ACC refuses Ugandan delegate

On the first day of the ACC-14 meeting, the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council made an unconstitutional decision to refuse to seat the clergy delegate from the Church of Uganda. The Church of Uganda is entitled to three delegates – a bishop, priest, and lay person.

In an email dated 24 April, the Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council, wrote to the Most Revd Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, saying, Tm grateful for the nomination of Revd Philip Ashey as ACC Delegate…and I look forward to welcoming him to ACC.’

During the first press briefing, the Venerable Paul Feheley, the ACC’s spokesperson, stated that each province appoints its own delegates to the ACC. as written in the constitution of the ACC, but in a surprising move, the Joint Standing Committee, meeting on 1 May, exceeded the limits of their authority, reversed Canon Kearon’s decision of 24 April, and determined that Revd Ashey was not ‘qualified’ to serve as a delegate, citing section 4(e) of the Constitution of the ACC. Their reason? Revd Ashey is an American who was received into the Church of Uganda in 2005.

In a 2 May letter appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Orombi wrote,

‘The appointment of delegates to the ACC from a province is purely an internal matter and is not subject to review by any body within the ACC, including the Joint Standing Committee. That the Joint Standing Committee would assume such authority is a gross violation of our constitutional relationships, not to mention a further tearing of our bonds of affection. Our reasons for appointing one of our American priests to represent us as our clergy delegate are our reasons, and are not for the Joint Standing Committee to question. Section 4(e) does not give the Joint Standing Committee or the ACC the right to interfere in the appointing body’s determination of the ‘qualification’ of a delegate. For the Joint Standing Committee to assume this power is nothing short of an imperialistic and colonial decision that violates the integrity of the Church of Uganda.’

Orombi continued, ‘The appointment of Revd Philip Ashey to fill a vacancy at the last minute provides the Church of Uganda with a strong voice of a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Ruwenzori. It is also a voice for the almost 100,000 orthodox Anglicans in North America who have been persecuted by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, who will not be represented by their delegations to ACC-14, and who will not otherwise have a voice or seat at the table of the ACC. It is important for the Communion to be reminded that there is a serious tear in the fabric of our communion; all is not well and there continues to be an urgent need to address the ongoing crisis before us.’

Communications Department, Church of Uganda

While 90% of America’s best jobs require a college degree, 60% of children in city schools don’t even graduate from high school. This is not just an issue of the urban poor. The U.S. ranks 49th in the world in literacy, and 28th out of 40 countries in math literacy. The issue is not one of money. The Federal Government began giving major federal aid to help poor students way back in 1966. ‘No Child Left Behind’ was a major Bush initiative investing S24 bil-

lion a year. Yet there has been no significant improvement.

The central issue

Why? It is time to acknowledge that the central issue of our time is the disintegration of marriage. Children of divorce or of non-marriage are three times as likely to be expelled from school or to get pregnant as teenagers. A federal study reported that children of single parents are 77% more likely to be physically abused than those with married parents. A British study put the risk much higher. A child living with an unmarried mother is 14 times as apt to be physically abused by the mother.

In 2007 40% of children were born out-of-wedlock That’s 1.7 million kids, up sharply from 1.2 million in 1995. In that year, more than 60% of households were headed by married parents, but only 49.7% were married in 2005.

Highest divorce rate

Divorce destroys one marriage out of two – the world’s highest divorce rate. Therefore, what is needed is a fresh focus on strengthening marriage. First, we must increase the marriage rate among young couples by removing government subsidies that encourage having children out-of-wedlock. Why should the government reward single parenthood with welfare, food stamps, free medical care, housing subsidies, etc? Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation estimates ‘The cost of subsidizing single parenthood is S280 billion. The people who receive these very large subsidies

should no longer get one-way handouts.’ He argues that food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and other subsidies should be conditional on full-time work. Sound familiar? Welfare Reform changed the open-ended entitlement to a maximum of five years and required at least part-time work. Pat Fagan of the Family Research Council says this system ‘is a massive injustice. Married people are the source of a massive transfer of payments to broken families. Those who stay together are also paying for those adults who do not do that.’

