Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recent appointment of a Dean of the ACNA raise serious constitutional questions

By Robin G. Jordan

Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America Robert Duncan has appointed Bishop Don Harvey, the retiring Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, the Dean of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop Harvey's duties will be to "support the Primate by representing Archbishop Duncan at various events and meetings both within North America and internationally when the Primate is unable to attend." An examination of the constitution and canons of the ACNA, however, reveals no provision for the appointment of a Dean of the Province by the Archbishop of the Province. Article IX.3 states:

“The Archbishop convenes the meetings of the Provincial Assembly, Provincial Council and College of Bishops, represents the Province in the Councils of the Church and carries out such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided by canon.”

The ACNA Constitution recognizes no inherent appointive powers associated with the office of Archbishop of the Province. The ACNA canons do not give any appointive powers to the office of Archbishop of the Province. This raises serious questions as to the constitutionality of this appointment. In consenting to this unconstitutional act the ACNA Executive Committee and the ACNA Provincial Council also violated the constitution and canons.

The Dean of a Province is such an important office that it is normally included in the constitution of the Province. The Dean of the Province is typically elected from the bishops of the Province by his fellow bishops. The Dean of the Province carries out the duties of the Primate of the Province during a vacancy in the office of Primate, or during his inability to perform the duties of his office or his absence from the Province. He may perform certain judicial duties. The Primate may also delegate to the Dean of the Province responsibilities and functions to be exercised by the Dean of the province when the Primate is present and ministering within the jurisdiction of the Province. In the exercise of these responsibilities and functions the Dean of the Province is under the authority of the Primate. The Dean of a Province functions very much like a Vicar General during a vacancy in the office of a Diocesan Bishop or the inability of the Diocesan Bishop to perform his duties or the absence of the Diocesan Bishop from the Diocese.

Title I.1.5 of the ACNA canons give the ACNA Provincial Council authority to appoint “such other officers of the Church as it deems necessary” and to “define the duties of each officer of the Church. This section lists several officers “deputy chair” of the Provincial Council, “chancellor, secretary, treasurer,” and “registrar.” None of these offices is on the same level as that of the Dean of the Province. Title I.1.5 does not give the Provincial Council authority to delegate its appointing power to one of its members. Title III.8.6 of the ACNA canons give the College of Bishops authority to create the office of Bishop for Special Missions in consultation with the Executive Committee of the Provincial Council and to fill that office by election from a list of two or three nominees proposed by the members of the College. A Bishop for Special Missions serves directly under the College of Bishops for “a special missionary purpose.” This is not the job description of a Dean of the Province. Neither Title I.1.5 nor Title III.8.6 forms any basis for Archbishop Duncan’s appointment of Bishop Harvey as Dean of the Province.

Archbishop Duncan certainly may need an assistant to take over some of his duties especially if the strain of the office of Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North American has become too great for him. He did not issue a Christmas or New Year’s Message as Archbishop of the ACNA or as Bishop of Pittsburgh, which is unusual for a leader in his position and has led to speculation in some quarters regarding his health. However, the need for an assistant does not justify the blatant disregard of the ACNA constitutions and canons by Archbishop Duncan, the ACNA Executive Committee, and the ACNA Provincial Council. This appointment sets a very bad precedent and shows a willingness on the part of the ACNA leadership to walk in the footsteps of their TEC counterparts.

The ACNA Provincial Council at its December meeting should have directed the Governance Task Force to draft for its consideration at its next meeting amendments to the constitution and canons making provision for the election of a Dean of the Province, delineating his duties, and identifying who would perform them during a vacancy in his office, his inability to perform them, or his absence from the Province. A special meeting of the Provincial Council should have then been called to adopt the proposed changes and a special meeting of the ACNA Provincial Assembly to ratify them.

Archbishop Duncan exceeded his constitutional authority in appointing Bishop Harvey as Dean of the ACNA and the Executive Committee and the Provincial Council exceed their constitutional authority in consenting to the appointment. Their actions suggest that the ACNA leadership has not freed itself from the influence of the ecclesiastical culture of the TEC. They are willing to take extra-constitutional measures when it suits their purposes. Despite what is described as "the need to support the Primate and ease what was becoming an overwhelming engagement schedule." their actions are not justifiable. The ACNA Provincial Council can at this stage still redeem itself and advance the cause of constitutional ecclesiastical governance in the ACNA by withdrawing its consent to this appointment and modifying the ACNA constitution and canons in a constitutional manner. Will the Anglican Church in North America be a shining example of constitutional church government? Or will the ACNA become another TEC in which the leadership give the nod to the constitution and canons of the Province when it serves their purposes to do so?

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