Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Last minute changes for Motion 29 debate

General Synod runs into some speed bumps as it prepares to take decisions about the blessing of same gender relationships.

Taonga News  |  07 May 2018

Those responsible for the running of this year's General Synod have been doing their best to rein in the debate and decision-making about Motion 29.

They haven't wanted the issue about same gender relationships – to bless, or not to bless – to sprawl and gobble up General Synod time, in the way it did with the debates about the Ma Whea report in 2014, and in 2016, with the Way Forward recommendations.

And this morning, Archbishop Philip Richardson, who is the host bishop for the synod, outlined the order paper committee's plan for how this synod will deal with the matter.

This morning, he suggested, the General Synod would have a contained discussion, just one session, simply about process.

About how the debate and decision-making would unfold.

Tomorrow morning, he said, the General Synod would return to Owae marae and spend the morning there. They would go into hui mode, retracing the history of the same gender blessing debate – before the members of the Motion 29 SWG present their report and recommendations and explain their thinking.

"Then there'll be the opportunity," said Archbishop Philip, "to respond to the report, and name the issues which remain."

But tomorrow wouldn't be the time to make decisions, or debate the amendments.

That's Wednesday morning's work, he said. That's the time allocated – from 9:15am to 12:30pm – to vote. To make decisions about the recommendations, and about any proposed amendments.

That was the plan.


But this morning, things didn't quite go to plan.

First, Bishop Kito Pikaahu said he wasn't happy with heading out to Owae tomorrow to "wrestle further with an issue with which we've been wrestling for years."

Yes, the marae is the place for "honest talking", he said.

But did the General Synod have to vacate the Plymouth Hotel ballroom – where the plenary sessions of General Synod are being held – before it could engage in that honest talking?

It would be far better, he said, if General Synod did its wrestling right where it is – and then went out to Owae to celebrate its decision.

Then, he had a problem with how Archbishop Philip had described the outcome of the 2016 debate on this matter.

In his introduction, Archbishop Philip had said his tikanga had been the beneficiaries of an "act of extraordinary grace" – more time, essentially, to sort itself out and avoid splitting.

But Bishop Kito reckoned that Tikanga Pakeha was being "too hard on itself. This is not a tikanga issue. This is a church issue. I don't want you taking the blame."

It wasn't a case, he said, of Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pacifica waiting for Tikanga Pakeha "to get its act together. We bear each other's burdens. We wait together. To me, that's the sigh of a mature church."


And at that point, the Rev Ngira Simmonds called for a tikanga caucus, so each could decide how it felt about taking the Motion 29 debate out to Owae tomorrow.

That tikanga caucus lasted for a good 30 minutes.

Predictably, Tikanga Pakeha and Tikanga Polynesia deferred to Tikanga Maori on that one.

Then it was the turn of the Rev Dr Hirini Kaa, who was the spokesman for the Tikanga Maori caucus.

He presented an unexpected challenge.

Tikanga Maori were broadly in support of Motion 29, he said. They'd like it to succeed.

"However, we don't want to spend three days discussing the issue, once again, and have it dominate our time.

"We also have qualms about taking this take to Owae and discussing that issue there."

"So, we would like to propose that we have our discussion today.

"And that we conclude our discussion today."

And at that point, the synod adjourned for lunch – and for serious and urgent discussions about the implications of that proposal.


After lunch, Archbishop Philip reported that the plan to travel to Owae tomorrow had been scrapped.

The buses had been cancelled, he said, the marae people would be thanked for their manaakitanga, and the kohanga reo committee (who were to provide morning tea) paid for the food they have prepared.

Tomorrow morning's debate would be held, he explained, in the hotel.

Tikanga Maori's other proposal – the one that said the debate should be done and dusted today – wasn't practical.

First, the Motion 29 SWG had its own travel plans, based on presenting its report tomorrow.

Secondly, members of the Common Life Liturgical Commission had made travel arrangements to fly in and out of New Plymouth this afternoon, to support the launch, at General Synod, of a new book on the history of the Prayer Book.

Those CLLC member's travel plans would be thrown into disarray if that launch got bumped from the schedule.

The final act of today Motion 29 proceedings was an offer by the chancellor, Bruce Gray QC, to talk with people who had amendments on their mind to one or more of the M29 recommendations – and to compose a one-page memo, for circulation, that gathers in succinct form, the gist of those amendments.

And that one-pager will feed into tomorrow's debate.