Discussions have been held among the Leadership Team and between Bishop Christopher Hill and Rupert Bursell in order to move forward the proposed constitution of our ministry. This is necessary to establish us as a recognised entity. We have received a set of notes about the constitution and have been asked to invite comment from the community before a final version of the constitution is drawn up. The document sent by Rupert Bursell is reproduced below. Please add any ideas or thoughts in the comments or contact me directly at ailsa[at]ailsa-wright.net All comments should be received by the end of July.
Second Life Constitution:
Bishop Christopher and I discussed the constitution for Second Life and especially the various points made by members of the Second Life ministry team and congregation in relation to that draft. This paper is intended as a summary of those discussions and an explanation as to the conclusions that we have reached. We are very happy that it should be disseminated amongst the congregation and other interested parties and will, of course, consider any further comments. However, we both feel that it is necessary to bring the constitution into being as soon as possible. To that end, once there has been a time for reflection and prayer, it is my intention to approach Canon John Rees, the Provincial Registrar of the Province of Canterbury and the Registrar of the Diocese of Oxford about the final drafting of the constitution. He is far more able to advise upon some of the issues that have been raised than I am, especially as he has been involved with the legal side of i-church. Bishop Christopher and I will, of course, consider any such advice very carefully in the light of our discussions.
1. Company/charity: This is a matter that we particularly need John’s advice about. The present draft is based upon the legal requirements for a company because John’s initial advice (as I understood it) was to the effect that a company was the better way forward. I will ask him particularly to consider the pros and cons of a charity rather than a company. (This is particularly so as I understand that a new type of charitable entity may be being introduced next year.) However, as I understand it, international charities do not have international legal identities. For example, there is a Red Cross in England but the ‘international’ Red Cross is, I think, run by a Swiss company with whom the English Red Cross is closely associated. In addition, in England the charity commissioners are being more difficult (from the Church’s perspective) as to what they deem to be charities. We have chosen English law as that is the jurisdiction with which +Christopher and I are more familiar and because, at least initially, the episcopal oversight is likely to be from England and New Zealand whose laws are to a large extent based on English law.
2. Objects: +Christopher and I discussed, but reached no decision, on two different approaches to ‘objects’ if these need to be spelt out. One would be to reflect the preface to the declaration of assent made by those being ordained: see Canon C 15, para 1 of the English Canons. The other would reflect the basic ideas underpinning the Lambeth Conferences, namely, to uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer authorised in the constituent Churches and to promote the expression within Second Life of the Christian faith, life and worship . Any question of doctrine should be referred to those with episcopal oversight to decide subject to a provisional ruling by the vicar.
3. Financial aspects: Clearly Second Life needs a reliable treasurer and we are most grateful for Mary/Cady for having taken on that role for the present time. +Christopher is very happy that the accounting should be done through the auspices of the Guildford diocese and he will ask Mark Rudall to set the requisite machinery in motion. This is especially important as any accounts will need to be audited whether a company or a charity is set up. You will see later our suggestions as to how a treasurer should be appointed in the future.
(a) We take on board the very important points made about the definition of ‘land’ in Second Life but there should be no difficulty in incorporating this into the corporation now that the actuality of the situation has been spelt out for us. If necessary the final drafter of the constitution can seek guidance/confirmation any definition.
(b) We are unclear whether it is intended in the near future to purchase Epiphany Island from Mark Brown or, indeed, whether that is financially feasible within the near future. Once it has been transferred to the Second Life community under the umbrella of the company/charity it will be necessary to appoint a ‘land’ administrator to control the technical aspects of the property. I suspect that it is unnecessary for that administrator to be a member of the ministry team but the constitution must provide for some control over that administrator on behalf of Second Life. (I imagine a loose parallel between the position of such an administrator and that of a church architect or surveyor in Real Life.) The other possibility is that the ‘land’ is held in trust for Second Life by for example, those having episcopal oversight but that would require a separate trust deed. Nonetheless, +Christopher and I both think it best if all financial aspects (capital and otherwise) are controlled within one legal identity if at all possible. We will, of course, take John Rees’ advice. Part of this advice will be the necessity or otherwise for trustees: we agree the fewer levels of intervention the better.
5. Episcopal oversight:
(a) We both hope that the present arrangements for episcopal oversight from England and New Zealand will continue but we appreciate that an eye needs to be kept on the future. For that reason it will be necessary to make arrangements as to succession. I have suggested that Archbishop Rowan might agree to appoint a successor or successors as and when the necessity arises, perhaps if the bishops in post cannot themselves agree such an appointment. +Christopher is considering that suggestion. It occurs to me that such an arrangement would add credibility to the Anglican identity within Second Life. (And, yes, I accept that it already has credibility but one can never have too much!) As the cathedral is Anglican we think that such episcopal oversight must be by Anglican bishops.
(b) We envisage that those with episcopal oversight might, if the necessity should ever arise, appoint an episcopal visitor to enquire into any problem that might have arisen and to report back to those having episcopal oversight for any requisite decisions. This is similar to universities, theological colleges and charitable hospitals in England. +Christopher will discuss this with +Thomas in New Zealand.
6. Episcopal vicar: Mark Brown has in effect been acting as the bishops’ minister and we very much hope that he will be able to continue to do so. After some thought +Christopher and I came up with the suggested title of ‘episcopal vicar’, although +Christopher is open to any other suggestions from the leadership team. We do not envisage such a ‘vicar’ as having a place on the ministerial team but as being there to give guidance when required and to carry out some particular functions including ministerial oversight. (We would like some input as to whether the episcopal vicar should be entitled to ‘attend’ meetings of the leadership team but not participate as a voting member.) We think s/he should be formally licensed by those having episcopal oversight and, if the vicar already holds an episcopal licence, that would require the agreement of whichever bishop has given that original licence. (We hope that there is no necessity to build in an appeal machinery in relation to the removal of any such licence to Second Life!)
(a) Titles carry their own significances, we know, but we thought that the leadership team might collectively be called ‘the vestry’ with the chair being titled the ‘pastor’. The latter has the benefit of being gender neutral and would embrace either a lay or ordained chair. The pastor would be appointed by those with episcopal oversight after consultation with the vicar and members of the vestry who may suggest appropriate candidates. The pastor would be appointed during the pleasure of those with episcopal oversight.
(b) In addition to the pastor, we think that there should be a vice-pastor to chair meetings when the pastor cannot do so or would prefer to delegate that responsibility. S/he would also help to ensure continuity and would be in charge if the pastor were unwell or during a vacancy.
(c) The pastor should be Anglican while the vice-pastor need not necessarily be Anglican but should be a member of a Church in communion with the Church of England or one of the Churches designated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York as ones to which the Church of England (Ecumenical Relations) Measure 1988 apply. (See the lists in The Canons of the Church of England (6th ed, 2000) at pp 203 & 207, also available online.)
(d) The functions of the individual members will need to be spelt out (although not necessarily in great detail) but the overall function of the vestry would be to oversee (i) the cathedral services, (ii) the provision of pastoral care to the congregation, and (iii) the day to day administration of the cathedral. Clearly a balance needs to be kept or the vestry might become unwieldy. We therefore feel that the vestry should number 9-12 with the power to co-opt up to three additional members. The power to co-opt has the benefit of enabling the vestry to be more diverse.
(e) There should be a quorum of, say, 6 and decisions made by a majority of those ‘present’ and voting.
(f) We appreciate that the leadership team is working less formally at present but we feel provision should be more specific in case problems arise in the future. This does not preclude a fairly flexible process in practice.
(g) We envisage the whole of the vestry (other than the co-opted members) being individually licensed (see above). This does not mean that a member of the vestry must be ordained but, if a member is ordained, he or she would need his/her RL bishop’s permission.
(h) There should be a treasurer and secretary. (The latter would keep minutes and send summaries of the vestry’s decisions on a regular basis to the episcopal vicar.) We also suggest that there should be one member of the vestry entitled the ‘warden’ with the responsibility of looking after the day to day aspects of the cathedral ‘building’ (including ‘fabric’) and its appropriate use. The warden should be a different person from the pastor and vice-pastor.
(i) Other than the pastor we feel that both the office holders and the other members of the vestry should be appointed (subject to licensing) by the members themselves after consultation with the vicar.
8. Other than the pastor and the co-opted members, the members of the vestry should hold their appointment in the first instance for a period of three years but with the possibility of re-appointment for a further three year term. (Any further extension should only be with the agreement of both the vestry and the vicar.) Co-opted members should serve for a period of one year with the possibility of co-option for a further succeeding one year. This would be subject to their continuing to have the required qualifications for office.
9. Services: +Christopher is preparing a paper on the theological aspects of Second Life services but we feel that the vicar should give his/her agreement to what form of service may be used from time to time in the cathedral. This includes changes other than minor changes. (Compare the provisions in Canon B 5 of the English Church.) If necessary the vicar will, of course, consult those with episcopal oversight.
(a) At present we do not think that those who take services need to be episcopally licensed but those who take such services should be authorised to take similar services in RL: see 7(c) above. (Here we have in mind the approach adopted in Canon B 43 in the English Canons .)
(b) Within Second Life any authorisation should be given by the pastor (or in the absence of the pastor by the vice-pastor) after consultation with the vicar. The vicar should have a veto but with an appeal to those with episcopal oversight. Interim authorisation might be given by ordained members of the vestry.
(c) We entirely accept that pastoral care/counselling is often carried out by a quiet word from the person taking a service. But even online this is unlikely to be in depth counselling. However, any in depth counselling should only be carried out by those authorised to do so both in RL Churches and in Second Life. The latter authorisation will be given by the vestry after consultation with the vicar.
(d) We feel that there should be some initial training in how to take services in Second Life. How this is done can be left to the leadership team. This could include some instruction as to where passing pastoral advice changes to in depth pastoral care or counselling.
(a) We believe that it is essential that there should be disclosure of real identities to those with episcopal oversight, the vicar and other members of the vestry by all those in the leadership team; if that person is ordained (and in any other case where the need seems to arise), the person’s standing in RL should be verified by the vicar with the person’s bishop or other person under whose authority they may act. The same applies to those taking services, leading bible study and/or giving pastoral care or counselling; these persons should already by authorised to carry out such activities in their Churches in RL. (We do not think this verification would be too onerous, at least after the initial round of enquiries.)
(b) Disclosure to the wider Second Life community should be further discussed by the vestry and the vicar. We feel that the nuances of this question are best understood by those intimately involved.