ACANZP – ‘WAY FORWARD’ – General Synod

New Zealand debates “Way Forward” on same-sex relationships

Posted on: May 5, 2016 1:16 PM

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The week-long biennial meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia gets underway tomorrow (Friday) and amongst the items for debate is the report by the “Way Forward Working Group” on the blessing of same-sex marriages.

The report, which was requested by the last meeting of the General Synod in 2014, proposes new liturgies for the blessing of civil marriages. In the case of New Zealand, this would include same-sex marriages, which have been lawful since 2013.

The working group say 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], however the group also recognises that this will be a crucial matter for debate.”

The motion being debated by the General Synod next week asks members to accept the recommendations in the report and to “endorse in principle, for consideration, the proposed new formularies for use in public worship, and the changes to the canons of the Church set out in the report” but it says that the proposed changes should be forwarded to the dioceses of the church so that they can indicate “their assent or otherwise to the proposed changes” ahead of a further consideration by the next General Synod in 2018.

Two dioceses have already intervened. The Christchurch Diocesan Synod have 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.”

And 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].”

The debate on the Way Forward Group’s report will take place on Monday. Other matters set to tax the mind of the General Synod during the next week include the issues of gender-based violence, child poverty, women’s leadership, the housing crisis and welcoming refugees.

On climate change, the General Synod will debate carbon offsetting and look at the disaster preparation of the Pacific islands.

Church order, ecumenical relationships and liturgical matters also will be discussed, including inter-changeability of Methodist and Anglican clergy, changes to the practice of confirmation, and vocations to the ordained ministry.

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Having been present at the first of the explanatory meetings in Christchurch, I, I suspect like many others, was confused by some of the elements of the presentation. However, despite some rumblings of disagreement about whether same-sex relationships were ‘an abomination’ to God; it seemed at the time that what was being proposed – at least, for the proposition of ‘Same-Sex Blessings’, might be a reasonable way forward for our Church in New Zealand.

There has been another meeting since, which went into greater detail – but at which I was not present – that must have some impact on the disappointing (for me, at least) decision by our diocese to put the brakes on any decisions being made on this important matter at the general Synod shortly to take place:

“Two dioceses have already intervened. The Christchurch Diocesan Synod have 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.”

Predictably, the other diocese in our Church that made a similar move to block any definitive action on the Same-Sex Blessings issue (I think that this WAS the point of their submission) was the Diocese of Nelson – whose Bishop has been active in the Fellowship of confessing Anglicans (FoCA) Movement to oppose any forward movement on Same-Sex recognition by the Anglican Churches around the world:

“And 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].”

I am one member of our Church who believes that the blessing of Same-Sex Unions is a matter of some importance – not only for the members of our Church who would actually benefit from such an arrangement, but also for the integrity of the Church, that has suffered from an endemic attitude of homophobia and sexism for too long.

My prayers will be offered at today’s Mass at St. Michael’s for an openness to the LGBTQI Community in our Church.

Fathewr Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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(State of the C.of E.) – A Parallel for ACANZP ?

‘Fear not’ for the C of E.

Let’s be honest, it is all a bit of a mess; the Anglican Communion, I mean. Mind you the C of E is also a bit messy at present.

But, here’s some good news, or at least, a point of reference that may give some hope:

The Church, in all its dysfunctionality, is not too different from families up and down the land, for, as all involved in funeral ministry know, the notion of the perfectly functional family, where every member relates to the other in perfect harmony, is a romantic myth. Even, whisper it beneath your breath, in ‘nice families.’

Every minister will be aware that when planning funerals  family members may have significantly different interpretations of the reality of family life and, the character of the deceased. Often, sadly, the dominant interpretation will depend on the power dynamics in the family. Power, does not of course, necessarily equate to truth.

The various ‘power groups’ in the Anglican Communion seem to be interpreting the ACC meeting’s response to the Primates Communique differently. Who knows what the ‘truth’ of the matter is?

In fact the disagreement is not limited simply to interpretation of the communique. No, in many ways it is far more basic than that, for the entire legitimacy of the Primates response to the Episcopal Church has also been called into question. The argument goes that the Primates have attempted to fashion themselves as an Anglican Magisterium and in so doing have, without consultation, sought to change the nature of our ‘family life.’

The counter argument is of course that the Episcopal Church (of the USA) had no rite (pun!) to change their marriage canon unilaterally. So the Primates ‘had’ to act.

