What could be a measure of a successful Hui on Hermeneutics? One measure could be down the track of life, “Where the church is now, is down to that hui back in 2010.” We will pass that one by. Another measure could be a sense as people leave that some things in our life together are better. That may not be much of a measure, since whatever sense we have at the end of the hui could result in no action such as follow up reporting back to our dioceses and hui amorangi. Here are my thoughts about what is better in our life together because of our hui this week:
1. We may have a deeper commitment to move forward together resolved to lose no one, conservative or liberal (or those who do not identify as either), straight or gay or lesbian – a commitment deepened because we have listened to each other in a responsible way, recognising that both experiences and theological commitments matter.
2. We may have begun to say to ourselves that our reading of Scripture corporately is something we cannot sidestep. Holy Scripture is our Holy Scripture. We may, in this (new) beginning, be realising two things. First, that Scripture says what it says about sexuality (including homosexuality). Despite some creative hermeneutical explorations around the possibility of concluding that Scripture does not say what the church has thought it has been saying, it does say what it says (i.e. an overall negative approach to homosexuality). Secondly, that it is possible that we may need to go beyond Scripture because we face a new situation, unknown when the Bible was written. A ‘going beyond’ akin to what we have done on matters such as usury and remarriage of divorced persons. Yet it is notable that on those two matters our church has gone forward together.
3. We are recognising that each tikanga is engaged with consideration of the place of gay and lesbian and transgender and bisexual people in our church. Once upon a time we could only have said that of one tikanga.
4. We may be recognising that finding a way forward towards reaching some kind of decision as a whole church (any decision, one way or another) may involve “re-envisioning” of the situation. Perhaps a new framing of the situation in different language to the language that has been used hitherto. (I hope to offer further reflection on this soon on Hermeneutics and Human Dignity).
5. We may be recognising that through this last decade some things have been changing about our church, things which we need to factor into our reflections and explorations, such as certain ways in which we are becoming more conservative, and certain ways in which an underlying therapeutic model of church is being transformed into a missional model of church.
6. We may be recognising that more people are affected by the way we are handling these matters than we have recognised before: ‘more people’ including gay and lesbian people in our congregations, and gay and lesbian people in the extended families or whanau which make up our churches.
7. We may be recognising that some arguments are better than other arguments in order to advance whichever cause we are promoting. In each of the three hui so far there have been arguments advanced which have not gained traction across the majority of those present. Arguments are not everything in ‘changing attitude’ but for some aspects they are important. They need to be good, in tone and content, otherwise they will not persuade.
Well I never set out to write down seven emerging things; but I have. I will stop for now. If you are asking the question, ‘Where will this end up?’, then my answer is, ‘I do not know.’ But I think it is more likely that we will end up in a place where we are both undivided and inclusive than if we had not held the hui.
Please read this as a personal statement of one individual at the Hui. It is not a description of the Hui per se, nor a record of its outcomes. It is an attempt to offer a sense of what its meaning for the church might be.