Monday 14 October 2013

Canon Law Council Established

A final report from Provincial Synod

Act to Establish a Canon Law Council

Questions of Canon Law were a major theme at Provincial Synod. A decision was taken to relaunch the Canon Law Society, and work was also done in revising the disciplinary canons.

Archbishop Thabo underlined the importance of having good canons and using them well in his Charge. He said

That we live by grace and covenant, and not by law, is at the heart of the rejuvenation of the Canon Law Society. This … is not about placing legalistic and legislative burdens upon us. Rather, it is for helping us to use Canon Law better: as our good servant, not bad master.
… In today’s world far too often the immediate response to disagreement is to rush to litigation as the first, not last, resort: whether in politics, business, or even running football clubs! Alas, Christians often follow the same path. The amount of time and money our church has spent in the last five years in secular legal processes is shocking. It pains me deeply that legal cases have consumed significant resources that should be devoted to mission and ministry. It also distresses me to see the church falling into ungodly practices of lobbying and putting on pressure, to get our own way, or to get our own back when we can’t get what we want through proper processes.
God calls us instead to wrestle with one another within the body of Christ, and together to wrestle with him, so we may discern his will in the complexities of our relationships in this complex world. Better understandings of Canon Law should help resource us to deal with difficult issues in more holy ways.
This is also the aim of revising disciplinary Canons: that these should bring us greater confidence and freedom in following our calling, just as the introduction of Pastoral Standards has done. God calls us to offer models of good and holy practice to the world – for those who long to find the Lord’s favour, as in our first reading; and even to those who think they know better, as in our second. We must follow good governance and best practice in all that we do, where necessary revising both structures and practices. We must be good stewards of our resources, for example asking whether the expense of meetings could be better handled through having our own Anglican conference centre.
As we live before the watching world, we should not fear difference, or even disagreement, because it is through wrestling together – as brothers and sisters who know our unity in Christ is greater than anything that can divide us – that we can be like rough stones polishing each other to become beautiful smooth gems. It is a demanding calling, but I am sure it is one to which God especially calls Anglicans, in Southern Africa and around the world.

The Provincial Registrar, Mr Henry Bennet, with input from a number of other members of Synod, led a session that explained about the background, development and use of canon law. This was extended into a second session, in place of group work, to allow fuller discussion and questions and answers. Various Measures were passed to amend the Disciplinary Canons to make them more workable, and better reflect best practice and good governance.

Later in Synod, a resolution was passed to establish a Canon Law Council as an Act of Synod. Elections were held for its membership.

The following people were elected to the Canon Law Council

Mr Henry Bennett - Provincial Registrar
Adv Ronnie Bracks - Deputy Provincial Registrar
The Revd Matt Esau - Cape Town
Justice Ian Farlam - Provincial Chancellor
Mr Lloyd Fortuin - Saldanha Bay
The Very Revd Andrew Hunter - Grahamstown
The Ven M Mariri - Pretoria
Adv Daryl Newton - Port Elizabeth
Adv Jill Oliphant - Johannesburg
Mr Roger Schärges - Port Elizabeth
Justice Leona Theron - Johannesburg
The Revd Charles Williams - Saldanha Bay

The text of the Resolution follows below

This Church accepts the thesis that while theology provides it with a vision and definition of its purposes and Christian values, these are implemented in the form of canon law, which provides the norms of action for their implementation. Thus, canon law has a theological basis, and theology works through canon law. In so doing it also accepts the need for the Church to exercise its leadership to ensure that its legal apparatus and procedures match its vision and purposes, and at the same time meet current needs and aspirations in relation to its members’ rights, responsibilities and freedoms.

To this end the Church establishes, as an Act, a faculty to be known as the Anglican Canon Law Council (the “Council”), the constitution of which will be as follows:

1. The Council will be an integral part of the Church, functioning under and reporting to the Provincial Trusts Board (the “Board”), but reporting also to Provincial Synod and Provincial Standing Committee, with a liaison bishop to be appointed to the governing body by Episcopal Synod.

2. The members of the Council will be:

2.1 All Provincial and Diocesan Chancellors and Registrars, ex officio;
2.2 Any Bishop currently in office or retired, on application;
2.3 Any Cleric, currently licensed or retired, on application; and
2.4 Any Confirmed Communicant, on application.

3. The purpose and objectives of the Council will be:

3.1 Collegial, namely, the sharing of information, creating the facility for those interested in canon law to meet (personally or by other means of communication) to discuss canon law issues and matters and to seek interactively answers where these are needed.
3.2 Opinions, namely, where possible assisting bishops and others in authority in the Church on issues and matters referred to it by them.
3.3 Publications, namely, to record and make available canon law studies and discussions relevant to the Church, its governance, rights and responsibilities.
3.4 Mentoring, namely, guiding Bishops, members of Chapters, Provincial and Diocesan Trusts Boards and newly appointed Chancellors and Registrars in their work.
3.5 Archiving, namely, as facilities become available retaining and storing in retrievable form, as may be submitted, judgments of Church tribunals, relevant judgments of Courts of Law of interest, and opinions of the Council, Chancellors, Registrars and diocesan attorneys and counsel.
3.6 Conferences, namely, creating opportunities for legal officers and others across the Province interested in canon law to establish or renew contact, to deliver papers and to discuss issues and matters of the day.

4. The Council’s governing body will be a Committee, comprising:

4.1 The Liaison Bishop.
4.2 The Provincial Chancellor and Registrar.
4.3 Three persons, clerical or lay, learned in the law elected by Provincial Synod.
4.4 Three persons, being Provincial or Diocesan Chancellors or Registrars, elected at the Annual Conference of the Council.

5. The periods of office of Committee Members will be for as long as their appointments a Liaison Bishops, Provincial Chancellor or Registrar last, in the case of those referred to in 4.1 and 4.2, and for three years in the case of those referred to in 4.3 and 4.4. Episcopal Synod or the Metropolitan shall appoint successors to fill vacancies that occur under 4.1 or 4.2, as the need arises; Provincial Standing Committee shall fill any vacancies that may occur between sessions of Provincial Synod under 4.3; and the Committee shall itself nominate persons to fill any vacancies between Annual Conferences that occur under 4.4. Committee Members under 4.3 and 4.4 may be re-elected after their periods of appointment have expired.

6. The Committee shall elect its own Chair, Deputy Chair and Secretary at its first meeting each year, at or after the Annual Conference. The quorum for Committee meetings shall be the majority in number of Committee Members in office at the time.

7. The Council shall have no financial powers independently of the Church. All income and expenditure shall be duly authorised, held and paid by the Church through the office of the Provincial Treasurer. It is not intended that the Council shall become a cost centre to the Church: members of Council are volunteers and as far as possible they or their Dioceses shall bear their costs (such as travel and accommodation, by way of example and without limitation), while the Church will bear such costs as are appropriately attributable to it (such as the costs of publications and archiving, and those of the Liaison Bishop and any other office bearer serving a Provincial function in relation to Council work).

8. The Committee shall make such arrangements for the Annual Conferences and the work of Council as it shall deem appropriate. It may also pass such rules of procedure or bye laws as it sees fit, and appoint such sub-committees as it deems necessary, Moreover, it may put forward to Provincial Synod such amendments to this Act as it wishes to recommend, after it has obtained the support for them from the Board on each occasion.

9. As an ordinary resolution of Synod, not an Act, this Synod resolves that all Resolutions of this Synod referring matters to the steering Committee of the Canon Law conference shall be deemed to be referred to the Board of the Canon Law Council.