Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anglican Communion Standing Committee tightens control over communications through "officially sanctioned networks" of political-advocacy groups

With Ian Douglas proclaiming that the credibility-challenged new group called the Anglican Communion Standing Committee "has pursued a course of transparency and open communication," at the same time 815 is happily reporting that "Throughout the five days of closed sessions, the 14 committee members heard about efforts to improve communication across the Anglican Communion's officially sanctioned networks. With its networks, the ACC recognizes groups of Anglicans who want to organize formally around a ministry or issue and monitors their efforts."

In five days there have been only two "official" daily reports and those "reports" raised more questions than answers (there's been no disclosure to the finances for example).  In this happy report from The Episcopal Church (while there is no report from the Anglican Communion Office yet of yesterday's activities), 815 says that while there was a "course of transparency and open communication," the meetings themselves were "five days of closed sessions."

And to make matters worse, we suddenly learn that the only way one can "communicate" if one is an Anglican in the mind of this little group (a group that has seen recent resignations of members representing that overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide), is that it must be through something called the  "officially sanctioned networks."  What is up with that? What happened to Provinces in the Anglican Communion? No, now it's these self-appointed "networks" that are "officially sanctioned" that revolve around American-style political advocacy groups.  And this Standing Committee is going to "monitor" these efforts?  What does that mean?

So much for dioceses and provinces - in this American-style political activism model we see a major (and progressive dominated) realignment of the historic understanding of the polity of Anglican Christians around the world - namely, the organization of local parishes around a bishop.

THURSDAY UPDATE: From the Anglican News Service "report" of Day 4:
As agreed, the Committee revisited Saturday's discussion. Dato' Stanley Isaacs delivered a frank and passionate presentation about the distress felt by some parts of the Communion about The Episcopal Church's decision to breach one of the moratoria. He concluded by proposing that rights to participate in discussions of matters of faith and order at the Standing Committee and the ACC be withdrawn from The Episcopal Church.
In the subsequent discussion Archbishop Philip Aspinall reiterated that the Standing Committee did not have the power to undertake such an action. He reminded the Committee that the Covenant had been drawn up to address just these kinds of points of disagreement. It was also stated that the Standing Committee did not have all the powers of the ACC, especially when it came to the Membership Schedule.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori questioned why the proposal was singling out The Episcopal Church. Bishop Ian Douglas stressed he was present in his role as an elected representative of the ACC, not a member of The Episcopal Church and he desired to always be responsible to the Council. He thanked Dato' Stanley Isaacs for attending the Standing Committee meeting despite his [Isaacs'] feelings about recent events in the Communion. He said that having other elected representatives present who represented a genuine segment of the ACC helped him [Bp Douglas] to be a better member. He added that he missed having Bp Azad's voice at the meeting.
Dr Tony Fitchett agreed that the Committee needed as full a range of views as possible. "I'm conscious I'm not here representing my province," he said. "I'm here because I was appointed by the ACC. My accountability is not to my Province. I expect to continue to serve on the [Standing Committee] even if my Province were ever to be unacceptable to other churches because of its actions."
After what Canon Elizabeth Paver described as "the time, prayer and space necessary for everyone to be heard on this matter" the Standing Committee agreed a resolution that it: "regrets ongoing breaches of the three moratoria that continue to strain the life of the Anglican Communion; regrets the consequential resignations of members of the Standing Committee which diminish our common life and work on behalf of the ACC and the Primates' Meeting; recognises that the ACC and the Primates' Meeting are the appropriate bodies to consider these matters further."
BB NOTE: No wonder so many have resigned from this self-appointed "standing committee."  It's just a farce.  Note too that Rowan Williams is not quoted.  Pay attention to that.


Anonymous said...

they are just rearranging deckchaires....most of the AC ain't even bothering to be on this really doesn't matter what they do.

rr said...

Comrades, all communications must now be approved by the politburo!

On a better note, I hope that you blessed by the CANA gathering. It sounded great.

Anonymous said...

The network thing is definitely a TEC favorite idea. I remember Katie Sherrod a while back posting on how the Communion should let the Women's Network run it. The office of Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion is at 815 Second Avenue, New York.

This may be a bid to keep TEC "in" the ACC via the back door. It's very likely that these networks will insist on having TEC representation, as TEC very likely controls a good number of them. Even if TEC is "out" of them officially, they have probably been seated by mostly TEC people, and the steering committees seem to be appointed (maybe self-perpetuating) rather than elected.

