Panel of Reference Issues Review

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference met in the offices of the Anglican Communion Secretariat during the week beginning 30 April 2007. In its meeting, it reviewed its work so far and discussed how best to follow up the work that had already been undertaken. It has currently completed outstanding work on all the references made to it by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Panel also reviewed the Report which the Chairman, the Most Revd Dr Peter Carnley AO, had made to the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam in February, and authorised him to release an updated version. The Panel also set dates for future meetings in late 2007 and in 2008.

(Anglican Communion News Service, May 8)

The report, “Review of the Work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference” is available here.

Some extracts follow.

About its mandate

The Panel of Reference has always had therefore a very limited primary brief – “to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions made by any churches” for a dissenting group within its diocesan or provincial life. When the Archbishop of Canterbury issued the mandate of the Panel in May 2005, he added to this brief, allowing that the Panel might be called upon to mediate in other situations, but specifically mandating the Panel to respond in two ways:

1. At my request, to enquire into, consider and report on situations drawn to my attention where there is serious dispute concerning the adequacy of schemes of delegated or extended episcopal oversight or other extraordinary arrangements which may be needed to provide for parishes which find it impossible in all conscience to accept the direct ministry of their own

diocesan bishop or for dioceses in dispute with their provincial authorities

2. With my consent to make recommendations to the Primates, dioceses and provincial and diocesan authorities concerned.

Its work so far

The Panel has now been operating for close to two years. In that time, it has received five references, of which three have remained within the Panel’s brief, and two were recalled by the Archbishop. All three reports have been published, and no further references from the Archbishop of Canterbury have yet been received.

Scope of its authority and its own boundaries of intervention

Given its very specific role, the purely advisory nature of the Panel’s work, and the difficult and sensitive material with which the Panel would have to deal, the Panel decided at its first meeting that it could not consider references whilst parties were engaged in other legal or disciplinary proceedings; the danger of trying to compete with, second-guess or even be used as a tool in legal processes being all too evident.

About the Florida case

In spite of the fact that the situation was subject to civil proceedings, the Panel decided to accept the Archbishop’s Reference and in late September 2006, two members of the Panel paid a visit to North Florida to meet the parties associated with the case.

The Panel published its report on 27 February 2007, recommending a form of extended episcopal ministry. Since then a civil action in relation to ownership of church property has been resolved in favour of the diocese, and the parish appears to have decided that it cannot in conscience continue in communion with the Diocese or The Episcopal Church.

The Panel of Reference is part of the Windsor Process. Its mandate, procedures, membership and reports are indexed here at the Anglican Communion Official Website.


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