The conflicted Standing Committee

The Standing Committee of the Anglican Comunion, on my reckoning and including some guesswork, has 7 members from Churches unlikely to endorse the Covenant and 4 members from Churches which probably will endorse it. For 3 I don't have enough hints to know and I could easily be wrong about Hong Kong.

Furthermore the endorsement of South East Asia came with a Preamble which effectively contradicted the Covenant they had just endorsed. Though whether the Preamble will have any weight in practice is another matter.

Butand this is critical, members of the Standing Committee do not represent anybody. As trustees they must exercise personal judgment and not defer to any other body. Constitutionally this is perfectly clear.

Covenanting cats, from
Stone of Witness
Politically, however, it's a mess. Supporters of the Covenant like Archbishop Rowan Williams, Canon Elizabeth Paver and others could very well continue to further the Covenant irrespective of the opinions of their provinces' decision making bodies.

Furthermore all members of the Standing Committee could participate in the processes mandated by the Covenant whether they belonged to signatory provinces or not. As trustees they could not be excluded from such decision making. (There would be no conflict of interest. A conflict of loyalty should probably be recorded but this is unlikely to be enough for a member to exclude themselves from discussion and decision.)

In fact, given the potential consequences of judgments under the Covenant - 'recommendations' to member churches and other instruments of the Communion - there would be a strong argument that, as trustees, they must take the decisions and cannot delegate it to a sub-group or the ACO officers.

Which incidentally raises the constitutional question of the 'Alternate members' listed on the website:
  • Bp Paul Sarker (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member) 
  • Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Burundi) (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member) 
  • Archbishop John Holder (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member) 
  • Archbishop Alan Harper (Primates’ Standing Committee Alternate member)
Either they are trustees and should participate in decision making. Or they are not trustees and, whilst possibly offering advice, they should not be involved in decision making.

The Committee's Q&A page doesn't mention the alternates. It describes itself as 'the executive arm of the Anglican Consultative Council' which suggests a degree of direction from the ACC that may not exist. It is very coy about using the word 'trustee' which only appears as the members 'fulfilling basic trustee requirements concerning finance, constitutional matters, and so on ...'. Otherwise their legal role and duties are not mentioned.

(Pictures are from the official site.)

Abp Rowan Williams (President)

England voted No to the Covenant
(See Alan Perry's reflections on some procedural implications if England votes against the Covenant.)
Bp James Tengatenga (Chair)

I guess the Province of Central Africa will vote for the Covenant
Canon Elizabeth Paver (Vice-Chair)

England voted No to the Covenant
Bp David Chillingworth (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

Scotland is likely to vote No to the Covenant
Abp Paul Kwong (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

Hong Kong has been very sceptical of the Covenant and may have constitutional difficulties in adopting it.
Bp Samuel Azariah (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

I don't know where Pakistan stands on the Covenant. However, as part of a United Church, there my be some difficulties in implementing the Covenant.
Abp Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

I don't know where Sudan stands on the Covenant. However it has recognised ACNA as the legitimate Anglican Church in the US.
Bp Katharine Jefferts Schori (Primates’ Standing Committee member)

TEC has a good chance of not making any decision on the Covenant one way or the other. But it isn't recognised by Sudan anyway.
Mrs Philippa Amable (ACC appointment)

The Province of West Africa could well vote for the Covenant.
Bp Ian Douglas (ACC appointment)

TEC has a good chance of not making any decision on the Covenant one way or the other. But it isn't recognised by Sudan anyway.
Dr Anthony Fitchett (ACC appointment)

New Zealand is highly unlikely to endorse the Covenant and Dr Fitchett is known to have concerns over the legality of Section 4.
The Revd Maria Cristina Borges Alvarez (ACC appointment)

I have no sense of where Cuba stands on the Covenant.
Dato’ Stanley Isaacs (ACC appointment)

The Province of South East Asia has voted for the Covenant – but with a Preamble that pretty well contradicts it.
Revd Canon Janet Trisk (ACC appointment)

South Africa will vote for the Covenant.


  1. This is an excellent summary and it shows clearly that even at the 'top' there are deep divisions. It would be best simply to let the Covenant drop and I cannot imagine Rowan Williams successor wanting to be involved with, still less promote, what is in effect a failed scheme.

    The way forward now is the old fashioned Anglican way by dialogue and patience, we've done it before over other issues e.g. women's ordination.

  2. The Standing Committee of WHAT? The "Anglican Church"????

  3. I think that should read "Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion", no?

  4. Whoops! 'Church' deleted and replaced by 'Communion'. I'm not sure what Freud would have made of it, but I'm embarrassed.