Ma Whea? What now?

what-now

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&gt;

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.

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51 comments

  1. So, Bishop Jim, can you explain to me how this in any way moves us forward. People sitting in a pub with the regular, ubiquitous Anglican white sheet of newsprint a decade ago would have come up with those 10 options. And our experts on the doctrine commission cannot even agree whether we need to change the Constitution or not. Option J is obviously just B in bold italic. Hence my view http://liturgy.co.nz/committed-same-sex-couples is nothing as sanguine as yours. I’m reflecting further, and will probably post again on my site about this later this week.

    Blessings

    Bosco
    http://www.liturgy.co.nz

    1. Bosco, thanks for your comment. My intention in posting this piece was to try and articulate what I understand to be some of the positive elements of the report. I guess it would be easy to spend a good deal of time railing against the report – that we could have done as well with some newsprint 2 years ago etc. (I spent the day driving yesterday with a friend in the car and she is furious as it has just delayed things and she told the then Archbishop this when the idea of the Commission was first mooted.) I think we have to accept the report and the plain simplicity (newsprint and felt pens a virtue?) as the given now and work hard with what we have. It will not do at this point to build momentum to the story “it is a terrible report.”
      The thing that i do take form your point, however, is that, given the predictability of the contents (even 5? 10?) years ago, the idea that we have any real benefit in more talking has to be questionable.
      Of course, you can see even though I had laudable intentions, I couldn’t help myself and I had to include some critique.

  2. Hi Jim,
    I suggest there is an option K which mixes further talk and prospective action. In sketch form it is that GS determines which of options A to I it recommends to the church and then also says it will lie on the table for two years while we talk and reflect further.

    I want to also suggest that some of our church (e.g. Bosco, you and I!) have talked a lot about these matters, but many ‘parishioners in the pews’ have not talked about these matters at all. Very few will, for example, have engaged at an AGM with, say, a proposal that their share of diocesan quota goes up because of the impending Dismemberment of the church, nor has any Synod that I am aware of in recent times engaged with how our church will treat those who do not agree with an option which sees liturgical embrace of same sex relationships. Has any synod, for instance, discussed whether candidates for ordination will be accepted who would not conduct the blessing of a same sex relationship?

    In other words, there are matters on which our church has either not talked or hardly talked at all. If we are to change, do we know what we are agreeing to?

    1. Hi Peter,
      I think that the various options could be combined in various ways – D and I, for instance.
      On the “more talking but do nothing right now” versus “we have talked enough” I think you and I will just disagree. The Ma Whea? Commission was perceived as more useless talking and a delaying tactic by many who are just over talking. And I mean “many,” not an few. Yes, decisions will have consequences, but i suspect that they are not as dire as some might imagine (remember the droves who were going to join the RC Church after Women’s ordination, etc), and I think those consequences are part of what we have to manage.

      1. Hi +Jim
        I humbly suggest that past form of our church re gatekeeping over ordination means that those who do not subscribe to change need something more substantive (and especially from a bishop!) than ‘I suspect that they are not as dire as some might imagine … and I think those consequences are part of what we have to manage.’

        What precisely and concretely is our church’s plan to ‘manage’ the consequences of being a church which believes two separate and opposing things about same sex partnerships?

        I would like to remind you that we are not a church which has tolerated opposing beliefs about the validity of baptism of infants of believers. Our management of that situation has been to say to dissenters, You must leave now.

  3. Hi Jim

    I think Peter C is falling into a common trap of assuming it has to be all or nothing right now. It doesn’t, and indeed it can’t.

    The only option that makes any sense at this moment is to allow diocesan synods to make decisions about blessings and ordinations in their own patch. To leave it to bishops spits in the face of the synodical government system and can’t be given serious consideration.

    I, unsurprisingly, would love to go the whole hog, and throw in marriage as well! But that’s not the space we’re in. Nor, thankfully, are we in a wind back the clock and circle the wagons space, which would see many of us follow our LGBTQ sisters and brothers out the door. But we are, I believe, in a space where something must happen and the status quo is not a viable option. To opt for simply more talking (stalling) would be to accept we have lost all credibility is the wider community and complete touch with the ongoing and constant revelation of Godin the world.

    Whatever we do now will be a transitory situation, as it always will be. We are called to be a people of the way, on a journey, and to stand still is to say the journey is at an end and it’s time to get off the bus.

    Pax

    Brian

    1. Hi Brian
      I may or may not be trapped. Help!!!!!!!
      Seriously: your response does nothing to tell us whether we can, in the journey ahead, be a church of Two Integrities or a Church Dismembered.
      Whether we go for all or nothing or something in between, at this stage, is it really too much to ask whether the journey is heading towards Two Integrities or Church Dismembered?
      Depending on which, should we not be building safeguards or exit ramps?

      1. Hi Peter

        I think the answer to your primary question is we don’t know yet. That’s the point of transition – or liminality if you prefer the trendy sociological term.

        I have always said – and continue to believe – that the only thing that will keep us together is our choosing to remain so. Some have already chosen against that, others have chosen to stay, but can’t guarantee how long.

        Whether we need exit ramps or safeguards is a good question, and one that we should be asking both now and in the future, but we can’t stand still while we talk about it. We have done that for far too long already. EVERYONE has had the opportunity to have these conversations already, and indeed ALL were directed to by the last meeting of GSTHW. The fact that some have CHOSEN not to cannot be used as an excuse to stall even longer.

        Pax

        Brian

      2. My understanding, Brian, is yours: we have been asked to have conversations about blessings and the like. I quite agree all could have, some have not.

        But have we had conversations about Two Integrities or Church Dismembered? I don’t think so. Nor do I think that we have been asked to have them. (Some of us have been vaguely aware that the bishops have been talking about such things.But the minutes to those conversations are not published!)

        If GS wishes to move forward, my hope is that such conversations are an explicit part of the movement.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts Jim. I was particularly interested to read the clear statement that this issue is a generational one with younger Anglicans simply unable to understand what the debate is about. This is certainly my experience of the debate and sums up what I have found throughout 20+ years of Youth Ministry. The risk of doing nothing is that we close the doors of mission to the youth of this country. If we cannot get over this and shift our focus to future converts in this province we simply have no future.

    Since the process began I have constantly had to tell young people, “We’re not there yet, but we will get there in time.” It’s not an argument that can be sustained much longer. For the sake of this church we need to move on from these preoccupations and get back to sharing a vibrant Gospel that engages deeply with the world we find ourselves in. Getting into a state of fighting over who should be in and who should be out is foolishness. The Gospel is for all, and we desperately need all!

  5. Hello All,
    thanks so much for the discussion. I am sorry posted quickly this morning and have not been able to respond before now….
    I have some sympathy with Brian’s view. I think we are in a place of co-existence of two views at the moment. This co-existence has been ‘organically’ arrived and as such has significant drawbacks. However desirable it might be from this or that quarter, I think eliminative views are unsustainable at this point (both points of view arrive at their claims diligently and faithfully and this well acknowledged in the literature). So, can we devise some way that we can live with two views? This would not be the same as claiming both views are correct, but a negotiated and honest accommodation. Because at least one view must be wrong, and the church can’t at this point determine which of these it is, it would be a matter of exercise of conscience in the expression of any individual’s ministry.
    Now, as Peter knows, I have pushed (and probably will continue to push and may have to post separately about this) the analogous position we find ourselves in as an anglican church on the use of lethal force against human beings. It is a matter of absolute moral significance and we have two main views in the church – those who believe it to be always and at all times wrong to take another person’s life and those who think there are some situations when the taking of a human’s life is justifiable. Both views are held with conviction and as a matter of faithful response to the Gospel. Both views find official expression in the life of the church – there is a bishop for the armed forces (and chaplains) and there is another bishop who cares for the Anglican Pacifists. Now we have over a number of years ‘negotiated’ a kind of ‘live with each other’ position. The memory of this negotiation is lost to those of us who didn’t live through the vigorous arguments at the time of World War Two. But, nonetheless, we live with each other and we choose not to make it a ‘forced’ option – one over which people have to decide, declare, and/or leave. We haven’t dismembered over it and we continue to choose not to do so. This ‘choosing’ is important. Clearly, it is a moral question of huge importance and one about which one side or another is obviously wrong. We haven’t been able to resolve the rightness one way or another to the satisfaction of (nearly) all and so we ‘choose’ to live with each other. We don’t threaten dismemberment, we don’t choose ordination candidates on the basis of it, some ministries exercise some discernment in regard to it (no doubt the armed forces would not accept a pacifist and some ministry units might not accept someone who has been in military chaplaincy) and that is acceptable.
    So, returning to the issue at hand,some parish’s and even diocese’s might not accept some strident advocates of one position or another. Some priests would not accept (or apply) for some roles. This already happens but it would be open (without inviting prurient invasion of privacy!) and be the better for that degree of honesty.
    Overall, I cannot see why we have to decide (and we would be actually deciding) that one side of this debate has to leave or take our leave if we worked a proper accommodation of each other that entailed respect for faithfully discerned views.

    1. Hi +Jim and others,
      I like the idea of ‘if we worked a proper accommodation of each other that entailed respect for faithfully discerned views.’ Let’s do that!

      I also want to offer appreciation of an aspect re the militarism/pacifism analogy (which has its critics on various aspects). Namely, the difference between the two viewpoints has been respected, and it has not been a question (in my knowledge) asked of candidates for appointment. So, yes, I see some precedents there which could be helpful in ‘a proper accommodation etc’.

      Where I am slightly hesitant re the analogy is that to a large degree we have confined our militarism to chaplaincies (at least in recent decades), almost, if you like, to a separate area of oversight (though we have not been large enough re Anglican chaplaincies to warrant a full-time bishopric over them). Some Options presented by Ma Whea? open up such a separation (dual episcopacy etc) as a possibility, but here on this thread there seems to be argument against that approach.

      Nevertheless I am very grateful for the thoughtfulness of your response, +Jim. Thank you.

  6. We all know that GS will, and must, decide to keep talking, and encourage us all to be part of that. The tragedy will be that this is all they decide.
    what degree of action could we countenance while that talk proceeds? Could we allow some freedom to diocesan synods for a set length of time, recognising that (a) decisions so made will be difficult indeed to reverse at a later date, but (b) the outcome of those decisions will be an apprpriate topic for ongoing discussion?

    I do think Peter is asking a fair question. If we allow synods to make local decisions for a set period of time, then at least for the same period, we need to allow those who disagree to have some sense of security. We might at least relax the normal practice of not allowing candidates refused ordination in one diocese from applying in another.

    Put that another way. People like me and Brian, and Richarrd above, are saying there must be some movement in the drection of permitting same-sex blessings, and allowing GLBT candidates. Perhaps folk like Peter (or more particularly, General synod rep him) need to say what protection they need to countenance that movement.

    1. Now you are worrying me, +Jim!

      “If we allow synods to make local decisions for a set period of time, then at least for the same period, we need to allow those who disagree to have some sense of security.”

      Are you implying our church would only tolerate disagreement for a limited period of time?

      I suspect you are not wanting to say that because, on the analogy with militarism/pacifism, that tension has been ongoing for millennia!

      1. actually that was Edward – and thanks Edward for engaging. No, I am not thinking that there needs to be a limited length of time to the conversation. Actually, I wonder if we could work out an accommodation it might be good to call a break to official conversations for a period (5 years?) and resolve to talk and do about some other area of our life!

      2. I’m so glad, Peter, that even you have problems with putting the right name to matters under discussion. O do remember being told off by you for doing that with the Ould Twins! I guess we both need to concentrate more. Blessings, Fr. Ron

  7. Dear Bishop Jim. Just in case you may have thought that Christchurch Anglicans all think the same on this issue, I want to let you know that I am one of those – retired but active- clergy in our Church, who believe that homophobia has for too long found a comfortable home in our Church. For me, personally, I think that Proposal ‘E’ is the only way to go – if we are intent on supporting the ethos of justice in ACANZP.

      1. Well, Peter, i don’t feel at all insulted, just slightly misunderstood. When I referred to a limited time (5 years, five general synods, 20 years, I dont know how long), I simply meant to indicate that GS might declare that we are not of one mind, so for that period we would allow diocesan synods to make various decisions on a “trial ” basis, to be thoroughly reviewed during the limited period, and of course at the end of that period. The corollary would be that for the same period, the position of those who found themselves unable to support the experiment should be deeply respected and protected.

        What happens at the end of that period? Well it is conceivable, though I concede unlikely, that we could come to a decision by an overwhelming majority that one of the positions that you and I take respectively is wrong. If they decide I am wrong, then there will be the pastorally and canonically difficult task of unwinding the decisions made by Diocesan synods in the meantime. If they decide you are wrong, then other pastorally and canonically difficult tasks would be required.
        It is rather more likely that GS would have to come up with an ongoing way to manage an agreement to disagree.

        Most simply, I am suggesting the declaration of a period of experimentation and discernment, during which certain decisions and actions are permitted, subject to carefully agreed safeguards. I do’t think that should worry you.

  8. Thank you +Jim for this forum and the other commentators.

    I have often reflected that Jesus did not ever suggest that the Pharisees should get on with the Sadducees – that would have been an exercise in futility – just like this debate within the Anglican Communion has become. When bishops are told to maintain the unity of the church the subtext really is: ‘get those others to agree with me!’ Jesus rarely entered into the ecclesiological debates of his day, Peter C, and certainly didn’t advocate the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners engage theologically. That might be your definition of the kingdom, but it isn’t mine 🙂

    What Jesus did do is to associate with those who weren’t religious, to open the kingdom to the theologically disinterested, to those many young people who can’t understand what this debate is all about, as Richard B points out.

    If the Anglican Communion is to be dismembered, it will be because the Anglican Communion believes that only her baptised, confirmed, communicant, theologically literate and straight members are part of the church. I suggest that Jesus pointed us to a bigger church, one that is affirming and inclusive. Filibustering doesn’t seem to be in Jesus’ vocabulary.

    .. Therefore I have difficulty in allowing a bishop or Synod to limit who I might affirm and include. It is not a matter of pigheadedness or liberal theology – it is faithfulness to the gospel.

    1. Hi Christopher,

      I do feel uncomfortable about being on the side of the theologically literate if that side is not the side of the tax collectors etc!

      But faithfulness to the gospel is also bigger than siding with one bit of it or another: the challenge is to be faithful to the whole gospel, Matthew and John, Luke and Paul, to say nothing of Mark. In the end I may be judged to be unfaithful to the gospel but I would be grateful if the Lord acknowledged that theological literacy is working one’s way through the whole of the gospel.

      But the bigger issue I would like to respond to is when you say ‘I have difficulty in allowing a bishop or Synod to limit who I might affirm or include.’ At one level perhaps all clergy would unite with you – few if any have never had an issue with a bishop’s instruction or a synod’s resolution 🙂

      But there is another level to consider, the question of our collegiality, and whether any one among us has the right to ‘I’ determining things within a synodical church led by bishops. Our ordination (for those ordained) has something to do with ordering and the ordering to do with being under orders which (ultimately) are our Lord’s orders understand and transmitted by the church. Or something like that is the reason we are in a process which goes beyond ‘I’ determining things.

      Nevertheless it is also true that Aussie and Kiwi soldiers have a reputation for not always being obedient to their superiors 🙂

      1. Hi Peter,

        Thank you indeed for your generosity in mentioning the long tradition of larrikinism in both Aussie and Kiwi cultures. On this day when we remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer please excuse the allusion when I observe that collegiality was the hallmark of the Nazi party. They weren’t interested in hearing dissent! This will find its way into my sermon for Good Friday and Easter Day 🙂 Our shared larrikinism is a function of antipodean egalitarianism united against pretensions of British superiority. I believe that egalitarianism that includes and affirms all is far more faithful to the whole gospel than an obedience which requires the alienation and condemnation of one group of humanity.

      2. Chris,
        thanks for your engagement.
        I am sorry, I am all for the place of dissent, but we also need discipline. That is, if we are going to do stuff together then we have to agree to cooperate and trust our agreements. This is not the same as a totalitarian regime imposing a single view on all. Endless dissent for the sake of dissent is just destructive.
        best
        jim

  9. I am one of those who thinks we have talked far, far too much around this. If “many ‘parishioners in the pews’ have not talked about these matters at all” I posit that like others mentioned here that is often because there are much more pressing things in their lives that they would like to put energy into.

    If Peter sees a decision affecting diocesan quotas, let’s talk about our top-heavy church, our inability to accept our true size and importance, and how we might move forward efficaciously as God would will this small group of His followers, rather than continuing to pretend we are huge…

    I find Peter’s comparison to baptism extremely unhelpful. Why not link it with denying the divinity of Christ, or the Resurrection, or the Trinity?! A far closer comparison is to compare it to our church’s practice of marrying after divorce:

    In our church we hold together those who are prepared to officiate at the wedding of someone for their Nth time with previous partners still living, and those who would not so be prepared.

    Where are the independent diocesan synod decisions on this? Where is the consultation with parishes & AGMs about which way clergy in that parish will follow on this distinction? Where are the questioning of ordinands about this? Where are the commissions, hui, blog posts, ongoing meetings about this…?

    Oh no; I forgot – that’s about the majority; heterosexuals… [Including, sometimes most loudly, those against any movement on committed same-sex couples].

    Blessings

    Bosco
    http://www.liturgy.co.nz

    1. Bosco,
      I largely agree with you about the ‘more talking’ being fruitless at this point. I am reluctant to agree with “we have talked too much” because that just can’t be true. I think it is true that we have talked about the same things ad nauseam because we have such a limited vocabulary when it comes to discussing human intimacy, so many unhelpful prejudices, and so on. We have also talked mostly to defend positions rather than understand each other and we talked and talked in comparison to very little doing (well, no doing).
      Likewise I find the comparison with Baptism not apposite and immediate talk of schism really unhelpful.
      As I said, I think it is useful that all the options are there before us. If we are realistic though some of the options are very unlikely to need to detain us because they are seen as very unlikely and/or unpalatable.
      Option J is going to look very attractive to some. I don’t think it is the same as Option B as it is likely to be combined with other options as genuine proposals to talk about – here i think Peter is likely sympathetic.
      I think we need more than this. I would like to see more than this. I want to be able to ordain GLBT people and to do it openly and with the blessing and knowledge of the Diocese. I also want GLBT clergy to feel a good deal ‘safer’ (I don’t like that term, but you know what I mean) and celebrated for their superb contributions to ministry (although celebrating excellence would be a culture change too! and giving thanks isn’t something anglicans aren’t generally good at). This means that I want to get some movement now. I think that if such movement preserved the exercise of conscience on this, most of the church would welcome it now.
      This brings me to the point that, if we could get some moderate and contained movement – Under some version of Option D?? – then it might be good to NOT talk for a while since immediate irritation would alleviated and the biggest issues – Marriage – can be approached when we have improved our vocabulary and attitudes to one another.
      best
      jim

      1. Hi +Jim, Bosco et al

        By all means find my comments unhelpful!

        I am trying to give expression to currents of thinking I am discerning within the ‘conservative’ part of our church (without making any claim to be an authoritarive guide) and, yes, mixed in with some of my own personal concerns and questions.

        If you don’t like what you hear from me, could I ask whether you are prepared to accept that what I say might reflect what people disinclined to comment publicly might be thinking?

        If so I would simply make the point that your own protestations about the way I am approaching the issues, and the concerns I am raising, may not cut much ice with those who share these concerns.

        An analogy with baptism may be extremely unhelpful. But what if it expresses with clarity how some are approaching the issue of blessing of same sex relationships and the capacity of our church to live with Two Integrities or not?

        Thus my challenge to those who disagree with me is to ask what you are doing to hold our church together as one body. Taking potshots at people for over excitement about an issue may be fair response, but the question is whether doing so makes any difference to those who seem to be over excited.

        Whether you understand why our church might break up over these matters or not, there is a chance it will. Even the Commission recognises the possibility of Dismemberment!

  10. Dear Peter,
    Clearly my comment had far too strong a thread of ad hominem running through it. I apologize for that. I certainly appreciate that you are articulating a view that is held by a significant and important part of our church – that is, not ‘just’ your own.
    What I mean by unhelpful is what is helpful for the whole church. In that sense I absolutely have a care for the whole. Without resorting to a litany, you know as well as I that GLBT members of our church (let alone wider society) feel ‘dis-membered’ by our current state. The question to my heart and mind is: two integrities, one church – how? As such Option A and Option G are non-starters.
    More later.
    Thank you for your contributions, Peter. Please continue, you are helping us a great deal, and a great many ways.
    Best
    jim

  11. It seems I may need to clarify my placing belief about baptism in with the divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, and the Trinity. Those four are all creedal – one of the normal ways to distinguish orthodoxy.

    Practices around commitment (marriage, divorce, divorce rites, blessing couples, celibacy, etc) are generally understood as not to be considered core doctrine, in the sense of being creedal. Hence my preference for the analogy with our practices around divorce: our practice in our church may clearly not be consonant with a straightforward reading of the teachings of our Lord, Paul, etc., but because this is not core doctrine, in the sense of being creedal, we seem to have no problem in holding diverse positions on this.

    Peter, are you suggesting that discussions about gender in committed relationships are rightly better compared to our baptismal beliefs than to our other discussions around committed relationships?

    Blessings

    Bosco

    1. Bosco,

      No, this ‘bear of little brain’ got that. I think the analogy with Divorce is a good one. Thanks. It is good because we have some clear scriptural material on it (dominical statements no less!) and yet we have interpreted it and apply it quite differently and …. (importantly) differently amongst different parts of the Communion through to different priests. Like all analogies it runs out at certain points – Divorce is a tragic situation given the vows that a couple one made and often it is a painful one too and we allow it (with heavy hearts ourselves) to prevent further pain and open up the possibility of new life. I don’t think this is entirely analogous to celebrating same-gender relationships. But a good analogy nonetheless. (I have already made my case for the analogy with another moral issue of great significance over which the church does not agree, together i think they are helpful).
      I also think the distinction between core doctrine and that which is not core (or credal) is helpful. It was one that the Church in Canada was able to deploy in their situation. Where it is less useful for us is in the convolutions of our Constitution which doesn’t make that distinction. (This does not mean that I don’t think we can address our Constitution with the insight.)
      Anyway, thanks again for the contribution.
      blessings
      Jim

    2. Hi Bosco
      I suggest that some Anglicans think either the blessing of same sex relationships and/or same sex marriages are valid in God’s sight and some Anglicans do not think they are valid.

      The same Anglicans, speaking generally, do not differ on whether remarriage after divorce is valid or not. (Thus not much point in pursuing an analogy from divorce, or comparing discussions around one committed relationship with discussions around another).

      Thus there is a case for talking about Two Integrities re marriage/blessing of relationship.

      There is a question whether two such integrities can hold together.

      When we look at a possible analogy, to baptism, we find a difference – similar, I am arguing – between those who think baptism of infants of believers is valid (e.g. Anglicans) and those who do not agree (e.g. Baptists).

      Historically Baptists (of English extraction) were dissenting Anglicans who either could not or would not remain within the Anglican fold. On a ‘Two Integrities’ approach to baptism, Anglicanism could not contain the Two Integrities.

      Our question today, on another matter, concerns whether we can contain a new Two Integrities.

      1. Peter,
        I am probably not understanding you …. but
        You seem to be suggesting that:
        1. Anglicans in NZ disagree about one thing (Same gender relationships) but agree about another (divorce). Mostly true.
        2. Therefore any analogy about one time disagreement about divorce is not valid.
        But this doesn’t follow.

        I can think of older priests who recall the disagreement about divorce and remarriage. In CoE it isn’t yet concluded. I think the analogy is worthy of consideration.

        Yes, there is also the analogy with baptism.

        But what we are looking to show is that there are some examples of non-trivial matters over which there have been “two integrities.” Having shown that (if we have) the argument is that two integrities need not necessarily cause schism.

        I willingly concede that it is odd and each side would have to live with a degree of compromise that makes us all uncomfortable, but I think that is what is required of us at this time as we work this out together.

        best

        Jim

      2. Hi Jim
        I am positing that appealing to my analogy re baptism offers realism about how difficult the present issue is, and the degree of compromise which might be required (because we can imagine the degree of compromise required if, say, we entered into some kind of union with Baptists).

        It could be that appeal to memory of divorce and remarriage differences in a previous generation is also helpful.

        Perhaps we need to ask what kind of analogy helps (or does not help) those who are torn apart in their consciences about where we might go, whether compromise can be engaged with and how we might engage.

  12. I think you might be right Peter. What I can say is that I have witnessed, in some pretty intense and real conversations in recent times, is a willingness of GLBT people to live with compromise and if we moved to say, blessing but not marriage. In the same conversations I have witnessed a “we shall not be moved” from some traditionalists. I have seen the rejection of that compromise “tear apart” those people and the groups.
    I hope and pray we can move past that. I believe much of the church is ready for that.
    We will see.

    best

    Jim

    1. It would be good, Jim, perhaps as a result of General Synod, to have an appropriate ‘whole church’ conversation about compromise.

  13. Tell me you’re joking Peter! Please! That’s the conversation we’re all meant to have been having for the past two years (much, much longer really, but mandated again two years ago). The fact that some bishops have chosen to avoid the conversation in their patches, and other Anglicans have chosen to ignore or not engage with it, should not – MUST NOT – be used as an excuse for yet another round of talking which will be avoided, ignored and not engaged with …

    I was part of the General Synod Standing Committee that established Ma Whea? The main reason was because everyone in that room – from every episcopal unit – knew that we couldn’t just do nothing any more or our credibility would be completely shot. The original plan was a 12 month study – that was 2011 – then it was “just another two years” in 2012, so please don’t tell me someone is going to have the absolute arrogance to seriously demand “just another two years” in 2014!

    1. Thanks Brian,

      I guess you have had much the same time line here in NZ as in Oz. I looked back in my records and I was part of a diocesan group looking at human sexuality in Adelaide in 1979 – 35 years ago 🙂

      christopher

      1. I was glad that Rosemary Neave quoted Martin Luther KIng ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ in her comment to the main Taonga link. At our last Synod I extended this to say ‘Love delayed is love denied’. cheers c

    2. Hi Brian
      Whether you think of us as arrogant or not, it is in fact the resolved view of the Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch that talking continue!

      Does ‘arrogance’ work the other way, namely the arrogance of the presumption that ‘You have been given extra time to talk, now of course you agree with our point of view and will be ready to vote accordingly.’ What is our church’s attitude to those for whom talking has not changed their minds?

      Is it possible that you are pushing for a ‘zero sum game’ outcome: supporters of same sex partnerships in at the expense of conservatives moving out?

      But, I personally wish to be constructive re ‘talk’: what if General Synod agreed to a change ‘in principle’ with some direction as to what that change might mean about consequences (e.g. new episcopal oversight/dismemberment/etc) and gave the church two years to talk through our response to that prior to confirmation of change at the next GS?

      I ask readers here to consider that an elite set of lay and clerical leaders have engaged in talk over these past years, mostly about what could be called the ‘ethics’ of sexuality. But even amongst that group there has been a nervousness about talking openly about consequences of change. There has been even less talk about consequences among parishioners in general. Which parishes realise their vicars will leave if certain changes are agreed to? Which vicars understand how many of their parishioners will leave if certain changes are agree to? Might there be no practical consequences to worry about?

      1. Peter. I consider this to be the last argument of conservatives as they see the arc of justice in the church moving towards inclusiveness of gay people. Unfortunately I have heard similar from my bishop who. I know from his sermons before he became bishop, favours acceptance of gay people into the church. I am reminded of my cousin, now in her late 80’s, who stated she would leave the Anglican church if women became priests. She lives in Newcastle Australia, obviously not Sydney where I unfortunately grew up. I think it lasted a month and only age prevents her regular attendance at church these days.
        I have just turned 70. As stated, I grew up in and believed what I was taught in Evangelical Sydney. It led to times of despair but thankfully I did not commit suicide like some of my friends in the Sydney University Evangelical Union and also my Rector, a wonderful Godly man whom the Diocese regularly sent to hospital for psychiatric treatment and finally moved from parish work to mission administration.

        Most of my friends of that time, who I now know were also struggling with gay feelings, merely left the church. They are surprised that somehow I stayed although I gave up any hope of entering the ministry. I have been cursed with a love of Anglican ritual and music and believe there is particular grace to be gained from participating in the Eucharist.
        In Sydney I learnt to keep my sexuality secret. When I first told a Rector I was removed from the roster to read the lesson. But, of course, I never saw a woman read the lesson until I found one of the few inclusive chuches in that diocese.
        Most of my life I have attended church regularly but made sure I did not even stay for coffee in case of questions.

        It has been wonderful to move to NZ where the priests in my parish and even the bishop know of my sexuality but seem to have no problems. My diocese has one openly partnered gay priest and, of course had the first woman diocesan in the Anglican communion.

        In the NZ society, unlike Australia, there is no official discrimination except in the church. Even the visiting future king attended a playgroup yesterday with a same sex couple and their child. It was harldy big news.
        Even in my age group of 60 plus I do not experience any discrimination day to day. Most of my friends however do not go near a church.
        I do not support church missionary activity because I would not recommend any young gay person become involved with the church. That way lies misery. I do support church social welfare but have decided to finally make a stand.
        If I see no sign of movement at the coming General Synod, I am leaving the church and visiting my lawyers. I have no family except a much older childless sister so no heirs. If there is to be another 2 years of discussion I will ask my bishop to ring when a decision is made. Of course assuming I am still alive. Enough is enough.

  14. Dear Friends,

    Greetings in the name of Our Risen Saviour. I have been following these comments with interest, and have hesitated to add some thoughts, but do so as I detect this discussion merely reflects the breadth and depth of sincere but different views held within the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

    This morning’s post by Peter regarding the position of the Church of Norway is no surprise to me.. That Church is no longer the “State Church “, having lost that status in May 2012 when a Constitutional amendment in Norway removed that status and passed the remaining state powers over to the Church, notwithstanding that the Church still receives financial aid from the state as do all other recognised churches and ‘philosophies’.
    What the decisions made by the Governing Body indicate is that The Church of Norway does not have a commonly agreed theological view on the essentials and nature of marriage , and is unwilling to commit itself to any changes in its order or liturgical provisions at present.

    That might be the position in which the ACANZP is in also.May 2014 could well be the time when that is the result of such debates and consideration become known in the General Synod.