A third interpretation may be, as someone at a church lunch put to me yesterday, that two wrongs don’t make a right. My friend, who is an ordinary member of the congregation, believes that the Episcopal Church was wrong, both in its intention (to broaden the traditional definition of marriage) and its praxis (he believes that some form of liturgical affirmation would be appropriate – we didn’t discuss blessings), but that the Primates were also wrong in their reaction, despite all the pious language embedded in the communique.

He warned of the dire consequences that follow when a powerful group seeks to assume powers that are not rightfully theirs, or to amend the ‘constitution’ without prior consultation.

Getting back to funerals! Frequently, there is a third group of mourners; those who don’t get to express their view, perhaps simply because their view is more subtle and nuanced; less dramatic and somehow distanced from, or drowned out by, those who intent on keeping hold of the megaphone.

This group also tends to be less dogmatic, and because their analysis isn’t headline grabbing their views are seldom sought. After all a eulogy which stresses that Fred or Sue (whoever) was a mixture of the good and the bad stuff, they did their best, sometimes achieving what they set out to but frequently just drifting along doesn’t really do it!

This group perceives ‘the truth of the matter’ to reside between the two extremes, not in some soggy relativism but rather, in a spirit of ‘holy pragmatism.’  And, this group exists big time in the Church, just like it does in each and every family and community. And, lets not deceive ourselves; this group does think things through, reflectively and, ‘theologically.’ And yet, we never ask their opinion (we think we do, and we argue that their views are represented through the synodical processes but sometimes we need to get beyond such processes, or dig deeper).

The line that that they don’t have the expertise and authority to make a contribution, which is sometimes deployed,  doesn’t really, in my view, pass muster. It is the rhetoric of the anti liberationist and a clericalism that refuses to take seriously that most unnerving of principles; subsidiarity.

Before everyone in a position of power and authority gets hot under the collar, please note that I have used the word ‘contribution.’ Surely a healthy church should make some sort of effort to find out what its members really think (or believe)? What other mechanism exists for inaugurating a mature conversation? Or even for teaching and admonishing?

So, it is bizarre that we never put before them (our members) a range of options and ask how they would rank them. Put simply, despite protestations, that the majority of members of the C of E ‘think’ that the status quo should be either retained or amended, we don’t know what our members really think, and one of the problems with those who speak from a  position of power or authority is that they tend towards a preference for making sweeping assumptions. We, the C of E,  should rigorously and systematically test our assumptions (mine included!) Asking the broadest possible franchise to rank a range of possible outcomes wouldn’t, in all probability, provide a definitive outcome but it would give an accurate insight into the general direction of beliefs and sympathies.

There is however a problem that needs to be acknowledged by those in leadership: Not knowing can be infinitely more comfortable than knowing! Assumption can be  the ‘epistemological best friend’ of the powerful.

So why don’t we simply just ask our members (maybe starting by defining members as those on an electoral role -after all having just completed a round of APCM meetings we know the composition of the franchise) what they think about the issues that divide us. Let’s get below the views of the authority figures. It would be a relatively simple process to arrange.

But, ‘fear not,’ it won’t happen, for one simple reason; presumption is so much easier to deal with, for leaders, than fact.

Of course getting to the heart of the matter won’t erase all, or even most, of our problems. It won’t make the family instantly more functional. In the short term it might actually makes things worse.

There will be a lot of shock and horror from all sides about the nature of the results and findings: ‘how could you believe such and such’ will continue to be a refrain of estranged conservative and liberal cousins on both sides of the theological divide. Those residing in that vast spectrum of belief called ‘the middle ground’ will all all likelihood simply keep their heads down and mournfully ask ‘how has it come to this?’ Unless we pass them the megaphone.

For the sake of the Church of England this group needs to be given its voice.

Bishops, priests and deacons may have to live with the unconformable reality that more diversity exists in their pews than they had hitherto presumed or perceived, and that this will impact (for good) the exercise of leadership in both the diocese and local church and, the way the church evolves its teaching ministry. We will need from our leaders a new maturity.

However, as everyone involved in funeral ministry also knows, funerals can be a catalyst for family reconciliation, and reconciliation begins when we willingly extinguish presuppositions and presumptions and allow heart to speak to heart. This is now the Church of England’s urgent task and we need to engage the widest possible constituency in our discussions and deliberations.

It will be messy. And, it will require courage. But the alternative is even worse; the continuation of a long and painful journey to the funeral parlor.

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The owner of Anglican blog ‘TheoreO’ (A. Lightboun) offers his understanding of the current malaise at the heart of the Church of England around many issue, including the status of the just-concluded ‘Conversations on Human Sexuality’. He suggests that not enough attention is being paid – especially on this touchy subject – to the Faithful laity in the Church and their opinions:

“Bishops, priests and deacons may have to live with the unconformable reality that more diversity exists in their pews than they had hitherto presumed or perceived, and that this will impact (for good) the exercise of leadership in both the diocese and local church and, the way the church evolves its teaching ministry. We will need from our leaders a new maturity.”

In other words, while the Leaders of the Church of England may discuss among themselves the issues of human sexuality – including that of how the Church treats the LGBTQI constituency in its midst; and the Church’s reluctance to recognise, or bless, couples within the congregations involved in a civil Same-Sex Marriage – ordinary Churchgoers may, mostly (accepting  the fact of  the State’s involvement on Same-Sex Marriage) wonder what all the fuss is about.

Where, once, the attitude of the Church was consonant with that of the State in England – in holding Same-Sex activity as criminally liable – the tables have now been turned. The State has decriminalised homosexuality, and has provided a legal way in which people of the same gender who love one another may be joined together in marriage –  in a legal state on a par with that of heterosexual marriage.

The fact is, there are and will be more same-sex couples in the Church who will want to undertake what the State provides as the legal provisions of Marriage.

The big question now is, how does the Church look upon such relationships that, despite former prohibition against them, are now considered acceptable and within the law. State-condoned homophobia and its criminal overtones have been overcome by the State. This holds a legitimate challenge for the Church. How will the Church react?

As our own General Synod in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia comes to discuss these important matters in the life of the Church and in our community; a similar situation has arisen. Now that Same-Sex Marriage has been put on a legal par with Heterosexual Marriage – what will our Church be able to do that will assure homosexual people in our congregations that the Church welcomes their desire to maintain their monogamous, loving relationships now legally binding in a State-sanctioned Marriage?

If we fall short of being able to sanction an actual Wedding Ceremony in our churches, will this General Synod of ACANZP, feel able to move forward on the provision of a Rite of Blessing on a Marriage celebrated by the State? My own hope is that this will be made possible – especially for those loyal members of our Church, who wish to commit & pledge their lives in a life-long marriage relationship to their Same-Sex partner. After all, was it not the dictum of Saint Paul the Apostle: “It is better to marry than burn” ? If course, he didn’t know anything about S/S Marriage, but the issue is just the same.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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TEC Woman Bishop to share Liverpool Oversight

Bishop Susan Goff receives historic appointment

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Announced by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia:

A historic moment in the lives of the dioceses of Virginia and Liverpool occurred today at Shrine Mont Retreat Center when the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff [bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia] was commissioned by Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia, and Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, as Assisting Bishop of Liverpool. This exciting appointment, while noteworthy, is more than just in title. As one of her first roles as Assisting Bishop, Bishop Goff will be sharing in the ordination of priests with Bishop Bayes in June and speaking at the Diocese of Liverpool clergy conference in July. Both dioceses look forward to growing in relationship through this partnership. This appointment comes with the blessing of the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

From a 2012 article following Goff’s appointment as bishop suffraganby the Episcopal News Service:

“For me, what the Kingdom of God is all about, the very visual image I have of it is of the heavenly banquet: men, women, children, people of all nationalities, languages, cultures, ages, genders, physical abilities, sexual orientations, the wealthy and the poor are gathered around the table,” Goff said in an article in the summer edition of the Virginia Episcopalian. “Since that’s what the Kingdom of God is, then that’s what the Church is called to be.

“For the Church to be doing the mission of Christ in the world,” she added, “we are therefore called to minister to and with a wider variety of people than ever before. We’re on the cusp of shifting from … ministry ‘to’ to ministry ‘with.’”

Goff was one of ten Episcopal bishops who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican last fall, and she wrote about the experience for theRichmond Times-Dispatch:

He spoke of the profound relationship between the church and the family. “In the family we learn the bonds which unite us … even when difficulties abound. Indeed,” he said, “it is in the family that the most vulnerable of society are cared for.”

Then he challenged the church to examine the extent to which we are living as the family of God. He challenged us to make ourselves vulnerable in order to be family with the most vulnerable. With that invitation, the leader of what is arguably the most powerful church in the world made himself vulnerable to critics who disagree with him.

The pope made himself vulnerable too, by inviting our presence with him. We Episcopal bishops, seven women and three men, were seated on the platform in front of the first row of chairs, just to the right of the pope. We were dressed in purple cassocks, identifying us as bishops even from a distance. The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Episcopal Church ordinations. Yet this pope chose to be seen in the company of Episcopal bishops, chose to speak with us publicly, chose to allow our photos to be taken with him. The Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women. Yet this pope chose to be seen in the company of women bishops, chose to speak and shake hands with us, chose to have his photo taken with us.

