Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Switch to Southern Cone by San Joaquin Appears to Violate Canons of New Province

From The Living Church Posted on: February 26, 2008

The newly available English-language translation of the canons and constitution of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone indicates several inconsistencies with moves by dioceses to switch their affiliation from The Episcopal Church to the South American-based province.

The situation seems especially complicated for the Diocese of San Joaquin which already approved the switch at its annual convention last December. Article two of the Southern Cone constitution limits membership in the province to dioceses “that exist or which may be formed in the Republics of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay and which voluntary declare themselves as integral diocesan members of the province.” Article four of the constitution requires that amendments “be submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and then to each diocesan synod for approval.”

In a statement given to a reporter from The Living Church, a spokesman for Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone said the provincial leadership was aware of the constitutional impediments before voting unanimously to issue its “emergency, temporary and pastoral” invitation to affiliate. “Both the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and the General Synod decided to go ahead because of the nature of the emergency,” the spokesman said.

Another complication involves a Southern Cone canon on bishops which states they “should definitely retire by 68 years of age.” In a recent interview with TLC, Bishop John-David Schofield, who will turn 70 in October, said he had been previously been informed by the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone that the primate could waive the mandatory retirement age requirement on a year-to-year basis, but there is nothing in the constitution or canons to suggest the possibility of such an exception.

The Rev. Van McCalister, public relations officer for the Diocese of San Joaquin, said Bishop Schofield and the delegates to the diocesan convention operated in good faith.

“From our perspective we were invited to join unanimously by the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone,” he said. “We proceeded under the assumption that they had the authority to invite us and that they knew what they were doing.”

The 20-page English-language translation of the Southern Cone constitution and canons made public on Feb. 12 has not been certified as true and correct by legal advisors from the Southern Cone. The document was translated from Spanish to English by staff members from the dioceses of San Joaquin and Fort Worth.

Fort Worth has published the translation on its diocesan website. In November, delegates to Fort Worth’s convention approved the first reading of changes to its constitution and canons. A diocesan task force is evaluating the advantages of remaining with The Episcopal Church or affiliating with the Southern Cone.

Steve Waring

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