Last week we reported that (ACANZP) the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia’s working group chartered to find a way forward on the issue of marriage equality had issued a report with two proposed liturgies for blessing same-sex civil unions. The wrinkle, if you will, in the working group’s work is that their proposal sought to make space for progress towards marriage equality while also seeking to maintain the church’s traditional doctrine on marriage. The proposed plan envisioned a diocese by diocese implementation similar to what is being attempted here in the Episcopal Church.
In his analysis of the situation, New Zealand blogger Bosco Peters has pointed out a significant potential issue which seems not to have been considered there or here in the US. What happens if a newly elected bishop holds a contrary view to that of the previous bishop?
Bosco’s solution to the conundrum asks that we begin to rethink what bishops are – are they bishops only in a single diocese or in the whole church?
He goes in some depth on this:
“I suggest a clear statement that every bishop acknowledges the two integrities of those who believe the blessing of same-sex persons as congruent with scripture, tikanga and doctrine, and those who believe that such a blessing is contrary to these. This would mean that the bishop him/herself would obviously still not be required to bless or not bless a couple (as currently is the situation with a marriage – individual bishops, just as individual priests, are not required to marry a couple or not). But the formulary of blessing a civil marriage would be available everywhere (as all other formularies are). The blessing formulary would not have to undergo the nonsense of “being authorised” in a diocese or amorangi. And there would be explicit acknowledgement that blessing a committed same-sex couple does not imply the diocesan bishop being within that integrity.
Can you think of a better solution (other than not move forward at all)? The two integrities proposed within our church should not be hermetically sealed internal sects within our church, but clergy and people living and worshipping together cheek by jowl agreeing to disagree about this as we do about so many other things, continuing to be in full communion – I receiving communion from a priest I disagree with, s/he receiving communion from me, all receiving communion together. And the bishop, whatever his/her personal integrity, is clearly a bishop of the whole church, overseeing both integrities, just as s/he oversees other disagreements within his/her diocese.”
The ins and outs of ACANZP polity present a different context than the implementation of A054 here in the Episcopal Church, but his concerns and suggested solutions seem to address a question we maybe should be wrestling with: can (should?) the church live with these different integrities without creating permanent geographically defined divisions and which acknowledges that the bishops and passions now in place won’t be there forever.
For another detailed analysis of the proposal in ACANZP, Peter Carrell at Anglicans Down Under has started a weekly deep dive into the individual sections.
image borrowed from Liturgy