I’ve been in so many groups in the church, over such a long time.
And this group felt quite unique.
We had this incredible sense of being completely surrounded by prayer, and being imbued with grace.
I think all of us came to this task with some trepidation. Synod had been so painful, and so difficult – and we all wanted to provide some healing, and provide something practical which would allow the church to move forward.
I think each of us came wanting to put ourselves and our own theological convictions to one side, so that we could work for the good of the church.
People in our group were generous. They listened. They were constructive. They didn’t take positions – it was really quite remarkable.
But I sensed that generosity too, in the people who came and spoke with us, or who rang us with their submissions, even if they had quite firm views.
So our work didn’t feel contentious.
Why do you think your group worked?
We had a very good chairperson: Katene did a great job.
It greatly helped having Philip there, too, and knowing that the archbishops were very interested, and alongside us.
But I think the fact that we had a narrow, clearly defined task was key.
It wasn’t about theological debate. It was about structures. We were to find structural ways to hold us together.
We were always going back to the question: ‘Will this help hold us together?’
That was our imperative.
What do you hope this report will achieve?
That people will come away from reading it feeling: ‘What I believe before God is not going to be compromised if these recommendations are implemented. There is a place where I can safely stand.’
I’m hoping that next year’s General Synod will adopt the report.
We’ve stuck to a really strict timeline – because we wanted the report out, we wanted it debated and refined, so people would have more confidence in discussing it at Synod.
We hoped to lose some of the fear of the report, because the changes that we are recommending are not sweeping changes: they’re achievable.
You’ve taken a light-handed approach – and opted for devolution, rather than legislation?
Yes. That’s right. We debated this a lot. We decided that the formularies don’t need to be changed.
We know that people are not ready to be making sweeping changes to the canon on marriage.
And we don’t actually think that needs to happen, because the people who are coming for blessings have already been civilly married.
We’ve taken it down a level. And that allows the debate to happen where it should happen, in all honesty. Because sometimes, we’re a bit too top-down with our pronouncements.
Any final thoughts?
That this was a committee whose work was embedded with prayer, respect and kindness. And good humour. We knew we were there for six months, to do a discrete, well-defined task.
And we came with a deep, deep desire to try and help our church to move forward.
Footnote: Jackie Pearse is a long-time servant of the church. She is a lawyer, a Tikanga Maori chancellor and a former General Secretary. Jackie is based in Napier, and she and Katene Eruera are the Tikanga Maori representatives on the working group.