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What Happened at General Synod 2018

General Synod Te Hinota Whanui
Members vote for Motion 7/29 to allow the blessing of committed same-sex couples

The 63rd General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui (GSTHW) met in the week of 4-11 May, 2018, in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Here are some brief reflections – particularly around discussions and decisions around worship and liturgy. The limitation to liturgy is not saying the other decisions are unimportant – quite the opposite. There is much that is more important than some of what is described here. A brief post on a liturgy blog would not do them justice.

If this NZ Anglican governance stuff doesn’t spin your wheels – go out and look at some trees, have a coffee, hug a friend, and see you tomorrow…

I spearheaded the urging to our Church to put General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui papers online (reports, motions, bills). That is now, thankfully, the case. What is now needed IMO (and I thought it would naturally follow; and this is done overseas) is the amendments be online also, and whether they passed or did not. I presume amendments were not done by hand on paper at the GSTHW meeting but, rather. digitally – so this should not be arduous. Some people are asking, for example, what the amendments are.

This post in some sense complements my hopes expressed here.

Reports from Anglican Taonga can be found here.
Twitter hashtags for the meeting were #Hinota18 #GSTHW18
Peter Carrell, a member of GSTHW, blogs about it here and here.

I will update this post as more information becomes available.

Update 1
Update 2

I may have missed information already in public – some people forget that I run this website voluntarily in snatches of time caught often early in the morning.

An interesting discussion has ensued around this opening Eucharist. Some people love the fact that in New Zealand Anglicans can go beyond the agreed edges in worship without any fear of discipline. Others are concerned about the abandonment of any real sense of common prayer in our Church – we have the widest allowances anywhere in the Anglican Communion (everything can be made up or drawn from any source – except the Eucharistic Prayer, or the framework of the essential words in the Eucharistic Prayer, must be authorised somewhere in the Anglican Communion), and yet here, at the gathering of our highest level of governance, GSTHW, our leadership finds this width too restrictive. There are those, too, who see inconsistency: there are those who have lost their licence (and livelihood) because of breaking a Formulary (our agreements), while breaking the agreements in worship is even condoned at the highest level of our Church. Those against blessing committed same-sex couples (the focus of this meeting of GSTHW) have regularly argued that doing so is in breach of the formularies.

Motion 4 – lying on the table since GSTHW 2016 with a proposal for formularies to enable blessing committed same-sex couples was withdrawn – Motion 7 (often nicknamed “Motion 29”), below, is what was sustained at GSTHW18.

Motion 5 – (lying on the table since GSTHW 2016) that confirmation become a pastoral option called Affirmation and that it no longer be required for ordination was withdrawn.
The Anglican Taonga report is here.

Motion 6 Anglican-Methodist Relations inviting the Methodist Conference to consider how it might give more explicit expression to the personal and enduring nature of episcopal ministry, and commits to responding in an open and generous way to the Methodist Conference should they be able to give effect to such an expression of episcopal ministry. Passed.

Motion 7 Motion 29 WG Report The motion received the most recent report towards blessing committed same-sex couple and accepted its recommendations in principle. Amended. Passed.
Read about some of the debate about process here;
then some of the debate here and here.
The associated Bills have been amended – I do not know what the amendments are.
Three Christchurch diocesan reps to GSTHW resigned immediately after the vote. You can read more about that here.
The Bishop of Dunedin Called for calm over same-sex blessings
It has been reported that some bishops have clarified that ordination will now be open in their diocese to those in such a blessed relationship.
Reverend Helen Jacobi of St Matthew in the City
GAFCON and here.

Until persuaded otherwise, I continue to hold that leaving the blessing up to the consciences of the clergy and couple (as we do with marrying divorcees) would have been a simpler, better way forward. This has precipitated the concern by people that they will be in disagreement with their bishop. Also, reports that blessings will now be available everywhere in NZ are false. Blessings will only be available if your bishop has authorised such a rite.
I have been told that while the individual bishop will authorise a blessing rite, there has been no discussion about how: will the bishops agree amongst themselves on a rite that they will authorise individually? [Would that rite actually be the one presented in Motion 4 above?] Or will each individual bishop authorise different rites, episcopal unit by episcopal unit? Or will individual clergy invent rites and present them, ceremony by ceremony, to the bishop for authorisation? In the latter cases, what “quality control” is there to ensure that the “demarkation line” between marriage and committed same-sex couples (which some are so concerned about) is maintained?

All in all, as the rumblings for leaving the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia seem to be beginning, one is left wondering if all the bending over backwards, and with “Christian Communities”, and other time-energy-and-structural-alterations to attempt to keep those against committed same-sex couples within the church will have been worth it…

Peter Carrell said it well, and his wise words were reported in the secular media: “there will not be one canonical change which requires you to do anything differently to what you are currently doing or to believe anything differently to what you currently believe.”

Motion 13 Title G Canon III of Marriage Review This motion moves beyond blessing committed same-sex couples to the possibility of marriage equality. For some, this would be too early. But, one might be surprised how close the vote already was: 29-31 against.

Bills 1, 2, & 3 withdrawn

Bill 8 confirming collect endings as a formulary – Withdrawn
Bill 6 was proposed as an alternative to Bill 8. Passed (does anyone know with or without amendments)

Bills 9 & 10 to confirm Te Reo Maori liturgical usages – Passed

Bill 11 expanding A Form for Ordering the Eucharist to be expanded to include any Eucharistic Prayer authorised anywhere in the Anglican Communion – I understand that was lost.

