The majority of St Paul’s Anglican Church parishioners have voted to remain with the congregation, in spite of the church’s vicar resigning. Reverend Andy Carley announced he would step down from his role at the Papanui church in November due to the Anglican synod’s decision to allow same-sex marriages to be blessed in Anglican churches.
Church member and Papanui-Innes Community Board member John Stringer said 75 per cent of parishioners voted to remain at the church. “Only a small minority will go. Some may even decide to come back,” he said. “Andy is unanimously respected for his position, but it does not mean we all share the need to go. He, of course, is giving up his career and income out of conscience, so that is a huge act of integrity for him personally. So, there is no split in that sense amongst the congregation, just with the synod decision.”
He said the process to find a new vicar to replace Rev Carley would take about a year. “Each Anglican congregation is autonomous, so we ‘call’ for candidates and then vote for a vicar,” he said. Mr Stringer was an un-ordained ex-pastor and said he would step up and assist as a parishioner.
Retired vicar Reverend Graham Button had also been active in the church and could help out until a new vicar was found. Mr Stringer said as most parishioners disagreed with same-sex marriage blessings, finding a vicar who would not “impose” their views on the rest of the church was important.
“The day before he was announced as Bishop-elect, Reverend Peter Carrell assured St Paul’s in person that the central leadership will not impose a vicar on us who was at variance with our stance or theology. In other words, we are to have a new vicar of our persuasion which is a synod recognition of parish culture. That has been very reassuring and was a factor that persuaded many to stay.”
Rev Carley and the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch were contacted for comment but did not respond.
Anglican Reverend Andy Carley of St Paul’s in Papanui has revealed he will help establish a breakaway diocese in the wake of the same-sex marriage blessings saga. He said nine clergy from seven parishes in Canterbury had resigned and would start to form the diocese, separate from the synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The parishes are St John’s Latimer Square, St Stephen’s in Shirley, St John’s in Woolston, St Saviour’s and St Nicholas in Barrington, St Christopher’s in Avonhead and St Mark’s in Rakaia. “We will establish a new extra-provincial Anglican diocese, one recognised by the majority of the world’s Anglicans, but is separate from the current New Zealand Anglican diocese,” he said.
The Anglican Diocese of Christchurch and the synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia declined to comment.
St John’s Latimer Square, St Stephen’s, St John’s, St Saviour’s and St Nicholas, St Christopher’s and St Mark’s were contacted for comment but did not respond.
St Paul’s parishioner John Stringer said that while he would not join the new diocese, he supported those who would. “I support my friend and vicar Andy and the hundreds, if not thousands, of vicars and Anglicans leaving the denomination,” he said.
He compared the issue to having a New Zealand passport, and therefore abiding by the “laws of the land”. “That does not mean we agree with all the laws of the land, like same-gender marriage, or the drinking age, or abortion,” he said. “If the [general synod] pushes us too far theologically against conscience, we may be forced later to ‘leave NZ’ and ‘rescind our passports’.”
The St Paul’s congregation voted in September on whether to follow Rev Carley in leaving the church, with 70 per cent voting to stay even if they did not agree with same-sex marriage blessings. “I understand that leaving a church that you have been a part of for many decades is a terribly hard thing to do, especially when you’re elderly,” Rev Carley said.
The Anglican synod voted to allow same-sex marriage blessings in May, which Rev Carley said was “a step in the wrong direction.”
So, here we are at last, with dissidents in the Anglican Church in Christchurch actually declaring their hand, with one of possibly eight clergy prepared to hand in their licences to the bishop-elect, Archbdeacon Peter Carrell, and severing their connection with the worldwide Anglican Communion Churches – of which ACANZP is the local branch Church – in order to begin their own sectarian mission in New Zealand.
There are six Christchurch parishes involved in opposition to the recent ACANZP General Synod decision, whose clergy have tried to lead their congregations holus-bolus into a schismatic breakaway from the local New Zealand Anglican Church, which has now officially made the decision to allow for the blessing of legally married Same-Sex couples in Anglican Churches where the local bishop, clergy and congregations are willing for this to take place.
It is important to note that our local bishop-elect, Archdeacon Peter Carrell, though not a promoter of Same-Sex Blessings, is willing to abide by the decision of our New Zealand Church to allow these rites to happen in certain circumstances – a measure which those clergy and people not in favour of such an arrangement have to decide whether, or not, to live with and stay with the parent Church or to leave and join an alternative ‘Anglican’ Church yet to be formed.
The remaining (predominant) members of congregations in parishes affected by the loss of resigning clergy will not have to agree to Same-Sex Blessings in their churches. On the other hand, they have determined – at least in the Parish of St. Paul, Papanui, – to remain part of the existing Diocese of Christchurch – of which they are an integral part.
It is sad that the Anglican Church around the world should be divided on a matter of what, after all, is an issue of common human flourishing; where a minority of human beings find themselves to be intrinsically differently ordered from the majority hetero-sexual (binary) sex-identifiable – a situation that is as old as humanity itself but which, formerly, had been misunderstood as dysfunctional, outside of God’s plan for the human race and therefore, ‘sinful’.
Modern science – biological, as well as social and psychological research – has discovered that human sexuality is more complicated than was formerly understood to be the case. The presence of a differently-ordered sexual attraction from the binary ‘norm’, is now acknowledged by the medical and psychiatric establishment and is no longer considered to be biologically or mentally disordered, dysfunctional, or ‘sinful’ – the latter of these supposed categories being the lynchpin on which the dissidents who have chosen to leave ACANZP have taken their stand .
What Mr. Carley and his departing fellow clergy from our Church cannot do, is to form an ACANZP-related ‘Anglican diocese’ within New Zealand. Like all schismatic bodies, they will have to assume a different name, presumably to indicate that they are no longer a part of the Anglican Church associated with the historic Canterbury See and the worldwide Anglican Communion that looks to Canterbury for institutional fellowship, whose bishops have the right – and who desire – to attend the Lambeth Conference.
Their leadership, instead, will come from GAFCON/FOCA an organisation formed by mostly African Churches that have formed their own Church – on the basis of Biblical interpretation and opposition to same-sex relationships – that no longer defers to the spiritual oversight of the Archbishop and See of Canterbury – the Founding Church of the Anglican Communion. GAFCON is well-known to have undermined the local Anglican Church in the USA, Canada, and even the Church of England, by setting up local rival churches under GAFCON leadership. Should Mr. Carley become a local bishop in that conservative grouping of dissident Anglicans worldwide, it may well be that he will be ordained in Australia, by the Archbishop of Sydney, who is a member of GAFCON.
To quote a parallel – It is a bit like the situation I noted in Auckland when I was a local Anglican Parish priest there. There was a former Baptist Church which had intentionally changed its name to ‘BIBLE-BAPTIST ‘(as though other Baptists had no relationship to the Bible) – but whose minister and congregation had decided to separate itself out from fellow Baptists because of a different, esoteric, interpretation of a few verses of the Bible.
This revolt in ACANZP, I sincerely believe, had been led mainly by conservative clergy, hoping to lead their people into severance from the Anglican Church on an issue that the world outside has long ago come to terms with and which, in the long term, will leave them outside of the field of mission of ‘Good News’ they had hoped to bring to the world. That most of the congregation of St.Paul, Papanui, are not to be led by the nose, however, is a sign that – difficult for them as the new understanding of people with innate sexual difference is – they are not prepared to forsake the Church of their upbringing to declare war on the LGBTI+ community who are part of their community and, in some places, members of their own families.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand