This just coming in now.
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of New Zealand has been locked in deliberations over same-sex relationships for the past 3 days and today passed the following motion (full text also here):
Essentially it states that the Church is in favour of same-sex blessings and sets out a pathway forward that seeks to both set up the necessary legislation but also to “bring and recommend”
A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-genderrelationships is contrary to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with theparliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction
To which I would respond “well, good luck with that”.
In reality the process will be roughly as follows:
- The working group will bring the proposed legislation to the next General Synod in 2 years time.
- That legislation will entail a change to the doctrine of the church and so will have to go to the dioceses for approval before being returned to the General Synod of 2018 where it will finally be approved.
In the meantime the following may occur:
Clergy who so wish are permitted to recognise in public worship a same-gender civil unionor state marriage of members of their faith community:
(a) with the permission of their licensing Bishop; and
(b) with the permission of their Vestry or equivalent leadership body. Such recognition cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.
So where does this leave the church in NZ? Well my first conversations with people there tells us that nobody is really happy. Some of the liberals are spitting that they need to wait 4 more years. Justice delayed is justice denied. But conservatives have little to be sing about either. The motion is a little farcical in it’s claim that “We uphold this traditional doctrine of marriage [between a man and awoman, life-long and monogamous]” when it also asks a working group to look at “the future” of the doctrine of marriage in the context of “the dynamic nature of doctrine” and “attentive to the movement of the Spirit“. You can’t claim to uphold something that you also want to change.
One interesting thing to come out of this is the apparent (at least on paper) legitimisation of the conservative position as one that has a place in the church. I understand that some conservatives might feel that is a commitment they will want to test, speaking out against the revisionist position on human sexuality in this climate of “legitimate diversity”. Whether they will actually be welcomed is a real question for Anglicans in NZ.
And, of course, the permission to “recognise” same-gender unions is a de facto legitimisation anyway. The sophist will try and argue that “they’re not weddings” but there is surely not doubt that these services will be seen as ersatz
weddings that validate and celebrate these relationships while on paper they aren’t “weddings”. Now where have we seen that before
In many respects the debate here looks a lot like the Women Bishops debate in the Church of England. The motions passed in principle but could they also fail when it comes to the detail? And how legitimate a place will dissenters actually have? One said to me today “sure they say they welcome us but let’s see if we still have a place when this is all over”. There is a sense that the “inclusion” is in name only and that commitments to “diversity” don’t seem to extend to them. The “two integrities” concept almost broke apart in the Church of England over a less contentious issue (women’s ordination and consecration) than the big question now facing Kiwi Anglicans. Difficult days ahead.