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What Say We Don’t Pass Bill 4/Statute 711?

crossWarning: If the worship life of Anglicanism (and, relatedly, our doctrine) in Aotearoa New Zealand interests you, read on. If it does not, go for a walk, talk to a friend, pray, have a coffee…

[Updated 17 August 2014: I’ve just noticed in the schedule of motions for our diocesan synod that there is no reference to “Bill 4” – there, it is referred to as “Statute 711”. I have updated below to reflect this. It has also had some of the material from GSTHW stripped away. Furthermore, there is no mention in the GSTHW minutes of anything about Bill 4 until you get to the fourth day of the meeting of GSTHW when it, with 8 other Bills, is confirmed by a motion from the chair].

Recently, General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) passed Bill 4/Statute 711 to alter our Constitution. This needs now to be debated and voted on in diocesan synods and hui amorangi; and if it passes there, it goes back to a newly elected GSTHW for another vote there; and if it passes that, after a year it becomes law. Usually, once GSTWH passes something the first time, it has a generally smooth ride until it becomes law and our Constitution is changed.

But I am questioning: what would happen if we didn’t pass this particular Bill? What would we loose? What would we gain?

Let’s just push “pause” a moment and not rush forward. Because I think we may have a lot to gain by not passing it, and nothing to loose…

What is Bill 4/Statute 711 about? What will it achieve?

Our church has formularies (agreed belief and practice). Services which are formularies are authorised for use – and that is recognised by our parliament in the Church of England Empowering Act 1928. Our property and income etc. belongs to the community that uses the authorised services and holds to the beliefs and practices of our formularies.

Bill 4 (some may be surprised) acknowledges that much of what we have been doing is “inconsistent with the 1928 Act and lacks fundamental authorisation in the first place.” [This is in the Notes to support the Bill, and these notes are noticeably missing from the Statute seeking our diocesan assent].

What Bill 4/Statute 711 seeks to do is legally expand “authorised services” from the formularies to allow bishops, for example, to authorise services beyond the current flexibility. Suspiciously? uniquely, Bill 4/Statute 711 if passed, and the changes made to our Constitution, does not produce what the Bill’s intended! Another Bill will have to follow, its wording not yet specified, which will, only then, enable the broadening of “authorised services”.

Pause: what if we don’t vote to assent to Bill 4/Statute 711 towards its confirmation? What happens then? What are the consequences? My suspicion: we have nothing to loose and may have a lot to gain.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think there is any other Anglican province which allows the sort of flexibility we have in our current authorised services, our formularies. Just some examples: for the Eucharist the only words that our church has as fixed and required are those of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Great Thanksgiving. And for those words we can use any Eucharistic Prayer authorised in any Anglican church anywhere in the Anglican Communion. And that includes any of the framework Eucharistic Prayers (for example the two in TEC’s BCP 1979, etc). I would be surprised if anyone can tell me how many Eucharistic Prayers that actually is! And, remember, that’s all that is required – everything else in your Eucharistic liturgy you can draw from wherever you like – or just make it up.

For a non-eucharistic service we similarly have the omni-flexible A Form for Ordering A Service of the Word. What can not fit into this particular formulary?!

With currently our agreed formularies being so broad and incredibly flexible, surely it stretches our integrity to refer to our worship as “common prayer”? What is actually not flexible enough that Bill 4/Statute 711 is required? If you are in favour of Bill 4/Statute 711, the onus is on you to tell us why our agreements need to be widened even further than they currently are – with our current formularies so wide, other members of the Anglican Communion must look on our agreements with disbelief!

Some might suggest that we need Bill 4/Statute 711 in order to give Motion 30 (to bless committed same-sex couples) legal traction. I do not think so. Bill 4 [in the Notes to Support the Bill, missing from Statute 711 as we receive it for diocesan assent] insists that it will cover services

(a) Based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ and/or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’ [being our existing framework for liturgical development]
(b) Not inconsistent with the teachings of the Formularies…
(d) Will generally be suitable for occasional and non-controversial services in the life of the Church

If we cannot bless committed same-sex couples within the current formularies, we will not be able to do so should Bill 4/Statute 711 (and its required-to-make-it-work future Bill) pass.

