Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Coming ACNA Clash Over Episcopal Elections?

A bit of controversy is arising over the ACNA’s provisional Constitution and Canons’ provision for episcopal elections in new dioceses (as opposed to already established jurisdictions, which are grandfathered), namely the following:

Where the originating body is newly formed, that body shall normally nominate two or three candidates, from whom the College of Bishops may select one.

Now I do not at all share Sarah Hey’s horror at this, but a taste of how controversial this may become may be had in the discussion at her post.

Personally, I want a means to put checks on both the sort of rampant democracy seen in the Episcopal Church and on any possible “bishops’ cabal.”

The clergy and laity should have a voice, but if they have excessive power, then activists with non-Christian agendas can take over as in the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church. Frankly, some laity and clergy should have precious little voice, thank you. (And I am a layman, for the record.)

But laity and clergy should have enough power to reject unsuitable bishops that are or would be chosen by mistaken bishops from on high.

I think the canon to which Ms. Hey objects does adequately put checks both on laity and clergy and on bishops. Neither will be able to impose unsuitable candidates over the strong objections of the other. And I think the proposed canons as a whole are balanced, making it difficult for either a cabal of activists or a cabal of bishops to hijack ACNA.

But that is just my brief and humble opinion. What is more important is whether the ACNA will conflict over the means of episcopal elections for the new dioceses and perhaps over the overall balance of power between bishops and clergy and laity. And enough in the ACNA are both so democracy-minded and suspicious of bishops that said conflict might be coming very soon. This is certainly an area to watch at the Provincial Assembly next month.

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