With a Democratic President and Congress, cutting benefits is unthinkable. However, what if marriage penalties were removed? A single mom earning $12,000 gets a certain level of benefits. But if she marries the man she’s living with, she loses thousands in subsidies for food stamps, health care, and housing. Why not give her the same level of benefits for two years if she marries? Married men earn more, and the need for subsides declines over time. Studies show the poor want to marry, but can’t afford it. So let’s remove the marriage penalty.

Forced to divorce

A second marriage strategy is to decrease the divorce rate by changing laws that reward marriage destruction rather than its preservation. Contrary to common assumption, divorce is opposed in four out of five cases by one spouse.

‘Many are devastated to discover that they can be forced into divorce by procedures entirely beyond their control,’ writes Stephen Baskerville in Touchstone magazine. ‘Divorce licenses unprecedented government intrusion into family life, including the power to sunder families, seize children, loot family wealth.’ Consider two facts: each year 2-3 million restraining orders are issued to separate husbands from wives and to keep fathers away from their children. Yet half of all restraining orders do not include even an allegation of physical abuse. I have long argued No Fault Divorce laws should be changed if children are involved, to require the mutual consent of the other parent, unless a major fault (adultery, physical abuse) is proven. Another essential reform is to penalize spouses who file false restraining orders, perhaps reducing their share of family assets. Reviving marriage could be a fresh issue for conservatives. ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’

Michael /. McManus

Richard Holloway says the worldwide Anglican Church has made room for happy-clapping evangelicals, bells-and-smells Catholics, women priests and, in the United States, openly gay clergy, and even practitioners of other faiths. So surely, he argues, it can find room for people like him – Christians who don’t believe in God.

Holloway, contrary to popular belief, has not left the Episcopal Church, as Scottish Anglicanism is known. He may have taken early retirement as Bishop of Edinburgh, but he remains an ordained priest and consecrated bishop, who still preaches from the pulpit, performs baptisms and weddings and even presides at communion.

‘I had a crisis in 1998 and I was in a kind of internal exile for a bit,’ he told the Herald yesterday, while en route to Sydney, where he is a speaker at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. T am in a slightly mellower place with the Church right now. I’ve still got my pilot’s licence, so to speak. They didn’t take it away from me.’

But Holloway has abandoned his belief in – or at least certainty about – God and the afterlife, and is now known as a ‘Christian agnostic’. ‘I am not trying to persuade people in the church to adopt my angle,’ he insists. T just want space enough to be honest about my own convictions. The congregation I belong to in Edinburgh knows my position and is hospitable enough to include me.’

That he still presides at communion

– indeed, as recently as three weeks ago

– raises the thorny question of how an agnostic, unconvinced about the divinity of Jesus, can consecrate the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ. Surely, it becomes a mere gesture? ‘It very much depends on the interpretation you put on it,’ he explains.

A mere gesture

‘I still very much believe in the community of the church. One of the most fundamental strengths of the church, or any religious community, is that it is still an expression of the human family.

‘The Eucharist [communion], in my understanding, is the family meal. It is the way you express your identity and membership of that body. I happen to believe that it is a beautiful art form as well’

Holloway, whose most recent book, Between The Monster And The Saint, contemplates the way humans wrestle with their impulses towards evil, sees the Church as a valuable institution, as much a social club, welfare organisation and counselling service as a community of believers – or doubters.

He still believes humans should live ethically, as though there is a promise of an afterlife. ‘What I hold is another great philosopher, [the Spaniard, Miguel de Unamuno], who said, ‘Man is perishing, that may be, but if it is nothingness that await us, let us perish resisting and let us so live that it will be an unjust fate.’ I want people to live as though life had eternal meaning. Even if you don’t believe in a God of unconditional love, choose to live as though there were.’

The Sydney Morning Herald

With hope and anticipation we went to Jamaica to participate in the ACC-14 meeting. The Anglican Covenant was the most important item in our agenda. Its importance arises from fact that it is the only hope left to keep the unity of the Anglican Communion. It was very encouraging seeing the Archbishop of Canterbury, many other participants, and our ecumenical partners supporting the Covenant wholeheartedly. All that was required from the ACC was to agree to send the whole text of the Covenant to the Provinces for discussion and adoption.