I don't believe these networks have ever been an explicit theme at Lambeth or in other official Communion communications, it seems they're rather like, "oh look at this nice group of Anglicans that are interested in some topic, and are willing to do stuff; what do they have to say about these things?" And not: "Do these groups have any official ecclesiastical function?"

It's not even unthinkable that this has been an 815 strategy for some time now. There are quite a few people who have 815 stated as their "location."

Daniel Weir said...

BB wrote: "So much for dioceses and provinces - in this American-style political activism model we see a major (and progressive dominated) realignment of the historic understanding of the polity of Anglican Christians around the world - namely, the organization of local parishes around a bishop."

I don't see an abandonment of bishops and diocese on the horizon. I think the idea of diocesan sovereignty, with the implication that the national or regional has no power over diocese, is a recent innovation. Try out that idea in the CofE whose bishops are appointed by the Crown, or in some churches in Africa where the power of the Primate and the House of Bishops is far greater then in the Episcopal Church. There are two incongruous ideas about Anglican polity being espoused by some conservatives, i.e., diocesan sovereignty and centralization of authority in the Primates. Holding these two ideas at the same time may work for a while, but what happens when the leaders of a diocese disagrees with the Primates? The same thing that happened in Pittsburgh?

John Sandeman said...

Its to be expected that you will read the communion through American eyes. But in terms of relationships between the dioceses and a provincial structure in some parts of the world there is a strong role for the province and in other parts dioceses are very independent.
In my province. Australia, decisions of general synod (like your gc) only apply in a diocese if that diocese votes to accept it.
In our near neighbour Aoteroa/New Zealand a totally different three tikanga structure has been set up to work with three cultural groups. The province as a whole allows a lot of room for these groups to have their own bishops and rotates the primacy among them.
What happens when we disagree is a question testing all styles of Anglican structures, whether centralised or not.

Anonymous said...

It seems to boil down to this:
The Anglican Communion Standing Committee does not represent the Communion as a whole. Therefore it has no credibility except in th minority of the Communion which sets its political agenda.

It is an instrument of division.


Daniel Weir said...

I am very much in favor of member churches having very different structures, in accordance with the "locally adapted" principle in the quadrilateral. My comment was somewhat tangential because I thought I heard a hint of the diocesan sovereignty position in BB's post. It is one thing to agree to the greater autonomy of dioceses in Australia and quite another thing to assert it in the US where it has not been our polity. Many of GC's actions are binding on dioceses without any requirement of diocesan consent.

On the matter of networks, I disagree with the notion that strengthening them diminishes other means of communication between member churches or diocese. Companion relationships will still exist, with or without any support from the Communion office in London. Networks have provided ways for Anglicans who share particular commitments to support and learn from one another. IMV, networks are likely to be important in the Communion and would include both networks created by the ACC and those like the network that was some important in the development of ACNA.

Closing Down said...

With the release of the latest ACI paper on the ACC - - the latest revisions seem to me to mirror the changes in TEC that have allowed KJS to do what she wants when she wants to achieve the agenda. Controlling communication would seem to keep the doors shut, but this is ultimately going to backfire. It is a poor attempt to keep things secret. The Bible says something about that a few times.

Approved network? Means trying to keep people like BB, Anglican TV, SFIF, etc., out. Why? Because darkness hates light. Reminds me of a comparable moment in Star Wars:

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." ― Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin

These changes are meant to diminish the orthodox abilities to voice dissent. With the recent resignations, the changes may work internally, but externally they won't. It means more people leaving one way or another. The only thing accomplished is a respected religious entity has been taken over for the purpose of legitmizing the liberal and gay agendas. Meanwhile, God will prune the branch of empty buildings and void theology and cultivate other branches in His vineyard. Even though it is painful to watch and even be apart of "in the fringes", seeing God doing the pruning is still seeing God work. He is mighty and awesome, and man's rules and laws don't apply to Him, no matter how hard man tries.

Closing Down said...

BTW, what ever happened to the 4th moratia. Note how that has just been ignored.

Anonymous said...

Goodness gracious, the analysis of the new ACC constitution over at the ACI points out that the ACC & Standing Committee takes upon itself the role of defining the Primates' Meeting. I.e., who goes & who does not.

Goodness gracious.

Anonymous said...

If there isn't any organization, this will be like a TEC parish that gets a new rector who defines "God" as a great social justice crusade and no more than that. Members of the ACC have already left, this new chap doesn't seem exactly like a pawn of TEC, though it could be that he's like Archbishup Deng Bul - someone that TEC thought it could use, but ended up being somewhat different from the expectation. Provinces may even drift out of the Communion, one by one, until it's just TEC, the Churches of England, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Wales, with a few other provinces thrown in that are still "trying to fight the good cause."

The non-revisionist provinces (including Church of England) should really do something to "organize" these things, e.g., all refuse to show up for the ACC or at Lambeth together - or we'll be left with the whole Communion looking like TEC.

Daniel Weir said...

Lakeland Two,

Perhaps because I haven't thought much recently about the moratoria, I must ask you to enlighten me about the 4th.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Weir,

I expect that a defender of 'diocesan sovereignty' would reply in two ways.

Sovereignty here does not imply that the ordinary or diocese is immune to challenge. The complaint about the deposition of Robert Duncan is that it was uncanonical in process and unwarranted in fact. Your reading that it "impli[es] that the national or regional has no power over diocese" is inaccurate. The debate is over the limits of that power.

Also, the traditionalists invoking sovereignty do so in response to corresponding recent innovations: (a) allegedly, the Presiding Bishop has increasingly acted if her office has metropolitical authority; (b) allegedly, the House of Bishops has taken actions adverse to traditionalist bishops where those actions are contrary to the canons and constitution--to their plain meaning and the history of their interpretation--governing such acts.

House of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop may have clean hands and pure hearts in their dealings with the traditionalist minority. Even if this is true, there are many important acts that neither party can compel an ordinary to do. For instance, the Presiding Bishop cannot compel an ordinary to disclose the attorney client privileged communications of the diocese. An ordinary who refuses is not being insubordinate.

Lapinbizarre said...

Citing the ACI in a "who elected them?" argument has an ironic edge.

Unknown said...

Lapin, you are witty as always. :)


Daniel Weir said...

My concern with the diocesan sovereignty argument is that it has been used to justify secession. It is my position that Episcopal dioceses are created by a process which includes the vote of General Convention and that the only way a diocese could secede would be with the permission of General Convention. I have used the marriage and divorce analogy in the past, although it is not a perfect one, chiefly because there is no ecclesiastical court that can grant a divorce. However, there are divorces in which both parties agree to end the marriage and all the court does is make the mutual decision binding. To no longer be "in union with the General Convention" would require, IMV, a decision of a diocesan convention that was ratified by General Convention. Obviously GC is not likely to ratify such a decision, but I think that would be the only way that a diocese could leave the Episcopal Church.

As I understand it the polity of ACNA allows dioceses to secede by their vote alone.

Indications of the limits on diocesan sovereignty are numerous in the canons. The canons on ordination are prescriptive and enforceable, although I know of at least one instance where a conservative bishop violated them, and I suspect that there have been violations, minor and otherwise, by liberal bishops as well. Bishops and dioceses can't do as they please and there are actions which are required. Disclosing
information pertinent to a matter in which the Episcopal Church is the opposing party cannot, I would agree, be demanded. However, there is a great deal of information, including diocesan financial information, that must be reported.

Sibyl said...

Standing Committee tightens control over communications?

They will need a really good brand of diapers in order to keep all that fudge and other emissions from seeping out.

Whitestone said...

"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori questioned why the proposal was singling out The Episcopal Church."

Hate to say it, but she has a point.

The CoE has ordained 'gay' 'priests' to a faire thee well...and given them spousal benefits. Then there's Canada and the others.

The Western part of the 'Communion' has become its nether end.

Lapinbizarre said...

Thanks, BB.

The Lead at Episcopal Café has posted excerpts from the minutes of last December's meeting of ACC's Standing Committee and linked the entire document. Votes taken at that meeting greatly clarify TEC's current status within the Communion and probably go far to explaining recent resignations from the Standing Committee.

Closing Down said...

In response to Fr. Weir's request for information on the 4th moratia:

From the 2007 Dar Es Salaam Primates' Communique:

On property disputes
The Primates urge the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation. We also urge both parties to give assurances that no steps will be taken to alienate property from The Episcopal Church without its consent or to deny the use of that property to those congregations.

