Wednesday, 9 May 2018

New Zealand approves same-sex blessings

Updated Saturday

Anglican Taonga reports: Yes to blessings

…The Anglican Church this morning has paved the way for the blessing of same gender relationships.

At 11:20 this morning, by majority vote, General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui passed Motion No 7 – which is the motion which accepts the report and recommendations of the Motion 29 small working group.

That acceptance is subject to the appointment of a select committee which will consider and report back to General Synod – before it finishes today – on a range of detail which the Synod must be sorted before the passage of the constitutional and canonical changes necessary to give the decision effect.

The decision, nonetheless, is clear – after almost 50 years of debate about human sexuality, the Anglican Church has created a pathway for the blessing of same-gender couples…

The report that was adopted is a lengthy document which can be found here.

The Polynesian component of the church, Tikanga Pasifika, will not be changing its practice, but has not exercised its right to veto the proposal. See explanation here.

See also Slow start. Big finish.


FCANZ response to General Synod Decision to Bless Same Sex Relationships, downloadable copy here.

Gafcon UK offers support to FCA New Zealand after same sex blessings vote

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 May 2018 at 2:22pm BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion | New Zealand

Saturday, 12 August 2017

New Zealand marriage blessing proposals

The Church Times this week carries a report on New Zealand: Priests could be authorised to offer same-sex blessings in New Zealand

Here are some links from New Zealand that contain more information:

AnglicanTaonga New way forward? Report out now

Full text of the report here.

Peter Carrell
Beautiful Anglican Accommodation - Down Under’s Way Forward

Bosco Peters
Blessing Same-Gender Couples

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at 12:04pm BST | Comments (60) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion | New Zealand

Monday, 22 February 2016

New Zealand working group publishes draft rites of blessing

We reported in May 2014 that New Zealand synod acts on same-gender blessings

The Way Forward Working Group has today released its report. It proposes two rites of blessing to be considered by this year’s General Synod.

The Way Forward Working Group was set up in the wake of the 2014 General Synod adopting “Motion 30” (, the resolution that created a pathway towards the blessing of same-gender relationships – while upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage. Motion 30 called for the appointment of a working group to devise “a process and structure” by which this could happen – and a process and structure to ensure that clergy who believe that same sex blessings are contrary to “scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law” remain fully free to dissent.

The full text of the report is available here and there is an Executive Summary here.

Update Here is a link to a PDF version of the full report and another link to a PDF version of the archbishops’ covering letter.

Here’s the first part of the press release:

The long-awaited report of the Way Forward Working Group] has been released.
Today’s publication comes almost 18 months since the 13-member group began its work – and it proposes two new liturgies to be considered by May’s General Synod.
These liturgies have been designed to allow for the blessing of couples who have been married in a civil ceremony – according either to New Zealand law, or to the law in the Pacific Island nations which form part of this church. These liturgies also create a pathway for the people in such relationships to become ordained.
Civil marriages between a man and a woman have long been recognised in law in both New Zealand and in those Pacific Island nations. In New Zealand’s case, of course, an amendment to marriage law came into effect in August 2013 – which allows same-sex couples to legally marry.

“A crucial matter for debate”

The Way Forward Working Group (WFWG) report makes a precept-upon-precept case for how such civil marriages could be blessed by the church.
The Anglican Church in this province is governed by a set of documents, the most significant of which are the Church of England Empowering Act of 1928, and Te Pouhere , the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, which came into force in 1992.
Te Pouhere in turn specifies a number of “Formularies” (such as a New Zealand Prayer Book/He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa ) which guide the Church in its worship and practice.
The new constitution also spells out a way in which formularies can be changed (or added to) –providing these changes don’t, in the words of the report, “represent any departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ as defined in Te Pouhere’s own Fundamental Provisions.”
The rites of blessing being proposed are being presented as “additional formularies”, rather than doctrinal changes:
“It is the view of the majority of the group,” the report notes, “that the proposed liturgies do not represent a departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, and are therefore not prohibited by Te Pouhere, however the group also recognises that this will be a crucial matter for debate.”

There is more, go here for the rest of it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 22 February 2016 at 3:48pm GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion | New Zealand

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

New Zealand synod acts on same-gender blessings

News report from anglicantaonga: SAME-GENDER BLESSINGS: SYNOD SEES A WAY FORWARD

General Synod today passed a resolution that will create a pathway towards the blessing of same-gender relationships – while upholding the traditional doctrine of marriage.

It will appoint a working group to report to the 2016 General Synod on “a process and structure” that would allow those clergy who wish to bless same-gender relationships – using a yet-to-be developed liturgy – to do so.
The working group will also be charged to develop “a process and structure” to ensure that clergy who believe that same sex blessings are contrary to “scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law” to remain fully free to dissent.
The “process and structure” in their case would mean these clergy would not only be exempt from performing these same-sex blessings – but that their “integrity within the church” would be assured, and they would have full protection for their dissent in any relevant human rights legislation.
Synod has therefore upheld the traditional doctrine of marriage – but also moved to find ways to respond to committed relationships between two people, regardless of gender.
In effect, it has also established a four-year timeline for change to take effect: the working group will present its recommendations to the 2016 General Synod, and any constitutional and canonical changes would then have to be reported back to episcopal units before confirmation at the 2018 General Synod.

New liturgy to be developed…
The working group has been asked to propose a liturgy to “bless right-ordered same-gender relationships” – and to develop a process and legislation (whether church or parliamentary) by which such a new liturgy might be adopted.
Synod has also asked the group (which is yet to be formed) to report to the next synod on the impact of its work on the church’s theology of marriage, and of ordination.
The preamble to the resolution adopted by the General Synod also includes an unreserved apology to the LGBT community:
“Over many years,” this reads, “our church has become increasingly aware of the pain of the LGBT community. All too often our church has been complicit in homophobic thinking and actions of society, and has failed to speak out against hatred and violence against those with same-gender attraction.
“We apologise unreservedly and commit ourselves to reconciliation and prophetic witness.”

“Recognition” now for couples…
In the last part of the resolution, synod says it is “acutely aware of the desire of some clergy to make further response pastorally and prayerfully to LGBT people in their faith communities.”
It therefore says such clergy should be permitted “to recognise in public worship” a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community – provided the permission of the licensing bishop is gained, as well as the permission of their vestry.
Such “recognition,” however, “cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.”
“We recognise that this may cause even further distress,” the resolution says. But noting the commitment of the church to move forward, “we ask the LGBT community to recognise that any process of change within our church takes time.”

Archbishops commend spirit of debate
The Archbishops say that by adopting the resolution, synod has shown its commitment to protecting diversity in the church.
And they have expressed their gratitude for the way synod has debated the issues and come to its resolution.
Archbishop Winston Halapua says synod has shown “it is committed to ongoing talanoa as it considers change” and is following “the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times.”
Archbishop Philip Richardson was equally moved by the way debate flowed:
“We have witnessed across the church,” he says, “a depth of extraordinary trust and respect. There is a unity in Christ in conversations that have enabled us to get to this point.
“There is a hope that this trust we have seen with faith, hope, and love will continue as change is considered.”

Press release from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is copied in full below the fold.

The full text of General Synod resolution is available here.

The pastoral letter from the archbishops is also published.

Media Release – May 14 2014

The General Synod/te Hinota Whanui of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has decided to explore ways that the blessing of same gender relationships could be part of Church life.

The ruling body of the Church is meeting in Waitangi this week to acknowledge 200 years since the arrival of the Christian missionaries to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The three Archbishops, reflecting the three tikanga structure of the Church, Archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson, and Winston Halapua, say the Synod upholds the traditional doctrine of marriage. At the same time the Synod wants to develop ways to respond to committed relationships between two people, that tell of the love of Christ, regardless of gender.

The Archbishops say the Synod holds a wide range of views but it has expressed unanimous support for the decision to identify what changes could be recommended. The Synod wants to protect diversity in the Church as a way forward is developed.

