Vicar resigns over proposal to allow same-sex blessings
Vicar Jay Behan of St Stephen’s church in Shirley has resigned from the Anglican general synod and says he is looking at ways to leave the church.
He disagrees with the recent decision made by the Anglican Synod to give bishops the freedom to allow the blessing of same-sex couples in their dioceses.
The motion allows only for blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples who have been married elsewhere.
The proposal also gives each diocese’s bishop and clergy immunity from complaint if they refused to conduct blessings of same-sex couples.
Behan is chair of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand (FCANZ), an evangelical conservative group within the church, that opposes same-sex blessings.
A statement on the FCANZ website greeted the synod vote with “deep sadness.”
“We are ready to support people and parishes that cannot remain within this changed Anglican structure.
“We will work together nationally and internationally to provide fellowship and support as we look towards new ways and structures of ministering the unchanging good news of Jesus,” it stated.
FCANZ is governed by a Trust Board located in Christchurch.
It is unclear how many members it has. The FACNZ website reported that a total of nearly 500 Anglicans attended two conferences in Auckland and Christchurch to launch the organisation in 2016.
FCANZ is the New Zealand arm of a Global Movement known as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA).
FCA is closely associated with Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCOM).
It is a coalition of Anglican bishops, archbishops and lay people from around the world.
They come mainly from churches in the southern hemisphere – Africa, Asia, Australia, South America – but also enjoy the support of unhappy conservative evangelicals from the US, Canada and England.
According to a Guardian report, gay clergy and same-sex unions are the main issues for FCA.
However, members are also unhappy with the west’s failure to proselytise to non-Christians.
FCO claims to represent around half of the world’s 77 million Anglicans.
This is relatively ‘Old News’ now that the ACANZP General Synod is well and truly over. However, this article – together with the one published by the Christchurch Press on Monday – indicates the local inter-Church interest in the reaction of the leadership of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans N.Z. (FCANZ) to the decision of our Anglican General Synod in New Zealand to allow the Blessing of legally married same-sex partners in our Churches.
What both press articles are clear to point out is that the decision of General Synod does not allow same-sex Marriage to be solemnised in our churches – in explicit recognition of the fact that Church Weddings are for heterosexual couples only.
However, even the idea of an official Church Blessing of a legal same-sex marital relationship seems to have prompted the local head of FCANZ and one of his fellow clergy in the Christchurch Diocese to resign their place on General Synod. This could well be understood in the context of FCANZ vociferous opposition to same-sex marital relationships. What, though, is definitely more acutely newsworthy is the fact of the Revd. Jay Behan’s declaration to the press that:
“We are ready to support people and parishes that cannot remain within this changed Anglican structure.”
The clear inference here is the readiness to support a break away from the local Anglican Church. How such an intention could become a reality is of some concern – not to only the local Anglican diocese but also to the provincial Anglican Church in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
It is well known that FCANZ is a sponsored offshoot of a group of radically conservative provinces of the Anglican Communion which has given itself the title of GAFCON (mainly Evangelical churches on the African Continent and Evangelicals from the Diocese of Sydney). This group (GAFCON) has deliberately fostered new relationships with fellow conservatives in the USA and Canada as well as the United Kingdom, establishing their own local churches in direct opposition to the ministry of the established Anglican Churches in those countries.
Now that Mr Behan and his fellow members of FCANZ intention to follow in the footsteps of their co-conservative religionists in other provinces of the Anglican Communion has now been made more explicit by the recent press articles, this should warn the people in the parishes they lead that such troublesome talk of separation from the official Anglican Church in New Zealand could bring serious problems – not necessarily for ACANZP, but for them, as current members of the worldwide Anglican Communion loyal to Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference.
Sadly, any decision to split from the Church on an issue that is not thought by most Anglican Churches in the West to provide an excuse for division (the question of human sexuality is currently being debated and rationalised in both Church and Society at this time) seems, at the very least, to be ‘jumping the gun’ – if not a sign of the deliberate retention of the Church’s traditional sexism and homophobia.
However, schism has been provoked in the Body of Christ before – by other issues that have been raised in the long history of the Church that could have been avoided with the acceptance of new understandings of the human situation in society that needed to be addressed in the cause of common justice, peace and charity. Each major denomination of the Church has suffered its own breakaway sects, so that FCANZ, if it succeeds in carrying out its threat, could be just one more.
There will be casualties from any split in the New Zealand Anglican Church – among them, sadly, those in the local congregations of FCANZ clergy, who may not want to be separated out from their fellow Anglicans on a matter which they feel to be not worth the effort of intentional schism.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand