We have not yet succeeded in getting Executive Council to release the report it received more than four months ago from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons regarding the Anglican Covenant. And we are still open to receiving it directly at email@example.com.
The arguments we have heard against releasing the report go something like this:
1. The report was requested by the sub-committee considering the Episcopal Church’s response to the covenant. It is their property. They will decide how to dispose of it and when to make the disposition.
2. The report is analogous to private legal advice and protected by lawyer-client privilege.
3. The report is a work in progress and will be issued when it is finished.
4. The report is finished but needs to be put in the context of a larger report.
Arguments 1 and 2 are rooted in a similar misperception. To take them together: it little matters who requested this report. It matters who issued it. The body that made the report is not a law firm, nor in-house counsel, but a creature of General Convention, required under canon to meet publicly, publicize the times of its meetings and make provisions for public comment at those meetings. On what grounds does one defend keeping the work product of a body that is required to meet under those conditions a secret?
Accepting the “property” argument is especially dangerous because it can be used to keep the contents of any communications from CCABs to Executive Council a secret for as long as Executive Council chooses. Is anyone eager to set that precedent?
Argument three is not based on the facts, as we’ve been given to understand them. The report of the Standing Commission was received by Executive Council in mid February. It is not being worked on. There is no progress. QED: it is not a work in progress.
Argument four is well intentioned. It seeks, it seems, to buy the sub-committee time to compose its report without the church looking over its shoulder throughout the drafting process. Those of us who draft things can appreciate that. But certain information is significant enough to create its own context. If the Standing Commission is of the opinion that passing the covenant would require us to make half a dozen changes to the Constitution and another dozen and a half to the canons, this information will overpower whatever context one attempts to put it in. In churchland, that’s front page news, and it isn’t helpful to pretend otherwise.
We don’t think that the Executive Council is acting in bad faith. We just think it has made a poor decision, and we hope it will reverse that decision in the near future.