(Thanks to ‘Episcopal Cafe’ for this article)

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I really appreciate this TEC Bishop’s statement about the  mission of Christ to all in our Anglican Churches:

““For me, what the Kingdom of God is all about, the very visual image I have of it is of the heavenly banquet: men, women, children, people of all nationalities, languages, cultures, ages, genders, physical abilities, sexual orientations, the wealthy and the poor are gathered around the table. Since that’s what the Kingdom of God is, then that’s what the Church is called to be.” –   +Susan Goff – 

This is an amazing joint move by the Church of England’s Bishop of Liverpool, UK, and TEC’s Bishop of Virginia, USA, to join their respective dioceses of the world-wide Anglican Communion in this act of collaborative ministry in the Diocese of Liverpool. This is surely a sign of the Church of England‘s willingness to cooperate in matters of Mission with the Episcopal Church in the United States – despite a recent movement in the recent gathering of Primates in the UK to ‘discipline’ TEC because of its recent acceptance of Same-Sex Marriage in the USA.

I loved, also, Bishop Susan’s description of Pope Francis’ hospitality towards TEC Bishops who met with him at a meeting in the Vatican last Autumn. Despite the fact of Rome’s negativity towards the Ordination of Women, Pope Francis welcomed each of the Bishops (including Bishop Susan) personally and graciously agreed to be photographed with them as a group. Now that is what I call true Christian hospitality.

Let’s hope that Bishop Susan’s influence on the English diocese and Church is beneficial for the Communion links as a whole. Reminds me of that old Hymn: ‘God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year’!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A Paradox: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” ?

 

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”?

by Canon Simon Butler, Vicar of St Mary’s Battersea, Prolocutor of Canterbury

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My old friend and fellow Archbishops’ Council member Ian Paul and I engaged in a minor online debate this week about “Things Jesus Never Said”. In its course, I remarked that one of the things Jesus never said was that old Evangelical nostrum, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Ian felt it had what he calls “the warrant of Scripture”, while I felt it unhelpful. As a result of the exchange, I said I would write something for Via Media this week and Ian would respond soon on his own blog, Psephizo.

It’s a timely matter to reflect on. Some Evangelical commentators in Britain and the United States have recently distanced themselves from what was, for many years, almost an article of faith within that tradition. As we prepare in the Church of England for the General Synod’s engagement in the Shared Conversations, this phrase is bound to be used at some point by someone and it certainly shapes a lot of attitudes. As one former diocesan bishop said to me once (not realising that I was gay myself), “we must love the sinner but hate the sin, Simon. But never forget that these people (yes, he used those exact words) are sinners.”

The more time I spend in pastoral ministry, the more I realise that we humans are, as Psalm 139 puts it, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are all a mixture of saint and sinner, whether we are believers or not. I always remember a story of Gordon Oliver’s from my theological training about distributing Holy Communion to his congregation. As he gave the sacrament to each person, he found himself mentally acknowledging both the brokenness and sin he knew in the life of each person he pastored, and their belovedness in Christ. The doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the fall start by a commitment to human goodness and the complexity of real humanity that is both a gift in creation and a consequence of sin.

Because of this goodness and complexity, it seems to me almost impossible to separate a person’s identity from their actions. For readers who find it hard to accept those of us who are LGBT it is important that you recognise that this is something really important to us. But not just for us: it is an important truth for everyone. The older I get, the more I realise the depth of my own brokenness and the profound gift of the love of God in Christ. But my identity and my actions are so interwoven that any attempt to distinguish one from the other – which is what “love the sinner, hate the sin” rather simplistically tries to do – is doomed to failure. It may make sense as a theological cliché, albeit rather an unsophisticated one, but psychologically it is damaging and harmful. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to hate any person: I have never yet heard an adequate argument which convinces me that, at the level of pastoral psychology, hating sin doesn’t result in hating people.

But it also seems harmful to those who use it. Behind the phrase can easily lurk an air of spiritual superiority, the implication than one set of sins is more serious than another (LGBT Christians know this more than most: we have been the target of this phrase’s use more than any other group by those who like to use it). Like that diocesan bishop, what can easily be revealed is a sort of hierarchy of sinfulness, and therefore of human worth, and a qualification to the command to love that is at the heart of the radical teaching of Jesus. I have never yet met a Christian who doesn’t possess a sort of inner inventory like this. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a contributing factor in the subtle qualification of the absolute call to love.

I have recently been through the most testing experience of my parochial ministry. I am grateful to God for the support and prayer of many people. It was a truly testing time and one that required me to have a good look at myself, my attitudes and behaviour. Naturally, sinfulness played a part. But, now I am beyond that testing time, I find myself unable to say that it is possible to separate my sinfulness from my giftedness; indeed, the former is in some way a consequence of the latter or, as my work consultant put it, my gifts with the volume turned up too loud. Western, juridical models of atonement, based as they are binary views of sin and goodness, fail to acknowledge such a profound reality and, at some level, prevent us from overcoming (befriending?) the fallen, shadow, sinful aspects of ourselves. A more Eastern perspective – of sin as a disease or a divided heart – allows us to see ourselves not as victims of an angry God, but as the beloved of a worried Parent, who can be loved into befriending and finding wholeness in the parts of ourselves where sin can so easily master us.

Love the sinner, hate the sin? No thank you. I’ll just stick with “Love”. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Picture of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” available on Photobucket.

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Having read some of Anglican Evangelical, Ian Paul’s articles on his web-site ‘Psephizo’, I can just imagine the sort of conversation that would have ensued between him and the author of this piece, Canon Simon Butler,  Vicar of St Mary’s Battersea; who, like Ian Paul, is also a  Prolocutor of Canterbury.

Personally, I have always worried about the use of the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”. This, no doubt, is something that fundamentalists (although I wouldn’t call Ian Paul one of those, even though he is a known conservative – especially on matters human sexuality) cling to, as a way of claiming their right to point to the sins of other people, while forgetting that they, too, are sinners.

I have put this article up on kiwianglo, because it gives insights into the struggle some of us have with those who feel that homosexual people are somehow in a class of their own when it comes to being sinners – almost as though intrinsically gay people are rebelling against God and Creation, simply because of their innate sexual-orientation. “Oh yes, I can love you, but I don’t love what you are doing”. This, when repeated, can convince some more sensitive young gay people that they are a waste of space and that they do not deserve to live on our planet. The result of this, as we now know from extant statistics, can be a cause of youth suicide.

Of course, we all have to do our very best to live according to the moral and social codes of the society in which we live, but to blame a person for the way in which they find themselves attracted to persons of the same gender, or – to extend the category – for someone who feels an alien in the body that they have been given (transsexuals); is to completely misunderstand the dilemma that such people have to live with all the time.

I believe the current situation regarding the possibility of blessing a committed Same-Sex relationship in our Church has more to do with what we imagine goes on in the bedrooms of such people, than the possibility of their attraction to one another being much, much more than mere sexual attraction. If this can be admitted in heterosexual marriage, it must also be accounted possible in the relationship between two people of the same gender. That God might bless such a committed, monogamously intended same-sex relationship, as being similar in many ways to heterosexual marriage – apart from the procreation of children – is surely not too difficult to imagine.

I’m offering prayers for our up-coming General Synod here in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia, in the hope that a way may be found to accommodate what I, and many others in our Church, see as the need to bless S.S Unions.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Fr. John Osmers – NZ Anglican Bishop honoured in South Africa

NZ born Bishop John Osmers’ fight for justice recognised in South Africa

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New Zealand born, The Right Reverend John Osmers, retired Anglican Bishop of Eastern Zambia, was one of three pioneers in the fight for justice in South Africa who was honoured by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba.

Osmers was born in Christchurch.

He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of merit in 2007.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah, the first President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, and Osmers, received the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice during separate presentations this month.

His citation recognises the distinction he has achieved “in multiple countries for multiple reasons” as a result of his “lifelong work as a faithful servant of God.”

The citation says that “In his native New Zealand, he is known for his staunch record in fighting against collaboration with apartheid South Africa.”

In 1979 Osmers with fellow New Zealand-born Anglican priest, Michael Lapsley, wrote to Bill Burnett, the archbishop of Cape Town, complaining about statements Burnett had made about the World Council of Churches financing of liberation movements in Southern Africa.

They also complained about the Anglican Church continuing to licence priests to serve as paid officers of the South Africa defence Force.

Later in the same year the South African authorities attempted to kill Lapsley, Osmers and the activist lawyer Phyllis Naidoo, with a bomb concealed in parcels containing the African National Congress (ANC) journalSechaba.

This left Osmers without his left hand, blown off in the blast.

Within months of this event both men were in New Zealand addressing the issue of the pending Springbok rugby tour.

They toured the country, gave media interviews and spoke at numerous rallies opposing the tour.

Over six feet tall, Osmers was imposing sight to see on a platform or in a pulpit waving his shorn off arm as he exposed the brutality of apartheid and its policies of racism.