In his first presidential address Archbishop Rowan Williams appealed to the ACC members by these words: ‘Before we say goodbye to each other we owe it to the Lord of the Church to make that effort to have those conversations and take each other seriously in the Gospel.

My hope is that this report will help us to do this.’ It is worth mentioning that the report of the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG) has affirmed the importance of the Covenant, recommended the continuation of the moratoria, and the establishing of the pastoral form.

Strenuous opposition

Unfortunately, The Episcopal Church in America (TEC) and a few other churches were strongly opposing the idea of the Covenant, especially section 4. Their excuse was that this section is new and has not been studied enough by the Provinces as the other sections have been. They have forgotten that this particular section of the Covenant is in

fact the outcome of many deliberations and responses that came from dioceses as well as bishops who attended the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

In addition to this, section 4 was already present in the commentary of the St Andrews draft of the Covenant that was sent to the provinces after the Lambeth Conference.

Sadly, the way many things were planned for the ACC-14 meetings helped to undermine the Covenant-supporting voices. These were voices from provinces which are happy, for the sake of the unity of the Anglican Communion, to accept the Ridley Covenant draft.

The carefully chosen resolution committee, which was responsible for drafting all resolutions, was composed of five members, three of them are from three provinces (TEC, Scotland and NZ) which strongly oppose the Covenant. The other two members are from the United Church of South India (CSI) and Ghana. CSI made it clear that they will not be able to adopt an Anglican Covenant because they are a union of different churches.

The discussion of the Covenant was done in discernment groups of 20 each. The advantage of this arrangement was that it gave every member the opportunity to share his/her views. However, the disadvantage was that each group did not know the views of the other groups. The outcome of the group discussions would go directly to the resolution committee by the member of this committee in each group.

We were able, through private investigations, to know that most of the groups except one were supportive of the Covenant as a whole. Sadly, this majority support of the Covenant was not reflected in the resolutions that were presented to us by the resolution committee. In fact, the first resolution that was put in front of us (resolution A) suggested the detachment of section 4 from the Covenant. Many have spoken against this resolution including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This resolution A was defeated by the majority. However, it was a shock for us when it was decided to bring two clauses from this defeated resolution as amendments to resolution B.

False victory

As a result of this manipulative process, the sending of the Covenant text to the provinces was deferred, with the hope of playing further games. The postponement of the Covenant was perceived by some, especially TEC, as a great victory. This was clear from their press

reports. Those who think that they won the victory are in fact the losers of a great opportunity and hope for healing of our wounded Communion.

In March 2007 the standing committee of TEC rejected the Pastoral Scheme, which was suggested by the Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salam, and claimed that it is against her polity. Immediately after this rejection, several consecrations of new American bishops took place by African Primates and several dioceses decided to leave TEC. The postponement of the Covenant may produce similar serious consequences.

Archbishop Rowan

I know that some of my colleagues try to blame the Archbishop of Canterbury for the delay of the Covenant.

In response to this, I want to say that I was amazed by the strong and clear stand of Archbishop Rowan in support of the whole Covenant with section 4 included. He says:

“The Anglican Communion suffers from a lack of clarity of what kind of fellowship it’s meant to be. So long as we have that unclarity, we will be unclear about what we really mean by church. The AC has never called itself a church. Yet as a world-wide communion, it has claimed for itself that it is precisely more than just an assembly of local churches.

‘It is possible to think about an Anglican future where churches exist in a vague global cluster with no organs for acting together. That is a very significant step away from what we have regularly assumed about the Communion. I maintain that something more ‘covenantal’ is needed!

It is because of his strong conviction, Archbishop Rowan stood several times to support the Covenant and the unity of the Anglican Communion.

In his last presidential address, Archbishop Rowan said 7 would want to say with great emphasis, don’t please put off discussion of the Covenant simply because of that detail we are finalizing. The texts are out there. Please pray them through and talk them through, starting now.

Turning despair to joy

In view of all this, I am now convinced that we have a great opportunity to turn around the whole situation. We can do this if we, as dioceses and Provinces, started to discuss, make comments and adopt the Covenant without any further delay. Those who will sign the Covenant will form a strong covenantal fellowship.

+Mouneer Egypt
The Most Revd Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis