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blessing and ordaining gays?

The suggestion that the orders of ordained gays may be invalid, motions from at least two dioceses with new bishops asking about the rumour of a moratorium on ordaining gays, and pressure from St Matthew in the City, Auckland, are amongst reasons why General Synod Standing Committee meeting in Fiji last week passed the following motion:

General Synod Standing Committee, meeting in Nadi in July 2011,

Being mindful of ACC-15 meeting in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2012 as an instrument of Communion, and of the ongoing debates in the world wide Anglican Communion,

And also being aware of at least three potential motions coming to GSTHW in 2012 around issues of same sex relationships, blessing, and ordination, thought it appropriate to prepare GSTHW for discussion and consideration of these issues, and accordingly,


1. That General Synod Standing Committee at its meeting in November 2011 appoint a Commission made up of a small Three Tikanga group of eminent people with ability, credibility, and a commitment to work in prayerful collegiality, to report to General Synod/te Hinota Whanui on:

(a) A summary of the biblical and theological work done by our Church on the issues surrounding Christian ethics, human sexuality and the blessing and ordination of people in same sex relationships, including missiological, doctrinal, canonical, cultural and pastoral issues; and

(b) The principles of Anglican ecclesiology and, in light of our diversity, the ecclesial possibilities for ways forward for our Three Tikanga Church; and

(c) The implications of (a) and (b) on the place of our Three Tikanga Church as a whole within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

2. That General Synod Standing Committee immediately establish a small working group to propose, by 31 August 2011, the membership of the Commission.

3. The Commission will be asked to report progress to the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui in 2012 but in any event to complete its work and report to General Synod/te Hinota Whanui by 2014.

4. The General Synod Standing Committee ask each Episcopal unit to comment on the terms of reference and the membership of the Commission prior to the November meeting of the General Synod Standing Committee.

5. That various bodies of this Church, through the terms of reference, be available to offer the Commission advice on specific matters or questions, including the Doctrinal Commission, the Judicial Committee, the Liturgical Commission, as well as the bench of Bishops. The Commission will be free to take such advice and any other advice that it deems appropriate and to receive submissions.


  • By “our Church” does 1a refer to The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia or something else?
  • It is hard to understand why it has taken until now to begin this sort of discussion. And it is hard to know what significant new information such a Commission will present that the sort of well-informed person who is a member of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui wouldn’t already know. In other words – why can this not be debated without further delay? And why hasn’t this been done much, much earlier?
  • The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia was the first in the Anglican Communion to allow the blessing of same-sex couples.
  • I advocated rescinding the Worship Template and discussing the gay blessing rite on its own merit here.
  • The motions passed by diocesan synods and the response of a chancellor is here.
  • The response of the Bishop of Auckland to a letter from St Matthew in the City is here (note, as I mentioned, even the bishop gets the name of our church wrong 🙂 )

Outspoken: Coming Out in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand This is a new book which presents the narratives of 11 people who have come out in the Anglican Church in New Zealand, including two ordained church members. I do not have the book yet.

Meanwhile, all this is happening in parallel to discussion about the “Anglican Covenant” which may or may not have any bearing on this discussion… But Mad Priest’s image may express it best:

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49 thoughts on “blessing and ordaining gays?”

  1. Edward Prebble

    Bosco, I absolutely agree with your questioning of why it has taken so long to get this work done, and of why we need to allow over 2 years for the task. After all, General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui authorised this work in a motion in 2004 (I should know, as I moved the motion), and asked for the work to be done by 2006.

    I think a number of our bishops, especially ++David, have fallen into the same trap as ++Rowan. When confronted with dissent and division, you put all your energy into considerations of process. that is why we have wasted ten years of the international church’s resources and energies into the Windsor Report, the whole Covenant debate/debacle, indaba gatherings, the Listening Process, three years worth of Hermeneutical Hui etc, etc.

    Has anyone’s mind been changed by all this “good process”? Does anyone think anything new will come out of this commission, except some suggestions of ways forward, for debate at GS/THW, of the kind that you, or Peter Carrell, or I, could come up with on our own in a free afternoon?

    Reading Liz Lightfoot’s book, on the other hand, is much more likely to shift minds, as it addresses the heart first. Should be compulsory reading.

    1. I think you are right, Edward. I struggle to think of someone whose essential position has shifted over the years of discussion. With the rarest of exceptions, it seems people hold a particular position and then seek reasons to buttress that position. I look forward to reading Liz’s book. People do move through encounters with actual persons: through meeting women priests and bishops, married clergy, divorced persons in a new marriage,… What was the 2004 motion you mention & why wasn’t there big noise when it wasn’t completed by 2006?

  2. Hi Bosco,

    I share the frustration you and Edward feel (and said so at GSSC). Part of the issue is that we are working as a three tikanga Church and one tikanga has only just begun this conversation.

    What is important to note is that the Commission’s timeframe as originally proposed would have been twice as long at least, and open-ended. We were quite clear – 2014 at the latest!

    Of course there will still be at least a couple if motions going to General Synod, so we could pass or defeat them and make any further work by the Commission superfluous. As Edward has suggested, however, some of us hope the Commission will be done by July next year.

