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General Synod 2014

Waitangi
Oihi Bay, Waitangi, Time of the First Christian Service December 1814

Last updated 23 May; updated 15 May; updated 9 May; updated: 8 May; updated: 7 May 2014

General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) meets May 10-15, Copthorne Hotel, Waitangi. [That is preceded by a meeting of the Inter-Diocesan Conference – the 7 pakeha dioceses GSTHW members meeting].

If there is any significant new information added to this blog post, I will indicate the update date at the start of the post for people checking back here.

23 May update

The minutes of GSTHW14 are being posted here as they become available.
We finally have the agreement that papers will be online before the meeting of next General Synod Te Hinota Whanui
I have written about the decision about Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples here.
I have written about a liturgical decision here

15 May update

GSTHW14 is over. IMO it has still been relatively difficult to follow details of discussions, proceedings, and decisions. Even now, trying to find all the GSTHW news reports on the Anglican Taonga website appears a near-impossible mission. Earlier news-reports have disappeared off the front page – where to?! If promises of regularly putting online the minutes from previous days have been fulfilled, I have no idea what the URL is to find those minutes, in spite of having asked in several contexts, including where this promise was made. Formal information coming out of GSTHW keep referring to motion and bill numbers, as if we have those available to us. We do not. I sincerely hope that in future the church does put this material online prior to GSTHW. And that it considers live streaming GSTHW during discussions when the public may be present. That is easy to do, and essentially free. 

  • Motions for a two-tikanga church were withdrawn. I saw no reference to this in the church’s formal keeping us in touch with GSTHW via twitter and the formal hashtag of #synod2014
  • A commission was set up  to make mission “the central theme of the church for the decade (from) Advent 2015 to Advent 2025.” Bishop Kelvin Wright, Bishop of Dunedin, “expects it to be every bit as transformative as the decade of evangelism” 😉 
  • The motion on Methodists and orders is being sent for international consultation.
  • “Authorised services” are clarified; the Baptism Rite is amended; and Sunday titles may become ‘of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter’ and ‘in Lent and Ordinary Time.’  Anglican Taonga’s reporting of this is obviously quite incorrect. They certainly were NOT “confirmed and passed into law”. They now start the lengthy process of going around the dioceses, back to GSTHW, and a year’s wait after that. It is astonishing about “removing potential confusion” is itself so sorely confused. The wording of the bills is here, and requires more reflection.
  • The budget of St John’s College is unsustainable. Again, Anglican Taonga’s article appears in error, claiming that this is the place “where most stipended priests in this province are trained”. Far from it, as far as I am aware. Most stipended priests in this province are not trained there. We insist on not keeping provincial statistics, but best guess I am aware of is less than 10% of clergy are trained at St John’s. I would love it if someone has better statistics.
  • I have already written about blessing committed same-sex couples.

I have written about most of these issues in preparation for GSTHW14 below.

9 May update

Bishop Kelvin Wright, Bishop of Dunedin and one of our two blogging bishops, has indicated he will provide a daily blog here.
Anglican Taonga is the official church news source. There is promise of a daily email; I have asked how people can sign up for it.
Ven. Dr. Peter Carrell is not present at GSTHW14 (just as I am not) but indicates he will blog about it. He has blogged about issues being discussed over many years. A good place to start is here and here.

Great question: is GSTHW14 having a live-video feed? If so, where is the link to this (I would embed it here)? If not – why not? A live feed is very easy to set up, essentially free. Lots of people are doing this regularly. There is a public gallery at the meeting of GSTHW. This gallery is cleared if GSTHW needs to go into committee for non-public discussion – at such a time the live feed could provide ideas, or a link to prayer…

I suggest that on twitter and facebook the hashtag be #GSTHW14 (I gather in the Anglican Church of Or #Synod2014 is also being used). Tweeting at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui: @RevChrisHuriwai @smith_shs @anglicantruth @h_ahartley @bishopkel @donology

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7 May update

I went to a public, diocesan meeting where GSTHW14 representatives presented some of the motions and bills before GSTHW14 with explanation and opportunity for questions, comments, and discussion. I think this was a very good step forward. I also sensed a shift to a far more listening approach, and a clearer acceptance that we can live together without agreeing on every detail…

I understand that it is not permitted to place the wording of motions and bills here until GSTHW14 has addressed them.

