Will this church sign up to the Anglican covenant? We won’t know, for sure, for another two years.
But we’ll have a clearer picture of where things are heading shortly after the 59th session of the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui begins in Gisborne on May 8.
The entire morning of the first full day of business – Monday, May 10 – is being devoted to an airing of the covenant.
The General Secretary of the Church, the Rev’d Michael Hughes, says that session has been designed to be as fruitful as possible.
For a start, some of the leading opinion-shapers in this church – each chosen to represent different shades of opinion on the draft covenant – have also been asked to contribute papers on it, and these have been included in the agenda.
Bishop Victoria Matthews has been asked to introduce the May 10 discussion, and no doubt she’ll include her observations about how the Anglican Church of Canada is travelling with the shaping of its response to the covenant.
The synod will then break into houses for small group discussions – bishops with bishops, clergy with clergy, lay people with lay people. Those groups will be encouraged to come up with key issues and questions for reporting back to a plenary session.
After morning tea, the synod will divide and reform again – and this time the three tikanga will thrash the covenant around, and then report back its perspectives to the plenary.
Key questions for episcopal units
This province isn’t required to give its final verdict on the covenant until 2012. But the idea is that this General Synod will produce a set of key questions for the various Episcopal units to chew over in the next two years, ready for reporting to the 2012 General Synod.
The Gisborne synod will debate a procedural motion along these lines from this church’s ACC representatives, Dr Tony Fitchett and Turi Hollis.
Their motion proposes that the 2010 General Synod receive the text (the November 2009 Ridley Cambridge Draft); approve in principle the first three sections of that draft; and refer the proposed covenant to the Episcopal units with a view to them reporting back to the 2012 session of General Synod.
In their notes to the motion Dr Fitchett and Rev Hollis predict there will be “little disagreement” about sections 1 to 3 of the draft. Section 4, however, contains what they describe as “punitive clauses” which include provision for the exclusion of provinces from the Instruments of Communion.
Given the “wide differences of opinion” about section 4, they say the proposed covenant “should be considered as widely as possible within this church before a final decision is made regarding its adoption.”
They also question whether section 4.2.8 is appropriate, and their motion includes a request that the ACC standing committee “obtain an opinion” about this from the legal advisor to the Anglican Consultative Council.
A new Archbishop for Polynesia?
One of the main news items to emerge from the 2010 General Synod may be the public announcement of a new Archbishop for this church, following the death of Archbishop Jabez Bryce.
The Diocese of Polynesia has called an electoral college for April 29 in Suva to elect a new Bishop. This nomination will be forwarded to the Archbishops then the Bishops for their sanction.
If everything goes to plan, the normal three week-long postal ballot of the members of General Synod won’t be necessary – because all the members of the General Synod will be gathered in Gisborne, and will be able to be polled while they are there.
There’ll also be keen interest in the findings of the Reeves Commission of Inquiry into the structure of St John’s College.
General Synod will be making a time on the Wednesday morning to receive and discuss this report. Both Sir Paul Reeves and his fellow commissioner, lawyer Kathryn Beck, will be present, as will Bishop David Coles, the chair of the St John’s College Board of Oversight.
Two of the heads of colleges – Dr Jenny Te Paa (Te Rau Kahikatea) and Bishop Winston Halapua (college of the Diocese of Polynesia) – are members of synod anyway, and the third, the Dean of the College of the Southern Cross, The Rev’d Jim White, will be on hand in Gisborne for the discussion.
Overhaul of three-tikanga youth ministry
The Gisborne General Synod will consider ten bills – including one (proposed by Sepi Hala’api’api and Bishop David Rice) that will provide for an overhaul of the structure and governance of three tikanga youth ministry.
This bill flows from work done by a three tikanga youth ministry review working group, and it provides for the setting up of a 3T Youth Ministry Commission (as per the Social Justice Commission) – and the appointment of a three tikanga youth ministry commissioner.
The working group saw that youth ministry has grown in an ad hoc fashion. The new canon will be to bring it under one umbrella, and give it a common direction with shared oversight and governance.
There’s also a bill that, if passed, will provide the final recognition of the Diocese of Waikato’s twin-bishop model.
This bill, which comes at the request of the Waikato Diocesan Synod, asks the General Synod to authorise the Diocese of Waikato to change its name to: The Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki.
There’s also a bill which seeks to make clear that the Judicial Committee has jurisdiction over electoral colleges; one to formalise the working of the Kinder Library Oversight Committee (KLOC is now an independent entity, separate from the St John’s College Trust Board, and it reports in its own right to Te Kotahitanga), as well as various routine bills – a finance bill, and various liturgical bills.
Motion to ban alcohol advertising
The order paper includes fifteen motions; besides the one suggesting a process for continued debate on the Anglican covenant, there are others which include a motion to urge the government to ban alcohol advertising “in the light of the depredations… (that alcohol has wrought) on our communities” – such a motion was passed by the 2008 Christchurch diocesan synod – and one to formalise the recognition of “Earth Hour” and “Earth Sunday”.
There are also motions to: approve guidelines for eucharistic hospitality among Anglican and Lutheran congregations; formalise governance and reporting for the St Stephens and Queen Victoria Trust Board; and one flowing from the communications commission, which proposes small, expert “oversight teams” for both the Media Officer and Anglican Taonga.
The powhiri for the General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui will be at 10am on Saturday May 8 at Te Poho Rawiri Marae (where, in 2005, Archbishop Brown Turei was installed as Pihopa o Aotearoa), and all business sessions of the synod will be held at The Emerald Hotel in Gisborne.
The synod will finish with a dinner and poroporaki at the Emerald on Thursday evening, May 13.
About 120 representatives and staff are expected at the synod.