Saturday, 12 August 2017

New Zealand marriage blessing proposals

The Church Times this week carries a report on New Zealand: Priests could be authorised to offer same-sex blessings in New Zealand

Here are some links from New Zealand that contain more information:

AnglicanTaonga New way forward? Report out now

Full text of the report here.

Peter Carrell
Beautiful Anglican Accommodation - Down Under’s Way Forward

Bosco Peters
Blessing Same-Gender Couples

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 12:04pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | New Zealand
Comments

The official Report from the ACANZP Working Group on its proposals for a 'Way Forward' on Same-Sex Blessings would seem to be the only way in which our Church can maintain 'the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace' which will lead to a proper containment of diversity of conscientious responses to gender and sexuality issues.

This is remarkable when one considers the stark diversity of the membership of the Working Group - from a Gafcon-friendly bishop to a Gay-affirming layperson - both, however, seemingly intent on keeping the Church together despite their acute differences.

If this proposition goes forward and is passed by our Aotearoa/New Zealand/Polynesia General Synod, it will be an indication of this Church's earnest determination for justice and mercy to prevail.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 2:56pm BST

"This range of tools means that if you are a clergy person who is unable to support the blessings of
same gender couples, then the canonical changes will ensure that you are not required to participate
in such blessings and there will be no disciplinary nor adverse consequences for you declining to
be involved.
Similarly, if you are a clergy person who is supportive of such blessings or you see this as a social
justice issue, then there will be a structure by which such blessings can occur and there will be no
disciplinary nor adverse consequences for you conducting a service."
This from the Report seems eminently sensible to me. Won't please everyone of course, but does anyone really believe the Report from CofE in three years time will be received with universal agreement and cheers from everyone? This NZ approach gets on with the job of a practical accommodation to try and move forward, which is surely what we need in the CofE now.

Posted by: Shamus on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 3:03pm BST

Unsurprisingly Peter Jenson is unimpressed especially with Peter Carrells defence of a middle way...see his The Mythical Middle on anglicandownunder.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 6:15pm BST

Sadly I do not have much hope. I am reliably told that at the last General synod in May 2016 there were the numbers to pass something similar to this but the threats of a mass walkout of the church by the opponents meant a committee was formed and any decision was put off for another 2 years. I quote from the blog of the since retired Bishop Dunedin
"Our General synod, from which I am now in the process of travelling home, spent about 3 days of its week long agenda discussing sexuality. What conservatives were being asked for was that they allow, those of us that wished, to perform church blessings for same gender people who had been previously married in a civil ceremony. Performing such blessings would, in some small way, help LGBTI Anglicans who were in faithful committed relationships to have their relationship recognised and celebrated by the church they serve and love. Further, it would allow those LGBTI people who are ordained, and there are a number of them, to have a way of affirming a relationship as rightly ordered, for the purpose of issuing a bishop's license for ministry. The conservatives were not being asked to participate in such blessings. They were not being asked, even, to personally approve of them. But nevertheless the mere fact of their recognised existence somewhere in our church was so offensive that they said they would have no choice but to leave.

The Maori and Polynesian parts of our church, despite their general theological conservatism, were convinced of the need to move ahead on this issue. ----- We Pakeha were deeply divided and we were told, ominously, that up to 4,000 people were on the brink of leaving. Their departure would have been difficult for all the church, but especially for a diocese as small as ours or as traumatised as Christchurch, so in the end we agreed to give it a couple more years, and have another shot at it in 2018."
http://vendr.blogspot.co.nz/2016/05/an-autumn-leaf-evidence-of-death.html
I have got over my tears shed at the time, but I have not given a cent to my church since. (I donate to non-religious charities instead). Two can play at that game.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 9:50pm BST

Thanks, Perry for your comment. As former archbishop Peter Jensen is foremost in the Gafcon sodality (whose own comments on extremist views belie the fact that his own extremism is one of the most formidable proponents of schism in the Anglican Communion), it behoves his cause to belttle what is being proposed - in the way of eirenic inclusivism in the New Zealand Church.

One tends to forget that P.J.'s advocacy of 'Lay Presidency' at the Eucharist which - together with his repudiation of women priests - has already split the Australian Anglican Church with its ill-founded claim to exclusive Christian 'orthodoxy'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 10:21pm BST

Thanks Perry.
The actual link to ++Peter Jensen's article and my response is: https://anglicandownunder.blogspot.co.nz/2017/08/which-peter-is-muddled-in-his-moderate.html

For clarity: I do not think ++Peter Jensen reads my blog. I think he is writing in a general way about moderate Anglicanism around the globe and its capacity to be muddle-headed.

Posted by: Peter Carrell on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 10:22pm BST

For the record, this is exactly how TEC did SSB several years ago, and handles marriage now. No priest has to do any wedding they don't believe in, for any reason. The problem is when a bishop wants to keep an entire diocese from being inclusive. That is an imposition on the LGBTQI people, and affirming congregations.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 11:12pm BST

Dear Thinking Anglicans

You may like to add my blog to your list

https://helenjacobi.com/2017/08/12/the-report-about-the-report-about-the-report/

Thanks for the interest

Posted by: Helen Jacobi on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 2:12am BST

"The problem is when a bishop wants to keep an entire diocese from being inclusive."

This is a perfect illustration of falsehood parading as righteous ire. On it goes.

It is of course the dioceses themselves which have, in orderly assembly, passed canons on marriage. Not big bad bishops.

Posted by: crs on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 6:53am BST

For the record, this is exactly how TEC did SSB several years ago, and handles marriage now. No priest has to do any wedding they don't believe in, for any reason.

Cynthia this is the Cof E practice on heterosexual divorce and re-marriage too.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 7:07am BST

I don't think in a UK context we could have a situation where decisions are made at the diocesan level. It would give each diocesan bishop too much power and vest too much authority in the integrity an individual bishop holds. What would happen if an incoming bishop held the opposite integrity? I would also be fearful of creating (or at least formalizing) a market in dioceses. It would have to be a parish decision. Subsidiarity suggests that decision making should be devolved to the most local level.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 8:59am BST

This result, in ACANZP, being a side-step rather than an actual 'Way Forward' for LGBT inclusion in our Church, simply reflects the fact that a GAFCON-affirming bishop was chosen to be part of the Working Group that produced this Report.

This, presumably, was the result of the con/evo pressure in our Church to rein in the influence of the pro-Motion-30 people who had advocated a real move forward towards the eradication of homophobia and sexism in ACANZP. The alternative was no less than the threat of schismatic severance.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 10:21am BST

Andrew: "Subsidiarity suggests that decision making should be devolved to the most local level."

Hit the nail on the head. If a local church community - in living relationship with its parish neighbourhood - believes in good conscience that they must signal acceptance and affirmation to LGBT+ people living in their midst, then that decision - based on conscience - really ought to be theirs.

It's just common sense.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 2:30pm BST

Mr Lightbown, of course the CofE has no history of diocesan canons, etc, as has been the case in TEC. It is a different polity.

But that said, the CofE has had bishops overseeing significant blocs of people, for matters like WO. TEC has by contrast not had that.

I suspect the question is not congregationalism v dioceses, but something different. In TEC, only a small remnant of conservatives are left and any diocesan polity is slowly being eliminated (though see LA).

In the CofE, the matter is proportionally very different when it comes to progessive/traditional blocs. I would be very surprised if the TEC individual conscience idea would find acceptance in the CofE HOB. That ship had pretty much sailed in TEC, which is a smallish US denomination now pretty much lock-step progressivism.

Posted by: crs on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 3:55pm BST

Fr Ron, I see that your later post on 13/8 qualifies your earlier posts affirming the "eirenic inclusivism in the New Zealand Church", and I am glad to see that.
In my view, this proposal stinks. Far from being evidence of a spirit of eirenic inclusivism, the proposals demonstrate a grudging allowance of the smallest possible nudge in the direction of inclusiveness. I would encourage TA readers to look at Helen Jacobi's excellent summary - I totally agree with her analysis, so don't need to repeat it.
I believe that crs is mistaken in his interpretation of the comparative power of bishops and diocesan synods in this matter. The Working Group's proposals specifically allow for any bishop to decline to license any clergy from conducting same-sex blessings, and protects her/him from any repercussions of that decision. So if the Bishop of, say, Christchurch decided that in the interests of unity in her diocese she would not issue any such licences, then Cynthia is correct; it would stop the entire diocese from being inclusive.
I will be arguing at the Auckland Diocesan Synod next month that we do not accept this report, but ask the Working Group to think again, and bring to General Synod proposals much closer to those of the earlier Commission.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 9:21pm BST

In response to crs; is TEC really the tail-end of Anglicanism in North America? Would you say that your friends in ACNA are not the tail trying to wag the dog?

There is nothing 'lock-step' about those in the world-wide Anglican Communion who actually are making a serious effort to rid themselves of institutional sexism and homophobia. In fact, it could be that the schismatic elements around the world could find themselves in the very same situation as the numerous other ex-Anglican "Churches' that have emerged in the past over other matters of difference that have proved to be marginal in the scheme of things.

However, crs, you are quite right when you point to the fact that the C.of E. is still burdened with that rara avis - the 'Flying Bishop' - the Maidstone equivalent of which identifies himself most strongly with GAFCON and ACNA. - a cuckoo in the nest if ever there was one

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 9:23pm BST

"...TEC, which is a smallish US denomination now pretty much lock-step progressivism."

And yet... The more liberal TEC churches seem to be growing steadily, and retaining their new members. For the first time in years, my Episcopal church in Seattle is adding daycare, has 30-somethings on the vestry, has a young people's group, and is growing steadily.

