Like it or not, to be Anglican in Aotearoa New Zealand means facing into 200 years of a unique, shared and difficult history between Maori and Pakeha – and acknowledging the pillars of that shared history.
These pou include Anglicans bringing the gospel to these shores in 1814; the foundational and church-brokered Treaty of Waitangi of 1840 – and, after 150 years of struggle by Maori Anglicans, the adoption of Te Pouhere, the Three Tikanga Constitution of The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
So, a proposal advanced by the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, that there should be two Anglican Churches in New Zealand, both linked by heritage – but the new one not recognising "the laws, promises, and solemn commitments" that bind The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and which grew out of that painful shared history, does not work.
That is the view of the General Synod Standing Committee – and that view has been expressed in an open letter signed by its co-chairs, Archbishops Don Tamihere and Philip Richardson, and sent to Archbishop Davies today.
The letter concludes: "We cannot recognise a Church as Anglican which does not encapsulate this 200 years of relationship and history."
The GSSC letter has its origins in the passing of Motion 7 – which paves the way for the blessing of same-gender civil marriages – at this year's General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui in New Plymouth, in May.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney then passed a resolution noting "with deep regret that this step is contrary to the teaching of Christ (Matt 19:1-12) and is contrary to Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference."
Dr Davies sent that resolution to our archbishops – who then invited him to Aotearoa New Zealand to meet with Anglicans here who represent the range of views held in this church on this issue.
Dr Davies accepted, and a meeting was convened at Hemi Tapu, Hamilton, on August 23.
Having been welcomed, and having listened to those gathered, Dr Davies then presented his proposal at the meeting. Almost immediately upon his return to Sydney he published it – and asked for a response from this church.
That response has now been given.
Central to Dr Davies' proposal is what he calls "The Solution of Distinctive Co-existence".
He notes that the dissenting churches in Christchurch and elsewhere "cannot in good conscience remain in ACANZP... Yet these brothers and sisters are still Anglican, and recognised as such by most Anglicans around the world"...
"The question (therefore) is: why can't two organisational structures co-exist, each holding to (their) Anglican heritage?"
In today's response, the GSSC says that Anglicans in this church have wrestled with the question of the blessing of same-gender relations for more than 40 years.
"In May this year our General Synod chose a way forward which has held a wide range of views together.
"In adopting that way forward, enormous care has been taken to honour and protect the integrity of people who hold irreconcilable views – while at the same time staying faithful to the foundational formularies of our Church, and not making any doctrinal change."
The GSSC letter goes on to say that the General Synod resolution on the blessing of same-sex civil marriages "cannot be divorced" from the history between Maori and Pakeha Anglicans.
"It was," the letter says, "a cross-tikanga resolution, decades in the making.
"Indeed, had it not been for the extraordinary generosity and patience extended by Tikanga Maori (and Tikanga Polynesia) on this very matter, this province would be in a far less healthy state than it is today."
The letter goes on to say that that being bound together in constitutional and Treaty-based relationships is essential to being Anglican in Aotearoa in New Zealand.
"If those disaffiliating want to be committed to that fundamental consequence of being Anglican in Aotearoa New Zealand, then they must stay in these constitutional and Treaty-based relationships.
"We cannot recognise a Church as Anglican which does not encapsulate this 200 years of relationship and history."
Archbishop Don and Philip says today's letter has been "carefully prepared in a respectful consideration of Archbishop Davies' proposal – and has been unanimously agreed to by the General Synod Standing Committee of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia."
The Archbishops have decided that their response should be made public, given that the Archbishop Davies' proposal has been widely circulated.
The Primate of Australia, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have been sent copies.
To read an unedited copy of the GSSC letter, click here.