March 14, 2012

England and Canterbury: A Point to Note

Regardless of the Archbishop of Canterbury's feelings regarding the possible failure of the Proposed Anglican Covenant in the Church of England, under article 4.2.8 of the document, should the Church of England not adopt it, the Archbishop will not be eligible to participate in decision-making of the [Joint] Standing Committee [of the Primates and the ACC] when it comes to Covenant implementation matters under section 4.2.

That might be all to the good, as it will allow him to preserve the neutrality becoming of an Instrument of Communion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


A. S. Haley said...

Father Haller, I wondered about that point, too, and so I went back and read the Covenant more carefully. It says in 4.2.8: "Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption."

This language would certainly disqualify Bishop Jefferts Schori from participating with the Standing Committee on Covenant matters, should ECUSA decline to adopt the Covenant. However, I am not sure that it would disqualify ++Rowan, for the reason that in his capacity as Archbishop, he does not "represent" the Church of England on the ACC, but serves ex officio as both its chair, and as the chair of its Standing Committee. He does represent the CoE in the Primates' Meeting, but they have not elected him as their delegate to the Standing Committee, for the reason that he chairs it ex officio.

If there were another clergy or lay member from the CoE appointed by the ACC to the Standing Committee, then of course they would be disqualified. But I'm not sure I see how the language of 4.2.8 would disqualify someone who serves ex officio, and not in any representative capacity.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Dear Councilor Haley, thanks for this observation. I suppose some of it hinges on where the stress lies, i.e., "representatives of those churches" or "of those churches who have adopted..." with regard to the point about the multiple hats worn by the ABC in all of this.

Doubtless the framers never conceived that the ABC would be in such a pickle, but the access to "participation in decision making" in this "proviso" article does not appear to grant the ABC a pass to participate — as it limits participation by establishing an eligibility requirement. In other words, only members who meet that criterion are eligible to participate -- there is no mention of ex officio participation.(Normally, chairs aren't supposed to participate as decision makers anyway, except to break a tie.) My thought is that this would prevent the ABC, as chair, from taking any sides in the discussion -- which I hope you'll agree is good policy (or even parliamentary law in some cases).

It of course also raises the interesting ontological question of whether the Archbishop of Canterbury in addition to being a member of the other Instruments, is a member of himself! ;-)

Lionel Deimel said...

Failing to adopt may not not necessarily take a church out of the status of being “still in the process of adoption.” If dioceses vote not to return Covenant adoption to the Church of England General Synod, it does not mean that the CofE could not adopt the Covenant sometime in the future. One of the myriad defects of the Covenant is the absence of any deadline for adoption. See my post “What If England Votes Against the Covenant?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Indeed so, Lionel; but I would think there would need to be some indication of still being in the "process" -- which the current state of things does not seem to indicate (though I've heard recently rumors of back-room deals to amend Section 4 unilaterally -- precisely what we've been told isn't possible.)

Another thought occurred to me concerning A.S. Haley's point, and that is that Section 4.2.8 does not deal with the membership of the body engaged in decision-making, but the decision-making itself. Thus to take a case in point, our PB is a member of the SC, but if TEC does not adopt (or stay in the process), will not be part of the decision-making. Similarly, the ABC, while an ex officio member of the SC, might not under the precise wording of the text, have a role even if England adopts, since he is not, as A.S. notes, a "representatitve" -- and participation in the decision-making is limited to representatives.

This clause is just one more example, as you note, of the sloppy work in this half-baked document.

Marshall Scott said...

This does raise another issue (although certainly not a new one): when a law is passed in the United States Congress and signed by the President, execution is delegated to an agency which then promulgates rules and interpretations. Councilor Haley will be more broadly familiar; but for professional interest I am conscious of how short is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA - two pages, I think), and how much time and paper have been required for implementation (I think it has ended up being 600 pages in the Federal Register between the Preliminary Rule and the Final Rule). Discussion such as this would suggest to me that such interpretation would be required of any proposed Covenant (phrased that way because like you, Tobias, I can imagine a useful document, even if this isn't it). I don't know that it's clear in the current proposed text where and/or how that would happen, short of a quasi-litigation process ("We'll have to hash this out as we go along.") That in and of itself may affect our considerations.