Thinking Anglicans

New Zealand synod acts on same-gender blessings

News report from anglicantaonga: SAME-GENDER BLESSINGS: SYNOD SEES A WAY FORWARD

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.

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Father David
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Father David

How very Anglican of the Kiwis.
On the one hand ……

Father Ron Smith
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Together with the public apology, LGBTB people have reason for hope in this determination of our General Synod. Though the 4 year interval between now and the possibility of Same-Sex Blessings being celebrated formally seems – to some of us – an inordinately long time to wait, there is a process that offers hope of a just resolution. This will not, of course, suit the implacably opposed, with murmurs of discontent already being heard from the sola sciptura school of theology. However I am impressed that all 3 tikanga – cultural streams – are resolved to continue to work together… Read more »

robert Ian williams
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robert Ian williams

I can’t see how you can uphold both traditional marriage and allow for this. Its one or the other.

As regards the evangelical opponents in New Zealand they are hopelessly compromised on divorce and re-marriage.

Both evangelical Samuel Marsden and High Church Bishop Selwyn ( the real pioneer of New Zealand Anglicanism) must be spinning in their graves. Bishop Selwyn gave the Church synodical government and here is the fruit.

But there again New Zealand Anglicanism is in meltdown and they are even considering closing their Theological college,St Johns.

Dennis
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Dennis

This is pathetic. This isn’t a commitment to move forward. This is a commitment to keep some at the back of the bus. Stop placating those who insist on injustice. There is nothing good that can be said about this. It would have been half-way acceptable in 1994. In 2014 it is an insult and unacceptable. There is really no hope for the church or for Christians, is there? This decision doesn’t cause “distress.” It causes what it really deserves: unbridled contempt. “Please don’t ask us to do the right thing, or to treat you as a human being, until… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

As in England, the line that the hierarchy is trying to draw simply will not hold on the ground.

James Byron
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James Byron

Separate but equal, how very 1896!

JCF
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JCF

I’m very disappointed in the Kiwis. It’s one thing to not provide for marriage in church: I don’t like it, but I can accept it.

But to not *BLESS* civil marriages? By the bishop/clergy/vestries who choose to do so? There’s NO excuse for that. Zero. Zed.

Randal Oulton
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Randal Oulton

I’ve become friends online in the past years with several New Zealander Anglicans… what with me being from Canada, and them from New Zealand, two small and ignored but mighty members of the Commonwealth, we have a lot in common other than just being ignored as the more brash and gauche US, UK and Australia elbow for the non-stop attention… I understand that some fundamentalist Anglicans consider the NZ prayer book to be of the devil. But I still can’t find out, can you buy Heinz ketchup in New Zealand, if so where is it actually made; or, is it… Read more »

Peter Carrell
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Peter Carrell

It strikes me that their are two Anglican churches in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.

One is a hypothetical one which exists in people’s heads and also votes in the majority for whatever else is in those heads.

The other is the real one which exists via synodical government and has sweated to get to the point we have reached. If a majority does not exist in that church to conform to other people’s agenda, how about coming out here and making your hypothetical church a reality? People start new churches all the time Down Under!

James
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James

Well compared to the Australian bishops, who voted in 2012 to reaffirm Lambeth 1.10, they are moving forward.

Brian Ralph
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Brian Ralph

Sadly Father Ron, I see no reason for giving thanks to God. For once I agree with Father David. “How very Anglican” and how very disappointing. When Monday’s time for discussion was extended into Tuesday and then a special group was chosen, with candidates from both sides, to come up with wording for Wednesday, I held some small hope. All the discussion was in private. To me the conservatives, “sola scriptura” whatever you like, I call them “Apostles of Hate”, knowing they could not completely block any movement, have succeeded in just further delay. Fr Ron says 4 years I… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

I made a decision to read the motion and the Archbishops’ letter in full, and not to read anyone’s comments before offering my own response. I may well have more to say, here or on NZ websites, after I have read others’ comments. I have three responses, which may sound self-contradictory. But that is in the spirit of Fr David’s comment (all right, I did read one comment)about Kiwis being very Anglican with our “on the one hand….” approach. First, I am delighted that this resolution has been agreed by General Synod. As a former member, with a fair grasp… Read more »

Disgraced
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Disgraced

It is important to understand just how things happen in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Everything that has been said about this being totally inadequate and unjust is correct, however it must be seen as part of an ongoing process. Despite the comments above re Selwyn, this is largely a CMS planted church that still bears some birthmarks. Liturgies to mark same sex relationships will occur and I doubt that there will be one that isn’t in fact a blessing of a marriage or civil union, because that’s what all those concerned will actually want and… Read more »

Peter Carrell
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Peter Carrell

Dear Randal
You can buy all sorts of food in NZ, including speciality British foods in speciality British shops.

Why on earth would anyone want Heinz when Watties is available?

No one who has been to heaven settles for purgatory.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Here are some reflections from another thinking insider blogger http://anglicandownunder.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/dear-ac-we-are-proud-of-our-fudge-would.html

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“But there again New Zealand Anglicanism is in meltdown and they are even considering closing their Theological college,St Johns.” – Robert I. Williams – As a gratuitous aside, Robert, to the topic of conversation here, this was quite unworthy of you and, in fact, an outright mis-statement. Anyone properly reading the report of the St. John’s College Trust Board would see that the basis of the Trust is financially sound. however, future calls on its funding – outside of the direct business of educating clergy – might, in the emerging economic climate, become more difficult. In response to Brian Ralph,… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

I am particularly grateful to Edward Prebble for the image of a dam of logs behind which a flood is gathering. The church need only look to the similar dynamic in the civil society. As it became clear that, in legal terms, “there is no rational basis to restrict same-sex couples, otherwise legally competent, from marriage,” the opposition eventually collapsed. Opposition on religious grounds ultimately goes back to a taboo, and taboo does not usually hold up very well under close examination, even more so as efforts to shore it up become increasingly incredible or strained. Eventually the seams burst,… Read more »

cseitz
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cseitz

“The church need only look to the similar dynamic in the civil society” — I cannot think of a single instance where a Church Father reasoned this way.

robert ian Williams
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robert ian Williams

St Johns used to be one of the wealthiest Anglican theological colleges in the world, but the millions have seemingly been squandered. Divorce and remarriage are rampant in the NZ Church. They too began with blessings, and then qualified re-marriage with the permission of a bishop , and now it is free for all. Yet these persons want to dictate morality to gay and lesbian persons. How ironic. Apart from his analysis of NZ Church history, Disgraced is spot on. By the way Samuel Marsden who the NZ crowd are celebrating bringing the gospel to Aotaearoa was a firm believer… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

“”The church need only look to the similar dynamic in the civil society” — I cannot think of a single instance where a Church Father reasoned this way.” cseitz

Which is probably why the church is always decades behind everyone else in justice issues – though usually claiming the opposite when enough time has elapsed for people not to notice the lie.

Tobias Haller
Guest

C Seitz, if you took what I was saying as I intended I think you could find many a Father who reasoned in precisely that way. They had Jesus as an exemplar, in this case in his parable of the man who built his house on sand. My point is not about doing as the civil society does (or not, for that matter) but in learning from what goes on in the world and applying what is learned. It is true that at least one Father (Tertullian) rejected this course, but this led him ultimately into the heresy of private… Read more »

Disgraced
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Disgraced

Good grief, Heinz owns Watties, the difference is the locally produced ingredients. There is nothing on the planet to compare with Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup!

Dennis
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Dennis

Why would it not apply, cseitz? Civil society is right in this question, and much of the church is completely wrong. Time for institutional repentance and amendment of life. Your type have made an apriori assumption that the church is always right, and society always wrong, and that society can’t offer leadership in this question. What an assumption! Of course, it is rather interesting that conservatives didn’t make the same assumption when it came to questions of divorce or remarriage of straight people. And even more interesting is an implicit denial that you also look to opinions in civil society… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Dennis. What sweet reasoning. Bless you!

JCF
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JCF

Though I hardly dare reply to cseitz when Our Tobias has already done so— may I suggest that, in comparing our “civil society” to that of the Church Fathers, theirs was ruled by Roman emperors, whereas ours are electoral democracies?

If one believes the Imago Dei ought properly rule themselves (i.e., democracy in its various forms), then surely this MUST make a difference between the Church Fathers’ context, and ours.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“Which is probably why the church is always decades behind everyone else in justice issues.” “Civil society is right in this question, and much of the church is completely wrong.” Fr Haller, here are the correct answers. All those accounts of Anglicanism that claimed it saw its authority in the early church (1 Bible, two testaments, 3 creeds, 4 councils, 5 centuries) and that Rome had erred in latter time, these both stand before the Hegelianism of cultural improvement. Reading a dissertation on Clement’s use of scripture yesterday brought forth my comment. Like ships passing in the night is his… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

Whilst I disagree with Disgraced’s of NZ Anglican history ( particularly the CMS influence), I feel he is spot on elsewhere.

As regards divorce…. the pattern is interesting. For the first 120 years NZ Anglicans kept to the Cof E canons forbidding the re-marriage of divorced persons. Then in the nineteen sixties they started blessing second marriages. Then re-marriage was allowed with the local bishop’s permission was and then it became a free for all.

And yet these people are dictating morality to gay and lesbians!

Tobias Haller
Guest

Dr Seitz, once again, the issue is not as you frame it. I was not speaking in Hegelian or progressive terms, but attempting to express the dynamic that is true in any system, sacred or secular, that building on a weak foundation is bound to lead to eventual collapse, in spite of massive efforts to shore up the structure. It has done so in the state, and it has done so and will do so in the church. This is not Hegel, but Jesus. LC and D are making points different to mine, so quoting them to correct me is… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

@James Byron: you might have to explain Plessy v Ferguson to those who aren’t USA citizens. The 60th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education Topeka Kansas (which undid Plessy) is … tomorrow. I plan to celebrate.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“we have a lot in common other than just being ignored as the more brash and gauche US, UK and Australia elbow for the non-stop attention…” Is that really necessary? And what, pray tell, is “brash and gauche” about TEC? Inclusion? Commitment to justice? Rejection of discrimination? The Anglican/Episcopal churches in Canada in the US also have much in common. We both were singled out for the wrath of Rowan. So is it “brash and gauche” to push back? In the TEC we do, after all, believe that justice is a theological imperative. And it is very interesting to observe… Read more »

Jean
Guest
Jean

Phew…. I just perused this site after looking at Blogspot Anglican Downunder. I am a little taken back at the ‘unchristian’ nature of the responses. Where is the ‘encourage one another’? Then to be hit with such criticism of the church. In all my years I have never met in a NZ church such denigration of one another. Where is the ‘grace’? Then to be shocked reading the church always lags behind on justice issues. My gosh truly? Most nearly all social justice organisations here have christian associations if not backgrounds. Barnados, Save the Children, Unicef, Anglican Social Services, Tear… Read more »

Brian Ralph
Guest
Brian Ralph

As a New Zealand resident of over 4 years who is looking forward to becoming a citizen (not permitted until 5 years residency), I have been bemused at the wording of the National Anthem. In the 2013 census less than half the population declared an affiliation to Christianity and regular church attendance is probably closer to 15%. My bishop and vicar wring their hands at such figures, although part of that 15%, I give thanks to God. The great advances in homosexual acceptance have passed through parliament in the teeth of church opposition. The church is now the only area… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“What governs your ethical decisions? Previous decisions or the guidance you carefully consider as you reflect on the Bible and discuss it with those around you?” Jean, I think the problem is that LGBT inclusion has been on the table for quite awhile. The folks leading the way on inclusion have absorbed some very fine theological and biblical thinking. While much of “the church” has been dragging its collective feet, avoiding the theological discussions, society has moved forward and exposed the churches that haven’t been engaging. So now, instead of looking like enlightened engagement, it looks rather different. Sorry that… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

And my point was that Anglicans have held that they have a firm foundation, and it distinguishes them from latterly devised confessional systems, and from the claims of a Roman magisterium (itself latterly describing a ‘development of doctrine’ identity a la Newman). This was Andrews’ 1 Bible, 2 Testaments, etc. I understand the ‘catch up to culture’ views are fully divergent from this model, and happily so (if it is even aware of it). They are frank in their evolutionary understanding, though they may not know where it leads after today’s agenda. Your position seems more eccentric or self-generated. In… Read more »

Jean
Guest
Jean

Thanks Brian and Cynthia for your responses, Yes Brian NZ has now a small christian community, a great personal motivation to be used by christ to reach others. Lets pray our National Anthem is prophetic. I would say we have a little more in common with Canada than the US, but historically our pakeha culture is more influenced by our UK association. In saying that we are definitely a unique blend. Cynthia re the church dragging its feet. The same sex marriage bill was only passed in parliament in NZ in 2013 so the topic is still quite topical and… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Well, Dr. Seitz, they did say the same things about Jesus, so I suppose I am in good company.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Said what things about Jesus?

Are you saying that your position on same-sex is the same as Jesus’ and that you are receiving an equal treatment as he did?

Whew. Please say I am misunderstanding you.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Dr. Seitz, you have misunderstood me in this thread from the very beginning; I was, in the last note, referring to your characterization of my views on “the development of doctrine” as eccentric or self-generated. The same was said of Jesus. But as to your persistent misunderstanding, I tried to clarify my original comment for you. but you seem unable to grasp what I’m saying, which is fully congruent with the Articles on the Authority of the Church and of General Councils. (pace Andrewes’ pious fiction, which is somewhat at odds with the Articles and actual Anglican practice). The church… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Come visit.” I’m looking forward to visiting NZ some day. I love the Prayer Book! At some point the “holding different views” thing just doesn’t last. People held differing views on racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, and burning witches. Eventually there has to be a “come to Jesus” moment when the real question is: are we ALL created in the Image of God? The answer becomes yes, because no one is qualified to exclude another from being one of God’s beloved children. So the real question, is how long do I and my LGBT sisters and brothers, and our families, have to… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Where is the ‘grace’?”

I have heard this question now and then.

It is often asked of someone who is telling the truth, by someone who doesn’t want to hear it.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I grasp your position without a problem. Jesus did not argue for a development of doctrine. ‘From the beginning it was not so’ is not a developmental conception but the opposite. ‘Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets’ is not a developmental conception. ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish’ is not a developmental conception. ‘He was in the beginning with God’; ‘before Abraham was I am’; ‘well did Isaiah say of you’ are not developmental conceptions. When the Pharisees argued for forms of developmentalism, Christ firmly rejected their position as transgressing the word of God. I’d be… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“Sometimes the saeculum comes to a better mind on an issue prior to the church doing so — as for instance, on the matter of slavery.”

Wilberforce would hardly have thought of himself as the ‘saeculum’ as against the ‘ecclesia’! His arguments were entirely biblical and only had force as such in a formerly Christian nation. Read any basic account of the dismantling of slavery (a pagan institution) in the UK. Evangelical Christianity regarded it as abhorrent and against God’s word.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Dr Seitz, I think the basic problem here is that you find it inconceivable that people can look to the same texts (Biblical and Patristic) and come to conclusions different to yours. In re the teaching style of Jesus you appear to misunderstand that “development” can sometimes mean “ad fontes” as well as movement in a different direction entirely. Your little florilegium here does not, to my mind, capture the full range of Jesus’ moral teaching. But let that pass. I do not think you “grasp” my position. If you did, you would be able to articulate it in language… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

We will leave our several courses on anglican church history and theology as they are. A position that somehow elevates an alleged Articles distinctive over the 17 century return to the Early Church (now a pious fiction!) or the instincts of the tractarians again strikes me as an eccentric and self-generated view. And how the word ‘developmental’ is meant to extend to ad fontes is equally bizarre on my ear. Christ’s appeal to the divine intention at the beginning– this is not a development but a correction in the name of primeval intent, over against pharisaic accomodation. Can you explain… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“The church will not change its position _because_ the state has, but _for similar reasons_, primarily realizing that the arguments against are unsustainable and self-referential.”

Thank you, Tobias. And bless you for trying…