Archbishop of Armagh hosts Anglican-Orthodox Commission
The International Commission for Anglican- Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD) met in Armagh from Friday 23rd to Thursday 29th September, drawing together senior clergy and theologians from across the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion.
The Commission is co-chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, and the acting Co-Chair at the Armagh meeting was the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Zimbabwe, the Most Revd Seraphim Kykkotis.
REVIEWING THE CHURCH CONSTITUTION
In his Presidential Addresses to the General Synod both this year and last, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, spoke about reviewing the Constitution of the Church of Ireland. The aim seems to be to have a consequent revision in place by the 150th anniversary of Disestablishment – 2019. That, at least, was what Dr Clarke mentioned in 2015.
Following extensive Gazette enquiries to the central Church since 5th August via the ever-helpful Church of Ireland Press Office, it is clear that the scale of what is intended, however, is a relatively modestscale operation, but any work on the Constitution is certainly not for the fainthearted. As was reported in last week’s Gazette, Church of Ireland Secretary- General David Ritchie indicated to last month’s Standing Committee meeting that, “in consultation with the Archbishop of Armagh, it is now anticipated that future work on the Church of Ireland Constitution will be aimed at enhancing accessibility to the Constitution rather than a larger-scale review of it”.
In his Presidential Address this year, Dr Clarke indicated that Sir Paul Girvan, along with a reference group, had agreed to consider how the Constitution could be made more “approachable”. Sir Paul is a retired Lord Justice of Appeal in Northern Ireland but the Church has declined to supply any names of the reference group. However, the Secretary-General told the Gazette last week that the project is still at the “definition” stage without specific terms of reference. He added that it is considered better not to release names of the reference group as they might change when the project becomes more defined.
The somewhat disconcerting reticence amongst central Church ‘movers and shakers’ to name names after a reference group has been announced seems, however, to be borne of a certain fluidity in the current state of the project, but the powers that be clearly are getting their act together.
The Constitution is a very considerable volume in legal style and is available in full at the Church of Ireland website (https://www.ireland.anglican.org/ about/the-constitution) as well as in print. It is of fundamental importance in the ordering of the life of the Church at every level. Every so often there have been consolidations of the Constitution, which bring together changes that have been passed at intervening General Synods. The last consolidation was in 2003, the text having been edited by Lady Sheil, a former honorary secretary of the General Synod with a legal background.
The updating of the Constitution has become easier with the advent of the online text, with changes being made as they occur, but a complete refresh is necessary from time to time and is probably due at this stage. However, any possible amendments to the actual substance and meaning of the text will naturally be distinct from presentational aspects.
Is the Church moving towards a new consolidation, following on from Lady Sheil’s painstaking work? Will Sir Paul Girvan lead a team of experts? What changes of actual provision, if any, might usefully be associated with a constitutional reconsolidation or review of whatever kind? Such are questions that no doubt will be exercising the minds of the members of the Standing Committee in particular as this issue is progressed. However, the wider Church should pay close attention to developments because they could have a considerable bearing on virtually any aspect of Church life. Moreover, it is important that a really conscious effort is made to include a good representation of canon lawyers – those specifically qualified in ecclesiastical law as opposed to common law – in whatever process appears to be getting off the ground.
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International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue Communiqué 23rd-29th September 2016, Armagh
International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue Communiqué 7th September 2016, Clare College, Cambridge
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