holding handsUPDATED (scroll down)

I was not going to put in a submission.

The Archbishops of our church have called for submissions to a Working Group after not moving forward on blessing committed same-sex couples at this year’s meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui.

So much energy has been spent on this feud, I didn’t think a submission from me would be beneficial. But gay friends, young people, and others, including some who feared losing their bishop’s licence (and hence their livelihood) if they spoke up, have urged me to put together a submission.

My Challenge

And so I came up with an idea. In a world of increasing gap between rich and poor, with a housing crisis, environmental concerns, a critical refugee situation, violence, and other major burdens – I will give away $1 for every word of my submission.

This is my challenge to all: for every word of every letter, submission, or report that you support on this topic from the time of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2016 until the resolution of this conflict, you will give away $1 to those in need.

Don’t divide the number of words by the number of signatures. If you put your name to it – count up the number of words and give away that number of dollars. Every vestry member, every member of a working group, every blogger, every bishop or archbishop who puts their name to an idea – count the words and give away that number of dollars to those in need.

If you’ve already put in a submission – yes, I still mean you! And I’m including the report that will go to the next meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2018. And the words that will issue from that meeting – every representative that agrees with those words – you know what to do. And not from church funds – out of your own pocket.

And if you are poor, or a student, or just cannot afford this – find sponsors who will support your ideas. Set up a give a little page.

Problems

  • The Way Forward presented at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2016 was of a formulary blessing already-civilly-married couples. Formularies are doctrinally binding on all license-holders. Thus, to have a formulary to bless a committed same-sex couple binds that belief on those who are opposed to it – compromising their strongly-held opposition.
  • The Way Forward presented at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2016 proposed that marriage would not be a “rightly-ordered relationship” until blessed by an Anglican priest or bishop.
  • The Way Forward presented at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2016 would limit blessing committed same-sex couples diocese by diocese.

My Submission

A submission to Archbishops Winston Halapua, Philip Richardson, and Brown Turei for the Working Group appointed by the Primates in response to Motion 29 Interim Way Forward (Amended) of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2016

Grace and peace to you from God.

Our Anglican Church enables people of conflicting positions to be part of our big tent by having minimal doctrinal affirmations. In our church, one person can be a pacifist, another can bless warships; one person can oppose abortions, another can bless a hospital in which abortions take place.

Our formal church doctrine has that marriage is between a man and a woman, life-long, and monogamous. Within this context, those who hold that sex is only ethical in the context of marriage are not able to accept blessing committed same-sex couples.

Note, however, that the same logic means it is unacceptable to marry (or bless) a couple in which one or both partners are divorced. But approximately a third of marriages end in divorce, and marrying divorcees has been commonplace in our church’s practice for half a century. Clergy conduct marriage services of divorcees even though no change has been made to church doctrine that marriage is life-long. Many rightly see this as heterosexist hypocrisy.

Just as it is disputed whether women can be the proper subject of the sacramental action of ordination, so it is disputed whether a same-sex couple can be the proper subject of the sacramental action of marriage. But women, like heterosexuals, are in the majority in our church. Whilst there is no incontrovertible theological study to substantiate the ordination of women, and with the validity of (for example) the Eucharist being at stake, we allow it.

Unlike women or heterosexuals in our church, committed same-sex couples are a minority. In our church, we pour energy into arguing about committed same-sex couples that we would not dream of devoting to the place of women in ordained ministry or to feuds about marrying heterosexual divorcees.

The majority position of the Way Forward Working Group (composed of some of the best legal and theological minds of our church) agreed that blessing committed same-sex couples is not a departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, and therefore not prohibited by Te Pouhere (our church’s constitution). Many places provide such blessings, and people in committed same-sex relationships hold a bishop’s licence. Under the 2016 revision of Te Pouhere, bishops can even authorise such blessings in places under their jurisdiction.

I propose that our doctrine of marriage be changed to being between a couple, with the intent that it be lifelong and monogamous. Such a change would enable the sort of diversity illustrated in my first paragraph. The change would remove the current hypocrisy around marrying divorcees, clarify practice in relation to committed same-sex relationships, and facilitate honesty and openness.

Within this, I propose we affirm the current position that any minister shall have full discretion to decline to conduct any marriage service or blessing, and that we also affirm and encourage vocations to religious life, singleness, and chastity.

Yours in Christ,

(Rev) Bosco Peters

I have given away $1 for every word of this submission – and I challenge others to do the same for theirs.

UPDATE: thanks to Dagmar Hamberger who is donating 50 Euro to a worthy cause (for women who are in distress) as his support of this challenge in a facebook comment.

UPDATE 2: My friend and fellow-blogger, Peter Carrell, has also put up his submission. I challenge him to give away $826 to those in need. If this is too much for Peter, I challenge those who support his position not to put their name to his work (which, by my challenge, would mean they also donate $826 individually), but to donate a certain amount to those in need and to let Peter know until a total of $826 has been given away.

UPDATE 3: thanks to Stephen McGuire who is donating $225 to Ruth Ellis Center, a residential safe-space for runaway, homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth. Those who are supportive of the sort of direction I am suggesting are showing their focus on other things by taking up my challenge of giving to those in need. No one opposed to my submission has yet done so. When challenged individually, they have not replied to that.

UPDATE 4: There have been some intense reactions to my proposal. I accepted people’s urging to put forward a submission on the understanding that a group of experts would use ideas from submissions to form a final proposal – I never anticipated that my submission is the solution that would trump all others.

By far the weirdest response publicly to my proposal was the claim that I argue that current Anglican practice of remarrying divorcees “can only be redressed by accepting the novelty of ‘same-sex marriage’.” Clearly, I do not argue that at all. And to argue that would be illogical. My (lack of) logic (of this nonsense which I never said and obviously never would say) is then compared unfavourably with a dull schoolchild! To say that there is more heat than light in some places around this is an understatement. Maybe it’s time to elect a USA president!

One helpful criticism of my proposal is that some who can currently assent to our doctrine say they would not be able to assent to a doctrine of marriage that is between a couple because they do not believe that marriage involves a couple who are not male and female. As my introduction makes clear, I am wanting to affirm “our big tent by having minimal doctrinal affirmations. In our church, one person can be a pacifist, another can bless warships; one person can oppose abortions, another can bless a hospital in which abortions take place.”

Others more clever than I may be able to build better on my intention to enable this wide tent. Possibly leaving out “a couple” facilitates the wide tent? Possibly some formal, doctrinal statement such as: “This church acknowledges a variety of beliefs about marriage” may be a way forward?

I feel I have done my bit. And I am certainly open to discussion that generates light rather than heat.

UPDATE 5: I challenged people to give $1 for every word written. I realised for many people that would not be possible – and suggested setting up a give a little page. One student has done just that. Please donate to this Give A Little page. I remind you – the money is not for the student, but for worthy causes.

I was mentally keeping track of how much people here, on facebook, and elsewhere were giving away – but I have lost track of that good amount now. What has been noticeable is: it is only those who are personally in favour of blessing committed same-sex couples who have taken up the challenge of giving money away to those in need! In fact there have been messages – all from those personally against such blessings – that they would not accept this challenge. What I would hope for is a church where those who disagree with each other (on this or other things) can encourage each other, spur each other on, to acts of compassion and generosity.

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