blessing same sex couples

I am very hesitant to add to the IMO-excessive time and energy expended by my church debating about committed same-sex couples, but… {…especially with the meeting of our General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) only a month away, the need for reflection towards a decision is pressing…}…

After years and years of meetings, hui, commissions, debates, blog posts, articles, and books about what the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia might do about committed same-sex couples, the commission with the biggest firepower has concluded with ten options (that people presumably all realised were possible when this whole debate first began).

If you were asking my advice on which option to bet on, I would suggest Option J will be the most likely to be the option decided on by GSTHW: continue meetings, hui, commissions, debates, blog posts, articles, and books but now do it in a “focussed” way. Option J is really just a subset of Option B “Preserving Present Circumstances” ie. keep doing what we are currently doing.

I want to underline, in this Option J and B, what is mentioned in the commission’s report: that clergy can continue blessing committed same-sex couples during the time of keeping doing what we are currently doing whether focussed (J) or not (B).

Firstly let me highlight that under our formularies (agreed practice) Christian marriage consists of a man and a woman. This is important. Let me be crystal clear: I am firmly committed to the agreed practice of our formularies that I vowed to and signed up to. This is in stark contrast to many who argue against blessing committed same-sex couples on the basis of those formularies while they publicly, openly, intentionally flaunt the breaking of those formularies that they also have vowed to and signed to maintain.

Returning to my point that our formularies hold that Christian marriage consists of a man and a woman, The Worship Template, passed by General Synod Te Hinota Whanui, insists that if we have a formulary for something we must use that formulary. We do not have a formulary for blessing a committed same-sex couple, just as we do not have one for blessing pets, weapons or military vehicles and vessels, or even for inducting a new vicar or installing a bishop, etc. Just as in all those situations we are able to construct a rite following the Template’s structure, so we can construct (or adapt) a rite to bless a committed same-sex couple. Our Church’s Liturgical Commission produced one in 1992, but it is not required to use this particular one.

Chaste

Title D Canon I Of maintenance of standards of ministry for bishops, ministers and office bearers is regularly pointed to:

10.4 CHASTITY:
Chastity is the right ordering of sexual relationships.
10.4.1 Ministers are to be chaste. Promiscuity is incompatible with chastity.
10.4.2 The sexual abuse of children is an utter disregard of humanity and a complete repudiation of the teaching of Christ.

It seems pertinent that “faithful in marriage, celibate in singleness” is not the language that is used to explain the requirement of chastity in this 2000 text. Instead there is a forbidding of promiscuity and a repudiation of sexual abuse of children. There are widespread, publicly-known examples of clergy in committed same-sex relationships. The Ma Whea Commission’s claim (E 4.3) “that this Church has insisted its licenced office bearers are to be either married or celibate”, to put not too fine a point on it, is false. And so its continuing that sentence with “and this is the meaning of ‘chaste’ within its canons” is an interpretation that is seriously open to questioning.

Furthermore, the widespread practice in our church of baptising the children of unmarried co-habiting parents reinforces that, within the large number of communities that have allowed that, unmarried co-habitation is not regarded as conflicting with renouncing “all evil influences and powers that rebel against God” (NZPB page 384), [nor evidently contrary to the commandments and obeying the teaching of Christ (NZPB page 382)].

Mutually Assured Destruction

There has been inaction by individual bishops, with a regular pointing to the threat that a Title D (formal disciplining) would be taken out against them. The reality is, however, that once people start down the Title-D-formal-discipline road there will be no stopping such litigiousness. Nearly every bishop (whatever their personal position in this discussion) in this province will have acted in a manner that a Title D disciplining could be initiated against them, particularly with regard to neglecting to use authorised Ordination Liturgies (Title D Canon II 4.3).

Option B2

General Synod Te Hinota Whanui may very well vote for Option B (or Option J, which is really just Option B written in bold italic) but in the Anglican Church of Or committed same-sex couples will continue to be blessed, and clergy in such relationships will continue to hold a bishop’s licence.

An Afterword

General Synod Te Hinota Whanui is meeting a month from now. Representatives have not yet received papers, motions, or bills. So we (and they) have no real idea what to consult on and prepare for. As information becomes available I hope there will be transparency. I will also consider keeping some information flowing if I receive it (including possibly on the Liturgy facebook page).

Similar Posts: