Fountain - Marcel Duchamp

Yesterday the church passed a motion at our General Synod that actually has a name it is called  A way forward – He Anga Whakamua – Na sala ki liu. It provides as way forward for the blessing of same-gender relationships. You can find it here –

We are now assessing the work. What might we say? ….

Beauty is a funny thing. It is so hard to convince another that what you see is beautiful. It is often said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’

I think the Anglcian Church that I belong to may have done a beautiful thing yesterday. I am not sure. Perceptions around time might be a key part of the assessment.

I used to live on Waiheke Island before the Fastcat ferry service. On a bad day you would get the old Baroona Ferry rather than the Iris Moana. This meant another twenty or so minutes added on the journey and close to three times as long as it takes today on the Fastcat. Sometimes the time it took on the beautiful old Baroona was greeted with only groans.

The hard thing for a good many friends of mine is that the change towards blessing of same gender blessings is just going to take too long. The desire is for faster change. For good or ill, the Anglican Church is the Baroona. It only goes so fast.

Yesterday we came to an agreement about seeking a way to hold our church together while also anckowledging that we have two distinct and opposing views about same-gender relationships. But ‘agreement’ makes it sound cheap – an exchange of goods, of marbles in the playground. Will it be just an exchange of beads and blankets or a gift that holds grace? I hope and pray that it is the latter. It felt like that in the midst of our life at Waitangi.

We all know that art works can be as absurd as Marcel Duchamps’ ‘Fountain.’ Where the ‘work’ is placed can change everything. So it is with the document we have produced yesterday. I think it is very fine, but perhaps because I am reading it in one place. That place is in a hugely diverse church, a church that stretches across many nations (some of which still criminalize homosexuality). Impossible diversity on one level.

Finally, many of the best art works have the capacity to take us places – expand the heart and mind. I hope that what we have produced will take us to new places. Most of all I pray that it will take us to a place of celebration of the lives and loves of GLBT and those who are beautiful in their sight.



  1. As I’ve read and listened to responses I’m left wondering who the Anglican Church exists for. If it is for those who belong then respectful dialogue, unanimity, etc, are very important. And such things, as those of us who have worked in parishes know, can be beautiful, and can be slow. At its best however I’ve always thought of the Anglican Church being a symbol that everyone in the geographical community belongs. It was available for any to pray in, marry in, and be farewelled from. I look forward to hearing why and how this decision is faithful to Anglicanism continuing to be such a symbol.

    1. Glynn, Thank you. You have hit upon one of my key concerns. The church is never at its best when it lives for itself – I don’t see that in the life of the one we follow.
      That said ‘the church’ is a collection of people – we cared for as many of the many people as we could in this decision …

      1. I am happy that we are moving, albeit slowly towards inclusive marriage via a long winding way of blessing rites. For me, the decision overshadowed a deeper concern for many of us re ordination of those in the LGTBi community. That there will be a group set up to examine and look at a theology of ordination is to put us and the vulnerable community with whom we nto another long and protracted ecclesial holding pen. Care espoused but unable to be recieved suggests care for the carers rather than those whom we seek to show care for. I think Jim you are right – what could be done, was done, and that is a crumb that willkeep me going.

  2. Jim
    Let me offer here an image which I have already shared on Thinking Anglicans – people there seemed to find it helpful.
    A stream is flowing, in both religious and secular realms, in the direction of free and unreserved recognition and acceptance of GLBTI people. It is flowing strongly in secular society in this country, Britain, and many other places. Its flow seems rather slower in the church. In the past couple of decades, through “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies, through committees, commissions, theological hui, talanoa and indaba, we have allowed a log dam to be erected across the stream, and every new round of discussion has added another layer, with the pressure behind the dam getting ever stronger.

    My great fear for the past General Synod was that delegates would find yet another way to erect a further layer of logs to the already precarious structure; I am profoundly grateful to you (the delegates) and to the Holy Spirit that you did not. I interpret the apology as a declaration that our past policies have been wrong, and that we will not continue as we have. Thank you for that. Perhaps General Synod, in acknowledging the possibility of liturgical “recognitions” now, and blessings maybe in 2 or 4 years, has tentatively removed one or two logs from the top of the dam. And, Glynn, I believe it was commitment to those outside of the church that encouraged the synod to take such action.

