Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday, May 4 Update: Inside the Anglican Consultative Council in Jamaica


Anglican Covenant

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, retired primate of the West Indies and chairman of the Anglican Covenant Design group focused the attention of the delegates of the Anglican Consultative Council this morning on Section IV of the Anglican Covenant. In particular, he highlighted the fact that Section IV "opens out the Covenant, making it open-ended and open to others joining. At the discussion of the Covenant proposal at the Lambeth Conference the desirability of making the Covenant an open-ended process received very favourable consideration by several of the bishops."

This was in direct opposition to what Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, said at yesterday's press conference when he asserted that that the covenant is not open-ended to include not only provinces, but also dioceses and others "It is the provinces who make the decision," Canon Kearon told the press yesterday, "which has always been the case."

But when challenged on that point yesterday, "I think the word 'churches" is will have to be defined," however he still maintained that his way of defining a church is as a province. This is in opposition to the Episcopal Church canonical understanding that the local diocese is the church and dioceses meet every three years in General Convention, based on the American form of government based on states meeting in Congress. In other provinces around the communion, including the Church of England - the country is the province and the province is the church.

Power of the Joint Standing Committee

With the dust-up today over the denial of the seating of the Rev. Phil Ashey, canonically resident of the Province of Uganda who is on staff of the American Anglican Council in Atlanta, the take-away seems to be further indication that the "Joint Standing Committee" has taken on a role that can overrule the election and appointments of Anglican primates.

It was clear in the press conference held today that there is no standard by which certain individual delegates can denied a seat, even though they are appointed by an an Anglican primate, in this case the Archbishop of one of the largest provinces in the world, the province of Uganda and home to thousands of Episcopalian exiles.

While we may have differences of opinion about the wisdom of seating Phil Ashey, what is apparent is that the Joint Standing Committee is taking on more and more unchallenged authority, including claiming authority over Anglican primates.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also assumed jurisdiction to overrule the primate of Uganda (probably based on his seat of the Joint Standing Committee and has written to Archbishop Henry Orombi that Phil Ashey will be denied a seat at the Anglican Consultative Council due to the elevation of "cross boundary interventionalists," even though same sex blessings and marriages continue in both the provinces of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Sources say that the complaint against the Church of Uganda's delegate came personally from Katharine Jefferts Schori, who sits on the Joint Standing Committee.

We saw earlier expressions of assumed heiarchical power by the Joint Standing Committee when they dismissed the Communique of the Primates in Dar es Salaam and intervened at the Episcopal House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans in 2007. At that time, Archbishop Orombi rejected the attempt to overrule the authority of one of the primary "instuments of the communion," the Primates Meeting and changing the requirements of the Episcopal Church to refrain from certain activities in order to regain standing in the Anglican Commuion.

Among the requirements of the Dar es Salaam Communication was a cessation of litigation against churches that had voted to separate from The Episcopal Church. That liltigation continues in full throttle, including by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church herself.

Resolution to Postpone Anglican Covenant

We see new evidence of more assumption of power by the Joint Standing Committee when they presented the resolution at the ACC meeting today that would gut the Anglican Covenant by not asking provinces to even consider the Covenant until 2014, after both the Presiding Bishop and House of Deputies President of The Episcopal Church had retired.

This is in direct opposition to Archbishop Drexel Gomez's dire earlier warning that the Anglican Communion is close to breaking up.

Bishop Mouneer Anis, Primate of the Middle East, immediately took the floor and questioned the judgement of postponing to 2014 when they just heard from Archbishop Gomez that the Anglican Communion is going to break up.

Stanley Isaacs, delegate from South East Asis, also made it clear that five years is too long when they have been told that the matter is "urgent."

Bishop John Patterson said that "several churches" had indicated that canonically they could not address the Covenant for at least five more years.

Sources say that in fact there are only three churches who have indicated that they are "canonically" unable to address the Anglican Covenant and those three, of course, are The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church of Cananda, and Bishop Patterson's own province, New Zealand.

The Anglican Covanant is slated for an up or down vote, but sources indicate that there may be political manuevers attempted by some to amend the Covenant, including a reworking of Section IV to shut out dioceses and others from signing the Covenant.

This is an up or down vote, be on the look out for attempts to amend the covenant.

As stated earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury has indeed written back to Archbishop Orombi, though that letter is not yet released.

UPDATE: Here is the audio of today's press conference:

Here is a statement from the Joint Standing Committee (minus, of course, the Archbishop of Uganda) issued by Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion regarding the "clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council from the Province of Uganda."
The matter came to light at the Joint Standing Committee meeting before the ACC during a routine review of membership, press accreditation and other participants at the ACC.

The Revd Philip Ashey had applied for press accreditation to the ACC Meeting, describing himself as the ‘Chief Operating Officer’ of the American Anglican Council, with an address in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Subsequently he was nominated by the Primate of the Church of Uganda as a clerical representative for that Church to ACC in a letter dated 23rd April 2009.

In a letter to Archbishop Orombi the Joint Standing Committee stated:

“We understand that the Revd Philip Ashey’s relationship with the Church of the Province of Uganda is as a result of a cross provincial intervention, and note that such interventions are contrary to the Windsor Report and other reports accepted by successive meetings of the Instruments of Communion, including Primates’ Meetings which you have attended.”
All the correspondence released to date are available here and here. A letter from Rowan Williams to Henry Orombi has not yet been released.

Here is a report now from The Living Church:
The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Jamaica began May 2 under protest when the credentials of the Rev. Philip Ashey, the clergy representative designated by the Church of Uganda, were rejected by the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) of the primates and the ACC.

“The Joint Standing Committee has discussed this at length,” wrote the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the ACC in a letter dated April 30 and sent to the Most Rev. Henry Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda. “We understand that the Rev. Philip Ashey’s relationship with the Church of the Province of Uganda is as a result of a cross-provincial intervention, and note that such interventions are contrary to the Windsor Report and other reports accepted by successive meetings of the Instruments of Communion, including Primates’ Meetings you have attended.” Canon Kearon was to offer a statement on the credentials situation at the conclusion of a May 4 press briefing.

Archbishop Orombi wrote to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on May 2, claiming that the JSC exceeded its authority in rejecting Fr. Ashey, because the Windsor Report and similar documents do not have the authority to override the constitution of the ACC.

“Our reasons for appointing one of our American priests to represent us as our clergy delegate are our reasons, and are not for the Joint Standing Committee to question,” Archbishop Orombi said. He added that Fr. Ashey spoke for “almost 100,000 orthodox Anglicans in North America who … will not otherwise have voice or seat at the table of the ACC … There is a double standard at work here and it favors the Western world and marginalizes Africa and others in the Global South.”
There is no primate representing Africa at the JSC meeting. Both Archbishop Orombi, who has not attended any meeting since his election in 2006, and the alternate, the Most Rev. Justice Akrofi, Archbishop of West Africa, said they have scheduling conflicts.

The seating of the clergy representative from Uganda was not the only controversial issue to arise during the opening session. Archbishop Drexel Gomez, former Archbishop of the Church of the Province of the West Indies and the chairman of the Covenant Design Group, introduced the covenant draft that is expected to be voted on during the ACC meeting. A proposed resolution calling for member churches to respond by December 2014 “on the progress made in the process of adoption and in response to the covenant texts…” drew expressions of concern. The meeting went into recess, and then went into private session after the meeting resumed.

TUESDAY AM UPDATE: Chris Sugden has an update now up at Anglican Mainstream. The first is more information on Drexel Gomez's speech to the ACC warning of the impending breakup of the Anglican Communion and the urgency of the Anglican Covenant. Archbishop Gomez warned:
"The Communion is close to the point of breaking up. If we cannot state clearly and simply what holds us together, and speak clearly at this meeting, then I fear there will be clear breaks in the Communion in the period following this meeting. Many of our Churches are asking to know where they stand – what can be relied on as central to the Anglican Communion; and how can disputes be settled without the wrangle and confusion that we have seen for the last seven years or more.”

The first concern regarding the Anglican Covenant is whether the Presiding Bishop and her allies will succeed in narrowing the Covenants openness to the local context of what constitutes a church in Section IV, "the section which describes how to join the Communion under the Covenant, what joining means and how to deal with tensions," Chris Sugden reports:
It is this section that The Episcopal Church is lobbying hard, especially among the Global South, to have removed. Archbishop Gomez stressed the value of section 4 in his presentation (read here):

