THE President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, has resigned from the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (SCAC).
In his letter of resignation, Bishop Anis says that his presence on what was formerly the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and at the Primates’ Meeting, “has no value whatsoever”, and that his voice “is like a useless cry in the wilderness”.
The other Primates on the SCAC are: the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan; the Australian Primate, Dr Phillip Aspinall; the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori; and the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi. Archbishop Orombi has not attended its past three meetings and he also boycotted the Lambeth Conference in 2008.
Bishop Anis charges the SCAC with “continually questioning the authority of the other Instruments of Communion, especially the Primates’ Meeting and the Lambeth Conference”, and with “having no desire to follow through” their recommendations on the Anglican Communion.
“The current SCAC provides no effective challenge to the ongoing revisions of TEC [the Episcopal Church in the United States], nor does it apply the recommendations of the Windsor report and the Primates’ Meetings in Dromantine and Dar es Salaam,” he declares. Participation in the decision-making process “should be for those who show respect in word and deed for the whole Communion — not those who turn their backs to every appeal and warning”.
Bishop Anis accuses those who “sing praises of ‘inclusiveness’” of “a kind of double-standard”, and he describes “orthodox” voices as “marginalised, disregarded or suppressed”. He regrets the loss of authority of the Primates’ Meeting, and declares that “Provinces who violate the spirit of the Covenant should not be allowed to sign or adopt the Covenant in the first place.”
Bishop Anis alleges that “a fair, two-way” process cannot be guaranteed in the Communion through the Listening Process on Human Sexuality because some Churches depend on others financially. He
is critical of the Anglican Communion Office as “an office in the UK that tries to run the Communion in its own Western way”.
Bishop Anis was the only member of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and of the Anglican Consultative Council (JSC) to dissent from the report that fol-lowed the committee’s discussions with the US House of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury in New Orleans in September 2007 (News, 28 September, 5 October 2007).
The JSC judged that the Episcopal Church in the United States had clarified all ten outstanding questions relating to its response to the Windsor report, and had given all the necessary assurances. But Bishop Anis had said in an addendum that the JSC had “used ambiguous language and contradicted themselves within their own response”. He also complained about the Covenant process at the ACC meeting in Jamaica in May 2009, which he described as “manipulative”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his regret at the resignation. Bishop Anis “has made an important contribution to the work of the Standing Committee, for which I am deeply grateful. I regret his decision to stand down, but will continue to welcome his active engagement with the life of the Communion and the challenges we face together,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Dr Morgan described Bishop Anis as “a faithful member of the [JSC] who put his views forward honestly. The JSC is the only Instrument of Communion which is truly representative of the Anglican Communion, as its members come from both the Primates and the ACC, and share a wide variety of viewpoints. That is why it was seen as the appropriate body to monitor the Covenant.”
A paper posted on Sunday on the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) website suggested that the SCAC had no authority to co-ordinate and implement the Covenant process in the Anglican Communion. The authors declared it to be “not necessarily the ‘Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ indicated by the Covenant text . . . [It] has little credibility in the eyes of a large part of the Communion and ought not to be claiming the authority it seems to be assuming.”
The paper states that “contrary to a widely shared assumption”, Section 4 of the Covenant “does not explicitly identify this ‘Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ with any pre-existing committee”.
The Bishop of St Asaph and former deputy general secretary of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, confirmed that the Ridley Cambridge draft clearly indicated that the JSC, or its successor, would be given the key task of monitoring the Covenant. The Nassau draft had given it to the Primates; and the St Andrew’s to the ACC, which retitled the JSC as “The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” when it adopted the new Constitution in Jamaica in May 2009.
“My understanding is that when we wrote the November text we followed this change and substituted ‘The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ for the JSC, as the successor body was now in place,” Bishop Cameron said on Wednesday.
Bishop Cameron commented: “One of the guiding principles of the Covenant Design Group was that, as far as possible, tension was not the moment to introduce new bodies, but that we should work with the bodies we already have. It would be inconceivable to hand the introduction of the Covenant over to a new body which would have no constitution or authority.”