There is a motion that we accept the recent changes to the Anglican five-fold mission statement. I continue to see the absence of the mention of worship in the five-fold statement as unacceptable. I hope that GSTHW14 will address that. One response was that the mission statement becomes difficult to remember. But I would be very surprised to find many who can rattle off the statement revised or not. Here are my thoughts on adding worship.

There is a bill to amend the baptism/confirmation rite. Currently it is possible to have this rite between the New Testament lesson and the Gospel reading (NZPB/HKMA pages 396-7). Fixing that up is fine – but I hope that GSTHW14, in committee stage with this Bill, fixes up the rest of the mess and mistakes on those pages (there is no Presentation in Options A and D, etc.)

There is a motion on interchangeability of Methodist and Anglican orders. I only spotted this motion as they whizzed past on the projector screen. I am not aware of much public discussion, meeting of Doctrine Commission, etc. about this. It is interesting how much energy has gone into discussions about gays, with a regular refrain of “we have not done enough theology of marriage yet”, and here is a motion that goes to the heart of being Anglican and I do not hear anyone saying, “we have not done enough theology of ordination yet”.

I would be very surprised if this can proceed with a simple motion. Our doctrine, expressed in the Ordinal, has:

No man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had formerly Episcopal Consecration or Ordination.

The Church of South India, of course, had a brief period when it allowed non-episcopally ordained ministers to preside at sacraments on the understanding that all new clergy were to be episcopally ordained. During this grandparenting ecumenical phase, of course, the Church of South India lost its membership of the Anglican Communion (one of the big guns, along with doctrine expressed in unalterable formularies, that is wheeled out in debates about gays).

It is foreseeable that Methodist ministers taking on positions in the Anglican Church without eipiscopal ordination would be called to take on the role of bishop in our church. There would be a risk that such bishops would not have orders recognised by all Anglican Churches, and those they ordain would not be recognised as ordained by all Anglican Churches.

Of course Methodists here are accepting of committed same-sex couples, including ordaining people in such a relationship. Sadly IMO it is that realisation that may get traction.

I have finally received a response why the wording of Motion 18 (see “Confusion” below) was not printed in the 2012 Proceedings: Motions that arrive on time that GSTHW does not deal with are not printed in the proceedings; motions that arrive late that GSTHW does not deal with ARE printed in the proceedings. No; really!. I did not make that up!

Sex

It is well known that decisions about sexuality will be made at this meeting of GSTHW.
This has been a 40-year long period of official study and discussion.
GSTHW will debate things like

  • Whether Committed Same-Sex couples can be blessed [They regularly, openly are in our church, without any church “Title D” (our formal process of)disciplining. I contend this is licit within our church rules – and the Liturgical Commission produced a rite for this over twenty years ago]
  • The meaning of the word “chastity” in Title D 10:4 [It is difficult to believe that if GSTHW had wanted to exclude sex in a Committed Same-Sex couple in the very-recent passing (2000) of Title D that it did not explicitly included that]
  • Whether to alter the formulary (agreed practice) for marriage to allow a Committed Same-Sex couple to marry [It is difficult to believe that some are calling for “further study” of marriage. I am all for improving the study, training, and formation in our church – but then let’s be honest about the issues with our study and formation. I don’t think our church will be significantly more effective with us all being experts on marriage, but the same level of current expertise in everything else! I see no evidence that deeper study makes wholesale shifts in opinions. To pinch a quote from Taonga page 15 to think this is going to help us further forward is “like people who believe they can fly if only they flap their arms hard enough.” What is sadly less difficult for me to believe is that our top experts cannot agree whether such a change to the marriage formulary would require a constitutional change (and whether parliament would need to be involved) – see “Confusion” below. Obviously, we have previously made such changes without this even being countenanced – but, hey, that wasn’t about homosexuals]

I see this issue in a similar category as divorce and remarriage. In remarrying divorcees, our church goes beyond what scripture and tradition have held, and in many cases, contrary to scripture and tradition. Clergy are completely free to officiate at a wedding of a divorcee or to decline to do so. [Another significant shift from scripture and tradition is ordaining women as priests and bishops].

