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Committed Same-Sex Couples

holding hands

Committed same-sex couples will once again be a topic of conversation and debate at the meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia May 10-15, Copthorne Hotel, Waitangi. Many await the making public of motions, bills, etc. in this internet age, but meanwhile Taonga has published the long-awaited report of the Ma Whea? Commission as well as the in-depth work of the the Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions.

Let me summarise for you. The Ma Whea? Commission concludes by presenting the church (GSTHW) with ten options, everything from tightening present regulations to dismembering the church. Oh – and for a church which has now for years poured much of its time, energy, and money into this discussion – one of the options provided, of course, is to keep doing that, just more intensely. [One friend’s reaction to the conclusion being ten options: “A few of us down the pub could have come up with the potential options…”]

As for the conclusion of the Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions, these experts couldn’t even agree whether a change would require a change to our Church Constitution (something needing unspecified “due process”). I have been pointing out for years now that our church has got to the point where we are totally unclear about what is required, what is allowed, and what is forbidden. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to have this “I told you so” moment.

If you want to debate the issue, there are other good sites to do that. Anglican Down Under and Kiwianglo regularly keep people informed in the NZ context around this (and of course at the Taonga links I provided above). Those interested can also follow TEC’s Taskforce on the Study of Marriage.

Meanwhile, most Kiwis would be absolutely astonished to hear about the huis, and meetings, and debates, and papers, and acrimony, and… that our church focuses on just this one, single issue. Rachel Held Evans said last week, “The gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the gospel when it’s not.”

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56 thoughts on “Committed Same-Sex Couples”

  1. Peter Carrell

    I suggest your criticism of our church in this post (focused on a single issue) is missing the point. The point is, our church cannot make up its mind. If the view was overwhelming one way or the other, we would not have meeting after meeting. To fault the church for not making up its mind (which, many a Vestry member will acknowledge is not just about sex but also about deciding on a new kitchen for the church hall, etc) is to fault all of us. If we cannot make up our mind, surely it is a good thing to keep meeting until we do. Eventually many a new church kitchen has resulted from patience. Hopefully, however long it takes, we will arrive at a good policy re same sex relationships, where ‘good’ includes carrying the people with it.

    1. I don’t feel, Peter, that I need to agree with you what “the point” is. The church does not, cannot, and will not “make up its mind” about many, many, many things (of far more significance than a new kitchen).

      We have had years of huis, debates, study, meetings, dialogues, blogs, etc. about this single issue. And where have we reached? We have been provided with ten options (which most could have brainstormed when this discussion started years ago), and disagreement amongst our top experts even about what would be involved to move forward.

      To return to your kitchen analogy – there is still no kitchen in place; we still have the same 10 options for kitchens we knew were possible when years ago we started to debate the kitchen; there is no agreement about what is needed to get the kitchen in place once we decide. Meanwhile, without the kitchen, many have gone elsewhere in search of nourishment; others have left in disgust at the process; and others show no interest because they want to be part of something that doesn’t spend so much time, energy, and money on debating about a kitchen. Kitchens are just not central to their lives.


      1. Peter Carrell

        There is a kitchen, Bosco. It is called marriage. Many Anglicans are quite happy with the kitchen as it is. Some Anglicans are proposing a ‘new kitchen’. They have tried for many years to get people who like the old kitchen to agree with the proposal about the new kitchen. Why have they not succeeded? Could it be because they do not have a majority? Do they have a majority but they have confused things by talking about a new new kitchen (i.e. shifting the vision from ‘blessing of same sex partnerships’ to ‘same sex marriage’)? Have they recognised that if the new or new new kitchen is built there will be far fewer people coming to the church?

        I do not know the answer to these questions, but I am intrigued, having sat in General Synods, 1996-2004, and in each of the Hermeneutical Hui, as to why those proposing change have not succeeded in determining change. But I do think it kinder to think of ourselves as unable to make up our collective mind than to worry that we remain focused on the issue.

        I agree, I think J is a likely option. Whether those impatient for change like it or not, time has allowed – in my view – more grace to enter the conversations than in (say) 1996.

        1. Peter, let’s be honest: the new kitchen of being able to choose in the one kitchen whether to cook with gas or with electricity is technology that only became available within the last year….

          Often it has been the very people who have fought against blessing a committed same-sex couple by insisting this would be blessing sin, and that there is only marriage, no other commitment configuration possible, have pushed those who would have been comfortable with such blessing to re-examine and move to pressing for marriage equality.

          So let us not beat about the bush, Peter. Speak plainly: do you accept the possibility of blessing committed same-sex couples by clergy of a community where, say, at least three-quarters of that community accepted that as a positive thing?

          I am one of those who sees this as already possible in our Option-B, current situation. I have blogged and submitted on this before, and I think this may be the time to emphasise that clearly once again. Even in the time-period of Option J (which, although surprisingly not acknowledged as such, is a subset of Option B).


          1. Peter Carrell

            Hi Bosco,
            Some of us accepted civil unions on the basis that they were not marriages but we were told not to be naive, activism would not cease until same sex marriage came. Behold, we now have same sex marriage. I think some among us have opposed blessings knowing that the press for change would never end there.

            Your question: at this time, no.

            (PS notify me of follow up comments may not be working)

          2. Edward Prebble

            Peter, having sat in General synod trough a similar period (2002-2008) I find myself bristling a little at your comment: “…but I am intrigued, having sat in General Synods, 1996-2004, and in each of the Hermeneutical Hui, as to why those proposing change have not succeeded in determining change”. I suggest that the key reason such people have been unsuccessful is that those opposed to change have adamantly refused to countenance any change, and have threatened to divide the church, so those pressing for change have agreed, repeatedly, to another, then another then another round of listening process, hermenutics hui, talanoa, indaba, call it what you will.

            I had not thought of it in these terms before, Bosco, but I quite agree with you that this never-ending process has turned many people who would have approved a blessing of relationships towards advocating equal access to marriage.

          3. To be clear, Edward, for your second paragraph I wasn’t talking about people motivated by something like spite (driven to it by the inflexibility, as it were, of those holding to no change). It was those who sought to see no change, pressing the logic more deeply, rather than allowing any Anglican vagueness to remain, who drove these people from a leave-marriage-alone-and-accept-committed-same-sex-couples-as-equal-and-different position to the logic “there is only marriage possible” as held by the change-nothing group, but now on the other side of that coin, opening it to those of the same gender. A similar dynamic was at work amongst many who found that Civil Unions didn’t bring the equality it seemed to promise.


  2. I find it all a great disappointment. I agree with the comment about a group down at the pub could have come up with similar. I coincidentaly met up with a priest soon after the release. We both think the result will be J, continued discussion. This despite the knowledge that throughout NZ same-sex partnered priests are being quietly licensed. To me it will be the end. I am regarded as equal in all areas of NZ society except the church. That was one of many reasons for my migrating from Sydney!!!
    I had not formally belonged to a church for over 20 years in Sydney, just attended for Communion. I may withdraw my parish affiliation here. Unfortunately I believe it is necessary for me to receive the Eucharist regularly. Otherwise I (like most of my friends) would never enter this last bastion of discrimination.

    1. A Christian correspondent named John Shore has written the following:

      The whole gay-Christian “debate” is like watching a great ocean wave rising and cresting. Soon enough it crashes onto the shore, all thunderous fury and spray.
      And then it is no more.
      The anti-gay Christian bigots will grow old and die,* and a fresher, truer, more gracious, more enlightened Christianity will take its place. This will happen—this is happening—because God is good, God is fair, and above all God is love. And finally, ultimately, inevitably, love conquers all.
      Farewell, anti-gay Christians. For as surely as one day follows the next, your time is coming to an end. May God show you more mercy in the next life than you showed gay people in this one.

      1. Please, people, can we take care with language. This is a place where we try to generate more light than heat. There are plenty of other places where the opposite is true. There will be bigots involved in this. But in allowing through this comment let us acknowledge that many of those who differ from each other are not by that difference therefore bigots. Blessings.

  3. Paul Anthony Preussler

    I do agree with your assertion, Fr. Peters, that the degree to which this highly divisive issue is dominating the Anglican Communion is destructive in the extreme, although we might differ in terms of how we would deal with it.

    I would suggest, for my part, a complete 30 year moratorium on discussions or changes in marital policy in any church in the entire Communion. Whatever policies are now in place, anywhere, would remain in place in that jurisdiction. I would also propose allowing individual congregations, by unanimous consent of their membership together with their pastor, to opt out of their respective jurisdiction’s policy on this issue.

    Lastly, I would propose welcoming into the communion schismatic bodies, where schism has already occurred, but barring further such receptions after the enaction of this policy. Thus, in the US, for example, the ACNA would join the Anglican Communion alongside the ECUSA as a parallel jurisdiction.

    These measures would kill this discussion, and prevent further schisms, guaranteeing three decades of stability in which the communion could rebuild its membership base.

    Alas, the sad fact is that implementing such a policy would be effectively impossible, given that even the Archbishop of Canterbury is unable to secure the attendance of all respective metropolitans at a Lambeth Conference.

    You might ask why I, having become Orthodox, even care, but the fact is I have a major “crush” on Anglicanism, having grown up in a mix of Methodist and high-church Anglican parishes, all part of the Anglican heritage, and I still desire that at some point in the future, the ecumenical reunion which came so tantalizingly close to occurring between the Anglicans and the Orthodox in the early 20th century, might actually be realized.

  4. After much, much reflection – on this and other matters that ought to be considered adiaphora (of no real doctrinal significance), I think the only just option for GLBTI people in the Church – and outside of it – is Section E, where the Church actually sdhow it is engaged with the real world, in charity and love.

    1. Paul Anthony Preussler

      I don’t think any issue that is as controversial among the laity as gay marriage can be considered an adiaphora.

      When you look at the situation in the United States, where the countryside is littered with empty, closed Episcopal parishes, and when you consider the $40 million spent by the presiding bishop on legal battles to prevent those congregations that do not want to participate in this change from retaining their historic church buildings, its very difficult to write this off as a non-issue.

      The insistence upon imposing a real change to the ancient traditions of the church has had a devastating effect upon the health and long-term viability of the Anglican Communion, and indeed every other jurisdiction where this has occurred. Something needs to be done to stop the bleeding.

      1. Do we really have to go down this track, here, Paul – so well worn around the web and elsewhere? Aren’t those places enough to have this particular track? Adiaphora is a term not dependent on whether it is controversial or not. Blessings.

        1. Paul Anthony Preussler

          My point is merely that while this issue has proven to be toxic, its not doctrinally irrelevant. To say that it is an adiaphora would be in effect to say that the Anglican Communion has been thrown into the greatest crises it has faced since the English Civil War, over a non-issue.

          I do think the answer is of course a question of ecclesiology. The real problem is Anglicanism trying to be all things to all people; the impossibility of accomodating Puritans and crypto-Catholics in the same church clearly led to the tensions that produced the English civil war, and the impossibility of accomodating traditionalists and modernists in one church is producing this emergency.

          This fortunately is not violent in the manner of the English civil war; I don’t think anyone is going to be killed as a result of this unpleasantness. However, the schisms and congregational losses will likely continue as long as this issue remains on the front burner.

          I really think the short term answer to this problem is to kill the discussion, and the long term answer to this problem is to give individual congregations autonomy to change their local church affiliation. In this manner, those parishes within the Anglican communion such as St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, that feel one way on this issue, can act in accordance with their consciences, and those conservative parishes (such as St. Luke’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, whose rector has a very excellent blog that links to this one, comes to mind)can likewise act according to their desires.

          The schism in fact has already occurred, in many places, and is extremely unpleasant. I feel that from a Christian ethical perspective, we are obliged to figure out what we can do, to use an American political phrase “from both sides of the aisle,” (perhaps the New Zealand equivalent might be “across all sides of the house” assuming your political jargon mirrors that of the UK), to soothe the anger, reintroduce calm, and not fuel the fires of hate that are in fact raging in both camps, and are as deadly a spiritual disease as any.

          Now we probably do have different opinions regarding what the “correct” policy is here, but that’s not my point. My point is, common action by both sides must be taken to calm the situation down and allow matters to gracefully resolve, as opposed to the use of legal force by groups on either side of the issue to attempt to coerce the other side into a particular course of action.

          1. Paul, you continue to offer advice to a communion to which you do not belong. Why do you have a dog in this fight? You confuse adiaphora in making it synonymous with a non-issue. The Archbishop of Canterbury pointedly disagrees with your analysis in your third paragraph. The Anglican Communion began its fragmentation well before this issue. Blessings.

          2. Paul Anthony Preussler

            Bosco, I still care about the Anglican Communion, I was a part of it, and I desire for ecumenical reconciliation with the Orthodox to be possible. For that to happen, the Anglican Communion still has to exist, which right now, in a hundred years time, looks increasingly unlikely.