Archbishop Winston Halapua says, “The Synod is committed to ongoing talking/talanoa as it considers change and to follow the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times.”

Archbishop Philip Richardson says, “We have witnessed across the Church a depth of extraordinary trust and respect, there is a unity in Christ in conversations that have enabled us to get to this point. There is a hope that this trust we have seen with faith, hope, and love will continue as change is considered.”

The Synod statement has recognised that over many years it has become increasingly aware of the pain to the LGBT community. The Synod has apologized unreservedly for the times actions of the Church have contributed to that pain.

A working party will be appointed to recommend processes and structures that allow people to choose whether they lead, or not lead, same gender blessings. That choice will be dependent on whether each person believes such blessings are contrary to, or in agreement with scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law. The Synod was very mindful that there are present legal restrictions in some nations in Polynesia on same gender relationships. The working party would also propose a liturgy to bless right ordered same gender relationships.

A report has also been requested on how such possibilities may impact on future requirements for ordination and the rite of marriage.

The working party will report to the next General Synod in 2016. Any change is likely to take up a minimum of four years as it may require constitutional change for the church as well as parliamentary legislation.

The Synod is mindful of the need to respond to members of the LGBT community in a more immediate time frame. A decision was made that those in a same gender civil union or state marriage can be recognized in public worship with clergy seeking the approval of the local bishop and licensed leadership body. Such recognition cannot be a rite of marriage or a blessing.

Archbishop Brown Turei says it is significant that this conversation about change for the church, that holds differing views, has taken place at Waitangi.

“This is the place where Maori and Pakeha talked and trusted each other and began a new journey 200 years ago. The discussion we will have as change is considered, like those first ones here at Waitangi, will not be easy at all times but may we hold the mana of each of us made in the image of God,” says Archbishop Brown.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 at 9:09am BST | Comments (45) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: New Zealand

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Report of New Zealand Anglican Commission on same gender blessings and ordinations released

The report of the Ma Whea? Commission into the question of same-gender blessings and ordinations has been released by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

The Ma Whea? report and a précis are available.
Ma Whea? Report and précis
The above document includes a report from the Doctrine Commission, which is also available separately.
Doctrine Commission Report and précis

And there is this article on the Anglican Taonga website.

Ma Whea? Report released
The long-awaited report of the Ma Whea? Commission into the question of same-gender blessings and ordinations has been released.


The long-awaited report of the Ma Whea? Commission into the question of same-gender blessings and ordinations has been released.

The report, which is the fruit of 15 months’ work by five eminent New Zealand citizens, lists 10 options to inform the General Synod debate at Waitangi next month.

The options range from a more conservative statement about who can be blessed and ordained (ie a firmer statement than the canons now prescribe) through various degrees of change and liberalisation.

The options are:
Option A: Affirming Traditional Understanding
Option B: Preserving Present Circumstances
Option C: Bishops to Determine What Equals Right Relationships
Option D: Delegate to Diocesan Synods/Te Runanganui Power to Determine Right Relationships
Option E: Adopt a New Understanding
Option F: The Anglican Church Having Two Views
Option G: Dual Episcopacy
Option H: Planned Dismembering
Option I: Anglican Church to Add a New Rite of Blessing by Priests of Those in a Same Sex Relationship.
Option J: Adopt a Two Year Period of Focussed Discussion within Church Communities with a View to Making a Decision in (say) 2016

(These options are unpacked in a precis here. The unedited options can be read in the Ma Whea Commission report, which can be downloaded below. The list of options begins on P38.)

Ma Whea Report_2 final.pdf 1.43 MB

It is also important to note that none of these pathways is recommended – because in the words of Michael Hughes, this church’s General Secretary, “that is rightly a decision for the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui to make.”

The Ma Whea Commission (full title: Ma Whea?:Mei Fe Ki Fe?: Where To? Anglican General Synod Commission on same gender blessings and ordinations) was chaired by Sir Anand Satyanand, a lawyer who served as judge and ombudsman before being appointed as New Zealand’s 19th Governor General.

His fellow commissioners were Dame Judith Potter (a High Court Judge), Emeritus Professor Sir Tamati Reedy (Educationist), Mrs Mele Taliai (a Tonga New Zealander lawyer) and Professor Paul Trebilco (Professor of New Testament Studies).

The Ma Whea? Commission Report summarises 199 submissions on the ordination and blessing of people in same-sex relationships.

It summarises the biblical and theological work done by our church from the missiological, doctrinal, canonical, cultural and pastoral points of view. And in the light of Anglican ecclesiology, it considers ways forward.

The Ma Whea? report contains a number of appendices – including another significant and long-awaited piece of work, the report of the Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions.

This Commission was asked by the General Synod Standing Committee to look into the theological rationale for the possible blessing and marriage of people in permanent, faithful same-gender relationships.

“This report,” says Michael Hughes, “contains a full and robust theological rationale to support such blessings and marriages – and a thorough and equally robust assessment of that rationale, including a rebuttal of certain aspects.”

It does not recommend a position of this church on these matters. That too, says Michael Hughes, “is rightly the responsibility of the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui.”

(A precis of the Doctrine Commission report can be read here. The full report begins on P62 of the appendices to the Ma Whea? Report)

The Ma Whea? Commission was set up before the New Zealand Parliament passed its marriage equality legislation, and the Commission’s terms of reference were not changed to take account of that.

The Doctrine Commission, on the other hand, did its work in the wake of the law change, and it considers a theological rationale for the marriage of people in permanent, faithful same-gender relationships.

The Doctrine Commission’s full report can be downloaded below:
Doctrine Commission.pdf 876.81 kB

The GSSC commends both the Ma Whea? and Doctrine Commission reports to the church for prayerful consideration and discussion.

And through its General Secretary it has expressed “its deep gratitude to the members of both Commissions, for the extensive work they have undertaken to produce these two careful and comprehensive pieces of scholarship, which deserve to have profound and far-reaching impact on the life of the church.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 4 April 2014 at 12:29am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: New Zealand

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Third woman bishop in New Zealand


The Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki in New Zealand has announced the election of the Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley as the next bishop of Waikato.

The Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley has been elected the next Anglican Bishop of Waikato.

Helen-Ann, who is 40, will become the 7th Bishop of Waikato – and the first woman to hold the office. She succeeds Archbishop David Moxon, who is now the Anglican Communion’s ambassador to Rome.

Bishop-elect Helen-Ann is at present Dean of Tikanga Pakeha students at St John’s College in Auckland.

She was born in Edinburgh and grew up in north-east England. She is the fourth generation of her family to be ordained, and was priested in 2005 in the Diocese of Oxford…

The Bishop of Taranaki has issued this letter.

ACNS reports that Church of England female priest elected as NZ bishop.

Dr Hartley was featured in an article published by The New Yorker in 2010 before she moved to New Zealand - A Canterbury Tale: The battle within the Church of England to allow women to be bishops by Jane Kramer.


Bosco Peters writes about having two co-equal Diocesan Bishops in Waikato and Taranaki: New Bishop of Waikato.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 5 September 2013 at 10:23am BST | Comments (31) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: New Zealand

Monday, 9 July 2012

New Zealand "Unable to adopt" covenant

The General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia today (Monday 9 July 2012) voted that it “Is unable to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant due to concerns about aspects of Section 4, but subscribes to Sections 1, 2, and 3 as currently drafted to be a useful starting point for consideration of our Anglican understanding of the church.”

Anglican Taonga (the communications arm of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) reports this as “Unable to adopt” covenant.

As expected, the General Synod said a final: ‘No’ to the proposed Anglican covenant today.

But it did so quietly, and the original motion was amended to stress this church’s desire to remain tightly knit with the Communion.

And to suggest that the early parts of the covenant – the non contentious bits about “Our Inheritance in Faith” etc – “are a useful starting point” for future Anglican thinking about their church…

Also available is the full text of the resolution as passed by the Synod.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 9 July 2012 at 11:06am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion | New Zealand

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Bishop Victoria Matthews on Women in the Episcopate

Victoria Matthews, the Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand addressed a fringe meeting (arranged by WATCH and the Open Synod Group) at last month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod.

