A formal code of ethics is long overdue in the Diocese of New Westminster, and it's all to the good that a Task Force on Codes and Principles of Ethics has taken up the work on what has turned out to be a very difficult task.
One would think that a religious body, which thinks and theologizes about ethics on a regular basis, would be able to have come up with a code acceptable to most Anglicans in the diocese - but no.
What might be seen a "motherhood" issue seems to have become wrapped up in divisive church politics on both the national and the local levels for years now.
Hierarchies concerned about their authority and power; acrimonious debates regarding human sexuality; fears on the part of some clergy that codes might be used against them by disgruntled parishioners - all these have contributed to the snail's pace of work in this area.
This despite everyone - or almost everyone - agreeing that an affirmative answer is required of those seeking baptism (in the Book of Alternative Services): "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"
To do that, all levels of the Church need to reinforce transparency in decision-making, and create clear, accessible, and impartial ways to challenge decisions when Anglicans feel that they have been seriously wronged.
Whether those avenues of appeal take the form of complaints committees, ombudspersons, or something else, it long past the time to set them up.
As the task force stated in a report last month to Diocesan Council, we need a specific code of ethics and a process for naming and addressing alleged violations.
And, the code of ethics needs to cover everyone, lay and clergy both. That's one reason the task force's membership - currently just priests - should be expanded to include lay people.
Why is there urgency? Again the task force gives the reasons. Without formal policy and procedures, this diocese is vulnerable, "both legally and morally."
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