(Continuing from the post below)
The resolution agreed to by Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke (within Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, i.e. one of the three tikanga of ACANZP) is cleverly composed. As an 'in principle' resolution it can claim that no practical consequences are envisaged for the time being, while offering the local pihopa (bishop) grounds for acting consequentially at any time! Further, by speaking about gay and lesbian candidates for ordination but saying nothing about partnerships, civil or blessed or otherwise, the resolution can be claimed to offer no specific guidance regarding non-celibate gays and lesbians. In short, a resolution with sufficient slipperiness to evade certain critiques, yet with sufficient substance to be the warrant for actions discordant to the life of our church at this time. Whether such a resolution is discordant to our Communion involvement is a genuine question: the Communion seems more concerned with the making of bishops than with ordination to the diaconate or the priesthood.
In the light of our church being involved in a process of hermeneutical enquiry into the Bible and same sex relationships (see my other blog, Hermeneutics and Human Dignity), it is intriguing that this resolution should have been made since one interpretation of the existence of the resolution is that it has prejudged the outcome of the process. (Even more intriguing when one of the movers is one of the presenters at the forthcoming hui for 2010!!)
Here is my most urgent concern about this resolution: will it build congregational life within Tikanga Maori?
The life of any church is often a fragile bloom. This is so of the congregational life of Tikanga Maori. Most Maori priests and deacons are either unpaid or paid by virtue of chaplaincy roles (military, hospitals, prisons) with many tangi (funerals to which communities gather in large numbers) duties added on top of that. In many parts of Tikanga Maori the emphasis in their ministry and mission is not on Sunday congregational life but on other aspects of community life. The kind of congregation building efforts we have seen within Tikanga Pakeha (European-origin Kiwis) in recent decades (church growth, Alpha Courses, beginning new style services, etc) are less emphasised within Tikanga Maori. The largest Maori or predominantly Maori congregations in Aotearoa NZ are in churches other than Maori Anglican churches.
I know I am an outsider, a Pakeha, just an observer, but nevertheless I raise the question whether congregational life within Tikanga Maori could be strengthened by a new ministry and mission strategy which unambiguously aims to build up congregations within Tikanga Maori. In my understanding, current strategy is differently focused. There are good reasons for that, and good things that result. But, again, in my understanding, congregations on average continue to remain small, few Maori clergy are paid unless employed (ultimately) by our government, or holding a ministry education position within Tikanga Maori, and the maintenance of governance and management of Tikanga Maori structures is a constant struggle with a number of Maori leaders holding multiple roles on committees and councils. If I am wrong, please tell me! It would be a matter of great rejoicing to find that I have overlooked many vibrant, dynamic large (200+) congregations up and down our land.
Congregational life is important to Anglican ecclesiology! Let's remind ourselves of ...
Article 19 - The Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome has erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.
Here I do not wish to debate the danger of this Article, that in the hands of some it becomes a recipe for 'Anglican congregationalism', but simply to underline that in Anglican thinking about what the church is, congregations are at the core of its existence: people gathering faithfully, regularly, to hear the word of God preached and to receive the sacraments duly ministered.
Hence back to my question about the resolution at issue: will it build congregational life within Tikanga Maori?
Perhaps it will. It would be interesting to learn of reflection on such a question from within Tikanga Maori. Later: one commenter has already argued strongly that this resolution will lead to strengthening of congregational life.
It is certainly true that there are other statements the church (any church) can make, or be perceived to make, in the area of human sexuality which will deter people from coming to church. Our challenge (across all three tikanga of our church) these days is to find ways of being inclusive of people while not excluding people. A concern I have is that, bit by bit, resolution by resolution, ACANZP could become 'the gay church' of these islands, an inclusive church that excludes people by virtue of that reputation, with the consequence that we drastically shrink in membership/adherence in the next twenty-five years. Such a future is already being played out in other churches here and overseas.
My second most urgent question about the resolution is whether it builds inter-congregational life within our church within Tikanga Maori and between the three tikanga?
I have my doubts about that.
We face great challenges through these times. It happened this morning that I read the following passage. It touches on at least one of those challenges, how we encourage rather than discourage faith in the little ones of God.
Tena ko tenei, ka he i tetahi tangata tetahi o enei mea nonohi e whakapono nei ki ahau, nui ke te pai ki a ia me i whakawerewerea ki tona kaki te kohatu mira kaihe, me i pungaia ia ki te rire o te moana. Aue te mate mo te ao i nga take he! Kua tino takoto rawa hoki he putanga mo nga take he; otiia, aue te mate mo tera tangata e puta ai te take he! (Matiu 18:6-7)
May God grant us wisdom.
(Addendum for clarity re citing the passage above: all public discussion of human sexuality, whether discussing same sex partnerships in the church, the remarriage of divorcees, or the like, has the capacity to upset and/or to mislead people ("little ones") one way or the other. Hence my prayer for wisdom for God's church.)