Bid to set up commission on ecumenical relations
by Allan Reeder
Calls for a new international Anglican commission on ecumenical relations will be among the first issues up for debate today as the bishops move into the business end of the Conference. After two weeks of key addresses from leading experts and closeddoor group work, the bishops begin a week of intense public plenary or business sessions in which they will debate the proposed resolutions.
Differing cultural approaches to making decisions may complicate the plenary discussions, Archbishop Robin Eames (Armagh, Northern Ireland) told a press conference yesterday. ``Some have come convinced that their way of doing business is the right way,'' Archbishop Eames said. ``In some areas we will find agreement, and it won't surprise you that in some areas we will not find agreement.'' Archbishop Eames also issued a strong challenge to the 60-strong contingent of reporters from the world's media to cover the debate in the week ahead with depth and sensitivity. ``It's easy to go for shallow stories of various disagreements,'' he said. He also stressed that the Conference is not fundamentally a legislative assembly, and that the draft resolutions are subject to change. ``They are not carved in stone; they are in plasticine,'' he said. Most of the 108 draft resolutions to be put to the Conference will not be debated, the chair of the Conference Resolutions Committee, Bishop Michael Nuttall (Natal, South Africa), told journalists.
``The vast majority of the resolutions are on the agreed list'' to be approved formally by the Conference, Bishop Nuttall said. If 50 bishops believe a draft resolution currently on the ``agreed list'' is contentious, they can ask that it be debated. ``A maximum of 30 (resolutions) will be debated,'' he said. Procedures for dealing with resolutions were drafted by the St Augustine seminar in May last year, which laid out plans for the Conference, and are designed to facilitate debate, the Resolutions Committee Secretary, Mr Philip Mawer, said. ``We're not in the business of trying to suppress voices from any quarter of the Conference,'' he added.
Today's plenary will be followed by two tomorrow: Section Two, including some of the regional resolutions, in the morning; and Section One, including any other resolutions addressing sexuality, in the afternoon. Section Three's resolutions will be considered on Thursday, while the remaining resolutions from the regional groups, the Conference pastoral letter and a report from the Spouses' Programme will be presented on Friday. At the opening of each plenary session the section chair or a representative will present a brief outline of the section's discussions, including the draft report, which the Conference will then be asked to receive, Bishop Nuttall said. The wording of the reports produced by the sections will not be open to detailed debate.
Speakers wishing to address the resolutions may submit their names either before the plenary or during the discussion. Debate begins when the chair of the session calls a number of speakers to debate each resolution. Before a vote is taken, a designated person from the section will reply to the debate. Bishop Nuttall told journalists votes will be taken first ``on the voices,'' then, if necessary, by a show of hands. Bishops may also request a secret ballot, he said. Resolutions will require only a simple majority (50 percent plus 1 vote) for approval. Conference planners are asking the bishops to keep Friday afternoon free in case an extra plenary session is needed to handle leftover business.