Constitutional and common sense from New Zealand

Dr Tony Fitchett - a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion - has told New Zealand's General Synod that Section 4.2 of the Covenant (here):
“ ... contains provisions that are punitive, controlling, and completely un-Anglican, and reflect the movement towards centralized, Curia-like control that was rejected by the Lambeth conference… over a century ago…”

He's happy about the first three sections: “mother’s milk – good for us all.”

Furthermore, as has been evident from the beginning, the pressure to get a Covenant has exceeded the need for it:
He said there’d long been pressure for an instant decision.

At the last ACC meeting, for example, “much was said about the need for this to happen immediately: that even delay in adoption, let alone rejection of it would lead to the breakup of the Communion.

“Well,” said Dr Fitchett, “somehow the Communion seems to have survived for another year, in a way no more broken than in the previous five years…”
The conviction in some quarters (though without any evidence) that the Covenant is the only way to avoid schism, has resulted in unprecedented secrecy. (As far as anyone out of the loop can tell.) As a consequence there has been, in those same quarters, a desire to circumvent discussion and short-circuit the ordinary decision making processes of the Provinces and Churches. This is bad enough in itself.

But if the Covenant is born in secret and silence and the avoidance of participatory decision making then it will most probably be put into practice in the same way. The 'Curia-like control' will operate, mafia-like, out of sight of most members of the Church.

Tony Fitchett also points out that the Covenant as it stands will give the SCAC powers to over-ride the ACC's structures:
“Though the language used has been moderated, and has become fuzzier in successive drafts, the general thrust of Section 4.2 remains as it began: that a Communion-wide body – now the Standing Committee rather than the Primates – can discipline a Province and recommend its exclusion from Communion structures.

“It can also recommend suspension while those disciplinary processes are
being worked through.

“Further, a new Clause 4.2.8 excludes all provinces which have not adopted the Covenant from decision-making about exclusion of provinces.

“This means that in the ACC, the only constitutional Instrument of Communion, the proposed Covenant purports to over-ride the ACC’s constitutional provisions about decision making – so that only those Provinces that have adopted the proposed Covenant are involved in the decisions regarding exclusion.

“My belief is that this Clause, which has not been previously put forward for discussion, is ultra vires, as well as being completely unjust, and is enough on its own to justify rejecting the proposed Covenant.”

Dr Fitchett's comments mean that 3 of the 15 elected members of the SCAC have publicly expressed their opposition to the Covenant as now drafted. Bishop Mouneer Anis (who resigned) and Bishop Henry Orombi (who doesn't attend) reject the Covenant on the grounds that the Primates collectively should be the locus over faith and order in the Communion. It's hard to see TEC's Presiding Bishop voting for it given the commitment to expel TEC through the mechanisms that the Covenant provides.

Where do the rest of the members stand?

All here.

The synod agreed to discuss the Covenant over 2 years and make a decision at the General Synod in 2012. Gisborne Herald report

In the meantime,
legal opinions will be sought on a controversial part of section 4 of the Covenant – regarding participation in the decision-making of the Communion Standing Committee (clause 4.2.8). (here)

1 comment:

  1. New Zealand may be small but it is important in the wider Communion and if they don't support the Covenant...it's either dead or a portent of things to come...that is an Anglican Communion permanently divided three ways.

    A Covenant will make Anglicanism into a 'confessional'
    body which it certainly isn't. Better to leave things alone.