Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

New Zealand synod acts on same-gender blessings

General Synod today passed a resolution that will create a pathway towards the blessing of same-gender relationships – while upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage.
It will appoint a working group to report to the 2016 General Synod on “a process and structure” that would allow those clergy who wish to bless same-gender relationships – using a yet-to-be developed liturgy – to do so.
The working group will also be charged to develop “a process and structure” to ensure that clergy who believe that same sex blessings are contrary to “scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law” to remain fully free to dissent.
The “process and structure” in their case would mean these clergy would not only be exempt from performing these same-sex blessings – but that their “integrity within the church” would be assured, and they would have full protection for their dissent in any relevant human rights legislation.
Synod has therefore upheld the traditional doctrine of marriage – but also moved to find ways to respond to committed relationships between two people, regardless of gender.
In effect, it has also established a four-year timeline for change to take effect: the working group will present its recommendations to the 2016 General Synod, and any constitutional and canonical changes would then have to be reported back to episcopal units before confirmation at the 2018 General Synod.
New liturgy to be developed…
The working group has been asked to propose a liturgy to “bless right-ordered same-gender relationships” – and to develop a process and legislation (whether church or parliamentary) by which such a new liturgy might be adopted.
Synod has also asked the group (which is yet to be formed) to report to the next synod on the impact of its work on the church’s theology of marriage, and of ordination.
The preamble to the resolution adopted by the General Synod also includes an unreserved apology to the LGBT community:
“Over many years,” this reads, “our church has become increasingly aware of the pain of the LGBT community. All too often our church has been complicit in homophobic thinking and actions of society, and has failed to speak out against hatred and violence against those with same-gender attraction.
“We apologise unreservedly and commit ourselves to reconciliation and prophetic witness.”
“Recognition” now for couples…
In the last part of the resolution, synod says it is “acutely aware of the desire of some clergy to make further response pastorally and prayerfully to LGBT people in their faith communities.”
It therefore says such clergy should be permitted “to recognise in public worship” a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community – provided the permission of the licensing bishop is gained, as well as the permission of their vestry.
Such “recognition,” however, “cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.”
“We recognise that this may cause even further distress,” the resolution says. But noting the commitment of the church to move forward, “we ask the LGBT community to recognise that any process of change within our church takes time.”
Archbishops commend spirit of debate
The Archbishops say that by adopting the resolution, synod has shown its commitment to protecting diversity in the church.
And they have expressed their gratitude for the way synod has debated the issues and come to its resolution.
Archbishop Winston Halapua says synod has shown “it is committed to ongoing talanoa as it considers change” and is following “the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times.”
Archbishop Philip Richardson was equally moved by the way debate flowed:
“We have witnessed across the church,” he says, “a depth of extraordinary trust and respect. There is a unity in Christ in conversations that have enabled us to get to this point.
“There is a hope that this trust we have seen with faith, hope, and love will continue as change is considered.”
Press release from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is copied in full below the fold.
The full text of General Synod resolution is available here.
The pastoral letter from the archbishops is also published.
Media Release – May 14 2014
The General Synod/te Hinota Whanui of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has decided to explore ways that the blessing of same gender relationships could be part of Church life.
The ruling body of the Church is meeting in Waitangi this week to acknowledge 200 years since the arrival of the Christian missionaries to Aotearoa, New Zealand.
The three Archbishops, reflecting the three tikanga structure of the Church, Archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson, and Winston Halapua, say the Synod upholds the traditional doctrine of marriage. At the same time the Synod wants to develop ways to respond to committed relationships between two people, that tell of the love of Christ, regardless of gender.
The Archbishops say the Synod holds a wide range of views but it has expressed unanimous support for the decision to identify what changes could be recommended. The Synod wants to protect diversity in the Church as a way forward is developed.
Archbishop Winston Halapua says, “The Synod is committed to ongoing talking/talanoa as it considers change and to follow the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times.”
Archbishop Philip Richardson says, “We have witnessed across the Church a depth of extraordinary trust and respect, there is a unity in Christ in conversations that have enabled us to get to this point. There is a hope that this trust we have seen with faith, hope, and love will continue as change is considered.”
The Synod statement has recognised that over many years it has become increasingly aware of the pain to the LGBT community. The Synod has apologized unreservedly for the times actions of the Church have contributed to that pain.
A working party will be appointed to recommend processes and structures that allow people to choose whether they lead, or not lead, same gender blessings. That choice will be dependent on whether each person believes such blessings are contrary to, or in agreement with scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law. The Synod was very mindful that there are present legal restrictions in some nations in Polynesia on same gender relationships. The working party would also propose a liturgy to bless right ordered same gender relationships.
A report has also been requested on how such possibilities may impact on future requirements for ordination and the rite of marriage.
The working party will report to the next General Synod in 2016. Any change is likely to take up a minimum of four years as it may require constitutional change for the church as well as parliamentary legislation.
The Synod is mindful of the need to respond to members of the LGBT community in a more immediate time frame. A decision was made that those in a same gender civil union or state marriage can be recognized in public worship with clergy seeking the approval of the local bishop and licensed leadership body. Such recognition cannot be a rite of marriage or a blessing.
Archbishop Brown Turei says it is significant that this conversation about change for the church, that holds differing views, has taken place at Waitangi.
“This is the place where Maori and Pakeha talked and trusted each other and began a new journey 200 years ago. The discussion we will have as change is considered, like those first ones here at Waitangi, will not be easy at all times but may we hold the mana of each of us made in the image of God,” says Archbishop Brown.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 at 9:09am BST 

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