Upon his return Osmers was expelled from Lesotho.

He moved to Botswana,where he again became a target of South African security forces.

In 1988 they sent a death squad to assassinate him.

Tipped off, he escaped to Zambia.

A strong supporter of the African National Congress, he argued that if the national military of a country could have official chaplains, why couldn’t the liberation movements?

He adopted a role as a chaplain to the ANC in Lusaka, where many of the exiled leadership were living and indeed became a confidant of many future leaders.

He was elected the first bishop of the new diocese of Eastern Zambia in 1995

He took on the job reluctantly resigned after 6 years to allow an indigenous African to assume the post.

Subsequently he directed Zambia’s Anglican seminary in Kitwe, retiring in 2011.

After that he was assistant bishop of Lusaka.

Most recently Osmers has taken up the cause of Rwandan refugees,

About John Osmers

Osmers was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1934

He was brought up in a vicarage in Sydenham.

After completing his schooling in New Zealand Osmers travelled and studied.

While in England he decided to become an Anglican priest.

He attended a seminary in England and was ordained in 1961.

Trevor Huddleston encouraged him to join the Diocese of Lesotho in Southern Africa.

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It should be no surprise to those in New Zealand who know Bishop John Osmers that he should now be recognised by the Government of South Africa as one of those intrepid people of the Anglican Church in South Africa who, recognising the problems of apartheid, threw in their lot with those opposing the regime of Dr. Verwoerd and his government, in order to seek a better life for native black South Africans and others of coloures races working in Africa at the time. 

Fr. John lost his arm in the conflict and – together with Fr. Michael Lapsley, SSM, another Anglican priest, also born in New Zealand and who lost limbs and an eye as a result of a parcel bomb sent to him by agents of the S.A. Government Defence Force – helped in the struggle against Apartheid until they had to move to other African countries to continue their mission.

Having know Michael Lapsley, as an Auckland schoolboy in the Auckland parish of St.Paul’s Symonds Street in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one was struck by the piety and spirituality of this youngster, whose life was already dedicated to the thought of a priestly vocation – which he began through joining the Anglican Society of the Sacred Mission in Australia. Fr. Michael has toured the world – including visits to New Zealand, in pursuit of his work as an advocate of Peace and Reconciliation through the Church.

These 2 New Zealanders have both been honoured by foreign governments for their work of reconcilation, and are a credit to our country, as the root and source of their separate vocations in the Church.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Anglican/Roman Discussion on ‘Recognition of Ministry’

Anglicans and Catholics discuss recognition of ministry

Pope Paul VI places his episcopal ring on the finger of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey  - RV

Pope Paul VI places his episcopal ring on the finger of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey – RV

26/04/2016 18:03
 (Vatican Radio) Catholic and Anglican theologians have been meeting together near Rome to discuss ordination rites within the two communions, as well as the significant ecumenical implications of Pope Francis’ recent document ‘Amoris Laetitia’.
A meeting of the Malines Conversation group took place from April 17th to 22nd at Rocca di Papa, south of Rome, culminating in an ecumenical evensong celebrated by Archbishop Arthur Roche of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

A communique issued after the encounter said the theologians from seven different countries discussed “contemporary and historic ordination rites” and the developments that have taken place in both communions since Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders to be “null and void”.

To find out more about the conversation and about prospects for progress in the dialogue, Philippa Hitchen spoke to one of the Catholic participants, Fr Tony Currer of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Listen: 

Fr Tony notes the original Malines group started around 20 years after the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “to see how things could be taken forward”. He describes it as “a remarkable development” given the position of the Catholic Church which was not involved in the new ecumenical endeavours that were taking shape at the start of the 20th century.

In a similar way today, he says, Anglicans and Catholics are facing major obstacles which require “a lot of exploration in an atmosphere of friendship, honesty and frankness to see where progress might be made”.

Fr Tony recalls that the documents of the Second Vatican Council recognized those elements of the Church which exist beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church, adding that recent ecumenical efforts have been looking at the implications of that statement in the search for reciprocal recognition of ministry.

Theology needs to ‘catch up’ with gestures

While he notes that such recognition is still not fully possible, he cites many gestures to show a growing respect and recognition of the ministry exercised by Anglican bishops. In particular he recalls the gesture of Pope Paul VI, 50 years ago, of giving his own episcopal ring to the Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. Theology, Fr Tony says, “needs to catch up” and find the “theological underpinnings to these gestures”.

He adds “I think it’s true to say we don’t use the language of ‘null and void’ any more” as that’s “clearly not what is spoken by the gestures, generosity, and warmth which we see time and time again”.