    Whether our leadership will be successful demolishing the dam log by log, or at least placing some generous sluices in the structure to let the stream flow through it, remains to be seen. They, and we, may well be swept away in a cataclysmic collapse.

      1. Recently, the Roman Catholic Church in the U.K. made a plea to the Government not to do away with Civil Partnerships, which currently grant the legal registration of Same-Sex Couples – a process which that Church resolutely opposed before its introduction.

        It seems that the panic which has entered both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in the U.K. since the legalisation of Same-Ex Marriage, is now leading the Bishops of both Churches to affirm Civil Partnerships for Same-Sex couples – in complete contravention of their earlier opposition to any such accommodation to legal homosexual relationships.

        One wonders whether this sort of speedy accommodation to the reality of monogamous Same-Sex partnerships will be an important factor in decisions made for an early ‘Blessing Liturgy’ for monogamous Same-Sex couples in ACANZP. Hopefully, our Church will be encouraged by what is happening in the U.K. religious environment.

  3. +Jim,
    the responses of your faithful treaders above have outlined exactly what conservative Anglicans are most concerned about- a redefinition of what the Church exists for based on individual experience (as opposed to its clear foundations in Scripture), and an over arching agenda of SS marriage, and ordination at all costs.

    The attitudes above seem contrary to the ‘mutual respect’ I rejoiced in hearing about at GS/THW. Admittedly it is always difficult to guess at the tenor of text in the blogsphere, but it looks like a nonsense has been made of the committment to walk together, when you all seem so desperately to want to walk apart.

    Lord may I be wrong.

    1. Zane,

      Your prayer is answered. You are wrong. No doubt, like me, about many things, but specifically in regard to your interpretation of the document now called ‘Motion 30.’ (Although I particularly like your mistake “treaders” – was that intentional and no mistake at all? Rather fits with my blog site name – very good.)

      You are not alone. Some of the other comments above have also been wrong in their understanding/ interpretation of Motion 30 – at least in my estimation. I don’t, for instance, take it that we are heading inevitably towards same-gender marriage.

      It has been tacitly accepted at GSTHW that there are two ‘integrities’ in our church regarding the blessing of same gender blessings. By this I mean that there are two views as to whether God blesses such relationships – we can only bless that which God blesses. One view is the traditional view and the other is liberal view (every label is a libel and I have grown to despise these labels). Both views can and do claim scriptural support and foundations. It is not true to say one view is based simply on individual experience. I think we have moved past that point of saying such things as: “You are a homophobe and that is the only reason you think that.” or “You are thorough going relativist and you don’t really stand for anything.”

      You are wrong that we are pursing an overarching agenda of SS marriage, and ordination “at all costs.” The efforts made at the GSTHW and the very careful wording of Motion 30 and then the setting up of the Working Group is are attempts to hold our church together and create a structure so that the two integrities can “live in the same house” respecting each other and our deep differences in conscience in this matter. If we had pursued a single agenda, no matter which agenda that may have been, we would not have come up with what we have before us now.

      As further evidence that there has not been a single agenda, I know that many feel we have, entirely contrary to your perspective, that we are pursuing an agenda of “unity” at all costs. We can’t be chasing two agendas at all costs.

      I think we have to read the text of the motion as it stands. To my mind there is a great deal of mutual respect in the overtly theological material at the beginning, in the apology that we have made to the LGBTI community, in the setting out of the need to find a way to be together with this difference amongst us (a difference that seems unlikely to dissolve in the next heavy shower of rain), and in our efforts to pastor carefully within our current structural constraints.

      Enough already, thanks for being a ‘treader’ along the Way.


  4. I am not a regular on this blog, but the fact that you are familiar with the likes of Marcel Duchamp saddens and concerns me as it means that you understand exactly where you stand in the philosophical stream of our culture and the implications of your theological convictions. I shall pray for God to grant you repentance and open your eyes to true truth, goodness and beauty.

    1. Not much to say Sophie … I encourage you to read the blog again. I make no particular personal evaluation of Duchamp’s ‘Fountain.’ I simply point out that he showed us in the work, that where one places a piece, changes the interpretative lenses (at least to some extent). Happy to debate aesthetic theory with you, but my actual point was that the context is likely affect evaluation of Motion 30. I think that point has been proven true and some those who were not at Waitangi evaluate Motion 30 in a very different way.

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