A New Zealand Anglican bishop has waded into the murky waters of the Anglican gay debate and released an oil spill threatening extensive environmental damage.

This post has been updated June 14

Astonishingly, Bishop Philip Richardson, a self-professed “white, straight male” states:

I believe that General Synod needs to reach an agreed position on these three inter-related issues, in the following order:
First , whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity.

Is there anyone who would publicly suggest that “sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness”? If you wish to support that position in comments here please make sure you identify yourself completely (I am not interested in flaming and internet trolls participating on this site). I am willing to dialogue respectfully with those who are convinced that homosexual acts are sinful, but even those who hold that position do not subscribe to sexual orientation is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness.

Update (June 14): Rev. Edward Prebble has sent an open letter to Bishop Philip Richardson (full text of the letter here) in which he invites Bishop Philip to second the following motion at the next meeting of General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui :

That This Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui regards sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender as an expression of God given diversity.

Bishop Philip then goes on to conclude that if a bishop were to ordain someone in a committed, life-long, monogamous relationship with someone of the same sex a Title D process could be set in motion against the bishop, and “one result would be for a public determination that the ordination in question was invalid”.

This is shocking. It shows a basic misunderstanding of validity and if the bishop is correct it shows we can have no confidence in our Title D processes. (Title D is our church’s legislation dealing with standards).

A sacramental action can be invalid because of a defect in the matter, form, minister, or recipient.

Matter: we use water, not sand. Bread and wine, not chocolate and pepsi.
Form: if we say, “I baptise you in the name of the Christchurch wizard, our mayor, and the Hon Gerry Brownlee” the validity would be questionable.
Minister: A lay person does not ordain, a bishop does.
Recipient: “Baptising” a doll or a tree, the validity would be questionable.

The debate about the validity of ordaining women is in the category of “recipient”.

But the validity of an ordination is not affected by the degree of holiness or sinfulness of either the minister or the recipient. We worked this out as part of the fourth century Donatist controversy and the conclusion is reflected in

Article 26 – The unworthiness of Ministers does not hinder the effect of the Sacraments

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometime the evil has chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments; yet because they do not do so in their own name, but in Christ’s, and minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the word of God and in the receiving of the sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from those who by faith and rightly receive the sacraments ministered unto them, which are effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they are ministered by evil men.

The references to a Title D challenge come from a legal opinion received from Judge Chris Harding in response to questions from the Waiapu and Auckland dioceses to General Synod Standing Committee. I am responding to the theological dimension of Bishop Philip’s interpretation, not the regularity or otherwise of such an ordination.

Title D Canon II “Of standards required of bishops” 4.3 has “All Bishops of this Church shall be liable to discipline for… Refusal or neglect to use authorised Ordination Liturgies.” Ie. 4.3 is about “form” (see above). Bishops can only use ordination liturgies authorised by our church – they cannot alter them, even if they think they have “jus liturgicum” (the disputed right of bishops to alter and authorise liturgies) in other liturgical rites.

I am aware of bishops in our church altering our authorised ordinal to include authorising e.g. an organist in the middle of the prayer of consecration/ordination, of ordaining a priest and a deacon within the same prayer of consecration/ordination, of inserting gestures and extra words into the prayer of consecration/ordination, of changing presiders half way through the prayer of consecration/ordination, of changing language in the middle of the prayer of consecration/ordination, of moving the place where the rubric has the laying on of hands in the prayer of consecration/ordination.

In each of these cases validity under Title D is questionable. This is an issue of form.

Whenever I have brought this up for discussion with a bishop I have always been treated as some sort of rubrical fundamentalist (which I am not!) But now enter the gay debate, and what is sauce for the heterosexual goose is apparently not sauce for the homosexual gander.

Bishop Philip Richardson’s full article reported here
Anglican worship chaos

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