This is the decision-making flow chart for the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia on whether to bless committed same-sex couples, and allow for clergy that are in such a relationship.
To place this flow chart in context, it is important to compare it with the flow chart for other significant decisions.
So here are some of those flow charts first:
Allow heterosexual divorcees to remarry in church (Luke 16:18): report; vote; done.
Allow women to be priests (1 Tim 2:12): report; vote; done.
Have two co-equal bishops in one diocese: report; vote; done.
Most things: just do it, whether it’s allowed or not; done.
Abortion: don’t talk about it.
Clergy training and formation: don’t talk about it.
Liturgical chaos: don’t talk about it.
National statistics: don’t gather them.
Bless same-sex couples and allow for clergy that are in such a relationship:
At the Provincial Liturgy Commission produce a rite for the Blessing of a Relationship.
At General Synod, pass the Worship Template which mentions “blessing… making and renewing of vows” and allows for the Blessing of a Relationship rite to be used. [Yes, we were the first; this was at using the (see above) well-worn “report; vote; done” flow diagram of our church]
But wait! There’s more!
Debate it at Lambeth Conference.
International consternation is followed by international commission, report…
When things start to warm up, remove the Blessing of a Relationship rite, which was on official church websites, from those websites.
Have a bishop state that ordaining someone in a committed, life-long, monogamous relationship with someone of the same sex may result in a a public determination that the ordination in question was invalid.
Stop receiving communion when someone is there whom you disagree with on this.
Stop attending international meetings of the communion if someone is there whom you disagree with on this.
Don’t discuss the issue; try sleight of hand and distraction techniques – look at the cool Anglican Covenant over here.
Pass motions at diocesan synods.
Have a Lambeth Conference where no decisions are made whatsoever.
Don’t invite the only Anglican bishop who is honest and open about his committed same-sex relationship to come to the non-deciding, non-binding-anyway Lambeth Conference.
Have dioceses hold meetings and consult about this.
Have large province-wide hui (gatherings) to consult about this.
Try to set up a Commission of church experts to consult about this.
Set up a Commission of respected non-Anglicans to gather information about this (the Ma Whea? Mei Fe Ki Fe? Where To? Commission).
The Ma Whea? Commission appeals for more submissions.
Have the Ma Whea? Commission meet with a “Reference Group” of church experts to consult about this.
Try to set up hui (gatherings) about marriage.
Set up a “Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions” about this.
This new doctrinal commission will make its findings available to the wider church for response.
It will then produce a report and present this report and those responses to General Synod Standing Committee and the Ma Whea Commission.
Having gone through this latest decision-making flow diagram (I have possibly left out some steps, been confused, but the essence is correct), you may by now have forgotten the earlier flow diagrams. So, here are some of those earlier flow diagrams again, along with some others:
Allow remarried heterosexual divorcees to receive communion: report; vote; done.
Province-wide standards for ordination: don’t talk about it.
Keep national statistics of church attendance, age-distribution, etc.: don’t talk about it.
Allow women bishops: vote; done.
Allow divorced priests and bishops (1 Tim 3:2): don’t talk about it.
Allow anything except blessing committed same-sex couples, and clergy in such a relationship: don’t talk about it.
NB. Attitudes to committed same-sex couples appear to be about as fixed as sexual orientation. In all the decades of debating, I do not think I have observed someone alter their basic attitude significantly.
ps. There is not much online discussion, that I am aware of, in our church about blessing committed same-sex couples, and clergy in such a relationship. If you are interested in such a discussion, the most focused would be on the blog site of my friend and colleague Rev. Dr Peter Carrell, who takes what he would describe as a “conservative evangelical” position on his site Anglican Downunder. To get a range of the opinions it is good to read through all the comments (say here and here). It is notable how quickly those who like confessional lists of beliefs resort to the word “heretical”, including against each other at the same “conservative evangelical” part of the Christian spectrum. Historically, confessional purity results in ever finer fragmentation.
pps. It is good to have been pointed to a video of the well-known Roman Catholic theologian Fr James Alison (noted for his application of René Girard’s anthropological theory to theology). Here he introduces the understanding that if being gay is a regularly occurring non-pathological minority variant in the human condition, rather than the Vatican’s teaching that it is an “objective disorder”, there needs to be a rethinking about how that affects ethics to enable and encourage human flourishing: