NEW ZEALAND: The Slow Train Wreck of Schism Comes to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa
By David W. Virtue
August 1, 2014
I was born in Wellington, NZ, more decades ago than I care to remember and grew up attending a Plymouth Brethren Assembly Church while attending a private, very liberal Presbyterian Boys College (school). It wasn’t until years later, when I fled to England to study theology, that I came under the influence of men like H.D. McDonald, John Stott, Martin Lloyd Jones and others, thus working my way out of fundamentalism on the one hand and liberal Presbyterianism on the other. It’s been a long journey and apparently, it is not over.
I knew nothing of Anglicanism in the country of my birth. I only got acquainted with it through my entry into Anglicanism nearly 25 years later and began watching and listening as it, too, became part of the great conversation on the nature of the gospel, social justice, women bishops and, more recently, the advance of homosexuality, into the debate.
I have no emotional stake or personal loyalty in the debate because of my origin of birth. I lived in England for a number of years and then moved to Canada before reaching the US in 1979 with theological study stops along the way.
My love for New Zealand has to do now with my brother, his family; a slew of cousins and the sheer beauty of a country that is the envy of the world. Americans love going there to see its raw beauty, experience its natural hot pools, see its geysers, experience its beaches, fish its lakes, rivers, oceans and much more. They also make a lot of movies “down under” including the popular Lord of the Rings series.
Being fully ensconced in the US now as a wandering, somewhat battered Anglican journalist with more scars to show for it than an African zebra, I was not surprised to learn that with only one diocese – Nelson – still orthodox in faith and morals that, sooner or later, it was bound to happen. The Anglican Church there would vote for same sex blessings slipping, as it will inevitably, into full gay marriage, gay rites and much more. It is only a matter of time.
One should never underestimate American influence in the burgeoning culture wars. What starts here, soon travels the globe, sometimes in nano seconds influencing all in its path. Aggressive secularism, radical Islamism, and multiculturalism are seriously impacting the West. The rejection of the Judeo-Christian foundation which has shaped the West is slowly being eroded along with its cultural and spiritual values. New Zealand is not exempt. Bishops, clergy, and bloggers are now trampling on Orthodox Anglican expressions of “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” The old liberalism that allowed both sides to live and let live is gone. It is dead. We now have orthodox vs revisionist or, if you prefer orthodox vs progressives. The middle is dead (It is increasingly so in American politics).
Recently it was announced that two vicars in New Zealand were leaving their church over Motion 30 that permits the blessing of same-sex unions. A few weeks ago, Charlie Hughes, then Vicar of Henderson (near Auckland), left. This past week Michael Hewat, Vicar of West Hamilton, took most of his sizeable congregation and departed. They now worship in new locations.
It was a bridge too far for the two evangelical vicars.
One NZ Anglican blogger, a neo-evangelical named Peter Carrell, believes their actions were unnecessary and unwarranted and explained it like this:
“I do not think anyone should leave our church because of Motion 30 approved at our recent General Synod. But some are leaving. I can imagine some are leaving because Motion 30 does not go far enough towards blessing of same sex partnerships…Some are leaving because Motion 30 goes too far towards blessings and appears to presage a future line our church will cross.”
He then posited a number of reasons for staying:
– we have not crossed the line where we have changed either our constitution or canons in an unacceptable manner,
– the grace of inclusion of viewpoints at GS in Motion 30 requires a reciprocal obligation for holders of various viewpoints to remain engaged with the process of the next few years,
– the evangelical witness within the Anglican church historically has been a witness against the tide of majority viewpoint and the current tide is flowing no more strongly than in past times,
– if our church does not wish to retain an evangelical witness within its midst, the church should be honest about that and drive that witness out through expulsion rather than have that job done for it by resignations and departures,
– speaking personally, I have gay friends in the church whom I would like to remain in conversation with as a fellow Anglican rather than as a former Anglican.
The Anglican Church is only a few short years behind the ecclesiastical and theological times. Sooner or later, an Anglican Mission in New Zealand (AMiNZ) will be born or an Anglican Church in NZ (like the ACNA) will appear and a whole new Anglican day will dawn for remnant orthodox Anglicans in Aotearoa.
The Rev. Carrell (who may well be a bishop one day a source told VOL) is nonetheless deluding himself into thinking that the line has not been crossed, when in fact it has, and these two vicars are symbols of that crossed line. More will follow and, in time, a whole diocese will leave the Church and, if NZ has a Dennis Canon, that will kick in and the legal battles will begin. Mr. Carrell is delusional, but he is not the first. For sure, NZ does not have a Gene Robinson or a John Shelby Spong yet, but give it time. Some idiot in Holy Orders will suddenly discover the resurrection needs to be re-interpreted, the atonement is really child abuse, and that culture triumphs over Scripture, causing the uprisings to begin.
And it really doesn’t matter how many gay friends Mr. Carrell has, it is not about compassion but about truth. Many persons, including myself have gay friends, however we are not at liberty to try and change the ontology or cosmology of human sexuality to accommodate a handful of people.
The evangelical witness has all but dried up in NZ. Worse than that is Carrell’s belief that liberals and revisionists will leave them alone “to love and serve the Lord” when in fact the opposite will be true.
Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics will now be vilified; they will be defrocked; their pensions will be taken from them; all in the name of a false diversity and phony talk of inclusion. They will not be left alone because what they believe totally violates the progressive, morally relativistic mindset of Anglicans who have sold out to the zeitgeist. Orthodox Anglicans are therefore the people most to be feared and hated because they refuse to follow them and who refuse to bow the knee to their theological progressivism.
A recent case in point occurred in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, (ACSA) wherein a seminary invited a North American lesbian priest to preach and celebrate the Eucharist. The Anglican Church there has not (yet) ratified gay priests to function in its province (even further behind than NZ). When two orthodox priests protested to Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, they got ripped and vilified in emails by revisionist priests in their diocese. “I never knew such hatred existed,” one of the two priests told me.
What Mr. Carrell fails to appreciate is the depth of hatred by those who insist God has changed His (or as many believe, Her) mind. Those not accepting those changes will now be the target of their newfound vilification and hatred.
There are literally hundreds of stories VOL has posted over the years about the bitter war over homosexuality, starting with Anglican Primates as they wrestled with the issue in Dromantine, Brazil, Dar Es Salaam, et al. In sheer exhaustion, the Global South primates announced they had had enough and were no shows in Dublin, refusing to spend one more dime or argument trying to persuade the Western church that imbibing this behavior was not only killing their own churches, it was killing their people as Islam was now using it as an excuse to butcher thousands of Anglicans in countries like Nigeria and the Sudan. Not even murder and mayhem is allowed to change the minds of people like Louie Crew, or Gene Robinson, or Colin Coward, or Peter Tatchell. All must bow before the Moloch god of sodomy. Those who refuse must be cast into the lion’s den of excommunication and inhibition.
The Anglican Church in New Zealand will go the way of all flesh, following The Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Church of Canada. There is nothing now to hold it back, not even a hopeful but lost Anglican blogger.
I think that very few New Zealanders will identify with the homophobic, anti-Anglican rhetoric of this article – posted by one David Virtue, a conservative evangelical follower of the schismatic ex-Anglican group of dissidents that were once part of The Episcopal Church in the USA. I post it because of the fact that Virtue self-identifies the ACANZP Diocese of Nelson as the foundation of a new fundamentalist form of Anglicanism in New Zealand, that he sees as conspiring to replace what he sees as the profoundly’ heretical’ stance of our local version of Anglicanism, here in Aotearoa/New Zealand & the Pacific .
It is well-known in the blogging community on the w.w.w., that ‘virtue-on-line’ claims to represent the largest authentic ‘Orthodox Anglican’ web-site in the world. The fact that Mr. Virtue is himself a former member of the Exclusive Brethren Church in New Zealand, should warn readers of his blog that he might not have escaped the basic fundamental conservatism of his early Christian upbringing.
His rhetoric against TEC (The Espicopal Church in the U.S.) and its current leadership, as well as the Anglican Church of Canada – because of their perceived openness to the LGBTI community in their Churches – is well known. His blog is supported by the mostly conservative evangelical Churches of the GAFCON Group of Anglican (mainly African) Provinces of the Anglican Communion, whose Archbishops generally have supported draconian Anti-Gay legislation inaugurated by their national governments. In fact, the Archbishop of Uganda – one of the members of GAFCON – has just now opposed the overturning of Antigay laws recently put into place – illegally – in that African country.
I find it ironic that Mr. Virtue should describe one of my colleagues in the diocese of Christchurch, here in New Zealand, as a supporter of what Virtue deems to be the ‘heresy’ of our Church, in its desire to debate the possibility of a way forward to the Blessing of Same-Sex relationships for committed, monogamous, Same-Sex Couples.
Dr. Peter Carrell is a well-respected Evangelical moderate, who happens to hold a position of respect as the Education Officer in our Diocese. Mr. Virtue’s gossip about Peter’s prospects for episcopal preferment seem to have little basis in fact, and are used by Virtue to vilify Peter for his supposed collusion with the ‘revisionists’ in our Church!
I have always taken the ravings of David Virtue with a large pinch of Salt – that has long ago lost any savour of Gospel authenticity – to be avoided, for one’s health, at all costs.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand