NZ General Synod Votes for Same-Sex Blessings. In 4 Years Time. And Everyone Will Be Happy

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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.

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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Kate Haggar

    this line is interesting

    "We recognise a diversity of voices about what constitutes a right ordered intimate relationship between two persons regardless of gender."

    Except, apparently, for God's voice.

  2. Joshua Bovis

    Words like: “contradiction”, “relativism” “special pleading” come to mind but the word that sticks out to me the most is “fudge” because this is what this is.

  3. Andrew Reid

    I posted this over at Anglican Down Under:

    I haven’t been following the GS closely so I haven’t seen all the background to this. Can I ask a few questions first?
    – What does a “rightly-ordered” same gender relationship mean? Is that defined anywhere or is it up to individual bishops to interpret? Does it mean a publicly recognised civil union or same gender marriage?
    – If the public recognition of same gender relationships is not a marriage and not a blessing, what acutally is it?
    – Isn’t offering public reocgnition of same gender relationships now pre-empting the discussion at the next General Synod by establishing facts on the ground?
    – Why should people who follow the church’s traditional teaching on marriage stay in the NZ Anglican church, when they will be tolerated but not respected?

    I respect that you have gone through a proper discernment process and made a genuine attempt to respect all views, including a much more genuine attempt to value those who hold traditional views on marriage. However, I think in the end you have chosen organisational unity over a clear statement on what the Bible teaches and how that applies to today’s context. It is really sad that the NZ Anglican church is heading the same way as TEC in reflecting the culture rather than transforming the culture, albeit through a more polite process.

    One other point, while the NZ church is free to decide its doctrine and practice in line with Scripture, you might like to spare a thought for those Anglicans who live in contexts where homosexuality is illegal and socially unacceptable. When we get branded as the “homosexual church” it impacts our gospel witness significantly, as it did after the TEC events. In Egypt, our attendance dropped, our children and youth ministries were impacted by parents not allowing their children to attend and our inter-faith and ecumenical relationships were suspended or cancelled.

  4. Peter Carrell

    The fact is, there is a diversity of voices in our church and no will for one set of voices to tell another set of voices to leave. So we have a resolution which involves contradiction because that is what we have been living with for a while and now we are honest enough to say in a resolution that that is the case. Yesterday I was in an Archdeaconry meeting where it was very clear that among a lovely group of colleagues giving faithful service to Christ, a range of views existed about same sex partnerships. What was our church to do at our General Synod, divide this otherwise united group in two?

    As a humble Kiwi in the presence of confident Australians, might I ask you whether what we have decided offers a way forward for the Anglican Church in Australia which, I understand, to be just as diverse as our church on this matter?

    1. David Ould

      Oh Peter, I fear that when you speak of “this otherwise united group” you are going to drown in naïvety. we are not united. There are massive differences in how we understand the gospel and the place of the Scriptures.

      Now what should Australia do? Well, if like (it appears) so many in NZ we value institutional unity over and above unity in the truth of the word of God then we could do far worse than copy the NZ fudge and go on to drown in it.
      If we value the word of God over and above a Babylonian unity then we’ll oppose strange doctrine and allow the divide which already exists to be crystallised. Let those who wish to change the doctrine of the Church away from the Scriptures do so in their own institution. They are free to leave and others are free to join them if unity with those who oppose the gospel is so important to them.

  5. Peter Carrell

    David, we are a church family over here. No naivety is involved in working to hold a family together. Institutional unity is not worth a candle, but keeping the family together is worth something. Does the Australian Anglican Church think of itself in family terms?

    1. David Ould

      we do. But your comment (perhaps deliberately) ignores the big issue.
      Do you think that the blessing or any other legitimising of sexually-active homosexual relationships is consistent with Scripture and can be condoned by the church?

    2. David Ould

      as for notions of “family”, I go with this:
      Matthew 12:48 He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’

      Do you think it’s the will of the Father that same-sex activity be legitimised in the church?

  6. Peter Carrell

    Hi David, I do not think it the will of the Father that such unions are legitimized. Nor do I think it the will of the Father that re marriages after divorce occur such as to place at least one of the partners to the marriage in a continuing state of adultery, nor do I think it the will of the Father that colleagues invoke the words of offering a sacrifice drawn from the Roman mass (in my view, but not theirs, illegally). I belong to a church family in which people believe different things to me about what is legal and what is not, about what is consistent with Scripture and what is not. I also belong in a church in which gay friends (of mine) and gay children of colleagues and friends would like their love for another t be recognised in some way. I would prefer to be in a church where we stay together as we have different and unyielding convictions about these matters. Not least that is because to blow ourselves apart over homosexuality offers little clarity that this will inform gay people that the Anglican Church does not hate them. I am not at the Synod but what I am trying to respect is the way in which this decision has been arrived at, including the respectful treatment of the voices most consistent with your own convictions on these matters.

    1. Geoff Robson

      Hi Peter (and DO) – sorry to butt in, but I’m with David in wondering what kind of ‘unity’ you’re describing here. Maybe I can put it this way – with whom do you have more in common: me (not currently attending an Anglican church, but committed to the same gospel as you), or those within the Diocese who have a different gospel and a different attitude to the Scriptures?

      That might not be the best question, and it’s not meant to be confrontational. It’s just an attempt to understand your point of view. I confess that your first comment above also came across as naïve to me. I know you’re not naïve about these things, so I’m keen to understand more of where you’re coming from.

      And even though I’m not at an Anglican church right now, I’m obviously interested in how all this plays out, for many reasons. God bless!