Young people it seems, now used to diversity in every day life, want to bring their children up in an environment where all are welcome, where questions are discussed, not dismissed, and where dogma is not more important than experience and dialogue.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 11:44pm BST

"So if the Bishop of, say, Christchurch decided that in the interests of unity in her diocese she would not issue any such licences, then Cynthia is correct; it would stop the entire diocese from being inclusive."

Mr Prebble, another occasion to learn about the polity differences, in this case vis-a-vis NZ.

From what you write, it sounds like NZ does not have diocesan canons. TEC does. The Diocese of Dallas has a canon on marriage. The Bishop did not write it. He cannot change it unilaterally.

What Cynthia wants is for GC to tell Bishops and Dioceses to do what they say. In the meantime, GC and TEC have allowed a grace period. She resents that. The live question is for how long this grace period will last and what do diocesan canons mean in the new TEC.

So far as I can tell, none of this imitates the situation in Christchurch, where a Bishop apparently has power off her own bat to regulate licensing independent of diocesan canons.

Posted by: crs on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 7:30am BST

Ron, I suspect telling you over and over again that I am not affiliated with ACNA doesn't matter. It upsets your rhetoric.

I live in France and have a PTO in the CofE. I have retired from TEC.

Could you please update your rhetorical file cabinet? I would be very grateful.

Many thanks.

Posted by: crs on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 8:34am BST

"Ron, I suspect telling you over and over again that I am not affiliated with ACNA doesn't matter. It upsets your rhetoric."

Yet you support them in everything they do. What are we to think?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 11:28am BST

Dear crs; I rejoice that you are able to dis-associate your self from ACNA. I was aware that you are now enjoying a quiet ministry in France, as a licensed clergyman of the Church of England. I have now updated my file on your provenance.
Blessings! - Fr.Ron

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 12:08pm BST

Forgive me for being sceptical re "The more liberal TEC churches seem to be growing steadily, and retaining their new members." Good for Seattle.

It will have to be some whopping, off the chart nation-wide growth, just to slow the rapid decline, leaving aside reversing it.

TEC keeps superb figures. 40% of all dioceses have under 4000 ASA, 20% under 2000. Average age 57. Average size the same. Decline over all 33% since 1980. Baptisms since then, 1/2. Same Marriages, down 50%.

Blessings.

Posted by: crs on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 1:24pm BST

Sorry, Ron, you must have trouble tracking. I have *never* been involved in ACNA. I have told you this repeatedly. ACI was a TEC-inside effort. In the day we were rather famously opposed to ACNA.

So. I am not dis-associating from ACNA. Please try to get your records in order. I would be most grateful. Blogs are great generators of confusion and there is enough of that about already.

Have a good day. I promise not to congratulate you on dis-associating from something you were never a part of.

Posted by: crs on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 2:59pm BST

"Yet you support them in everything they do."

Find one statement of support for ACNA from me or ACI.

I fear this is what happens when people live inside echo-chambers.

There needs to be some kind of primer for progressives, that they could consult.

ACI == supporter of the Global South
ACI == supporter of conservatives inside TEC
ACI == unrelated to the ACNA movement
ACI == founded the Communion Partners
ACI == supporter of EDSC in relation to the Global South of the AC
ACNA == supporter of Gafcon
ACNA == alliance of non-TEC (REC etc) or erstwhile TEC members (deposed Bishops and clergy of TEC, etc)

Perhaps this will help, if there is any genuine interest...


Posted by: crs on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 3:08pm BST

And how does all this make TEC any different from any other mainstream denomination in the United States? The Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists are all seeing quite similar declines. Even the once-burgeoning Southern Baptists are seeing a decline in the past decade. The only thing keeping the Roman Catholic Church from a similar decline is immigration ...attendance by native-born citizens in RC parishes is in decline, hence the closing and merging of parishes in many older dioceses (Boston, NY, and Philly have all experienced--and continue to experience--this phenomenon).

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 3:35pm BST

Pat -- Methodism is large enought to absorb losses and its decline isn't anything like TEC; plus it has a growing international contingent. The PCUSA has a worse decline than TEC mathematically, but its alternative PCA is doing just fine. SBC churches don't have the decline or the small numbers.

Solace in (relatively) related decline does not make a 800K ASA denomination grow. It is whistling past the graveyard. I think TEC Bishops and the present PB get that. "We have a problem, Houston."

Posted by: crs on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 4:05pm BST

CRS - you are certainly right about the overall picture (see https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/tec_membership_and_attendance_totals_by_province_and_diocese_2014-2015.pdf) But I can only comment on what we are seeing at Trinity, which encourages me to think we are doing some things right. This year we had our largest-ever pledge commitment, so while this may be a Seattle phenomenon, I can't help thinking that good liturgy and a very "open door" seem to be working, at least for us.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 5:20pm BST

Well, it's a lot better than what the CofE can offer. From the official site's page on marriage's 'Information for same-sex couples':

"Church of England ministers can not carry out or bless same-sex marriages, but your local church is still there for you. At any time you are welcome to come and pray with us, or ask us to pray for you. You might just need space for yourself to pray – some churches or cathedrals are left open at certain times so anyone can go in.

If you need a place to connect with God, worship, give thanks and join others in learning about the Christian faith, you will be very welcome at your local church."

There: you can still sneak into your parish church for a little prayer... you could not make it up.

Posted by: Lorenzo on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 6:13pm BST

crs. I thought I had put my record about your provenance to bed, but your latest response bids me to offer one more observation - to get the record straight:

Was ACI not fundamentally associated with support for the Global South (GAFCON) on matters of gender and sexuality within the Anglican Communion. Did I not once refer to ACI as "Three Theologians and a Website? And were you not one of them? They did not seem (to me) to be friendly towards TEC!

My question might now be: "How have you changed?"

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 6:28pm BST

I love how whenever I state the view of General Convention, the mind of the entire church, Christopher says that I'm uttering a falsehood about TEC polity. We have a polity at the national level. The dioceses don't have the authority to override that, so there is no "good order" for a diocese to resist the mind of the church via GC.

Attributing feelings to me, like "resentment," is not kosher. It is unjust for bishops in 6 or 7 dioceses to impose their view on the LGBT people and gay affirming congregations. It creates a nasty inequality and keeps LGBT people from getting married in their dioceses, amongst their families and faith communities, and given the enormous size of the US, likely requires them to travel far to receive the sacrament of marriage in an Episcopal Church. Why this circus when each diocese has gay affirming clergy and congregations? It isn't resentment, it's naming an injustice and exasperation at the ridiculous imposition for the purposes of appeasing a handful of guys.

Essentially, the way Scotland is going about marriage and NZ is going about blessings is pretty much the same, allowing opt-outs for individual clergy. Only TEC seems to have this weird and unjust diocesan opt-out.

And yes, Christopher, TEC statistics do show that the growing parishes are inclusive, like mine.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 14 August 2017 at 10:59pm BST

I'm not sure there is any genuine interest Christopher but I think it's worth observing another formula here related to Anglican polity.

ACI = = self styled organisation that has nothing officially to do with the Anglican Communion
ACNA = = self styled organisation that has nothing officially to do with the Anglican Communion and is not in communion with Canterbury.
EDSC = = self styled organisation that has nothing officially to do with the Anglican Communion and is not in communion with Canterbury
New Zealand = = a recognised province of the Anglican Communion in communion with Canterbury.

The first three organisations can genuinely say: "we have a problem Houston. We are no longer connected to the mother ship! "

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 6:41am BST

Ron, how hard it is my friend.

GAFCON is not the Global South. They are different groups. The former created ACNA. The latter includes a much larger bloc. The bulk of them stayed away from the GAFCON events.

To write "Global South (GAFCON)" shows how little you have ever bothered to understand them. It would be like referring to +Josiah Idowu Fearon as "that member of Gafcon."

ACI is a TEC organization that defended an historical view of its identity. It defended the TEC diocesan cases in Illinois and Texas. It was critical of ACNA. It helped organize the Communion Partner movement inside TEC. It previously existed as SEAD, founded at Virginia Theological Seminary by two TEC clergy/teachers.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 7:09am BST

Cynthia, my recent convert to TEC friend.

The "view of General Convention" is that "6 or 7 dioceses" are free to remain committed to their diocesan canons on marriage.

This is a fact.

Another couple of facts. It is a forty-five minute drive from Dallas to the Diocese of Fort Worth. An interesting question would be how many have actually taken it for a marriage service. Ditto in CFL, equally proximate to all FL dioceses for marriage.

As Mr Prebble indicates, in NZ Bishops have the ability to withhold licensing.

You are welcome to assure yourself that inclusive parishes are the growing ones. By your definition virtually all of TEC is "inclusive"--save the 6 or 7 dioceses--and yet its decline is manifestly precipitous. TEC keeps superb figures and is very tuned into the reality.


Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 7:17am BST

Just in. The Diocese of LA--coadjutor and Standing Committee--has put paid to the idea of a General Convention super authority (the creators of the new Title IV) or a Presiding Archbishop of some description. They have called both out by name and asserted their own right to deal with propety in LA and evaluate the pastoral reality in a parish.

It is a lovely and dreamy idea to invent a super-high-up "authority" but quite another thing to make it work on the ground. Where conservatives have struggled to make this point, a liberal has done so quite forcefully.

Maybe the idea was to peel the coadjutor off of the SC and Diocesan; if so, it did not work.

Perhaps this will be the case that forces TEC at all levels to come to terms with just what kind of polity it wants in place. Not in dreamland, but in hard reality. My hunch is that liberal bishops more than the tiny conservative vestige will push back at the idea of supra-diocesan authority over Standing Committees, Diocesans, and Canons, if for no other reason than principle and hard reality re: legal matters locally.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 8:34am BST

"ACI is a TEC organisation..." - crs -

But not an organisation accredited officially by TEC. Also, I believe that some of its members were English Bishops (NOT TEC) like Nazir Ali and + Winchester - both pro GAFCON & ACNA!

At least, crs, let's get the facts straight.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 9:56am BST

The clergy and associates of ACI were all members of TEC. Together we represented over a century of service. Michael Scott Joynt was an exception, and to the point, no member of ACNA.

Please do not throw around falsehoods. You have been proven wrong on just about everything you have posted recently. On ACNA and ACI most explicitly.

I am sorry if this is embarrassing but hopefully the record is now straight. God bless you.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 11:12am BST

The polity of the Episcopal Church gives it authority over its clergy, including bishops. It does not give it authority over local or federal civil law. Under that law, it is apparent that the Bishop of LA acted legally, though contrary to the express wishes of the church. The church can discipline him in its own way, but it cannot control -- locally or nationally -- the progress of civil legal proceedings.

There is absolutely nothing new in any of this. Bishops have been charged and deposed for various actions; that is all the "higher authority" of the church can do, especially when a bishop has the legal (civil) authority to ignore its admonishments -- but he may still face the ecclesiastical consequences of this action.

Once again, for any interested in the polity of the Episcopal Church, I commend reading the Constitution and Canons. Those interested in their history and development can consult the Annotated edition which is available online. For the history of the formative years in which the polity of the church evolved, I commend the classic "The Critical Years" by Loveland.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 2:38pm BST

"The polity of the Episcopal Church gives it authority over its clergy, including bishops."

Who or what is this "it" to which you refer? Until recently the only authority to be wielded in respect of Bishops was three senior Bishops. Is that the "it" to which you refer?

For if so, one wonders if the entire fiasco in LA would have been avoided, especially in respect of property matters, but perhaps also in respect of other "crimes." Indeed, wasn't this entire case chiefly about St James?

+Robert Duncan was cleared under such a system. But people didn't like this outcome or this system, in place historically since TEC's inception.

So we have a new iteration. It has found its aporia in LA. I suspect the HOB will have to look at what the "it" is that purports to have authority over a basically diocesan system of property and canons.

The Episcopal Church's teaching series volume on church governance by Dawley is essential reading.

Posted by: crs on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 5:05pm BST

Meanwhile, back to New Zealand . .

As has been pointed out, this 'down under' model for the blessing of same-sex relationships is essentially the same as that followed by TEC a few years earlier.

And also that of the Anglican Church of Canada, starting with the Diocese of New Westminster back in 2003.

It did not prevent schism in either case.

Posted by: Michael Ingham on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 5:57pm BST

Cynthia, I was one of the authors of the canonical change and resolution that allowed for same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church, including the proviso that the use of the liturgy, which is to be available for use throughout the church, is subject to the permission of the diocesan bishop.

That proviso does introduce some level of inconvenience and expense for same-sex couples in dioceses where the bishop -- for whatever reason, including regard for diocesan canons -- declines permission. But this is really no different from the right of any bishop to forbid any or all marriages by divorced persons with a living ex-spouse. That right is rarely exercised in these days, but I have living experience of some bishops who made it a policy, and others who tolerated a single such exception, but held firm at allowing marriage to someone with more than one divorce. The restriction, by the way, is on the clergy -- preventing them from solemnizing the marriage -- not the couple. Strictly speaking, the situation is the same for same-sex couples. The bishop (under local canons or not) cannot stop them being married civilly, nor forbid the parish recognizing the couple as married under the civil law.

Those of us who worked on the canonical and liturgical change realize that this is not an ideal solution for all, and that it is painful for some. It is, however, the orderly process by which such changes happen. I agree that the solution in New Zealand and Scotland is to be preferred, and I believe we will reach that point within the next generation.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 6:48pm BST

""The polity of the Episcopal Church gives it authority over its clergy, including bishops."

Who or what is this "it" to which you refer? Until recently the only authority to be wielded in respect of Bishops was three senior Bishops. Is that the "it" to which you refer?"

I didn't think I would have to give CRS lessons in basic English grammar and syntax. "It" is a pronoun, the antecedent of which is "the Episcopal Church". As the Episcopal Church is governed by its canons and its General Convention, I would presume (correctly, I hope) that those documents and that body is what is referred to.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 7:24pm BST

"The restriction, by the way, is on the clergy -- preventing them from solemnizing the marriage -- not the couple. Strictly speaking, the situation is the same for same-sex couples. The bishop (under local canons or not) cannot stop them being married civilly, nor forbid the parish recognizing the couple as married under the civil law."

In my parish (in the Diocese of Pennsylvania), it is common practice for a married couple to come to the altar on the Sunday nearest their anniversary for a blessing. In a diocese where the bishop has forbidden blessing for same-sex couples, would such an action be permitted for such a civilly married couple?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 7:29pm BST

crs, as I said, people can look up the Canons if they wish. I will here only correct your misleading reference to the "three senior bishops" issue, and your assertion that this is "as it was from the beginning." The three senior bishops provision had to do only with allegations of abandonment of communion, and it was enacted in the mid 19th century (at a time when the Presiding Bishop was always ex officio the most senior bishop; it has since changed to the Presiding Bishop and the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, which includes ten elected member bishops).

The very different problems in LA are being addressed by means of a Hearing Panel of that Board, which is the successor to the longstanding Ecclesiastical Court for the Trial of a Bishop. It demonstrates that bishops are answerable, for ecclesiastical causes, to the authority structures of the Episcopal Church, set in place by the Constitution and Canons thereof. That is the "it" to which I referred, the one to whose Doctrine, Discipline and Worship all clergy are bound by a solemn declaration of conformity.

In any case, this is tangential to the topic at hand. I only insert myself to help provide some accurate information to our English cousins. Powell Mills Dawley's book is helpful, though a bit dated; and he is a historian, not a canon lawyer.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 at 7:37pm BST

Thank you Tobias. I am glad there is still an "it" there.

One may be forgiven for believing, in today's discourse, that the Episcopal Church is some "it" that does the bidding of whoever has a cause to plead.

I believe the three senior bishop panel, dating from the 1800s, has been put to bed. Now the PB can declare people have renounced their orders, as the previous one did with sweeping breadth, even when they made no such declaration, as has been required.

It is this kind of "it" to which I was referring. I hope you would agree this is a power that has all kind of potential for misuse.

Posted by: crs on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 at 6:46am BST

I know you were one of the authors, Tobias, and I am deeply grateful for your work and that of the Marriage Task Force. But I do think that allowing bishops to opt out is incredibly unjust and I know members of the LGBTQI community in TEC who are deeply hurt at being left behind. The forums were full of it, as many celebrated, others were crying.

I think the divorce situation is not the same, it is discrimination against a class of people who are created gay. No one is created divorced and there is no hate speech in the public realm about divorce.

For the purposes of Thinking Anglicans, it seems worth sharing that TEC made plenty of room for conservatives, more than plenty. And it will be interesting to see what the primates do, with NZ and Scotland being even more inclusive than TEC.

I know that Christopher doesn't agree that TEC made plenty of room for conservative parishes, but there is something in the nature of conservatism that isn't happy unless they are forcing everyone else to be like them. As if God can't work it out...

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 at 8:01am BST

"it is common practice for a married couple to come to the altar on the Sunday nearest their anniversary for a blessing. In a diocese where the bishop has forbidden blessing for same-sex couples, would such an action be permitted for such a civilly married couple?"

FYI, Pat, in the time before SSB and Marriage equality in TEC, my partner (of 26 years) and I could not get a blessing for our Civil Union (pre-legal marriage). This, despite being in a very gay affirming parish with a cautious but supportive bishop. KJS asked TEC to "hit the pause button" on such things and we were still on pause.

I remember the Sunday after our Civil Union and really wanting a blessing and sharing with my faith community and not being able to get it. The blessings that day included birthdays, anniversaries, a new job, and a puppy. God knows I love puppies, but the dog got a blessing and we couldn't. Wow.

It's different now, in my state, but not for some in the super conservative dioceses.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 at 8:10am BST

There was for a while some confusion about the canons and their application in addressing the unusual situation of many clergy of a diocese and their bishop no longer considering themselves subject to The Episcopal Church.

In 2015, a new canon was introduced to clarify the procedure for the transfer of clergy to a church in communion with The Episcopal Church. That had previously been handled, in the absence of explicit law, by a gentlemen's agreement use of letters; in fractious times of the previous decade, resort to the abandonment canon became routine -- wrongly, I think, in the case of churches in communion. I supported the amendment to the canon (III.9.5) that now provides an orderly process for such transfers.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 at 3:39pm BST


Dear Cynthia

"I know that Christopher doesn't agree that TEC made plenty of room for conservative parishes."

It is funny what views get ascribed to a person. Thanks for sharing. Let me help.

I do not believe that historically TEC was a congregational church or a from-high-down national one. I believe standard histories of TEC can be helpful is showing the truth of this simple matter. The reason there are diocesan canons and diocesan bishops who oversee property and pastoral care is that this is TEC.

So I do not know what you mean to say when you write "I know that Christopher doesn't agree that TEC made plenty of room for conservative parishes."

Perhaps you mean "conservative Dioceses" since this appears to be the location of your umbrage, not "conservative parishes" -- which can of course do what they wish, even in the "individual conscience" idea now holding sway.

But for the record I don't believe "TEC made room" for anything. TEC is only incarnated in the form of GC, Bishops, Dioceses, the PB, etc. The GC in its most recent iteration decided (on this see Tobias) that it would not interfere with diocesan canons and so individual dioceses could and do continue with their previous faith and practice.

And it isn't about whether "room has been made" but about what the polity of TEC is and is not.

But rest assured. Here I believe we are probably in agreement.

**Whatever acknowledgement there may presently be about the character of TEC polity when it comes to dioceses will come to an end and swiftly.**

Fear not. The only real question is how loose ends are sewn up, or whether anyone really believes this is necessary.

Take the example of LA. A liberal Bishop has given strong evidence of the essentially diocesan character of his role as Bishop. "TEC" could not stop him (to use your term).

The work required to put an end to this may or may not succeed, but it doesn't really matter in the end. "TEC" will find a way on the ground to put a halt to diocesan canons, diocesan identity, and other historical realities. And why? Because TEC wants to be a uniform national church due to its present concern with LGBT affairs. Will it do the hard polity work to make this so? No. It will not bother.

Places like Dallas, CFL, Albany, TN are quite properly seen by revisionists as simply timing-out eccentricities. There is no need to get in a lather. The views they hold and the historical claims they make may well be true, but they are in the end going to be caught up in the machinary of a TEC bent on being what it will.

So rest quietly. Your "TEC" is virtually 97% home and dry. Soon terms like "super conservative" will have lost their edgy caché.

Posted by: crs on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 at 4:33pm BST

I know that that is your view about diocese and TEC polity. Your view isn't broadly shared; the view that dioceses are so independent, or that they ought to be.

I'm beyond being able to countenance the folks who want to exercise power over others for the purposes of exclusion and hate. The Pulse shooting + Charlottesville signals to me that it is time to actually do the Gospel of Jesus, and it means inclusion, doing justice, and calling the authorities (be it church or state) to be more just.

Excluding gays seems like such a petty goal in a world with our iniquities, hurling towards the abyss of climate change, and with the eruption of Nazis and whatnot.

I wish you a joyful retirement, Christopher. Signed, Cynthia, who feels like the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, and the Sheepdog clocking out at the end of the day...

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 17 August 2017 at 2:32am BST

Cynthia. It isn't a view. It is a reality. Ask Bishop Bruno. Read a basic textbook.

Posted by: Crs on Thursday, 17 August 2017 at 11:23am BST

See what's about to happen to Bishop Bruno, under the authority of the national church.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 18 August 2017 at 6:27am BST

And what didn't happen to his authority to deal with property in his Diocese and make proper pastoral judgments.

Again, just read any basic textbook. Dioceses withdrew from PECUSA association as Dioceses during the civil war. No rule book was in the possession of a "national church" to stop this.

The very fact that we have had court rulings in TX and Illinois where the right of dioceses to withdraw and to conduct their own affairs has been upheld resoundingly indicates that the "rule book" you are looking for judges have said does not exist. Very smart people on both sides of the debate are not lazy and judges are not stupid.

The kind of polity you are looking for must succeed 100% of the time and do so maximally transparently so judges can say, "there it is," and not be held as interfering with the first amendment.

I am in favor of TEC doing this, as it would clear up a lot of confusion and save mountains of money. Why doesn't it? For lots of reasons, some mundane, but some more entrenched: Bishops do not like being Bishops in a system where they are governed by a GC HOD or a PB. Liberals as much as Conservatives. Big old dioceses on the eastern seaboard don't have accession clauses because they don't like the idea. This is the deep history of TEC, which as a convert of recent days you have assumed is otherwise.

Posted by: crs on Friday, 18 August 2017 at 7:30am BST

The item is about New Zealand and yet no more than a dozen of the 52 comments as I write refer to New Zealand. Is there any wonder that people like me are heartily sick of the USA and its self-centredness. I have just returned from a month in Alaska, my 7th visit to the USA and have made a vow never to enter the country again. My future annual journeys will keep to Europe.
I do not know what crs stands for, nor GAFCON, nor ACI, ACNA,EDSC. And people complain about LBGTIQ.
I just see them all as bigoted homophobes who I wsh would keep out of my lovely adopted country.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Friday, 18 August 2017 at 8:56am BST

Mr Ralph

I could not agree more. Cynthia starts by comparing NZ with TEC, Fr Ron gets off onto ACNA, I get attacked for being this and that, and the topic drifts away. No one loathes this more than I do. I do not even live in the US, and I thought maybe ACI's public life was over, but on it goes.

You have my sympathies. bien cordialement.