1. It gives explicit reassurance that the Covenant is not intended to interfere with the Constitutions and Canons of the Provinces. In this regard, we have paid due respect to the importance of Anglican polity in any Anglican Covenant.
2. It gives clarity over the processes of joining and leaving the Covenant.
3. It provides a method of dispute resolution. This is not coercive but advisory. Without any such provision, there are no processes by which dispute resolution can take place, and mutual responsibility and accountability is weakened. In addition, a failure to address dispute resolution would negate the Covenant process entirely.
4. It opens out the Covenant, making it open-ended and open to others joining. At the discussion of the Covenant proposal at the Lambeth Conference the desirability of making the Covenant an open-ended process received very favourable consideration by several of the bishops.
5. It provides for the amendment and development of the Covenant.
6. The provision of Section 4 represents a fulfilment of a promise made by the CDG in the Lambeth Commentary to the St Andrew’s Draft. It provides the answers to some very important issues that arose in the discussion of the St Andrew’s text.

Paragraph 4 in the above is deliberate in opening the door to others joining the Communion under the Covenant. This particularly refers both to dioceses, (such as orthodox dioceses in TEC) and also to other entities such as the Anglican Church in North America. We could have the situation that the ACNA accepts the Covenant in timely manner, and TEC delays or denies acceptance.

So, far from the position of ACNA not being on the agenda of ACC 14, its possible status as a church that would be able to accept the Communion Covenant and therefore be acceptable is at the heart of the opposition of TEC to section of 4 of the covenant being included.

Canon Kenneth Kearon confirmed at the opening press conference that one of the decisions that ACC 14 would have to take would be whether it would be dioceses or provinces that accepted the covenant. The above shows why this question is such a hot potato.
The second issue regards the attempts underway to postpone ratification of the Anglican Covenant until at least after the current leadership of The Episcopal Church has retired from office:
The current draft resolution reads, after preliminaries that the ACC 4. requests the Secretary General to send the Ridley Cambridge Draft to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and adoption as the Anglican Communion Covenant, and 5. requests its member Churches to respond to Secretary General by December 2014 on the progress made in the processes of adoption and response to the Communion text.

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt asked why the response could not be by 2012. It was explained that the reason for the 2014 date was that 3-4 provinces had indicated that their constitutional processes would not allow a decision before 2015. (These are thought to be the USA, Canada and Aotearoa/ New Zealand). Datuk Stanley Isaacs asked why for such important business provinces who wanted to respond earlier could do so and others process the matter as extraordinary business. So some would favour wording that in effect requests member churches to respond as a matter of urgency and at the latest by 2012.
In addition, we learn that in fact the ACC does not exert control over who the primates and their provinces elect to send to represent them at the ACC meetings:

The Church of Uganda has oversight of a number of clergy and parishes in the United States. The Archbishop of Uganda selected one of these clergy to be part of the Ugandan delegation to ACC, as an expression of its sovereign right to choose who represented it, and partly to give a voice to those orthodox in the USA whose voice would otherwise not be heard in the councils of AAC 14. Canon Kenneth Kearon informed the delegates on Saturday night and the press on Monday lunchtime that during the roll call of the delegates the status of the Ugandan clerical delegate, Rev Philip Ashey, a priest of the Church of Uganda since 2005 living in Atlanta, had been challenged and Mr Ashey was not allowed to take his seat.

The Church of Uganda has issued a press statement on this matter ( see here ). At the press conference Canon Kenneth Kearon was pressed about the legitimacy whereby the sovereignty of the Church of Uganda in choosing its own delegate was denied. It was drawn to his attention that in 1999, at the ACC-11 in Dundee, the Episcopal Church in the USA was represented by a Bishop Mark Dyer who had retired in 1995. Canon George Conger writes: "The ACC’s constitution at section 4.d says: ‘Bishops and other clerical members shall cease to be members on retirement from ecclesiastical office.’ I asked John L Peterson, in my capacity as a reporter for the Church of England Newspaper, why Bishop Dyer was being seated at the meeting, when the constitution said he was not eligible to be seated. Canon Peterson said that the ACC left it to the member churches to determine who would be their representatives and placed the onus on the sending church to conform with the rules. My commentary would be, in 1999 the ACC (in the person of John L Peterson) said the member churches could pick whom they wanted to send, even if they weren’t eligible. In 2009 the ACC is now saying the member churches are not free to pick their members, even if the delegate is eligible under the rules laid down by the ACC.”

When asked about a perceived change of policy, Canon Kearon stated that he had not been present in 1999. The situation now was that the Ugandan church had sent a delegate who was not qualified. There is no definition for what “qualified” would be in 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 to make such decisions.

