cross[Updated 29 April 2016 – at the end of this post, in green. There are now three alternative ways forward suggested in this post different to the Way Forward Group proposal. Furthermore, general agreement seems to be that the hashtag be #GSTHW16 ] 

If you are not interested in the (possibly-esoteric) internal workings of Anglicanism in these islands in the South Pacific, come back here tomorrow, and read about something of more general interest in tomorrow’s post.

Go and walk out in nature; have a coffee; talk to a friend. But if you are interested, pull up a chair and take time to reflect on some of the decisions before the 62nd General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) to be held in Napier, 6-13 May, 2016.

A) Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples

There’s a Bill and three motions around this:
Bill 15 Blessing of Civil Marriages
Motion 4 from the A Way Forward Group
Motion 5 (from Christchurch Synod), Motion 6 (Nelson Synod), and Motion 19 are all, in slightly different ways, asking not to move forward at this meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), but to do further work.

1) Currently, our church doctrine is clear: a marriage is holy without the blessing of an Anglican priest or bishop. It is a “rightly-ordered relationship” with or without the blessing of an Anglican priest or bishop. Christians, for example, married in a civil ceremony are, currently, a “rightly-ordered,” holy relationship.

The proposal in the Way Forward Report is that this no longer be the case. If this proposal is followed through, it “purports” to require the blessing of an Anglican priest or bishop to make a marriage a “rightly-ordered relationship.” I write “purports” in scare quotes, because the process proposed for this change cannot, in fact, effect this change. This would be a change in doctrine, and to change our doctrine the formulary process must be followed.

Described simply, the formulary process (often nicknamed “the twice-round” process) requires passing at GSTHW; then by a majority of dioceses and hui amorangi; followed by a 2/3 majority at a newly-elected GSTHW; and finally a year’s wait for anyone to make an appeal.

2) The model I keep returning to, again and again, is of marriage of divorcees. If such a couple, in conscience, judge it is right to be married, and an Anglican priest or bishop, in conscience, is prepared to officiate, then such a ceremony has occurred in NZ for nearly half a century.

Now, as I understand it, we could not proceed to follow this model, as blessing a committed same-sex couple is seen as changing our doctrine. A formulary is required. Digging deeper, and understanding that marriage of divorcees is also a change in our doctrine (held from before the Reformation, through the Reformation, until 1970 in NZ), I discovered that our church has not actually formally changed our doctrine (which requires the twice-round formulary process). It has merely acted as if it has.

Last meeting of GSTHW (2014) agreed that some of our rules show “inconsistency with the 1928 Act and lack of fundamental authorisation in the first place.” It now seems clear that 2.6 & 2.9 of our Marriage Canon (which includes marriage of divorcees) are in this category, and, for our integrity, need to be removed.

3) The Way Forward Group was limited by the framework set by Motion 30. The meeting of GSTHW2016 is not. It can be creative in ways that the Way Forward Group could not.

One simple, creative way forward is to leave all our doctrine formally as it currently is (“lifelong” and “a man and a woman”) but provide assurance that there will be no discipline, under Title D, of any priest or bishop who blesses a same-sex married couple or the marriage which includes a divorced person, no discipline of a bishop who ordains and/or licenses a person in such a marriage, nor of the person so holding a licence. One might call this the “Pope Francis solution.”

4) There is much confusion about a canon limiting a formulary. There appears to be no explicit constitutional foundation to this practice. The only example I’ve managed to dig up is of the Marriage Canon restricting the application of the Marriage formularies – and in the case of that Marriage Canon it appears that 2.6 and 2.9 have stated things that we know cannot be done by this canon but need a formulary. Motion 4 from the A Way Forward Group proposes sending the proposed canon on a mock-formulary, twice-round-like consultation to the dioceses. This, I think, will increase the canon-formulary confusion, not decrease it.

B) Changing the Constitution

Bill 9 to confirm Statute 711
This statute was passed on a simple majority at GSTHW2014. It then, as required, went around the dioceses and hui amorangi. It did not gain the assent of all dioceses, but sufficient to return to GSTHW2016, where I understand, it requires a 2/3 majority in each House.

I am firmly against proceeding with this change to our Constitution.

Is it bizarre that, as far as I can see, there is no copy of Statute 711 in the material provided to members of GSTHW, nor any background paper providing balanced (for and against) analysis? The change to the Constitution will allow Tikanga and bishops to authorise services. My guess is that it will be presented as something we thought we were able to do but actually couldn’t.

To make such a change at the Constitutional level, members of GSTHW need to be absolutely convinced of its necessity, and of its wisdom.

1) It will make Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pasefika effectively second-class citizens in a neo-colonial church. Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pasefika will be able, for example, to authorise their own baptism rites, their own ordinals, but they will need to do so with reference to the English-language, Pakeha rites which will be the gold-standard by which theirs will be judged.