            By the way, I am of the opinion that the reason why people are objecting to gay marriage now is due to sinful homophobia; they are doing it for the wrong reasons. The ACNA et al allow practices that from an Orthodox standpoint, are equally disagreeable, such as communing adulterers and tolerating a wide range of deviant behaviors; the fact that, to use an expression popular among American Episcopalians, they chose homosexuality as “the hill to die on”, does indicate some degree of hate.

            The problems really began at least as far back as Bishop Pike, although I would say that British Christianity has been diseased in some respects since Anselm of Canterbury. The ultimate healing will occur once Anglicans universally understand that sin exists, and having accepted its existence, then understand it not in forensic terms, but rather, in the concept of theosis. The answer to all of these problems which are tearing up the Anglican communion is to encourage Anglicans to turn away from worldly desires and the hypocritical condemnation of others and focus on individual self purification, with the church functioning as a community to foster this very literal cure of souls. In such a climate, this entire controversy regarding gay marriage would simply disappear.

            In some respects, some liberal parishes such as Gregory of Nyassa in San Francisco, by virtue of being aware of the idea of theosis, might actually be closer to Orthodoxy than many conservative Evangelical parishes, such as Holy Trinity Brompton.

            The real trick is actually for individual congregations to refute the three main delusions that infect various parts of Anglicanism, those being the high church error of a forensic concept of sin, the low church error of a Calvinist hypocrisy, and the broad church error of denying the existence of sin, as well as various complex related disorders, such as the misidentification of sin as social injustice or environmental damage, rather than as a degenerate aspect of the human condition that is the underlying cause of those evils.

        2. Peter Carrell

          I suggest Paul is right to raise the matter, Bosco. Our consideration of the options before us is not in some kind of abstract church where the decision or decisions we make will have no effect on the church.

          One possible effect (and there are at least several possible effects) is that our church becomes a church which even fewer Christians wish to join. No Anglican I know pretends that we are other than a declining, aging church. We could make a decision which opens the doors to some and closes the doors to many. Do we want to do that? Do we know that we might be doing that? (A Twitter correspondent with me yesterday implied that because we are dying as a church it doesn’t matter if we hasten our death! Great …)

          Has any church in the world changed its doctrine on blessing and marriage and found it fruitful for reversal of ageing, declining congregations? I am grateful that Paul has highlighted this kind of issue for this discussion.

          1. Thanks, Peter.

            My preference is that we do not go down the criticising-TEC-and-its-presiding-bishop road. There are plenty of other places that more knowledgeably discuss this. I mentioned your site in the penultimate paragraph of this post.

            I am not convinced that size or growth is the best indicator of God’s will. Otherwise you should be a Roman Catholic or possibly a Muslim.

            Yes, this issue is important. But we have poured so much time, energy, and money into this one issue that we have neglected basic elements of being an effective church. The suggestion that this is the issue around which churches grow or decline reinforces our neglect.


          2. Peter Carrell

            Yes, I have no desire to criticise another church per se, Bosco, only to be anxious for my own church. Many factors militate either for or against growth, but some of those are about how life incrementally evolves for the church, not about specific decisions we make in a considered process via synods. When we have that opportunity to determine ‘quo vadis’ it is just possible that we might like to think about consequences (and, yes, that includes the consequences of continuing the status quo).

            Numbers are not everything when determining God’s will. True. But they are not nothing either. There are Methodists in our country, for instance, who think about whether there is a connection between strong decline through the last forty odd years an steady departure from the founding vision and theology of Wesley.

          3. If we agree, Peter, that many factors militate either for or against growth, show me then in our church the energetic debates, commissions, hui, blog-post discussions, etc. around some of these other factors. Blessings.

  5. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco and Edward,
    The following is offered in a spirit of genuine enquiry as to the inner workings of our church:

    Here is my hunch: a future doctoral student on the history of our church will write a thesis about the course of discussions through the period 1994 to (say) 2018 and will bring findings which:

    a. agree, Edward, with your second paragraph above as being a significant factor in the course of discussions, while also agreeing, Bosco, with your comment at 7.13 am.

    b. elucidate another significance factor which (without the benefit of this future research!!) I describe as follows: bishops surveying their dioceses have realised that the spread of opinion is more variable than Those-in-Favour-of-Change and Those-Threatening-To-Leave-If-Anything-Changes and acted with commensurate caution. In some cases that caution has not finally delayed key synodical votes which have taken place in recent years (as I recall: Auckland, Waiapu, Dunedin, most hui amorangi). In other cases that caution has prevailed (no doubt with other factors involved such as seeing other things for synods to debate as having more urgent priority).

    c. adjudge with the benefit of hindsight and from the perspective of change to the present status quo, the time and energy spent debating the Anglican Covenant proposal as a distraction amidst the course of discussions in our synods and General Synod.

  6. Chris Sullivan

    On the bright side, Bosco, at least the Anglicans are discussing the issues – not very other denomination is.

    God bless

    1. There’s plenty of issues to discuss, Chris. And I’m sure other denominations are discussing many other important ones. I’m interested you see Anglicans as “discussing the issues” (plural). Blessings.

  7. My disappointment with the (precis of) the report is that is not really pointing to any kind of pathway forward. It is providing a menu of options, which as you say, any number of groups could have more or less come up with. And most of which are unrealistic in themselves. So the question of ‘how do we move forward as the body of Christ when we have different beliefs?’ is not addressed.
    Meanwhile it leaves us wide open to this kind of unfortunate headline:

    1. Thanks, David. The conclusion, “most of which are unrealistic in themselves” is yours. They are not part of the report(s). Again, IMO, highlighting this does not move us forward in any way. Blessings.

      1. Edward Prebble

        I share David’s disappointment here, while agreeing with your response, Bosco. I do think that, with all the effort and resources put into this process, it should have been reasonable to expect that they might offer, even tentatively, a recommendation as to which option, or series of options the commissioners favour.

        I am also disappointed that a commission including two judges could not offer a stronger opinion as to the canonical implications of various options. Which options require changes in our statutes? which ones require changes in the constitution? which ones require amendment/repeal of the Church of England Empowering Act? Those are surely matters on which these commissioners could have given us some more helpful advice.

        On the other hand, I think the Doctrine Commission have done pretty well with their equally difficult task. Given the range of theological opinion represented in that group, they have done well to produce a report over all their names, saying a/ there is a theologically coherent rationale for a change, b/ that rationale can be critiqued and challenged from several points of view, and c/ the critique can also be challenged.
        I see that as a more helpful format than the one by the Pilling committee, which had to include a substantial minority report.

      2. The conclusion that “most of which are are unrealistic in themselves” is certainly my own, on reading the precis.
        What I am really struggling with is seeing how the Church can work with the options. Adopting any individual option doesn’t seem to me to be realistic at this point in time. But then combinations of options get to be somewhat contradictory.
        I think highlighting it is useful to figuring out why we are not moving forward. We need to be realistic that all we have [from the summary] is a list of possible destinations and not a map of how to get there. If we don’t work on the map, we won’t get there.
        I must set some time aside to read the full reports next.

        1. “We need to be realistic that all we have [from the summary] is a list of possible destinations and not a map of how to get there.” A thought-provoking insight, David. Blessings.

          1. Well I have read the full Ma Whea Commission report now. (but not the doctrinal report).
            I have to say I don’t think they have really fulfilled their terms of reference.
            It strikes me that what we have is a summary document developed by the secretariat, that has been hastily tidied up and released to meet the May Synod deadline.
            Points (a) and (b) of the ToR are treated in a very descriptive manner with a lot of loose ends. (c) only gets passing mention. (d) is hardly considered if at all – your interchange with Peter Carroll provides far deeper consideration of one side of that issue. And they have refused to take on board (e) in terms of issues such as the nature of marriage, ruling it as out of scope.
            I have seen these kinds of reports appear in my professional life, where the secretariat does 90% of the work and the commissioners simply don’t have time for proper deliberation.
            So it is not unique to this situation or the church. It is too often what you get when you ask extreme busy people to take on tasks like this.
            Saying this, I am currently struggling in the position of “the extremely busy person” on a work-related project.

          2. And to add to that last comment.
            If fault lies anywhere it would be with the churches expectations of that this process would provide ‘the answer’. Whereas, we all need to engage in the hard work of living ‘the answer’ – which appropriate guiding decisions along the way through our Synod(s).

  8. Peter Carrell

    Re your comment at 6.57am, Bosco.
    If your invitation is to show any issue which has generated more discussion/energy/blogs, then, no, this one is the winner. But only at a certain level.

    When I (say) attend archdeaconry meetings, or Latimer Fellowship meetings, or when discussions in Post Ordination Training begin to range more widely than the immediate topic at hand, I experience huge energy/concern for the future of the church in the face of firsthand experiences of ageing/declining congregations. I observe strong interest in Fresh Expressions as a possible way forward to a new form of church for the 21st century.

