Nelson Cathedral

At the meeting of the Nelson Diocese synod (9-11 August 2018), they passed the motion:

(a) The Nelson Anglican Diocese publically declares itself to be in impaired fellowship with the province of the ACANZP [the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia], and
(b) Publically offers support and recognition of the Diocese of Nelson to the clergy and members of parishes around New Zealand who have already disaffiliated from the ACANZP and to those who will do so in the future.

There is quite a lot to reflect on:

1) There is no reason given for the “impaired fellowship”. There was a preamble to this motion which indicates that this is in response to General Synod Te Hinota Whanui allowing for the blessing of committed same-sex couples by those whose bishop and conscience allows. It seems unclear, to people I have consulted, whether the preamble continues to be part of the motion that has been passed or not. Hence, I include the original preamble at the bottom of this post – if its inclusion or exclusion is clarified, I will update this post. Read original preamble

2) There is no mention, in the two motions this post points to, of God’s inestimable love for LGBT+ people, no acknowledgement of their suffering, no acceptance of Christian complicity in that,…

3) There appears no awareness that within our Aotearoa New Zealand context, the greatest stumbling block to evangelism is the Christian attitude to homosexuality (47%).

4) What does “impaired fellowship” mean? Will the Diocese of Nelson, as just one example, accept financial support from the St John’s College Trust Board? Will they accept other bishops of the province to participate in ordaining the next Bishop of Nelson? I understand that Standing Committee will meet to interpret what “impaired fellowship” means. Good luck with that! What happens if people thought they were passing one thing and now they are told they passed something quite different?

5) Think through: “declares itself to be in impaired fellowship with the province”. Note, the diocese is not in impaired fellowship with other dioceses and hui amorangi in the province, but “with the province”. Until now, The Nelson Anglican Diocese saw itself as part of the province. Clearly, they are not saying they are “in impaired fellowship” with themselves, so, in this motion, they are agreeing that “The Nelson Anglican Diocese” and “the province of the ACANZP” are two separate entities now publically declared as being “in impaired fellowship”.

6) To my knowledge (do correct me) this is a first such declaration in our NZ Anglican history. Why is such a declaration made about allowing the following of conscience over different readings of the Bible around committed same-sex couples when there was no such declaration about

  • having a bishop who the “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2)
  • the marrying of divorcees (a massive change to church practice – NB not teaching which remains “for life”; the allowance of this practice conflicting with teaching is clearly the model for blessing committed same-sex couples). The alteration allowing the majority, heterosexuals, the blessing of a new commitment after divorce raised little of the energy that we have seen over decades now against blessing committed same-sex couples.
  • women overseeing mixed-gender congregations (including dioceses!)
  • and so on, and so forth?

7) The previous meeting of the Nelson synod affirmed the Final Report of the process for blessing committed same-sex couples with a strong majority…

8) Bishop Richard Ellena, the Bishop of Nelson, was the only diocesan bishop on the “Motion 29 Working Group”. This group presented unanimously the recommendations for blessing committed same-sex couples that was agreed to by General Synod Te Hinota Whanui that the Nelson Diocesan Synod has now declared has caused impaired fellowship.

9) The detailed concern for formularies/declarations/constitution shown here in Nelson’s motions around homosexuality stand in stark contrast to the well-known ignoring of these same formularies/declarations/constitution by many/most in that diocese when it comes to other areas. So much so that a regular defence of such breaches is that many/most there would not have read them and/or be unaware of them – even when clearly stated in what they are signing.


Another motion was passed at the Nelson diocesan synod meeting:

Motion Pertaining to General Synod Motion 7


The Diocese of Nelson under our constitution/Te Pouhere questions the legality of two statutes enacted by General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui, pursuant to the passing of motion 7 at the 2018 meeting in New Plymouth.

1. Title G Canon XIV Amendment Statute, 2018 which allows Bishops to authorise services for the blessing of any form of civil marriage and civil unions including those in a same sex marriage or civil union and to authorise their use by individual clergy.

2. Title D Canon I and Title D Canon II Amendment Statute, 2018 whose intent is to safeguard theological convictions both for and against the blessing of same gender relationships; by providing immunity from discipline for Bishops who authorise blessing services for couples in same sex civil unions or marriages and who also authorise clergy to conduct them. Clergy likewise are provided with immunity from discipline for conducting such services and for teaching the scriptural validity of the same.

The passing of motion 7 and the pursuant canons sets a legal precedent for change which bypasses the Constitution/Te Pouhere. A precedent that is questionable constitutionally and procedurally by allowing Bishops the right to authorise services that are inconsistent with the Constitution/Te Pouhere, and to grant them immunity from Title D discipline for this and for the authorising of clergy to take such services. In a similar way the new canons also allow teaching by clergy that is in contravention of both the formularies and ordination vows and grants immunity from discipline for such teaching. Potentially now any change that is desired, no matter how much it might be inconsistent with the Constitution/Te Pouhere and the formularies, is now possible by this process. While the change to the canons under 2. above is meant to provide protection for both sides there is an implicit suggestion of equality of both positions when in fact the formularies are very clear that the blessing of same gender relationships is contrary to the doctrine of Christ. We should not need protection for teaching and practice that is in accord with the doctrine of Christ as propounded in the formularies. However the canon only says it will not discipline clergy for teaching it does not actually state that such teaching is in accord with the formularies.

