Imagine a hotel conference room of lawyers nit-picking over Oxford commas, plural versus singular forms, and outlandish hypotheticals and “what ifs.” Then, mix in theological and ecclesiastical minds and context.
Most of you are probably cringing. If you’re not, you should consider law school. If you are, you’ll be grateful for the Governance Task Force.
The Governance Task Force (GTF) is a team from many dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America. It includes attorneys, clergy, non-attorneys, and a Bishop. Their challenging task is to draft new church laws (“canons”) and amend existing canons to be presented to the governing bodies (Provincial Council and Provincial Assembly) for adoption and ratification. The GTF was originally formed in 2008 to draft what became the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church in North America. Since then, the GTF’s main task is to receive feedback from diocesan chancellors, the Anglican Lawyers Network, and others for proposed changes to the constitution and canons as needed, and subsequently work to effectively draft the appropriate changes.
Proposed changes range from changing the wording of a canon for more accuracy, efficiency, and protection, to adding new provisions as the need arises or is foreseeable.
At a GTF meeting, conversations about potential amendment proposals go ‘round and ‘round, talking through hypotheticals in order to develop helpful standards and avoid unintended consequences. To many, this type of conversation sounds tedious and annoying, but to those who end up in relevant situations these conversations are saving graces: the discussion has already occurred, and the policies and expectations are already in place. Order requires clearly stated processes and expectations, and clearly stated processes and expectations require these conversations already be had.
Most recently, these conversations were had in January at the annual Governance Task Force meeting. The 14-member task force met in Atlanta to discuss items brought to their attention over the last year. And now, they are inviting you to join in the process!
Back in 2008, when the GTF was creating the Constitution and Canons from scratch, it elicited feedback from the entire province-in-formation. As the Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, Chairman of the Governance Task Force, explained, “Though it was labor intensive, it enabled us to realize the Holy Spirit was working through different voices and pointing out things we might not otherwise have considered. Opening the process up for feedback enabled the very best possible first set of Constitution and Canons.”
As the Province grows and ecclesial legal issues have become more complex, new and more clearly expressed laws are necessary, and the GTF is again seeking feedback from the Province. “There’s a canon law maxim from Roman law, ‘That which touches all should be decided by all,’” Canon Phil said.
This week, the Governance Task Force opens up its discussion to you, the Province. On the table this year are amendments pertaining to the incapacity of bishops, relationships and accountability within a diocese between bishops, clergy, and laity, marriage, and transfers of congregations between dioceses. (See the proposed amendments here.)
As you’re reading through the proposed canonical changes, keep in mind that the GTF follows two principles, minimalism and subsidiarity. Minimalism guides the GTF to not create canons that are too complicated, in order to remain “missionally lean,” as Canon Phil described. The principle of subsidiarity fulfills the idea that governance is most effective at the level where it is most likely to be settled. Subsidiarity means that many matters can therefore be left to the dioceses or congregations without having to enact a Provincial canon.
The GTF does its best to work through the leading of the Holy Spirit through prayer and open ears to the voices of those concerned. They trust the Lord will speak to them through you and they welcome your thoughts. And they encourage you to understand how important your voice and input is: “We are still a very young church experiencing growing pains,” says Canon Phil. “We don’t want to be so legalistic that we frustrate growth of the body, but at the same time, we don’t want destructive growth, like a cancer, to go unchecked. We participate to make the Anglican Church in North America something God blesses. It requires all of us.”
“This is an essential body,” Canon Phil states about the GTF. “We are troubleshooting in the present; prophetic in the sense that we see further down the road where problems might arise. We speak the truth as lovingly as we can. We make sure we do things to protect the integrity of the Anglican Church in North America and its leaders. Please pray for us that God will give us great wisdom to troubleshoot in the present and discernment as we look down the road to the future.”
Please join us in prayer for the GTF and the governance of the Anglican Church in North America. To have your voice heard, review the proposed canonical amendments and provide your feedback here.
For more information about the GTF, click here.
To view a call for feedback directly from Canon Phil, click here.
Feedback will be received until April 15, 2018.
GTF revisions based on feedback: April 16 - April 30, 2018
GTF publishes Second Draft Report on Canonical Additions and Amendments with further adjustments (if necessary) to all ACNA Diocesan delegates to Provincial Council and Diocesan Chancellors, with an invitation to submit any amendments no later than May 18.
GTF revisions based on Feedback from delegates to Provincial Council (Jerusalem 2018) and Diocesan Chancellors: May 19-May 31.
GTF publishes third and final Report on Canonical Additions and Amendments to all delegates to Provincial Council (Jerusalem 2018) and Diocesan Chancellors: June 1.
GTF presents Final Report for approval in Jerusalem by ACNA Provincial Council 2018: June 23, 2018.
Governance Task Force Overview and Process