Can you tell me anything that will be gained by passing Bill 4? If not – don’t pass it; speak and vote against it at your diocesan synod or hui amorangi; and advocate with others not to let it pass.

What do you think?

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20 Responses to What Say We Don’t Pass Bill 4/Statute 711?

  1. I would add in a point you almost make but do not quite explicate!

    It goes like this:

    There is a tendency in diocesan synods to receive such bills, presume there is not much going on with it, give it a tick and send it back to GS.

    Bill 4, in fact, is not a bill to receive and give a tick to, but a bill to examine with the utmost care. So the point is,

    Synods do not let this bill get your tick unless and until you have examined it with due diligence. Debate it. Put off the tick for a year till your next synod. Ask questions beyond the bill, such as, What liturgical life do we wish this church to have? Where do we wish to be liturgically in ten or twenty years time? Will this Bill enable us to get there, or keep us going in a different direction?

    • Thanks, Peter.

      Yes, you are underlining my point, “Usually, once GSTWH passes something the first time, it has a generally smooth ride”. Your point is to be underscored; we are not merely adding something, say, to our collection of formularies (some of which are pretty shonky). We are in the process of altering our Constitution. And I reinforce: I do not understand why, for the first time in my knowledge, we are being given a Bill which will not effect its intention if passed, but we are promised a further Bill, wording unspecified, which will need to follow once this is passed, to make this Bill work! Why are we not given the wording of all that is needed in one go?! I stress again: I cannot see what the real intention of this Bill is. What positive difference will it make? If there is anyone supportive of this Bill reading this thread, I look forward to their explanation of why they support it. I am pleased, Peter, you are joining me in questioning the point of this significant Bill. Blessings.

      • Hi Bosco
        I have now had time and opportunity to read further through our Synod papers.

        I think I can see the point of the bill, and thus can consider supporting it (though wish to hear the arguments before making a final determination re voting).

        As I understand the bill, it is making the modest step of offering a definition of what authorised services consist of when the phrase ‘authorised services’ occurs in our Constitution.

        Given that the phrase does exist in the constitution and given that, ahem, a certain southern priest has previously raised questions which have exposed the lack of clarity about what services are what, on the face of it, the bill looks like a reasonable attempt to offer clarity re the constitution.

        What would then count as authorised services is, in my view, uncontroversial: Formularies (tick), Experimental uses as authorised under the CEEA 1928 (tick, unless we have a plan to go to parliament to change that Act), other services authorised under G XIV (i.e. services a whole tikanga agrees to, providing not inconsistent with our doctrine) – am prepared to tick that since, well, I have already ticked that when I signed my declarations!

        As for the subsequent intention to repeal G VI, SRL3, and consequential amendments to G XIV, are not the first two necessary if we are to slim down our vast array of services, and if some devil lies in the third, then we have time to learn about that and respond.

        • Let me say at the outset of my response to you, Peter, that I appreciate receiving this supporting of the Bill/Statute. I have written two posts about this (here and here), and in the over two thousand people that have read them, I think this is the first comment publicly or privately supporting this Bill/Statute. I would have thought someone would support it, but instead, people have contacted me, including from General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), to express confusion and unhappiness about this Bill/Statute. So your supporting argument is welcomed and appreciated.

          1) May I reinforce the confusion around this Statute. Our official church media claims that this Statute has been “confirmed and passed into law”. This is patently confused and false. I have read through the Minutes of GSTHW, and, far from spotting several readings of this Bill and “detailed consideration“, I can see no mention of it until the moving of it from the Chair along with a number of other Bills. No one has been able to express to me what the claimed “detailed consideration” involved.

          2) Repealing G VI, SRL3: “The issues with Title G Canon XIV and SLR3 are two –fold – (1) inconsistency with the 1928 Act and (2) lack of fundamental authorisation in the first place.” So yes, if these illegal pieces need to be repealed (and are not already de facto repealed by that statement) then, certainly, repeal them. Do explain, as you continue this discussion, why the group moving this Bill did not move the repealing of these two pieces at the same time?

          3) “consequential amendments to G XIV”: I have never yet met a Bill that does not effect its intention! Why is the wording for the intended amendment to G XIV not provided with this Bill – this Statute, as it stands, will not effect what you suggest it intends!

          3a) Could you be explicit, please, Peter, giving an example of what you think should be able to be covered by a yet-unrevealed amended G XIV that is not already covered by our formularies of A Form for Ordering the Eucharist, An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, and A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word. Perhaps you are thinking of a baptism rite unique to Tikanga Maori? I would respond that for a baptism rite I think that should receive the authorisation of GSTHW.

          4) So now we come to your crux point, I think: your contention that “authorised services” needs defining. There is absolute agreement that services that go through the process of the CofE Empowering Act/Twice Round Constitutional approach are thereby authorised for use. So what this Bill/Statute comes down to for you, it seems, is the need to explicitly define that “authorised services” in the Constitution refers to services that are authorised! Really?!

          5) As to your contention that you “have already ticked G XIV when you signed your declarations” – isn’t that one of the things that this Bill/Statute is precisely disputing?!

          Blessings

          • Hi Bosco
            (1) Confusion in reporting is not confusion de jure.
            (2)I am not part of the group.
            (3)The statute speaks to existing legislation/canons. Future changes to this or that canon are future changes to this or that canon.
            (3a) It is not for me to foreclose on what the other tikanga, or indeed my own, might deem desirable in the fulness of time re a ‘tikanga service’. But this option would give Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pakeha grounds for agreeing on services for the blessing of same sex partnerships which Tikanga Pasefika did not feel able to support (e.g. because of differing laws in their countries to the law in AotNZ).
            (4) You yourself have raised questions of clarity. Is it not a good thing that one aspect of desired clarity would be given if this statute passes?
            (5)Not at all. Until such time as G XIV is amended, it is a canon to which I have signed up. So have you! If we find that the amendments are not to our taste we may need to … well, you know, do something about it!

          • Thanks, Peter.

            I suspect that if, having carefully followed my concerns, you do not end up seeing my point, then I think there may be little chance of pushing pause on this motion as we debate it at the diocesan synod; and even less chance of getting other synods and hui amorangi to push pause. Of course, if the penny I am holding drops with you then you may be able to rephrase the issues to help others see who cannot follow the particular way I present my points.

            3) Your response is inadequate, Peter. A Bill needs to effect the purpose of the Bill. This Bill does not. The Notes foreshadow an amended G XIV for services which”…Will generally be suitable for occasional and non-controversial services in the life of the Church…”

            If you are now suggesting that G XIV is unaltered when this Statute passes then yes, your (3a) may be correct, that this Statute is required to effect implementing Motion 30 to bless committed same-sex couples. However, when I first raised that you yourself insisted that is not the case. If you have changed your mind – please explain.

            4) Yes. Some clarification has happened. It is now overt: currently only formularies are authorised services – the statute does not need to become law for that clarification. This Statute is to broaden authorised services beyond formularies. I suggest that with A Form for Ordering the Eucharist, An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, and A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word our authorised services are far broader than any other Anglican church. I am needing someone to explain why they still are not broad enough.

            5) I fail to understand why you insist that a canon that GSTHW has indicated is “(1) inconsistent with the 1928 Act and
            (2) lacks fundamental authorisation in the first place.” still binds you in particular. I do not see it as binding me.

            Blessings.

  2. “Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think there is any other Anglican province which allows the sort of flexibility we have in our current authorised services, our formularies.”

    From an outside POV, I would say that’s right! Around here “NZ Prayer Book on Fifth Sunday of the month” is code for “liturgically avant-garde/Mother Jesus fare”. Usually the same kind of parishes where “Hear what the spirit is saying to the Church” ends the readings, the Shema acts as the “Creed,” and and God is invoked as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.” (I imagine actual NZ Anglicans run the usual gamut, but those here who seek out your forms make up a pretty reliable “type”).

  3. Hi Bosco
    It is precisely the kind of rejoinder you make which gives me pause for thought!

    Out of your rejoinder I see that a locus of reflection and investigation is G XIV (and I also see how unhelpful it is for dioceses to have the bill/statute to approve without the notes to the bill which GS had before it). I will think further about G XIV. Aided by coffee with you?

    I think it important to distinguish between changes being made because they need to be made (i.e. irrespective of any Motion such as Motion 30) and changes being made which might, coincidentally, assist any particular development from Motion 30 we might agree to.