    My personal views is that we have a very thin theological view of marriage, and do not realise the different situations that in fact exist at present. There are marriages between two people both of whom are baptised; there are marriages between two people only one of whom is baptised; there are marriages between two people neither of whom is baptised; there are marriages that have been consumated; there are marriages that have not been consumated,
    there are marriages between people one or both of whom may be divorced and have a previous marriage partner still living. There are marriages between people who have been previously married but the previous marriage partners are both deceased; there are so called ‘arranged marriages’.

    In England ( and other European counties) there have been ‘morganatic marriages’ and ‘dynastic marriages’, particularly when members of a royal or noble family were involved.
    There have been examples , even in recent years, of what appears to be a legal and valid marriage declared void because of some unique legal requirement of the country of domicile of a party to the marriage. All these are different marriages on analysis, in my view.
    Should we not try to develop a considered theology of the mind of God in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit in this vexed issue of LBGT relationships? I am very grateful for an Article by the Rev.Andrew Davison (Westcott House and Cambridge University School of Divinity) for his thoughtful Article in The Church Times, London 4 April 2014 in providing much food for thought.

    The Church – or part of it- often has been forced to recognise and deal with all these situations and to do so in a way which is consistent with its’ theology of marriage’, something which is generally quite narrowly and briefly expressed in its Formularies and its Canons.
    I suspect the Church of England in England has a more varied and convoluted regulatory system to contend with than we do here.

    As well as the issue of ‘same gender marriage’, which has been created by the actions of the State by amending the civil law relating to marriage, there are the issues relating to ordination
    of people of LBGT orientation. which is a purely domestic issue for the Church.

    First, no person has a ‘right’ to ordination. It is a privilege granted after a period of examination, education,training and testing, and discernment and I believe is absolutely in the discretionary decision/power of the bishops.

    People need to be reminded of the provisions of the Ordinal – BCP and NZPB- and the issues really seem to relate to character and manner of life of the candidate(s). I do detect that in all my maturer years I have detected that the moment someone is identified as being of homosexual/lesbian orientation there is a immediate assumption that the behaviours and practices of such people in sexual matters are such as to be marks of defect of character or an unacceptable manner of life. Does any one ever ask any questions about the persons practices and living arrangements, or are they just automatically categorised in some way?
    I am absolutely sure some people of LBGT orientation are are of excellent character and live chaste lives that are perfectly Godly, honorable and acceptable for the standards of the Church.

    Secondly, the manner of welcoming and incorporating LBGT people into the life of the church is really a matter of pastoral care and practice. I do not believe you can legislate for that., but w must seek to ensure homophobia is removed ,denounced and eliminated in both Church and society.

    Thirdly, my long experience of the Church in General Synod , show our regulatory and Canonical procedures for alterations to the Formularies are a long, and sometimes drawn out , and cannot be hurried . Actions in haste often fall flat and fail within the procedures.
    Never forget the Fundamental Provisions of the Constitution regarding the declarations of the expressions and sources of our faith — the BCP, The Ordinal, The 39 Articles and the declarations in Holy Bible of God’s Holy Word.. If these are overlooked someone may well bring litigation in the Civil Courts under the provisions of the Church of England Empowering Act, 1928.

    Finally, we need to remember that our decisions could have repercussions beyond our shores,
    and for myself I do not wish to see the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion imperiled by
    inadequately thought out actions. Personally I long for that unity which Christ himself prayed for in the great high priestly prayer recorded in St John’s Gospel as a living reality for the Church on earth.

    Sincerely, in His service.
    Bruce Davidson

    1. Dear Bruce, Greetings in the name of Christ!

      Thank you so much for your contribution. I don’t propose to respond to all of it, but thank you.

      Your counsel is (as always) appreciated and timely. But I would also want to add that I haven’t part of any serious conversation of these issues that hasn’t had all of the aspects you mention at front of mind if not ‘on the white board’ and being directly addressed. Of course, they get nuanced differently at different times, but they are there.

      What is also there, and here the Ma Whea? Report is helpful, is the consciousness of the ‘odd organically grown’ present position of our church, a position that is unsatisfactory to all concerned. Working out of that apprehension, the question becomes what can we do that preserves the much desired unity (not the same as uniformity) and witnesses to the work of the Spirit and the joy of the Gospel and improve our current position.

      On the back of that, I would dare to suggest that, in spite of some of my own best instincts, marriage will remain untouched in any change that might occur in the short term. Same gender blessing will challenge what we believe about marriage, but in mostly good ways. Having marriage and same-gender blessing may not have theological neatness about it (although it has some genuine advantages) but complete simplicity and beauty of solution is probably beyond us at this point

      Now this might seem like a pragmatic concession of the worst kind. I prefer, however, to see it as a realistic apprehension of our epistemological failure at this point – we just can’t get the kind of clarity from exegesis, hermeneutics, science, etc that will deliver up universally agreed answers to our questions.

      One useful response that these kinds of time is (and I think you will appreciate the tramping analogy) is, “stay on the track and don’t move.” While “staying put” you look at the map three more times, wait for the weather to improve, etc. Another sane response is to move tentatively forward. It is the later option I believe we are up to at this point – in part because we have been “sat down on the track looking at the map” for decades now.

      Enough for now, and thanks for joining the conversation.

      Blessings

      jim

  15. In response to you comment “sat down on the track looking at the map” reminded me of a time when I was out on my usual walk along the road and became aware of the straight white line designed to keep the cars on the ‘straight and narrow’. I was preparing for a reflection at the time and I thought about the white line giving some surity about direction with the assumption that there would be a town or ‘goal ‘at the end of the road.

    To stand still on the road ( as we are doing at present ) indicates lostness. To move forward suggests that we are heading for a goal. To extend the metaphor further if we continue to stand still then we are at risk of ‘starving ‘in the meantime, or at risk of taking the wrong path in desperation, that could well lead to a dead end. So what is the goal to which we are heading as followers of Christ ?Isnt it salvation for all?

    The question of who can walk this path is not I believe for us to determine. As we join and meet with others on the path some whom we meet will be called to ordination. If we exclude any person from fullfilling their God given giftings I believe that we are in danger of never reaching the goal that God has set before us. Or worse hindering others on their faith journey.

    For me labels such as’gay’,’homosexual’, ‘straight’ are a distraction and the sooner we realise that ‘one size’ does in fact fit all, in our capacity to love and be loved, and to be inclusive and welcoming of all comers, so that we can celebrate and affirm the God in us all, the better we will be. And we will enjoying walking the track to God together.

    Blessings to all
    Paula Franklin

  16. Rodney Deeble
    ( Parishioner)

    In your blog, Jim. you urge, as do other clergy, an immediate adoption by the church of the blessing same-sex realtionships and argue there has been ample opportunity for debate.

    This may be true of clergy, but not of lay parishioners – as Pete Carrell has cautioned.

    The Ma Whea? Report is just out, barely a week old. For many in the pews the range of options it outlines, and their implications, would , and will be somewhat of a shock – they have been treating these matters as not directly or personally relevant – as opening an inclusion at the margin.

    It is plain that if the church approves the blessing of same-sex relationships that a barrier to ordination to those in such relationships cannot be maintained if the relationships are blessed of God. The Report contains a significant acknowledgement on page 4 of the Foreword in the penultimate paragraph:

    “The period of intense discussion which will follow delivery of the Report will call for an examination of the cruciality of beliefs and the extent to which they maintain validity in a 21st century sense. In those respects where current validity is not maintained, traditional thinking will need to be put to one side and a different approach considered.”

    The reports’ assumption of “intense discussion “conflicts with your urging haste.

    Secondly, it implicitly acknowledges that a re-examination of the whole approach to interpretation of the New Testament and beliefs in the areas of relationship. marriage, chastity and church discipline must accompany any change.

    Change implies issues affecting the whole approach to hermeneutics.

    Or, is the church to be merely post-modern and hold unresolved and contradictory views in vague tension? The issue of the interpretation of Scripture is acknowledged in Appendix 4 to the Report, but unresolved and the statements there of the justifications for change acknowledge that there are passages of Scripture that have to be relativised red-down and re-interpreted on the basis of the primary validity of subjective experience over specific biblical texts which are otherwise a barrier to change.

    The Report therefore acknowledges that this issue involves the church in a fundamental change in hermeneutic.

    This has implications for all other areas of interpretation, theology and practice.

    People in the pews need to understand this. I share Peter’s Carrell unease over the lack of formal process for parish level understanding of the Report.

    1. Hi Rodney
      I appreciate your careful listening to what I am saying.
      It worries me greatly that our bishops and GS reps may not be as careful in their listening to the laity across the parishes of our church.

      1. Yes, Thanks Rodney. I appreciate your reply.
        I don’t concur with your thinking that people haven’t had a chance to talk about this in their churches. I take it that those who have not headed important markers like Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1:10 (and there have been many others) have not done so but at some point there is a “due date.” Those who haven’t done the homework can’t complain when faced with the hand-in date that they need more time.
        In every parish I have been part of – I have been ordained as long as you Peter – there has been some significant occasion every couple of years for us to talk about issues of sexuality and/or hermeneutics (the issues are nearly always connected for Christians) – some, not all, came to those discussions.
        I want to assure Peter that the bishops (from my slimmer experience GS reps) are listening very very carefully and prayerfully (some of them even look at blogger’s sites!). I cannot think of a bishops’ meeting that I have attended that this has not been a portion of our agenda – the conversation is most often about the ‘care for ALL in our church.’ Retired bishops and bishops who have been part of the house for a longer time report that it has been so for a long time.
        Onwards
        +jim

      2. Hi +Jim
        I appreciate what you say and I am aware of much episcopal discussion over many meetings!
        I observe the following:
        – it is not uniform across the dioceses that parishes have regularly talked about these matters. For twenty-one years since returning from England I have served in two dioceses: in each of which there have been diocesan occasions from time to time for conversation and in neither of which is there evidence of regular parish-based conversations. If we start to say ‘Well, they have had their opportunities and should have taken them,’ I think we get into difficult territory re vicars making some urgent things priorities and not others; and in some cases vicars perhaps wanting to avoid looking like obsessing about certain issues.
        – what do we really know about people’s intention re staying or leaving our church depending on what decisions are made (and this works on both ‘sides’ of these matters)? Just yesterday I had a conversation with someone in another diocese about the question of whether the bishop there, on the matter of people staying or leaving, is listening. I mention this question of intention because where I have been part of conversations about sexuality I have found people have focused on that topic and not on possible consequences of decision X being taken rather than decision Y.

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