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Nelson’s Impaired Fellowship

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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57 thoughts on “Nelson’s Impaired Fellowship”

  1. A question all of the above raises for the Diocese of Nelson is whether it is in impaired fellowship with its own parishioners who believe that GS 2018 provides a reasonable way forward for ACANZP as it engages with the simple fact that at least two different beliefs about right ordering of same sex relationships exist within both ACANZP and the pews of Nelson’s churches.

    That is, a legal challenge to GS 2018 may or may not be successful vis a vis one side of the matter, but that in itself would not be a response to the existence of at least two different, very firmly held beliefs within the one church.

    Surely the way forward on such a matter – you rightly remind us that, ahem, people are involved here – is through conversation at the table of discussion and not through convocation at the tribunal of determination!

    1. Thanks, Peter. A good point one could press further: is the Nelson Diocese in impaired fellowship with its own synod members who voted against this motion and who believe that GS 2018 provides a reasonable way forward for ACANZP… Blessings.

  2. Impaired fellowship at the level of diocese (singular and plural), I would think, operates at the diocesan/provincial level and can’t be expected to operate at the individual. When some provinces have declared themselves in impaired fellowship or similar to TEC etc, there are presumably individuals within those provinces who think more like TEC, but the general point still stands becuae of the context being a diocesan level declaration. That’s not rocket science I wouldn’t think.

    I would always like to see some recognition of the pain of LGBT+ people in a motion like this too (to be fair it may be part of what is being indicated in being ‘grieved at being put in a position like this’ in the preamble, at least that is part of what grieves me in all of this), but again a Synod motion engaging particular political movements of the church has to be read in its context – a political response to a political move, which has (in the opinion of many, including me) an issue of trust in scriptural witness and authority and goodness at its heart.

    Thanks for the info though, I hadn’t heard anything about this until this morning.
    God bless

    1. Thanks, Chris. Your interpretation of “impaired fellowship” by reading that in the light of “impaired fellowship to TEC” is a “That’s not rocket science” understanding. Hence, it will be interesting, as I indicate, to see whether a different interpretation is presented by others – especially, as just one example I give, who will be invited (and who will be barred) to lay hands (if required) on the next Bishop of Nelson. Blessings.

  3. If I may clarify a point – the first motion passed by Nelson Synod says in part that it resolved, “to put aside Title G Canon XIV Amendment Statute, 2018 for being 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.” There was no suggestion of any legal case being taken by Nelson – there was intention of leaving ACANZP in any manner at this time – and the relationship is only impaired (and the point was made that “impaired” implies diminishment and not broken) insofar as Nelson does not follow the majority of other Diocese in accepting the amendment – there have for a long time been theological differences with other parts of ACANZP, but no other impairment should be read into the motion. The debate was tinged with a great deal of sadness but I detected no animosity to be intended.
    A motion to leave ACANZP was roundly defeated – Nelson has no intention of going anywhere anytime soon.
    Finally, did anyone expect a different response from Nelson? I thought it was a reasonably considered and mild response.

    1. Thanks, Keith. I may be missing something, but certainly no one here has suggested “any legal case being taken by Nelson”. As for “impaired fellowship” – there is nothing in the passed motion suggesting that we are to understand “impaired insofar as Nelson does not follow the majority of other Diocese in accepting the amendment”. It is you who are reading that into the motion, not we. Blessings.

  4. As one whose attitude toward LGBT people was changed primarily through working with and ministering to Christians who were non naturally hetero-sexual. Some – especially those from conservatively biblical backgrounds had spent years of prayer, healing ministries, various courses and struggle trying to change their orientation including marriage and children all without success. Many had suffered years of denunciation, condemnation and either hiding in fear or being ejected from their fellowships when in all other respects they were born-again believers and contributing members of their churches. After 40 years of ordained ministry some, single and celibate, others in partnerships of many decades are among my closest friends. It is my observation that God has embraced them and works through them – that it is not their orientation that is at issue but like all of us our commitment to Christ and our witness and ministry is the true defining reality. One more factor. The Lambeth Conference of Bishops was set up for prayer and fellowship among the bishops and dose not have any legislative authority, so with respect it’s prognostications have no authority

  5. We Synod delegates made a complete mess of our handling of the “impaired” relationship” motion and have conveyed to the rest of the Province and to our own parishioners by it a pugilistic sense of disaffection — the very sense we were trying hard not to convey, because (apart from, perhaps, a few among us) that is not how we feel. Concerns, yes, that need to be raised and discussed and a sense that the relationship is to a degree impaired and will remain impaired until these matters have been sincerely discussed and, with mutual love, resolved, but impaired only in the generic sense of the word, as it might be used outside Anglican polity.

    That such was our intention is, I believe, made clear in that by a loud voice-vote majority we agreed to excise a clause that would have specified a number of ways we would withdraw from Provincial fellowship because of the perceived impairment.

    To the cynics (and shame on you for being cynical 🙂 ), yes, the fact that the Diocese would suffer a severe financial hit was mentioned late in the debate on the amendment, but I’ll warrant that most or all of those present could see well before then that the amendment would be carried and the clause deleted because the provisions of the clause would have further damaged a relationship that we want to repair, not destroy. (And, of course, our emphatic rejection of the motion calling for Nelson to secede altogether from the ACANZP is further evidence of the same point).

    Such is my opinion, but if Standing Committee releases a statement (as I believe they intend), I will be surprised if it does not confirm that they, too, understand the passed motion’s spirit and intent much as I do.

    As to the general shambles of the process, please, sisters and brothers, be charitable. +Richard was very ill in the months preceding Synod,awaiting and receiving and then recuperating from heart surgery, and his debility continued through the time of the Synod’s meeting. Then, to compound things, the Diocesan Chancellor had leave of absence and was on the other side of the world. From my experience of the Chancellor’s wisdom at previous Synods, he would have perceived the problem we were creating and cogently changed our minds had he been present.

    Some wise heads counseled that, regardless of the rights or wrongs of the amended motion, it should be sent back to the parishes and not considered by Synod until 2019. Less wise heads, mine among them, chose to ignore that advice. I haven’t slept well ever since Synod.

    1. Thanks SO much, Trevor, for providing such a strong, eirenic comment as a lens through which to read the motions. On the other hand, of course, this topic/”issue” was not one to arrive with representatives unprepared – we have been discussing this for decades now. That having one person unwell and another away leads to an analysis of a complete mess does not bode well for the diocese (and possibly the province). Please, so we don’t miss it, keep us informed of developments, including any Standing Committee statement. And sleep well tonight. Blessings.

    2. I attended part of Synod as a member of the public and not as a Synod Rep, mainly to hear the extremist views supporting the motion for the Diocese to secede and in the hope that reasonable and inclusive leadership would prevail. I heard some thinly veiled, homophobia wrapped up in the guise of God’s will. I also heard pleas for tolerance and felt hope that sense would prevail. It did not. So I have resigned as Lay Canon, Cathedral Treasurer and Diocese H&S Adviser. The level of tolerance and respect I afford my fellow anglicans in Nelson was not afforded to me and for those like me who voted against this motion. I feel rejected by my own Diocese and will not now receive spiritual leadership or sacraments from clergy who by imposition, are now “in impaired fellowship” with me because I am not in Impaired fellowship with the national church. And I don’t want to hear theoretical debate about the machinery of church governance. When someone says they’re in impaired fellowship with you, you know it means the relationship is broken and not full. This is a personal tragedy for both me and my husband, given he is Sub Dean at the Cathedral and we have always worshipped together. What outrages me most of all is that Standing Committee is to meet to decide what this actually means. What level of incompetence and recklessness passes a motion with such catastrophic wording and callous disregard for the impact this has on people like me (main stream, non evangelical anglicans) and then within hours admits to not being clear what it means? For the first time in my life, I feel ashamed to be associated with my local Anglican church, which is why I have elected not to be.

  6. Bosco, an intriguing sidebar to all of this (though not visible on the Nelson diocesan website – which has little diocesan news beyond last year’s events) is that the Nelson Synod has decided to affiliate in some way (?) with yet another (other than FCANZ) quasi-Anglican group in Aotearoa know as ‘AFFIRM’ One wonders how these odd ‘affiliations’ are going to be managed within ACANZP – except by ‘Radical Inclusion’ – a situation seemingly rejected by both Nelson and FCANZ.

  7. Karen M. Jordan

    As a product of an Irish Catholic father and English Anglican mother, I have seen the harm that extremism, zealotry, intolerance and exclusion can do to generations of people. Which is why I had no option in all good conscience but to resign as Lay Canon, Cathedral Treasurer and Nelson Diocese H&S Adviser. Thankfully I am outside of the Diocese sufficiently frequently to worship with fellow Christians who remain in unimpaired fellowship with me.

  8. Karl Summerfield

    Unfortunately the AFFIRM motion came from a Synod rep from our Parish. I’m suspicious of the motivation for it, and a small group of us spoke out against it at the Vestry meeting when it was raised. One of the reasons given (along with all the innocuous sounding stuff from the AFFIRM website) was to “strengthen +Richard’s position in the House of Bishops”.

    Nelson Diocese has a long way to go and at the moment it feels like it’s only the “anti” voices getting through. I believe from talking to some of our Synod reps that there was a lot of overtly homophobic sentiment expressed from some people over the cups of tea. I can certainly relate to Karen’s observation of “thinly veiled, homophobia wrapped up in the guise of God’s will”.

    While our Parish certainly isn’t of one mind on the matter, 80% of us are knuckling down and trying to offer a place of refuge, safety and belonging for anyone who shows up. I can’t see how you can follow Christ and do anything else…

    1. Cheers Karl,
      I am one of the few who voted against Motion 29 as I believe it does not go far enough and will make the church more irellivant in todays society. I also voted against supporting AFFIRM as I could see through it for what it is.
      It is very sad that we follow a revolutionary who taught us a new way which is inclusive and accepting. Sadly my own children would not be accepted in the church although live to strong Christian values.
      For those who can not accept the peoples will there are other options for them, Jesus was a leader not a slow follower.

  9. Rev Simon Martin

    As a vicar in the Nelson Diocese I am very sad about many things these days. Sad to see Karen hurt by our Synod’s decision. (Karen, you have been such a huge help to me, us and many others. Thank you and sorry.)
    Saddened by our clumsiness in handling such a vital matter.
    Sad that Bishop Richard has to deal with this during his farewell.
    Sad that parishioners had nearly zero say in such a significant statement and are still in the dark about what it actually means.
    Sad that the one who cooked the pie has decided to leave and not help clean up the kitchen.
    However, I do believe that there are enough people with strength and wisdom to keep us engaged with ACANZP and chart a new course that seeks to repair fellowship.
    While I see that some of our weaknesses are because we are a small diocese, our size gives other advantages and I for one will do my best to ensure that we hold ourselves to account and extract every ounce of learning from eating this pie humbly. And yes Peter, I believe we (Nelson) are internally impaired…

    1. Thanks, Simon, for this open, heartfelt comment. I regularly encourage all who visit here to pray for each other – let us continue that practice and discipline. Blessings.

  10. Among those in Christ, there is no such thing and there can be no such thing as “impaired fellowship.” There is only weak faith in the Holy Spirit’s gift of unity to those in the Son to the glory of the Father before all creatures.

    A synod declaring “impaired fellowship” and a pope excommunicating the Catholic Church are in the same way impossible, and even absurd. Canonists have agreed for centuries that such a pope has abdicated and is himself excommunicate. For if the gospel is true, no such power to diminish the Bridegroom’s relation to his bride exists or can exist either in heaven or on earth. Surely, believers can see, it is unwise for any mere creature to claim a power that God himself, in becoming man, forswore.

    If some due process review of a measure exists, there is no impropriety in waiting for its conclusion before proceding to implementation. Nor is anything “impaired” when a member exercises ordinary membership rights.

    “My ways are not as your ways. and my thoughts are not as your thoughts.” To the fleshly mind of the unregenerate, the Church is just another arena for blood sport politics and “every man does what is just in his own eyes.” But sinners washed clean by the Blood know, for it has been revealed in scripture by God, that one cannot insult the bride and have a saving *pistis* or allegiance to the Bridegroom. Unfortunately, it is reasonable to see in the language and substance of the motion above just such insult.

    Presently, there is obvious tension in the Body occasioned by the question–

    Whether due confidence in the scriptures precludes belief that same sex attraction has a place in the new creation begun in the Resurrection.