Closing Down said...

Doesn't surprise me Fr. Weir didn't remember it. Wasn't even a speed bump for the rest of TEC either. This wording, though, would probably please Scout "...alienate property from the Episcopal Church...".

Closing Down said...

Disagree with Fr. Weir's analogy, though -gee what else is new? ;-). It was through voluntary association that the dioceses were created and joined. If the shoe were on the other foot, say the revisionists wanted to leave, would there be the problems and litigation there is now? I wonder.

Lap, I get some of the irony, since no one elected the ACI. But have I missed something other than that? Just curious.

Daniel Weir said...

Lakeland Two,

Thanks for the reminder of the moratorium that the Primates requested. I had only remembered the Windsor Report three as moratoria, although I was aware of the Primate's request. I don't have a list of the litigation, but I think it is true that both departing congregations and the Episcopal Church and its dioceses have ignored the Primate's request.

Anonymous said...

Once someone goes to court to take property, or occupies property, it's pretty risky not to respond. No response risks the inactive party being deemed by the courts to have acquiesced. LL2 is right that the moratorium expressly sought to halt departing congregations from claiming Episcopal property. Certainly our congregation has been denied use by occupiers who departed the church some time ago.


Lapinbizarre said...

An allusion to ACI's July 28th Bull [capital "B", note], on the ACC.

Unknown said...

Scout writes, "Certainly our congregation has been denied use by occupiers who departed the church some time ago." I hope you do understand that the "denial" came from the diocese, not the local parish. I know that is an area that could be quickly put back on the negotiating table - there was agreement when we were at the table to conduct services led by Episcopal clergy - both The Falls Church and Truro had those plans in place with clergy remaining in the Episcopal Church identified and worked out with the Bishop of Virginia before Bishop Lee withdrew from the table when 815 suddenly intervened.

I do not see any reason why that could not be restored. Certainly the Anglican churches are willing. In fact, Episcopal weddings conducted by clergy (and even liberal clergy at that) of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are being conducted in the Anglican churches.

If we could just step back from litigation and start talking to each other again, like we are doing here. There seems to be a major disconnect between what some think is happening to what actually is happening.

As we see with the Bishop of New Jersey, who is now negotiating with local parishes who want to depart the Episcopal Church and retain their property (and the Bishop of South Carolina), perhaps the dioceses (and their bishops) are beginning to rethink the strategy that originally came from New York. This is especially important as we see the movement on the international level to distance away from diocesan-based (and even provincial-based) communications and finances to political-style action groups.

Something to think about.


Anonymous said...

We agree that a negotiated settlement would be a wise thing. It could not happen while the winner-take-all suits initiated by the departing groups under the Virginia statute were live items (technically they still are, but odds are that the statute has been taken off the table as controlling). This would be an excellent time for both sides to try to work something out. I've said before here that it strikes me that it would make a lot of sense for the Diocese to sell Truro, where there does not seem to be any viable continuing Episcopalian congregation, to the departing group for fair market value as of late 2006, while retaining TFC, where there is a strong Episcopal congregation. The money both sides would save on continued litigation would be enormous and could be used for better things than legal fees. There are a number of options, and they all should be explored.


Unknown said...

Scout, I agree. Perhaps this is something we could covenant together and ask others to join us in prayer.

Father, we do lift this difficult moment to you and ask that you might give us all wisdom and discernment, graciousness and a bias toward kindness toward one another. May we be reminded how much we have been forgiven ourselves, that we might extend that forgiveness - and ask for forgiveness - from one another. We pray for those who have the choice set before them to consider another way. Help us here - as we engaged in robust but respectful (most of the time) discourse, that we might, even in our deeply held beliefs, continue to extend the right hand of fellowship to one another for the sake of your witness, your love, your salvation, your grace, your goodness, your steadfast love that endures forever and ever. May we walk in your ways and glorify your name all for the sake of your Son, our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our friend. Amen.


Closing Down said...


Lap, thanks for the explanation.

Wilf said...

I'm in agreement with Fr. Weir here that the point re. communication with networks isn't, on face value, something to be concerned about. It could become something, but we may be reading way too much into this.

Unfortunately because of the ACC's history, many have this justifyably distrustful reflex.