Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shine, Perishing Communion

Confused about what happened in Jamaica with the Anglican Consultative Council? You are not the only one. Even the ECUSA camp couldn't get its signals straight. At first The Lead at Episcopal Café put up a piece headlined "Despite TEC Setback, controversial Section IV is still in play", only to supersede that post six hours later with one entitled: "Confusion reigns as ACC delays Covenant release." Similar confusion was evident all over the blogosphere, mixed in with sentiments of betrayal, resentment, and outrage at being deceived, or relief, indifference, exuberance, and even assurance that nothing is wrong, depending on the camp from which one hailed. In this post, I will try to piece together an accurate account of what actually happened, and then will try to assess its significance at the end.

I have written before about the character of the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a "peace negotiator"--- one who, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser,
pursues a theology that refuses to accept that a disagreement can ever reach a point where there is no benefit to be gained from further conversation. . . .

. . . Put a different way, it is a refusal to accept that two seemingly irreconcilable positions are indeed irreconcilable. The mediator is the supreme pragmatist, employing all the philosophical strategies up his or her sleeve to keep opponents round the table, to keep them talking.
Last Friday, as the Anglican Consultative Council met in Jamaica to take up the proposed Anglican Covenant, Dr. Williams ran out of strategies. In an effort to keep the 800-pound gorilla at the table, he managed to confound the delegates from the Global South to the point that they will probably never again return to the table---at least, not all of them.

Session Fourteen of the ACC got off to a bad start when Dr. Williams allowed ECUSA's Presiding Bishop to object to the seating of one of the Anglican Church of Uganda's chosen alternates, the Rev. Phil Ashey, on the ground that he was actually based in America, and hence was guilty of "border-crossing" after the Bishop of Virginia had deposed him. The Rev. Ashey's credentials had initially passed muster with the ACC's Secretary General, but after Bishop Schori raised a ruckus at a meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on May 1, Canon Kearon quickly reversed himself. (News of the action, however, remained undisclosed until the Archbishop of Uganda made his complaints public on May 4.)

Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury that Churches in the Communion have always been allowed to choose their own representatives to the ACC. In a press conference, the Secretary General explained the circular reasoning that lay behind Dr. Williams' refusal to overrule the decision not to seat the Rev. Ashey:

[Canon Kearon reported that a] lively discussion then took place over the definition of "qualified". There is no definition for what "qualified" would be in [Section 4 (e) of] the ACC Constitution, nor is there any definition of who would adjudicate who was qualified. In the light of such a gap, the Joint Standing Committee had determined that it was the body that would make such decisions.

Although no one was so crass as to mention it in public, it was decidedly convenient that Presiding Bishop Schori happened to be a member of the fifteen-person Joint Standing Committee, and along with her allies (or at least, the members that are unwilling to stand up to her) the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ACC's current Chair (the Rt. Rev. John Paterson of New Zealand) and Vice-Chair (Prof. George Koshy of South India), the Archbishop of Wales, the Archbishop of Australia, a lay representative from that Church (John Fordham), a lay representative from the Church of Southern Africa, and two other ACC members who (along with Prof. Koshy and Mr. Fordham from Australia) declared themselves as candidates to replace the retiring Chairperson, commanded a two-thirds majority on that Committee. So the circularity of the process escaped no one, and sounded an ominous note about who was really in control of the agenda.

During the same press conference, it emerged that ECUSA had designated one of its Bishops, the Rt. Rev. J. Mark Dyer, to continue as one of its representatives to the ACC-11 meeting in 1999 after he had resigned jurisdiction, in direct contravention of the ACC Constitution. (Section 4 [d] states: "Bishops and other clerical members shall cease to be members on retirement from ecclesiastical office.") When his qualification to serve was questioned, the response given by the ACC Secretary General at the time was that "each member Church is the judge of the qualifications of its delegates." Asked about the discrepancy between the ACC's current affront to the Anglican Church of Uganda and its earlier accommodation for ECUSA, Canon Kearon essentially replied: "That was then, and this is now." What he really meant, but could not say (and still keep his job) was: "That was America, this is Africa---different strokes for different folks." Again, the sheer hypocrisy of the maneuvering was obvious to all.