Although her address was primarily about Women in the Episcopate, she also spoke about the earthquakes in Christchurch.

The full text of her address is below the fold.

Church of England General Synod, 10 July 2011
Address by Bishop Victoria Matthews
on the Subject of
Women in the Episcopate.

Opening Prayer:
Gracious God we come before you in thanksgiving for our life in Christ and for the manifold blessings we have received from your hands. In this time we have together considering your call and the exercise of ordered ministry in your church, grant us grace that our ears may hear and eyes see the fullness of the life of the Body of Christ on earth and the promises of your Kingdom yet to be realized. Come Holy Spirit, and set our hearts on fire for love of you. In the strong name of Jesus Christ we pray. AMEN.

I would like to begin by thanking WATCH and Open Synod for this invitation. Thank you also to Archbishops Rowan and John for their warm welcome to this General Synod. To begin with a disclaimer, the topic I am asked to address seems a bit dated. I do not say that as a criticism but as an admission. I have been in episcopal ministry for over 17 years, longer than I served in parish ministry and theological education combined. Indeed I have served in three different dioceses [Toronto, Edmonton and Christchurch] as either Suffragan or Diocesan Bishop. Currently I am service the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand where we have experienced an astounding and unsettling 7000 plus earthquakes and aftershocks in what is now being described as writing a new chapter in earthquake history. 181 people have died with many others injured. A third of the listed buildings in the city are down and more are to come. 23 Anglican churches are unsafe to enter, with a smaller number of vicarages and halls also listed for demolition. The Cathedral, which is the icon of the city has been sufficiently damaged to require partial or full deconstruction. On June 13, just a very few weeks ago, when the fourth and fifth major earthquakes struck [both over 5.5] the icon within the icon of the cathedral, the Rose Window, fell inwards along with 75% of the west wall. Throughout this time of devastation and upset, the National Government and the Christchurch city council, recognizing that what we are experiencing is the biggest natural disaster ever experienced in New Zealand, have looked repeatedly to the church for leadership. Remember this is New Zealand with a culture that is increasingly secular. But it does have to be said that this secular self-understanding has not always been the identity of Christchurch. The history of Christchurch goes back to Archbishop Sumner and the Canterbury Association when four sailing vessels were sent to New Zealand to establish a new colony more English than England, named for Christchurch Oxford and intended to be clearly Anglican in its vision and reality Today it continues to be the most Anglican part of New Zealand. When I was elected in Christchurch by the Electoral College of the Diocese, the medium level upset was the election of a Canadian bishop sight unseen, elected on reputation and references and not that I was a woman. There was also an upset that I was reputed to be an Anglo Catholic, yet had just been elected Bishop by a clearly evangelical diocese, but again the controversy was not about gender. You may remember that Penelope Jamieson, now retired, was elected in 1990 by the Diocese of Dunedin, New Zealand, as the first woman Diocesan in the Communion. This is not to say there was no concern about gender but simply that it was well down the list.

So again let me say that speaking about the idea of women in the episcopate does seem a bit odd to me. Believe in it? I live the reality. But let me also say that if you are experiencing this conversation and my presence as something of a disaster, an earthquake happening out of the blue, than please know you will be a casualty if you do not actually engage the earthquake. Sitting in shock as your house comes down in not healthy. Earthquakes require response and recovery because the one thing that will not happen is that they go away and life continues as normal. Earthquakes change your experience of life and knowing that is the first step to a healthy and life-saving response.

Over 20 years on in the history of the episcopal ministry involving both genders, or as the Canadian Church said, bringing completeness to episcopal ministry, I no longer can actually seriously engage the argument about the validity of the sacraments celebrated by women. The sacraments we celebrate are valid and transform lives much as the sacraments celebrated by men in holy orders. That is because in the lives of the men and women the Holy Spirit has conferred gifts of grace. My successor in the Diocese of Edmonton was ordered deacon and priest by a woman in episcopal ministry who then was a co-consecrator at the episcopal consecration. In the USA there are a growing number of bishops all consecrated by the Presiding Bishop, also female. Apostolic Succession has not been endangered by these episcopal acts. Rather Apostolic Succession is the handing on of the apostolic faith and the authority to uphold and protect it, which has less to do with the pedigree of the episcopal minster than the work of the Holy Spirit. Thirty-five bishops participated in my consecration by far more important; the Holy Spirit was present and active in that ordination. So why all the fuss? Let’s take a closer look.