Christopher Seitz

Posted by: crs on Friday, 18 August 2017 at 1:31pm BST

Brian, we were comparing NZ's approach to that of Scotland and The Episcopal Church USA for two reasons:

1. TEC has been sanctioned by the primates and two Archbishops of Canterbury for our non homophobic inclusion. I'm gay and married to my partner of 25 years. So now some of us eagerly await the response of the current ABC, primates, and Anglican Communion folks. Will Scotland and NZ join us on the "naughty step?" If so, I hope that the Scots bring whiskey and shortbread cookies and NZ brings kiwi's and koalas.

2. TEC has been lambasted for a long time, particularly by Christopher, crs, for our intolerance towards conservatives. Yet TEC has left a window open for conservatives at the diocesan level and NZ and Scotland have not. Whenever I point this out, and complain about continued discrimination against my LGBTQI sisters and brothers, Christopher can't resist supporting discrimination at the diocesan level and telling me how ill informed I am about polity. Because polity trumps justice and Jesus, or something...

I don't know which country is your lovely adopted country from which you don't want American homophobes. But I point out that the Church of England is quite homophobic and actively discriminates against LGBTQI people. And the church in NZ has just passed same-sex blessings, not the sacrament of marriage, as has TEC. So I would say that TEC is more inclusive than NZ, overall.

Sorry about your recent trip being disappointing. The US is certainly experience shocking troubles. The oligarchs took over and the fight to right all this is going to be a long, hard, slog. I would definitely appreciate prayers for our country at this time. As I/we pray for your countries in time of trial.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 18 August 2017 at 6:58pm BST

Thanks Cynthia
First the Aotearoa/NZ Anglican church has not passed same-sex blessings and I doubt they ever will in my lifetime. This is just the latest proposal from a committee set up as a further way of postponing a decision. I do not pretend to understand it but people I respect such as Helen Jacobi in her response and blog referral (Sunday, 13 August 2017 at 2:12am BST) before this discussion became hijacked seem to be able to explain it more. I emigrated from Australia (where koalas come from by the way :-) ) in 2010 and am now proud to be a NZ citizen. At least NZ has same-sex marriage and in my experience, people who never go near a church have accepted it also. In Australia the religious right with their influence on the government are doing their best to prevent it. I know for a fact that it is people from the Diocese of Sydney, (GAFCON etc. not just the USA) in which I unfortunately grew up, that are stirring up trouble over here. Thankfully religion has little influence in NZ government. And just as I am happy to have left Australia permanently. I have also come to the view that my life would have been a lot happier if I had never made a so called decision for Christ at age 7.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Friday, 18 August 2017 at 11:25pm BST

Dear Brian, thank you for the clarification re: "Yet TEC has left a window open for conservatives at the diocesan level and NZ and Scotland have not."

NZ and the SEC do not have the same policy. And NZ and TEC do not have the same polity.

International anglicans can tell us how many provinces have diocesan canons. Is TEC the only one? NZ does not so far as I am aware.

The "individual conscience" idea will win out eventually in TEC, probably after 2018. The LA diocesan push-back was a bit of a surprise, but probably just a bump in the road because it didn't involve LGBT issues.

Go "All Blacks".

Posted by: crs on Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 9:08am BST

As a matter of fact, the requirement that the diocesan constitutions and canons of newly formed dioceses recite unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church was only adopted in 1982, so it is not at all surprising that the "big old dioceses" of the East Coast contain no such clauses. That they acceded to the Constitution and Canons is a matter of historic record, whether or not mention of the same is made in the local documents.

For a good summary of the "majority view" on Episcopal Church (US) polity, I commend the paper by the Ecclesiology Committee of the House of Bishops.

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/primer.on_.tec_.pdf

ACI did mount a rebuttal of the same, representing its own peculiar views on the subject.

Again, apologies for this appearing to take us off course, but I do think it important for those outside the Episcopal Church to have access to clearer information about its polity than often appears in comment threads or blogs.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 7:03pm BST

To get back to the ACANZP situation - the topic under discussion in ths thread - Brian is correct when he says that our Church has not yet passed the legislatuion on Same-Sex Blessings. It has yet to proceed through diocesan synods before it reaches General Syhod 2018 for ratification.

My fear is that, under its provision, people like the Bishop of Nelson (*with strong connections to diocese of Sydney, GAFCON, and its offspring) - who is actually part of the 'Working Group' that has presented the Report - will have the right to deny Same-Sex Blessings taking placeo in his own diocese.

I have the feeling that the Bishop of Nelson was put onto the Working Group in order to appease the conservatives in our Church (Some of them in my own diocese of Christchurch) who have threatened to leave if S/S Blessings are actually allowed to be celebrated in ACANZP.

Please note, everyone; that ACANZP is not yet pronounced free from homophobia and sexism. This is what Brian Ralph is concerned about. And I am, too - together with others in our Church, like Edward Prebble and Helen Jacobi.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 9:28pm BST

Thank you for the clarification, Brian and Fr. Smith. I'll pray for ACANZP during this time.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 21 August 2017 at 1:02am BST
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