The deliberations of the ACC followed the by-now mandatory break-up into small-group discussions, combined with addresses to the group as a whole, with the result that too little time was left at the end for voting on the main business of the meeting. Combine the poorly designed schedule with the linguistic difficulties of achieving a consensus without a common tongue, and the potential for confusion and disorder was latent from the beginning. Finally, add to the mixture the tremendous range of inexperience and unfamiliarity with the sheer nastiness of inter-Anglican politics, and one sees that ACC-14 was badly in need of a strong and capable leadership---which brings us back to the "peace negotiator" mindset of Dr. Williams.

The philosophy of keeping opposites at the table for discussion as long as possible works only for so long as each side can see that the table is level. If it becomes apparent that it is being tilted to favor one of the two sides, the motive for continuing to stay at the table immediately ceases.

And thus it was to play out for Dr. Williams and his strategies. The difficulties finally became insurmountable on the final day of deliberations on the proposed Anglican Covenant. It was announced that the Resolutions Committee, made up of representatives from ECUSA and Scotland (who each would argue against immediate acceptance of the proposed Covenant), India, Ghana, and chaired by Dr. Anthony Fitchett of New Zealand (who also wanted to delay the Covenant), had prepared a resolution to accept the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group. However, the draft mentioned only the WCG's calls for continuing the "moratoria" on same-sex consecrations, on blessings of same-sex unions, and on border-crossing, without including also its exhortation to halt the current spate of lawsuits between those staying and those leaving. The omission of this item from the draft resolution favored ECUSA, which as I documented earlier, has overwhelmingly been the instigator of such lawsuits.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, sought to restore the integrity of the WCG recommendations by adding back in a reference to its call to cease litigation between Christians over church property. Unfortunately, his effort to do so came after the representatives had already voted on the first two paragraphs of the Resolution, and the substance of it may have been lost in the drive to move forward.

It turned out that his motion failed by just one vote. Had Uganda been there with its full delegation, then, the measure would have passed. Also, two of the delegates from India, who also might have voted for the Archbishop's proposal, had left the meeting early for family reasons. Finally, it became clear after the vote that some of the non-English-speaking representatives who ended up voting against it had done so based on a misunderstanding of just what the word "litigation" referenced; they did not understand it as calling for the cessation of litigation by all parties. Thus the defeat of Dr. Mouneer Anis' resolution was an unlucky happenstance which reflected the lack of time to explain and consider each proposal that came to the floor---a harbinger, as it turned out, of still worse confusion to come.

Things went only downhill from there. In the first place, there was no clear plan on how to present and to vote on the differing resolutions dealing with the Covenant that had been prepared by the Resolutions Committee. Three of its members, as I mentioned, favored putting off adoption of the entire Covenant at this meeting. Because of ECUSA's strong opposition to it, expressed in one of the small indaba groups, they wanted the ACC to send Part IV of the Covenant back for a rewrite before it would be presented to the churches of the Communion. They accordingly drafted a Resolution to accomplish this, and it was presented as "Resolution A":
The ACC:

a) resolves that section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft be detached from the Ridley Cambridge Draft for further consideration and work;
b) asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee;
c) resolves that the reconsidered Section 4 may, at the request of the JSC, be offered for adoption as an addendum to the Covenant text.
Simultaneously, in order to reflect the position favored by the great majority of the discussion groups, they presented a second Resolution, which they called "Resolution B":

The ACC:

a) thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;
b) recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;
c) asks the Secretary General to send the Ridley Cambridge draft, at this time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them;
d) asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant.
It should have been obvious that these resolutions were mutually incompatible, and could not both have passed. Therefore, proper parliamentary awareness should have required the Resolutions Committee to (a) decide upon the order in which the various parts of the Resolutions should have been taken up, and (b) in the process present a coherent choice between possible outcomes. For example, paragraphs (a) and (b) of Resolution B could have stood on their own, and been presented for approval at the very outset. Then the choice would have been between detaching section 4 or not, and a clear vote could have been taken which would decide which approach the group as a whole preferred to follow.

Instead, what the ACC representatives got was a parliamentary mishmash, by the end of which no one could follow what was happening. The chair first announced that voting would start on Resolution A, but then quickly reversed himself and presented the Windsor Continuation Group Resolution instead. They went through it paragraph by paragraph, and made a few changes which did not please the ECUSA crowd. (In the turf war of Anglican politics, only left-wing activists could offer such a fight over a change in just one word. As presented, the draft WCG Resolution read "the ACC . . . notes the recommendations of the WCG"; as amended and finally adopted after much debate pro and con, the language was: "the ACC . . . affirms the recommendations of the WCG.")

With little time left until luncheon, the chair then announced the meeting would take up Resolution A quoted above, based on an apparent decision by the Resolutions Committee to consider all of that measure before turning to any of Resolution B. The representatives lined up at the microphones, and the back-and-forth commenced over the effect of splitting off Part IV on the Covenant as a whole, and how it could be deliberated as a single document in the Communion if its last part was not in final form. One of the persons to take the floor was none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, who actually spoke against the proposed Resolution. According to his words as taken down by Robert Lundy of the American Anglican Council, live-blogging at Stand Firm, the Archbishop said:
I'm not persuaded that I can support this resolution as it stands. . . . I'm not sure that remitting this will get us forward . . . I appreciate the points that have been made so far and that provinces may not feel able to sign up if section 4 is in there . . . [but] I'm not persuaded to agree to this resolution . . . .
This was the first extraordinary intervention of the day by Dr. Williams---actually speaking against a resolution strongly pushed by ECUSA and its Presiding Bishop, because it would effectively kill further action on the Covenant by any of the member Churches until such time as the JSC, firmly under her control, would decide to release a Section IV that she could live with, or at least that she believed would have no teeth that could come back to bite ECUSA.

Such a stance, taken openly and publicly with Bishop Jefferts Schori staring right at him, may be the only real explanation for his equally extraordinary behavior that I shall describe later. For now, let us say that opposing the Presiding Bishop in front of all the ACC representatives may have cost him dearly, for it appears to have discombobulated him.

In an effort to regain some ground, the lay delegate Ms. Kate Turner of Ireland (a supporter of the Presiding Bishop's position) suggested "a small amendment" to paragraph (c) of Resolution A: to change the word "may" to "shall", so that it would be clear that any revised Section IV would indeed go out to the wider Communion following a rework by the JSC. This was an attempt to assure the delegates that the Covenant would not get bogged down in the JSC, and that a vote for Resolution A was not a vote to kill the Covenant. And now guess what happened: the Archbishop of Canterbury stood up and said he was in favor of Ms. Turner's amendment!

He did not say, and was not asked, whether with the change from "may" to shall", he could now "be persuaded" to vote for the amendment. It was a perfectly typical move by the "peace negotiator"---first indicate a position that sides with one of the opposing groups, then shortly afterward take a slightly contrary position to indicate that you also see some benefit in the views of the other side as well.

Confusion ensued as the representatives called for clarification: did the proposed amendment seek to change just the one word "may" to "shall", or did it also propose to remove the entire phrase "at the request of the Joint Standing Committee"? Its proponent, Ms. Turner, clarified that she wanted just to change the one word, and leave the rest of the paragraph intact.

More questions arose: "If we vote to adopt Resolution A, does that mean we will not get to consider Resolution B at all?" The Chair responded: "Resolution B will certainly come up for consideration no matter what the outcome with respect to Resolution A." This answer only added to the uncertainty of what was happening, and pointed up the confusion introduced by the failure to present a properly ordered set of measures for voting. After considerable further discussion back and forth, Robert Lundy captured what happened next:
The Chair, [the Rt. Rev. John] Paterson [of New Zealand], explains . . . sort of . . . [The e]ffect of the current amendment [proposed by Ms. Turner] would require that [the] reconsidered [Section] 4 [would] be part of the covenant text. And clause (a) of [Resolution] A asks that [Section] 4 be detached [in order] to [make] this reconsideration [] possible.

They are voting for or against the amendment, but I'm not sure everyone knows what they are voting on.

[Canon Christopher] Sugden and I think that there will be some "ice-cream socials" over lunch . . . TEC knows they are gonna lose on [Resolution] A so they are moving to plan B . . .
This was, as it turned out, very prescient. The meeting adjourned for lunch, and the result of the vote on Ms. Turner's amendment was announced when everyone returned: the amendment passed, by a vote of 34 to 28, with three abstentions. (And this was the first effect on the voting caused by the vacillations of Dr. Williams; it was to have tremendous importance later, as we shall see.) Next, the Chair took up the question of whether to pass Resolution A as a whole, and as just amended. Mr. Abraham Yisa, the lay representative from Nigeria, spoke briefly against it, asserting that the Communion was "in a crisis", that it needed "to move forward", and that "as members of ACC-14 we should all be able to go back and say what we have done for the unity of the Anglican Communion."

