I am deeply perturbed by our General Synod agreeing to even explore the possibility of tino rangatiratanga being exercised by Tikanga Maori over the assets of the St John's College Trust Board. The story is here and the text of the motion is here. Is the cart breaking away from the horse because someone has rammed a shaft into its cartwheel and stopped it in its tracks?
My perturbation is not about the assets and/or funds involved. There is no particular reason why Maori should not have more funds available for their work. Pakeha dioceses keep increasing the funds available for their work (a bequest here, sale of a property there, it all adds up).
No, my restlessness is about whether we are a Three Tikanga Church or not. That is, are we a church bound constitutionally to doing certain kinds of business in a threefold tikanga way or not? The exercise of tino rangatiratanga, that is, the singular sovereignty of one tikanga, is appropriate within the life of each separate tikanga (and, thus, is already in play). But in matters which we have been working together on as three tikanga, tino rangatiratanga cuts across the very constitutional principle which binds us together.
It is quite extraordinary that General Synod itself has entertained the notion that tino rangatiratanga may find its way into the taonga (the treasure which is St John's College and its Trust) which is common to us all. Essentially General Synod has lost the plot of our common life. The purpose for which General Synod exists is to govern and safeguard that common life. How could our representatives shaft the Three Tikanga character of our church? It beggars belief that no one stood up to Professor Winiata and called him out for the pathway he is leading our church onwards to (whether intentionally or unintentionally): division between Tikanga Maori and the remainder of the Anglican Church in these islands.
Again, to be clear, leaving our church as a whole Tikanga, may be an option which needs to be exercised by Tikanga Maori in order for the current restlessness of Maori leaders to be given a chance to settle into contentment. But why would General Synod which is bound to uphold the constitution of our church assist in this process unless it was by way of a review of our constitution? General Synod should not be entertaining motions which surreptitiously undermine the constitutional life of our church.
Last week I had some good responses to some decisions GS made. On slower and longer reflection I think GS overall in its 2012 meeting has let this church down. If we cannot have a reasonable expectation that GS will act in accordance with our constitution, what hope do we have for the functional future of our church?
Note in the Taonga report these words about Archbishop David Moxon's response:
"And this morning Archbishop David Moxon, the senior bishop of the New Zealand dioceses, described the resolution as a “landmark decision in the history of this church”.
It was a resolution, he said, “which honours our partnership in terms of the treaty and the church,” and he predicted it would have “huge, long-term implications.”"
On the one hand no truer or more ironical words are spoken about this situation than when he talks 'landmark' and 'huge ... implications'. On the other hand there is no mention of our constitution. Has the Treaty of Waitangi trumped it?
I think our church is in for a big shake up in the next few years. But whether we shake ourselves into separation or into renewed communion is unknown. We need to get our heads around what our constitution says. For instance,
"AND WHEREAS (2) the Church
(a) is ONE because it is one body, under one head, Jesus Christ,
(b) is HOLY because the Holy Spirit dwells in its members and guides it in mission,
(c) is CATHOLIC because it seeks to proclaim the whole faith to all people to the end of time and
(d) is APOSTOLIC because it presents the faith of the apostles and is sent to carry Christ's mission to all the world;"
I fail to see how the adoption of tino rangatiratanga into the common life of our church is consistent with our constitution which offers a straightforward account of orthodox ecclesiology: one, holy, catholic, apostolic church (though see below re whether our constitution is fully coherent with that orthodoxy). The determining factors in our common life, in other words, are to be our unity under the one Lord Jesus Christ, bound together by one Holy Spirit dwelling in our midst, united in proclaiming one gospel to all in a continuation of the apostolic faith and mission.
The story of the beginning of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, as told in Luke-Acts, offers a clear paradigm for a church which is a unity-in-diversity of different peoples and cultures. Luke repeatedly offers instances of potential difference and division in the church being healed and held together through the work of the Holy Spirit guiding the apostles to make decisions as a united conciliar body (especially Acts 6 and 15) and to undertake work which joins together what is happening in (say) Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 11, 13) or between the missions to the Jews and to the Gentiles (Acts 15). The tino rangatiratanga of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church is the Lord Jesus Christ's sovereignty working through the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father.
If any General Synod members reading here would care to comment, it would be of great interest to know whether the debate about tino rangatiratanga included any theological reflection on the common life of our church under the Lord Jesus Christ or on the application of our constitution to that common life as the life of the one Holy Spirit dwelling in our midst.
Incidentally, for the rocket scientists reading here who are inclined to ask whether the Three Tikanga character of our church is itself completely coherent with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, I do not think our current constitution is completely coherent with orthodox ecclesiology. But I accept it is a necessary step in our historical development as a church in these islands embedded as it is in the greater historical narrative of migration, colonisation, loss of mana and whenua (land), and evolution of sovereignty in respect of the Crown - a provisional chapter in our history, if you like. The next chapter should be a new way of being one church instead of being three often separated tikanga bound by one constitution. A chapter which could include the separation of Polynesia to be its own church in its own islands, as well as a new way of being Maori and Pakeha partners in a single church with single regional synods and one General Synod (at each level incorporating houses of Maori and Pakeha), driven forward by the rangatiratanga of Christ.
However the next chapter may be the dissolution of our church within these islands of Aotearoa. It is not too late, General Synod has the next two years to reconsider whether it has acted in accordance with the constitution of our church or not.