The Standing Committee is a 14-member group (15, if the Archbishop of Canterbury is present, as he is an ex officio member, as well as being its President). Seven of its members are elected by the members of the ACC, and five are members of the Primates’ Standing Committee. The other two members are the Chair and Vice-Chair of the ACC, elected by the members in plenary session. Their function is together to assist the Churches of the Anglican Communion in advancing the work of their mission worldwide.
Q. What powers does it have?
The Standing Committee is the executive arm of the Anglican Consultative Council, charged with advancing its work between its three-yearly plenary meetings. It also incorporates the Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting, and has responsibility to oversee the implementation of requests from the Lambeth Conference. So, for example, it takes responsibility for organising meetings of the Instruments, and co-ordinates the work of the various Networks and Commissions which serve the Communion in a wide variety of ways. The work on Theological Education came from an initiative of the Primates’ Meeting; the Relief and Development Alliance was a proposal from the Lambeth Conference of 2008.
Q. When does it meet?
It meets on average once per year; but sometimes it will meet more frequently, as need arises. Meanwhile, members keep in regular touch with Anglican Communion Office staff and with the groups for which they are responsible, and maintain contact with each other by email or occasionally by conference telephone calls.
Q. Who are the current members?
The current Standing Committee members are:
Abp Rowan Williams (President)
Bp James Tengatenga (Chair)
Canon Elizabeth Paver (Vice-Chair)
Bp David Chillingworth
Abp Paul Kwong
Bp Samuel Azariah
Abp Daniel Deng Bul Yak
Bp Katharine Jefferts Schori
Mrs Philippa Amable
Bp Ian Douglas
Dr Anthony Fitchett
Dato Stanley Isaacs
Canon Janet Trisk
The Revd Maria Cristina Borges Alvarez
Q. How are they elected?
Election to the Standing Committee is conducted at plenary meetings, and all members of the ACC (except the members elected by the Primates’ Meeting who have already voted for a representative on Standing Committee) have a vote for all seats. A ‘single transferable vote’ system is used whereby members express first, second, third, etc, preferences. The counting is done by computer and the process is overseen by the Legal Adviser to the ACC as Presiding Officer. Members are asked to have regard to the desirability of achieving so far as practicable regional diversity and a balance of representation between clergy and laity and between the genders.
The Primates’ Standing Committee consists of five elected Primates and these have an automatic place on the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. If any of the five are unable to attend the meeting, then an alternative (elected at the same time as the Primate representative) will attend in their place.
Q. I have heard it said that some churches get more votes than others. Why is that?
In the Council as a whole, those churches with the highest number of churchgoers may send a bishop, a priest or deacon and a lay representative to the ACC; churches in the middle category by number of churchgoers send a priest or deacon and a lay person, and the smaller churches send one representative, preferably a lay person. But it does not follow that the larger churches are over-represented on the Standing Committee – several members of the present Standing Committee were elected by the plenary Council from the representatives of the smallest churches, and the Chair is from a Province in the middle-sized category.
Q. What kinds of things are regularly on the agenda of the Standing Committee?
There are always reports on the work of Anglican Communion Networks and Commissions, departments and project groups, and from officers based at the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), the secretariat that carries out the requests of the Instruments of Communion. These cover topics such as Unity, Faith and Order, the use of the Bible in the Church, and Mission.
Q. How does the Anglican Communion Office staff relate to the Committee?
The Secretary General is appointed by the Standing Committee, after consultation and with the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury as President, and he reports to it at every meeting. ACO staff are responsible for particular areas of work and report on this to the Standing Committee.
Q. Who has the power to appoint any replacements?
If the previous member was elected by the ACC, then the Standing Committee may appoint another suitably qualified member, to serve until the next plenary meeting of the Council (when a fresh election will take place, as indicated above). If the previous member was elected by the Primates as a member of its own Standing Committee, then it is that body which will replace the person who has resigned.
Q. What will the Standing Committee be doing this week?
As well as fulfilling basic trustee requirements concerning finance, constitutional matters, and so on, there will be in-depth reports on theological education, the ‘Bible in the Life of the Church’ project, inter-faith issues, and communications, and a number of mission issues.