Then another extraordinary thing happened. While the floor was open for debate pro and con on the amended Measure A, Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia (another ally of the Presiding Bishop) passed out among the representatives a sheet of paper with the text of a new resolution on it. Let Robert Lundy's live-blogging describe again how matters unfolded:
Aspinall, Australia: he is having a new resolution passed out to everyone - (why does he get to do that? )"Without taking a view one way or the other . . . I think we should just debate [this] Resolution C [which I am passing out], rather than debate the others because I think this will help us move faster. . . ."
. . .
(somthing sneaky is going on. Aspinall had this ready, had the support ready, and had the paper printed out...)

Someone else from Australia got up and spoke AGAINST Aspinall.

[Lay representative Stanley] Issacs [of the Province of Southeast Asia] just got up: "This is not helpful at all . . . . I don't see . . . we are going in circles . . . let us not play around. [Dr.] Aspinall, I thank you for your attempt . . . but I would now say, that we should respect the [Covenant Design Group's] formulation of that text . . . and that text that they gave in section four was worked on by people who have looked at all the responses. They have done the work . . . To appoint another committee to review their work is an act of disrespect . . . I would like to propose that Resolution A be put NOW to a vote. If that is carried then we would have to look at this next resolution.

Chair: [the Rt. Rev. John] Paterson says this amendment has to be debated now because it's an amendment . . . (But it's not an amendment to [Resolution] A, it's an amendment to C . . . .)

Woman, UK Delegate: this new resolution allows us to hear each other better . . .

Australian [representative---part of Archbishop Askinall's own delegation!] stands up to make a point of order about how we can't address [Resolution] C when we haven't addressed [Resolution] A . . . [The Chair, Bishop] Paterson says no deal[, this is a further amendment to Resolution A, and we will take it up now] . . . .

[Archbishop] Mouneer [Anis] says this is confusing . . .

[The Rev. Janet Trisk of the Anglican Church of] Southern Africa: Says she is confused but then goes on to explain to everyone: "This takes the debate about section 4 and the issues raised and puts them in C in a logical way . . ."

As Robert Lundy describes, the "amendment" (actually, a whole new Resolution) which the Rt. Rev. Dr. Philip Aspinall passed out in the middle of the debate on Resolution A was a deliberately orchestrated move to salvage a resolution which the ECUSA leadership and its supporters would have realized over lunch had no chance of passing. Taking advantage of the earlier discussion about voting on Resolution B no matter what happened to Resolution A, they quickly crafted a new Resolution which was an amalgam of the two, "Resolution C":
The ACC:

a) thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;

b) recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;

c) asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee;

d) asks the JSC, at that meeting, to approve a final form of Section 4;

e) asks the Secretary General to send the revised Ridley Cambridge draft, at that time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them;

f) asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant.
As you can see by comparing this text with those of the two earlier Resolutions, Resolution C incorporated the whole of Resolution B (with one crucial change I shall point out in a minute): paragraphs (a) and (b) remained the same, while paragraphs (c) and (d) were moved to the end and became paragraphs (e) and (f) of the new Resolution. In their place were substituted (as new paragraphs [c] and [d]) paragraphs (b) and (c) of Resolution A! This latter insertion required the one change in the text of Resolution B which I mentioned earlier: because the new language required Section IV of the proposed Covenant to be reworked by the JSC at its next meeting, the phrase "at this time" in paragraph (c) of former Resolution B became "at that time". In other words, sending back Part IV for reworking meant that consideration of the entire Covenant by the rest of the Communion would have to await its reworking and reissuance by the JSC following (hopefully) its next meeting in late 2009 or early 2010.

The problem with Resolution C as presented was that it was really an amendment to Resolution B, and not Resolution A. (While incorporating two paragraphs from the latter, it retained all the paragraphs of the former.) And Resolution B was still waiting to come up for a vote (as promised), after a vote had been taken on Resolution A, when the debate switched to Resolution C. There was no justification for the Chair's shortcutting of orderly parliamentary procedure, and certainly there was no justification on the basis that the Council was now taking up another "amendment" to Resolution A.

The confusion that reigned throughout the room with this maneuver is seen from the following remarks by the Chair and others taken down by Robert Lundy, with his simultaneous comments included (in parentheses):

Tanzania, Bishop [Mpango]: Brings up the problem with the process on this . . . says it's confusing.

