Church may give new powers to Archbishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury may be granted new powers under secret proposals to force rebel Anglican churches into line, reports The Times newspaper.
The planned changes in church law would apparently give Dr Rowan Williams the power to intervene in the affairs of churches outside England for the first time since the Church was established by Henry VIII.
The proposals, which would have to be agreed by the Churchís separate provinces, have already aroused suspicions that they will turn the Archbishop into an Anglican version of the Pope suggests the newspaper.
The powers are proposed in a legal document presented to the 37 Anglican primates who met at Lambeth Palace last week.
At present, the Archbishop of Canterbury has moral authority amongst bishops but no juridical authority.
The new proposals could lead to new powers being granted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to his fellow primates, through the legal adoption of mutually agreed ius commune, common law, into the canon law of individual Anglican provinces.
The paper emphasises that any new powers would be used only in exceptional circumstances. ìThere is no hidden aggrandisement policy on the part of the Archbishop and his advisers,î a senior source told the Times. ìBut the present divisions are acute and need to be addressed urgently.î
The new role will be worked out by the commission Dr Williams agreed to set up last week ìto consider his own role in maintaining communion within and between provinces when grave difficulties ariseî.
According to the paper presented to the primates, the aim would be to give the Archbishop of Canterbury power to intervene in the internal affairs of another province ìfor the sake of maintaining communion within the said province and between the said province and the rest of the Anglican Communionî.
The author, a senior canon lawyer, cites the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution which called for a commission to be set up to work out when it would be appropriate for the Archbishop to exercise ìan extraordinary ministry of episcope (pastoral oversight), support and reconciliation with regard to the internal affairs of a province other than his ownî.
In the paper he writes: ìTo date, no such commission has been established, and it is possible that this may be one of the reasons why provinces and individual primates may have been tempted to take the law into their own hands.î
Canon John Rees, Joint Registrar of the Province of Canterbury, who has been involved with the new Network of Legal Advisers set up by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting in Hong Kong in 2002, said the intention was not to create an Anglican Pope.
ìMy hunch would be that the Anglican Communion, having such a heavy emphasis on provincial autonomy, would have little or no stomach for that sort of supra-provincial structure.î