Certainly, I am strongly in favour of Te Reo Maori and Polynesian-languages baptism rites and ordinals – but let them have equal status in our Church, authorised by the normal process for formularies, not second-class status.

2) Currently the liturgical life of our Church is chaotic. It is unclear what is required, what is allowed, what is forbidden. This change to our Constitution merely canonise the chaos.

3) Nearly every possible imaginable service is currently allowable in our church. We have the most flexible provisions in the Anglican Communion (with ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word,’ ‘A Form for Ordering a Eucharist,’ and ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist.’) What, concretely, is envisaged that is not currently allowed, and, hence, is such that a change to our Constitution is needed?

4) Bill 10 deletes Title G Canon VI and alters Canon XIV
It assumes Bill 9 (Statute 711) has passed, and the Constitution is changed.
To add to the difficulties and increase confusion, the latest version of Title G Canon VI is incorrect. What, on the Church’s official website, is called the “Second Schedule,” lists as “experimental” services that have passed as formularies of our Church. They are not experimental.

In the alterations to Title G Canon XIV, Bill 10 has

8.2 Any form of service authorised under this Canon must be based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’

What is here meant by “based on”? If that means that it must “conform to,” then this whole alteration is unnecessary. We are all already allowed to have services that conform to these. They require no further authorisation. If “based on” does not mean “conform to” then it merely increases the confusion of our church once again.

Vote against Bills 9 and 10.

5) Motion 16 To Annul SRL3 Experimental Orders of Service
This motion also assumes Bill 9 (Statute 711) has passed, and the Constitution is changed. But I do not think it is dependent on 711 passing as what is currently there at GSTHW2014 was realised to conflict with our Act and without foundation.

With Bill 9 lost, this motion can be amended to remove the assumption that Bill 9 has passed, and SRL3 can still be annulled. We have sufficient flexibility in ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word,’ ‘A Form for Ordering a Eucharist,’ and ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist.’ Anything beyond that, we have the facility to produce a new formulary. We do not need SRL3, it conflicts with our Act, is without foundation, and needs to be removed.

C) Ending Confirmation

Bill 11 to Adopt as Formularies Liturgies for Baptism and Laying on of Hands

1) The Baptism Rite
We should not have two rites (one for adults; one for children). Baptism is baptism – we should have one single rite for both, and such a rite is easy to produce; it merely has one or two questions slightly differently for the adult and for the child. We regularly baptise adults and children at the same service.

Furthermore, the rites presented have mistakes. Read more here.

2) The Liturgy for Laying on of Hands – this is a service, with words almost indistinguishable from our current confirmation rite, requiring a bishop to lay hands on candidates. It is Claytons Confirmation – the confirmation that you have when you don’t have confirmation. Read more here.

3) Motion 17 Guidelines for Christian Initiation
It is not appropriate for this meeting of GSTHW2016 to vote on this as it depends on confirmation ending, which, at the very least, cannot be confirmed until the formulary process is concluded (a year after the meeting of GSTHW2018 at the earliest). Hence, members are required to vote against Motion 17.

4) Bill 12 Removing the requirement for confirmation before ordination
This Bill is not dependent on Bill 11. I am in favour of removing the requirement of confirmation for ordination if and only if doing so does not endanger the acceptance of our orders within the Anglican Communion and in ecumenical dialogue with other episcopal churches. I have, as yet, not been assured that this is the case. There needs to be clarity whether the historic requirement of confirmation is doctrinal or merely one of discipline.

D) Anglican-Methodist Interchangeability

My understanding is that this is a change of doctrine and cannot be done by Motion 21 but needs to be done via the formulary process. This may be what is intended by “necessary legislation.”

What is proposed is “based on an ‘Irish Model’” about which meagre information is provided. The language of the Report is opaque.

My understanding is that, under this proposal, a Methodist minister could apply to be vicar of St Michael and All Angels in Christchurch, and, without having been episcopally ordained (in the Lambeth-Quadrilateral sense), could be installed as its parish priest. My understanding is that a Methodist minister could be elected to be the next Bishop of Dunedin, and, without having first been an episcopally-ordained (in the Lambeth-Quadrilateral sense), priest could be ordained bishop for Dunedin.

Well this is per-saltum ordination all right! But the Report further confuses me by distinguishing between transitional and permanent diaconate as if they are two distinct orders. Are there two such distinct priestly orders also: transitional priesthood and permanent priesthood?

According to this ‘Irish model’: Can a past or present Methodist President of Conference be translated to be the next Bishop of Dunedin?! If an Anglican bishop is elected as the next diocesan bishop s/he is not ordained but simply installed (as Bishop George Connor was – being translated from Waiapu Diocese). Presumably the same would be true if a past or present Methodist President of Conference is elected as a bishop. Would the priesthood of those ordained by this Methodist President of Conference (now regarded as an Anglican bishop) be accepted in Anglican Churches overseas in the Anglican Communion (other than Ireland)?! These are not merely pragmatic questions; they are intended to push beyond being-nice pragmatism to underlying theological considerations. [Let us be honest: is this extending or abandoning apostolic succession, for example?]

Other Liturgical Stuff

Bill 8 to Confirm Statute 713 (Sunday Titles)
This is nothing like as important as the above stuff. It concerns whether we title Sundays in, of, or after. People are going to continue calling Sundays whatever they call the Sundays – under our current system, I have seen one of our cathedrals call this coming Sunday, “The Sunday before Ascension Day”! My only fear is that, because we start our Ordinary Time at Candlemas (Feast of the Presentation), while the rest of the church internationally and ecumenically starts counting Ordinary Time from Epiphany, some of us can get out of step ecumenically/internationally (we were for many years a whole year out of step with our reading cycle!) Confused and confusing is the way we make our rules, patching one rule onto another. My preference would be to bring an integrated set of rules rather than add yet another patch. Read more here, here, and here. I wouldn’t vote for it; I think we can do better. But vote for this if you like. I’ll still talk to you.

Isn’t it ironic that GSTHW goes to all this huge twice-round, formulary effort to change “after” to “of” in titles for Sundays, but didn’t even think to do this for changing our doctrine of lifelong marriage for divorced heterosexuals!

Bill 13 to Amend the Endings of Collects
I am strongly in favour of anything that strengthens the Trinitarian understanding of the collect. This proposed formulary has that wonderful, Anglican word “may.” It is permissive, not required. Effectively, little is changed. What is currently on page 549 of our Prayer Book “may” still be used if this passes the twice-round formulary process.

Prayer for GSTHW

Good luck and God bless to members of GSTHW2016. With the amount of reading material, the complexity of many of the issues, and with the way some of it is presented, one could be forgiven for finding much confusing. Our church has much that is confused and confusing – the last thing we need is more patched onto that. If members are not crystal clear what they are voting for they should not vote in favour of something.

For over twelve centuries we have been praying the following prayer this coming week when GSTHW meets:

O God,
from whom all good things come,
grant that,
by your inspiration,
we may discern what is right,
and by your merciful guiding may do it;
through Jesus Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Further Notes on Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples

1) Especially for overseas reader: our church polity includes equal partnership between three cultural streams called “Tikanga.” One of those is Tikanga Pasefika encompassing Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, and is known as the Diocese of Polynesia. In none of these countries does the state recognise same-sex unions, and in the majority, male same-sex sexual activity is illegal, although prosecution is not enforced.

2) The proposal’s diocese-by-diocese allowing/forbidding Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples is neither fish nor fowl. It requires people to believe in doctrine that they are forbidden from putting into practice.

3) A more radical, creative option to allow Blessing Committed Same-Sex Couples could set in motion altering “lifelong” and “a man and a woman” in our doctrine of marriage. That marriage is lifelong may, then, still be a belief held in our Church – but it is not a required belief. It could be replaced by a minimum that “the intention is that the marriage be lifelong.” Similarly, that marriage is “between a man and a woman” may, then, still be a belief held in our Church – but it is not a required belief. It could be replaced by “a couple.”

4) A third creative option, gaining some online and offline traction, is to add the important word “may” into the Report’s proposed formulary for blessing a civil marriage. The proposed formulary then would begin: “A bishop or priest may bless a civil marriage using the following form.” As is currently the case with marriage, it would be clear: you can refuse to bless any couple without needing to give the reason why you are not prepared to do so. This third, the “may,” option would allow blessing committed same-sex couples and a couple where one or both is divorced. You can read the post where this was first proposed at: An Improved Way Forward? But please be aware that, through discussions, my understanding has been clarified and developed since then. I had not yet realised our church has not followed the procedure required to allow marrying divorcees. And I had not fully thought through to the Way Forward Group’s proposal to only have as “rightly-ordered relationships” those blessed by an Anglican priest or bishop. The Report fails to realise this would require a formulary change in our church doctrine as, currently, marriage is holy, a rightly-ordered relationship, whether blessed by an Anglican bishop or priest or not. 

The undergirding issue is: IF blessing a committed same-sex couple is a change of doctrine then it requires a formulary change to do it. This “IF” is understood by the Way Forward Group’s proposal to be correct. But how do you create a formulary that is required to be believed by all when such a significant percentage of our church believes this is not possible? The Way Forward Group’s proposal would have a formulary, to be believed by all, limited by a canon – so that it will need to be believed by all but need not be practiced by all, and may be forbidden to many. And we cannot forget that we now also need to grapple formally with marrying divorced heterosexuals, as our church has not followed our agreed process to enable that. We also need to deal with changing/clarifying who can be ordained and licensed.


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