John Rees’ recent clarification on the new Anglican Consultative Council raises disturbing questions on the continuing viability of the Anglican Communion. As convener of a subgroup of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, tasked to review the Communion structures – due to report in the Cape Town Meeting later this year, I am puzzled why IASCUFO has not received report of such substantial work in its meeting in Canterbury in December 2009. Many Anglican colleagues worldwide have devoted huge effort to work on Communion matters, with the aim to find ways for the Communion to overcome its “ecclesial deficit.” Like some, I feel our labour spent on Communion matters is perhaps abused and wasted by the lack of transparency and due consultation.
Communion infrastructures have arisen in haphazard ways since 1945. The new ACC Constitution, I fear, is another instance. The lack of in-depth consultation on the constitutional changes stands in sharp contrast with the thoroughgoing processes in the drafting and dissemination of the Anglican Communion Covenant.
The controversy on the new ACC Constitution may well derail the already difficult processes in the adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant. Churches in the southern continents may well be tempted to look for more radical alternatives for a more permanent solution to recent Anglican disputes.
I ask for the following clarifications:
1. On what basis should the Anglican Communion – an international body – tie the legal structure of the Anglican Consultative Council, to the British legal system? Can John Rees point to a similar instance in other Christian world Communion (for example the Lutheran World Federation and such like)? ACC could in principle be registered in any country in the world – from Australia to Zimbabwe. Doesn’t the British registration reflect a blatant attempt to solidify British interest and the Church of England establishment over the Anglican Communion? After all, all future legal advisers would need to be well versed in British legal structures.
2. On what capacity is John Rees competent to “vouch for the fact that [the Standing Committee] members are very conscious of the interdependence of the ACC with the Archbishop [of Canterbury] and the Primates and are careful to respect boundaries?” How can personal good will on its own act as guarantee?
3. Related to this, how do the ACC Constitution and the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant relate to each other? Which body is competent to act as final ‘court’ of appeal should conflicts arise? In other words, on what basis and under what processes can the Anglican Communion Covenant interpret the ACC Constitution? Or doesn’t ACC Constitution – with its legal protection – in fact sets the (British) legal parameters within which the Anglican Communion handles inter-Anglican disputes?
14 August 2010