The Constitution and Canons enhance the role of the Laity in both governance and mission
The term “Laity” is derived from the phrase “people of God.” The Constitution and the Canons show a structure created from the “bottom up,” with the people of God and the congregations into which they gather as the basic agents for carrying out the mission of the Province to follow the Great Commission and carry the Good News to a hurting world.
At the local level, by tradition the entire vestry, except for the Rector, is made up of lay people. The role of the laity in diocesan structures, including parish vestries, is left up to each diocese, but it is expected that each diocese will wisely incorporate the laity into its governance as has been the case in other Anglican Churches.
The Provincial Council, the Executive Committee and the Assembly all have at least 50% of their members chosen from the laity. And with the addition of youth delegates to the Provincial Assembly, the Assembly will have well over 50% representation by the laity. These facts alone constitute an extremely significant change from former modes of governance where Bishop and clergy voting by orders could overrule the will of the laity. A number of Provincial officers and positions on the various courts, including the court for the trial of a bishop, will be also held by the laity.
In light of this significant role in governance and in responsibility for mission, it was deemed appropriate to outline in the canons what is reasonably expected of each lay person to bring the people of God to Christian maturity and equip them for their calling to ministry.
The Canons intentionally provide substantial flexibility, recognizing the diversity that exists among the partners that are coming together into union. Authority not yielded to the Province by individual dioceses is reserved to the same. It follows, under principle of subsidiarity, that heavy responsibility rests upon the dioceses and other member jurisdictions to establish by their own constitutions and canons the role of the laity in an orderly system of diocesan governance. The enhanced role of the laity in the Constitution and Canons of the ACNA will provide a framework to do so.
The Rev. Travis S. Boline, Anglican Church of Kenya and the Governance Task Force of the ACNA
Concerning the Clergy
While the responsibility for carrying out the mission of the Church rests on all of its members, the responsibility for the spiritual health of the Church rests mainly with its clergy. Accordingly, in the Canons, the GTF has sought to be clear regarding the response of the church to those called by God to ordained ministry, those ordained and those chosen as bishops for the whole Church.
The Canons set forth the standards for candidates for ordination. They also declare the requirements and responsibilities of its clergy - deacons, priests and bishops alike. Those standards, requirements and responsibilities are based on Biblical principles. (See, Title III). The application and administration of those standards, requirements and responsibilities are left to the dioceses, and accountability to them has been written into the Canons with new clarity. (See, Title IV, Canon 2). The GTF sees the Canons as an appropriate and adequate foundation for the Church to live out and guard the faith once delivered to the saints.
The GTF recognizes that no manner of legislation can ever substitute for sound theological formation and training of our clergy and for loving and forbearing hearts of our laity, all given and maintained by our gracious God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mr. Wicks Stephens Esq., Member of the Drafting Committee of The Governance Task Force of
A mode for electing bishops that is Godly, prayerful and thoroughly Anglican
Canon III.8.4, which covers the election of bishops, states that dioceses put forward a name or names for consent or selection by the College of Bishops. “Bishops shall be chosen by a diocese in conformance with the constitution and canons of the Diocese....” Thus, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, dioceses establish their own procedures as long as they are consistent with the ACNA Constitution and Canons. They may elect and certify one candidate to the College, or they may certify two or three nominees from which the College may select one. While this “latter practice is commended to all Dioceses,” and while a “newly formed” body shall “normally” nominate two or three candidates, the plain reading of this canon is that such practice is encouraged, but not required.
Under the principle of subsidiarity a newly formed or forming Diocese may choose the process by which it nominatescandidates for bishop. One such newly forming diocese, Western Anglicans, submitted the names of three candidates to its assembly for a vote, and forwarded the sealed results to the College of Bishops. The College of Bishops may prayerfully consider those results as part of their discernment. In this way, there is both a democratic participation in the process, and a prayerful submission that can minimize the kind of deceitful politicking that has characterized episcopal elections in North America.
On this mode of electing bishops, the Canons are well within the bounds of Anglican practice. In fact, this is the typical method for the election of bishops in Global South provinces such as the Church of Uganda. While this may seem a radical innovation and departure from our “democratic” election processes in North America, it also reflects lessons learned from the culture wars. Prior unfortunate experiences have taught us that the laity and clergy of a diocese can be deceived through the typical political “vetting” processes and speeches into electing a bishop whom they think is orthodox and who subsequently betrays them. The provision for final election by the College of Bishops is a safeguard against this kind of politicking and outright deceit that has destroyed more than a few dioceses in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. Note also, that if a bishop-elect or nominees are rejected by the College, the College informs the Diocese of this non-selection. It has no authority to select a bishop for a diocese that has not been recommended to it by the Diocese.
The Rev. Jim McCaslin, Anglican Diocese in the Southeast and Governance Task Force of the
BB NOTE: I do have some issues with some of this - I thought it would move away from the generalities and get into specifics. That said, I am glad to see it published - it does give the delegates the opportunity to prayerfully consider the intentions of the drafters, even if the current draft may give a different impression to the leadership of future dioceses. That is helpful. Very helpful.
I must say that I really do have an issue, though. Before Diane Knippers died she told me to be watchful regarding the place of the laity in future leadership. I took that as a charge. Therefore, I take issue then with this particular quote regarding the election of local bishops:
"Prior unfortunate experiences have taught us that the laity and clergy of a diocese can be deceived through the typical political “vetting” processes and speeches into electing a bishop whom they think is orthodox and who subsequently betrays them."Turning control over to bishops to pick our bishops does not solve the problem. The laity still have no say in the choosing of the archbishop - which is incredibly misguided, probably with the best of intentions - but I'm sorry, this is not the global south, this is the United States of America. For example, the same thing can happen when we elect our senators. The same thing does happen. Is the solution for Virginia to send three senators up to the Hill and have the United States Congress pick one of the three senators for us? You know what that looks like and it comes across the same in this proposal - the electorate is stupid. Will senators be immune to the same kind of politicking and back room bargaining? Of course not - and neither will bishops. This type of attitude by what I am sure - and for the record, I am sure - are well-meaning clergy and bishops toward the laity and local clergy (do they really think we're all so inept that we can't be responsible, that we can't be entrusted to pick our own bishops, is that what we've learned from all this?) comes across as elitist and paternalistic - as if the laity are mere children.
ANY process will be open to betrayal. Taking the full responsibility of the election of their bishop away from the laity and local clergy will only succeed in teaching the laity to stay disengaged. If an idiot is picked by the College of Bishops, then the laity will shrug their shoulders and say, "well, he wasn't our first choice" and off we go to the next bake sale.
The laity must be engaged and if we're too stupid to be engaged then we deserve the bishops we elect. If the College of Bishops thinks that the candidate is an idiot, than black-ball him and the diocese will try again. We don't need to super-spiritualize this, as if the College of Bishops has a direct pipeline to God and the local diocesan leadership is stopped up with stupidity. It's time for us all to grow up.