ADDENDUM: Bishop Ian Douglas And The ACC Standing Committee

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Monday, May 17th, 2010

UPDATE: After this piece was posted by ACI, Fr. Harris removed the article on his blog to which we were responding and later replaced it with a corrected version that contains the following notice:

The primary correction is that Bishop Douglas has resigned Executive Council. He will at some point not be the ACC clergy member from The Episcopal Church, but when is still in question.

Although Fr. Harris changed his original statement that “Bishop Douglas announced his resignation from the ACC position as clerical member from TEC at the February meeting of Executive Council,” he does not in fact indicate whether that statement was true or false as originally reported. Indeed, even in his revised post, Fr. Harris continues to say that:

It is entirely in order that Bishop Douglas both resigned from the one [ACC] seat and be nominated for the other….

[T]here are times when a person moving from one order to another, could be a candidate for a second position in the new order to which he or she is a member. But for a brief time (in this case four months) that person is not strictly a member of ACC. (Emphasis added.)

We are left to guess therefore whether Dr. Douglas announced his resignation from both the Executive Council and the ACC in February, but some concern has arisen about disclosing this; or announced his resignation from the Executive Council only.

In any event, Fr. Harris continues to acknowledge that Bishop Douglas “will have to vacate the ACC position as clerical member from TEC.”  In fact, as we noted in our previous piece, Bishop Douglas was disqualified from serving as “the clerical member” from TEC upon his consecration to the episcopacy in April. Whether he is elected to the episcopal seat in June, contrary to the ACC constitution, does not bear on this disqualification.  And whether Dr. Douglas resigned from the ACC in February as Fr. Harris originally stated or was disqualified in April under the ACC rules, he “will have to vacate” his clerical seat and the consequences of that vacancy are as outlined below.

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In our last post we noted that Bishop Ian Douglas was ineligible under the rules of the Anglican Consultative Council to continue serving on the ACC and its standing committee upon his consecration to the episcopacy in April. In a blog post yesterday, Father Mark Harris, a member of TEC’s Executive Council, discloses that Bishop Douglas in fact resigned from the ACC in February and announced this to the Executive Council at its February meeting. According to Fr. Harris, (then Fr.) Douglas recognized that he would not be permitted to continue to hold his clerical seat on the ACC upon his consecration. The fact of Douglas’s resignation had not been disclosed previously and greatly simplifies the analysis of what the ACC rules require in this situation. The implications of Bishop Douglas’s consecration and his resignation are now plain.

First, from the date of his resignation in February, Bishop Douglas ceased to be a member of the ACC standing committee. Article 2(f) of the ACC bylaws provides:

Elected members of the Standing Committee shall hold office from the end of the Council meeting at which they are appointed until the end of the last ordinary Council meeting which they would be entitled to attend but subject to earlier termination in the event that such elected member shall for any reason cease to be a member of the Council. (Emphasis added.)

Bishop Douglas therefore is no longer a member of the standing committee, and his seat on that committee is now vacant.

Second, under Article 7 of the ACC bylaws, the standing committee may fill this vacancy only by appointing a member of the same order, in this case, clerical, as that of the former member:

Casual Vacancies on the Standing Committee

In the event of a casual vacancy occurring in the membership of the Standing Committee between Council meetings the Standing Committee itself shall have power to appoint a member of the Council of the same order as the representative who filled the vacant place and such member shall have full voting rights for the remainder of the term of service of the former member. Such member shall, subject to his or her eligibility for continuing membership of the Council, be eligible for re election to the Standing Committee at the next Council meeting. (Emphasis added.)

Therefore, the ACC may not appoint, as Father Harris suggests, Bishop Douglas to replace himself.

Third, Bishop Douglas is not eligible to replace retiring Bishop Roskam as TEC’s episcopal representative to the ACC. Clause 4(c) of the ACC constitution provides:

On termination of his or her period of office, no member shall be eligible for re-appointment nor shall he or she be appointed an alternate member until a period of six years elapses from the date when such original membership ceased.

Bishop Douglas may not serve again on the ACC until February 2016. This rule is constitutional, not merely a bylaw or resolution.

Fourth, even if Bishop Douglas could be elected to TEC’s episcopal seat, his new term would not begin until the next ACC meeting under ACC Resolution 4:28:

those elected or appointed to the Anglican Consultative Council begin their membership as from the beginning of the first Council meeting following their election.

Finally, unless Bishop Douglas retracts the authorization given by his predecessor to perform same sex blessings in the diocese of Connecticut, he is not “qualified” to serve on the ACC under the precedent established at ACC-14 by the refusal to seat the appointed member of Uganda. The ACC Secretary General advised Archbishop Orombi that this refusal was on the grounds that:

The Joint Standing Committee has discussed this at length. We understand that the Revd Philip Ashey’s relationship with the Church of the Province of Uganda is as a result of a cross provincial intervention, and note that such interventions are contrary to the Windsor Report and other reports accepted by successive meetings of the Instruments of Communion, including Primates’ Meetings which you have attended. Therefore we regret to inform you that Mr Ashey’s current status means that we cannot regard him as a ‘qualified’ member according to Section 4(e) of the current Constitution.

Authorization of same sex blessings is “contrary to the Windsor Report” and to the moratoria that have now been affirmed by all four Instruments of Communion, including the ACC. Accordingly, Bishop Douglas is not, consistent with the interpretation articulated by the Secretary General, “qualified” to serve on the ACC under clause 4(e) of the ACC constitution.

Bishop Douglas seems to understand that the ACC rules involved required his resignation, and we are grateful for his wisdom in following them to this point.  Our argument has been that the legal requirements governing the ACC and its standing committee are matters to be taken seriously, not just for their own sake, but because of the grave challenge the Instruments as a whole are facing to their credibility in a critical time for the Communion.  Although simply following the rules will not by itself resolve these challenges, it is one necessary element in the much more difficult task of moving forward in a trustworthy fashion that takes the concerns of the broader Communion seriously.  And to this end, we pray that all of us work faithfully, tirelessly and transparently.

The Reverend Canon Professor Christopher Seitz
The Reverend Dr. Philip Turner
The Reverend Dr. Ephraim Radner
Mark McCall, Esq.

May 17 2010 07:16 am | Articles