The Anglican Communion Office has published an article titled The ACC Constitution: An Interview with ACC’s legal adviser Revd Canon John Rees.
The Anglican Consultative Council has a new Constitution. How did this come about? What does this mean in reality? How will it affect the work of the Instruments of Communion? The Standing Committee? ACNS spoke to John Rees, legal adviser to find out more…
The last two questions are perhaps the ones of most interest to TA readers.
Q. What’s your response to those who say this new Constitution is an attempt to give the Standing Committee and/or the ACC more power.
That’s very wide of the mark. The drafting committee took care to ensure that the plenary meeting of the Council would continue to have the same democratic rights to appoint the Standing Committee that it always had in its unincorporated state. The wider membership attending the plenary meetings of the ACC every two or three years remains the body which appoints its members of the Standing Committee and entrusts the Committee with the Council’s work in between its meetings. I have attended a good many Standing Committee meetings over the years, and I can vouch for the fact that its members are very conscious of the interdependence of the ACC with the Archbishop and the Primates and are careful to respect boundaries.
So it’s also misleading to suggest that the ACC would impinge on the authority of the Archbishop or of the Primates’ Meeting. Neither the Archbishop’s role as the pivotal Instrument of Communion, nor his role in calling together the Primates’ Meeting (which itself has no formal constitution) are in any way restricted by these Articles. As the Archbishop’s Registrar for the Province of Canterbury, I would have been very concerned if I had thought there was any intention to do so.
The definition of ‘Primates’ in these Articles remains essentially as it appeared in Article 3(a) of the earlier Constitution. Indeed, the drafting committee went out of its way (in Article 8.1) to emphasise that the Primates should elect their members of the Standing Committee “in such manner as they shall think fit”. The guidance that they, and the ACC’s membership as a whole, should have regard to the need for regional, order and gender balance was carried over from the earlier Constitution, and at best can operate only as an aspiration.
Q. Doesn’t making the ACC an English company subject the council to UK and applicable EU law including equalities legislation?
The incorporation of the ACC as a limited company does not subject the ACC to UK or EU equalities legislation to which it would not otherwise have been subject. The Church of England has played a major part, with other churches in the UK, in achieving and preserving certain exclusions for itself and other religious bodies in relation to this legislation as it has developed over the last thirty years. The Equalities Act would have been equally applicable to the ACC in its unincorporated form because it was also registered as an English charity. Equally, the ACC in its new structure will enjoy the benefit of exclusions from this legislation to the same extent as any other religious organisation in the UK. I share the unease of many religious people about the impact of this British legislation, but it is not right to say that the restructuring of the ACC will have altered its position viz-a-viz the implementation of this law.