Beginning in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the seminaries of the Communion began to emphasize the need to critique the tradition. Liberation theology, Black theology and feminist theology, to cite examples, began to highlight the gaps and oversights we had permitted in our reception of the Biblical narrative. Their insight was that Scriptural proclamation had become increasingly the telling of the Story of Salvation in ways which upheld the authority of the powerful and present day office holders. Everyone had their place and was expected to know their place. Gradually, thanks to Liberation, Black and Feminist Theology, with the emphasis on the Story of the Exodus and a re-reading of the Gospels, new insights began. The insights highlighted what had been overlooked and dared to ask what else needed to be heard again as if for the first time. The concern that they brought to the attention of the churches was not a new problem. If one reads about the preaching of the Gospel on the Plantations in the Southern USA during the days of the slave trade, the reality was that the sermons preached to the owners were most frequently on the epistles. Upholding the status quo was an important part of Christian ministry. The Tradition does need to be critiqued and I say that as one who holds the Tradition in high esteem. However by the time we were into 1990’s and frankly into the 21st century as well, there was a distressing tendency to critique the Tradition without first teaching the Tradition. So as you consider the question of the ordination to the episcopate of both genders, in this province, I believe that it is as important to listen carefully to the Tradition as it is to critique the Tradition. For this reason I have been adamant that voices on all sides need to be heard. There is much we can learn from each other. For too long we have been listening only to the voices who agree with us.

For this reason I think it is important to recognize that women have not been part of the ordered ministry of the churches for very long periods of time in church history. Some would say that this is due to questions of headship founded upon Scriptural teaching. Others would say it has to do with the requirement of physical similarity to the male body to the body of the man Jesus. And others would say that it was so in the beginning and always should be.

However, if we look again at the Tradition we notice that in the body of the Scriptures we do have some remarkable examples of leadership, proclamation by, and vocation of both genders. To mention but a few examples, there is Lydia who enables the Gospel to go into Europe by persuading Paul to preach there. Her role is extraordinarily episcopal. Then backing up a touch we have the Pharisee, Saul of tarsus, rounding up the leaders and members of The Way in order to put them to death. Acts 9 clearly says it was men and women that he was targeting. I suggest to you that Paul was enough of an Alpha male that he was most interested in gathering the leaders. Both male and female Christians are his target. This strongly suggests to me that women held positions of leadership in the early church and that this was recognized and acted on by Saul. But as a catholic as well as evangelical Christian I find the strongest argument is the Virgin Mary who grows in her womb the body and blood of Christ, the incarnate Son of God. She is therefore the first celebrant of the Eucharist. “Let it be according to your word.”

The list of arguments goes on and on and I am not going to rehearse them all here. However I will say that what deeply saddens me more than any of these arguments, for or against, is that the church, the Body of Christ, is divided and rent asunder by these arguments. And in fact it is far more than arguments that are at stake. I fear we may be guilty of the sin of idolatry. So let’s back up a moment and remember what is of the greatest importance. We are, all of us, called to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Bishops are the successors of the apostles in every century. To be an apostle, two things are required. First one must be the witness of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And secondly one must be commissioned or sent by Christ to proclaim the Good News. Mary Magdalene [“I have seen the Lord”] fulfilled both those criteria and hence is called the Apostle to the Apostles. So if we are going to worry about who should be a bishop at this time and in this part of the world, the requirement must be that a bishop, as a successor to the apostles, is able and eager to witness to the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and be recognized as one who has been sent to proclaim our Lord’s Resurrection to the world. That is why Paul who did not know Jesus in the flesh could claim to be an apostle. It was because he was a witness of the resurrection of Christ in the encounter on the road to Damascus and he was sent out by no one less than the Christ to make this proclamation. To state the obvious: this is all about Jesus and the Resurrection, and not about gender. To say that one needs to have certain gender specific human attributes are more important than what we have received as a gift from Almighty God. And that to me is idolatry and serious sin. So I would suggest that all parties in this need to repent and commit, yet again, to praying for God’s guidance in this matter.

