Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sweeping the Dust under the Rug

"The Standing Committee", as it now prefers itself to be called (could that be by way of analogy to the organization that wishes to be identified simply as "The Episcopal Church"?), currently meeting in London, has issued a communiqué detailing its first day of discussions and actions taken. "The Standing Committee", aka "the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion", and formerly known as the "Joint Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting with the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council," is chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After a number of recent resignations, the "Standing Committee" consists of the following representatives from the various provinces of the Anglican Communion (I have grouped them geographically, for purposes of affinity, and those appointed by the Primates' Meeting have a "+" before their names):

United States and Great Britain (ECUSA and the churches of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland):

Archbishop Rowan Williams (President) (CoE; ex officio)
+ Archbishop Barry Morgan (CoW)
+ Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (ECUSA)
Bishop Ian Douglas (ECUSA)
Canon Elizabeth Paver (Vice-Chair) (CoE)

Churches of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa:

+ Archbishop Phillip Aspinall (CoA)
Canon Janet Trisk (CoSA)
Dr Anthony Fitchett (CoANZP)

Churches of the Provinces of Central and West Africa:

Bishop James Tengatenga (CPCA)
Mrs Philippa Amable (CPWA)

Churches of the Province of Southeast Asia, and of Bangladesh and Ceylon:

Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe (Ceylon)
Dato' Stanley Isaacs (CPSEA)
+ Bishop Paul Sarker (Bangladesh)

According to its newly adopted articles, the "Standing Committee" is supposed "to have regard to the desirability of achieving so far as practicable regional diversity and a balance of representation between clergy and laity and between the genders." But as just listed, the Committee (of nine, not counting the Primate-elected members) has three episcopal members, one clergy member, and four lay members, of which five are men and three are women. (The ninth member, elected on the first day as described, will be identified only upon acceptance.) The listing by geography shows that none of the major African provinces of the Communion, with more than 60% of its total members, is even represented on the Committee. It follows that the current make-up of the Committee is designed to effectuate the will of a minority within the Communion.

This conclusion is borne out fully by the actions the Committee took as soon as it met. In the communiqué issued concerning its first day of deliberations, there were these informative paragraphs:
Membership Issues

The Anglican Consultative Council’s (ACC) legal adviser Revd Canon John Rees explained that while the approval of the new ACC Articles of Association by the Provinces had been reported to ACC-14 they had not been formally registered by the UK’s Charity Commission in December 2009 when the Committee last met.

This meant the old ACC Constitution had still applied at that time and the casual vacancy left by the resignation of Ms Nomfundo Walaza therefore should have been filled with someone of the same order: a lay person. Canon Rees said that, under the (now registered) new ACC Articles of Association that replace the old ACC Constitution, the Committee could now choose to ratify the selection of Canon Trisk to fill the vacancy, or could select another candidate.

He explained that the new Articles of Association had been drawn up between 2002 and 2005, before submission to the Provinces between 2005 and 2009, and had specifically addressed the issues of electing someone of the same order when replacing a casual vacancy on the Standing Committee. The Articles now give ACC members maximum flexibility in ensuring a balance of region, gender, and order on the Committee.

After further discussion of the criteria and the present need for clergy representatives (to redress a shortfall in that category) a motion that Canon Trisk (who had been absent from the meeting thus far) should fill the vacancy was put to the vote and unanimously carried. She then joined the meeting. Canon Trisk will see out the remainder of Ms Walaza’s term on the Standing Committee.
Is that clear? Let us see just how the decision to confirm the appointment of Canon Trisk from South Africa, an act by the ACC which violated its own Constitution, helped ensure "a balance of region, gender, and order" on the Committee. Both Canon Trisk and her predecessor are women, so nothing changed there. But it was noted that Canon Trisk's confirmation would have the salubrious benefit of redressing "a shortfall in [the clergy] category."

It is true that the confirmation of Canon Trisk increased the number of clergy currently on the Committee from none to one, which matched the number of clergy who had previously served. But the reason for the "shortfall" in that category was that the prior clergy member had in the meantime been elevated to the episcopate:
The Committee then heard that because Bp Catherine Roskam had ended her term as The Episcopal Church’s bishop representative at the last ACC meeting in Jamaica Bp Ian Douglas’s election by Executive Committee to that position following his consecration had been entirely within its constitutional powers. It did not constitute a fresh appointment and would not extend Bp Douglas’ period of service.
So Bishop Ian Douglas, a previously elected clergy member of the Committee, was replaced by Canon Trisk from South Africa, thereby keeping the clergy number at one. Isn't that convenient?

Not really: by accepting the charade expressed in the seven words "because Bishop Roskam had ended her term . . ." the Committee also managed to maintain its episcopal members (not counting the five bishops appointed by the Primates' Meeting) at three. But as explained in this earlier post, and this later one, there is no provision in either the old constitution and bylaws, nor in the new articles, for an elected member's term to end before the start of the next ACC meeting, which happens in the spring of 2012.

Who told the "Standing Committee" that Bishop Roskam had "ended her term"? No one -- because it is not up to Bishop Roskam to end her term, but to the body which appointed her: ECUSA itself (acting through its Executive Council). There has been no report of Bishop Roskam sending in a letter of resignation; but if she had, the appropriate response would have been to schedule an election for her successor before the start of the next ACC meeting in the spring of 2012, and not to elect a "successor" now. Nor has has there been any news out of the Executive Council that they exercised their prerogative to remove her from office before the end of her term. (And the current communiqué states unequivocally that it was Bishop Roskam, and not ECUSA's Executive Council, who decided to "end her term.")

So this is all flim-flam and folderol. It is designed to confuse, and to distract attention from what is really going on. In the process, the domination of (what is left of) the ACC (and equally of the Communion itself) by an alliance between ECUSA and its dependent (or sympathetic) provinces is brought to fruit -- with the cooperation of the Anglican Communion Office and its legal advisor, under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Consider the raw numbers: the fifteen-member "Standing Committee" now has a majority of at least eight on it, and in practice still more, who ally themselves with the agenda of ECUSA, by default. (Otherwise, they would not unanimously have voted to approve the seating of Canon Trisk and Bishop Douglas.)

However, as presently constituted, ECUSA and its adherents represent a distinct minority within the Anglican Communion. I find it noteworthy that ECUSA is all for majority rule, except in two areas: in those of its dioceses which (by majority vote) have chosen to withdraw, on account of its apostasy, and in the case of the majority of the provinces of the Anglican Communion, which for the same reason disagree with its current course. In the process of taking over the reins of the ACC, ECUSA is assuring itself that it will need the votes only of those provinces in the Communion which either agree with its apostasy, or which believe themselves financially dependent upon it for survival. Those provinces, however, are a minority within the Communion as a whole.

Thus the "Anglican Communion" is in the process of redefining itself. On the outward side, we have the Covenant adoption process, which will take another six to ten years. But internally, we have the "Standing Committee", which is establishing itself -- including as the decision-maker in the event of disagreements about the Covenant -- as representing only the minority of those in the Communion.

This is a recipe for schism and breakup. Those who cannot achieve fair representation on the "Standing Committee" (which decides all discretionary matters under the Covenant) will not sign on to the Covenant. And those who believe themselves so represented, but who object to the current provisions in the Covenant, will not sign either. The Covenant will as a result become an irrelevant joke. And the Anglican Communion as we know it will be no more.


  1. This does appear to be a "communion" that is becoming increasingly insular. So focused on "diversity" of gender and race that it does not see its lack of diversity on issues that affect the Church.

  2. It looks like Rowan let himself be outflanked by corporate raiders who are going to borrow against the assets, crush (cram-down) the existing shareholders, and once the institution is finally bankrupted take their winnings and repeat elsewhere.

    Fortunately, the only people trapped are the hirelings in the organization who are depending on it for their living - and those among the laity who are worshipping Form instead of Substance.

    Another way to put it is that a crew of drunkards, derelicts, and heathen are coming to remodel churches into tombs and slap on some coats of whitewash. No wonder the shepherds of the Global South churches and the RCC and Orthodox have washed their hands of the whole sordid thing.

    The only reason this takeover is possible is that the heathen in question have to Caesar what is rightfully God's and have exchanged Scripture for the Laws of England (as embodied the the newly-registered Articles).

    The AC (as a formal body with the so-called Instruments of Unity) is dead. Fortunately, the Church lives - since it is Christ's Body and He is its Head. It's time for the latter to shake the dust off their shoes, turn their backs on the machinations and delays of the former and get on with the Great Commission.

    They will have to recognize that any clergy or Bishop claiming to be "Anglican" who hails from the West needs to be examined and have letters of testimony from trusted colleagues. They might even have to be formally received before being given license to serve! *This* is the logical result of the Communion splintering - that you won't be able to recognize orders at face value.

  3. Dear Mr. Haley,

    It would appear that my previous characterizations, in various venues, of TEC's outrageous outlawry, were not only accurate, but that their affliction is contagious, now having been communicated to the ACC, or at least to its Standing Committee, assuming the latter body has not, in the interim, adopted some alternate nom du jour. I add this latter caveat because the ACC appears to have newly adopted the TEC practice of having, for its own rules of governance, legal interpretations du jour.

    Although there remain legal proceedings across the nation in which TEC is most frequently the petitioner, I think it can be argued that, insofar as TEC and Cantabrian Anglicanism in the U.S. are concerned, the game is well and truly over, with the possible exception of the shouting! How sad that it has so quickly come to its current state.

    Pax et bonum,

    Keith Töpfer

  4. Point of order Mr Chair there are in fact 4 lay people on the Standing Committee:
    Canon Elizabeth Paver (Vice-Chair) (CoE)(She is a lay Canon)
    Dr Anthony Fitchett (CoANZP)(A medical Dr not a theological one)
    Mrs Philippa Amable (CPWA)
    and Dato' Stanley Isaacs (CPSEA)

  5. Thank you, Perpetua, for pointing that fact out. I have corrected the numbers in the post.