There has been some discussion of late on the House of Bishops/Deputies list concerning two related “political” matters:
On the first point, according to the rules of order, although it is possible for the Executive Council to enter a closed session, no decision (other than procedural) can properly be taken during such a session. This is fairly standard in the laws of deliberative assemblies, although we are seeing unfold before us even now one of the principle exceptions: the election of a pope by the College of Cardinals.
On the second point, it seems to me that the historic documents (the XXXIX Articles) and the reflections of people like Richard Hooker and Bishop White outline the delicate balancing act that Anglicans try to maintain in their polity. Features of this include:
Together these two factors incline towards a “theology of leadership” as opposed to a “town-meeting-style” absolute democracy, or even, strictly speaking, representative government. The leaders are chosen not simply because they represent or mirror the opinions, desires, or beliefs of the larger body of the faithful (whether determined in a poll or a plebiscite), but because of their wisdom, skill, prudence, charity, clarity and so on.
It is a delicate balance, and the third and crucial counterweight that keeps it relatively steady is the capacity to admit to error and make corrections. Even with prudent leadership and inclusion of lay, clerical and episcopal voices, the church sometimes still errs. And the same would be true if the church operated as a strict universal democracy in which all members had an equal vote, or one in which a single monarchial figure was invested with titular infallibility — no political structure is immune from the possibility or error; and the tyranny of the mob is virtually indistinguishable from the tyranny of an elite or a sole dictator.
The greatest concern for Anglicanism at this point is not openness about the sexuality of bishops, but the move to diminish the role of the laity and “inferior” clergy in the councils perceived as instruments of unity, three out of four of which consist solely of bishops (a significant number of them not elected in a process involving the laity and clergy), and two out of four consisting solely of Primates.
The only international Anglican body that is structured in a traditional “Anglican” way (at least as Hooker and White describe it), therefore, is the Anglican Consultative Council. This is why the continued participation of the “dissenting” participants is crucial to any wholesome future for the Anglican Communion. Were the ACC to disbar the participation of the duly elected representatives from the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada — and who knows who else in coming years — any legitimacy will have been forfeited to the domination of the majority view.