  3. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco and Brian and Edward,

    I would like to be assured – for I do not feel that I am at all assured – that:

    (1) Our General Synod members understand well the make up of our church across all our parishes and rohe. Generally speaking our church is unrepresentative. To speak only for the Diocese in which Bosco and I reside, our largest parishes are conservative in theological outlook, yet have (more or less) the same voting power as our smallest parishes with a liberal theological perspective. Mutatis mutandem, General Synod just does not have the representation of our conservative parishes that a truly democratic system would have. I think there is a good chance that General Synod could make a decision which will split this church once and for all. The official ACANZAP which would be left, should this happen, would consist of a number of parishes and rohe overpopulated with elderly.

    (2) Our General Synod is embarking on this course of action completely open to any outcome of the commission’s deliberations and subsequent recommendations. I sense that everything is weighted towards an outcome which will see change occur, rather than the status quo maintained. Whether or not we think that change would be a good thing, I think we could consider whether we are really a church with an episcopal and synodical leadership with a collective open mind on where this will lead.

    Speaking personally, both as a known conservative and as someone named herein(!), I would like to work on a way forward which sees our church find an appropriate and unified way forward. (That’s an offer of general support for the process, by the way. I am NOT putting my hand up re being on the commission!). I do not know if it can be done, but I think it could be crucial if there is real engagement with the community of conservatives in our church).

    Yes, there is another mutatis mutandem … much above could be written slightly differently and conclude with ‘real engagement with the community of gays in our church.’

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Peter. I would need to be convinced re. your contention that larger parishes do not have larger representation. The schedule allows for three times as many lay people from larger parishes to have a vote on the diocesan synod than from smaller parishes, and all licensed clergy from a parish have a vote. If you want larger parishes to have more than three times the lay representation of smaller parishes, you can seek to alter that at our forthcoming diocesan synod meeting.

  4. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco,
    At the moment I am not seeking to change our system – it muddles along well enough. But it could give misleading impressions in respect of some issues. Currently (on your up to 3x point re laity, licensed clergy have a vote), we could have parish X with 3 clergy, 1 layperson, 60 regular worshippers, and parish Y with 2 clergy, 3 laypersons and 600 regular worshippers. On “all in” votes thats 1:15 representation in parish X and 1:120 representation votes for parish Y; if a division by houses is called … well, I won’t labour the mathematics.

    It would also be interesting to think about representation according to dollars contributed to diocesan mission and ministry positions and projects. No taxation without representation … 🙂

    1. I am not trying to justify the current proportions, Peter. But I also do not think that our decision-making processes are simply about proportional representation – either bottoms on pews, or wealth-weighted.

      So, especially for non-Christchurch/NZ readers, I’ve picked up our diocesan stats. Average attendance is 113 people a week. We have one (NB one!) parish as Peter describes, Avonhead, with 600/week. They have 6 clergy – that they do not have them all licensed or employ more or a different configuration is clearly someone’s decision… (aside: interesting for such a large congregation, to only have 8 baptisms for the year!!!???) Next parish is Fendalton with 450 average, 7 clergy (47 baptisms – to continue the aside). Next is St Michael’s, 365, 5 clergy (23 baptisms). Opawa/St Martin’s 320, 6 clergy. Another 5 parishes have over 200 a week. The cathedral (which is not a parish) has 1,092 a week and 12 clergy. From this quick list I would also now like to go back and challenge your earlier comment that our largest communities are conservative in theological outlook. I might go so far as to say that a good half of these stronger communities are middle of the road with some less-conservative-in-theological-outlook elements. And that the other communities would have some broader elements present also (and some other surprises!) As you know, I do not give much traction to such categorisations; and find such statements generally unhelpful.

  5. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco,
    Yes, parish life is complicated in our and all dioceses … analysis within the discussion in this thread about theological tendencies needs (in my view) to also take account of attendance figures being a reflection of factors such as attached- or associated- school attendance … certainly our cathedral is a notable, but non-parish exception to an observation that our largest parishes are conservative in outlook.

    Perhaps I should add that some of our smallest parishes are also conservative in outlook!

    1. Greetings Peter

      I am very reluctant to continue with this approach – both the continuing categorisation of people and parishes into “conservative” or not, rather than addressing things issue by issue; and the pressing of a form of decision-making that ultimately will lead to needing a referendum on decisions (of whom? All the baptised? Those attending weekly? Or your suggestion: in proportion to how much they give?) I do not believe this is how to make decisions in Christianity.

      Secondly, I’m not sure what your point is about figures reflecting “attached- or associated- school attendance”. In your analysis, the many young people of our schools are possibly the least represented! Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that of the hundreds present at our diocesan synod only one member represents the thousands of students in our Anglican schools.

      Thirdly, and especially for those reading from outside Christchurch/Canterbury/NZ – our Christchurch diocesan rep on GSSC is Ruth Wildebore, who comes from the parish of Avonhead (the large one mentioned in my comment above), and which, Peter, you would classify as “theologically conservative”. In other words, Peter, you are complaining about a lack of representation from our diocese on GSSC of what you see as a “conservative” weighting at a time when the representation happens to be exactly from what you term such a “conservative” community!

      As I understand it GSSC has some you would classify as evangelical, some you would classify as liberal, and lots in between.



      1. Peter Carrell

        Hi Bosco,
        My questions have been about General Synod (not the Standing Committee) fully understanding the life of our church, and whether those elected their properly represent the large conservative constituency in our church.

        Discussion about various parish figures has been to give examples of how various groupings in our church may not be well represented. It has included the question of whether parish attendance figures are the best measure of such groupings, especially in relation to certain issues which adults may be more engaged with than children. I would be surprised, for example, if a child at one of our church primary schools had a view on (say) communion-without-baptism, or retaining the filioque clause or not. (In respect of representation of young people at a school not attached to a parish, if they are also involved in their local parish then, arguably, they are doubly represented at synod).

        As for GSSC it is of comfort to know that various groups are well-represented on that committee, not least as it exerts some executive muscle we have not seen in the past.

        1. In relation to a child at one of our church primary schools we might be surprised by what they might come up with in relation to communion and baptism. I also suggest that, without any preparation, such a child would provide as coherent a contribution on retaining the filioque clause or not as the majority of our clergy. 🙂 It would be an interesting exercise as director of our diocese’s education to work your way down the complete clergy list ringing them and asking their opinion, and seeing what proportion even knew what you were referring to.

  6. Conservative, liberal, don’t-give-a-toss-either-way; you’ll find them all on GSSC! The one thing we all have in common is that we are General Synod members who were elected as such by the members of our respective diocesan synods, who were in turn elected by the members of their parishes – representative democracy in action!

    Peter, you tend to suggest that it is only the elderly who will support moves towards a Church more inclusive of those in same-sex relationships (and therefore be ‘left behind’ after a ‘yes’ decision)? My experience is almost the opposite. Indeed, one of the reasons why GSSC (which has always had executive powers by the way) has moved forward the proposed timetable for a Commission was because we recognised that for many young people this is a ridiculous debate that shows up our incredibly old-fashioned thinking and attitudes. I am continually hearing young people despairing of these arguments and wanting to get on with the real work of being Church.

    One of the hardest aspects of forming this Commission has been (and will continue to be) deciding on the membership. There were some who wanted to ensure that everyone on the Commission was ‘impartial’ or ‘independant’; some of us believe that is impossible. What we ended up with was the requirement that they must be willing to “work in prayerful collegiality”. I remain concerned that there may be no openly gay or lesbian members (imagine discussions some years ago about the ordination of women that involved no women) and equally concerned that the conservative voice must be heard (although no one is talking about refusing ordination to those people on the basis of who they are).

    Somehow, though, I do agree that we need to find a way to ensure that as many voices are heard as possible, across all three tikanga. General Synod (like most synods) tends to hear most from the vocal few (and I will admit to being one of them). If this Commission ensures that the opinions, findings and feelings of all three tikanga, conservative, evangelical, liberal, middle-of-the-road Anglicans in town and country, gay and lesbian Anglicans, young and not-so-young, are all collected, collated and made available to every General Synod member, that in itself will be a valuable and important exercise. It may not change the outcome (or a single person’s mind), but no one will be able to say they were not heard.

  7. Edward Prebble

    One problem with complex topics is that the conversation can go in several directions at once. I think I’ll give two separate comments.

    Bosco, in answer to your question about my motion to the 2004 GS/THW: I no longer have a copy of it on my computer, but briefly it honoured the contribution of gay and lesbian Anglicans over many years, acknowledged the inability of the Anglican Communion to come to a common mind on issues of sexuality, and asked GSSC to find an appropriate process to study those issues from an ANZP perspective with recommendations to the 2006 Synod. GS Proceedings imply that it was agreed unanimously; it wasn’t, as there were a number of loud “no” votes, but it was certainly passed by a very decisive majority on the voices.

    Why did nothing happen? Well, you may remember that 2004 was also the year we elected Whakahuhui Vercoe as Archbishop and Primate. Two days later he gave his famous interview to the Herald in which he stated that there is no homosexuality in Tikanga Maori. It was kind of difficult to get a decent 3-Tikanga process going in that climate. Also a number of Bishops got a bit bruised by fractious synod debates, and started pressing for other approaches. In that spirit, I put my weight behind the “Listening Process”, but to not much avail.

    What I detect is emerging now is a sense that 10 years of inertia is resulting in a grievous injustice, particularly when it is accompanied by a de facto moratorium. This is maintaining a spurious status quo, given that to my knowledge, NZ bishops as far back as Henry Baines and probably earlier have knowingly ordained gay candidates.

    We owe +Philip a debt of gratitude for initiating this at GSSC. I don’t agree with his suggested glacial timetable, but at least he has acted in a way that breaks the log-jam. (Please forgive the mixed metaphor.)

    This must be addressed at General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui. Nothing else will do, and the sooner the better.

  8. Edward Prebble

    Peter, to add to the already rich mixture of metaphors in this discussion, I think your issue about representation/taxation/voting is a bit of a red herring. However, if Bosco will allow, I’d like to chase it just a little.

    Conservative/Evangelical Anglicans (it is interesting to see you conflate those two terms, as elsewhere you have argued persuasively that they should NOT be seen as synonymous)represent a minority of our church. Very hard to measure because of inconsistent statistics, problems of definition etc, but probably somewhere between 20 and 30%. That is a very significant minority, but a minority nonetheless. Like all minorities, Evangelicals tend to feel more comfortable and affirmed when they are in the company of other Evangelicals. Therefore they tend to congregate (useful word, that) in parishes, or in the case of Nelson, dioceses, that are perceived as being supportive to their perspective. And nothing wrong with that at all. That is why every one of our dioceses has a small number of large Evangelical parishes.