    Giving an example of how the proposed changes might assist a hypothetical possible consequence of our deliberations about Motion 30 does not, of itself, mean that proposed changes in Statute 711 are necessarily connected to Motion 30.

    Put another way, I am open to being convinced that we need Statute 711 because it is needed to get us out of the ‘fine old mess’ we are in liturgically. If I learned that Statute 711 was effectively a conspiracy to aid some predetermined outcome of Motion 30, I would vote against it. (I hasten to add, I have no reason to think their is such a conspiracy).

    • Yes, Peter. I agree it surprised me that the notes for Statute 711 have been removed for our diocesan vote. One might argue that the notes are not part of the actual Statute. My response to that would be that we are regularly provided with explanatory notes to go with a motion, and that altering our Constitution is of such importance (particularly in this case and at this juncture) that not providing these notes is of concern.

      I hold to my point that Statute 711 is not required in order to clarify that “authorised services” refers to services that have been authorised following the CofE Empowering Act/Constitutional twice-round process. So if Statute 711 is not passed that would still be the case. In slightly other words: at the current moment, without 711 in law, we are totally within our rights to use formularies for our services. Are you and I in agreement about that?

      Hence 711 is not about drawing back “the ‘fine old mess’ we are in liturgically”, its final effect, once G XIV is amended, is to expand the current legal position. Furthermore, this conversation with you has clarified, that whereas the notes suggested this expansion would be for services which would “generally be suitable for occasional and non-controversial services in the life of the Church”, because the wording has not been provided in this Statute we may very well find the commission for Motion 30 returning with the point that we cannot move forward unless other wording is used.

      Can you, or anyone, come up with any other service that we need that is not provided for in our formularies nor appropriately should go through the GSTHW process for authorisation? If you cannot, then I suggest we push pause on this vote which potentially increases not decreases our confusion – just at the juncture (as you have been pointing out) when we seem to be getting some order.

      Like you, I am very open to being convinced. But I see nothing yet that makes sense of this Statute to the point of my voting in its favour, but rather the opposite.

      Blessings.

      • Hi Bosco
        We are agreed that we may use formularies!

        I am seeing now more clearly your point that it is difficult to see a need for Statute 711.

        Though might there be an argument that 711 does rule out with explicit clarity some services currently being used which ought not to be used? (You don’t have to answer that question – it is partly written in the hope that we receive helpful clarity in our synod discussion).

        • Could you give an example, Peter please, of “some services currently being used which ought not to be used” that 711 “rules out with explicit clarity” – that would help me if it helps the conversation further. Blessings.

          • The fact that, off the top of my head, I cannot give such examples does not mean that such examples do not exist.

            But your question presumably lies at the heart of the debate we are about to have …!

  4. This is a very important issue. Perhaps we could simply ask those behind the Bill why this is needed and if it relates to Motion 30. It looks quite unnecessary to me.

  5. I think we are in total agreement then, Peter.

    We would be in favour of Statute 711 if

    a) there are services which need to be allowed, which are not allowed by our broader-than-any-other-Anglican-Province formularies, but which are not appropriately dealt with by GSTHW and thus need to have a wording-won’t-be-specified-until-much-later amended Canon G XIV

    and/or

    b) Statute 711 rules out with explicit clarity some services currently being used which ought not to be used examples of which neither you nor I can think of.

    If neither (a) nor (b) is correct, we will speak, write, and vote against Statute 711, and promote the same action in other dioceses and hui amorangi because, as currently presented, this Statute threatens to broaden the (already seemingly too broad) broader-than-any-other-Anglican-Province authorised services, without any clarity of the edges of this authorisation until we are presented with the wording-won’t-be-specified-until-much-later amended Canon G XIV.

    As no one, but no one, has given any evidence whatsoever for either (a) or (b) I think it is incumbent to proceed against this Statute until someone does so.

    Blessings

  6. This lays the issue out very clearly for me. Thanks Bosco. Unless I hear a reason for this then I will be voting NO.

  7. Another thought occurs to me. Perhaps this Bill is just a recognition that we have been in breach of the Church of England Empowering Act and is some kind of ill thought through mea culpa?

    • Yes, Andrew, that recognition is in the notes which are removed in the Statute as we receive it in the dioceses and hui amorangi for our vote, and is not in what the Statute will finally effect in the alteration of our Constitution. Blessings.

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