Sunday, September 02, 2007

Canon Robert J. Brooks on the Communion's Constitution

The Episcopal Majority brings us The Brooks Memorandum:

...It is time to invoke and enforce the only universally pre-agreed written constitution of the Anglican Communion as the framework for any discussion going forward. Those who have continuously asserted new rules and new structures in the last few years have consistently ignored the constitutional framework for addressing their proposals. They seek to create new structures solely by loudly asserting them, accompanied by thinly veiled threats, counting on many in the leadership of the Anglican Communion or The Episcopal Church not to hold them accountable to the rule of law. Up until now, their strategy has worked. Building on the action of the House of Bishops and the President of the House of Deputies, it is time to insist that any proposed new structures or any revised status in the Anglican Communion for The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada be discussed within the framework that presently exists in the only written constitution of the Communion. Any actions taken outside that constitutional framework are, and are to be regarded as having no legal standing, and are therefore unenforceable and null and void...

...I have noted that there exists in the Anglican Communion only one written constitution that pre-exists the current controversy and that has universal acceptance. That written constitution is the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council which was adopted unanimously by the General Synods/General Conventions of every Province in the Anglican Communion in 1969...

...In Article 3 (“Membership”), it constitutes a list of the schedule of membership, which is attached to and made a part of the ACC Constitution, which explicitly lists by name all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, including The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Because this list is part of the only written constitution of the Anglican Communion, the usual way of deleting a Province from the list is by constitutional amendment. The ACC Constitution provides that any amendment must be passed by the Anglican Consultative Council (which next meets in 2009) and ratified by 2/3 of the General Synods/General Conventions of the Provinces before it becomes part of the ACC Constitution. There is a permissive clause in this same Article 3 that allows the Council, “with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion”, to “alter or add to the schedule”. Again, this requires a meeting of the Council to invoke this clause and a meeting of the Primates to obtain the required two-thirds assent. The only written constitution of the Anglican Communion makes it clear that neither the Primates nor the Archbishop of Canterbury acting alone can legally “alter the schedule” of Provinces of the Communion listed in the ACC Constitution. Any claim or threat to the contrary has no constitutional standing. The Episcopal Church explicitly acknowledges that the Anglican Consultative Council is the body through whose authority all the work of the Anglican Communion is done by labeling the line-item for the assessment to the Communion in the General Convention Triennial Budget, “Anglican Consultative Council”...

...The following new structures that have been asserted in the last two years by various individuals, organizations, or the Primates’ Meeting have no standing in constitutional law in the Anglican Communion:

There is no mention in any article of the ACC Constitution of:

  • “alternative primatial oversight”
  • a “pastoral council” appointed by the Primates’ Meeting to exercise primatial oversight of any primate of this Communion
  • a “primatial vicar” appointed by a so-called “pastoral council” that reports to that “council” instead of to the Primate of the Province
  • secret sessions of the Anglican Consultative Council to debate an issue with no minutes taken as occurred at the Nottingham ACC Meeting in 2005
  • secret sessions of the ACC where votes on issues are taken as occurred in Nottingham
  • authority of the ACC acting alone to immediately suspend or expel Provinces without the assent, subsequent to that action, of 2/3 of the Primates.

    If these ideas for new structures are so compelling, they should be brought by their advocates to the next meeting of the ACC in 2009 as proposed amendments to the ACC Constitution. The proponents can then take their chances on others agreeing with them in a free and open debate in the ACC, and should they be passed, in the General Synods of all the Provinces, with 2/3 required for ratification. It is past time to return to the rule of law, not “men” (which I am using explicitly since that is who the proponents are), and stop acquiescing to bullies who loudly assert new structures without submitting to the written constitutional framework unanimously put in place for this purpose by all the Provinces. It is past time to stop giving these asserted new structures credence by acting as if they really existed and had standing in constitutional law.

    The Tanzania meeting of the Primates defined a deadline of September 30, 2007, for the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church to violate the Constitution of its own Church to accede to the two actions demanded in the ultimatum. As noted previously, this ultimatum from the Primates has no constitutional legality in the Communion itself because the ACC Constitution would have to be amended by October 1 to remove The Episcopal Church from the constitutional schedule of Provinces in order to deliver on their threat. Also, the Anglican Consultative Council, of which we and the Canadians are still members by that membership schedule, would have to be convened to pass the amendment, with 2/3 of the General Synods ratifying it, or “alter the status” of this Church with the assent of 2/3 of the Primates at a convened meeting.

    It is time to insist upon a return to the written constitutional framework as the context for discussion of the life and mission of the Anglican Communion. The message to others about the ACC Constitution is simple: Either obey it or amend it. Out of respect for all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion whose General Synods unanimously put in place this one written constitution for the Communion as the framework for its on-going life, we should honor and obey this constitution. Then let the conversation continue.
  • So, to summarize, the only existing constitutional framework that we have as Anglicans to sort out our current matters is the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council. TEC identifies the ACC as the authority through which we accomplish the work of the larger Communion by the line item in the budget designated for the ACC. The ACC Constitution lists its members. Only the ACC can change that list. They meet again in 2009.

    The Primates have proposed items that it was not within their authority to propose, without first being approved by the ACC. Also, the Primates cannot deliver on their Tanzananian threat without the reconvening of the ACC. Neither the Primates nor the Archbishop of Canterbury acting alone can change the listing of Provinces in the ACC's Constitution.

    This has been mentioned before, but I have yet to see such a clear explanation. It seems most appropriate to me that the only body among the Instruments of Unity/Communion that includes members of all four orders, and not just bishops, would have the final say as to who is in and who is out.

    May our House of Bishops, meeting later this month, pay careful attention to this document.


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