Kate [Turner], Church of Ireland: I speak in favor of resolution C. It gives us the time to properly address section 4.

(They are trying to fudge this out)

[New Zealand's Anthony] Fitchett, in his capacity as rules man [parliamentarian]: "This is complicated because we're part way through discussing [Resolution] A . . . I'm interested in seeing the wording of the amendment we're discussing. . ." (he is confused about being confused)

[ACC Chair Bishop] Paterson: the purpose of [Resolution] C is to keep before us all of the original . . . the question before us is whether we wish to proceed . . . .
At this point, into the midst of all the confusion stepped the Archbishop of Canterbury, with his third extraordinary intervention of the day. As captured by Robert Lundy, what he said into the microphone was this: "The simple way of dealing with this is, having seen [Resolution] C . . . I think we should vote on [Resolution] A and then move to [Resolution C] . . .". To which Mr. Lundy added the following noteworthy comment:
(spirit of confusion here . . . btw . . . Bible says God is not the author of confusion)
And so it was done. Following Canterbury's lead, the Chair allowed the group to vote first on Resolution A, as previously amended by Ms. Turner (the vote was just 17 for, and 47 against, with one abstention [the ABC? one wonders]), and then---in the form of "Resolution C"---to take up again the very language it had just voted down in Resolution A!

In the ensuing confusion, it was not immediately apparent to everyone, including the live-bloggers and those watching on Anglican TV, that this is what was happening. It is only following the final result, discussed below, that one realizes that while Canon Sugden and Robert Lundy (and perhaps most of the group, with the exception of the Chair, the ABC and the proponents of Resolution C) may have belived they were voting on the component paragraphs of Resolution B, they were in effect taking up Resolution C---exactly as Canterbury had requested.

First paragraphs (a) and (b) were voted in, with minor changes to wording ("text" in the place of "draft"): note that they are identical in both Resolutions B and C. At this point, Canon Chris Sugden began to get the first inklings of what the intent of those in control of the process was. Watch and read as the transformation of B into C takes place in the midst of "considering Resolution B" (italics added for emphasis):

Sugden note: The effect of this vote is to put in place the first two clauses of the Resolution C. So what they are doing is working on Resolution B but not as a whole ( as they did Resolution A) but clause by clause [paragraph by paragraph, for Americans]. This may be to try and turn it into resolution C. The resolution is now to send the draft to the provinces. Intervention by the chair of the Resolutions Committee to insert an amendment from Aspinall . . .
. . .

[The Rev. Janet] Trisk [of Southern Africa---acting completely as a tool of 815]: ["I offer the] following amendment - [let the ] present small clause (c) be re[lett]ered (e) and (d) [be] re[lett]ered (f), and insert the [paragraphs/clauses] (c) and (d) from Resolution C."

In other words they are trying to amend Resolution B into C.
And so it came to pass---but not before a fourth and final intervention from the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in support of the Rev. Trisk's "amendment". He explained that "those who voted [against Resolution] A may very well have been influenced by the expectation that an alternative form of [Resolution] A was about to be tabled [offered, in American parlance]." Over the objections of Archbishop Mouneer Anis and others, the vote on Janet Trisk's amendment was taken. No doubt due in large part to Canterbury's last little speech, the amendment passed by a vote of 33 to 30, with two abstentions (one of them being the ABC again?). While waiting for that tally, the group voted to approve paragraph (e) as relettered, and shortly after the announcement on the Rev. Trisk's amendment, the group voted to approve the final subparagraph, (f). Amid mounting confusion over just what had been accomplished, the meeting was gaveled to an end.

The Chair delayed the start of the final press conference, pending a further announcement. After a lapse of about forty-five minutes, the Chair miraculously was able to announce that in consultation with the Secretary and the JSC's legal counsel, it had been possible to determine that each of the separate clauses of Archbishop Aspinall's Resolution had been individually voted upon, and that each had passed(!), so that there was no longer any need to deliberate. The ACC had produced a final resolution, and---lo and behold, wonder of wonders!---it was Resolution C.

What no genuine parliamentarian can omit to question in that announcement was the apparent jump to a conclusion that was not warranted by the actual voting---or at least the voting that was recorded by those blogging the meeting. As proposed by the Rev. Janet Trisk, her amendment was to make a change to the format of Resolution B, by relettering certain paragraphs and inserting two new ones. Technically, therefore, the vote on her amendment was a vote to approve those changes being made. I can find no mention in Robert Lundy's live blog of a separate vote being taken to approve the content of the newly added paragraphs (c) and (d)---which are the ones that did in the Covenant. (Perhaps those who were there can enlighten us---was there ever a proper vote up or down on those paragraphs by themselves?)

[UPDATE 05/12/2009: The outgoing Chair of the ACC, the Rt. Rev. John Paterson, has now made clear in a subsequent press conference that there was no separate vote on the content of the clauses added by the Trisk amendment---and that fact does not bother him in the slightest. In consultation with the ACC's legal adviser, Canon John Rees, he decided that the procedural vote on adding the two clauses could also be treated as a vote to approve their substance, since there are no agreed parliamentary rules that govern the ACC's deliberations ("Perhaps we might want to look at adopting some," he shrugged), and it is simply the Chair's call to determine the significance of the vote. Thus while every single other subparagraph was first proposed as a resolution and then voted upon separately, only the subparagraphs separating off Section IV for further rework and resubmission were not so treated. Instead, having just minutes earlier been rejected by an overwhelming vote, they were allowed back in on a procedural vote, and then simply declared to have been "adopted". Anything more Kafkaesque than this is simply not possible to conceive. God save the ACC!]

Thus the Anglican Covenant will now not be referred to the various churches for adoption as a whole, because its final text will not be determined until the Archbishop of Canterbury first appoints a "small task force" to rework Part IV, which will then be brought back to the Joint Standing Committee for any further "necessary changes" (read: emasculation) before being presented to the Churches for adoption.

This will guarantee that the Covenant as a whole could not be presented to ECUSA until 2012, with any final action having to wait for General Convention 2015 if it is determined that a change is needed to the Constitution or the BCP. (Note that this was precisely the timetable discussed by the Presiding Bishop when she announced last January that it would be "impossible" for the proposed Covenant to be discussed at GC 2009.) Thus the table tilted irreversibly in ECUSA's favor, and the £330,000 devoted to ACC-14 and its deliberations became another extravagant irrelevancy in the annals of the Anglican Communion (dwarfed only by the £2 million+ deficit which brought us the irrelevant extravagancy of Lambeth 2008).

The disarray and disappointment following the disbanding of ACC-14 was evident in the variety of statements that issued from the participants. Those from the Global South expressed a continued resolve to press forward despite the heartbreak over ++Cantuar's failure to provide essential leadership. On the other side, the sun itself was dimmed by the fog of platitudes proclaiming the enthusiasm with which the Presiding Bishop and her loyal supporters greeted the "compromise" that had been agreed upon (!) --- and their anticipation of the "opportunities for further fruitful discussions" regarding the Covenant, in which ECUSA would hear "the voices of other members of the Anglican Communion" as it carefully considered the provisions to which it could commit itself---but only, mind you, acting through General Convention as a whole, and not through individual dioceses or provinces.

The ever-perspicacious Christopher Sugden sums up the accomplishments of ACC-14 in part as follows:
One could be forgiven for thinking that the debate on Friday morning about the covenant was actually about matters of faith. However it was actually about the issues of property and litigation in the United States.

First of all, there was an attempt to add a fourth moratorium for a cessation of litigation, as proposed by the Primates at Dar-es-Salaam in February 2007 and as referred to in the Windsor Continuation Group Report. This was narrowly defeated. . . .

When it came to the covenant, Africans lined up to argue, along with others, that without section 4, which deals with issues of discipline, the covenant was meaningless. One of the reasons for removing section 4 put forward by Dr Ian Douglas, a clerical member for TEC, was that it provided for other churches, beyond the normal provincial members of ACC, to sign the covenant. . . .

And why is this wonderful state of affairs of people queuing up to be part of the Anglican Communion and embracing Anglican identity not to be fervently desired? Because if those whom TEC tends to refer to as “dissenters” could sign the covenant, they could legitimately claim to be Anglicans as defined by the Anglican Communion Covenant. . . . Were an alternative legitimate route available, many more Anglicans in the United States would take the path pioneered by those who are forming the Anglican Church in North America. . . . This would lead to further churches challenging TEC about ownership of property. Its about the property, stupid!
. . .