Canon Kearon stated that Rev Ashey was not qualified as his membership of the Church of Uganda was as a result of a cross-border intervention by the Church of Uganda in the United States, a practice which had been consistently disapproved of by the instruments of communion since 2004.

So far so clear. However, it was also drawn to Canon Kearon’s attention that another infringement of the requirements of the instruments of communion had been the continuance of the lawsuits against orthodox churches in North America by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. The cessation of these lawsuits was a requirement of the Dar-es-Salaam Primates Meeting in 2007 as part of the compliance required of TEC and the ACoC with the Windsor Report and thus a condition for the re-entry of TEC and ACoC delegates to the Councils of the Communion ( they had been asked to withdraw from ACC 13 at Nottingham, but attended as visitors). How was it that TEC and ACoC had not complied with a requirement of the instruments of communion, yet had been readmitted, and that Uganda was not complying with the embargo on cross-border jurisdiction and yet its selected delegate was barred? The answer given that Uganda as a province had not been barred, only its delegate who was a product of cross-border intervention.

What comes across in all this is the lack of fairness and even handedness. TEC and ACoC are in constant breach of Lambeth 1.10, and by the secretary general’s own admission at the Saturday press conference, had in some cases continued to authorize same-sex blessings in defiance of the moratorium. They have not complied with the Primates’ call from Dar-es-Salaam to desist from lawsuits, but instead have increased them. Yet they are readmitted to full membership.

The Church of Uganda exercises its sovereign right to appoint a priest under its oversight from among orthodox clergy in the USA who wish to abide by the Communion’s teaching and practice, but is denied that right on the grounds of the priest being unqualified according to criteria that are not specified in the ACC constitution, (as a product of a breach of the communion’s requests), according to the decision of a body which is not given the authority to determine membership of provincial delegations either in the constitution of the ACC or in the tradition of the ACC ( according to the practice of Canon Petersen in the case of Mark Dyer).

One cannot help gain the impression of an unfair lack of even handedness while making up the rules as they go along.

The unseating of Rev Ashey is linked with the decision to be made about who can adhere to the Covenant. Those who have consistently defied the Communion for the last five years are in a position to lobby and vote to exclude provisions in the Ridley Draft Covenant whereby other entities ( dioceses in TEC or ACNA) can sign up to the Covenant while TEC itself wants to spend 5 years considering the question. They are also allowed to retake their seats in order to engage in such lobbying while in defiance of requests of the communion about abandoning lawsuits, while those who have defied the request on cross border jurisdiction (soon to become a dead letter when ACNA is formed in six weeks time), are denied the right to exercise their own choice of who their delegate at the meeting is.

We see here what appears to be a lack of fairness, evenhandedness and consistency applied to the advantage of those who have caused the current problems by departing from the teaching and practice of the Communion in faith and morals and to the disadvantage of those who have adhered to the teaching and practice of the Communion in faith and morals. And the former will this week try to prevent the latter from even being able to adhere to the Covenant process.
Read it all here.

1 comment:

Robin G. Jordan said...

"They are also allowed to retake their seats in order to engage in such lobbying while in defiance of requests of the communion about abandoning lawsuits, while those who have defied the request on cross border jurisdiction (soon to become a dead letter when ACNA is formed in six weeks time), are denied the right to exercise their own choice of who their delegate at the meeting is."

Will border crossing really become a dead letter in six weeks with the formation of the ACNA? First, the revised provisional constitution and revised proposed code of canons of the ACNA adopted on 4/25/09 make no room in the ACNA for conservative evangelical Anglicans who do not subscribe to its decidely partisan Catholic doctrinal position on the historic episcopate and apostolic succesion. The particular form of church government and modes of episcopal and primatial selection they adopt raise significant theological and ecclesiological barriers for not only conservative evangelical Anglicans but also other orthodox North American Anglicans who value a synodical form of church government, the practice of a diocese electing its own bishops and the substantial involvement of the clergy and laity of the diocese in the nomination and election process, and nomination and election process, and a primatial nomination and selection process that gives the clergy and laity more than a token role. There continues to be a need for intervention but in the ACNA. Second, the revised proposed code of canons makes provision for founding entities to remain subject to the constitutions and canons of their parent Provinces and for these Provinces to play a substantial role in the governance of such entities and the selection of bishops for these entities and for the archbishops and bishops of parent Provinces to sit in the College of Bishops in an advisory capacity.