One piece of scaremongering that keeps surfacing (all the way, apparently, to GSTHW Standing Committee) and so does need addressing, is the claim that the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 will mean that clergy who are in conscience against marrying same-sex couples will be forced to do so. This is not only completely the opposite of what parliament, and those who prepared the legislation, explicitly indicated, but parliament bent over backwards for such clergy and others, removing Section 56 of the Marriage Act so that people can even claim that same-sex couples are not validly married in their eyes. Here is Hon. Ruth Dyson on these very points.

The timetable set out in Taonga (page 13) does surprise me. The debate is set down for Monday, May 12. The Ma Whea Commission will be present, describe their process and summarise their report. The synod will divide into episcopal units for discussion and then return to plenary session. “During the course of the day the synod is likely to divide again by tikanga and by house so that it can consider the options from different angles. It’s hoped that [the 10] options will be progressively eliminated, so that by 3pm (when the debate is scheduled to end) the synod will have settled on one option.”

If the decision is that episcopal units decide locally diocese by diocese (Option D) I see yet more energy being expended in my own diocese which needs to be focusing on going forward after the earthquakes, and other issues…

Tikanga

Many will be surprised to find out that the Three-Tikanga Church is up for serious debate. The Anglican Church here in the South Pacific is governed in three tikanga or cultural streams: Maori, Polynesia, and Pakeha. Three-Tikanga has often been seen to be alongside the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, and the Resurrection in sacredness. Preparations for that 1990 structural change, of course, were always along Treaty of Waitangi lines – two tikanga, Tikanga Rua: tangata whenua (people of the land) and tangata tiriti (people here by virtue of the treaty). But GSTHW 1990 was held in Polynesia, and that meeting made Polynesia a diocese, and shifted from Tikanga Rua (two) to Three-Tikanga, with Polynesia a full and equal Tikanga. Motions are before GSTHW14 to make this a Two-Tikanga church.

Communication

I have been very keen that GSTHW enter the 21st century and place online the reports, bills, and motions that it is considering. At GSTHW12 Dr AEJ Fitchett moved that as Motion 32 (Proceedings page 11), but, along with a raft of other motions, GSTHW12 referred this to GS Standing Committee. While GSTHW clearly in doing so thought that its Standing Committee could address this, GSSC has decided it does not have authority to do this, and has sent it back to the floor of GSTHW14. Like last time, of course, GSTHW14 apparently has no obligation to address motions presented. One could well ask what motivates this procrastination?

Confusion

I have long been an advocate of a review of our agreements (formularies) to clarify what is actually required, allowed, or forbidden. My diocese unanimously supported this review, and Motion 18 to this effect was moved by Canon Andrew Starky Seconded Rev Brian Dawson at GSTHW12. This was yet another of the many motions “referred to General Synod Standing Committee” (Proceedings page 53). In this case, however, I am even struggling to find the wording of the motion in the Proceedings (can anyone see it?). [If it has not been printed, why?]

I urge a member of GSTHW14 to formally ask what progress is being made towards such a review? And why the wording of the motion is missing from the Proceedings publication? [NB the wording of other motions not dealt with are in the Proceedings].

Other

I gather there is hope there will be discussions about the possibility of mutual recognition of Holy Orders with the Methodists in this country; a request for a Decade on Mission; a proposed revised Communications Commission; Fossil Fuel Divestment; an HR package proposal; and hui amorangi to be termed dioceses…

In the 200th year of the formal proclamation of the Gospel in this land, I did not put the image at the top of the page accidentally. The church can so easily put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLABle – what does God want the church to be focusing on…

image source

Today is the Tenth Day of Easter.

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10 Responses to General Synod 2014

  1. Hi Bosco,
    An attempt at clarity:
    1. You write above: “The meaning of the word “chastity” in Title D 10:4 [It is difficult to believe that if GSTHW had wanted to exclude sex in a Committed Same-Sex couple in the very-recent passing (2000) of Title D that it did not explicitly included that]”. I was present at that GSTHW. We were not openly discussing that possibility one way or another. I suggest it is easy to believe that GSTHW then neither wanted to exclude nor include sex in a Committed Same-sex couple, because it did not discuss either possibility.
    2. You also write above, “But GSTHW 1990 was held in Polynesia, and that meeting made Polynesia a diocese, and shifted from Tikanga Rua (two) to Three-Tikanga, with Polynesia a full and equal Tikanga.” In my understanding Polynesia was already a diocese then and was not made a diocese.

    You are right to point out that the mix of business is a little odd against the background of the bicentenary!

    • Thanks, Peter.

      1) I think it would be fair to say that Title D is one of the church’s most carefully crafted pieces of legislation ever. Certainly its most famous and most scrutinised (ask clergy what “Title D” refers to – they will know; ask them what “Title A” or “B” or “G”…refer to – most won’t have a clue). The relatively recent passing of this Title D is well within the thick of the Committed Same-Sex Couples debate. Your clarification underscores the surprising ambiguity left at a central point of this legislation.

      2) According to our church’s website, Polynesia was “an associated missionary diocese” and “in 1990 the Diocese of Polynesia became a diocese in its own right”.

      Christ is Risen!

      • Ok, I stand corrected re the ‘status’ of the diocese but it is a slightly fine distinction re ‘missionary diocese’ is not a ‘full diocese’ when that entity for decades had had its own bishop styled, the Bishop of Polynesia.

        I am not sure that the GSTHW of 2000 left anything ambiguous per se; I think we just refused to enter into an area of obious controversy … even then.

  2. One point that might well be considered by G.S. members at this meeting: the fact is that not all marriages are entered into with the intent to procreate. The Church does not prohibit such marriages. In the light of this fact, this ought remove inhibition by the Church of Same-Sex Marriage, where procreation in not possible.

    Another important factor is the need to encourage fidelity between monogamously partnered couples. This applies to both hetero and homosexual relationships – where marriage is a social good and preferable to promiscuity

    • Thanks, Fr Ron.

      Those who are against blessing or marrying committed same-sex couples, with a definition of marriage that includes lifelong, cannot continue to repeat “two wrongs do not make a right” in relation to the church’s pastoral approach to divorce and remarriage whilst strenuously battling one “wrong” but continuing to turn a blind eye to the other.

      Christ is risen!

  3. We had a bit of that confusion hereabouts regarding marriage. Fundamentally, in the new Act, as in its previous incarnation – long before we start talking about Formularies or on whose authority Priests make declaration of Marriage, there is still the explicit provision:
    Para. 29
    Licence authorises but not obliges marriage celebrant to solemnise marriage

    (1) A marriage licence shall authorise but not oblige any marriage celebrant to solemnise the marriage to which it relates.

    (2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), no celebrant who is a minister of religion recognised by a religious body enumerated in Schedule 1, and no celebrant who is a person nominated to solemnise marriages by an approved organisation, is obliged to solemnise a marriage if solemnising that marriage would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body or the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of the approved organisation.

  4. Now, though, this suggestion of mutual recognition of Orders between Anglicans and Methodists: where has there been any consultation, with those of us in the ecclesiastical provinces, or with say, … the Communion? This is an enormous deal, theologically and in terms of our polity. It can’t have a hope of passing? Has there been some major work here I’m unaware of, or won’t this just leave those who are presenting looking rather foolish?

    • Thanks, Tim. It would be good, if there has been major work here that we are unaware of, that this material be made public and online IMO. Easter Season Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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