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Unpersuasive arguments against releasing the report on the covenant

Unpersuasive arguments against releasing the report on the covenant

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 jim@episcopalcafe.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.

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Jim Naughton

The merits of my argument aside, I find all of this commentary on anxiety puzzling. The notion that because a thought or action is inspired by anxiety it is therefore suspicious or easily discounted seems strange to me. The people who respond most constructively to their fear and anxieties are the ones who live to pass on their genes.

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Tom Sramek, Jr.

Several ideas occur to me:

1) Michael: I value TEC's status as a "constituent member" of the Anglican Communion. Only an ACC vote to expel TEC from the Anglican Communion would prevent us from being so, Covenant or no Covenant. However, I do not see us reversing course on GLBT rights, so the only reason to adopt the Covenant is to then turn around and test it, which makes little sense to me as well.

2) Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm someone who generally trusts the process unless I'm given a good reason for not doing so. Rather than spending from now until October (When EC releases its final report) chewing over an internal report, I suggest that we let EC do the job we elected them to do. There will be plenty of time for folks to weigh in on the canonical implications of the Covenant before General Convention next Summer.

3) I find myself agreeing with Michael that repeated demands for the document's release are "driven by anxiety - and anxiety driven responses are not helpful." Michael's and Jim's somewhat tense exchange is a prime example. If we approach each other, not to mention EC and General Convention, with a hermeneutic of suspicion, we simply mirror the current toxic political environment.

So, my position is to let EC do its work as it sees fit and wait for the final product before commenting.

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Michael Russell

I continue to be amazed that we think we can adopt the Covenant AND continue to incarnate inclusion of the glbt community.

We can do some pretty verbal contortionist dance about loving sections 1-3 (which itself is already a contortion of Anglicanism) while not liking section 4. But the choice offered is sign this or not. The folks at the WWAC are not interested in revisions, the only avenue for such revisions are within the AC's own amendment process. We need to get the message. To paraphrase Yoda "Sign or sign not, there is no modify."

We can offer up some verbal fudge gush in order to put it off until 2015 under the delay and exhaust strategy. That is fine by me. But the only topically related correction I'd vote for is to remove "constituent member of the AC" from the Preamble of the Constitution. I wonder if the C&C has considered this option.

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Jim Naughton

Michael, I am sorry that I didn't express my objection to your language more diplomatically. I think we differ on two points:

I think anxiety is often quite healthy, and, indeed, would seem to be a prerequisite for repentance. I'd say the issue here is conflict avoidance--not anxiety.

Also, I don't recall the fact that EC had requested and then kept to itself a report from a body of General Convention that by canon must meet openly, being communicated to the church in any form until last week.

Bill MacKaye, you have a point. It is my understanding that Constitution and Canons did not dispute the characterization of the report in question as the property of EC--although I don't know that for certain.

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William R. MacKaye

It seems to me that the critics may be attacking the wrong group. The Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons created the document that was delivered to the Executive Council in February. Has anyone asked the Commission or its chair for a copy? What was the response? It would appear that it is their responsibility to make it public, if Jim's summary of the relevant canons is correct.

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