    Peter, I think you draw two conclusions from this, one erroneous and one totally valid. No, I see no reason why the large Evangelical parishes (or the Cathedrals for that matter) should be given extra representation just because they attract significant numbers of like-minded members. But I absolutely agree that it is incumbent on the majority to take the interests, concerns and theological perspectives of this important minority very much to heart.

    At the very least, as Brian says, they need to know they have been heard. Hopefully we can do better than that, and find some accommodation that ends the current terrible situation, but still allows us to keep breathing the same air. Like you, Peter, I have a lot of energy for such a goal, but I suspect that both you and I are seen as too “partisan” for this commission. I don’t think we are, but suspect that enough others see us that way to allow us both to get on with other work!

    1. Just to add to that analysis, Edward, that large congregations are the result of congregating minorities – I might add (particularly for our non-Christchurch readership) that the size of congregations would be worthy of more than one doctoral study here as I can see influences of history, demographics, and church building density as some of the influencing factors also… Not to mention, currently, the earthquakes…

  9. Peter Carrell

    Hi Brian,

    I am not so sanguine about GSSC’s membership as you are. Is it not true, for instance, that an illness here and a diary clash there and, hey presto, some of those present are alternates? Were all three archbishops present and correct at the GSSC’s most recent meeting?

    I am afraid you are simply misreading me when you write, “you tend to suggest that it is only the elderly who will support moves towards a Church more inclusive of those in same-sex relationships.” My point is that I suggest that if our church split over the ordination of those in same sex partnerships, the parishes which are left in the official church will tend to be those overpopulated with the elderly.

    I quite understand that young people today are thinking differently to their parents and grandparents. Are those young people filling the pews of the churches which would remain after schism? That is the question I am raising. And, the answer, by the way is not, “In my parish, they are.” Excellent if our local parish is full of young life, but we have some 300+ parishes and many are in desperate trouble re the future.

    On an agreeable note, I am heartened to hear from you that the Commission’s intention and task is to listen to as many voices as possible!

  10. Brother David

    My first thought is to think that your Standing Committee wanted to delay any concrete decisions until after ACANZ&P had hosted the ACC, so as not to feel embarrassed by any pro-GLBT decisions. I shall leave that for you lot to determine if there is truth to that.

    For those of us Father Bosco from outside your province, could you give us a meaty rundown of just where each Tikanga of the ACANZ&P stands in regard to the GLBT issue. Based on this comment about your past Maori Archbishop, it sounds as if the Maori have been heavily influenced by their colonial handlers of the past, just as present day Africans do as well. (GLBT folks exist in all cultures and in a predictable mathematical percentage.) And yet the primate of Polynesia appears to be leader of a tolerant people. One would wonder why two island peoples are not closer in their experience and feelings toward the concept of gay & lesbian people in their families.

    1. Your first paragraph is an interesting thought, Brother David, I wonder if someone could provide any light on that?

      Your second paragraph is also complex. At the time of Whakahuhui Vercoe’s comment I think that would not have been universally agreed with, but leadership is highly respected amongst Maori, and specifically for all he had achieved, so there would have been no energy to discuss that then. Now we are in a different place, and I note that “the context in which [the Anglican Covenant] was proposed” is one of the reasons for its rejection by Maori. Commonwealth countries are amongst the slowest to provide rights for GLBT, but generally in NZ there has been no issue about the rights now provided (including Civil Union) – all that is so last millennium. Hence the discussion on this thread about its not being an issue amongst the young. Maori, also, have a particular sympathy and sensitivity and reflection on oppression wherever it is found.

    2. Hi David,

      I have no knowledge whether the forthcoming ACC meeting at the end of 2012 in NZ, in the same year as our next General Synod in mid 2012 played upon considerations at the recent GSSC.

      What I am confident about is that a process agreed to by GSSC with 2014 as an end date took account of whether our church as a whole was in the right space to make a decision in 2012. As I understand things, one purpose of the Commission is to take our church on a journey from (so to speak) indecision to decision.

      Thus I would be surprised if we learned that ACC 2012 had influence on the decision made by GSSC.

  11. ‘I quite understand that young people today are thinking differently to their parents and grandparents. Are those young people filling the pews of the churches which would remain after schism?’

    right is right though.

    The same arguments used to keep ( for eaxmple ) women from freedom are today being employed against homosexuals; that’s not right- and it’s the role of Christains to pursue universal kindness and social justice even at the potential expense of church numbers: sheep and goats.

    Freeing slaves didn’t bring down the church. Ordaining women didn’t. Both enhanced the Christian religion: ‘whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them’…

    The church evolves and changes, and that sometimes looks negative because the former buildings and traditions are neglected or abandonned. New ones will naturally spring up- for some reason that brings to mind the Hebrew scripture:

    ‘I hate, I despise your feasts,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
    Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
    and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
    I will not look upon them.
    Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
    But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’

    ( Book of Amos )

    1. Yes, thanks, Tracy. My primary ministry is amongst young people and has been for 14 years now. The anxiety to get young people into our pews is wrong. They are not stupid and realise that so much of what the church does is bait and switch: the church isn’t really there for them – they are being lured there for the church.

    2. Stephen Donald

      Thanks Tracey – this has been my point entirely – the issue is about human rights (although many of my colleagues would say “but…”!)

