Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Provincial Committees and Taskforces in the Anglican Church in North America
By Robin G. Jordan
Article V of the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) empowers the Provincial Council to make canons ordering the common life of the province. It lists a number of matters in respect to which the Council is empowered to make canons. They include common worship and the proper administration of the province. Article VII recognizes the Provincial Council as “the governing body of the Anglican Church in North America” with authority to establish the program and budget of the province.
A proposed amendment to the constitution submitted at the recent Provincial Assembly adds that the Council has authority to adopt canons and constitutional amendments for the ratification of the Assembly. This amendment is cosmetic. It is redundant as Article V already gives the Council power to make canons. The phrase “make canons” includes adopting them in its meaning. Article VI.2 empowers the Assembly to ratify “constitutional amendments and canons adopted by the Provincial Council,” establishing that such legislation must first be approved by the Council before it is ratified by the Assembly. This was pointed to the attention of the Governance Task Force when it initially proposed the change in the constitution.
Article VII.10 creates an Executive Committee of the Provincial Council and permits the composition and duties of the Executive Committee to be established by canon. It also contains a transitional provision: “Initially the Executive Committee shall be composed of the members of the Common Cause Executive Committee, as constituted under the Common Cause Articles.” The previous section of Article VII states explicitly that the Executive Committee and “other office bearers” are to assist in the preparation of the agenda of each Provincial Council meeting. The ACNA constitution contains no other provisions that apply to committees and taskforces.
The first sentence of Canon I.1.1 of the ACNA canons reiterates the provisions of Article VII.1 as it was worded before the proposed constitutional amendment of June 20, 2011. The ACNA has not so far made public whether the Provincial Assembly ratified this amendment. To these provisions is added the clause “including such organizational decisions as may facilitate the work of the Church.” This is an example of the Governance Task Force and Provincial Council’s adding to or altering of the constitution by canon without formally amending it. This practice is highly irregular as well as unconstitutional. All that was required in this section was a list of the duties and responsibilities of the Provincial Council. The clause could have been included in this list where it would not have been an addition or alteration to the constitution but would have fallen within those categories in which the Council is empowered to make canons—in this particular case, the category of proper administration of the province. Such a list need not be exhaustive. Other duties and responsibilities of the Council could be prescribed elsewhere in the canons.
Canon I.1.4 makes the Executive Committee the Board of Directors of the Anglican Church in North America’s non-profit corporation. It does not make the Executive Committee in its capacity as corporate Board of Directors accountable to the Provincial Council and subject to its directives and policies. For all intents and purposes it can act independently of the Council.
Canon I.1.4 states that the Executive Committee is to set the agenda for meetings of the Provincial Council. This goes beyond the scope of Article VII.9, which explicitly states that the “Chair” of the Council, “with the assistance of the Executive Committee and other office bearers,” is responsible for the agenda of Council meetings. Helping to prepare an agenda and setting an agenda is not the same thing. Here again the Governance Task Force and the Provincial Council have added to or altered the constitution by canon rather than formally amending it—a highly irregular and unconstitutional practice.
Canon I.1.4 goes on to state, “Any ten members of the Council may have an item of business placed on the agenda for consideration.” This presumably refers to items of business that the Executive Committee has not placed on the agenda.
Canon I.1.4 further states:
“The members of the Executive Committee shall be the Archbishop, who shall be chairman, and twelve (12) other members, six (6) ordained and six (6) lay, elected by the Council from among its members. The Executive Committee may elect a replacement for any member of the Executive Committee who does not serve for his or her full term of office. The Executive Committee shall have custody of documents and other property of the Church not vested in any other body or person. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the initial Executive Committee shall be as provided in Article VII.10 of the Constitution and shall continue in office until its successors are elected.”
A proposed change in the canons submitted at the recent Provincial Assembly adds the following provisions to Canon I.1.4:
“Members of the Executive Committee shall serve three year staggered terms and cannot serve more than two terms consecutively. Officers of the Province shall serve as ex officio members with voice but no vote.”
The ACNA has not so far not made public whether the Provincial Assembly ratified this change.
Article VII.3 of the ACNA constitution limits the term of office of each Provincial Council member to five years and requires each diocese to implement a system of staggered terms. This includes bishops as well as clergy and lay Council members. Article VII.3 grants no exemption to Council members in any of these three categories. Article VII.4 permits a retiring Council member to serve an additional five year term. The proposed change in the canons limits the members of the Executive Committee to two consecutive three-year terms and staggers their terms of office.
Staggered terms are used so that all members of a board, council, or committee are not selected at the same time. Generally, proponents of staggered terms cite two main advantages of staggered terms. They provide continuity and they prevent or deter unwanted takeovers.
Opponents of staggered term, however, argue that they make the members of the board, council, or committee less accountable to those who appointed or elected them. Staggering terms tends to breed a fraternal atmosphere inside the board, council, or committee that serves to protect the interests of a particular group or party in an organization. A group or party once it has gained control of an organization is likely to stagger boards, councils, and committee member terms to make it more difficult for rival groups and parties from gaining control of the organization or exercising any real influence in the organization.
Staggered boards, councils, and committee greatly reduce the likelihood of the introduction of major reforms in an organization and their successful implementation. Such bodies will always have members who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. When a new member is appointed or elected to such a body, the new member is quickly indoctrinated in how things are done in that body. The new member may be assigned a senior member as a mentor to help him “learn the ropes.” The new member who tries to do things differently will run into obstacle after obstacle.
Canon I.4 states:
“At the time of the adoption of the Constitution the following Task Forces and Committees were operating: the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force, the Governance Task Force, the Admissions Committee, the Ecumenical Relations Task Force, the Education Committee, the Episcopate Task Force, the Finance, Budget and Stewardship Committee, the Mediation Panel and the Mission Committee. These Task Forces and Committees shall continue, as constituted, as Committees of the Church until further action of the Council, which shall have authority to end or alter the same and to appoint such other committees and task forces as deemed necessary.”
Canon I.4 grandfathers in as the provincial committees and taskforces of the Anglican Church in North America those established by the Common Cause Partnership. An examination of the Rosters: Officers, Courts, Task Forces and Committees (August 2011) is very revealing. It provides valuable insights into how the ACNA operates at the provincial level.
Under the heading “Provincial Council Officers” we find this note:
“Officers shall be appointed annually by the Council. They are not required to be members of the Council. The following officers are recommended by the Executive Committee to continue in office for the year beginning July 1, 2011.”
Nowhere in the ACNA governing documents do we find any provisions empowering the Executive Committee to make recommendations in regards to who should serve as officers of the Council and who should continue as Council officers. If this is to be one of the duties of the Executive Committee, it should be prescribed by canon.
The Rosters: Officers, Courts, Task Forces and Committees also lists the members of the Archbishop’s Cabinet, which was established by Archbishop Duncan. The ACNA governing documents make no provision for the establishment of an Archbishop’s Cabinet. They also do not give authority to establish such a body to the Archbishop or recognize that authority inherent in the Archbishop’s office. Note that the Archbishop’s Cabinet is almost exclusively made up of bishops. Except for references to the Archbishop Duncan’s Archbishop’s Cabinet, the only references to “Archbishop’s Cabinet” a Google search produces are the archbishop’s cabinets of Roman Catholic archbishops established by them to coordinate the running of their archdioceses.
Canon I.3.1 does authorize the College of Bishops to “order” its own life and to “develop such rules and procedures as it deems appropriate for its life and work,” its work being defined in Article X of the ACNA constitution: “The chief work of the College of Bishops shall be the propagation and defense of the Faith and Order of the Church, and in service as the visible sign and expression of the Unity of the Church.” It is debatable whether “canon” and “dean” are appropriate titles for officers of the College of Bishop. A canon is typically a clergyman belonging to the chapter or the staff of a cathedral or collegiate church. The term is sometimes applied to diocesan officials. A dean is typically the head of the chapter of a collegiate or cathedral church. The term is sometimes applied to a priest who supervises one district of a diocese or to an archbishop or a bishop who assumes the duties and responsibilities of a primate in his prolonged absence or incapacitation or during a vacancy in the primacy. In the later case the dean is an officer of the province, not an officer of the College of Bishops or its equivalent of a province.
