from 15 to 19, so that the 8 Primates plus the ABC would not be a majority unless the Chair or the Vice Chair were also a Primate, whereas if they were both clergy-laity, then the Primates would be in a minority.]
4. requested the Finance and Administration Committee to advise on the financial implications of this proposal.
Who is really running this show? There is no question that the Primates are gradually bringing their weight to bear against the structure of the ACC, using as a lever the change in its status from a public charity to a private limited company, as detailed in this post. Nevertheless, to understand what is really going on, one has to go a little behind the scenes. For it must be said: both the "Standing Committee" and its legal adviser, the (honorary) Canon John Rees, have lost a good deal of their credibility as a result of the seating of the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas as one of its members.
At Jamaica in May 2009, it was Canon Rees and the (then) Joint Standing Committee who, meeting a day in advance of the start of ACC-14 itself, declared that they had ruled that the Rev. J. Philip Ashey was not "qualified" to serve as an alternate representative of the Province of Uganda, because although canonically resident in Uganda, he was physically resident in the United States, and thus was violating the moratorium against border-crossing. Sources informed us at the time that the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori argued vehemently against allowing him to be seated, and her views prevailed in the Committee.
After one of the sessions at ACC-14, Canon Rees participated in a press conference, where he gave some background to the impending constitutional changes for the ACC, and answered questions from the floor. There is an .mp3 file of the session which may be listened to or downloaded from this page. The first question addressed to Canon Rees had to do with the interpretation which the JSC had given to the word "qualified" so as to refuse to seat the Rev. Ashey, and he was asked whether anything would be different under the new constitutional structure.
If you listen to his response (beginning at about 07:30), you will hear Canon Rees first point out that the same language about a "qualified" representative appears in the new articles. He goes on to say that nothing in the new provisions should cause any change in the interpretation of the word "qualified":
The Joint Standing Committee, meeting and making that decision, if it were faced with the same decision again, I would imagine would approach it on the same sort of basis: and the basis, the underlying basis, must be that . . . as charity trustees, they have an overriding duty to see that the overall purposes of the charity are sustained, and so if a decision is being made which appeared to be undermining the arrangements for the charity generally, then I would expect them to approach it the same way on another occasion.Except that, this time, in the case of Bishop Douglas, who is in continuing violation of the moratorium against allowing same-sex blessings in his diocese, Canon Rees advised the Committee that it could seat him, nonetheless. One sees clearly by this decision who controls the "Standing Committee", and just whom Canon Rees is really serving with his "advice."
To claim that seating a representative who was engaged in "border-crossing" would undermine "the arrangements for the [ACC] generally," thereby triggering the duty of the Trustee-Members to take action to prevent it, while now seating, as one of the very Trustee-Members of the ACC, a representative who sanctions the blessing of same-sex unions by the clergy under his pastoral directions, is another of those hypocritical acts which is the hallmark of those who lean to the left. In their mind, there is no hypocrisy. For in the first instance, the Committee acted to block a representative who was inimical to the views of its majority, while in the second instance, it upheld the status of one who espouses those views.
The high-minded appeal to the "arrangements for the ACC generally" is just so much legal salad-dressing. It makes palatable what would otherwise taste raw and crude, and stick in one's throat. But it has nothing to do with what we are being asked to swallow.