Gay-marriage banOver the weekend in Auckland and Christchurch Anglican diocesan synods met. Some of the most intense debate was around… homosexuality.

Why homosexuality?

  • Why not evolution? Didn’t Jesus clearly believe and teach Adam and Eve are historical persons (Matthew 19:4-6 – incidentally the same proof-text repeated to argue against marriage equality!)? Does Jesus’ claim that God made humans “at the beginning” leave room for 13 billion years, the majority of the time the universe has existed, before the first humans? Adam and Eve are listed as the start of Jesus’ genealogy (Luke 3:38). Doesn’t evolution and an “old earth” have death entering the world prior to The Fall, undermining the teaching that Adam’s sin is what brought death, and hence undermining Christ’s redemption from this [Romans 5:12-21; I Corinthians 15:20-26]? If death is not the penalty of sin, is Christ’s redemptive death not being mocked? [Not to forget Jesus’ teaching on the flood Matthew 24:37-39]
  • Why not women’s ordination? The Bible and most of Christian history, and the majority Christian position today, appears to firmly argue for male-only ordination, church leadership, “headship”. Yet there are women clergy calling strongly for a “slow down” and “more study” on marriage and homosexuality. Why did that not happen when women started getting ordained? Currently in our church there is a Ma Whea? commission, a reference group, a doctrine commission, “The Bible in the Life of the Church” project, and every diocese and hui amorangi are studying and debating marriage/homosexuality intensely (at the behest of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui GSTHW). Women’s ordination happened without anything like this level of discussion. The discussion about ordaining women as bishops in this country was so negligible that a senior priest in our province, involved in theological education most of his ministry disputed that it had even occurred. There are women clergy calling the marriage/homosexuality discussion a “communion-dividing issue” without noting the irony that the Anglican Communion became impaired when orders were no longer recognised across the Communion because of the ordination of women. Women’s ordination is not just Communion-breaking; more locally, a bishop does not preach in some of her own parishes because she is a woman. And more widely – with women’s ordination, the possibility of reconciliation with majority catholic Christianity has receded from view.

This weekend’s Christchurch diocesan synod had a motion on marriage by Rev. Dr Peter Carrell. I moved an amendment to delete clause 4 of that motion:

(4) Affirms the doctrine of marriage of this church, as explained in Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage.

Appendix to Motion: Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III reads as follows:

“…Christian marriage is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into in the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind and will, and with the intent that it be lifelong…

While there was, at this synod, intense debate as we grappled with post-quakes decisions affecting buildings, parishes, livelihood, and jobs there was never a call for a “division”. That call came that we register our position on my amendment with our names being recorded. My amendment was passed: clergy 42/33; laity 65/36, house of bishops assenting.

Why was it this amendment that generated such energy?
Why homosexuality?

  • Why not abortion? Euthanasia? Genetic modification? Effects of the internet? War? Poverty?
  • Why not divorce and remarriage? Why is Jesus’ teaching about marriage used against homosexuality, but not against divorce and remarriage? Why can priests marry people (record I know of – someone for their seventh wedding) without question? Why can a priest in his fourth marriage hold a bishop’s licence without controversy as intense as around homosexuality? Why can a bishop divorce and remarry without resulting in the sort of intensity we see around homosexuality?

Repeatedly I am hearing, “we need to study marriage more; we need to study what the Bible teaches about marriage more deeply…” I have regularly said we need more and better study, training, and formation – in church history, sacramental theology, biblical languages, spirituality, liturgy, our new and changing context,… Yes, our study, training, and formation may be sorely inadequate – but why only fix it in relation to marriage?
Why homosexuality?

  • Why not liturgy and worship? We had the Christchurch debate in a church building which has disks at the end of rows that you take forward if you want grape juice in a shot glass rather than wine – contrary to our formularies (binding teachings) and the express admonition of our bishop. And the division was called by a priest presbyter who serves in a parish that wouldn’t dream of following our agreed, binding readings.

Auckland diocesan synod passed a motion about working on a liturgy, including at the GSTHW level, to bless same-gendered relationships, Clergy: 91/36; Laity 104/49; the bishops assented. But for another motion, acknowledging diversity of positions, and supporting the legal processes to enable same-gender weddings and allowing clergy, if they choose, to conduct such ceremonies, the votes were: bishops 2 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; clergy 80 for, 44 against, 4 abstentions; and laity 72 for, 65 against, 8 abstentions. People following it online got “it was lost”, then “it passed”, then “it was lost”. Apparently Auckland used a process they didn’t explicitly have provision for – pieces of paper which included the option to “abstain”. Having done that they came to realise they needed to count abstentions: there were 72+65+8 = 145 laity. That meant they needed 73 laity for a majority. Why does this sort of energy happen around the discussion about homosexuality?

In the comments, usual rules apply: no anonymous comments, no ad hominems,…

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