  7. Peter Carrell

    Hi Geoff,
    You left out whether I have much in common with you as an Australian 🙂
    Seriously: when you put it that way I would say I have more in common with you than with some of my fellow Anglicans whose public utterances suggests a commitment to a different gospel and a different attitude to the Scriptures. (You will understand that other Anglicans don’t commit to public what they believe and thus I assume that they share a common commitment to the doctrine of Christ as per their and my signing our declarations). But what you and I currently don’t share is a belonging to the same Diocesan (and provincial) family of Anglicans. I like that belonging and have done for most of my life (there have been brief sojourns in other Anglican jurisdictions). Through collegiality, familial relationship, friendship and Christian fellowship I am bonded to that family even though for most of my years of conscious intellectual appreciation that bonding has involved awareness of being bonded to people who think differently, believe differently on some if not many matters, and have different approaches to Scripture.

    What I do not want to be naive about is whether this will turn out well or not: it may or it may not do.

    But there is another naievity – one in which I succumb to the temptation to think this must all be wrong and cannot possibly be right. On the contrary everything I read and hear from the Synod (publicly and privately) suggests cause for cautious optimism. But it is the optimism of one prepared to consider that ‘two integrities’ might work in at least the peculiar situation of the Anglican church in these islands. Actually, doesn’t something akin to it work in Oz, where Sydney stands apart on many matters but has not walked away from the national church and nor has the national church walked away from Sydney?

    1. David Ould

      Thanks Peter, that’s helpful to understand your position a little better. I wonder if I can ask the question from the other direction?
      What would cause you to regard those family bonds as being broken?

  8. Peter Carrell

    Hi David, I am a little hesitant to put things down in writing which later are held (perhaps in a different context etc) as a ‘gun at my head’. Also I distinguish between ‘things I object to but I would cheerfully remain in my church as a rebel’ and ‘things I object to and, really, I should leave, because even being a ‘thorn in the flesh’ rebel to the prevailing powers would be a waste of time.’ But I am happy to put down some things that I would find extraordinarily difficult in respect of maintaining the bonds are not broken.

    – change to our doctrine of marriage (as written in our canons and marriage services)
    – change to the Nicene or Apostolic creeds including prohibition of their use
    – removal of reference to the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Ordinal in our constitution
    – canonical approval of lay presidency

  9. David Ould

    Thanks Peter. Lots to respond to but 2 questions predominate in my mind:

    1. Would you not want to add “endorsing as holy an action that the Scriptures say must actually be repented of and thus endorsing activity that leads individuals to hell”?
    2. Why pick lay presidency? Where is the Scriptural impendiment for it? Phrased another way, why this issue (which is not touched upon in the Scriptures) but not the endorsement of homosexual activity (which is clearly proscribed in the Scriptures)?

  10. Peter Carrell

    Hi David, It is not a complete list. Using coca cola and chips at eucharist is annoying too! I might say (1) if Jesus had not taught so tightly about the connection between remarriage and adultery. To hold to that would be awkward, speaking freely, re my relationships with clerical colleagues, friends and family. (2) Lay presidency is an example of an issue I would find difficult to live with while I also hold to the Ordinal. But if we give away the Ordinal and I accept that, then who knows what might be possible!

    I agree that ‘homosexual activity’ is clearly proscribed in Scripture (and lay presidency is not) but I am living in a church where I have come to accept that many fellow Anglicans do not agree with me (and fellow conservatives) about what is clear in Scripture. Those who disagree with me include some liberals to the left of John Spong but, importantly, they also include many who are only just to the left of me and some who agree with me on just about every other theological and moral issue you could name. I am not prepared at this time to contemplate separation from them. And they certainly don’t appear to want to either leave me or expel me 🙂

    Put another way, of all the issues over which one might leave the church, the one I am most wary of contemplating because it sends a whole lot of easily misinterpreted signals, is departure over homosexuality. However, I have indicated above that I would find myself in a very difficult position if the journey we are on leads to change to our doctrine of marriage.

  11. Joshua Bovis


    From the examples I have seen from TEC, Clergy who departed from TEC to ACNA did so not over the issue of homosexuality, but rather due to the reality that bishops had abandoned the Apostolic Gospel for a different gospel which is antithetical to the Scriptures, the 39 Articles, the BCP and the Ordinal. At that point the Bishops were Anglican in name only. So they could not submit to their leadership. So they left TEC because they wish to remain authentic Anglicans. It is only the liberals who are saying that those who left are not true Anglicans.

    Sadly brother, I see the Anglican Church of Middle Earth going down the same painful road (though a smaller version) of TEC.

  12. Nigel Poore

    You have got to be kidding. Definitely the last days. As it is written God will cause some to believe a lie. It is all just so frightening what is happening – frightening for me to think of the fate of the unsaved.

  13. Peter Carrell

    Hi Joshua, I agree with what you say about ACNA/TEC. The question then could be whether our bishops match TEC bishops in their doctrinal slackness. I myself cannot see the match.

    Hi Nigel, It would only be the last days if the All Blacks lost to Australia this year.

  14. Peter Carrell

    Hi Nigel, My jibe re the All Blacks v Australia is not meant to diminish your concern for the unsaved. I just don’t think that our resolution at GS heralds the last days per se.

  15. Joshua Bovis


    NZ bishops are going to perform same sex ‘blessings’

    TEC bishops perform same sex marriages

    The thinking is identical, the difference is semantic, with the former being a precursor to the latter.

    As for the Wallabies losing to the All Blacks – I am confident that this will sadly be the case.

  16. Peter Carrell

    Hi Joshua,
    I do not know how many of our bishops are willing to perform same sex blessings (at least 4 of 16 is my guess) nor do I know how many are willing to permit clergy in their dioceses to conduct blessings (at a guess, maybe twice that number). But we are some way off from that as we need to have at least one if not two more General Synods.

  17. Ronnie Smith

    ACANZP may be treading a fine line here but it is in the interests of bringing justice into play – in an area of people's lives that should remain their own private domain

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