My time will start to run out soon so let me say a couple of things about the matter of women in the episcopate: and the concerns raised with respect to ecumenical dialogue. We all know that the actions of provinces such as Canada, the Episcopal Church, New Zealand and Australia in ordaining women to the episcopate has led to increased tension with other Communions specifically Rome and the Orthodox. It would seem this is particularly true if the Church of England takes the step. Frankly I do not understand that as I believe that the Church of England is one province of our beloved Communion and not the head Office. But let’s ask a couple of further reaching questions here. Does Rome recognize the episcopate of my brother bishops in the Anglican Communion? She does not. I have worked, as the Anglican Bishop, in dioceses alongside Roman bishops who are conservative, even by Roman standards. Has this proved to be difficult? No it has not. In fact I would have to say that in those instances I enjoyed a particularly good relationship, and we were able to initiate projects together with ease. At the end of the day we still did not agree on everything but the level of respect we had for each other was and is immense. In earthquake devastated Christchurch, I have worked most closely with Bishop Barry Jones my brother in Christ in the Roman Church and together we are spearheading an ecumenical response entitles Rebuilding the Faith of Canterbury, to the disaster.

One other personal story: My mentor as a priest and for many years as a bishop was an exceptionally wise and holy Anglican bishop by the name of Henry Hill. Bishop Henry was Archbishop Robert Runcie’s delegate for work with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. It was my privilege to preach at Henry’s funeral. Afterwards one of the Orthodox prelates said to Alyson Barnett Cowan, with tears in his eyes, that he so regretted not being able to share the Eucharist with Henry and the other Anglicans on that occasion. HE did not because he knew it would be a stumbling block for his brethren, not because he found there to be a problem.

The decision before the Church of England is of course a decision that only your Church can make. You are presently deciding diocese by diocese. I am aware there is great concern about the outcome tearing the church apart. There are concerns about proper safeguards for minorities. All that only you can decide. But I do want to say that in each of the 3 dioceses I have had the incredible privilege to serve, there have been those who do not agree with the ordination of women to the episcopate. In Edmonton the concern was Anglo Catholic and was about women presiding at the sacraments, and in Christchurch the concern is of the more Sydney minded evangelicals and has to do with women preaching. In every instance we have managed to work together with great respect and mutual support. Following the September and February earthquakes in Christchurch I received numerous telephone calls from the Archbishop of Sydney offering his prayers, financial support and actual fundraising for us. You may remember that Sydney Diocese suffered huge financial losses recently, but that did not stop an initial gift of $10,000 to the Diocese of Christchurch for pastoral and earthquake response ministry, Subsequent gifts were designated ‘to be used at the discretion of the Bishop’. Archbishop Jenson has also invited me to visit and stay in his guest apartment when I need to get away from the devastation in Christchurch. None of this is meant, for one second, to say that I have unique or special gifts at reconciliation. What I am saying to you is that if I can do it, anyone can enjoy a very high level of fellowship and partnership in the Gospel. It is after all our common calling in Christ. The Bishop is the symbol of unity, and whether my brother bishop is Roman, Orthodox, Anglo Catholic or evangelical Anglican, I have never felt that my episcopal ministry has been an insurmountable stumbling block to the ministry that we share in Christ and offer to the glory of God.

In conclusion, I offer you my prayer as this Province continues to seek the mind of Christ, and discern how to serve God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray that as you make your decision Diocese by Diocese, you will be shaped by our calling to give glory to God, to be reconciled in Christ and to proclaim the Gospel in the world our precious Lord Jesus died on the Cross to save. Thanks be to God.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 11:18am BST | Comments (39) | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England | New Zealand