Friday, March 26, 2010

Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America – Part IV: The Structure and Form of Governance of the ACNA



By Robin G. Jordan

The Anglican Church in North America is a federation of Anglican para-church organizations in Canada and the United States. It was created in response to the call of the GAFCON Primates for the establishment of a new North American Anglican province “to uphold orthodox faith and practice.” A number of these para-church organizations existed before the formation of the ACNA and formed the Common Cause Partnership. Some of these para-church organizations were formed in anticipation of the creation of the ACNA; others were organized after the ACNA was formally constituted. In this fourth article in the series, “Authority, Mission, and the Anglican Church in North America,” I will examine the structure and form of governance of the ACNA at its federal level particularly in terms of oversight and accountability. I will identify a number of problem areas and consider the possible effects of these problem areas upon the future direction of the ACNA

If we examine the federal organization of the Anglican Church in North America, that is, the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee, the Provincial Assembly, the College of Bishops, and the Archbishop, we discover a number of problem areas in relation to oversight and accountability. (We will examine the Provincial Tribunal in a separate article.) By canon each ACNA judicatory—diocese, cluster, or network—is supposed to be represented in the Provincial Council by a bishop, another member of the clergy, and two lay people. The actual representation is determined by protocol between the ACNA and the individual organizations forming it. For example, the Anglican Mission’s protocol with the ACNA states,



“The Anglican Mission in the Americas will be represented in the Provincial Council as if it were three dioceses (clusters or networks); the bishops, clergy and lay representatives being chosen by the leadership of the Anglican Mission in the Americas by whatever means this sub-provincial jurisdiction elects to use.”

Note the final clause of this statement. “….the bishops, clergy and lay representatives being chosen by the leadership of the Anglican Mission in the Americas by whatever means this sub-provincial jurisdiction elects to use.” The ACNA canons do not prescribe any particular means by which a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction may choose those representing it in the Provincial Council. A judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction may adopt any form of governance that it chooses as long as it conforms to the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons. But as the foregoing protocol shows, its form of governance does not have to completely conform to the provisions of these documents. Under their provisions a sub-provincial jurisdiction may adopt an authoritarian form of governance like the Anglican Mission with a centralized hierarchy with a senior bishop at its top or a judicatory may adopt a more conventional synodical form of governance like that of the Diocese of the Gulf Atlantic with a bishop sharing the governance of the diocese with its clergy and laity. Since the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions forming the ACNA determine the method by which its representatives to the Provincial Council are chosen, they may be elected by a synod or its equivalent or appointed by the senior bishop, in consultation with a standing committee or its equivalent or alone.

Whoever has oversight of Provincial Council members and to whom they are accountable and to what extent varies according to judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction. The constitution and canons leave to the judicatory or sub-provincial the determination of what kind of oversight or accountability mechanisms, if any, it will put into place. Under the provisions of the ACNA constitution and canons it is possible for Council members, once they are chosen, to function independently of the judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction that they are supposed to represent. It is also possible for the appointing agency of a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction to closely supervise its Council members give specific directions to them, require them to make reports to the appointing agency and to consult with the appointing authority on major policy decisions. It cannot, however, remove and replace them as it sees fit. The canons make no provision for the suspension or removal of Council members, enabling a Council member to remain in office even if the Council member and the appointing authority are at loggerheads over his support of actions and policies of the Council that are contrary to the interests of the judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction that he represents.

The terms of office of Provincial Council members are staggered. This practice is usually adopted to minimize turnover in a deliberative assembly and to provide continuity and stability. At the same time it greatly reduces the likelihood of a reform movement taking office and introducing sweeping changes. A deliberative assembly with a small turnover in its membership each year is likely to develop its own culture and modus operandi like the US Senate, a culture and method of procedure to which each freshman member is introduced upon his arrival and which shape how the deliberative assembly conducts business and the part each member plays in its deliberations. It will tend to be conservative in its actions and policies and inclined to maintain the status quo even when the need for change is widely recognized and clearly warranted.



The Executive Committee is the Board of Directors of ACNA non-profit corporation. It sets the agenda of Provincial Council meetings. The Executive Committee is composed of the Archbishop and twelve Council members, six who are ordained—bishops or other clergy—and six who are lay. The Executive Committee members are elected by the Council from its members. If a casual vacancy occurs in the Executive Committee, the Committee fills it for the remainder of the unexpired term. The Executive Committee has “custody of documents and other property of the Church not vested in any other body or person.”

The canons nowhere give the Provincial Council oversight over the Executive Committee or make the Committee accountable to the Council. The Provincial Council elects the Executive Committee, exclusive of the Archbishop, but it cannot recall members, censure, suspend or otherwise discipline them, or remove them from office. The Executive Committee is not required to make reports to the Provincial Council. On the other hand, the Provincial Council is required to consider and report, with reasonable promptness, upon any matter…the Executive Committee may refer to the Council.”

With the exception of the Archbishop, the Council appoints the ACNA officers and determines their duties. The canons give the Provincial Council authority to “establish” the program and the budget of the ACNA, “including such organizational decisions as may facilitate the work of the Church.” This presumably means that the Council can fund new offices that it has created, reduce the funding to existing offices, and, except for those required by canon, abolish them. The canons, however, give the Council no authority to oversee church officers, give directions to them, regulate their operating procedures, require reports from them, review their performance, censure, suspend or otherwise discipline them, or remove them.

Once the Provincial Council elects the Executive Committee and appoints church officers, they function independently of the Council. This is not a very efficient form of administration and management as has been the experience of town councils and county boards in their dealings with independent municipal and county commissions and officials.

The Executive Committee’s control of the Provincial Council’s agenda effectively gives the Committee control of what business comes before the Council. The canons require almost as many Provincial Council members as Executive Committee members to place an item of business on the agenda. With the Executive Committee vested with power to require the Provincial Council to consider matters it refers to the Council and report to it on these manners and to set the agenda of the Council, the Committee appears to have oversight over the Council with the Council being accountable to the Committee, rather than visa versa. This kind of reverse oversight and accountability is seen in some political organizations like the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union.



Under the provision of the canons, the Provincial Assembly has no role in the governance of the Church except “to ratify the Constitution and Canons and any amendments adopted by the Council.” If it does not ratify these changes, it must return them to the Provincial Council for further consideration. It cannot discuss and suggest alterations to the proposed changes—simply approve or reject them. The Provincial Council may “deliberate on any matter concerning the Faith and Mission of the Church and to make recommendations to the Provincial Council concerning such matters.” This includes “recommendations to strengthen the mission of the Province.” The Provincial Assembly also receives reports from the Provincial Council. The Provincial Assembly is essential an advisory body. It does not oversee the Provincial Council or any of the other organs of the federal organization of the ACNA nor are they accountable to it.

The Provincial Council by canon is supposed to determines the representation of each judicatory and “founding non-ecclesial organization” in the Provincial Assembly, using a formula set forth in the canons. It may delegate this determination to the Executive Committee. All active bishops and church officers are ex officio members of the Provincial Assembly. The actual representation is determined by protocol. For example, the Anglican Mission’s protocol with the ACNA states, “The Anglican Mission in the Americas will be represented in the Provincial Assembly based on
the ASA of its clusters.” Consequently, the Anglican Mission has the largest number of delegates in the Provincial Assembly.

The Archbishop either serves as the presiding officer of the Provincial Assembly or delegates this duty to one or more people. The Archbishop was by canon given authority to determine the rules by which the inaugural Provincial Assembly was conducted. The Provincial Assembly is supposed to adopt its own rules for the conduct of subsequent Provincial Assemblies.

During the inaugural Provincial Assembly Archbishop Duncan discouraged any real deliberation upon the proposed constitution and canons and a number of amendments that were submitted to the Assembly for ratification. He set the tone in his address to the Assembly equating the deliberative process with “the ways of slavery in Egypt,” old ways that the delegates to the Assembly must leave behind them in The Episcopal Church. The delegates were instructed to either ratify the new constitution and canons and the accompanying amendments or return them to the Provincial Council for further work. The delegates were given one day to complete this task. To make matters worse, the meeting was repeatedly interrupted by announcements and video presentations. The delegates were urged to approve or reject each section of the two documents and the proposed amendments as quickly as possible as speakers were waiting to address them.



As the inaugural Provincial Assembly revealed, the Provincial Assembly is high vulnerable to exploitation and misuse. The Provincial Assembly offers too many opportunities for one or more persuasive speaker to convince the delegates of a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction to vote against its interests, as well as lobbying groups to employ pressure tactics to achieve the same results. It also permits the sub-provincial jurisdiction with the largest number of delegates to determine what proposed changes are ratified.

As a safeguard the Provincial Assembly’s one role in the governance of the ACNA—the ratification of any amendments to the constitution and canons—should be given to the “governing bodies” of the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions of the ACNA. Any proposed changes to constitution or canons should be circulated among the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions before they are submitted to the Provincial Council for their approval and then, if approved, submitted to the “governing bodies” of the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions for their ratification. As in the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia, judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions should not be bound by the provisions of canons in certain constitutionally defined categories unless they assent to them. If a judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction assented to a canon in one of these categories but withdrew its assent at a later date, it should no longer be bound by the provisions of the canon. These mechanisms would give the “governing bodies” of the judicatories and sub-provincial jurisdictions greater oversight over the Provincial Council in matters relating to the constitution and canons and would make the Council more accountable to these “governing bodies” in such matters.

The canons grandfather in as “the Committees of the Church” the committees and task forces that were operating at the time of their ratification. They give the Provincial Council authority “to alter or end” these committees and task forces and “to appoint such other committees and task forces as deemed necessary.” The canons do not give the Council authority to oversee church committees and task forces; select their chairpersons; give directions to them; regulate their operating procedures; require reports from them; review their work; censure them or their members, suspend or otherwise discipline their members; or remove and replace their members. While the Council has authority to change or abolish existing committees and task forces, it does not have the authority to change or abolish new ones. Once they are appointed, church committees and task forces, like church officers, function independently of the Council.

The canons require every congregation to submit an annual report to its bishop. They give authority to the Provincial Council to determine the form of this report and its contents. They require the bishop to submit to the Executive Committee a composite report of all such reports that he has received. The Executive Committee is required to make a report to the Archbishop on the state of the church. The Executive Committee is not required to share the information gathered in these reports with the Provincial Council or to provide the Council with a copy of its report to the Archbishop. The Council is completely bypassed. Since the final report is submitted to the Archbishop, the Executive Committee in this matter appears accountable to the Archbishop, not the Council. However, the constitution and the canons do not give oversight of the Executive Committee to the Archbishop nor do they make the Executive Committee accountable to him. Since the Archbishop chairs the Executive Committee and as the chairperson of the Executive Committee is in a position to determine what goes in this final report, the requirement that the Executive Committee make the final report to the Archbishop does not make sense unless the Archbishop is ultimately the one to decide if the final report is released to the church and the general public. The canons, however, do not say anything and we are left to speculate. This is one of the major weaknesses of the ACNA’s “minimalist” canons: they do not provide details when they need to provide them. Among the consequences of this lack of detail is a lack of oversight and accountability and a high potential for abuse of power and arbitrariness in governance.

The Executive Committee has responsibility for preparing the program and the budget of the ACNA, which is then submitted to the Provincial Council for adoption. This means that the Executive Committee has control of the purse strings, which is an important accountability mechanism. It also means that it is the real focus of power in the ACNA. As we have seen, the Executive Committee sets the agenda for the Council. The Council is required to consider matters that the Executive Committee refers to it and report back to the Committee on these matters. The Executive Committee may determine the representation of each judicatory and sub-provincial jurisdiction in the Provincial Assembly. The Executive Committee receives the annual composite report from each bishop with jurisdiction of the ACNA. As we shall see, the Executive Committee has other functions that support this conclusion. For example, the Executive Committee establishes “standards for record keeping, audits, insurance, investments and the bonding of financial officers.” The office of any bishop for special missions is created by the College of Bishops in consultation with the Executive Committee.



The College of Bishops may order its own life and adopt its own rules of procedure. It operates independently of the Provincial Council while having representation in the Council. Up to six of its members, not counting the Archbishop, may be elected to the Executive Committee. It sits with the Provincial Assembly. It confirms the election of newly elected bishops or elects a bishop for a judicatory from a slate of two or three nominees submitted by the judicatory. The canons do not limit the College of Bishops to electing a nominee from this slate. Except for requiring written notification of the judicatory, they are silent on what happens if the College of Bishops rejects all the nominees on the slate. They do not prohibit the College of Bishops from nominating and electing a candidate of its own as a bishop of a judicatory. The College of Bishops is in a position to exercise considerable influence in the ACNA.

The adoption of a canon creating the office of a bishop for special missions or the Provincial Council’s approval of the creation of the office is not required, only consultation with the Executive Committee, which, as we have seen, has control of the purse strings in the ACNA. Bishops for special missions are under the oversight of the College of Bishops and are accountable to that body. They are nominated and elected by the College of Bishops. The canons make no provision for their suspension or removal, nor does it make any provision for the abolition of the office of a bishop for special missions once it has been created. The creation of the office of a Bishop Coadjutor or Bishop Suffragan for a judicatory requires only the consent of the College of Bishops. The canons are silent on whether its consent is required to abolish such an office.

The only oversight exercised over the College of Bishops is the oversight, if any, exercised by each judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction over its bishops. Any accountability required of the College of Bishops is the accountability, if any, required by each judicatory or sub-provincial jurisdiction of its bishops. The canons give the College of Bishops limited oversight over its members: It oversees the bishops for special missions elected by it and, as we shall see three bishops may initiate presentment proceedings against a bishop and three of the five senior bishops inhibit a bishop. The latter are the only mechanisms by which the College of Bishops can formally discipline its members or hold them accountable for their conduct. The canonical provision authorizing the College of Bishops to order its own life might be interpreted as giving the College of Bishops authority to exercise oversight over its members and to require accountability from them through such additional mechanisms as a voluntary code of episcopal conduct, committees of investigation, censure, suspension of privileges, and the like.



Article IX of the ACNA constitution states:

“1. The Archbishop will be known as the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church In North America. The Archbishop will be elected by the College of Bishops.

2. The person elected as Archbishop will hold office for a term of five years concluding at the end of the meeting of the College of Bishops which elects the next Archbishop. An Archbishop who has served one term of office may be elected for a second term of office but not a third. Initially, the Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership shall serve as Archbishop and Primate of the Province.

3. 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.”

While “metropolitan” is not one of the titles that the constitution gives the Archbishop of the ACNA, the canons stipulate that all bishops owe canonical obedience to him as if he were the metropolitan of the ACNA, adopting language from the Church of England canons. A primate is the archbishop or equivalent of a province. The primate may be the metropolitan of the province as in the Church of Nigeria; he may be the metropolitan of an ecclesiastical or internal province as in the case of the Anglican Church of Australia, or he may not be a metropolitan at all as in the case of the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone of the Americas in which metropolitan authority is vested in the Provincial Executive Council. A primate is not automatically a metropolitan by his possession of that title or the title of archbishop. If the ACNA constitution does not recognize the Primate and Archbishop of the ACNA as the metropolitan of the province, he is not entitled to canonical obedience from the other bishops of the province as its metropolitan. If it is desired that the Primate and Archbishop of the ACNA should be the metropolitan of the province, then the constitution should be amended to make him the province’s metropolitan. This, however, would radically alter how the ACNA is organized. A metropolitan is the canonical superior to all the bishops of the province. They owe canonical obedience to the metropolitan as to a patriarch or pope and can be removed from office for contumacy to the metropolitan. A metropolitan is not “the first among equals,” as a bishop primus, moderator, president bishop, or presiding bishop. In requiring canonical obedience to the Archbishop on the part of ACNA bishops as if he was the metropolitan of the province like the Archbishop of Canterbury is of the province of Canterbury in the Church of England, the canons can be interpreted as empowering the Archbishop to exercise oversight over the province’s bishops and making them accountable to him. This has tremendous implications.



The canons do not prescribe by what procedure the College of Bishops is to nominate and to elect the Archbishop. This is another example of how the so-called “minimalist” canons of the ACNA omit very important details. While a constitution typically may provide only an outline of the structure, organization, and governance of a province or diocese, the canons are supposed to flesh in this skeleton, providing the details that the constitution does not provide. These details must be consistent with the provisions of the constitution. In a number of places the ACNA canons do not flesh in the skeleton: they omit important details. In some places they make additions for which the constitution does not provide. These provisions do not flesh in the skeleton. They add to it and should have been incorporated into the constitution. The requirement of canonical obedience on the part of ACNA bishops to the Archbishop, which we have just examined, is an example of such an addition.

The last clause of Article IV.3 was added to this section by the Governance Task Force after representatives of CANA drew to attention of the Governance Task Force that the canons were arrogating powers to the Archbishop that the constitution did not give him. This was a forewarning of what may be emerging as a serious problem in the ACNA and is establishing a dangerous precedent for future Archbishops of the ACNA—the present Archbishop’s arrogation of powers that he is not given by the constitution or the canons. Recently Archbishop Duncan appointed Bishop Don Harvey as the dean of the ACNA. This appointment was made with the approval of the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. However, the constitution does not give the Archbishop any appointive powers or recognize any such powers as inherent in his office. The Provincial Council can by canon give appointive powers to the Archbishop but the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee have no authority to authorize Bishop Harvey’s appointment as dean except pursuant to a canon requiring their authorization of the Archbishop’s appointments. The Provincial Council can make “organizational decisions as may facilitate the work of the Church.” It can appoint church officers and determine their duties. The constitution very specifically states that the Archbishop “carries out such other duties and responsibilities as may be provided by canon.” There is no canon providing for his appointment of a dean of the province in consultation with the Provincial Council and the Executive Committee. The office of dean of the province is important enough to warrant a canon or even a constitutional amendment creating the office of dean of the province and making provision for the provincial dean’s appointment. The manner in which Bishop Harvey was appointed dean of the ACNA suggests that the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee, and Archbishop Duncan are willing to disregard the provisions of the constitution and the canons when it suits them. This sets a very bad precedent, and raises questions as to why high-level leaders of the ACNA such as Archbishop Duncan were so insistent that the inaugural Provincial Assembly should ratify the present constitution and set of canons.

The canons have no separate title, canon, or section delineating the other duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop. Rather they are scattered around the canons. Among the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop is that he is the presiding officer of the church, Provincial Assembly, the Provincial Council, and the College of Bishops. He is the chairman of the Executive Committee and in that capacity is the chairman of the Board of Directors.

Under the provisions of the canons the Archbishop may invite any individual or group to observe the functions of the church and accord them a seat and a voice in these functions. He is not required to consult with the particular body, the function of which he has invited a particular individual or group to attend. He may accord that individual or group a seat and a voice in that function even though that body may object the presence of the individual or group at the function. For example, he can invite a group of women clergy to observe a conference sponsored by a sub-provincial jurisdiction opposed to women’s ordination and planning the jurisdiction’s response to proposals to give women a larger place in the ministry of the ACNA and accord to them a seat and voice in its deliberations. The conference, even though it is at the sub-provincial level, is a church function. While it might be customary to first consult with the body concerned, the Archbishop is not required to do so by canon.

The Archbishop may, upon application of the sponsoring bishop, remove the impediment to ordination created by the canonical prohibition against the admission to holy orders of persons who have been divorced and remarried. In giving directions for such pastoral exceptions the Archbishop acts in consultation with the College of Bishops.



While the Archbishop is in a position to exercise considerable influence in the Anglican Church in North America, he has little if any oversight and next to no accountability. The constitution and canons contain no provisions for his suspension or removal from office. They make no provision for the appointment or election of a dean of the province to perform his duties and responsibilities in the event of his incapacity, absence from the country, suspension, removal, or other inability to perform them or in event of a vacancy in the office of Archbishop. They contain no mechanism for declaring the Archbishop incapacitated and unable to perform the duties and responsibilities of his office. They do not require the Archbishop to make an annual report of the state of the church to the ACNA and its federal level bodies—the Provincial Assembly, the Provincial Council, and the College of Bishops. They do not empower the Provincial Council and the College of Bishops to require periodic reports from the Archbishop upon his work or to review his performance of his duties and responsibilities or the expenditures of his office. They do not require the Archbishop to consult with the Provincial Council and the College of Bishops or even the Executive Committee before making statements articulating his vision and long-range goals for the ACNA, changes in its policies on key issues that he desires to see implemented, or the like, or other statements that may affect the direction of the ACNA, its relationships with other churches, and/or internal relations within the ACNA. The lack of these provisions in the constitution and canons deny the other leaders of the ACNA an opportunity to express their disagreement with the Archbishop, advise a different course of action or an alternative policy, to offer other wise counsel, and to work out compromises upon which all parties can agree. It also deprives the Archbishop of a mechanism by which he can realistic determine whether the course of action or policy he is proposing has the support of other ACNA leaders.

A wise Archbishop will consult with other leaders before embarking on a course of action or introducing a new policy. But a future Archbishop may not be as wise as his predecessor and such mechanisms are needed to check “the sinfulness and folly” of Archbishops. They do not allow Archbishops to become popes or tyrants, and they can be an effective means of holding them accountable to Scripture.

We see a distinct tendency in the governance of the ACNA at its federal level is to put people in positions of authority, to give them considerable discretion, to provide them with negligible oversight, and to require very little accountability from them, and then to justify doing this as giving the people in those positions more flexibility and freedom of action and encouraging their use of initiative. This is a formula for abuse of power, arbitrariness in governance, malfeasance in office, and a number of other problems. It establishes precedents that the ACNA may come to regret and may find difficulty to undo.



In a number of his addresses and sermons Archbishop Duncan equates the experiences of former Episcopalians in the Episcopal Church with slavery in Egypt. He repeatedly warns against clinging to “the ways of Egypt,” that is retaining practices that he identifies as undesirable in the Anglican Church of North America. These practices range from deliberating the provisions of proposed constitutional amendments and canons and considering modification of these provisions to following due process and observing the rule of law. He appears to see himself as Moses figure leading the children of Israel out of captivity into the Promised Land. In these addresses and sermons Archbishop Duncan infers that the ACNA is the Promised Land, in which North American Anglicans must abandon their differences and join together in the common task of bringing Christ’s transforming love to North America. He seems to forget that Moses only saw the Promised Land from afar. He never set foot in the land that God had set apart for his chosen people to be their possession. In its present stage the ACNA is a rag tag company of former American Episcopalians, former Canadian Anglicans, and others whom they have gathered along the way, traveling through the wilderness. There is a very real danger that those who have led them “out of slavery in Egypt” will lead them into a new captivity. This will happen not because they hung on to the old ways from the time they were in Egypt but because they placed too much reliance in the judgment of their leaders and left too much of the important decision-making to them.

3 comments:

1662 BCP said...

Robin,
That is my favorite photo of Bob Duncan, he looks like he is drunk at a wedding. This portrait of His Beatitude, or whatever they are styling him, she be in the foyer of every AC/NA parish! People get the leaders they deserve.

Joe Mahler said...

King James I once said "no bishops, no kings." That's about right, so no kings no bishops. They are millstones around the neck of the Church. "We have no king, but king Jesus." and He is the bishop of our soul. The clergy need to become slaves of God and servants of His people. They were never called to be overlords.

1662 BCP said...

Joe,
I believe that the quote was made by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.