Purporting to split hairs

I really must read Thinking Anglicans more carefully. I would have missed this but for Mark Harris.

In questions from members of the C of E's General Synod to Church bodies:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of
England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship
between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as
Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between
her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the
proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft
Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to
delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore
means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the
primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of
action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in
relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a
matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external
power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal
Prerogative could not in practice arise.

Of course, and I think Norman Doe has pre-empted this, if the Communion body concerned doesn't make a direction but issues a Request (the wording of the St Andrew's Draft) then the Church of England might be able to sign without giving up any of its powers and privileges.

But then the question moves to what you mean by 'purport'. I would argue that a Request backed by sanctions is a direction by any other name. Others may say that a church was not being directed in the least, it would merely be voluntarily resigning from a voluntarily chosen covenanted partnership should it choose, of its own free will, not to follow the terms of the Request.

In fact I suspect a lot more legal and political work has gone on since the SAD covenant was written in part to cut this distinction even finer. On it rests the whole question of autonomy and intercommunion. If this legal question survives the politics at all my guess is that it will have to be so finely balanced that it will be doubtful whether it could carry the weight of relationship between the Provinces.


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