Negotiations are under way which will see most of the members from four Christchurch congregations cut their links to the Diocese of Christchurch.
These negotiations follow from the decision taken by this year's General Synod on May 9 which paved the way for the blessing of same-sex partnerships.
Following that decision, four conservative evangelical Christchurch parishes held votes to decide whether their members would disaffiliate from the diocese – and, in each case, large majorities chose to do so.
On Wednesday last week, Archbishop Philip Richardson along with senior diocesan staff and archdeacons met with vicars and wardens of the four parishes in question to discuss how their members could disaffiliate "in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open."
Three month exit process
They agreed on a three month exit process – and the following is a precis of a statement broadcast by the Diocese of Christchurch after that meeting.
Archbishop Philip opened the meeting. He recognised the "time, energy and cooperation from both sides" that had gone to "seeking to find a way forward together".
Now that a majority of members of four congregations had voted to disaffiliate, he said, he hoped that spirit could continue to prevail.
“This is a broken and painful place to be," he said. "But we need to find a way to walk through this unchartered land that is gracious, hospitable and realistic.”
The four groups were led by the Reverends Jay Behan from St Stephen’s Shirley; James De Costabadie from St John’s Latimer Square; Dave Clancey and Chris Spark from St Saviour’s and St Nicholas’, South Christchurch; and Steve McNabb from St John’s Woolston.
"Time to make appropriate decisions"
They agreed that a three month "resignation or exit process" was appropriate, to allow for "logistics to be sensitively managed… " so that the disaffiliation could take place "in good faith".
"It was agreed by all present the way forward needed to be respectful, orderly and should allow people time to make appropriate decisions.
"In some cases, it was acknowledged that although the majority of the people attending these churches intended to leave, some might remain. And the Diocese is committed to care for those remaining as well as enabling as smooth as possible exit for those choosing to leave.
"It was agreed that clergy and lay representatives who are disaffiliating would voluntarily not take part in the upcoming Electoral College.
"Furthermore, it was agreed in principle that there was a desire from both parties to part on good terms and to communicate with and about each other respectfully.
The next steps
"Further meetings will be held with the churches and Diocesan representatives to work out exit strategies to do with personnel, plant, buildings, bank accounts and more.
"It was agreed decisions about these things will happen on a case by case basis depending on particular circumstances and fairness.
"It was agreed that the Diocesan Manager, Edwin Boyce, is the first point of call for any questions or matters to be reconciled.
"Bearing in mind the sense of loss and sadness on both sides, we ask you to pray for all concerned that we may act in love and forbearance towards one another through our Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord."
Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
There are 61 parishes in the Diocese of Christchurch – including 37 city ones, and 24 rural and small-town parishes. The four city congregations involved in these talks have about 800 to 1000 members between them.
 Unpacking the terminology: the parishes in question have not disaffiliated from the Province – only a diocese could do that, and in a special synod called last year the diocese voted, by majority, to assent to Motion 29. Nor are the parishes leaving the diocese – only a synod can cause a parish to disappear. This is a case of individuals choosing to disaffiliate from the diocese – and large proportions of the members of the parishes have chosen that.
 Following the resignation of Bishop Victoria Matthews, Archbishop Philip is the bishop with jurisdiction for the Diocese of Christchurch.
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