Release the Constitution and Canons report on the covenant

On Friday night, Episcopal News Service reported that the sub-committee of Executive Council charged with formulating that body’s response to the proposed Anglican Covenant had received a report from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons, advising the subcommittee on whether adoption of the covenant would require changes in our church’s constitution and canons.

The subcommittee has declined to make this report public. This decision is indefensible (and perplexing, there are a lot of smart people on the subcommittee). It needs to be reversed.

Because news reported on the weekends sometimes gets lost, and because the report has still not been released, we thought we should revisit this issue today.

If adoption of the covenant requires constitutional changes, the Episcopal Church would be unable to sign the document until 2015 because such require the approval of two successive General Conventions. And this assumes that said changes could be formulated, debated and passed at the convention in 2012.

The sub-committee is in possession of a report on this matter from the group whose opinion on this matter is probably the most authoritative in the Church. Yet they will not release it because, if their chair is to be believed, they are afraid that the church will jump to conclusions.

This is a faulty argument on two counts: 1) it is likely that the only conclusion people would jump to is that the Standing Commission has written an opinion, and 2) in representative governing structures such as ours, representatives are not allowed to withhold information from the governed because they think we may respond in ways they find unpalatable.

The information in that report—which the sub-committee received several months ago—is of great interest and importance to members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It needs to be released to the wider public. We hope the Executive Council will publish the document immediately. We are happy to help.

Please send a copy to

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Michael Russell

    We are all adults. The Committee is out of bounds trying to protect us from their imagined or feared public reactions. The Executive Committee has no busines either holding back such information.

    The Anglican Covenant exists to stop TEC from continuing is press for inclusion. Unless we are willing to back off of ordaining openly glbt folks and back of from implementing SSBs we cannot sign the AC with any integrity.

  2. If the report is not released, Episcopalians will spend their time speculating on what the report says and what the real reasons are for its not being released. (I’m working on that project already.) Is this a helpful (or healthy) alternative to transparency? I think not.

  3. This strikes me as another example of Executive Council not properly understanding its role in the structures of our church. As their name implies, they are executive, not legislative or judicial. It is not their job to formulate a response to the Anglican Covenant, though they are well placed to gather information and report to the General Convention on their findings.

    Holding back on a report on the Constitutional or Canonical implications of adopting the Covenant on the grounds that “people” will misunderstand smacks all too much of the patronizing hubris with which church bodies sadly seem to be afflicted.

  4. DnWillets

    Telling us we may jump to conclusions sounds like Irenaeus telling us we might interpret the Bible incorrectly so only the Church can interpret it! Surely we’ve long since moved beyond this patriarchal BS.

  5. Liz Zivanov+

    It would be good if EC or whomever is making this decision would stop digging in their heels and just release the darned report. What exactly is there to lose by contributing to the ongoing discussion with a report that has been completed? Unless you’re protecting someone from something damaging to them, the longer you withhold, the more patronizing and secretive you look. C’mon, you guys. Just do it. This is really pretty ridiculous.

  6. I agree that this position seems patronizing and ill-advised, but it’s more than that. Given that the Constitution and Canons are among the means by which we try to incarnate the Body of Christ as the Episcopal Church, it is imperative that the Covenant’s implications for our ecclesiology and theology be fully examined. Apparently, only the “experts” will be allowed to participate in that conversation, which in itself is quite revealing. Perhaps we’re moving toward a Magisterium as well.

    Jonathan Grieser

  7. Coming on the heels of the openness of the Anglican Church of Canada in releasing their report on the legal ramifications of the document for their church, the secrecy of EC looks bad.

    June Butler

  8. Dcn Scott Elliott

    Executive Council has a lot of good and trustworthy people on it — which makes this failure of candor all the more surprising and distressing.

    I would very much like to hear from one or two of them what the rationale is for holding this in pectore.

  9. Jim Naughton

    I agree Scott. Lots of good people.

  10. CDT

    It is interesting- and quite telling- that a steady stream of self-justifying and defensive comments are now being issued from Executive Council members eager to tamp down the growing calls for the report’s release.

    Cyril Tomlinson

    It is difficult to hide the increasingly magisterial posture being taken by the House of Bishops and the Executive Council alike. They are *elected* representatives of the faithful, not an elite caste of rulers sent to decide our fates in smoke-filled rooms!

  11. Ellen Tillotson

    HUH? Refusing to make public the church’s work? Until General Convention? Until?


    What are we afraid of?

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