10 Aug The Ecclesiastical Route 7
7. Tangles (3)
Two tangles resolved. One tangle is a knot, with GS 2019 saying one thing and GS 2022 the opposite. And the fourth tangle is resolved as well, but creates another tangle. What if an appeal against the substance of a decision not to forward an overture along the ecclesiastical route is upheld? Should the overture be dealt with? If yes, the churches haven’t seen it… So should the appeal be shared?
Sharing an appeal
Appeals are always submitted to the convening church for distribution to the members of a major assembly. Appeals are never seen by the churches, for their input is not required; indeed, often such appeals are confidential. Overtures are different, they must be sent to all the churches so that the churches can interact with them.
(Synod Guidelines I.F)
This raises the question, should an appeal regarding an overture be shared with all the churches?
GS 2019 received an appeal against a decision of RSE Nov. 2018 to deny an amendment to an overture. This appeal was not only submitted to the convening church, it was also sent to all the churches. This was done, so that the argument “not all the churches have had opportunity to interact with the overture” could not be used to grant the appeal and nevertheless not deal with the overture.
GS 2019 explicitly considered the admissibility of the appeal. It felt compelled to, for some submissions from the churches challenged its admissibility. Two churches argued it had been submitted too late to be considered properly. Another church argued that this submission “does not constitute an appeal but is actually an overture” and should have come via the ecclesiastical route. GS 2019 considered that the appealing church was “simply continuing the discussion in the ecclesiastical way”, observed that it was an appeal against a decision of RSE Nov. 2018 and had been submitted within the given deadline and so determined the appeal to be admissible.
GS 2022 received an appeal (from the same church) against a decision of RSE 2020 not to forward an overture. “Embedded” in this appeal was an “overture (request)”. This appeal was not shared with all the churches. GS 2022 declared “the appeal, and the overture within it” admissible. It sustained the appeal but denied the “overture (request)”. GS 2022 denied the overture “since all the churches have not had the opportunity to interact with the overture through submissions to GS 2022.” It further stated, “Since this overture has already been considered by a Regional Synod, a church can take over this exact same overture and submit it directly to GS 2025, at least six months prior to the synod, also distributing it to all the churches, analogous to Synod Guidelines I.F.”
Should an appeal regarding an overture be shared with all the churches? GS 2019 did not comment on this. GS 2022 implies that, if the appeal has an overture embedded with in it, and this overture has been considered by a regional synod, the answer is still “no”, but any church is free to resubmit the overture in question provided it is submitted to the convening church six months prior to the synod and to the churches no less than five months prior to the synod.
Reacting to a shared appeal
Can a church that receives a copy of an appeal submitted to a broader assembly interact with that appeal by submitting something to that broader assembly?
GS 2019 received an appeal against a decision of RSE Nov. 2018 to reject an overture. This appeal was not only submitted to the convening church but was also sent to all the churches. Technically speaking churches should have ignored this submission, as it was an appeal, not an overture. Their turn to consider it would come when the general synod had rendered a judgment. Nevertheless, five churches submitted letters to GS 2019 regarding the appeal.
GS 2019 included the five letters in its observations, implying GS 2019 considered them admissible. What is curious is that GS 2019 explicitly considered the admissibility of the appeal but did not explicitly consider the admissibility of the five letters.
If it had, it should have concluded that letters interacting with appeals are not admissible, unless they provide information pertinent to the appeal (which could be the case if the appeal somehow involved them).
It is noteworthy that GS 2019 did not interact explicitly with these letters in its considerations. This, too, suggests that GS 2019 should actually have declared the letters inadmissible.
It would have been proper for GS 2019, in considering the admissibility of the five letters, to have stated that the appellant had erred in submitting its appeal to the churches, as this in fact circumvents the ecclesiastical route (the church would more or less be doing what GS 2010 had suggested a church should do).
GS 2022 received an appeal (from the same church) against a decision of RSE 2020 not to adopt an overture. “Embedded” in this appeal was an overture (request). This appeal was not shared with all the churches. In part because the appeal had not been seen by all the churches, GS 2022 decided not to deal with the overture.
Can a church that receives a copy of an appeal submitted to a broader assembly against a decision regarding an overture interact with that appeal by submitting something to that broader assembly? No.
I do wonder what would have happened if the appeal with the embedded overture had been submitted 6 months prior to synod to the convening church and at least 5 months prior to synod to the churches (i.e. completely in line with the decision of GS 2010). Should the churches, given the possibility that the appeal might be sustained, interact with the overture? Or should the broader assembly, given the reality that churches did not know whether the appeal would be sustained or denied, indicate that the overture should be considered by the next broader assembly of the same kind?
Should an appeal against the substance of a decision regarding the forwarding of an overture be shared with all the churches? No, even though it was done in 2019. If it inadvertently happens, should submissions interacting with the substance of the appeal be deemed admissible? No, even though GS 2019 did.
It’s so confusing, so (bureaucratically) messy. And there are more tangles yet.