Anglicans fail to agree on same gender blessings

On Monday a report about same gender marriage was presented to the General Synod of the Anglican Church.

The report upheld the “traditional doctrine of marriage”, which defined marriage as being “between a man and a woman … life-long and monogamous”.

However it proposed a compromise solution which would allow the blessing of same gender couples who are already civilly married.

While both Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Polynesian agreed they could adopt provisions of the A Way Forward report, the seven New Zealand dioceses asked for more time to address misgivings about the two services of blessing posed.

The Synod moved into conference mode, and requested space to operate with only members and those with speaking rights present.

After the discussion, the Synod appointed a new working group to draft an alternate response to the A Way Forward report.

It consisted of seven members – two from each tikanga and a legal adviser.

This working party presented its proposal on Wednesday.

Agreement could still not be reached.

And so the report “lies on the table” with the Synod coming back to it after further work in two years time.

Church spokesman Rev Jayson Rhodes said the synod decided that “it needs more work and time to create a structure that can allow for blessing of committed life-long monogamous same-sex relationships”.

“The synod has asked for a working group to ensure there is a structure that can safeguard different views concerning the blessing of same-gender relationships, and that will be considered in two years’ time at the next General Synod,” he said.

The the original working group said that the proposed new rites of blessing are “additional formularies” rather than doctrinal changes.

“It is the view of the majority of the group that the proposed liturgies do not represent a departure from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, and are therefore not prohibited by [the Church’s constitution]”

The proposal was modelled on what happened in France, where “everybody gets married in the town hall and comes to church the next day”.

On Monday, Bishop Jim White, who was part of the working group, told the Synod that blessings would require the legal union to take place elsewhere at an earlier time, then the couple themselves would be blessed by the Church, not their marriage.

This provided an opportunity for blessings but kept the Church’s understanding of marriage intact.

Some church members think the proposed blessing ceremonies looked too much like a marriage, he said.

Others have criticised the report saying it creates a second class ceremony for same gender couples.

Bishop Kito Pikaahu, also one of the report writers, said different groups inside the Church must learn to be tolerant, particularly when disagreeing with others.

Other working group members said the report was designed to spark discussion and was not a final solution.

They said there was not unanimous agreement within the working group and the report offered recommendations to be debated.

Prior to the presentation of the report two dioceses had already intervened.

The Christchurch Diocesan Synod proposed a motion that states that the General Synod “does not adopt any recommendations without first referring the report to the Synods . . . of this Church for discussion, and resources a significant period of education, discussion and discernment throughout this Church.”

The Nelson Diocesan Synod have tabled a motion calling for “at least four years of intentional theological reflection, education and discussion across our Church on the substance and impact of the [proposed changes].”

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News category: New Zealand.

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