    Here in our own diocese the greatest energy shared by a majority of parishes concerns our rebuilding and restructuring of the diocese, with clear concerns that we get it right re decisions which lead to growth rather than hasten decline.

    But let’s not fool ourselves. No one will ever be disbarred from consideration as a candidate for ordination or for licensed appointment because they hold a view for or against (say) Fresh Expressions. There is a real chance that our church will move to a position where candidates for ordination or for licensed appointments will be disbarred from consideration if they are against the blessing of same sex partnerships let alone change to our doctrine of marriage.

    I suggest that probable future scenario is worth some energy making sure we only get there if we are thinking through where we want to be as a church. (And, yes, the status quo has its own ‘disbarring’ effects and understandably energy is being given to changing it).

    1. True, Peter, I do not see the energy you see, say, for Fresh Expressions. Maybe I am missing where the report(s) about this is to our synod(s), and to General Synod? Maybe I am misunderstanding statements in our diocese that “the real question is what is happening at the parish level?”?

      Where did the Ma Whea? Commission discuss your concern about disbarring those who do not agree with blessing or marrying committed same-sex couples? If that is not covered well I suggest a blog on your site of an 11th option, Option K, would be helpful. In my understanding those who do not accept our church’s position that you can get married as often as you like if you are heterosexual are not disbarred, so, similarly, I do not share your Option K’s concern.


      1. Hi Bosco
        It would be good if you were the Autocrat of our church as I have every trust in your keeping your word that no disbarring would occur.

        However you are not the Autocrat and therefore you cannot make that guarantee. Do you really think that our church could sustain a (so to speak) Two Integrities approach to same sex blessings or marriages for long? We have not sustained it at all re the validity of baptism for infants of believers. Could we do so over the validity or not of blessing same sex partnerships?

        1. We have sustained it, Peter, over those who are prepared to officiate at the wedding of someone for their Nth time with previous partners still living, and those who would not so be prepared. I think that is a better parallel than baptism. In the spirit of our Constitution, you and I could be Co-Autocrats. Since, in this information age of transparency, we have not yet been told what is being discussed at next month’s meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui, perhaps this possibility is one that may yet transpire.


          1. Edward Prebble

            In the spirit of our constitution, won’t we need three co-autocrats? while I hesitate, in all humility, to offer myself for the position……

  9. In honor of your three cultures church, the three autocrats shouldn’t all be white. Which I believe at least two of you are.

  10. Peter Carrell

    Oh, David, we are all three white males. And that is probably the least concern folk would have about us being an autocracy 🙂

  11. Chris Sullivan

    This is my personal understanding, from a Catholic perspective:

    There is no sin in a couple living together chastely, whether gay, straight, cohabiting, or divorced and remarried. Scandal may once have been a concern, but that is no longer the case in the West today; much greater scandal and damage would be caused by an intolerant and judgmental condemnation and exclusion of such couples.

    There are cases of well known Catholic gay couples living together chastely. In at least one case, they have the public support of a rather conservative Catholic bishop.

    Such loving committed relationships ought to be celebrated and welcomed.

    There would not seem to be any problem with blessing such relationships (there is an ancient Christian rite of Adelphopoiesis to do this which is still used today).

    State same sex marriage ceremonies are essentially equivalent to civil unions in Catholic theology, not being understood as equivalent to sacramental marriage. The ceremony itself contains nothing contrary to Christian theology or morality.

    The main objection the Catholic Church would have would be around sexual relations, which official Catholic moral theology understands as sinful outside heterosexual marriage. Today, this moral understanding is disputed and it’s scriptural basis has been strongly questioned. Couples would need to make sound decisions in informed conscience.

    No greater concern with gay couples private sexual lives need be taken than is taken with the private sexual lives of heterosexual married couples, very many of whom are also engaged in various sexual practices considered sinful in traditional Catholic sexual morality (eg contraception, acts not open to conception). As Pope Francis brilliantly put it, we must be careful not to judge.

    In the long run, the moral arc of the universe tends to justice and I have no doubt that Churches will eventually grow into a more just, tolerant and inclusive understanding and practice. I see the present discussion as the work of the Holy Spirit clarifying the gospel among us.

    Hope this helps.

    God Bless

    1. Thank you. This is exactly the kind of grace-filled discussion that we need to be engaging in.
      As I have just commented above, unfortunately the process we have invested in in NZ has not taken us to this point of discussion.

  12. It was good to see a meeting of a future King of England (Prince George) with youngsters of like age (8 months) on today’s TV in New Zealand, who included the adopted child of Same-Sex parents, also in attendance.

    I’m glad that Plunket (New Zealand’s child-protection agency) was instrumental in arranging this family event. I didn’t see any visible flinching by either The Duke or Duchess of Cambridge – to whom the reality of 2 dads in attendance would have been pretty obvious, as it was to us onlookers.

  13. Dear Peter,

    Can I ask you to elucidate an earlier comment of yours [April 7] about this church and the validity of infant baptism.

    Are you saying that some parts of this church don’t accept that I was validly baptized, given that it happened when I was a baby?



  14. Hi Tony,
    What I am saying (or trying to say 🙂 ) is that within the church universal there have been two views concerning the validity of baptism of infants of believers: one view, the view which has prevailed within the Anglican churches is that such baptism is valid; another view, held by Baptists, is that such baptism is not valid (and thus a Baptist pastor is often eager to baptise as an adult one who was baptised as an infant Catholic or Anglican, completely denying the integrity of the first baptism).

    My understanding of the history of the Church of England is that post-Reformation, as the validity of infant baptism was being challenged by Anabaptists, theological difference on this (and other matters) led to ‘dissent’. The dissent was of a kind that Dissenters were not able to be contained within the one Church of England. I am afraid my historical knowledge is very sketchy at this point but, summarising, departure of Dissenters led to establishment of the separate Baptist church. To this day, as I am sure you are aware, Anglican churches get quite twitchy if suspicion arises that one of its priests is no longer prepared to baptise infants presented for baptism by believing parent(s).

    1. Might I just interrupt this conversation to add a couple of points:

      1) Peter mentions baptising “infants presented for baptism by believing parent(s)”. I think in many (most?) communities cohabiting heterosexual parents presenting their child for baptism would happen without much of an issue. I do not think the same is so true for committed same-sex parents presenting their child for baptism. That is worthy of reflection.

      2) I think that Peter’s point is a huge oversimplification. There are far more than “two views”. Baptists would regularly not use the concept of “validity” for baptism. Baptists cannot agree how much water to use, nor the age appropriate for baptism, nor whether or not it grants full church membership (universal or local) or is necessary for this at all, nor whether or not it is repeatable. Their confusion is hardly going to help move the particular focus of this thread’s discussion forward.


      1. Over-simplification? Moi? 🙂

        I see the force of what you are saying Bosco, and I agree that there is a greater array of issues for Baptists than I have presented. Nevertheless many Anglican vicars have experienced the chagrin of seeing valued members of their youth groups pulled away from the parish towards a local believers-only baptising church, a baptism taking place and (across all such churches) a shared denial of the validity of the baptism which had taken place as an infant in the Anglican parish.

        That there may be many other issues about baptism in those believers-only baptising churches does not change the essential narrative of tow majorly contradicting views which have not been contained within the Anglican church.

        (I guess, thinking out loud, turning that around slightly, we Anglicans can readily contain diversity so that, say, a priest with doubts that sprinkling is valid and so begins baptising infants by immersing them, a la Eastern Orthodox, is tolerable but a priest refusing fullstop to baptise infants because he/she no longer believes such baptism to be valid is intolerable).

        Well, even if my analogy fails on many if not all levels, I suggest we still face a situation as an Anglican church in which we need to contemplate whether we can or cannot tolerate being a church with (at least) two views re the validity of blessing same sex partnerships and/or blessing marriages of all kinds now recognised by the state.

        The issue is twofold: will those with one view remain in the church with those of the other view? Will our church, in the long run, prove able to include supporters of each view?

        As you know, in the long run, we have turned out to be a church which has some tensions rather than complete relaxation about including those who support the ordination of women and those who do not. But perhaps living with tension is a possible guide to the future re blessings of same sex partnerships etc?

        1. Yes, Peter, living with various positions beyond core doctrine is certainly part of Anglicanism. Baptism is clearly core doctrine – so I think the analogy has immediate serious problems. Divorce and remarriage, I continue to think, provides a more helpful way forward as a parallel example (others use pacifism). ps. our church does not allow “sprinkling” – the priest in your example would be right to doubt it 🙂 Blessings.

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