News for Week Ending 8/16/2010
Controversy grows over ACC structural changesThe quiet transformation of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) from an unincorporated international body to an English charity is drawing increasing scrutiny. Not only is the ACC one of the so-called Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion, but it is the most representative of the four bodies and the only one that includes non-episcopal clergy and laypeople among its members. The former constitution of the ACC can be found here; the new constitution can be found here.
Questions were raised as early as last December about new “Articles of Association” of the ACC that Anglican leaders refused to release, saying they were not yet approved. Seemingly, however, they were already in use. Two recent stories in The Church of England Newspaper raise questions both about the adoption of the new constitution and about its actual content. (The articles are reproduced on the blog of their author, the Rev. George Conger. They can be found here and here.)
Attorney Mark McCall, who is associated with the Anglican Communion Institute, authored a helpful essay explaining the issues around the ACC’s governing document for The Living Church. The McCall piece summarizes a longer paper from the ACI.
In what appears to be an effort in damage control, Anglican Communion News service, on August 11, posted questions and answers about the ACC’s new constitution from the AAC’s legal advisor, the Rev. Canon John Rees.
Australia rules against deaconal/lay presidencyPerhaps surprisingly, not all Anglican controversies are about sex. The Diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Church of Australia has long advocated deaconal and lay presidency, that is, allowing deacons and laypersons to preside at the Eucharist. Anglican opinion worldwide is overwhelmingly against this idea, but the Diocese of Sydney has persisted. Episcopal News Service reported August 12, 2010, however, that the Appellate Tribunal of the Australian church has ruled that presiding at the Eucharist by deacons or laypersons is not allowed under current canons. The Appellate Tribunal did not consider theological issues.
Bennison return unpopularThe return of Bishop Charles E. Bennison to his position as Bishop of Pennsylvania has sparked protest and calls for his resignation. Bennison’s conviction on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy was overturned on a technicality, allowing him to resume his episcopal duties. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.)
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported August 11, 2010, that members of the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) demonstrated August 10 against Bennison’s return at the office of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. (In the past, most of SNAP’s activities have been directed at clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.)
The Rev. Timothy Safford, rector of Philadelphia’s Christ Church, wrote Bennison August 8 suggesting that he not resume his episcopal duties. In his letter, Safford wrote, “My strong belief is that your return will do more harm than good, create more anger and less reconciliation, and hinder, not advance, the Church’s mission in our diocese.” The Rev. W. Frank Allen, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pa., made a similar plea to Bennison. Neither priest offered much hope that his advice would be taken.
Episcopal News Service and VirtueOnline have written about resistance to Bennison’s return. The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania issued a statement August 8 anticipating the bishop’s return and expressing appreciation for those who have served in his absence. On August 16, the day Bennison was to return to his duties in the diocese, the Standing Committee, in an open letter to the diocese, called for the Bishop to resign.
Union of Kansas dioceses suggestedAccording to VirtueOnline, the Rt. Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, has written to the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas suggesting that the two dioceses unite. Western Kansas will be electing a bishop August 21, 2010. Both dioceses are small and experiencing financial difficulties.
The idea of combining the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania was raised last year before the diocesan convention. The convention passed a resolution encouraging the dioceses (as well as other nearby dioceses) to study ways of co-operating with one another.