    At such a time, those not ruled by the powers of the passing aeon will all the more live in the Love given to those in the Son by “avoiding unprofitable quarrels” far from the single point of uncertainty as well as ecclesial speculations and innovations beyond the scope of any diocesan synod.

    1. Thanks, Bowman, for this strong reflection against the motion Nelson’s synod has passed.

      I think the key point in your comment might be in the first four words – those who are facing the direction of separation are questioning whether those who are open to blessing committed same-sex couples are “in Christ”. For them condoning committed same-sex couples is a “salvation issue”.

      With the current Bishop of Nelson retiring at the end of this year, this motion, as I indicate, will move towards its conclusion relatively quickly. Will the next Bishop of Nelson sign the declarations as required by our Constitution or as now required by the Nelson synod? If the latter, will this be seen under Canon Law as “words to the like effect”? And which bishops will be invited to ordain (install) the next bishop?

      I understand the plan had been to hold the next meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui in Nelson. Might those booking ahead be checking that there is cancellation insurance?

      As to “Whether due confidence in the scriptures precludes belief that same sex attraction has a place in the new creation begun in the Resurrection”? Taking such a tack means that one could argue (and many have) that any sexual attraction has no such place: “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Jesus in Matthew 22:30).


      1. Thank you, Bosco.

        As Peter’s readers know, my scepticism about SSB arises from the Reformation corrections to medieval scholasticism– (a) marriage is a state of life in the present aeon ordered to procreation; (b) weddings are not sacraments; (c) the state is competent to regulate it in the interest of orderly justice. Civil SSM enables justice in many disputes arising from cohabitation, but churchly SSB is a return to medieval confusion.

        The scriptures assume an association of marriage with procreation. However, the fecundity of the married has declined in every society in which mass prosperity has been secured. Thus all *Western* opinion on That Topic reflects the post-scriptural principles on which Christians have sought to base their several new ethics for love, sex, and marriage. Insofar as none absolutely condition marriage on openness to procreation, none wholly agree with what the scriptures suppose, each introduces some non-biblical novelty, and all insist that their ethic alone stands in continuity with that of the pre-industrial world we have lost. Respectfully, Bosco, I perceive that what straight folk believe about queer folk mainly reflects their own side’s post-procreative ethic, not wicked homophobia or enlightened tolerance.

        The Diocese of Nelson has a reasonable if narrow grievance– a majority of ACANZP’s synod has pre-empted its local view of a still-disputed matter without subjecting its own ethic to the risk of challenge in a truly open debate. This was wrong; it does not warrant mystifications about an “impaired relationship” or surrender to the petty power politics of this aeon.

        1. Thanks, Bowman – but I am confused about your argument. The “official” position of the largest Christian perspective exactly follows the position that you posit no one does. I would suggest quite a different dynamic more around a “perfect storm” analysis: biblical mistranslation and misunderstanding; ignorance and yuck factor; scapegoating a minority in order to bolster a false sense of unity; misfired attempt to gain power by a misjudged attempted alliance with those beyond the church who ended up moving far faster than anticipated; etc.


          1. Bosco, three replies; one now, two later.

            You are there and I am here, of course, but I have heard no claim that Anglicans on the blessed isles–still less the good people of Nelson– are following Humanae Vitae. Elsewhere in the prosperous West and its diaspora, Roman Catholics seem to be as non-procreative as their neighbours. Since I think that you too know this, I cannot account for your confusion about my less polarised and non-identitarian account of the difference of opinion.

          2. Bowman, of course you can account for my response. I was simply responding to what you have written about “all Western opinion… none absolutely condition marriage on openness to procreation…”

            Your new comment confuses me even more. Nelson’s synodical decision is in the direction of conditioning marriage on openness to procreation (the Humanae Vitae line) while you are, in this comment, insisting that there is “no claim that Anglicans on the blessed isles–still less the good people of Nelson– are following Humanae Vitae”.


  11. Bosco, you have given us the obvious answer to the problem of whether, or not, Same-Sex Blessings is a ‘salvation issue’ – in your reiteration of Matt.22:30
    “in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Jesus in Matthew 22:30).

