Update: Bishop Kelvin Wright, Bishop of Dunedin (NZ), has responded to this post on his excellent website. After reading my post, do go and read his here.
Motion 30 in NZ Anglicanism, that we can currently liturgically recognise committed same-gender couples, and that set up a working group towards formally blessing such couples, four months ago had questions formally posed to the Judicial Committee whether there are unconstitutional issues involved. We were told,
Under the canons, the Judicial Committee must give notice of the application to any ‘interested parties’ and invite any written statement on the questions submitted.
This will occur over the next few weeks.
We seem to have heard no more either about the meetings of the working group, nor about the formal questioning, nor have I seen the invitations mentioned. Transparency, of course, people are pointing out, was part of the issue how we got to where we are.
I am not in any way preempting the Judicial Committee’s determination, but I can see that there may be conflicts with elements embodied within the constitution.
But there are precedents that may present a workaround.
A Baptist minister was also an Anglican priest in good standing. His name is unimportant, as I will point out below that he is far from being an exception.
Obviously, in his role as Baptist minister, while vowing and signing his allegiance to Anglican doctrine and discipline, he followed Baptist practice of rebaptising, and presiding at the Lord’s Supper using forms unacceptable to Anglicans.
This was all totally public and known to the bishop(s).
This loophole models a way to sign and vow to Anglican doctrine and discipline on marriage whilst, in practice, blessing and marrying committed same-gender couples.
The loophole is not an exception; it is relatively common. In cooperating parishes (churches that are run by two denominations with the minister appointed now from one, then from the other denomination), Anglican priests regularly lead Holy Communion using what is acceptable, for example, to Presbyterians, but forbidden to Anglicans. They do so, not as Presbyterian clergy but as Anglican priests, often in Anglican-owned buildings, wearing Anglican vesture.
But wait – there’s more!
Anglican clergy vow and sign that they solemnly make the declaration affirming “allegiance to the doctrine to which clause 1 of the Fundamental Provisions and clauses 1 and 2 of Part B of that Constitution bear witness”. This is the foundation of the questioning whether motion 30 is unconstitutional.
The Book of Common Prayer 1662 is part of those clauses. It includes a service called “A Commination“. But our canons and statutes explicitly forbid the use of that service, A Commination. How can NZ Anglican clergy solemnly make the declaration affirming allegiance to the doctrine that a service, which is forbidden to be used, bears witness to?!
All this, along with ordaining women, allowing divorce and remarriage, and administering communion to the unconfirmed, provides several examples and models how the church and its clergy have been able to separate what is enshrined in our constitution from the practice allowed in our church.
In short, if the Judicial Commission determines that motion 30 is unconstitutional, there may be a workaround with strong precedence.
Related news is that
the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) has [unanimously] urged the Anglican Church of Canada not to amend its marriage canon (church law) to allow the marriage of same-sex couples, saying such a move would “cause great distress for the Communion as a whole, and for its ecumenical relationships.”
Rev. Tobias Haller blogs a response here.
The Anglican Church of Canada, of course, was one of the first to ordain women – including to the episcopate. One wonders if at that time IASCUFO might have urged the Anglican Church of Canada not to to allow the ordination of women, saying such a move would “cause great distress for the Communion as a whole, and for its ecumenical relationships.” One wonders how IASCUFO might respond if the CofE consulted it about its recent innovative decision to ordain women to the episcopate? One wonders if Henry VIII had listened to IASCUFO’s approach whether there would be an Anglican Communion with an IASCUFO at all.
Please do not take my reporting various examples of people working around our formularies, canons, and statutes as my agreement with or endorsement of those workarounds. This post is taking at face value General Synod Te Hinota Whanui’s unanimous claim that “those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary to scripture and doctrine” and “those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture and doctrine” both have a place in our church. This post is not about debating that, it is part of enabling that to be realised. If you want to discuss that claim, this is not the post to do that. There are plenty of other sites that vigorously discuss that.