Wednesday, 9 May 2018

New Zealand approves same-sex blessings

Updated Saturday

Anglican Taonga reports: Yes to blessings

…The Anglican Church this morning has paved the way for the blessing of same gender relationships.

At 11:20 this morning, by majority vote, General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui passed Motion No 7 – which is the motion which accepts the report and recommendations of the Motion 29 small working group.

That acceptance is subject to the appointment of a select committee which will consider and report back to General Synod – before it finishes today – on a range of detail which the Synod must be sorted before the passage of the constitutional and canonical changes necessary to give the decision effect.

The decision, nonetheless, is clear – after almost 50 years of debate about human sexuality, the Anglican Church has created a pathway for the blessing of same-gender couples…

The report that was adopted is a lengthy document which can be found here.

The Polynesian component of the church, Tikanga Pasifika, will not be changing its practice, but has not exercised its right to veto the proposal. See explanation here.

See also Slow start. Big finish.


FCANZ response to General Synod Decision to Bless Same Sex Relationships, downloadable copy here.

Gafcon UK offers support to FCA New Zealand after same sex blessings vote

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 at 2:22pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | New Zealand

As a former member of the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui, and the successful mover of a resolution in 2002 (yes, 16 years ago!) asking for this work to be done, I find myself with two sets of emotional reactions to yesterday's vote.
First, I must acknowledge a deep sense of relief and thanks that at last some significant movement has been achieved. Further movement is now inevitable. Thank God for that.
On the other hand, I experience a cynical yawning reaction. After so many years of debate, hermeneutics conferences, respectful conversations, commissions reviewing commissions etc, we have now achieved a change that almost no one wants. Some bishops may (but don't have to) allow some priests to bless some same-gender relationships in pretty restricted circumstance.
To get an agreement, we have had to park the questions of equal marriage and the ordination and licensing of GLBTq clergy. In the meantime, the national consensus has moved, and equal marriage is the law of the land. Yesterday's decision enshrines the delicious irony that, while the conservatives rejected civil unions and civil marriages, they are now insisting that couples must have gone through one of those steps before we can bless their unions.

From my perspective, it seems that the Anglican Church is divided in three approximately equal parts. One lot say we must embrace equal marriage and the ordination of GLBTq clergy, and do so urgently. One group say such a move is unbiblical and unacceptable, and a third group see the other two as "extremes", and search for any possible compromise. That third group were the big winners yesterday.
But if we look at Anglicans under 40, the first group is perhaps 70% of the total, with the other two correspondingly smaller. That's where my hope lies.
Still, I am glad of yesterday's decision, and I would love to be one of the first priests to get permission to conduct one of these blessings.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 at 10:57pm BST

After posting my comment above, Iopened a message to the diocese from the bishops of my diocese, sent while they are in the Synod. Their summary of the decision is very significant:

"...While subject to the final formal confirmation on Thursday, GS/THW has agreed to allow blessing of relationship for those in civil union or legal marriage. This, in turn, will allow for the ordination of those in such relationships if they are discerned in our usual processes as gifted and called in such ministry...."

I had not grasped that the subject of the second sentence had been agreed. Whether this is an explicit agreement of the GS/THW, or just the interpretation of the decision that my bishops (and presumably some others)choose to take, it definitely moves my emotional response more strongly towards the first one outlined above!

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 at 11:08pm BST

No doubt the Sydney cavalry will come to the rescue..when I was in Aotearoa/NZ , no evangelicals baulked at divorce and remarriage...they knew nothing of the Church change on contraception either.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 12:14am BST

re Edward Prebble's comment. It is significant that, even though our GS decision allows for the Blessing of Same-sex Civil Marriage partners, and also those in Civil Partnerships; it DOES NOT cater for Same-Sex partners to be married in Church.

Some of us had thought that this would allow those who oppose S/S Weddings in Church to be able, in good conscience, to remain in ACANZP. However, it would seem that local FOCANZ members (two of whom have recently resigned from General Synod following the result of Motion 29's success) have resumed their threat to leave our Church.

Despite Ed's thought that they might have been satisifed with Civil Partnership Blessing - had the Church decided to go wuith this rather than the Blessing of S/S Civil Marriages - this does not seem plausible. The obvious bugbear for the FCANZ people is homosexual expression in any sort of loving, permanent relationship. Homophobia is the real problem for them, not just a theological opposition to S/S Marriage. They still think of LGBTQ people as rebels against the order of God's Creation - rather than fellow human beings who need to love and be loved in tune with the Gospel.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 9:14am BST

While grateful for those like Edward Prebble, I feel surrounded in my parish including my vicar by those in the middle group who seem to have no understanding of what a lifetime of victimisation by the church has achieved. I made a decision for Christ at about age 9. At age 74 I think it was the most ridiculous thing I ever did and that my life would have been a lot happier without it. I literally cried when the decision was postponed 3 years ago, now that there has been some development I could not care less. I have realised that we are now in a post Christian age and the world would be better off without any religion. I certainly receive much more sympathy and support from people who for most of their life have not entered a church except for funerals and weddings and now these are rarely in a church. My unchurched friends are in their 60's and above and, although they do not realise it, I see the Love portrayed by Jesus in their daily lives, while the great majority I see in Church, especially in leadership roles, do not display much of it at all. As I no longer believe in an after life or any of the other claptrap that has been imposed on the teachings of Christ, I could not care less what they decide in their stupid meetings. The world has moved on and the Church is shown to be regressive and slow to catch up as in most social developments of the last few centuries.
From what I read, after a vote on the voices, the ultra conservatives called fora show of hands and, still not satisfied, then demanded people stand. They say about 90% was in favour. So these bullies, trained in Sydney where sadly I grew up amongst their evil bile, finally defeated, have now resigned. Good riddance to bad rubbish. But if I said that in my church the good people who sit in the middle would condemn me as unChristian. So be it.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 10:09am BST

Ironically the following day the General Synod has apologised for taking part in the sale of Maori lands in the 1860's. No surprise CMS was involved. Perhaps in 150 years the church, if it still exists, will be apologising for the victimisation of LGBT people. I, of course, will not see that although I have lived long enough to see the NSW parliament and police apologise for arrests and brutaiity of many of my friends at a gay rights rally in the 70's. Fortunately I escaped as it would have been the early end of what became a long career of teaching. I am sure the Sydney Anglican leaders of the time were cheering the police on but I never expect to hear an apology from them.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 10:23am BST

Edward says yawn but my reaction is more negative.

This is a case of the end justifying the means. It is a step forwards but it has required Synod to reaffirm in a formal vote that LGBTI people and our marriages are officially othered by the Church. Is the minor gain really worth the highly negative message that sends to LGBTI people?

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 12:25pm BST

If I have interpreted the comments above and elsewhere correctly, the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Polynesia is falling apart. Firstly, it seems that the New Zealand and Polynesian parts are taking quite different views. Secondly, no one seems particularly happy with the outcome.

I predict that a period of even more rapid decline in church membership will follow. I understand that it is has been declining pretty anyway.

Posted by: Paul Waddington. on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 1:44pm BST

I write to say how much I appreciate what Brian Ralph has written above, I feel for him, and all he has been through.

As a gay man, myself and having accepted Christ as in early teens, I too, wonder at the snail pace* of the very inadequate steps that are taken -- hardly 'progress'. I wish it to be understood that I wish no disrespect to snails.

However, church leaders at all levels, and synod and committee members baffle me.

I thank Brian for his contributions- not easy to deal with such a lifetime of homophobia.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 2:13pm BST

"One group say such a move is unbiblical and unacceptable, and a third group see the other two as "extremes", and search for any possible compromise. That third group were the big winners yesterday."

To, yet again, cite Martin Luther King:

"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 4:07pm BST

Thank you for various comments made. Some responses.

Fr Ron - lovely to keep up with you after all our many years of contact. I am not sure what you mean by: Despite Ed's thought that they might have been satisfied with Civil Partnership Blessing...." I am sure they would not have been. All I mean is that taking part in a Civil Union or Marriage is now the threshold for blessing the relationship, whereas those civil steps were strenuously opposed when the government set them up.

Brian. Thank you for your comments -you have my absolute understanding and sympathy. I would love to be in direct contact with you, as would my daughter, a partnered lesbian priest in Dunedin. Please feel free to contact me on .

Paul, no I don't think this decision is evidence that the ACANZP is falling apart. Tikanga Polynesia's contribution arises mostly from the fact that in many of the countries where it operates (Fiji Tonga. Samoa) same-sex unions are illegal. Abstention by them is entirely appropriate. But it is significant that they did not oppose this measure, two years ago or now. And they ackknowledge that their chidren may well change things.

And Interested, yes the parallels with the Civil Rights movement have not escaped me. I was in Washington DC last September, and went through the Afro/American Museum. I was moved by the slogan that is a central feature of the Civil Rights display there - "Which Side are you on?" But I have also recently read a biography of Lyndon Johnson, who in his Senate days was the prime mover of the first Civil Rights act of 1957. He knew he could not get through the integration of schools, meeting places, workplaces etc. But he did force through the right to vote, which he saw as the key to all the rest. He was bitterly criticised by liberals of the time, but history seems to have proven him right.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 9:18pm BST

"If I have interpreted the comments above and elsewhere correctly, the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Polynesia is falling apart. Firstly, it seems that the New Zealand and Polynesian parts are taking quite different views. Secondly, no one seems particularly happy with the outcome.
I predict a period of even more rapid decline in church membership will follow. I understand that it is has been declining pretty anyway." - Paul W

Not so, Paul. As Edward has already indicated, the action of our Polynesian cousins - living as they do in a conservative society with government to match, they could have done no other. However, they did NOT impede passage of the legislation. This was a sign of their concern for 'Unity in Diversity - a mark of our Church

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 11 May 2018 at 1:02am BST

Without backing off from any of the reservations expressed earlier, the new threads posted above show that at least ACANZP is doing rather better than Anglicans in Australia or Ireland. Just not as well as those in Scotland, TEC or Canada

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Friday, 11 May 2018 at 7:32pm BST

If anyone is disputing that the Anglican Church in Zew Zealand is in rapid decline, have a look at the NZ government census results. It is clear for all to see.

Posted by: Paul Waddington on Saturday, 12 May 2018 at 4:41pm BST

I certainly accept that the ACANZP has been in rapid numerical decline for some time. In my own diocese, Auckland, the last year to see an increase in the number of communicants was 1984, and the number has decreased every year since. (1984 was the year of my ordination, but I respectfully decline to take responsibility.)
There are now more Roman Catholics than Anglicans in NZ, principally because Rome has been much more successful in countries such as the Philippines from which large numbers have migrated to these islands.
So yes, as in Britain, North America, Australia etc etc, there are serious issues of decline that we need to address, and are doing so with varying degrees of success.
What I do dispute is any connection between that reality and the decision of General Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui last week. I do not believe the decline is caused by our historically discriminatory doctrine and practices, nor by our attempts to liberalise them, nor even by our disagreements on the issue. I would concede that our preoccupation with issues of sexuality may be hampering our energy for mission, but the issues of decline are far, far more complex than that.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 14 May 2018 at 5:08am BST
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