The Diocese of Wellington supports all four sections of the proposed Anglican Covenant.That will be of great encouragement to Covenant supporters in the dioceses and hui amorangi who have yet to vote on the Covenant or not. Three other points to note:
After a lengthy debate at the weekend, the Wellington Synod voted on each of the sections.
There was unanimous support for sections 1 to 3, but a formal division was called for on section 4.
The voting on that section was:
Clergy : 63 for; 41 against.
Laity : 52 for; 44 against.
One synod member said he counted up to 25 abstentions.
The basic feeling of Synod was reportedly: "We must preserve unity, and the Covenant will help us do that. And we don't want to find ourselves no longer in full communion because we have not signed the Covenant".
Late in the debate Bishop Tom Brown shared his own views in support of the Covenant.
Wellington is the first episcopal unit in this church to formally support the Covenant.
The Dioceses of Auckland and Waiapu have decided the Covenant does not fit Anglican ecclesiology, while two hui amorangi – Te Manawa o Te Wheke and Te Tairawhiti – have also rejected it.
It now remains for the remaining three hui amorangi and four Pakeha dioceses to respond to a General Synod request for recommendations by the time it meets in Fiji next July.
The Diocese of Polynesia is expected to bring a recommendation next year.
First, the argument reported here which held sway: Wellington wants to be in communion with a Covenanted Communion, not out of communion with it. Our General Synod in 2012, notwithstanding the views put forward in synods such as Auckland, Waiapu (and now, Dunedin), will have to reckon with whether it wants to put our whole church in the position of being a member church of the Communion not in full communion with other member churches or not.
Secondly, Wellington has specifically faced the question of Section 4, a stumbling block to others and to our General Synod in 2010, looked it in the eye, and proceeded to vote for it.
Thirdly, Wellington's next synod will be an electoral synod to elect a new bishop. Effectively they have now limited the field of viable candidates to those who support the Covenant.
UPDATE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
When I wrote the above the Taonga report only referred to the Wellington synod. The report has now been updated to report on the synod of the Diocese of Dunedin which has rejected the Covenant. The report also includes a note on a motion re homosexuality, though I am a little confused by what the final amended motion actually said.
BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE
Bishop Kelvin Wright (Bishop of Dunedin) himself offers some comment on his synod. Relevant to my confusion expressed in the previous paragraph, he writes,
We also discussed an issue that has been exercising us for many years now, the ordination of people in same sex relationships. Tony Fitchett introduced a motion asking us to accept that people in such relationships should not be denied ordination because of those relationships. The debate was lengthy, honest and at times illuminating. It was conducted in a spirit which was, for the most part deeply respectful; I had a real sense of people on both sides of the issue listening carefully to each other. In the end, an amendment was proposed which affirmed that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination, but which removed any reference to relationships. That is, the amended motion served to affirm the situation which has been the case in the Anglican Church for many years. The result was not unexpected, and while it was immediately disappointing for some, I think there was a lesson for me: namely that we have been going about this debate in entirely the wrong way. The argument over sexual orientation is in itself unresolvable, given its basis, on both sides of the issue, in deeply held attitudes to scriptural interpretation, human sexuality, the family, the origins of sexual orientation and a thousand other things besides. So, if the argument is unresolvable, let's stop trying to resolve it. Let's work instead on something that is achievable: learning to live with difference. We have, after all, been living, in real terms, with this particular difference for many many years now.