    From this quotation, it should be pretty obvious that sexuality and gender are earthy concepts which have no place in Heaven – our true destination, which Christ has opened up for us.

    I’m mindful of last Sunday’s hymn at SMAA by Fr.Faber:
    “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea” – a concept that some ‘Christians’ still have problems with.

    1. Thanks, Fr Ron. Yes, the words of that hymn are worth deep reflection. On another hand, I would want to value sexual yearning as an expression/sacrament of our yearning for God – even of God’s yearning for us. Blessings.

  12. The history of seceding from primary organisations has not generally been a happy one. Those who separate find that having done it once it is surprisingly easy to do it again. Even at a congregational level this occurs too often. There are many independent churches around the nation where a junior leader has disagreed with the policies/doctrine of the senior pastor and gone off with others and invariably ‘under the direction of The Holy Spirit’established another fellowship. The GAFCON leadership may see itself as a new Reformation but how long before its membership further subdivides on doctrinal,cultural or organisational grounds. It may well be that some changes of course may be necessary to avoid the icebergs fixed doctrine but let’s remember that icebergs also move and even melt. What seemed an impossibility becomes change that further advances the Church’s gospel witness. Older ones of us recall the struggle for the ordination of women which was opposed on the same grounds, reason, tradition and Scripture as those opposed to the blessings of civil unions. The women’s iceberg moved and melted before we dashed our church against it. Let’s pray it may yet do so again so no-one will be in an ‘impaired’ relationship

    1. Yes, John, you are right to point to women in leadership (as I did in my post) as just one example on which the “against committed same-sex blessings” group will not find agreement. Blessings.

  13. Several who were present at the Nelson Synod have said that they think they heard an undercurrent of homophobia in some of the speakers and in tea-break conversations. I am sure they are right. Nevertheless, I’m also sure that most of my fellow Nelson synods-people, though conservative in their doctrine, are not homophobic in the way they hold It. If an LGBTQ person or same-sex couple came into most congregations, they would be warmly received by most there, and the clergy would be likely to quietly reprove any parishioner who displayed a homophobic reaction.

    If the visitors kept returning and the pastoral relationship deepened, the clergy would urge celibacy, but not without compassionate awareness of the trial their counsel meant.

    There is blatant, Westboro Baptist style homophobia. Then there is what I would call homo-dismissiveness, when a conservative Christian thinks he/she has moved beyond homophobia, but still has not so put themselves into the shoes of LBGTQ people as to truly understand their anguish. Then, lastly, there are those conservative Christians who have understood the anguish but believe that the Scriptures offer them no alternative but to counsel celibacy while offering warm fellowship to those who face that struggle.

    Anyway, I appeal to everyone who is following this issue, please have a nuanced understanding and don’t allow your view of the Nelson Diocese to be reduced to a single adjective. (Except, perhaps, in regard to their handling of this motion, “inept”. I can ruefully accept that.)

    1. Thanks, Trevor. I have never encountered any situation in which people have the homogenous view of Nelson Anglicans that you counsel against – and I certainly don’t sense that in comments here.

      I would add to your good points: can the same spread of positions you describe be regularly found in Nelson Diocese towards heterosexuals who are divorced and now in a new marriage?

      Today happens to be the national day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia amongst young people. 58% of them worry that they will be hurt or bothered each day they come to school. 43% of them have been physically harmed in a Kiwi school in the last year. They are more likely to have alcohol or drug abuse problems, suffer from anxiety, or resort to self harm. In NZ, a fifth of trans students attempted suicide in the past year. And these stats have not improved in the last decade! Whatever the different intentions of church motions around sexuality, if they do not explicitly address such issues, they will inevitably be understood as not helping.


  14. I feel I must add that a huge personal sadness here is that this outcome has come to pass during +Richard’s convalescence from heart surgery. As he approaches his retirement and being his last Diocese Synod, he must be weeping at the outcome – his hard work and endless commitment to evangelical orthodoxy but in the context of a broad church of Anglican unity so easily unravelled. The decision not to consult with the wider parish congregations (who undoubtedly would have been a moderating force for unity) was disastrous. I would never have agreed to be the Bishop’s Lay Canon if I did not believe him to be sincere in both his beliefs and in his desire to retain the tolerant unity of the Anglican church. That the Vicar who created this mess has now resigned because the result isn’t extreme enough for him and that the process at Diocese Synod was too ineffective to prevent this internal and national impairment, is a sad, sad footnote to Bishop Richard’s legacy.

  15. Bosco, because rates of fecundity vary inversely with prosperity, the mass of people in prosperous societies who want sex to mean something are re-shaping whatever cultural bricollage they have to satisfy that desire. Here, but perhaps not on the blessed isles, pop culture is absorbed in inter-definitions of masculinity and femininity and the spiritualisation of erotic desire.

    So too, in a derivative way, are our mystagogues of sex. After all, if what they say were not derived from pop culture in the first place, few would understand them. So we have some who mystificate the man/woman dyad and others who mystificate erotic desire, although neither mystification is altogether scriptural. One really must press the imagination hard to imagine, say St Paul, teaching either one in the versions we hear.

    In prosperous societies, synod-driven churches follow these secular currents, influenced by whatever mystagogues rationalise the one(s) that they prefer. Where the said societies are polarised in other ways— class, ethnicity, region, etc– they are likely polarised too in their new proposed meanings for sex.

    That can lead, as it has here in the US, to rival synods, each of which supports the sexual ideal of a different social constituency. The poor, immigrant, and working class ACNA cares about the dyad; the professional, managerial, and academic TEC cares about desire. If one cares about the poor, one empathises with single mothers and fatherless boys and applauds ACNA; if one cares about the elite, one empathises with queer couples seeking social acceptance. Each ideal has its poster children.

    Of course, none of this applies to churches on the blessed isles, let alone ACANZP. No social divisions, disinterested sages moved only by meditations on the Word, equal empathy for the struggles of all persons— I hope to visit this perfection before I die. But meanwhile, I am surprised that what Trevor describes sounds so familiar.

    1. Thanks, Bowman. A few areas in Aotearoa New Zealand are well known for a more alternative approach to living. The Nelson region would be one of those areas. In other parts of the country, your analysis describes the reality as you experience it. In Nelson, the synodical decision would not reflect its general population. I wonder if Trevor is keeping an eye on both the world in which we live and serve as well as the wider context of the church in our seven nations. Blessings.

  16. Bowman, perhaps you have not realised the extent to which the Neson Diocese is ACANZP has been overtly influenced by the conservative Evangelical Diocese of Sydney – and graduates of Moore College, like the undbiquitous Jensen family. Former Archbishop Peter Jensen was one of the founding members of the GAFCON/FOCA sodality – that does not represent the broad consensus of ACANZP – even in the Nelson area.

  17. Thirty four comments at this stage. Wow. I doubt there would be so many comments with such complex thinking on other subjects such as finding ways to end poverty, racism, lifting up people with educational opportunities, providing water…

    I start from the simple idea that as a human, I cannot comprehend fully the mind of God. So I look to the simplicity of the commandments, especially the Great Commandments– Love God with all your heart and all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

    I struggle to see why this issue is so complex. Are you loving your neighbors as yourself or are you tying yourself into knots to find someway to justify a lack of understanding of your neighbor? I get you don’t understand that my marriage can be as meaningful as yours. I don’t care that you feel yours is blessed and mine isn’t. Frankly, I feel the same way about yours. What do you see in it? /s

    If a blessing is good for a heterosexual marriage, why is it an issue to find a blessing for a homosexual couple? Aren’t there just two sacraments?

    At the end of the day, I feel you can twist as you want, but it is received as sending us to the “back of the bus” or telling us we can’t drink out of the same fountain. Sorry, but as famously said, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

    Could I pray that all this effort could be put to ensuring all people have drinkable water?

    1. I totally agree, Stephen. It is astonishing how much energy is expended (lost) on this regularly occurring nonpathological minority variant in the human condition (akin to left-handedness – “sinister” similarly was seen as a defect in a normatively right-handed humanity). It took time for some/many to adjust to allowing/providing left-handed scissors… Blessings.

      1. True. My father was left-handed and was forced to learn to write right-handed. His left hand was tied behind his back. Unbelievable. However, I don’t think he worried on a daily basis that some “good Christian” would follow him and bash him to death because people of “good faith” couldn’t come to agreement on whether LGBT people are equal, and I don’t think he ever considered suicide or fell into drug usage due to the constant scorn of those people who allege to be Christian.

        Silence, and dithering, does equal death. For some this is a theoretical discussion; for others it is life and death. Thanks for all you do to speak out.


        1. Thanks, Stephen. I preached on this recently – and gave the Kiwi stats on anxiety, physical attacks, self-harm, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse for LGBT youth – as you say, these are God’s beloved individuals being discussed. And, sadly, the stats I quoted have not improved in ten years. Blessings.

  18. Bosco, my third and final comment.

    An *etic* understanding of those who advocate for the two new meanings of sex–sacred dyad; spiritualised eroticism– is much easier when we recognise that–

    (a) *Prosperity –> low fecundity* has occasioned both of them.

    (b) Both groups propose to repackage themes of pop culture as sacred to Christians;

    (c) Because neither meaning was an explicit part of the apostolic faith, some impartial scrutiny of both of them is reasonable, inevitable, and healthy.

    (d) When a division in the local Body roughly coincides with an underlying division in the wider society (eg class, ethnicity), that fact in itself bears scrutiny in Christ.

    (e) Scrutiny helpful to the Body requires the same impartial work that we do to examine other contested ideas.

    Likewise, an *emic* understanding of the same advocates is much easier when we recognise that–

    (f) Those who disagree with us are not failed versions of ourselves.

    (g) They have independent minds, and are in no way trying to become ourselves. Certainly they were never obliged to have our moral sentiments or to apply them in the same way.

    (h) Every major world society is more or less polarised by topics in which concerns for caring and purity compete.

    (i) Every moral perspective has poster children for its concerns.

    (j) Comments helpful to those who would discern with the Church as a whole enable both the empathy we need to understand others, minimise the *confirmation bias* with which data are selected and perceived, and avoid pretensions to moral superiority.

    Thank you again, Bosco, for giving us the OP above.

    Bowman Walton

  19. There’s an underlying issue that bears on all of us and that is the and the forms of our expression of the divine/human relationship. Where it is centred in an authority structure key words will be ‘authority’, ‘obedience’, ‘submission’ and similar expressions of hierarchy. Terms like Scriptural authority and biblical truth will be seen as the supreme expression of God’s will rather than reason or tradition or direct revelation. As I observe it little or no allowance is made for context in culture, language social/national context – the Bible is seen as God-breathed and therefore inviolate even though Bible believing Christians differ sharply on several major doctrines. For me the Logos, the Living Word is of paramount importance with my primary relationship being that of Saviour and friend. The character of God who is love, freedom and grace is my primary interpretive tool of both the Bible and everyday life. It is this framework of faith that allows me – in fact challenges me to love myself and my neighbour including my non-hetero-sexual neighbour. I’m not very interested in his or her orientation but in their friendship and care and the development of our personal and collective Christian faith and witness to the community

  20. The Standing Committee of the Nelson Diocese, to clarify our intention and understanding of Motion 17A of our recent Synod, offers the following statement –

    At its recent Synod the Diocese of Nelson voted overwhelmingly to remain in fellowship with the Anglican Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, rejecting suggestions for practical withdrawal from fellowship. However, recognising with sadness and disappointment the move by some within the wider church away from the traditional orthodox theology that is foundational to our doctrines, Synod acknowledged the strained (but not broken) relationship that now exists with some over matters of theology and practice.
    A modified constitutional declaration of adherence and submission, allowed for under church law, was approved to signal this disappointment, enabling those concerned about the move away from orthodox theology to make the declaration in good conscience and remain within the church.

    We believe this statement will help clarify Synod’s intention in passing motion 17A, the meaning of which should be read in light of those additional motions not passed at Synod.

    Standing Committee sincerely regrets any hurt caused through the lack of clarity of meaning of this motion.

    Good Morning…
    …Please pass on my thanks to Standing Committee for clarifying the Diocese’ commitment to unity with our national church and for confirming our condition of continuing full communion with the same.
    The letter from Standing Committee defining the recent motion at Diocese Synod is extremely helpful. I can respect the Diocese position being in disagreement with some views within our church family but am relieved that this does not break our unity, diverse as the membership may be.
    Thanks also for the apology for hurt caused. It is a gracious thing to do.
    On a personal level, I am relieved to be able to continue to worship locally, and particularly in fellowship with my husband and friends.
    God bless,

    1. Thanks, Karen.
      Standing Committee’s public statement makes no mention of “hurt caused”.
      And the “hurt caused” in the version in your comment is for “the lack of clarity of meaning of this motion” – it is not for the content, process, or effect of this motion.

      1. I agree. It’s the “sorry we weren’t clear, so let’s spin some more.” As Arlo Guthrie penned in “Alice’s Restaurant”, “Kid, we don’t like your kind around here…”. (I still love that song even though I haven’t heard it for probably 25+years )

        My point again is—we can read through all of the spin and get the point that we are not equal.

        Doesn’t sound like my understanding of Christ’s message.

  21. I think Karen’s reading between the lines is correct, though. We who precipitated this mess were mortified to realise the hurt we had caused to Karen and others and apologise from our hearts.

    As to the brevity of the Standing Committee’s statement: it seems to me they have heeded the adage, “When you are in a hole, stop digging.” Every added word might be an opportunity for further misunderstanding.

    Let us let +Richard, who continues to be in frail health, retire in peace. At an appropriate time, well before next GSTHW, I will raise through my parish the matter that, promptly after each GSTHW, parishes (and particularly those appointed as representatives to the Diocesan Synod) should receive a thorough report on GSTHW decisions and their meaning.


    1. Thanks, Trevor.

      I’m reading what is actually in the statement rather than trying to speculate between lines.

      Bishop Richard was one of the architects of the Final Report of the Motion 29 Working Group and hence of GSTHW’s Motion 7. And the Nelson synod previously voted 60% in favour of that.

      Now, with no acknowledgement of different ways to read scripture (as per that Bishop-Richard-and-previous-Nelson-Synod-endorsed Report), and with no acknowledgement of God’s love for LGBT+ people, this Standing Committee statement may have satisfied a few, but it does little to ameliorate those of us whom the Nelson Standing Committee now declares as having moved away from the traditional orthodox theology that is foundational to our doctrines.


      1. I now believe I understand why you think the statement inadequate, and I concur. SC has not yet comprehended the full dimensions of the hurt caused and so did not properly address them.

        I didn’t comprehend properly either, and if I didn’t, who has worked hard and sympathetically (I think I can honestly say) to understand LGBT+ pain, I’m not in a position to accuse SC.

        Likewise, when I mentioned “hole digging” in my previous comment, it was with sad recognition of my own hand on the shovel.

        Don’t despair of a good outcome, healthy for Nelson, healthy for the Province, and welcoming for LGBT+ people. It will take time, though, and Nelson will still have its conservative stamp at the end of it.

        1. Thanks, Trevor. Much appreciated. Like you (if I am reading you aright), I believe we need to learn to live together with disagreement, with difference. This also means being open to individuals being liberal on some things and conservative on others. We also, as Christians, I think, are called to a preferential focus towards the last, the least, the lost, and the lonely. May we all continue to pray for each other. Blessings.

  22. I know Bosco. I agree. I also recognise that Standing Committee have acted within the constraints of their scope and they can’t press the rewind button, however much they might wish to. We all know there are many lessons to be learned here.

    Only God is perfect and we all have to try much harder… together… to be worthy of and to emulate His love.

  23. Oh dear, Standing Commitees seeking to assert God’s will. It does not get much more tenuous than that. I suppose if people can wrap themselves up tightly enough in their own procedural creation there are no limits to their ability to speak for God. My default has always been that if it is a choice between inclusion and exclusion our Lord would want us to choose the former.

    1. I know a man who would beg to differ…

      “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus of Nazareth

      “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus son of Joseph

      ”Lord, Lord” they said, “open the door for us!” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”‘ Jesus the Christ

      “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” Jesus the Son of God.

      “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” Jesus, the Saviour of the World

      1. Thanks, James. I know the same man. He most strongly castigates those who exclude – including rebuking (as he indicates in your first quote) those who call him ‘Lord’. Rather, in that same quote, he continues that we should act like the one who acts like a Father to all. It is also worth noting the context of that saying:

        ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.


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