If nothing else, both Bosco Peters and I know that some prominent people within our church are following this particular development closely, so closely that they are looking at our sites.
In the latest move by St Matt's, a letter following a parish meeting has been written which includes this (my italics):
"It [the discrimination agreed to between our Pakeha New Zealand bishops that refuses to admit into the discernment process for ordination anyone who is gay or lesbian and in a committed relationship] is discrimination against an entire class of people. Such discrimination by any institution or state would be worthy of our condemnation, but it is also a source of deep embarrassment that our church is perpetrating it. Your acceptance of this discrimination initiated by colleagues in the House of Bishops represents all of us to our shame.On the face of it, St Matt's is riding a white charger whose name is Right and Righteous Cause. How can the bishops of our church, including their direct target, +Ross Bay, withstand the thundering hooves and steaming nostrils of this valiant steed?
As neither our Diocesan Synod nor the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui have sanctioned the “discrimination,” you are under no obligation to continue this practice a minute longer. As our bishop we beseech you to end our communal participation in this violation of human rights, this offence to the Gospel, and an embarrassment to the Church." (From an Open Letter to Bishop Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland, here).
In several ways. Today I give one of them.
St. Matthew's-in-the-City themselves are guilty of discrimination against 'classes of people.' When we ask what classes of people constitute the society to which we are called to preach the gospel of Christ, classes which do not live exactly by the traditional Christian standard of marriage or singleness, to say nothing of classes which may have a view on the church's missional image being out of touch, then we have a very large class of people living together who do not wish to marry, a class of people who think committing adultery is ok, and, though perhaps tiny, nevertheless able to be classified, swingers, polyamorists, and polygamists.
You will find nothing in the St. Matt's protest taking up the cause of these classes. Is their protest discriminatory against these classes?
If it is not discriminatory because they intend to take up their causes soon, our church, I think, would be quite interested to know this.
If they have justified cause for being so discriminatory, we need to hear their justification. Remember, in the particular case of St. Matt's-in-the-City, it cannot be for reasons of Scripture or Christian tradition for they make a public lifestyle out of their billboards which question Scripture and tradition, nor can it be for reason for unwillingness to offend fellow Christians - see also track record on billboards.
There is a response they could make which does not involve them reaching out to (say) polyamorists. They could drop talk about 'discrimination.' They could apologise to Bishop Ross Bay for implying that he has acted in ways which are embarrassing to the church. They could acknowledge that between 'the doctrine of Christ' (which includes, for example, the unity of the church) and the canons of the church (which, for example, do not permit ordination to various orders below the age of 23, or, for bishops, 30), our General Synod does sanction discernment (a better word, I suggest, than the inflammatory, 'discrimination.').
In short, St. Matt's in the City have right and reason to pursue change in our church re gay candidates for ministry. But they should do it through constructing a theology and persuading the whole of our church of the truth of this theology. Protesting in a manner which is disrespectful to our bishops and to our General Synod is momentarily exciting but scarcely a winning strategy in the long-term.