Aotearoa, New Zealand, Polynesia: No to same-sex blessings

The General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia opened last Friday in Napier, with planned discussion topics including environmental concerns, childhood poverty, gender-based violence, confirmation – and the blessing of same-sex marriages.

A report prepared by the Way Forward Working Group was specifically liturgical in nature, according to the Episcopal News Service:

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.”

Anglican Taonga reports

The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has decided to table its ‘A Way Forward’ report on blessings of same-sex couples until General Synod 2018, “with a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made” at that time.

Archbishop Brown Turei, Archbishop Philip Richardson and Archbishop Winston Halapua will appoint a working group to establish a structure that allows both those who can and cannot support the blessing of same-sex relationships to remain within the church with integrity.

The three archbishops made this statement today:

“We are aware of the considerable pain that this decision will cause to those most affected.

“But we are confident that our determination to work together across our differences will bring us to a place of dignity and justice for everyone.”



“Today the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia chose unity over justice,” says Rev Helen Jacobi, Vicar at St. Matthew-in-the-City which is in the Diocese of Aukland. From a story posted on

“In my 24 years as a priest I have always been proud of my church. Today I hang my head in shame. We have chosen rules over love, and doctrine over gospel. We have imperiled the mission of the church.

“There were strong voices for change from many parts of the church but not enough.

“At St Matthew-in-the-City we will continue to welcome our LGBTI community and assure them of their place in our church and in the heart of God. We will not abandon them and will continue to work for justice. To them today we express our deep sorrow and seek their forgiveness.”

Additional coverage of Jacobi’s response can be found in Hawke’s Bay Today.

This article has been edited to correct some of the information in our first story. Thanks to our commenters for improving our reporting.

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  1. Thomas Coates

    Unity cannot be forced, it cannot be at threat, this is not unity. Coercion, uniformity, but not unity.

  2. Simon Winn

    I am a representative of Wellington Diocese attending GS/THW 2016.
    Your report is factually inaccurate.
    At no stage has our diocese threatened to leave ACANZP over ‘A Way Forward’.
    Kindly amend your report. Your source is wrong. Thank you.

    • David Allen

      The source is the local LGBT press and it doesn’t state the three dioceses threatened to leave the province, it states that they threatened to walk away. That is open to interpretation. Did the three dioceses threaten to withdraw from the Synod?

      Update on my search – The Vicar of St Mathew-in-the-City is quoted in the NZ Herald stating that parishes in those three dioceses are threatening to leave the province.

  3. Cynthia Katsarelis

    Coercion is at the heart of the anti -gay crowd. In TEC, all we really did was stop giving the anti-gay people the power to impose their beliefs on the rest of us. No clergy or parishes have to do gay marriage, they just can’t stop the rest of us anymore.

    That is the shift. The removal of the “right” to oppress, while maintaining the option to abstain. Look at the ruckus.

    Very sad for our sisters and brothers in New Zealand, but especially for those in Christchurch, Wellington and Nelson. I hope that Justin Welby’s bullying wasn’t a factor.

    • Sherman Hesselgrave

      It was hoped by more than a few of us that the opt-out clause in the proposed revision of the Anglican Church of Canada’s marriage canon this summer at General Synod would satisfy those opposed to the change, but apparently it is not.

  4. Simon Winn

    Hello David – I can categorically state that Wellington did not threaten to withdrew from the Synod and at no time did I hear any other dioceses stating they would. Please would your team verify your sources before publishing online. I repeat my request that you amend your report.
    Wellington Diocese is committed to finding a way and a structure by which the blessing of same sex unions can be offered in our Church.

    • David Allen

      I have requested that the story be updated.

      However, you have not addressed the update I did to my comment. Have parishes in those three dioceses threatened to leave the province?

    • Ann Fontaine

      Dear Canon Simon Winn: The editors of Episcopal Café cannot always respond as quickly as you would like. The story has been updated once again and hopefully reflects attention to your concerns. But we are all volunteers and have day jobs (which are often also carrying on into the evening).

  5. Cynthia Katsarelis

    Thank you for the update, David. It’s big distinction that parishes are threatening a walk out, rather than entire dioceses.

    Still, it is harsh for LGBTQI people to have their liberation held up by a few parishes. Someone’s always going to object, so why is the objection of some stronger than justice for others?

    In the US, we have Martin Luther King. In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail he said that it was unconscionable to ask the oppressed to continue to carry the heavy burden of injustice for the comfort of the status quo. He said that the voices of moderation, saying it’s not the right time for justice to prevail, was worse than that of the bigots.

    That cultural point of view from our prophet and martyr has been heavily influential. Still, we didn’t vote on marriage until the yes was as close to unanimous as it could be.

    • David Allen

      It’s big distinction that parishes are threatening a walk out, rather than entire dioceses.

      I agree. It is a distinction that may have been lost on the GayNZ press.

