RulesAs promised, this post continues the reflection on keeping faith with our agreements (and, if you haven’t read that post, it may benefit you to do so to get the frame for this one).

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP) is a community held together by voluntary compact. We do not have to belong – we voluntarily join ourselves to together, to this community and the rules and agreements that are part of this community. This is recognised in the law of the land, particularly in the 1928 Church of England Empowering Act: property is not held by an individual, it is owned by the community that holds to these rules and agreements by voluntary compact; income, remuneration, and stipends are tied to promising and signing affirmations and agreements. If there is energy to alter any of these affirmations and agreements, then there is a rigorous process to do so [Agreement at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW); agreement by the majority of diocesan synods and hui amorangi; agreement again at GSTHW; waiting a year for anyone to protest – this three-year decision-making process is nicknamed the “twice-round” process].

Many in NZ have looked down their noses at secular courts being involved in arguments over property upon changes to agreements and rules in The Episcopal Church (USA), repeating that such clashes would never happen here (Yeah, right!)

The agreements of teaching and practice in ACANZP are called formularies. Many formularies are services authorised by the “twice-round” process (all services contained in A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa are examples). This site has regularly highlighted the liturgical chaos in this province, and this year GSTHW has ruled that many services have had “(1) inconsistency with the 1928 Act and (2) lack of fundamental authorisation in the first place.”

GSTHW has set in motion a process to broaden the meaning of “authorised services” beyond formularies to make possible services which are not formularies. It will be fascinating to follow the discussions around this Bill No 4, being a change to our Constitution, as it does the rounds of diocesan synods and hui amorangi. And, in the wake of this, it will be interesting to see what is done about the innumerable ordinations that were done “inconsistent with the 1928 Act and lacking fundamental authorisation.” My suspicion is that, in a church that has grown accustomed to liturgical muddle, few will have the agility to see the import of what is being debated.

Those who have followed and been affected by the quakes in Christchurch and Canterbury may now wish that there had been a bit more “obsession with rules” in our church previously. Certainly those who are opposed to blessing (or marrying) committed same-sex couples are often quickly becoming adept at our agreements (often having been, and still possibly being, in the more liturgically-contumacious part of the church’s spectrum). I am saddened that it is this focus that precipitated “obsession with rules”; I underscore the need for integrity and consistency across all agreements, but I have no ostrich tendencies that thinks that obsession with certain rules is on the decline.

To be continued…

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