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Working Group Interim report

Read or download the Interim Working Group Report here.

Motion 29 Working Group   |  10 Jul 2017

Interim Report of the Motion 29 Working Group

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Contents

4   Preface                          

7   Recommendation                        

7   About the Report                

7   What did we want to know?      

8   What did we find out?          

8   Relationality                  

9   Strengthening Church Structures  

9   Recommendations            

9   No Alteration to Formularies  

10  Enabling Amorangi and Dioceses  

10  New Declarations                

11  Service of Blessing            

11  Immunity from Complaint        

12  Orders of Consecrated Life      

12  2016 Way Forward Recommendations 

13  Other Ecclesial Arrangements    

14  Human Rights Act 1993        

14  Respectful Climate        

15  Conclusion        

       

 

 

                 Ehara  taku toa i te toa takitahi, 

                       Engari he toa takitini

          Mine is not the strength of an individual,

                    but the strength of many

 

 

 

Preface

There are times in our Christian lives, when God calls us to engage with things which are hard or uncertain or contentious.

No one likes those times and yet so often it is then that we are confronted anew by the expansive love of Jesus Christ.

That has certainly been the case with this small working group.

We come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and theologies but we have felt deeply held by the grace and mercy of God and we have been strengthened by the knowledge that many within our Church are praying for us and for this work.

From the beginning they, alongside our Archbishops, have encircled us with prayer. For that we are immensely grateful. 

God of peace

You knit us together as one family in our Three Tikanga Church.

We pray your blessing upon us as we continue to discern the path ahead.

When we are fearful, show us your compassion,

When we are unclear, show us your light.

Above all, may your grace and love abound,

And may we be constantly reminded that it is your mission we serve in our world.

May we be good and faithful servants of your will

May we be heralds of the kingdom in all that we seek to be and do,

To you we pray O God, creator, redeemer and giver of life. Amen.

 

 

Background and Mandate

In 2016 the General Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui of our Church met in Napier and received the report of the A Way Forward – He Anga Whakamua – Na Sala ki Liu  working group.

That group had worked tirelessly and with great commitment to bring to the Church a Report and Recommendations as to how the Church could proceed to allow for the blessing of same gender couples who had entered into a civil marriage.

The subsequent Synod debate was long, fraught and painful due to an inability to find a common view between the very differing theologies held by deeply spiritual Anglicans.

At a critical time during the debate the late Archbishop Brown Turei proposed that space be given to have more discernment on a way forward that would not break the Three Tikanga Church.

This was agreed to by the Synod and the Report, together with its recommendations, were left to lie on the table until the next General Synod in 2018.

Faithful to the Anglican tradition, another Working Group was established.

Its mandate as set out in Motion 29 was tightly focused and its task was to consider possible structural arrangements within our Three Tikanga Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships.

There was a call for submissions and 26 written submissions were received from a range of groups and individuals across the theological spectrum.

It rapidly became clear that there were not just two theological convictions or integrities but a widely held range of beliefs about marriage, same gender relationships, and blessing of same gender couples who had been civilly married, about social justice, the unity of the Church, forgiveness, redemption and grace.

What was equally clear is that the Christian people holding these very differing beliefs had prayerfully and diligently studied the scriptures and were invariably driven by their desire to do what was pleasing to God. 

Our mandate was not to consider the differing theological positions or to interpret scripture on this point.

Instead we had a very specific task of considering what arrangements and safeguards could be put in place to hold us together within the same ecclesial family so that no one was forced to compromise sincerely held beliefs.

We were asked to find structural solutions which would hold our Church together in that unity which Christ expressed, and which He has gifted to us.

We have tried to stay faithful to our mandate and to His example and so the solutions we bring are those which we prayerfully hope will enable us to stay together.

This desire to find ways to hold together has been an essential element of our work as we know that our unity is not something we as flawed persons can achieve on our own, but it is a gift already given to us through the work of Christ who has saved and redeemed each one of us.

We have been greatly helped by the many submissions and representations that we received. These reflected a wide range of views and assisted us with our thinking.

Many submitters will recognise their work in the recommendations that we have made. For those who do not, please know that we considered deeply and prayerfully, all submissions.

Throughout our work we have been acutely aware that no matter what is proposed, there will be pastoral implications.

We therefore have tried to alleviate some of those implications by creating a toolbox of recommendations which we believe will provide the structural and canonical changes needed to safeguard all theological convictions.

We have tried to create places where each can stand without compromise to the beliefs they sincerely hold.

The mandate talks of two integrities but it is more than that – there is a spectrum of views and so there needs to be a range of possible ways forward.

This range of tools means that if you are a clergy person who is unable to support the blessings of same gender relationships, then the canonical changes will ensure that you are not required to participate in such blessings and there will be no disciplinary nor adverse consequences for you declining to be involved.

