blessing same-sex couplesAn open letter to the Commission on the Ordination and Blessing of People in Same Sex Relationships (Ma whea/Mei fe kei fe/Where to? Commission)

In the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia the members of the Commission on the Ordination and Blessing of People in Same Sex Relationships have been announced. They are listed here. and the terms of reference of the commission is here. They are seeking input from people. This post is part of that process.

I strongly hold to the opinion that the liturgical rules of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia are confused and confusing and sorely need reviewing. The Template for Worship, a Standing Resolution of our church, increases the confusion. Since the formal acceptance of a Template for Worship, our church has allowed the blessing of those who are in a committed same-sex relationship.

The following is an open letter to the Commission:

Tēnā koutou; Mālō e lelei; Greetings;
Ma whea/Mei fe kei fe/Where to? Commission.

May God richly bless your work as a commission.

The Template For Worship is a Standing Resolution of our church. [For those who do not have the Standing Resolutions handy, the Template can be found at the church’s official website: http://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Lectionary-and-Worship]

The Template has services follow a structure:
1. Gathering – to name and establish
2. Story – to form and nurture
3. Going Out – to launch and empower

Story expressly mentions “The section is built around… blessing…” which can “include…making and renewing of vows”. The Template is clear this may or may not be in the context of a Eucharist.

The Template states that “General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui approved a framework for planning and arranging Liturgy using ‘A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearaoa’ and Other Liturgical Resources”.

Following the advice of the church’s Judicial Committee, General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui added “They are reminded that, when conducting services for which there are prayer book forms, they must still follow the specific instructions given there for each service, concerning the order of service and the forms of prayer, etc, which must be used.”

So, (1) when there is a “prayer book form” – A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearaoa must be followed, but
(2) when there is no “prayer book form” “Other Liturgical Resources” can be used following the structure: Gathering – Story – Going out.

There is no “prayer book form” for blessing a committed same-sex couple. In New Zealand a committed same-sex couple cannot marry, so the Marriage Liturgies cannot apply to that context. Furthermore, the Marriage Liturgies in the Prayer Book are “between a man and a woman” (eg. Prayer Book page 790). Finally, Title G Canon III of the church defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

As there is no “prayer book form” for blessing a committed same-sex couple, situation (1), above, does not apply. Situation (2), drawing on or creating “Other Liturgical Resources” to bless committed same-sex couples, is allowed by the Template if such a blessing liturgy follows the Gathering – Story – Going out structure that the Template authorises.

I have often asked, but have never once received a reply, how one could have a service that didn’t follow the Gathering – Story – Going out structure. Putting that to one side, there are plenty of “Other Liturgical Resources” available for blessing committed same-sex couples, one could prepare one’s own, and one can use or draw on the resources produced by the same people that prepared the Template.

In 1992 The Liturgical Commission of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia produced a collection of experimental services that covered a liturgy recognising the end of a marriage, healing from abuse, blessing a relationship, and a new beginning. These rites have been used by people at every level of the church.

Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship (pdf)

Liturgy of Healing from Abuse for Women (pdf)
Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage (pdf)
A Liturgical Resource for Addressing Experiences of Abuse in the Church (pdf)
New Beginnings (pdf)

The Template, allowing the blessing of committed same-sex couples in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, was passed prior to the the apparent making-of-history by the Diocese of New Westminster.

Arohanui!
Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Bosco Peters

www.liturgy.co.nz

This is a topic that often generates more heat than light. If you have a strong opinion about this topic I urge you to put in your own submission to the commission. The usual rules of moderation here apply – put your normal name, no ad hominems, flaming, or trolls, etc.

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