Secrecy of CoGS Seems a Recurrent Theme

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE strengths of the way in which the Anglican church is governed lies in a process for elections to boards and committees that allows, every three years, for a dramatic infusion of new blood, while never completely abandoning the wisdom and vision of those with the experience of service. The Council of General Synod, the church's chief governing body in between sessions of General Synod, met this fall, as reported elsewhere in this edition.

This is a new COGS, elected last summer at General Synod in Waterloo, Ont., and there is an array of new faces. As the Journal noted at the time, only nine of the 37 CoGS members elected at General Synod served during the preceding triennium. A turn-over like that has both strengths and weaknesses, being a bit of a gamble that an appropriate balance between freshness and experience will emerge to serve the church well. Usually, in church governing bodies, it does, both at CoGS and in the membership of the committees that report to council. And this seemed very much the case at CoGS's inaugural meeting in Orillia, Ont. in November. New members, who on the first day of business, stumbled a bit trying to understand the admittedly esoteric system used to number agenda items were sounding like old hands three days later. This will be a good council.

That said, it should be noted that there are, these days, themes in the life of the church that transcend the three-year periods in between elections to church bodies. Some of these -- fiscal prudence, a commitment to healing and reconciliation with native people, a commitment to overseas partnerships, a spirit of ecumenism illustrated by the presence at meetings of partners from other denominations -- are very good things.

One recurring theme, sadly, is not a very good thing.

The most regrettable trend that seems to linger from triennium to triennium is the practice whereby a church that prides itself on democratic, grassroots governance, insists on conducting some of its most important business behind closed doors, in effect hidden from public perusal and thus, perhaps, immune to accountability.

In November, it took less than two hours of CoGS's first plenary session before representatives of the Anglican Journal were asked to leave so that members could hear an update on negotiations with the federal government over the residential schools crisis. This happened last trimester at CoGS and this newspaper objected. It happens quite regularly at meetings of the House of Bishops, and this newspaper has objected. It happened again at the fall meeting of COGS, and so, we will object yet again.

We made this point last year, and it bears repeating:

When representatives of the Anglican Journal are asked to leave a public meeting so that a committee or a council can deliberate in camera, however briefly, or so that it can receive information in secrecy, it is the members of the church who are ejected. …