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Primates' ruling is not binding, says canon lawyer

Primates' ruling is not binding, says canon lawyer

By Madeleine Davies
Jan. 19, 2016

THE communique issued by the Primates in Canterbury last week does not bind anyone, because the Primates' meeting has no jurisdiction, a canon lawyer said this week. It represented "completely unacceptable interference" with the autonomy of the bodies to whom it had issued requirements.

"I find it utterly extraordinary," the director of the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff University, Professor Norman Doe, said on Tuesday. "No instrument exists conferring upon the Primates' meeting the jurisdiction to 'require' these things. . . Whatever they require is unenforceable."

The communique states that the Primates are "requiring that, for a period of three years, the Episcopal Church [in the United States] no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies; should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee; and that, while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision-making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity".

Professor Doe confirmed: "The decision will not bind anyone -- not the Episcopal Church. There is no question of that." It was for the bodies referred to in the communique to determine what, if any, consequences the Episcopal Church should face, he said.

The communique constituted "completely unacceptable interference with the autonomy of each of these bodies as they transact their own business". It was "absolute nonsense" to suggest that an ecumenical body such as the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), or an Anglican body such as the Anglican Consultative Council, be bound by a decision made by the Primates' meeting.

The Anglican Consultative Council is the only instrument of the Communion with a written constitution. Professor Doe suggested, however, that, in the light of the communique, the Archbishop of Canterbury could feel "bound" not to invite the Episcopal Church to the Lambeth Conference.

The events of the past week highlighted the consequences of the Communion's failure to adopt the Anglican Covenant, Professor Doe suggested. He spoke as a member of the Lambeth Commission, which had proposed the Covenant and helped to draft it.

The Covenant was, he said, a means of "setting out clearly the jurisdictional boundaries of the instruments of the Communion, including the Primates' meeting. . . What we have with the Primates' meeting is an assumption of authority which has no basis in law. It is merely the result of assertion and assumption, and the Covenant project would have filled that vacuum and provided a set of house rules for the Anglican Communion to address these issues. It never happened."

He predicted that there would be "other cases like this: stimulating litigation, jeopardising ecumenical relations, making people ill, wasting money. . . It is high time that Anglicans got a formal agreement together on how they process this."


Legalism v. love -- Peter Ould on responses to the Canterbury communique

By Peter Ould
Jan. 20, 2016

There's some utter nonsense going around at the moment about the legal force of the Primates' Communique from their meeting in Canterbury last week. For example, the Church TImes has a canon lawyer's opinion on whether the Archbishops have the ability to demand of TEC their withdrawal from bodies representing the Communion in ecumenical matters or to refrain from any Communion votes (for eg in the ACC) on matters of polity and doctrine.

Here's two simple things to remember.

i) They're absolutely right (the ones who claim the Primates have no statutory power to demand such a sanction / consequence)

ii) It doesn't matter in the slightest, the sanction / consequence is still going to happen because the force behind them is not one of law but one of love.

You see, what those criticising this Communique don't understand is, we are now in a process of reconciliation between the Primates and this is the path (the consequences) that the Primates have agreed is the way forward. TEC isn't instructed to do anything with any legal force, because grace doesn't operate like that. They are simply asked, requested, implored to do this. These requested actions are the one thing that will stop the Communion falling apart and they are requested in a spirit of love.

It is now entirely in TEC's hands as to whether we stay together as one body. TEC can recognise in the spirit of love and grace that the Communique was written in that they have indeed broken the shared vision of Jesus' ministry that we all have together, that that requires reflection and potentially repentance and that the consequences in the Communique deliver us the path to such reflection, repentance and reconciliation. Or, TEC can operate out of a place of defiance, demand it's legal rights and simply answer love and grace with obstinacy.

But one thing is clear to me this morning - for a liberal church that keeps on repeating the mantra "Grace, not Law", there's incredible ability to revert to law the moment that grace isn't working out for them. Funny that.


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