What is also worth noting is the number of bishops and other clergy serving on the committees and task forces and the number of people serving on more than one committee or task force. The number of committees and taskforces has also grown since the adoption and ratification of the ACNA governing documents three years ago.
To my knowledge the ACNA has never made public how exactly the members of these committees and taskforces are selected. Canon I.4 states that the termination or alteration of a committee or taskforce requires the action of the Province Council, and that the Council may appoint such other committees and task forces as deemed necessary. It , however, does not identify who determines what additional committees and taskforces are needed nor does it describe the procedures by which the members of these committees and taskforces are selected. It is so worded that someone might serve on a committee or taskforce for an indefinite period.
What guiding principles, if any, are followed in the selection of committee and taskforce members? How much attention is given to ensuring all dioceses and dioceses-in-formation are represented in the Governance Task Force. How much attention is given to ensuring that all theological and liturgical viewpoints in the conservative Anglican spectrum have adequate representation in the Prayer Book and Common Worship Task Force? The evidence to date does not suggest that these considerations are receiving much attention in the ACNA.
It is clear from Canon I.4 that the Provincial Council is the appointing authority for the committees and taskforces at the provincial level. Normally a committee or taskforce submits for action its reports and recommendations to the authority which appointed it, not to another committee appointed or elected by that authority, such as the Executive Committee, nor to another body such as the College of Bishops. But we find in the ACNA the Governance Task Force submitting its reports and recommendations to the Executive Committee for action and the Prayer Book and Common Worship Taskforce submitting its reports and recommendations to the College of Bishops for action. Both taskforces should be reporting directly to the Provincial Council.
As I noted in my article, “The Provincial Legislative Process in the Anglican Church in North America,” nowhere in the ACNA constitution or canons do we find any provision requiring the Executive Committee to approve any proposed changes to these governing documents. The Executive Committee, under the leadership of Archbishop Duncan, appears to have arrogated to itself power and authority not given the committee by these documents or recognized by them as inherent in the committee.
Canon II.2.2 states:
“It is understood that there is a diversity of uses in the Province. In order to use these rich liturgies most advantageously, it is the responsibility of the Bishop with jurisdiction to ensure that the forms used in Public Worship and the Administration of the Sacraments be in accordance with Anglican Faith and Order and that nothing be established that is contrary to the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.”
The phrase “the Bishop with jurisdiction” is a reference to the bishop who is the ordinary of a diocese and has episcopal oversight (or supervision) of the diocese. The provisions of Canon II.2.2 apply to a diocesan bishop in his diocese. Nowhere in the ACNA constitution and canons do we find any provision requiring the College of Bishops to approve the Book of Common Prayer and other liturgies used throughout the province.
On the other hand, Article V of the ACNA constitution empowers the Provincial Council to make canons in respect to common worship. Article VII recognizes the Council as “the governing body of the Anglican Church in North America.” The reports and recommendations of the Prayer Book and Common Worship Taskforce should be being submitted for action to the Council as should its proposals for a Book of Common Prayer and other liturgies. The Council is the appointing authority of the taskforce. It is the governing body of the province as well as the only body in the province empowered to make canons respecting common worship. This is not to say that the College of Bishops should not be consulted in the preparation of a Prayer Book and other liturgies but the final approval of the Prayer Book and other liturgies rightfully belongs to the Council, not the College of Bishops. In authorizing an ordinal the College of Bishops usurped the authority of the Council.
After examining the provincial legislative process and the provincial system of committees and taskforces in the ACNA I am convinced more than ever that those conservative evangelicals who check their beliefs and principles at the door and join the Anglican Church in North America in hopes of reforming the ACNA have an extremely difficult if not impossible task before them. They might do better to invest their energies and resources in erecting a new province rather than trying to affect change in the ACNA.
The Evangelical Bar in the Anglican Church in North America
The Provincial Legislative Procedure in the Anglican Church in North America
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:37 PM