  6. Simon Winn

    Hi David
    I don’t think a vicar in Auckland can be relied on to give an authoritative overview of whether or not parishes in another diocese have ‘threatened to leave’.
    I have been part of the GS/THW team working closely with our bishop for the past two years and I am not aware of any parish in the Diocese of Wellington which has ‘threatened to leave’ if A Way Forward Report is adopted.
    You’ve not sought to verify this via our Diocese before publishing a report with a potentially damaging implication.
    Also, I reiterate categorically that Wellington Diocese did not threaten to walk out of the Synod this week, and neither did I hear any other diocese ‘threaten to leave’ the meeting.
    Please amend your report.

  7. Simon Winn

    Thank you for responding and amending as appropriate. Very happy to see you including Helen’s response, as well as the ‘official’ line from the Church. We hope and pray very much there will be genuine progress by the time GS/HTW convenes in 2018.

  8. Jeremy Bates

    Simon, in your own words, what did happen?

    Why was the report not accepted?

    What role, if any, did your diocese play in that result?

  9. Thank you, commenters and contributing editors, for clarifying and correcting source material for this report.

  10. I’m pretty sure that one of the catalysts in the decision of our ACANZP General Synod to defer any forward movement on proposals to bless Same-Sex Unions in our Church, was the irruption, locally, of a new chapter of that oddly-named sodality: The ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’ N.Z., – an outreach from last year’s meeting of the Gafcon-sponsored (mostly Sydney Anglicans) Australian branch of FoCA.

    What this organisation is really ‘confessing’ to is a ritual disdain for LGBTQ people in our Anglican Communion Churches in England, Australia, and now, God help us, in New Zealand. Their recent inaugural meetings in Christchurch and Auckland had an agenda to scuttle the ‘Motion 30’ proposal put to our General Synod this past week.

    This just goes to show that, in matters ecclesial, it often gets down to ‘who screams the loudest?’. In this instance, the opposition punched above their weight – in a way that, in the minds of our local Bishops, threatened the unity of the Church.

    The two Partners in our Church, that seemngly might have had most cause for objection on cultural grounds – known,respectively as Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pasifika – would have allowed the passage of a motion to provide a rite for Same-Sex Blessings. However, it was Tikanga Pakeha (the European Partner) that was unwilling to meet the criteria for passage of the revised Motion.

    So much for colonial-style Church government!
    We have to wait another 2 years for justice to be done, and to be seen to be done. Kyrie eleison!

  11. So, perhaps a better headline would be, “Not yet” rather than a flat “No”?

  12. Cathy Maslin


    From my observation the decision made was not purely regional. I would say there are churches and individuals in almost all dioceses who would have had doubts about the Motion to be passed.

    Same sex marriage has only recently been put into secular law in NZ so the question of changing Church policy with consensus is not surprisingly a big ask. Most people here respect Archbishop Welby, it is not a case of bullying, we are too removed for that.

    Also I would contend most do not see this as an issue of justice. The contention surrounding the topic (e.g. most people with doubts) spring from the well of morality. Morally speaking our western guide for what is ‘morally right’ in terms of individual and social behaviour has been the bible (whether or not society acknowledges it).

    Hence, I think you would see the same level of debate if one were deciding on Church policy regarding a person living in a de facto hetersexual relationship becoming an ordained Minister. The debate would not be over justice (e.g. whether that person was of equal worth or ability) but morality – whether or not their behaviour is contrary to the righteous – for lack of another descriptor – descriptions of behaviour presented in the bible.

    In addition the motion lacked suggestions for the practical application of blessings that would have worked in practice. If acted upon and passed it would most surely have caused more division and a definite split within the NZ church.


  13. “Doctrine over the gospel.”

    At the end of the day, the gospel does not and cannot exist outside of “doctrine” (that is a cohesive system of beliefs). To pull at the thread of doctrine ultimately undoes the gospel. If tradition and Scripture can be easily set aside, then why believe in God’s presence in the Eucharist, attending services, the mission of the church, or even the core elements of the gospel to begin with? Why waste a perfectly good weekend?

    • David Allen

      That’s the crack in your faulty doctrine, we aren’t setting scripture aside. We just no longer accept the inaccurate “traditional” translation of the clobber passages which you use to inform your false doctrine about the righteousness of our sexuality and gender identity.

      • Cathy Maslin

        Careful David your reply to Jos is premised on judgement, ‘inaccurate traditional translation’ & ‘your false doctrine’.

        I have no idea where Jos hails from. However, Gospel imperatives in my mind should inform doctrine as he states, so therfore it is hard to separate them.

        The ‘traditional’ doctrine of the church came about after long debate and is also the current doctrine many or most of the Christian world hold to. To dismiss it so easily as being false or inaccurate without alienating a good proportion of the world’s population.

        I am not usually this bold but you may do more for your position if you seek to uphold and present the reasoning behind the interpretation you favour rather than attacking another’s. I have found this approach works best in evangelising as well.


      • David Allen

        Yes, Cathy, it is firmly based on judgements of Joseph’s well known conservative positions posted here in over 100 comments and I stand by them.

