January 7, 2010

Communion Transparency, Take 3

I have more to report on the governance of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

On Christmas Eve, I wrote a post titled “Communion Transparency,” which raised a question about the document(s) governing the operation of the ACC. In particular, Canon Kenneth Kearon, in his letter to provinces concerning the revision of the Anglican covenant draft, mentioned something called the ACC’s Articles of Association, about which there seemed to be no information on the Web. The day before, I wrote to the Anglican Communion Office for clarification, but my e-mail would have arrived after close of business in December 23, so I was not anticipating an immediate reply.

Three days later, I published “Communion Transparency, Take 2.” Dr. Joan Gundersen had suggested that the Articles of Association referred to by Canon Kearon were required by a change in the legal status of the ACC. In my post, I cited several ACC resolutions that supported this theory.

The folks over at The Lead were also trying to figure out what was going on with the ACC and also made inquiries. Dean Nick Knisely published an explanation from Canon Kearon on January 4, 2010. (You can read the explanation here. A version of the statement exhibiting the original formatting can be read here.) As Dr. Gundersen suggested, a change in the legal status of the ACC was indeed the source of the “mystery” of ACC governance. Canon Kearon’s statement including the following:
The outcome of this process was a recommendation based on legal advice to the Joint Standing Committee to ACC 13 to change the status of the ACC from that of Charitable Trust to a Charitable Company limited by guarantee.
Although this change was mostly about limiting liability, Canon Kearon noted:
Some other changes were incorporated into the process, the most significant of which is to make the Primates’ Standing Committee ex-officio members of the ACC and of its Standing Committee (hence the name change of the Standing Committee).
Yesterday, Canon Kearon responded to my e-mail, which he had only just seen. His statement published by The Lead was attached to his message, which read as follows (reproduced here by permission):
Dear Dr Deimel,

I refer to your email of 23rd December last, and first may I apologise for the delay in responding - it was not forwarded to me until the office re-opened on Monday last.

The Constitution of the ACC has been through a long process of change, first proposed in 1999, as outlined in the enclosed background statement. Part of this included a change of status from a Charitable Trust to that of a Charitable Company. As a charitable company it requires 'Articles of Association'. These articles closely reflect the Constitution of ACC but also conform to the requirements of the Charity Commissioners in the UK. These were available at the ACC meeting in Jamaica in 2009 and were discussed at the recent Standing Committee meeting. These were sent to the Charity Commissioners for final approval immediately after ACC in 2009, but we have not yet received a response, and until that happens we are procluded for [sic] publishing them on the website.

Your email has of course pointed to a difficulty in my letter, and I have now altered my letter on the web to include a footnote referring to the Constitution of the ACC, as well as the direct quotation from the Articles.

Thank you for pointing this anomaly out to me. I hope it has now been corrected.


Kenneth Kearon,

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion,
St Andrew's House,
16 Tavistock Crescent,
London, W11 1AP

Tel: +44 (020) 7313 3903
The letter, I think, clarifies a few points not covered by Canon Kearon’s statement. In particular, it offers a reason for the Articles’ not being available on the Web.

Nonetheless, I think it has to be admitted that fundamental changes in the operation of the ACC are in the process of being effected, if not in secret, then at least in some obscurity. Final approval of new operating rules for the ACC is now in the hands of the Charity Commissioners, but it is not clear to me who is precluding disclosure of the Articles of Association before that approval is given. Is there a legal prohibition, or does the Anglican Communion Office simply not want to publish the Articles of Association before they become effective? If the latter, it is odd that Canon Kearon speaks as though the Articles, rather than the Constitution, govern the ACC now. I suspect that he anticipates that, by the time any Anglican body makes a decision governed by ACC rules, the Charity Commissioners will have approved the Articles of Association.

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