      It’s not just the young who are frustrated and astounded that 25 years after the Homosexual Law Reform Act here in ANZ we are still even discussing whether same-sex attractions etc are ‘wilful sinfulness’ or God-given diversity to be affirmed and celebrated. I’m an openly gay priest working in a socially and culturally conservative rural parish, but those in the communities (mostly ‘unchurched’ or post-Christian) ask me constantly why the Church should even be putting energy into this debate.

      At the risk of self-referencing, look at my article in the May 2011 edition of Waiapu News (page 6) http://www.waiapu.com/assets/Waiapu-News-47-final.pdf

      I am encouraged that AT LAST there is some open process at GSSC / GSTHW level but am concerned that we’ve probably already missed the bus, and lack of LGBTI inclusion in the makeup of the group. Despite that, all strength to those who moved things along and those who have the task of pulling this together. Kia kaha!

      1. Thanks, Stephen. Like you, I am concerned where our tiny church puts its energy. How we seem to put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLABle. I try, here, to keep a more appropriate proportion – but, when I post about the Anglican Covenant or, as in this post, do little more than report a motion about homosexuality, I get (here) about 50 comments, but ask people to share on ideas, for example, for this coming Sunday and I’ll be lucky to get one or two respond! 🙁

  12. Hi Edward (and others)

    I am sure we would all like our church to function as well as, if not better, in the future, and that if we formally approve the ordination of partnered gay ministers, they are part of the church as it is moving into an ever better future.

    My overall point about representation, listening and so forth, is simply this: get this decision wrong and we might find that we will be ordaining partnered gay ministers into a diminished church that struggles even more than it does currently to be a lively, vital church moving forward.

    My hope is that we can creatively find a way forward together.

  13. An invigorating discussion.

    There was no discussion about any potential embarrassment for ACC at GSSC (love those Anglican terms!), although one if the terms of reference for the Commission is to look at the potential impact of any decision for the Communion as a whole.

    Peter, one Archbishop was absent (++Brown) and there were two alternates present. I am comfortable that made no difference at all to the outcome.

    I think we all know there willbe no easy way forward here. No matter what the decision, there are rocky roads ahead. As one GSSC member put it, what we are aiming for is a forced landing rather than a crash landing.

    1. Why, I regularly wonder, is this particular issue so fraught? Am I wrong in understanding that there was not such talk of schism and the possibility of needing “alternative episcopal oversight” with alterations to allow marriage of divorcees, ordination of women, about which the Bible appears clear – possibly clearer. (I could continue: opening communion to all the baptised, dropping the requirement of the Office for clergy, having three bishops equally oversee the same geographic area, etc.)

      1. Peter Carrell

        Hi Bosco,

        You ask a good question.

        I think this issue is fraught in our church because

        (1) people have strong views (on both or more sides of the matter) when they do not about (e.g.) having three bishops equally oversee the same geographic area;

        (2) many conservatives are suspicious of the way the issue is being framed, asking (e.g.) since when was seeking ordination about justice? and thus, a further question, is our church serious about theology … of ordination, of marriage, of unity-about-episcopacy? … effectively asking whether or not our church understands what it means to be church! If, in response, one were to pick up some issues you note above re baptism/communion, the Office, episcopal jurisdiction, the reply could be, “Precisely. We should have raised these matters before. Now we must do so.”

        (3) possibly evangelicals in particular among conservatives have this concern: whereas the remarriage of divorcees measured against the clear teaching of the Bible is (so to speak) a concession or pastoral exception, are we being presented with a policy decision which is about a concession/pastoral exception or a policy decision which will define the future of the church (generally) and the place of evangelicals (particularly)? Anecdotally, in some dioceses, evangelical candidates think that their future depends on the ‘right’ answer to questions about their support for gay clergy.

        (4) (further in the vein of (3)) there is a lack of clarity as to whether we are embarking on a journey towards an end in which (i) bishops may have discretion about whom they ordain // appoint in respect of sexuality, or (ii) all decision-making which takes account of homosexual partnerships within our church must cease (e.g. a conservative parish may not refrain from appointing a partnered lesbian woman as its youth worker). I cannot speak for conservatives (evangelicals or otherwise) but I wonder if a survey would show that (i) is less fraught than (ii)? At the moment it is not clear (as far as I can tell) whether conservatives need not be concerned about (ii).

        Better stop for now! But you did ask the question …

        1. Thanks, Peter, for your points. I tried to grade my comparisons slightly with bracketing.

          As one point: we cannot continue to be a church in which episcopal ordinations are the grandest services we have, bishops the most deferentially treated, their ordination certificate be the most ostentatious, their names be prefaced by increasing number of crosses, having titles longer than your actual name, and others wearing purple or a cross being described as being above your station, and asking “since when was seeking ordination about justice?”

          When those “conservatives [who] are suspicious of the way the issue is being framed” stop handing out baptism certificates torn from a pad and instead hand out episcopal ordination certificates so produced, when their baptism services are the grandest in the church’s life, when their bishops are ordained almost as a liturgical afterthought (as we notice in early church liturgies), when bishops never use any title other than bishop and their Christian name, when their clothing and vesture doesn’t have the pretensions of doctorates etc. maybe then the rest of the church will give credence to these conservative suspicions.



  14. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco,
    You are missing my point.
    This is not about giving ‘credence’ to conservative suspicions about X or Y. This is about an issue which may split our church. By all means wait to give credence to the kind of thing I am trying to articulate here, but if the church fractures or even worse, splits under your watch, what are you going to do afterwards?

    You could blame conservatives for being in some sense of bad character (pathetic, inconsistent, whatever … we have our faults).

    You could take responsibility for not heeding the implicit plea here for our church to work with conservatives on the particular issue at hand rather than to dismiss us, sideline us, hope we will change our minds, and so on.

    What are you going to do between now and 2014 to assist this church in remaining one church? I humbly suggest that your response here is not the way forward in the limited time frame available to us.

    1. Thanks, Peter.

      I think that calling this my watch is an exaggeration.

      I continue to think that your use of words such as “conservatives” is an unhelpful framing. I am more conservative than you in some areas, you are more conservative than me in others.

      I still do not understand why this issue is potentially church-splitting while such issues as divorce and remarriage, women in orders, and even the systematic abandonment of focusing the Liturgy of the Word on praying to God through Christ in the Spirit are not. (Note the power of the Oxford comma).

      Our diocesan representative on GSSC, whom you would describe as coming from a conservative parish, has been part of setting up a commission which will finally lead to a discussion about an issue about which even bizarre claims have been made. I do not so far see anyone being sidelined or dismissed other than those who have been sidelined by this very issue which will be discussed.



      1. Peter Carrell

        Hi Bosco,

        I appreciate that you do not understand why this issue could be church splitting when others are not, but I have tried to give a four part response with which I do not feel you have yet engaged.

        In that sense this particular point in this conversation has a feeling to it that those who think this issue fraught are being sidelined.

        It would certainly be my hope that what is happening here is not a sign of how the commission will work.

        1. Greetings Peter

          As I regard this as a conversation open to many, and a place where people can make a statement comfortable that no one may respond, I do not think I need to respond to every comment placed here, and certainly not every point within every comment. Hence, my not responding to every one of your four points need not have led to “a feeling …[of] being sidelined”. To further allay this feeling, let me, however briefly, respond to each of your points.

          (1) People have strong views on this. Yes – but my question remains why on this and not, say, on divorce and remarriage? Your reply, for example on your site, appears to be that people have these strong views because they regard homosexual activity as imperilling salvation (a la 1 Cor 6:9-11). I can make sense of the consistency of those who see both divorce and remarriage, and homosexual activity as imperilling salvation. For the life of me I struggle to make sense of those who have a passion about the latter and no issue with the former.

          (2) I did not raise the issue of “justice” – others did and might/could/should answer your point, not I. I understand their viewpoint as long as we continue to uphold in practice that the ordained are “superior” to the unordained. You did not appreciate when I replied in that vein, but I stand by my point.

          To your question, “is our church serious about theology?” I suspect you know my response. No.

          (3) Again I highlight the framing of your question. I would need to first be convinced that “remarriage of divorcees measured against the clear teaching of the Bible is (so to speak) a concession or pastoral exception”.

          This thread is about a GSSC decision to set up a commission to enable a discussion. I am surprised to see as a reason against setting up such a commission because “Anecdotally, in some dioceses, evangelical candidates think that their future depends on the ‘right’ answer to questions about their support for gay clergy.” Surely such an issue can be fed into the commission.

          Remembering that de facto currently the “right” answer to that question is a negative, your point is, rather, an issue for those at the other side of the spectrum. In our diocese, the second largest in our church, not a single clergyperson is prepared to raise their hand and acknowledge being gay – either in a relationship or celibate!

          Finally in this point, may I remind again, the representative on GSSC from this diocese is not from what you might term a small liberal parish, but in fact from the largest what you would term evangelical, conservative parish.

          (4) Yes, we are embarking on a journey without the end being clear.



          1. Peter Carrell

            Hi Bosco,
            It is good to have engagement with the points I made – a better engagement than (so to speak) the relative qualities of certificates (an important discussion elsewhere/another time): thank you!

            To try to be very clear about one point of misunderstanding on your part: absolutely nothing here written by me is an argument against establishing the commission or engaging fully with it. I support that establishment. My concern is that it will be a commission which truly listens … comments here are reassuring on that score.

          2. I’m pleased you are reassured, Peter, but I’m not sure how comments here are reassuring – no one here, as far as I know, is actually on the commission 🙂

  15. Tony Fitchett

    To respond to Peter’s 2nd point, about “since when was seeking ordination about justice?”, and speaking as a lay person with no theological expertise but some exposure to the church over some 66 years, I don’t think anyone has a ‘right’ to ordination – that is a matter of an individual sensing a call, and the church [through its bishops and those who assist them in the process] discerning whether it agrees that there is a call to that individual. But excluding a group of people solely because of their sexual orientation and practice [or, for that matter, their sex] does raise issues of justice, and effectively questions their humanity, [was that an Oxford comma?] and their relationship with God. Which was what I experienced at my first meeting of the ACC, at Nottingham in 2005, when certain members of the ACC said in debate that they found it offensive to be expected to be in the same room as the observers from TEC and Canada, presumably merely because of their membership of churches which accepted those in same-sex relationships as fully human and capable of being called by God to ministry.

    1. Peter Carrell

      Hi Tony,

      If we exclude from consideration for ordination a group of people solely because of something intrinsic to their humanity, then questions of justice are raised (so, black people, women, those who sexual orientation is not heterosexual).

      In some contexts a question of justice may simply remain that, a question of justice, because an absolute of some kind may trump it and prevent an answer being explored (so, the requirement that clergy be male in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthdox churches).

      As I understand one group of Anglicans (sometimes called ‘conservative’ but I take Bosco’s point above about such nomenclature), the question of justice re homosexuality and ordination is not helpful because the questions at issue are not about orientation but about whether ‘practice’ may be understood as permitted by God notwithstanding what Scripture says; that is, a significant theological question or set of questions about how we understand Scripture, discern the Spirit and read the importance of shifts in our culture are the questions to focus on.

      Unfortunately for NZers in such a group the behaviour of some Anglicans around the globe (e.g. your experience of ACC, 2005) colours how that group is viewed (e.g. that it shares all prejudices and values of Anglicans around the globe who do not accept that same-sex partnerships are blessed by God). It may be that we do not deserve anything other than to be viewed through (so to speak) a global lens. But I would hope that we in NZ would not find it offensive to be in the same room as any member of TEC and Canada.

      1. Peter, remembering that celibate homosexuals are barred from ordination in the largest Christian Church (RC), I do not see such as being excluded from the terms of reference of the commission. To press that: please could you list here the names of the celibate homosexual clergy in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Thank you.

        1. Peter Carrell

          Hi Bosco,
          I happen to think the RC church on the matter you mention is wrong. I would be surprised if the commission spent much time on the inclusion/exclusion of celibate homosexual clergy as I have never heard anyone seeking to argue a case for excluding celibate homosexual ministers from consideration by our church for ordination or appointment.

          I am at a loss to understand why my supplying names of any ministers in our church would further the discussion at this point!

  16. Tony Fitchett

    I would hope not too, Peter.

    I am sure you are right that we need to focus on how we interpret scripture, and discern the Spirit.
    My feeling is that if one separates orientation from practice one is either saying that those born homosexual are less the image of God, and less human, than those born heterosexual, or reasoning that “the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God” must not be fulfilled, because we and a few verses of scripture know better than God [discerning a call to celibacy, irrespective of orientation, is a different matter]. I think we all accept [and we show in our Canons] that the Bible is not inerrant, and we need to be more up-front about that. I dislike proof texting, but I think Paul’s approach to scripture and a core doctrine of the church – circumcision – in Galations is salutary: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.”

    Incidentally, with respect to exclusion of celibate homosexuals from ordination, it appears that celibate homosexual clergy are excluded from ordination to the episcopate in the C of E unless they ‘repent’ of any previous sexual activity [cf Dean John, and the recent legal opinion provided to the C of E] – a requirement that, oddly, does not seem to be required for heterosexual clergy.

    1. Hi Tony,

      I am sure you appreciate that conservative evangelicals in our church are unlikely to accept the way you frame the role of Scripture in your comment above, “because we and a few verses of scripture know better than God.” Not least because while there are few verses which speak directly to same-sex partnerships, there are many verses which speak about singleness and marriage.

      Your comment about Jeffrey John makes me wonder if you realise that one (if not ‘the’) English conservative evangelical case against Jeffrey John being made a bishop concerns his lack of repentance for previous published teaching contrary to the teaching of the C of E!

  17. Edward Prebble

    Thank you, Tony for your helpful comments on the injustice of pressing the orientation/practice dichotomy.

    Peter, I feel that there is a quite separate issue of justice applying here. There have been numbers of gay clergy in our ANZP church, perhaps always, but certainly for over 50 years. Some of these priests discerned that they were gay after ordination. Others kept it quiet, and operated on a de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. A few were known to have a homosexual orientation, and their bishop did not ask questions about their sexual activity, just as they did not ask such questions of heterosexual candidates.

    That was the status quo about 20 years ago. I expect some of these priests lived and exercised their ministries in every one of our dioceses. Similarly, our church has blessed same-sex unions, even before they were legal, for many years. One of our liturgical commissions even produced a liturgy for the blessing of a union, one obvious application of which was the blessing of a same-sex partnership.

    During the 1980’s and 90’s, approximately coinciding with the Homosexual law Reform Act, this issue became a controversial one in the church, (and internationally of course), with people on both “sides” accusing the other of threatening to split the church. We have had some tense synod debates, and a whole series of “listening” processes, and are some distance away from a consensus.

    In that context, a grave injustice arises from acting as though ordaining gay and lesbian people, and/or blessing unions are radical and dangerous departures from accepted practice. A series of moratoria have been observed (whatever their official status) to the effect that no ordinations of partnered gay or lesbian people have occurred since 2007, and clear threats have been issues of Title D action against any bishop who so proceeds. Further, priests in stable same-sex relationships have had their licences revoked, with the rationale that heterosexual clergy in irregular sexual liaisons have lost their licences, so “we are just being consistent”. When efforts are made to resolve the situation, and remove the insecurity experienced by both existing clergy and applicants for ordination, we are offered another commission to spend more years debating the theology, and in the meantime, the de facto moratorium stays in place.

    That is unjust.

    1. Peter Carrell

      Hi Edward,

      I accept that for any given phenomenon of change and movement in an organisation, injustices can and do occur as consistent leadership and decision-making is attempted.

      I am not sure that what you write about above is about ‘injustice’ in respect of the law of our church. There has been no clear canon authorising bishops to ordain/appoint partnered gay ministers. The fact that this has happened and so, to some extent, or in some places, been an “accepted” practice raises the question whether it was founded properly on the laws of our church.

      In some places there are accepted practices going on (non-use of the prayer book; communion without baptism; use of small glass cups; chips instead of bread at communion). It is hardly injustice when the church wakes up and says either “Stop” or “Halt while we work this out as to whether we should change our rules to catch up with practice.”

  18. Tony Fitchett

    Including, Peter, a pretty definite comment from Jesus on remarriage after divorce, which we have decided to allow to be over-ridden.

    I wonder, Peter, if the line you are suggesting [“no clear canon authorising bishops to ordain/appoint partnered gay ministers”] is sliding towards the ‘everything not authorised is forbidden’ totalitarian approach. I am reminded that my father, who, I think, could reasonably be described as a ‘traditional’ and ‘conservative’ churchman, commented during the ordination-of-women debate that he couldn’t see why there was a fuss – there was nothing in our Constitution, Canons or Formularies that said only men could be ordained, so why didn’t we just get on with it? I think perhaps that we tend to feel that our own assumptions about what the church thinks are based on decision-making by the church, when they are just assumptions – reinforced, in the case of homosexuality, by the legal sanctions that many parts of the Commonwealth inherited from Britain.

    Regarding Jeffrey John, surely you are not suggesting that ‘repentance’ is required for disagreeing with a Bishops’ Statement? One can’t help concluding that a major part of the brief for the ‘legal opinion’ was “A Way to Exclude Jeffrey John”. Should Rowan Williams have been required to ‘repent’ of his teaching/questioning on the same subject, before he was appointed ABC? Thankfully, neither this church nor the C of E has a Magisterium, nor a detailed ‘Confession’ for it to enforce. Thinking is still permitted.

    1. Thanks for this ongoing, listening conversation. As I mentioned above, Tony, I struggle to make sense of those who swallow the camel of the clear teaching of Jesus on marriage and divorce, but strain out the gnat of the disputable texts on committed same sex relationships. Not to mention 1 Tim 3:2. I notice on Peter’s blog, the affirmation in the comments of “If you divorce your wife, and marry another, the second sexual relationship is inherently adulterous. Neither mutual agreement nor the passage of time can make it non-adulterous.” I wonder why those who see this as the tip of an authority-of-scripture iceberg, have chosen homosexuality rather than divorce as the tip to fight on? Is it because so many of their own are divorced and remarried?

    2. Hi Tony,

      Yes, indeed, Jesus said some things about marriage which the most biblical of Christians have not always taken to heart and the broadest of churches have found a way to go beyond.

      I think that some matters in the life of our church are more important than other matters. To raise a question as to whether the law of the church (say) permits flowers in church and do we need to expressly permit it, is different to the question (in your father’s day) whether the law of the church permitted the ordination of women. Not least is there a difference because it is hard to think of who would make an objection to flowers and on what theological grounds they would do so; but there were (and, if you read my blog and those who comment there, remain) theological objections to the ordination of women. So, worth expressly spelling out the permission in law.

      In respect of Jeffrey John I am reporting a line of conservative evangelical opposition to his appointment. As I understand that opposition it goes beyond concern that he disagrees with the C of e bishops, and includes what he has taught in published writings. In my reading of conservative evangelical scrutiny of ++Rowan, there is on the part of some a considerable concern that he has not renounced his writings on sexuality prior to becoming ABC. (To clarify my own personal position, albeit from a great distance, I have no objection to Jeffrey John being made a bishop. Whatever he teaches, it would appear to be well within the range of teaching deemed unobjectionable-for-appointment as far as many other C of E bishops is concerned).

      The greater point in all this kind of conversation is our unity together in Christ as Christians defining ourselves as Anglican Christians. I would be surprised if you thought that it was a good thing for dioceses to forge ahead in actions that would divide our church (whether into factions or fractions) rather than seek consensus via General Synod process seeking common resolution together.

  19. ‘The anxiety to get young people into our pews is wrong. They are not stupid and realise that so much of what the church does is bait and switch: the church isn’t really there for them – they are being lured there for the church.’

    ( sorry I am not keeping up with the debate/discussion as fast as I would like! )

    Bosco- I decided about age 6 that I would not be a Catholic when I realised the church was stuck in the Dark Ages with the attitude to women!

    Young people don’t have the superstitions of previous generations- they know earthquakes and illness etc are natural phenomena not some kind of arbitrary punishment. Why would they follow ways which can be harsh, superstitious, unreasonable, exclusive, irrational, anti-intellectual, dare I say it- pointless?

    But the spiritual ‘church’ is definitely still there. I wept in church yesterday when they showed the film of our youngsters out in the poorest local neighbourhoods giving and helping. None of those youngsters would probably be interested in sitting through the kind of liturgical service their grandparents did- but they were all fully engaged in feeling they could be the hands and hearts of Christ!

    So they are holding power tools and not prayer books…they don’t judge, they just help and pray.

    I hear of and see such things every single day. That’s ‘the church’, the ‘body of Christ’. Christ never said go out and set up myriad competing institutions then argue about them in my name, did He!

    1. Tracy, we have experienced exactly what you describe here in Christchurch. Young people by their thousands going out to help day after day in earthquake-affected areas. Of interest: they are led by a young man who was my Chapel prefect (read “sacristan”) at his secondary school where I am chaplain. Faith, as you describe, in action. I am also convinced that liturgy done well and appropriately can nurture young people. I see it in my context. I’ve seen it at Taizé. Thanks so much for your positive thoughts. Blessings.

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