Please find below the full text of the communique:

THE MALINES CONVERSATIONS GROUP 2016

The fourth international meeting of the Malines Conversations Group took place in Rome and at the Villa Palazzola, Rocca di Papa, between Sunday 17th April and Friday 22nd April. Under the patronage of Cardinal Godfried Danneels (Archbishop Emeritus of Malines-Brussels) and The Right Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Williams of Oystermouth (former Archbishop of Canterbury), this informal group comprises Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians from seven different countries and meets with the blessing and support of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Lambeth Palace, and keeps in close contact with the official mandated ecumenical bodies in both communions. It includes members of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). Last year’s meeting at Boston College,  Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA, considered questions of sacramentality and ordination, whilst this year’s gathering continued to develop these themes.

The Group was welcomed to the Vatican, and greatly benefited from discussion with Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and with Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Additionally, they were warmly received by the British Ambassador to the Holy See, at the Anglican Centre in Rome (currently celebrating its Golden Jubilee year), and by the Prior of the monastic community at the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio from which St Augustine was sent to England by Pope St Gregory the Great.

During seminars and conversations at Palazzola, the group reflected on the first fifty years of the ARCIC dialogue and the harvesting of its many fruits, the sacramentality of life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the relationship between the local and the universal Church, and explored the dynamics of theological thinking about the sanctity and future of the Church. The group continued its exploration of contemporary and historic ordination rites, considered more deeply questions arising from Apostolicae Curae and Saepius Officio (both in relationship to the context of the original Malines Conversations, and within the framework of subsequent developments in both communions), reflected on the riches to be shared in future thinking about the life of the Church, and discerned mutual learning about priesthood and ministry in a shared late modern context. Additionally, the Group reflected on some ecclesiological and ecumenical implications of Pope Francis’ recent Post Synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

This year the group was joined by several invited guests, including The Right Reverend Dr Geoffrey Rowell (former Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe and noted scholar of the nineteenth century), The Right Reverend David Hamid (co-Chair of IARCCUM and suffragan bishop in the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe) and Monsignor Kevin W. Irwin, former Dean of Theology at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., USA.

The meeting took place within the context of prayer, and culminated in a beautiful Ecumenical Evensong at the Oratory of S Francis Xavier del Caravita in Rome celebrated by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and sung by the choir of St James, King Street, Sydney, Australia, at which the preacher was Bishop David Hamid.

The Group’s steering committee is chaired by Fr Thomas Pott OSB of the Monastery of Chevetogne, and includes The Revd Dr Jamie Hawkey, Dean of Clare College, Cambridge, and The Revd Professor Keith Pecklers SJ, of the Gregorian University. The Group is grateful to all its supporters and sponsors. A fifth meeting is planned for next Spring, in Cambridge, UK.

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Hat-tip to Dr. Peter Carrell (Anglican down under) for the link to this Report from the recent meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians in the ‘Malines Conversation’ group, hosted in Rome and at the Villa Palazzola, Rocca di Papa, between Sunday 17th April and Friday 22nd April. Under the patronage of Cardinal Godfried Danneels (Archbishop Emeritus of Malines-Brussels) and The Right Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Williams of Oystermouth (former Archbishop of Canterbury).

Related, as it obviously is, with the inter-Faith group ARCIC (and IARCUM), comprised of theologians from both Anglican and Roman Catholic institutions; there could well be some movement towards the removal of the consequences of an edict of Pope Leo XIII declaring Anglican orders to be “null and void”.

Considering how far the conversations have progressed on matters of theology of the Eucharist, which have revealed a commonality of interest in the process of ordination and ministry between the two Churches, the possibility of a re-think on Rome’s attitude towards the validity of Anglican Orders might well be something that Pope Francis would be prepared to support.

The picture at the head of this article, showing Pope Paul VI presenting the then Archbishop of canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsay, with his own episcopal ring (given to him by the Archdiocese of Milan when he became its Archbishop) on the occasion of Dr. Ramsay’s visit to the Vatican 50 years ago, gives some idea of Pope Paul’s sympathy with the ministry of the Church of england.

Ineteresting to local people here – especially in Australia is the news that there was an Ecumenical Evensong at the Oratory of S Francis Xavier del Caravita in Rome celebrated by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and sung by the choir of St James, King Street, Sydney, Australia, at which the preacher was Bishop David Hamid. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, Sydney

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‘Changing Attitude’ (UK) Newsletter March 2016

The UnseenLast weekend, I made an amazing discovery… I went to an exhibition of paintings at The Serpentine Gallery, by a Swedish artist called Hilma Af Klint, called “Painting the Unseen”. She was born in 1862, and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm from 1882 to 1887.

It was her story which initially captivated me; the work which she painted and exhibited to the public were conventional portraits, and landscapes. However, in secret she rejected this traditional representation, and instead used her acute observational skills to depict unseen worlds hidden within nature, and the spiritual realm.

These paintings, birthed in secret, pre dated the abstract works of the Surrealist Movement by several decades. For reasons only known to her, and the subject of conjecture for the rest of us, she chose never to exhibit these amazing abstract works during her lifetime, and in fact stipulated that they should never be seen until twenty years after her death (1944). As it happened they were not exhibited until 1986. Today contemporary artists have cited Af Klint’s cosmic abstraction as an inspiration, maybe bringing to fruition her prediction that one day she would be seen as a pioneer for future generations.

As I settled in front of some of these abstract paintings I was haunted by the question, why keep secret and hide your view of spirit and creation, and only present to the watching public the conventional images they were looking for.

Then it forcibly struck me… that is exactly what so many of our church leaders are doing. They present to the watching world a unified view when it comes to the full equality and inclusion of LGBTI folk into the life and ministry of the Church at all levels, yet privately many view things differently, but this private view remains hidden, apart from whispered conversations behind closed doors with a few.

In July, General Synod will be participating in the third and final circle of the Shared Conversations, and it is my hope and prayer that for the sake of genuine progress, Bishops, Clergy and Lay representative would simply find the courage to share how they really feel and see things, and not mouth words they think are expected of them, whatever tradition they may be rooted in. If Synod members, surrounded by loving support, were able to own their sexualities, and share what their inner eyes were seeing, then like Klint they may be regarded as the pioneers we so badly need for future generations.
Jeremy Timm
National Coordinator

Trans News with Tina 
Following on the success of the Twilight People, Stories of Faith and Gender Exhibition at Islington Museum, you are warmly invited to attend the Trans* * faith symposium, 5th May at the University of Warwick.. This event is a platform for the much needed dialogue across religious/spiritual and LGBTQIA+ communities to meet, share experiences, and discuss trans and non-binary gender issues in a faith context. Click here for more info.

Launch of the SIBYLS’ book. 
‘This is my: hearing the theology of transgender Christians’ published by DLT, will receive its initial UK launch at the Trans* & Faith Symposium. You can still pre-order your
copies at the discount price of £10 (including p&p) – details here.

Welcoming& Open Congregation of the month

St Nicholas, LeicesterSt Nicholas Church Leicester

“For over 1200 years, this lovely church in the heart of Leicester city centre has welcomed visitors, pilgrims and worshippers, you are following in their steps and we welcome you to our website in the Name of our Lord Jesus.

We hope you will come and visit us soon, especially if you live in the Leicestershire area.

If you would like to worship at a Church which truly values all who enter its doors, (irrespective of their social, racial or cultural background, gender or sexual orientation.) you will find a warm welcome at St. Nicholas.”

Very encouraging to see a list of links to supportive groups – St Nicholas’ expresses its commitment to inclusion very clearly.

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LGCM’s 40th Birthday Celebrations!
We hope to see some of you there celebrating LGCM’s milestone Birthday in May.

LGCM 40th Anniversary

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As an on-line recipient of the U.K. ‘Changing Attitude’ Newsletter, I am happy to pass on selected parts of the March, 2016 issue to readers of my blog.

I’m sure that you who are interested in the Church being opened up to ‘All Believers in Christ’ will be happy to read of the various activities undertaken by this organisation, in pursuit of the open support of LGBTQI people in the Church of England.

I was glad to read of the advertised presence of  The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford to give an address at the Meeting at St. Botolph’s, London, to celebrate 40 Years of the LGCM.

Such news of activity – by mainly Church of England clergy and people – cannot but encourage those of us in other churches of the Communion to continue to strive for an open welcome to the minority of people who are still disappointed at the ongoing unwillingness of the Church to welcome them as equal and beloved members of the Body of Christ.

Despite the surface protest of the Church, that it no longer upholds sexism and homophobia, there is still a disturbing undercurrent of social apartheid relating to people whose sexual orientation happens to be different from the majority – as though such people are guilty of a perverse rebellion against propriety.

Here, in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia, there is still a long way to go before LGBTQI people can feel welcomed in all but a few of our churches and congregations – to the extent that there is now a group of local Anglicans professing their ‘Anglican orthodoxy’ in the GAFCON-originated sodality called the ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’ formed locally to battle the local Anglican General Synod’s attempt to bring a rite for the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions into our Church (ACANZP).

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