Bill 12 to begin the process to expand A Form for Ordering the Eucharist to allow any Eucharistic Prayer authorised by GSTHW – Passed

Bill 13 to begin the process to narrow An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist to no longer allow any Eucharistic Prayer only authorised elsewhere in the Anglican Communion – Passed

He Tonga Tongarewa: A history of a New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa was launched at GSTHW. It is the result of two years work by Geoffrey Haworth. Unfortunately, errors in the printing meant that copies are not yet available. I look forward to reading it.

Report of the Common Life Liturgical Commission

Apologies for errors and ommissions. I have done my best. Any news or corrections – please just put this in the comments below, and I will update the post as I can.

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image source: Anglican Taonga

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8 Responses to What Happened at General Synod 2018

  1. Hi Bosco
    Bills 12 and 13 were passed (with GSTHW understanding that not passing Bill 11 implied commitment to pass the alternatives to it, albeit two bills).

    I would love to know where you got you count from re Motion 13 – no count was announced to the Synod. However I am not disputing that the vote was close. Essentially the vote against the motion was a vote for your point over the years: we have spent so much energy on the matter which could be productively spent on other matters closer to the growth of the kingdom, let us have a break from expending that energy!

    I think your point about condoning breaking of Formularies at the highest level needs nuancing. According to comments I heard in discussion, there is a genuine misunderstanding (at worst) and difference of interpretation (at best) over what the flexibility of our Formularies means. That is, “the top” were not condoning the breaking of Formularies by using that particular eucharist, they genuinely thought it allowable within our flexibility.

    In my own reference to the eucharist in speaking to Bills 11-13 I made the point that Formularies are about what we agree together via our synods and the words we were invited to say, though a translation of Maori in one of our Formularies, were not words we would agree together to say (e.g. using “sky” for “heaven”).

    In other words, I would focus less on questions of (il)legality/(un)authorised and more on questions of self-understanding as a body of what it means to have a common life and belief expressed through common worship.

    • Thanks, Peter. I am updating my post.

      I cannot understand, if Bill 12 passes the voting in dioceses/hui amorangi and next GSTHW, what Bill 13 adds – other than still more confusion. Bill 13 simply removes the right to use Eucharistic Prayers from the Anglican Communion not authorised here. What does this revised Alternative Form of Ordering the Eucharist now add? GSTHW should have simply begun the process of removing An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist from our formularies.

      Was the vote for Motion 13 by hands? If so, someone simply counted the hands up.

      Your other paragraphs simply underscore that we are confused about our “self-understanding as a body” to the highest level. Can a bishop authorise services for which a formulary is already provided? Are ordinations in which there is no laying on of hands on heads, because of cultural concerns, acceptable? Etc., etc., etc…

      Easter Season Blessings.

      • Hi Bosco
        I am sure you are right about Motion 12/13 but it might be for another day to make our situation simpler and less confusing. Yes, someone may have counted the hands (other than the scrutineers). I called for the show of hands!

  2. Bill 8 withdrawn; Bill 6 passed (though I cannot recall whether there were amendments).

    Bills 9 and 10 passed.

  3. Whether or not the bending over backwards was worth it might depend on how many of traditional conviction remain , either associated with Affirm, or not associated with Affirm. Jonathan.

  4. Dear Bosco,
    Thanks for your very full report on the proceedings of General Synod 2018.

    My main attention – with all due respect to your own special interests in liturgy – was on the fact that G.S. by a working majority passed a motion that allowed (it did not compel any clergy or parish to comply with this arrangement) civilly married same-sex partners to seek and possibly receive a ceremony of a blessing on them in their relationship.

    It seems to me that, in a Church that has a license to bless almost anything deemed worthy of blessing – that, to extend God’s Blessing upon two people who love one another, and who wish to spend the rest of their lives together is right and proper.

    However, for those few clergy and parishes that have difficulty with this concept – and obviously there are some who have already declared the seeming impossibility of them staying within our Church on this matter – then, after being advised of the possible consequences, if they still wish to depart they should be allowed to go with our blessing. Private conscience is a precious part of our Christian heritage, and each of us has to live within the limitations of our own conscience.

    • Thanks, Fr Ron.

      I’m not sure what you reference “with all due respect to your own special interests in liturgy” refers to. The motion on blessing committed same-sex couples is fully reported in my post.

      Also, some of your comment may give the wrong impressions to readers here.

      The motion passed, I have been told, with about 90% voting in favour.

      Parish vestries (and note, please, Anglican mission and ministry – blessings included – extends well beyond parishes) will be consulted but their positions do not have to be followed. So there need not be a parish position. I am aware that since this vote, in a parish aligned with an anti-blessing-committed-same-sex-couples organisation, the clergy have come out as being open to giving such a blessing if asked and able.

      Which brings me to the final point of clarification: I have been seeking (and do again in the post) what you indicate as now possible – that clergy and couples can celebrate such a blessing following their conscience. They cannot. The bishop has to be involved. If your bishop does not authorise a rite, you can no more bless such a couple than you could before this vote was passed.

      Blessings.

  5. Sorry, Bosco, I may have given the wrong impression(s) in my post.

    1. I am fully aware that the local bishop must approve of any same-sex couple Blessing in their diocese.

    2. You have now made me aware that, whatever a parish orientation on the question of SSM Blessings may be, this would not prevent the parish clergy from celebrating such a blessing – provided the local bishop approves.

    (a) I am glad to note that the clergy of one such parish has already committed to celebrating a blessing – if asked and provided the bishop approves.

    (b) My remark about the individual conscience of clergy had nothing to do with the ‘approved’ Motion 7 proposal; but with my own personal understanding of what might have been a better solution than the one provided. (a solution which, I think you have yourself advocated at some time.)

    (c) I agree that 90% approval of Motion 7 is more than my measly ‘working majority. Let’s hope it ‘works’)

    Reciprocal 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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