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.
This may well be the United States of America but this organization is the Anglican Church in North America.
:-) I think I've been under the impression for years that Canadians are even fiercer about democratic principles than we Americans are sometimes. I love Canadians!
I agree wholeheartedly with Mary. We must think beyond the bishops we know & love now and consider a system that gives laity more voice, not less, in electing future bishops. Perhaps we should flip this around - have the bishops pick a couple candidates and let the laity decide who they want including the option "none of the above".
To some, this may smack of distrust? To others, it's a healthy realism of sharing power with those in the pews.
This is the church, not a democracy. It is one of the primary duties of the office of bishop to defend the faith. I want to know my bishops are making certain their fellow bishops are faithful to do so. Although in fairness we've certainly seen how well the democratic process has worked for TEC in the past...
The Governance Task Force still have not addressed a number of issues that have been raised. They have also offered no adequate explanation of why the application materials lead groups of congregations applying for recognition as new dioceses to believe that they have only the option of the College of Bishop’s electing their bishop:“The College of Bishops has authority in the election of bishops. A grouping puts forward two or three nominees for bishops. The College may choose one and grant consent for his consecration.”
I have posted on the Heritage Anglican Network web site a series of proposed amendments to the ACNA constitution. The following is the introduction to these proposals:
The following proposals have been put together to address the concerns of a number of groups and individuals in and outside the Anglican Church in North America in connection with the provisions of the ACNA constitution to be presented for ratification at the inaugural Provincial Assembly in Bedford, Texas on June 22-25, 2009. They have also been compiled to draw the attention of the delegates to the Provincial Assembly to those parts of the constitution that are in serious need of revision and to offer in their place suitable alternative provisions. A good foundation and framework are essential to a well-built house. Without them those living in the house may discover in a few years that they need to make costly repairs. They may even have to tear down part or all of the house and rebuild it. With these proposals we hope to provide that foundation and framework for the Anglican Church in North America.
The proposals are on the Internet at: http://theheritageanglicannetwork.blogspot.com/2009/06/proposed-amendments-to-constitution-of.html
The Heritage Anglican Network also has a number of articles related to the ACNA constitution and canons.
They may be found at: http://theheritageanglicannetwork.blogspot.com/
The ACNA's abandonment of centuries of hard-won lay invovement in the governance of the church and the nomination and election of bishops cannot be dismissed with trite phrases such as "the church is not a democracy."
A major part of the North American Anglican heritage is a synodical form of church government in which the clergy and the laity share with the bishop in the governance of the church. The involvement of the clergy and laity in the governance of the church is an important safeguard against prelacy, authoritarianism, and the "tyranny of bishops." This is one of the things we can learn from studying the history of the Anglican Church.
The ACNA constitution and canons introduce a mode of episcopal election that is relatively new to Anglican practice and strongly resembles the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This practice greatly weakens the autonomy of the diocese in its choice of bishop. It appears to have been adapted from the proposed canons of the Anglican Missionary Province of North America and the canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. However, the ACNA canons do not include in connection with this practice a number of safeguards that these canons contain.
Agree wholeheartedly. The elitism that affects our bishops and clergy is part of the main problem.
There is no accountability of either to the laity. No ability to recall those we initially approved to go to seminary, lead a parish or diocese.
Where there is no accountability, abuse of power is too available - and attractive.
The Lakeland Two
BB, thanks for standing up for the role of the laity in the church.
It's easy to forget that the spread of heterodoxy in TEC was a "top down" process, starting with ministers and in the semenaries. One reason for the oblivion is that many who left in the first round (like me) weren't there to warn those who came in after us.
The NT doesn't support the concept of a spiritual elite and the polity of the church should reflect that.
There is a deeper issue here - an unspoken class consciousness where the upper, educated class inherently distrusts the lower plebes. One can only speculate where it comes from but it may be a remnant - turned on it's head - of colonial British behavior.
I have noticed a tendency of a number of ACNA leaders and even ACNA clergy and laity to blame the lay deputies to General Convention and diocesan convention(US) or General Synod and diocesan synod(Canada) specificaly and a synodical form of church government in which the clergy and the laity share in the governance of the church with the bishop generally for developments in TEC and ACA. The talking point often heard is that such bodies as conventions and synods are more susceptible to "politics." The unspoken claim is that a church without lay involvement or even clergy involvement in goverance and selection of leaders would be free from "politics," a claim that a close examination of the African churches and the history of the Anglican Church and the larger Church does not support.
I have posted on The Heritage Anglican Network a series of proposed amendments of the ACNA code of canons. They are companion proposals to the proposed amendments to the ACNA constitution that I have already posted. The accompanying explanatory notes may offer some insight into this particular development. These proposals are on the Internet at: http://theheritageanglicannetwork.blogspot.com/2009/06/proposed-amendments-to-canons-of.html
I think that something has been deleted from your first sentence, but I'll react to what I think is the substance. I have attended many meetings where the leadership and the clergy of the emerging ACNA spoke both formally and informally and I have never heard the laity blamed for the problems that have required the birth of ACNA.
I have heard repeatedly the contention that 815 and certain bishops are largely responsible for the mess. A majority of the laity at GC bring a a revisionist agenda with them, but quite frankly, if bishops guarded the faith these laity would not be there at all.
May I draw your attention to the recent public statements made by at least two ACNA bishops and the GTF that in defending the reduction of lay involvement in the ACNA bring up the topic of General Convention. I have also come across posts on the Internet that blame the laity for various decisions of the General Convention and General Synod and present the view that the ACNA is better off with less lay involvement in governance and selection of leaders.
You yourself may not have noted this attitude in the leadership and clergy of the ACNA but there is substantial evidence that this attitude exists. It is not imagined. The diminution of lay involvement in governance and selection of leaders in the ACNA constitution and canons points to a bais against lay involvement in these areas of church life. ACNA leaders and clergy may not wish to admit to the existence to such an attitude and bias but it is evident to others. It is not unknown for a group to not be aware of its prejudices.
As long as the ACNA leadership insists on excluding the laity from important areas of decision-making, placing the selection of bishops and the primate solely in the College of Bishops, permitting forms of goverance in dioceses that exclude the laity, and the like they are going to have difficulty in shaking the perception that they are anti-lay.
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