What struck many as strange is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, having urged the ACC publicly and privately that the Covenant was needed and needed now, becomes himself the architect of the means by which a very confusing procedure of introducing a third resolution in the middle of a debate on a first resolution, a resolution which becomes an amendment which brings back the substance of the first resolution in a new form after it is defeated, becomes the order of the day. And he becomes the architect of this by interpreting to the house its own mind on why it had voted the way it had on Resolution A. As Bishop Ikechi Nwosu said in a later press conference, if the Archbishop is able to do that, why go to all the expense of the ACC meeting and not just go and ask him at Lambeth Palace what he wants to happen.

. . .

And what is the de facto result? Those facing litigation in the courts over property cannot appeal to an Anglican Communion Covenant which would give them the moral high ground in their cases by showing their continuity with historic Anglicanism; and General Convention can proceed with numerous resolutions which overturn the effective teaching of the Anglican Church with no opportunity for people to argue that this would be against the Covenant that ACC has accepted.

For this observer, the Friday session of ACC-14 showed the fatal flaw in Dr. Williams' "peace negotiator" philosophy. By ceding all claims to any position of final authority (or---what is possibly worse---by acting to tilt the table in favor of one side), the mediator can then only stand by and watch as the more ruthless of the two sides destroys the basis for further negotiations. When it becomes apparent that the mediator has no strategy other than to urge that talks continue, it is imperative that the mediator not be seen as aligned with the party that has no intention of engaging the process in good faith. When Dr. Rowan Williams took the floor (not just once, but three times) to announce that he in effect supported Bishop Schori's demand for further work to be done on Part IV of the Covenant, he forfeited the last shreds of the integrity he had sacrificed to keep the process going to that point.

Sometimes it is more honorable simply to resign rather than to be the instrument of a plutocratic directorate obsessed with having its own way. This is all the more the case when the group that one is protecting (or trying not to alienate) signals its willingness to wreck and dismantle, if necessary, the very structure of which one is the nominal leader. The only words that I can summon for the spectacle thus presented of such tarnished splendor amidst the spread of poisonous decay are those of the American poet Robinson Jeffers, when he castigated those representatives of an earlier age who likewise blindly aided their own undoing:

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence;
and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught -- they say -- God, when he walked on earth.


  1. Lundy: "(spirit of confusion here . . . btw . . . Bible says God is not the author of confusion)"And who is the Author of Confusion?

    And who benefits from the confusion?

    See this Midwest Conservative Journal post called Blitzkrieg for further commentary on recent TEc and Anglican Communion happenings.

  2. This disgusting mess stinks of corruption and hypocrisy. I feel deeply sorry for the many people who went to the meeting in good faith, believing they were going to participate in a true council of the Church.

    "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eye examines them. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates."

    I find myself consoled by the following thought. Isn't the Lord giving the TEC liberals just enough rope to hang themselves? If they push their slate through at GC2009, as seems very likely, surely this will make the whole issue of the covenant irrelevant anyway? With such a blatant demonstration of selfish indifference to the rest of the AC, surely even the gentlest bishop from the Global South must see that any covenant that TEC would sign must be utterly worthless.

    We will probably lose the AC, at least in its present form. Well, after ACC-14, can we honestly say it is worth saving? We must trust that our Lord protects and guides his Church, and go forward praying and working for a new AC to evolve, bolstered by a resurgent and spiritually vigourous orthodox province from North America, that can offer the peoples of the earth the true "hope and a future" that he intends.

  3. Thanks for the wrap up, Mr. Haley. Nasty, nasty stuff. The ABC's next move will be telling, I think. IMHO, you're right about his general nature & approach. Nevertheless, I am mildly curious to see his next move. Will he apologize? Ammend? Un-manipulate what has been manipulated? Remain silent? Take an emergency sabbatical? Uh, quit?

  4. Thank you for this post.

    Confusion at meetings where you have church parlimentarians is, in my experience, quite common. Church "leaders" may, out of ignorance or gullibility, be easily misled into thinking they are following proper procedure, or they may be fatigued, rear-end weary, or worse yet, scheming to take advantage of the less politically astute members of the body. The end result confusion and perseveration.

    This meeting seems to demonstrate all of the above elements.

  5. I had not planned to re-read Kafka's "The Trial" this evening and yet I found that I accidentally have, in Anglican translation. Amazing.