Similarly, if you are a clergy person who is supportive of such blessings or you see this as a social justice issue, then there will be a structure by which such blessings can occur and there will be no disciplinary nor adverse consequences for you conducting a service.

 As you read and consider this Report, we ask that you continue the discussions and provide feedback through your bishop or synod representatives.

 

Members

The Rt Rev’d Richard Ellena
Tikanga Pākehā,Diocese of Nelson

The Rev’d Katene Eruera
Tikanga Māori,Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa

Mr Jeremy Johnson
Tikanga Pākehā, Diocese of Christchurch

The Rev’d Learne McGrath
Tikanga Pākehā, Diocese of Auckland

Mrs Jacqueline Pearse  
Tikanga Māori ,Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa

Mr Fe’iloakitau Kaho Tevi
Tikanga Pasefika, Diocese of Polynesia

                           

Recommendation

The Working Group (WG) recommends  amorangi, the Diocese of Polynesia, and the New Zealand dioceses consider this report for comment no later than 4:30pm on Friday, 17 November 2017; before its submission to the General Synod / Te Hīnota Whanui (GSTHW) in 2018.

This report recommends:

 •     no alteration to the formularies of this Church

•     enabling amorangi and dioceses to safeguard theological convictions within their episcopal units

•     amendment of the declarations of adherence and submission to the authority of GSTHW

•     allowing amorangi and diocesan bishops to authorise individual clergy within their ministry units to conduct services blessing same gender relationships

•     providing immunity from complaint for bishops and clergy for exercising their discretion on whether or not to authorise or conduct services of same gender blessings

•     recognising Orders of Consecrated Life to allow for those with clear theological convictions to have those convictions respected and protected. 

About the Report

Motion 29 of the 62nd session of GSTHW requested a working group consider possible structural arrangements within this Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships.

The WG considered 26 written submissions and spoke with individuals and groupings across the theological spectrum. It considered principles of ecclesiology, relationality, subsidiarity and moral conscience in its deliberations.

What did we want to know?

The theological debate on human sexuality remains unsettled in this Church. The WG wanted to know what structures would enable theological rationales on human sexuality to coexist peacefully in the same Church? 

What did we find?

The WG found:

•    an established norm for tolerance and openness to debate on theological issues

 •    a range of principled positions across the theological spectrum on the subject of human sexuality

 •    an unresolved tension of theological rationales: there will be faithful Anglicans who will feel conflicted, whether in part or in whole, about any decision that GSTHW makes about the blessing of same gender relationships in this Church

•    that established norms are weakened when debate is prematurely limited or foreclosed through GSTHW decision making on matters of human sexuality.

 We have heard that members of this Church seek to remain in communion with each other, if possible. To help it achieve this the WG suggests that this Church:

•    sharpens the focus on building relationality  at the local church level as the basis for effective and ethical implementation and management of its safeguards

 •    strengthens structures  in this Church to permit an environment of ongoing fair and robust debate around matters of human sexuality.

 We briefly comment on these topics for further consideration.

Relationality

The WG noted the importance of building relationships to maintain communion in those parts of the Anglican Communion experiencing similar questions on human sexuality.

It also noted a desire on the part of the bishops of this Church to engage in processes that maintained and enhanced relationships within their respective amorangi and dioceses.

 
By this we think the theological concept of koinonia, centred in the ‘local church’, namely the amorangi or diocese, is the key gathering point in this Church for Christians who are in bond withthe triune God and each other.

 Thus, partaking of the Eucharist makes each faithful Christian bound to God; and creates bonds of mutual commitment and regard to each other.

Accordingly,we think maintaining and building relationality is best exercised as koinonia under the leadership of the amorangi or diocesan bishop, in consultation with his or her Diocesan Synod; as the necessary basis for implementing safeguards for the peaceful co-existence of theological convictions concerning same gender blessings in this Church.

Strengthening Church Structures  

The WG notes that strengthening church structures is designed to safeguard theological convictions in order to allow ongoing debate on human sexuality to continue in a fair and robust manner irrespective of any decision GSTHW makes concerning the blessing of same gender relationships in this Church. We think the resilience of Church structures could be strengthened by:

•    capturing institutional knowledge across the Anglican Communion to build a knowledge bank that all faithful Anglicans can draw on for ongoing debate (for example, what do other provinces say?)

 •    capturing and applying lessons from this Church and other provinces in this Communion for application in more methodical and systematic ways for maintaining relationality (for example, what happens in provinces in countries like the U.S.A., when communion is impaired but there remains a desire for fellowship?)

 •  implementing measures to safeguard theological convictions that will allow ongoing debate to continue.

