The Rev. Bosco Peters writes about the sticky state of marriage canons in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia.
“Sanctity of marriage!” is one of the catch-cries of those opposed to such blessing. Yet, for half a century, our church has been marrying divorcees and ordaining and licensing people in such relationships without having bothered to go through the required changes to our church teaching. No one has hassled about such negligence. Could it be because that is about heterosexuals? The majority. Us.
So clergy may have been marrying divorced people without fundamental authorisation and without consistency with our Church of England Empowering Act of 1928. And, similarly, bishops have been ordaining and licensing people in such relationships.
The cry of “Heterosexist hypocrisy!” may actually have better objective veracity than the “Sanctity of marriage!” one that we mostly, loudly hear.
At this year’s General Synod, the working group report A Way Forward recommended that rites for blessing same-sex marriages may be authorized, and ordinands in such relationship accepted, without changing the church’s doctrine on marriage. The report was tabled after it became clear that a consensus was not to be reached at this year’s Synod.
However, Synod did pass a constitutional change allowing bishops the right to authorize a service for use in his or her diocese. Peters surmises,
Because the majority legal position (Way Forward Working Group Report) is that blessing a committed same-sex couple is not contrary to our church’s doctrine, since the constitutional change, bishops can authorise such a service within their jurisdiction. In practice bishops have been licensing clergy in such relationships and participating in such blessings – but some people continue to dispute that this is what the constitutional change effects. Discussions about this by bishops and chancellors have not been made public.
This realization, he argues,
highlight[s] what has mostly been missed in all the intense heat and noise of the same-sex-blessing feud: ironic though it may seem to some, the actual teaching of our church forbids the marrying of divorcees whilst it appears to allow bishops to authorise the blessing of committed same-sex couples in their jurisdiction.
We published an open letter from Peters to the leaders of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia in May, raising the issue of “a qualitative difference in our treatment of the minority (LGBT relationships) as compared to the scant amount concerned with parallel discussions about the vast majority (heterosexual ones).” He reports that they have responded:
Your letter was considered at the July GSSC [General Synod Standing Committee] meeting, and they have referred the matter raised to Chancellors advice and the Liturgical Commission.
Featured image: the Reverend Bosco Peters