Key working group named
Their task: to find a structure that allows Anglicans with opposing convictions on same-gender blessings to live together.
The group charged with identifying “structural arrangements” to allow the church to hold all those with differing convictions on blessing same-gender relationships has today been named.
Its members are: Rt Rev Richard Ellena (Bishop of Nelson); Mrs Jackie Pearse (a former General Secretary of this Church); Rev Learne McGrath (Vicar of Massey, Auckland); Mr Jeremy Johnson (Chancellor of the Diocese of Christchurch); Mr Fei Tevi (Diocese of Polynesia) and Rev Katene Eruera (Dean Tikanga Maori St John’s College)
Last May’s Napier General Synod passed Motion 29 – which tabled the ‘A Way Forward’ report until the 2018 General Synod “with a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made then.”
Motion 29 also charged the Primates with setting up another working group with a tightly-focussed mandate to identify “structural arrangements within our Three-Tikanga Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships” .
Because the Primates were soon inundated with submissions about what these arrangements should be – and who should be on the working group – they recommended a two-tier approach to July’s General Synod Standing Committee meeting in Samoa:
1. A small – six-member maximum – working group with responsibility for “facilitating the process to develop possible structural mechanisms” for discussion across the Church, and ultimately for bringing these to the 2018 General Synod.
2. A panel of consultants made up of people identified by the various interested parties (eg Affirm, FoCA, Changing Attitudes, LGBTI, young people, legal advisers etc). The members of this panel would serve as a point of contact for the working group with their constituency, and would consult with their constituency.
It’s the composition of that small working group which has been announced today.
In a letter to the church today, the Primates say they have been humbled by meeting the many groups and individuals who have sought to discuss these issues with them:
“What has stood out,” they say, “is the grace, the compassion and the goodwill reflected in these discussions. A very high proportion of those who have spoken with us are so clearly genuinely seeking to step into the shoes of those they disagree with.
“There is a clear determination to come around the table and work for mechanisms that allow us to move forward together in mission without minimising or denying our differences.”
Because the Primates received “a significant number” of submissions for the Working Group to consider, they hope they will be able to stick to the timetable they announced in a letter to the church in June. This said, in part:
“The Working Group will consider each suggestion and may also identify other possibilities. The Working Group will provide feedback to proposers and to the wider Church by the end of January 2017.
“The Working Group will finalise a proposal (or set of proposals) for the consideration of the Church by the 1 July 2017 date asked for by General Synod 2016.
While one can welcome the setting up of a Working Group of 6 people to consider a set of proposals to put before the 2018 General Synod of ACANZP to enable a proposed ‘Way Forward’ for our Church to implement a way of recognising Same-Sex blessings; one cannot but wonder why the list should be headed by a Bishop who is known to be actively against such recognition in and by our Church.
+Richard Ellena, Bishop of Nelson, is known to have participated in at least one meeting of GAFCON, the body in the world-wide Anglican Communion that has set up alternative jurisdictions in the territories of North American Churches that have created local schism from TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. GAFCON now has its own representation (GAFCON UK) in England set up directly to oppose the Church of England’s inclusion of celibate Gay Clergy in its ministry and mission.
Granted that there could – or maybe even should – be included in this Working Group people who are concerned about any change of doctrine involved in the inclusion of pro-LGBTI provisions in the ‘Way Forward’ legislation; but to have a known active GAFCON supporter who is also a bishop of our Church likely to be a prime mover in the group – would seem to me at least to be counter-productive of any forward movement.
I feel that the episcopal voice on this small group might rather have been someone not so stridently against any ‘movement forward’ on the issue, or should at least be known to be ‘neutral’. Who, in this group, is going to be brave enough to gainsay the leadership role of a bishop of the Church?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand