Statement on Election of Bishop Ian Douglas to the ACC

Written by:
Friday, June 18th, 2010

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

The Episcopal News Service has announced that Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut was elected by the Executive Council on June 18 to succeed Bishop Catherine Roskam as the episcopal representative from TEC on the Anglican Consultative Council. In addition, a presbyter, the Rev. Gay Jennings, was elected to the clerical seat on the ACC formerly held but since vacated by Bishop Douglas.

We note that until recently Bishop Douglas also held a presbyter seat on the Executive Council as well but he formally resigned that position in February in light of his anticipated consecration to the episcopate. He noted in his resignation letter that:

The reason for my resignation is my “translation” to a new order as a result of being elected to the episcopate in the Diocese of Connecticut. I thus can no longer serve as a presbyter elected by the General Convention to the Executive Council.

Although there has been public confusion on this issue, Bishop Douglas has stated that he did not send a similar letter to the ACC, notwithstanding his recognition that he “can no longer serve as a presbyter” and the confirmation now by Executive Council that his presbyter seat on the ACC is vacant and needed to be filled. Indeed, today Bonnie Anderson described both seats as “open.”

This recognition by the Executive Council that Bishop Douglas’s clerical seat has been vacated and the attempt to elect him to the episcopal seat have clear consequences under the ACC’s constitution and rules. The point at which Bishop Douglas’s clerical seat was vacated was his consecration to the episcopate in April, and accordingly he ceased to be a member of the ACC’s standing committee at that time. Restoration of the ACC’s credibility requires recognition of these facts notwithstanding TEC’s determination to flout the ACC rules.

First, the date on which Bishop Douglas’s clerical seat on the ACC became vacant was April 17 when he was “translated” to the episcopate and could “no longer serve as a presbyter.” Clause 4(d) of the ACC constitution provides:

Bishops and other clerical members shall cease to be members on retirement from ecclesiastical office.

And ACC Resolution 4:28 proves that “retirement” in this context is used in a broad sense to mean leave or vacate the office or position for any reason:

Standing Committee members take their place on the Standing Committee as from the end of the Council Meeting at which they are elected and hold their position until such time as their successors take their place or they retire for any other reason. (Emphasis added.)

Therefore, Bishop Douglas’s membership on the ACC ended on April 17 when he retired from his presbyterial office and was “translated” to a new order.

Second, Bishop Douglas also ceased to be a member of the ACC standing committee at that moment. 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 also vacant.

Third, 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 standing committee could not appoint, even if it wished to do so, Bishop Douglas to replace himself.

Fourth, Bishop Douglas is not eligible in any event 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 2016. This rule is constitutional, not merely a bylaw or resolution.

Fifth, 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.

He would not be qualified to serve on either the ACC or the standing committee under any circumstances until that time.

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.

It is significant that the standing committee’s decision concerning Fr. Ashey was taken the day before ACC-14 began in Jamaica. Under the Clause 8 of the ACC constitution, the standing committee is authorized to act for the Council “between meetings.” Rather than refer the matter of Ashey’s qualification to the Council itself the next day, the standing committee acted at the last possible minute, reportedly at the request of TEC’s Presiding Bishop, to reverse the prior decision by the Secretary General already communicated to Uganda to accept Ashey’s appointment. This last minute reversal, which the standing committee refused to submit to the Council as a whole, meant that Uganda had no opportunity to send a replacement and therefore had no clerical representative at ACC-14.

We have written on all these matters before, but TEC has now clearly set its face against complying with either the moratoria requested by the Communion’s Instruments or the measured requests made of it to hold the Communion together in light of TEC’s intransigence. TEC requires the resignation of Bishop Douglas from its own council, but shows contempt for the rules and canons of the Communion as a whole and other member churches. The ACC can ill afford to ignore the flouting of its rules by TEC. The ACC’s credibility has been badly damaged in recent years by actions that are widely seen as favoring TEC over wider Communion convictions and sentiments. And this harm has only been highlighted by resignation and principled absence from the ACC’s standing committee. Restoration of the ACC’s credibility can only begin by enforcing its rules in the case of Bishop Douglas’s attempt to hold onto a standing committee seat that became vacant under the rules on April 17.

June 18 2010 02:40 pm | Articles