The General Synod of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia meets this Friday through next week. Taonga news reports, “A wide agenda focuses next week’s General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui on the diverse mission field of these islands.”
On the agenda are items addressing the blessing of same sex civil marriages, and the effect of adopting such blessings on the ordination of clergy who are so married. The Way Forward report to the Synod reflects on the theology of ordination and of marriage:
The group perceives a distinction to be made between the Church’s theology of ordination and of marriage, and the statements in Te Pouhere, the Formularies, and the Canons which collectively express the Church’s doctrine. …
no single theological position emerging from these influences could be held to be that of the whole Church, and certainly not belonging to the whole Anglican Communion. This fact is both consistent with Anglican theology down the centuries, and at the heart of the difficulty that confronts Anglicans today. …
The proposed changes have an effect on who may be ordained by the Church. This does not come about because of a change in either the Church’s doctrine of marriage or a change in its doctrine of ordination. The Church still requires those coming to be ordained to either be celibate or in “rightly ordered” relationships; there is no suggestion that there is a lower standard now required. However the proposals do expand the definition of rightly-ordered relationships to include those who are in a civil marriage and whose relationship has been blessed. The reason for the expanded definition is that the group felt that the Church could not bless a relationship yet not consider it to be “rightly ordered”. …
The theology of marriage
Because the motion that was passed at General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui in 2014 affirmed the “traditional doctrine of marriage”, there is no change to the existing formularies. The group’s proposal (in line with its commission) to propose a service for the blessing of same-sex relationships does not (in the view of the majority of the members) impact the current doctrine of marriage. It is accepted that the blessing of a relationship has some similarities with the rites of marriage, but even as the two are alike in many ways they are not the same. Neither would a doctrine of same-sex relationships be the same as the doctrine of marriage.
The proposals of the working group will need to be considered over two General Synods: 2016 and 2018.
A number of other issues will come before the Synod, including a Bill to remove the requirement for Confirmation before Ordination, and motions to address climate change and carbon offsetting; gender violence; and the promotion of women’s leadership within the church.
Read more about the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui here.
Image: A Way Forward: Recommendations to General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui 2016. Processes and structures relating to the blessing by Anglican priests and bishops in the Province of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia of relationships where a civil marriage has occurred.