But most importantly these changes to the canons are also a clear contravention and diminishing of the doctrine of marriage which is defined by the Formularies (and affirmed by this General Synod and the 2014 General Synod in Waitangi) as a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman. The position of the formularies on this issue was tested legally by the Human Rights Tribunal in 2013 when Bruce Gray QC represented the Bishop of Auckland in a case against an individual in a same sex relationship who wished to be ordained. The judgement was in the Bishop’s favour as the individual was not living a chaste life as defined by the formularies. The following is a quote from the judgement of the Human Rights Tribunal.


[1] To be ordained as a priest or deacon of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (the Anglican Church) a person must, inter alia, “be chaste”. Chastity is defined by the Canons of the Church as “the right ordering of sexual relationships”. Such relationships can only occur within a Christian marriage which is defined by the Formularies as a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman.

[2] Thus a person seeking to enter the ordained ministry of the Anglican Church must either be single and celibate or in a heterosexual marriage. Those ineligible for entry include those in a heterosexual de facto relationship and those in a homosexual relationship which is committed and monogamous in nature. Being gay or lesbian is not in itself a bar to ordination. But any candidate not in a marriage between a man and a woman must be celibate.

According to our Constitution/Te Pouhere neither General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui nor any Diocesan Synod or Hui Amorangi has the power to alter, revoke, add to, or diminish the doctrine of Christ as defined by the formularies(1). As a Diocese therefore we believe that we are bound by the Constitution/Te Pouhere to question the constitutional legality of these canons.

Furthermore motion 7 and the statutes noted above stand in opposition to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10(2) and puts us in opposition to the wider Anglican Communion. Our Diocese ratified this Resolution at our first Synod following that Lambeth conference. Note clause 1 and 4 in particular.

1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10.

This Conference:

1. …, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.

4. Cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;

And finally, our Diocese has a statement on Marriage and Sexuality adopted by Synod at Greymouth 9 October 2004 and confirmed at a later Synod at Motueka 22 June 2012(3). This statement affirms the doctrine of marriage as being

“a monogamous, lifelong, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman,” and does not allow clergy to officiate in services that do not align with this doctrine including civil unions and same sex unions of any kind. Furthermore the statement is a policy statement having force until such time as a future Synod of the Diocese of Nelson revises or replaces it and the Bishop is to apply this statement as appropriate to the life of the Diocese, including decisions regarding ordination, licensing, and permission to officiate.


1. That this Synod acknowledges that we are bound by our own internal policy, by the Constitution, by scripture and endorsed by 1998 Lambeth resolution I.10 and sees that Title G Canon XIV Amendment Statute, 2018 is inconsistent with the Doctrine of Christ as propounded in our Anglican formularies until such time as it has been tested by the Tribunal on Doctrine.

2. That this Synod agrees to adopt as allowed for under the provisions of the Constitution a new declaration of adherence and submission to the church which takes note of our stance on these canons


I, ……………….. do declare that I will give all due obedience to the Constitution/Te Pouhere and to all Canons of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia which are consistent with the doctrine of Christ as presented in our formularies (lawful canons).

I together declare that I will give all the obedience to the decisions and judgments of those holding authority under the Constitution/Te Pouhere and the lawful canons including all regulations which may be made pursuant to the Constitution/Te Pouhere and the lawful canons as long as those pursuant regulations are consistent with the doctrine of Christ as presented in our formularies (lawful regulations).

AND I hereby undertake in consideration of my holding any such office or membership immediately to resign that office or membership together with all the rights and emoluments appertaining thereto whenever I shall be called upon to do so by those acting under authority given to them by the Constitution/Te Pouhere or the lawful Canons or any lawful regulations made pursuant to them.

________________________________________ Signature
GIVEN under my hand on _______________(date) in the presence of:
Name: ____________________________________
Signature: _________________________________

For those interested, you can see the usual declaration in the Constitution here that Nelson Diocese now provides an alternative to in this motion. The Constitution requires the signing of the declaration “in the form set out at the end of this Clause or in words to the like effect.”

Others are better positioned to judge, but I would have thought that if such major energy is expended in altering the words of the declaration as required by the Constitution that one would approach the altered words with the presupposition that the Nelson Diocesan words are not “words to the like effect”.

My opposition to altering the Constitution (particularly at this junction in our history) to allow bishops to authorise services is well known. I do not know/cannot recall whether Nelson Diocese affirmed this change or not.


Original preamble to the motion at the top of this post.

That this synod

(a) being a voluntary member of the compact of dioceses established by the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia in 1857, and

(b) recognising that this compact exists for the purpose of, among other things, ‘the inculcation and maintenance of sound Doctrine and true Religion to the Glory of God Almighty’, and

(c) believing that the changes made to the canons by Motion 7 GSTHW 2018(commonly called Motion 29) constitute unlawful changes to the doctrine of our church, and

(d) being cognisant that the Diocese of Auckland has already moved to redefine marriage as it brought Motion 13 to GSTHW 20182 and that this motion was defeated by a narrow margin, and

(e) being deeply concerned by the Diocese of Auckland’s action in ordaining someone in a same-sex unions that has been blessed by the ACANZP and undertaking to form a provincial-wide Christian Community to support such clergy, and

(f) accepting that further challenges to orthodox Christian doctrines and changes to church canons are inevitable, and

(g) seeking to remain faithful to the teaching of Christ in the Scriptures and the historic doctrines of the Anglican church, and

(h) being grieved at being put in this position, and

(i) being committed to the salvation of souls through the faithful proclamation of the gospel

does therefore

An issue with this preamble as it stands is that a synod is not “a voluntary member of the compact of dioceses established by the Constitution”. Return to the motion as passed

Further discussion: Peter Carrell’s Staying the (impaired) course (updated)

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image source: Nelson Anglican Cathedral

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