Recommendations

We have tried to create a toolbox of recommendations which we believe will provide the structural and canonical changes needed to safeguard all theological convictions.

We have tried to create places where each can stand without compromise to the beliefs they sincerely hold. The mandate talks of two integrities but it is more than that – there is a spectrum of views and so there needs to be a range of possible ways forward.

This range of tools means that if you are a clergy person who is unable to support the blessings of same gender couples, then the canonical changes will ensure that you are not required to participate in such blessings and there will be no disciplinary nor adverse consequences for you declining to be involved.

Similarly, if you are a clergy person who is supportive of such blessings or you see this as a social justice issue, then there will be a structure by which such blessings can occur and there will be no disciplinary nor adverse consequences for you conducting a service.

A.  No Alteration to Formularies

A1  The WG recommends  that there are no alterations made to the formularies of the Church.The WG acknowledges that as this Church is not of one mind on this issue it is important that the doctrine on marriage not change and that matters relating to the blessing of same gender relationships in this Church continue to be tested and debated across the theological spectrum. To enable ongoing debate, the WG thinks the formularies must remain as they presently are.

B.  Enabling Amorangi and Dioceses

B1 The WG recommends GSTHW enable amorangi and dioceses to safeguard theological convictions across the theological spectrum concerning the blessing of same gender relationships. 

 The WG thinks that GSTHW’s role is to support amorangi and the dioceses in their work; ever mindful of coordinating activities in amorangi and dioceses for the peace, unity and common good of this Church. 

 GSTHW actions which may be considered appropriate in this regard are:

•    issuing guidelines for the implementation of safeguards for all theological convictions in amorangi and dioceses

 •    amendment or addition to the code of canons in support of the aim.

C.  New Declarations

C1 The WG recommends new forms of declaration in this Church. 

 We think a new form of declaration is needed to align with other Provinces in the Communion and to recognise that what is required for the order and good governance of this Church is a voluntary submission to its rules rather than submission to the authority of GSTHW. 

 Currently, in the general declaration an 'office holder', or a person holding some other form of 'membership' is required to:

•      declare submission to the authority of the General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui

•     consent to be bound by its regulations; and

•     undertake to resign if lawfully called upon to do so

•     assenting to Te Pouhere / The Constitution and the Code of Canons; and

•     agreeing to be bound by the decisions of this Church’s decision-making bodies

•     undertaking to resign if lawfully called upon to do so.

D.  Service of Blessing

D1 The WG recommends that the decision to authorise a service of blessing for same gender couples in a civil marriage (the service) should rest with amorangi and diocesan bishops; who in turn may authorise individual clergy to conduct services only within their respective ministry units. 

 We note under Title G, Canon XIV a bishop may authorise a non-formulary service for use within a named Ministry Unit. We think this may, with amendment, be an appropriate provision for a service. The WG suggests that amendments would include the following:

•     the couple are duly married under civil law 

•     the vestry or equivalent leadership body within the clergy’s Ministry Unit has been consulted and its advice considered in good faith 

•     the service is in a form authorised by the bishop 

• the service would not contravene the general laws of the jurisdiction in which it is to take place 

• that bishops and clergy are not liable to complaint for exercising their discretion in this matter. 

The WG thinks it important that a bishop’s permission to conduct a service is granted only to clergy who wish to do so. No clergy should feel obligated to take services contrary to their theological conviction and conscience.

Also, the WG thinks it important that clergy that do want to conduct services are mindful of their fellow clergy who take a contrary position; and therefore remain in the jurisdiction of their Ministry Unit rather than conducting services outside of it. 

D2 Suggested amendments to Title G Canon XIV are found in the Appendix at 2.1-2.2.

E.  Immunity from Complaint

E1 The WG recommends immunity from any complaint that could arise from a decision bishops or clergy make concerning whether to conduct a same gender blessing or not. 

 The WG considers that a ‘no discipline’ policy is the best way to safeguard the consciences of clergy and bishops. In order for each viewpoint to safely co-exist within this Church each needs to ackowledge that the other must have freedom of conscience and action that aligns with their theological convictions. 

E2 Suggested amendments to Title D and Title G are found in the Appendix at 2.1- 2.2 & 3.1-3.2.

F.  Orders of Consecrated Life
F1 The WG recommends the recognition of Orders of Consecrated Life in this Church. The formal recognition of Religious Orders and Christian Communities would allow individuals, families and other groupings the option of coalescing into communities bound by common bonds of affection and theological conviction; being able to remain involved in the life of a parish, the diocese and this Church.  The WG suggests certain norms would apply for Religious Orders:

• A religious order would be part of the life and witness of this Church; and the entire Church owes a duty of care to enable the religious way of life

• Its members would fully and freely consent to assuming the religious way of life, including the profession of its vows such as chastity, poverty (or charity) and obedience 

• Once recognised in accordance with canon law, governance of the order would as a minimum standard be autonomous, subject to its own discipline, prescribing how it incorporates and forms its members, and the proper aims of its profession 

• While autonomy is important, members of the religious order are also part of this Church. 

• Therefore, members of the religious order would owe canonical obedience to some form of ecclesial authority in this Church.

The same norms would apply for Christian Communities which are groupings that do not require vows as Religious Orders do. For both Christian Communities and Religious Orders there would be the ability for a ministry unit to affiliate with them. Also, those appointed to lead the ministry unit would have to either be a member of the Christian Community or be willing to adhere to its constitution.

 This proposed change is similar to the approach taken by the Episcopal Church in the United States; and also the approach taken by the Roman Catholic Church.

F2 A suggested canon is found in the Appendix at 4.1.

G.  2016 Way Forward Recommendations

G1 The WG recommends that the 2016 Way Forward Report is acknowledged and received; and its recommendations withdrawn at GSTHW 2018. 

H.  Other Ecclesial Arrangements

H1. The WG notes that it considered submissions which suggested ecclesial arrangements outside the Three Tikanga Church. For instance, where members of like theological conviction would establish communion with another province in the Anglican Communion or the creation of an extra-Provincial Diocese. 

 The WG felt that submissions which suggested other ecclesial arrangements like this were beyond the scope of what GSTHW asked it to consider. In essence, the WG’s task was to find structures within this Three Tikanga Church to safeguard theological convictions on human sexuality. The WG owed a duty of care to ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ (Ephesians 4:3). 

 The WG was also mindful that some of the proposals represented a significant departure from the principles of canon law recognized as common to the churches of the Anglican Communion. Such principles were expressed in resolution number 72 of the Lambeth Conference 1988 affirming the importance of diocesan boundaries and respect for the authority of bishops within those boundaries.

In addition, some of the proposed changes would have required the involvement and agreement of a large number of disparate parties. For example, an extra-provincial Diocese requires the consent of the Anglican Communion, this Church, as well as the co-operation of ministry units, dioceses and trust boards concerning the transfer of property. The WG wanted to provide recommendations that GSTHW could act on, which would not, because of third party involvement, create potential uncertainty looking forward.

 We note however, that should faithful Anglicans in this Church wish to consider other ecclesial arrangements, it would be appropriate for this Church to consider how best to embrace this challenge with the same grace and spirit as is reflected in Motion 29; seeking to find ‘breathing room’ for one another; to live out our commitment to each other in the light and life of the gospel.

H2 The WG urges respectful conversations with any clergy person or Ministry Unit that wishes to leave this Church as a result of the recommendations made in this report.

Human Rights Act 1993
There is significant concern among clergy regarding complaints that could be laid against them pursuant to the Human Rights Act 1993 for refusing to conduct a service.
The WG thinks the recommendations in this report provide measures that make any complaint very unlikely to succeed. 
The reasons are:

• the recommendations only allow individual clergy with the necessary permission to conduct a service, and on a case by case basis. 
•  This means clergy who do not have permission cannot be the subject of a complaint as they are not authorised to conduct a service 
•  the recommendations recognise the principle of freedom of conscience as a central component of this Church’s approach to this matter; something that the Human Rights Review Tribunal will take into consideration 
•  there must be a ‘material disadvantage’ to the complainant.  
•  There will be other clergy in this Church willing and able to conduct a service; not just the clergy complained about. Thus, this requirement will not be met.

Respectful Climate

The WG comprised membership situated across the theological spectrum concerning same gender blessings. The WG developed a critically sympathetic approach to its work.  As a consequence, the working climate was both collegial and open to discussion from all viewpoints. These were important conditions which established a climate of respect and trust in the WG; as it set about the challenging task set before it.

The WG was always mindful of the thoughts and prayers of faithful Anglicans throughout the Church; and trust their dedication to prayer may be reflected not only in the regard WG members developed for each other, but also in the contents of the report which is presented for consideration.

Conclusion

We welcome comments on whether the structural changes proposed will allow the opportunity for faithful Anglicans to remain engaged in an ongoing fair and robust debate on human sexuality in this Church; and at the same time accomplish a balance along the theological spectrum, between those who wish to conduct blessings of same gender relationships and those who do not.

Comments can be forwarded by mail no later than 4:30pm, Friday 17 November 2017 to ‘The Motion 29 Working Group, c/- the Office of the General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui, 200 St Johns Road, PO Box 87 188, Meadowbank, Auckland 1742, or by email c/- the General secretary at gensecm@anglicanchurch.org.nz .

To read the Appendix please refer to the PDF version below

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