A couple of covenant comments

Jonathan Clatworthy
A (very) brief lull in the weather has allowed me to put my head out of the hut and look around.

I was delighted to see Jonathan Clatworthy's article in the Guardian No covenant please, we're Anglican and subsequent coverage. The comments (I gave up after a while) didn't seem to add much depth to debate.

I was also intrigued to read Stephen Noll's paper Communion Governance: A revised Anglican Covenant (.pdf). He says,
Events of the past twelve years since the 1998 Lambeth Conference have made it increasingly clear that the Anglican Communion, lacking coherent doctrine or effective discipline, cannot continue in its present form. The idea of an Anglican Communion Covenant as a remedy for the present lawlessness (politely termed “ecclesial deficit” by the Windsor Continuation Group) ... (p2)
Since 1998, and to some degree before then, the Communion has come to be conceived as a single entity lacking central governance. But it was never intended to be such - it grew as a federation of Churches each of which had, and safeguarded, its own coherent doctrine and effective discipline - accepting the differences in both from one province to another. That it was 'lawless' was not a criticism, merely a statement of the obvious. Each member had plenary jurisdiction and law; the Communion never had jurisdiction.

Nonetheless the mood changed. The federal structure (in the shape of the Eames Commission) sought an answer to the dissatisfaction of some by creating a tighter, more unitary structure - and the covenant mechanism can only move in that centralising direction. The SCAC reinforced it. The Anglican Communion is now thought of as a single body which ought to have the apparatus of a single body to make the idea real.

Noll would also disentangle the Archbishop of Canterbury from the Church of England (p.6). As I thought (here) the relationship between the two will inevitably have to be rethought as the Communion changes.

But the most significant fact is that Noll is offering an alternative covenant to the Global South. That is, the mechanism designed to bring us all together, apart from TEC and the Canadians, obviously, is equally available to every one else. Just write your own covenant and persuade as many people as possible to sign up. The one with the most signatures wins.

Noll commends his proposal to the Global South. There is good reason to think that many will applaud it. But 'One thing I have learned in the Anglican world: theologians may propose, but bishops will dispose.' (p. 9). Or, being translated, it's all a matter of power.

I haven't had time to look though the SCAC's Memorandum and Articles. In principle I think its a perfectly logical and sensible idea to constitute the ACC as a charitable company - not least because of the personal liability carried by the individual trustees of an unincorporated association. The costs are such that, should the Communion go bust, individuals could have been wholly impoverished.

But too much was left unsaid by Canon Rees in his, somewhat artificial, Q&A session put out by ACNS.

I'm not going to duplicate the comments raised by Thinking Anglicans on Rees' attitude to equalities legislation - though I would point you to an old article by Riazat Butt Is the Church of England above the law? (Which has a much nicer picture of her than the one the Guardian usually uses.)

As to why be a charity - the obvious answer is that international bodies need to be something and governed by some law located somewhere. So why not? But as to the tax benefits - this only applies to donors who pay tax in the UK. Would it not have been more profitable to set up under US law, on the grounds that more money comes from the US than any other single country? Or would that have been a little inept politically?

When asked whether the changes have been made following due process, he says

'It’s good to see that there are Anglicans out there who care that things are being done properly.'

Which I think is a bit unnecessary. He doesn't then explain the long secrecy which shrouded the implementation of the new constitution.

But to say that the suggestion that the new Constitution gives the SCAC more powers is 'very wide of the mark' is disingenuous. It may very well be that the committee will be very careful of their relations with the ABC and Primates' meeting - but the fact remains that power is explicitly concentrated in the Standing Committee. It has, for example, all the assets and liabilities of the ACC (Resolution 3.d, 2005) and has, by law, plenary responsibility for the charity. Perhaps this is not such a big change as commentators from outside the ACC, catching up with alterations planned since 1999, may like to think - but it is significant executive power.

1 comment:

  1. This is good stuff.. It sort of endorses what Paul Bagshaw has been saying all along. Lousy photograph of Jonathan Clatworthy though - looks like a shortage of pixels or he's put his head out of the hut in the rain?!