        The “traditional” doctrine of the church didn’t come about by long debate. It is fairly modern and grew out of a time period around 500 years ago when the western church thought that it had the right to murder people of whom it didn’t approve. And an argument based on numbers of believers is a shaky foundation, you might recall the widely held belief by Christendom regarding the rightness of slavery.

        We are well past the day when I needed to present the reasoning behind my position. We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops for 40 years. I agree with Bishop Spong, it’s not something that I any longer need to explain or defend. Your concern trolling about it isn’t going to change that.

      • CathyI

        I see a regular commentator who gets your gander up…. : ) My comment was made independently of this as I do not regularly post on blogs. I merely have a personal dislike of online aggresiveness.

        So long as you do not also follow Spong regarding the not so physical resurrection of Jesus. If you do then I may have to cry 😪 …

        In respect to slavery it depends upon what sector of Christendom one references. Surely not that of the slaves themselves….

        But no it is not ever a numbers game however prudence requires I take seriously the voices of Christians in South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa who hold to ‘traditional’ doctrine, especially those who daily face the reality of living yet daily facing the reality of dying for their faith.

        As for having to state ones position I don’t know if this ever ends, “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope you have.” Have you ever read Martin Luther King Jr’s book Strength to Love. Great stuff.

      • Harry M. Merryman

        It’s more than a little specious to imply that a change in teaching (doctrine) regarding sexuality and marriage is equivalent to throwing out “core elements of the gospel.” That is, unless one asserts that the traditional teaching regarding marriage and sexuality is a “core element” equivalent to say, the divinity of Christ, the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit, Grace, Salvation, the Eucharist, etc.

      • There is no settled, single “doctrine” of marriage — history shows that many aspects of marriage have changed in church teaching — there is at present wide divergence between RC, Eastern, Anglican, and Protestant marriage doctrine and practice. I would be willing to venture the guess that a good number of heterosexual marriages that take place in churches today would not have been permitted in the fourth, twelfth, or twentieth centuries — and some that take place in some churches today would still not be allowed in others.

      • Unfortunately David you in fact are. It would be refreshing and honest from my progressive Anglican/Episcopalian counterparts (and their allies among Presbyterianism, Methodism and other liberal mainline Protestants) if they rather admitted it.

        To believe, “Oh the translation was simply inaccurate,” is to beggar belief about how any document should be interpreted. To believe this is to say that the people living at that time (BC Judea or 1st/2nd century Ancient Near East) *could not* understand what the authors meant by the moral law of the Old Covenant, what Peter meant in 1st Peter, what Paul meant in several of his epistles, in particularly Romans 1. However at the same time one must accept that 2,000 years later we have in fact found the “correct” interpretation now.

        To believe that the sexual theology of the Church is “modern” is not even to twist the word. It’s to just wholeheartedly ignore it. The theology of sex/the body in Judaism and Christianity has been consistent before Jesus even arrives in His ministry. For a far from orthodox/conservative treatment of this basic historical fact, Webb’s “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals” is a good start.

        But even then, that still bolsters my point. In a culture that says 2,000+ years later us moderns are far more capable of finding new interpretations of Scripture, it ultimately elevates us and downgrades Scripture. Why should we not find a new interpretation of the command to take the Eucharist faithfully? Or the command to not forsake the gathering of the brethren? Or even the command to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Is it just a massive coincidence that such a culture of interpretation also creates novel interpretations of Paul’s meeting with the slave girl, an attempted rehabilitation of Pelagius? Slowly liberalism tends towards moralistic therapeutic deism.

        And that may be fine. I know many people who are thoroughly fine with the consequences of adopting that attitude of hermeneutics. But let’s be open about what that hermeneutic is. Portraying people who oppose that hermeneutic because they don’t think it’s faithful or they see wider, negative consequences as bigots or simply hateful people is just self congratulatory as well as simply false.

      • David Allen

        I merely have a personal dislike of online aggressiveness.

        Carol, unlike me, who addressed Joseph’s statements, you are attacking me personally, big difference. And you mistake bluntness for what you wish to see. I see no aggression in stating the truth. Nor do I any longer see the need for LGBT folk to grovel as we tell our truth. Like a scene from the Antebellum South, you just aren’t comfortable with an uppity faggot who won’t keep in his place.

        BTW the plight of Christians in Asia, Africa or the Middle East is a distraction tactic which has no bearing on the topic at hand and to which my sister Cynthia has deftly spoken elsewhere in the thread.

        The theology of sex/the body in Judaism and Christianity has been consistent before Jesus even arrives in His ministry.

        Joseph, that’s quite the anachronistic claim! Sort of has the cart before the horse.

        But it makes as much sense as the rest of your claims, for which there isn’t the time or space here to adequately address.

  14. Cynthia Katsarelis

    Thank you for the explanation of where the church is in NZ. Here’s exactly the part that brings up the justice issue:

    “if one were deciding on Church policy regarding a person living in a de facto hetersexual relationship becoming an ordained Minister. The debate would not be over justice (e.g. whether that person was of equal worth or ability) but morality – whether or not their behaviour is contrary to the righteous”

    Wildly liberal me absolutely agrees that ordained ministers who aren’t called to celibacy, must be in covenant relationships with their partners, i.e. sacramental marriage. So the injustice is denying gay clergy (and laity) the opportunity to access that sacrament and make that covenant before God and People of God.

    I got married to my long time partner as soon as we were able to marry in church. It was a beautiful liturgy, supported by 175 of our parishioners and our friends. Despite having been together for 23 years before that, there is something about the sacrament and the covenant that deepens our marriage and connects us more fully to God. I long for the day when no loving couple is barred from that sacrament and making that covenant.

    I grieve for the LGBTQI people who are waiting, and remain faithful and hopeful. I note that TEC didn’t take the vote until it was practically unanimous. But it isn’t ultimately going to be totally unanimous, and so the question will be living together in difference. Does that mean that some get to call the shots (demand their version of morality and possess the power to deny others their well considered conscience on morality) for the others? Or does it mean that all can live as their conscience calls them?

    Prayers and blessing. I met the Venerable Mere Wallace at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. It was really wonderful to meet her and be in worship and community with her for that short time.

    • Cathy Maslin

      Hi Cynthia

      Ultimately I think we are all responsible individually under God and thankfully with the mercy He offers in Christ for our actions and decisions.

      I do believe (somewhere – ha, ha) the bible does say those who teach will be held more accountable and so the wrestling with this issue I understand especially on the part of leadership. Yes, a unanimous decision is unlikely to ever be reached but a consensus is more like an agreement than a vote. The proposal to wait in NZ was tabled by two Bishops of opposing viewpoints, so there was consensus to wait.

      Justice and righteousness are bedfellows (excuse the pun). There is wide acknowledgement of faithful same sex partnerships here and elsewhere having existed for some time (my Mother when growing up rememberd the ‘sisters’ who lived down the street). The tricky part for most is it is not there decision to determine what is righteous or acceptable behaviour in God’s eyes but His and so they inform their belief about what is moral or immoral from Scripture. The logic goes like this, it is not unjust to refuse to bless what is not acceptable to God.

      Obviously TEC has done more work on this topic and no doubt more discussions will ensue here as well, hopefully respectful ones on both sides. For me personally I need to do more reading around the concept of covenant.

      I am glad you met a Kiwi! And I can empathise that when one has a subjective involvement in any ethical issue, it is hard to distance things such as waiting and different viewpoints from being taken personally.

      All the best in the US!

  15. The real, moral, problem about human sexuality – whether hetero or homosexual – is the problem of promiscuity, which is common to both sectors.

    For this reason, Saint Paul advised that “It is better to marry than burn”.

    Why, then do the rigid moralists believe that Same-Sex Marriage (or the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions) would be more of a problem than that of promiscuous relationships? After all, we do encourage the predominant heterosexual community to commit to monogamous, one-to-one relationships. Why should that not be possible for intrinsically Same-Sex attracted persons. We are talking here, not about lust, but about love – a quality of living promoted in, by and to, the Christian Church.: “They will know you’re my disciples by your love” – not by your judgement!

    As the recent Primates’ Meeting told the world; sexism and homophobia are not welcome in the Church.

    • Cathy Maslin

      Many would argue de-facto relationships are just as committed as married ones.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis

        I’m sure they would argue that. I just think that for ordained clergy, the ideal is a covenant relationship, it just seems right to me. My spouse and I selected it for ourselves as well, it is an expression of our deep faith, and our faithfulness to one another as God is faithful to us, and as we try to be faithful to God.

        I don’t see it as a moral issue, or an issue of sin. I simply see it as an issue of deep relationship. And our experience has been that our covenant marriage has deepened our love for one another, and also for God.

        I’m sure that many de facto relationships are fine. But as people of God, we are called to be in covenant with God, and somehow I feel that marriage is a deep part of that. And I can understand requiring that for clergy who are in partnered relationships.

  16. John sandeman

    How will it be possible to live with difference in TEC once the revised marriage service is in the prayer book (and clergy will be required to uphold the doctrine within it?) This is the dilemma that the ACANZP is wrestling with. I am sure they would value advice from TEC or other provinces on a solution.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      Thanks for asking. I’m not the final authority, but no clergy person is ever required to marry anyone. They have discretion over that. Some may have reservations about divorce, or “serial marriage,” or whatever. The fact that the liturgy is in the BCP doesn’t mean they have to marry everyone who asks.

      I’m not sure how it works in parishes across the church. Here, parishes seem to choose whether or not they embrace it. Perhaps we’ve been foggy, but people who want to marry typically go to churches that welcome LGBTQI people.

      Others may be more up-to-date, but you might get different answers from each diocese!

      • Cynthia, and John, that is an excellent example.

        To expand a bit on the practical (and doctrinal) reality: the current marriage liturgy in the BCP states that marriage is life-long and faithful (to a single partner) in vow language that long precedes that of the current book itself. This understanding of marriage rests on dominical authority.

        At the same time, the canons allow for the marriage of a person divorced under civil law, with a former spouse still living.

        Rather than seeing this as a violation of the doctrine enshrined in the BCP, it is understood as an exception; and all clergy (again, under the canon) have the right to decline to officiate at any or all such marriages.

        If and when the marriage liturgy of the BCP is finally amended to allow for same-sex marriages, the same circumstance will apply. (I will note that the proposed liturgy does not specify the sexes of the couple — and can be used for any couple, same- or mixed-sex — so to some extent the doctrinal question need not arise, as the liturgy focuses on the content of the vows themselves, which remain unchanged, and which constitute the actual “making” of the marriage. The canon was similarly revised in such a way as not to make any specific mention of “same-sex” issues — it is fully applicable to all marriages.)

  17. This whole discussion about marriage equality in the church is too little, too late.

    City hall and liberal churches are better options for the average same-sex couple. And there is the increasing popular choice of no religion.

    Churches used to own people and were able to stigmatize people. But the legacy of the Enlightenment is that secular governments do not have to listen to religious authorities.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  18. John Sandeman

    With respect Cynthia, I think you may have missed the point. (I do that too.) Individual clergy are free to choose who they marry, but they are required to assent to the doctrine of TEC. Once the prayerbook contains a same sex marriage service, that becomes part of church doctrine doesn’t it? That is what gave the NZers difficulty with the proposed new services.

    • John, I can’t speak to the ANZP liturgy as I haven’t seen it; but as I noted above, the liturgy proposed for the TEC BCP isn’t a “same-sex marriage” liturgy, and it contains no new doctrine to which anyone must assent. It presents no difficulties in that regard. Using the liturgy for a same-sex couple may cause some conscientious objection — and they are free not to make use of it.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      John, Tobias is a real leader in this. I’m just a lay person who took EFM (Education for Ministry, a four year course for lay people) and gay and wanted to get married.

      I always thought that doctrine was limited to what was in the creeds. But others have a different view and feel if TEC changed doctrine, we did it out of conviction that inclusion is a moral imperative of the Gospel. A position that is quite opposite the reservations articulated by Cathy.

      As good Anglicans, we looked at Tradition and note that the traditions sadly include using Scripture to support slavery, anti-semitism, burning heretics, and outlawing interracial marriage. There are a lot of ways to look at Scripture, but the overwhelming message of Acts is that of increasing inclusion, and the life of Jesus includes passionate words against those who would use the Law to exclude or demean people. The Law does not bring righteousness. And I suspect doctrine doesn’t either.

      We look at the fruits of exclusion, bullying, teen suicide, depression, discrimination (bringing economic and psychological hardship), and spiritual damage. You can’t tell people they are second class Children of God, it’s agonizingly painful and it emboldens bullies.

      God loves me and Rebecca, She blesses us mightily, and He protects us from a lot of hate. The Holy Spirit roared through our parish when we got married.


  19. Is a civil marriage any less sacramental than a religious one that is primarily witnessed by family and friends and doesn’t take place within the context of the Christian community and Eucharist?

    • Not in the Western tradition. The ministers are the couple, and the bond and covenant is present even in the absence of clergy. (Clergy and witnesses are required for legality, not sacramentality, for those who hold marriage to be a sacrament.)

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      What Tobias says.

      But I wouldn’t discount the element of choice. I’m Anglo-Catholic, so the liturgy and the Eucharist were very important to us. We didn’t go out of state for a civil marriage, we waited until marriage came to our state and our parish. We had gotten a Civil Union, while we appreciated the legal protections, it wasn’t marriage to us.

  20. ” Morally speaking our western guide for what is ‘morally right’ in terms of individual and social behaviour has been the bible (whether or not society acknowledges it).”- Cathy Maslin –

    And therein lies the heart of the problem. a Modern hermeneutic would put into proper perspective the 6 verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality – as opposed to thousand of verse that condemn the wrong use of money.Jesus said nary a single word!!! Although, he did have something to say about heterosexual infidelity!

    When one considers the imbalance of attention paid to homosexuality in the Church, one comes to realize that ‘sins of the flesh’ (as conservatives are content to call intrinsic homosexuality) get a great deal more criticism than the sin of greed. I suppose that might be that this latter sin is more prevalent among us – even the conservatives – and therefore need not be addressed so openly.

    Gays are an easy target, having only recently been let off the hook by society. However, God loves every one of us – regardless of our gender, race, cultural background or sexual-orientation.

    I am thankful to God for TEC’s brave and charitable treatment of an important minority!

    God has gone up with a merry noise,

    • David Allen

      And therein lies the heart of a much deeper problem! There are those of us here who appreciate you as a staunch ally Father Ron, but don’t believe that there are verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality. And so don’t find comments such as this one helpful.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis

        David, I think the Leviticus passage is homophobic. But it appears with lots of things that we find odd, barbaric, or that we just ignore. The other “clobber passages,” have been debunked to my satisfaction.

        The practically hysterical misuse of Sodom by fundamentalists, when Ezekiel spells out the sin of Sodom, pretty much demonstrates that it is indeed a “phobia.” When they begin stoning adulterers, I might start to believe that they really are literalists, rather than cherry pickers…

      • David Allen

        Cynthia, the Lev passage isn’t homophobic as the Hebrew is very specific in what it states, not the generalization that appears in translations. And the passage is in harmony with the expectations of the other nations around Israel at that time regarding what was expected of the male citizen head of household, the only person of any consequence in those patriarchal societies.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis

        Thanks for the information! I’ve never studied Hebrew. Lots gets lost in translation, thus the dangers of believing everything we read in English…

  21. John Sandeman

    Tobias having read the proposed NZ liturgy, Which consists of two nearly identical rites of blessing for civil marriages, one being gender neutral, it was the difficulty of incorporating new doctrine in the NZ prayer book that caused difficulty. In NZ a distinction is drawn between formularies (which imply agreed doctrine) and authorised services which may not and I believe the new services would have been formularies.
    As regards TEC, I will simply watch from afar and see if the incorporation of same sex persons with respect to marriage is referred to as having the status of doctrine. I would be very surprised if some people do not see it that way.
    In any case, in ACANZP the dissenters certainly saw things differently from how you have described the TEC situation. Moving from gendered to gender neutral marriage rites is not a trivial tidying up of syntax.
    Cynthia, “if TEC changed doctrine” then your contention that TEC is living together in difference does not hold water. TEC is entitled to make a change, but ignoring the consequences for the minority is not a good thing.

    • David Allen

      John, if you visit Father Bosco’s blog at, he argues that the folks in NZ are really confused about what they can and cannot do. From my reading of Padre B, the A Way Forward Group’s proposal is not a formulary, but authorized services. It is his contention that the proposal should be formularies, which unfortunately for the LGBTQ folks in that province takes much longer to achieve approval and involve a process fraught with sidetracking.

      He calls it the twice round process. Formularies must (1) be approved by a General Synod, (2) approved by a majority of episcopal units, (3) approved by 2/3s of both houses at a 2nd General Synod and then (4) wait a year for any possible appeal to the law in NZ that created the Anglican Church there.

      The reason he gives that the process should be a formulary is because they are proposing a doctrinal change to what constitutes a rightly ordered marriage (which has nothing to do with the genders of the two individuals) and trying to achieve it with a non-canonical process.

  22. Dear David, you are right about no actual verses written with the equivalent of the English word ‘homosexual’. However, this is how conservative people interpret the sense of what is being expressed in context. I was merely allowing the ‘loyal opposition’ their assumption in order to make my point. Agape, Fr. Ron.

  23. ” The tricky part for most is it is not there (sic) decision to determine what is righteous or acceptable behaviour in God’s eyes but His and so they inform their belief about what is moral or immoral from Scripture. The logic goes like this, it is not unjust to refuse to bless what is not acceptable to God.” – Cathy Maslin –

    Well, Cathy, here you are professing that you are privy to God’s mind on this important matter – of blessing the monogamously faithful relationship of two people who have no other natural way of loving another person. For those of us who worship God, rather than the Book about God, we are less immune to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in our world of TODAY. Make no mistake, we love and use the Bible – daily in our worship – we do not make an idol of it.

    I suppose you will use the same argument about same-sex attraction as the other nay-sayers of FOCANZ (who precipitated this denial of justice to NZ Christian Gays): “It is their (perverted?) choice to be homosexual”.

    In response, one can only ask, when did you actually choose to be heterosexual?

    I am intrigued that you think that ACANZP has said its last word on this matter. In fact, I am assured by one of those present at the meeting that there was a determination that the next G.S. 2018 Meeting will be[presented with a firm option to provide ‘A Way Forward” (in the spirit of Motion 30) for the blessing of Same-Sex Couples in a Civil Marriage – with the possibility of ‘opting out’ for those whose conscience does not allow them to comply. The delay is for the options to be clearly identified, not abandoned. God’s mercy is too great for injustice to long prevail.

    “What I require is justice, not sacrifice” – The Bible

  24. Helen Jacobi

    Dear Episcopal Cafe
    Given the early discussion that followed after you first posted, about the accuracy of what the Diocese of Wellington’s position was, you might like to post this letter from the Bishop of Wellington which clearly states the Diocese was worried about parishes leaving.
    Thanks for following events in this part of the world.

  25. Cynthia Katsarelis

    “Cynthia, “if TEC changed doctrine” then your contention that TEC is living together in difference does not hold water. TEC is entitled to make a change, but ignoring the consequences for the minority is not a good thing.”

    John, I think we are walking together with the minority. No priest or congregation has to marry anyone. The major change is that they can’t stop other priests and other parishes from doing the marriages. It seems to me that that’s as good as it can be. Yes, some conservative are angry because they no longer have the power to impose their conscience on others (a large majority now), but they are free to practice their own conscience. I’m having trouble with the view that marriage is doctrine, let alone the idea that removing the power to oppress is anywhere near as hurtful as being oppressed. How would we be walking together if one group is coercing the other?

    If you folks figure out a way to walk together that’s better than ours, good on you. But each gets to exercise their conscience and none gets to impose is what we have, mostly. In the 7 dioceses where the bishops dissented, they are allowed to not have inclusive marriage in their dioceses, but they need to find a way for couples to get married, perhaps by sending them to a neighboring diocese. The LGBTQI people in those dioceses are very, very unhappy and feel left behind by the church. There is a heap of hurt there. I do have problems with letting 7 bishops act independently and hurtfully, but that’s where we are.

    I don’t know about NZ, but here we have a wide range of beliefs about many things. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The bodily Resurrection. The Virgin Birth. (I’m onboard with the first two). None of those things stop us from walking together, and they seem more fundamental.


  26. Prof. Christopher Seitz

    “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. 50″Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.…”

    I think it is important that people who do not read Hebrew don’t allow mis-interpretations to cover over the text. ‘Abominations’ in Hebrew routinely refers to sexual sin, and so it has been taken in the history of Christian and Jewish interpretation.

    Better to take the route that people in the past didn’t know about LGBT people, or were simply bigots/ignorant.

    Ezekiel takes the view that what led to sexual sin was arrogance and abundance, careless ease, and failure to share with the neighbor, Thus “they were haughty and committed abominations, and so I removed them.”

    • David Allen

      OK, so if we allow that your contention that the Hebrew for abominations was routinely in reference to sexual sin, that’s still quite the leap from sexual sin to it being because they were all gay!

      • Prof. Christopher Seitz

        The point is simply not to confuse what Ezekiel says. He isn’t saying that the sin of Sodom had no sexual component at all — they were just ‘being inhospitable.’ And the concept of ‘Gay’ is unknown to him, since no one in antiquity used a nominal form of this character to point to sexual conduct between men or between women. It is a recent mostly Western idea. I was once asked to give a talk on the subject in the context of Chinese Christianity and they used a loan-word from English to announce the talk to their congregation as they had no Chinese equivalent.

        I just hope we can try not to make biblical texts say what we want them to say. That is one of the reasons for asking people to learn Greek and Hebrew.

        Our be present at Pentecost…

  27. John sandeman

    How can we walk together if “one group is coercing the other” is exactly the difficult question that the NZers are having difficulty with. To make SSM or blessings a doctrine of the church by making them a formulary, was seen as coercive by the conservatives. The same issue will arise in TEC if there is a proposal for a revised rite in the prayerbook and some members of TEC will experience it as coercion. No one has worked a way past this conundrum ISTM. However it is time for me to stop repeating myself.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      Coercion for conservatives would be forcing them to the do the marriages in their parishes. It is extremely difficult for me to accept they would be “coerced” because married couples like me and Rebecca exist in their larger church! If so …

      Coercion and oppression is what LBGTQI people experience from exclusion and it has real and unhealthful consequences.

      The experience of conservatives being tested to truly “love your neighbor” is not equivalent to the agony of exclusion.

      When this goes into our BCP, I don’t believe we will face particularly major issues about the marriage liturgy. Nothing mystical happens by including in the book liturgies that have been happening for several years. Stay tuned, however, for the brouhaha over inclusive language.

  28. Conservatives on the issue of homosexuality cannot hide the fact (to my mind) they are gravely mistaken that their basic argument in this conversation is that they deem the existence of homosexuality to be what some of them will call ‘an abomination’. This misguided thought seems to under-girds all their arguments about the nature of ‘homosexual sin’ – not mainly the act but also the aetiology.

    If they could only separate out the commonality of intrinsic sexual-orientation from sexual acts, they might have a better idea of what is ‘sexual sin’. It is that which operates outside of a monogamous covenant relationship, ideally within marriage.

    This puts into a proper perspective the nature of sexual promiscuity – which Jesus himself seemed to regard as sinful. This is one reason why Christian Gay couples would like the Church to respect their desire to maintain a faithful, monogamous relationship within marriage.

    If the Church has already allowed the provision of heterosexual re-marriage after divorce – thus already breaking the ‘tradition’ of single-partner Marriage for heterosexuals in the Church; what reason would there be to deny what amounts to just another amendment of the ‘tradition’ in order to recognise the faithfulness of a legal Same-Sex Marriage? At least the married state is preferable to the prospect of promiscuity – which we all recognise as the biggest problem for the Church, and for society at large.

    Jesus had a lot to say about infidelity in marriage relationships. He did not single out same-sex relationships as worthy of greater penalties. In fact, Jesus didn’t even mention homosexuals – except, perhaps in a passing reference – in his discourse on marriage – to ‘eunuchs’ born that way from their mothers’ womb. (Matthew 19: 12)

    The biblical abhorrence of sexual acts was usually reserved for pagan ritual idolatry, especially male prostitution. No doubt institutional patriarchy had a part to play in the biblical judgement of any act involving male subordination.

    And as for the account of Sodom & Gomorrah, this has long been attributed to the abuse of hospitality. No account seems to have been taken by the conservatives of the primitive reaction of the Patriarch, who was prepared to sacrifice the virginity of his own daughter to satisfy the lust of the interlopers. (Patriarchal privilege, perhaps?)

  29. christopher seitz

    Father Ron–at issue in my remarks here is *what Ezekiel is actually saying* give that to him was attributed a take on Sodom that obviated any concern with sexual behavior.

    I am not engaging any discussion about what to make of what he says, for that would require a wider angle of vision.

    Might it be possible simply to focus on what was at issue?

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      Christopher, plenty of our Jewish friends, including rabbis who read Hebrew very well, do not come to the same conclusion as you do about the word “abomination.” And that’s using the same texts. I’m beginning to sense that yours is a singular reading. There is so much in the Old Testament about caring for the widows and the orphans, that I think the Ezekiel reading about Sodom is very much concerned with people who live in want and the responsibility of those who live in plenty. I mean really, it’s okay to not give to the poor as long as your reasons for being greedy don’t involve sex?

      As for Sodom, if the crime includes sex then it is rape. So it hardly covers any consensual relationship of any sort. Lot offering up his daughter just adds to the grotesque quality of this reading, and that culture.

      Frankly, I think Jesus came to help clear up our confusion about these things. To love God means to love God’s creation, including God’s gay children. The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself means to love all your neighbors. Jesus followed this with the parable of the Good Samaritan, and I presume you know that the Samaritans were hated by the Judeans. Substitute “Samaritan” with “gay man” or “gay woman” (or refugee or African American) and I think we get closer to what Jesus was saying.

  30. If a man does not want to marry another man, he can marry a woman.

    If a woman does not want to marry another woman, she can marry a man.

    If a priest does not believe in marrying two men or two women, then the priest should be entitled to the conscience not to do so.

    If a priest does believe in marrying two men or two women, then the priest should be entitled to the conscience to do so.

    Unity in diversity: loving one another, because we are in communion with Jesus Christ, even if we have different views.

    No-one is forced to be gay. No-one is forced to be heterosexual. But we should respect the consciences of one another and pray for each other’s flourishing.

    The great commandment is love: love and service is what we can have in common, whatever our views on human sexuality. We should seek grace to love one another, and serve our communities, following our sincere consciences, and recognising that different Christians may hold different views.

    We should stop trying to dominate each other, or trying to be first. Whose dogma is right is less urgent than who opens their hearts to love: because love fulfils the law and the prophets, and God is love, and wants us to share that love.

  31. John sandeman

    Coercion of concservatives does not need to rise to the pain that LGBT persons have experienced in order to be seen as coercion. Requiring clergy to assent to the doctrine in a prayerbook that includes SSM will mean people will have to leave ministry or be excluded from joining it. The NZ church could see this difficulty. While I respect the strength of your convictions in favour of SSM perhaps you could spare a thought for those who see things differently. Well, one can hope.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      I don’t think we’re understanding each other. Even though TEC has SSM and will someday have it in our BCP, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to do it. Clergy have always been free to decide whether or not to marry a couple, for any reason. My understanding is that that holds for SSM. So in my understanding, no one is ever going to be coerced into doing SSMs. In my diocese, it seems that we have marrying parishes, and probably some that don’t wish to offer SSM. We live with that difference.

      Tobias, please jump in if I’m wrong.

      I know that there are commentators are spreading “doom and gloom” that priests or bishops will be defrocked for not doing SSM, but that is a projection of fear, it isn’t real.

      So priests and congregations pretty much operate according to their conscience. The problem comes with the bishops. We have 7 who dissented (that’s not very many out of our total). They don’t have to allow SSMs in “their” dioceses. However, our General Convention asked them to “make provisions” for their gay couples – like sending them a PDF of the liturgy and recommending parishes outside of “their” diocese to get married in. There’s tension about that, as you can imagine.

      I think we’re doing it as well as can be.

      I hear your discomfort about the issues surrounding doctrine. Maybe in TEC we are more comfortable with it being messy?

      It could be that NZ has gay friendly parishes and not so gay inclusive parishes already, as we did. It could be that passing the “Way Forward” just won’t look that different, from a day to day point of view.

      NZ seems to be so well sorted out in so many ways. You’ve got beautifully inclusive language in your Prayer Book. You all seem to have a lot worked out along racial lines. You will find a way. It it’ll probably be a model for the rest of us.

    • David Allen

      I don’t recall conservatives that agreed to allow divorced folks with living ex-spouses to remarry over the last 50 years sparing a thought for the conservatives among them who did not agree with that. They went ahead and did as they wished.

      My understanding is that the marriage rites approved by TEC’s General Convention are not same gender ceremonies, they are gender neutral ceremonies. OCICBW. The rites can be used for opposite gender or same gender couples. Which is the same thing that the folks in ACANZ&P are doing. If the gender neutral rites end up in a new TEC BCP sometime in the next 25 years and a conservative priest wishes to concentrate on that possible use of the rites as he makes his assent to the prayerbook, that’s on him.

  32. Thank you, Cynthia, for your kind observations about our small part in the ongoing conversations. Where there’s a will, there’s also a Way Forward,
    Pentecost Blessings!

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