What now? We have the Ma Whea? Report (Anglican General Synod Commission Report on Same Gender Blessings and Ordinations) but what do we do now? Well, we will have some more talky before we have any doey. How much though?
For folk beyond these shores, the General Synod of the Anglican Church in this Province asked a group of eminent people to listen to us and help discern where we are on matters of sexuality and provide a kind of ‘helicopter view’ of our position and ways forward. We did this because we agreed that while we have been talking about matters of sexuality for a while we were factionalized and not understanding each other as well as we might. They were to report back to us about our current position and, as you can do from an elevated position, outline possible ways for us to proceed from our current position. (The name, Ma Whea? translated is, “Where to?”) So, this group, chaired by Sir Anand Satyanand (former Governor General of NZ) have now returned their report and have laid out ten possible options for us. We will thank the Commission and discuss the report and the options at our upcoming General Synod. You can find the Taonga Website Report link and article here. <http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/News/Common-Life/MA-WHEA-REPORT-RELEASED>
On one level I hesitate to comment on the Report because I have contributed to another report that is attached as an appendix and I have kind of ‘had a say.’ (see the Report of the Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions on a Theological Rationale for Blessing and Marriage of Same Gender Relationships – actually the title is way longer that that!). However, I think all of us need to engage with this new and important piece of work and while I have had A say in one part, I haven’t said all I would like to say. So, here are a few further thoughts.
Overall, the Report is very simple and easy to read. This has to be a big plus. Moreover, there are no big surprises contained in it. We have a compact, well written description of the matters before us. The simplicity of the Report should make it easier for us to grapple with the weight of the issues it contains. I make this distinction between the simplicity of the issues and the weight because I don’t think the things before us are actually complex, they are weighty and that requires different things from us than untangling complexity – dare I say it? more courage and strength of character than intellectual prowess?
Ten Options! (page 38) It would be easy for me to be disappointed that there are so many. It would be so much more consoling for me if there were just three options and I liked all of them! I need to get over myself. I suspect others do too. But ten options really does describe the territory and all the possible routes for us as a church – no doubt, however, Anglican inventiveness will lead to some other weird options (more below). The Ten Options are good to have before us.
I think it is great that the Report describes our Present Circumstances (Option B). This would have been an easy omission. We have got to our current situation through a combination of compromise and wisdom mixed with some portions of stupidity. Not surprisingly the present situation has some shortcomings, but it is good that the Report states the obvious and tells us that we could stay where we are. However, it goes without saying, the reason the Commission was initiated is that we can’t really abide where we are. I remain most concerned that some wonderful gay people, lay and ordained, report that they don’t feel safe in our church, let alone honoured and appreciated.
I think it is great the way the Options are set out into a continuum (of sorts). Options slide into each other. The only really odd one in this regard is Option I “Add a New Rite of Blessing,” which I think should be at Option E point. The circle is closed then at Option H (with newly inserted E it would become a new Option I) “Planned Dismembering” joining the first Option because Option A dismembers GLBT people from the church. Our GLBT brothers and sisters have left, are leaving, and would leave if we pursued Option A. So, A belongs next to “Planned Dismembering.”
I also think it is great that we have set before us the clear option of schism – “Planned Dismemberment” (Option H). This option is a truly ghastly thing to contemplate but, like Voldermort’s name in Harry Potter, it won’t do not to speak of it. I know I want to push the idea of schism far from me (bishops are meant to stand for unity!), however, I suspect that we risk accidentally tumbling into a path (and not just this one) if we don’t acknowledge that it is there. Of course, those media outlets with as much depth as a coffee stain will seize upon this schism thought and try to generate the story there but we need to have more maturity to see it and acknowledge it rather than not speak of it.
This leads me to say something about other hellish options, “Dual Episcopacy” and “The Anglican Having Two Views.” (Again, good to have them set out.) I accept that there are (very roughly cast) two views. [“T]here are sincere and dedicated Anglicans who fall on either side of the line regarding those in same sex relationships.” However, we cannot “approve” both views in any sense that indicates that we think both views are true. One view is false. One view is true. Of course, both might be wrong. But both can’t be true. If we affirm both as true we deserve to mocked mightily. Likewise we deserve to be mocked if we go down the “Dual Episcopacy” route. The Church of England pursued Flying Bishops and it was found wanting. We must not go there. We have enough complications with three Tikanga arrangements.
Lastly, let me say that every time I think of Option J, “Adopt a Period of Focused Discussion within Church Communities With a View to making a Decision in (say) 2016,” I break out in a violent eczema. It is not that I don’t think we need to talk about sexuality issues, we do and I’ ll even posit that God knows that we do. It is the not making a decision that bothers me. I think that this option will keep the issue painfully rather than helpfully before us for whatever the period (call it a sentence) we choose. Further, I don’t think people will actually engage with enforced discussions at this point – partly because they are ‘over it’ and partly because those with most to say are (unfortunately) the least likely to listen and the least likelihood of moving. So, we should always be open to discuss matters of our humanity before God with each other. I just pray that the wagon can move some while we talk together more gently about this and other matters of eternity with no deadline.