INTRODUCTORY AFFIRMATIONS TO THE CANONS IN CHAPTER VII
Introductory Affirmations to the Canons in Chapter VII: Ecclesiatical Tribunals and the Discipline of Ministers of the Church.
Affirmations: The provisions of Canons 36 to 41 relate to licensed clergy and in applying them, Act XV and Resolution of Permanent Force No. 5 the following definitions, affirmations and set of clarifications are to be a guide.
First: Definition of ‘minister’ – (from Act XV): This refers to any person who engages in public or private ministry in the church, whether formally authorised by ordination or licensing, or elected as a lay official, or informally recognised as having authority or influence over others in the Christian community. It naturally includes, but is not limited to, bishops, priests and deacons, lay officers, all licensed lay ministers, Parish Councillors, Sunday school teachers, sidespersons, councillors, music leaders, youth leaders and office holders in church guilds and organisations.
Second: By the words Tribunal or Court as used in this and other Canons is meant a Tribunal of this Church having such jurisdiction as can be claimed by, and may be exercised in, a voluntary association upon the footing of mutual contract or agreement
Third: Act XV provides primarily for the regulation of the ministries of volunteers other than licensed clergy, for conflict resolution involving such persons, and where necessary for their discipline. It also provides guidelines for all ministries, and procedures for initiating complaints against all ministers whether ordained or lay, stipendiary or voluntary. This Chapter VII provides further for the discipline of clergy where issues cannot be resolved more informally.
Fourth: Based on Resolution of Permanent Force No 5: On theological grounds all Christians in areas of public responsibility should be accountable to the same framework of Christian behaviour. The minister’s life needs to be modelled on that of Christ. All ministers need to attend to their own growth and faithfulness as Christians and as learners from Christ, before seeking to teach or lead others in the church. Throughout Holy Scripture, those who care for God’s people and lead them in God’s ways are commended; those who neglect or exploit God’s people are condemned. Every minister, whether bishop, priest, deacon, lay minister or other volunteer, is called to model his or her life and ministry on this pattern. The model for every minister’s role in pastoral care is that of Jesus. The context is that of the Christian community and its health as a body. The minister is accountable in the first instance to God, but also to the church.
Fifth: Set of clarifications – based on ACT XV, statements of fact and law:
(i) The Canons of The Anglican Church of Southern Africa provide for judicial proceedings when a cleric is alleged to have broken the undertakings they have made to the church at their ordination or licensing. The Canons take precedence over the procedures set out in Act XV or elsewhere in provincial policy or diocesan rules. There is however a need to supplement the Canons for situations which are not envisaged in the Canons, for the governance of lay volunteers, and for conflict resolution at parish level; this is the function of Act XV. The procedures in Act XV must always be followed and interpreted with the Canons in mind. These procedures may assist in resolving minor complaints and disputes for which the procedures in the Canons are unnecessarily formal. Where a serious sanction of the kind outlined in the following Canons is contemplated, especially in regard to licensed clergy, the matter must be dealt with in terms of the Canons.
(ii) Historically, Canon Law (historic church law) has been recognised as a parallel but separate system of law, governing its particular sphere of church affairs. This has required that Canon Law embodies the principles of natural justice recognised in society at large and updated from time to time in light of wider developments in jurisprudence. Synods of the Church in different countries have taken account of these issues in framing and revising Canon Law from time to time. Where this has been done with integrity parliaments, courts and public administrations have continued to respect the autonomy of Canon Law.
(iii) As regards the rights and responsibilities of clergy, Canon Law provides a careful network of mutual undertakings between clerics and the Diocese, represented by the Bishop, both to provide for the needs of clergy and to regulate their pastoral relationships with their people. These undertakings and the expectations upon which they rest, are set out in the Prayer Book, the Constitution and Canons and the Rules of Dioceses, and in the Oaths and Declarations taken by the clergy at the point of ordination and of licensing to any particular ministry.
(iv) Because of the unique and spiritual nature of the Church and its ministry, this system provides appropriately for the nature and demands of ministry in the church, whether stipendiary or not. This position has been repeatedly affirmed in the secular courts. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa is charged with managing this area of its life in accordance with its own law.