Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Will the Anglican church in NZ protect its ministers?

I see that the report of the select committee on the proposed changes to the marriage laws is now available (here). Near the beginning it includes these words:

"We recommend an amendment to section 29 of the Marriage Act, which we discuss later in this commentary, to clarify beyond doubt that no celebrant who is a minister of religion recognised by a religious body enumerated in Schedule 1, and no celebrant who is a person nominated to solemnise a marriage by an approved organisation, is obliged to solemnise if solemnising that marriage would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body or the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of the
approved organisation."

Does this mean that if ACANZP changed its beliefs to incorporate the belief that marriage between two men or between two women was okay under God then I would be unable to refuse to solemnise a marriage between two men or between two women?

The only opt out envisaged in the report and its recommendations re revised wording of the Marriage Act is "if solemnising ... marriage would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body."

So, if our "body's" beliefs change, does that not mean there would be no opt out of a state enforced obligation to marry people against my religious beliefs?

Lawyers, bush or otherwise, please comment.

I hope our Ma Whaea Commission is thinking very carefully about where it might go with what it might recommend to our church!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


mike greenslade said...

The Anglican Church has a long tradition of protecting its ministers. It is really good at doing it.

The real question is if it will protect its maginalised.

Peter Carrell said...

Sometimes its ministers are its marginalised, Mike!

liturgy said...


In amongst the exclamation marks etc. etc. do I keep missing something?

Is there an intention to change the line in our canon "Any minister shall have full discretion to decline to conduct any marriage service."?

I keep returning to the propensity to bless heterosexual sequential monogamy without any issue or limitation, but blessing a committed same-sex couple seems to be fraught with the exclamation mark stuck on repeat.

Has the same question not been asked of those clergy who might hesitate to bless the seventh union of a heterosexual with all partners still living?

The answer is the same.



Andrei said...

The problem will be gone soon enough Peter, anyone who doesn't go with the program will be considered to be an unsuitable candidate for ordination in the Anglican Church.

So once the fuddy duddy traditionalists die off..........


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I am confident our church will retain the clause which gives a minister discretion etc.
My question does not concern the retention of the church's discretion but the matter of whether the state will permit a minister to exercise discretion without threat of sanction.
I am glad the exclamation marks caught your attention.
We blog writers do what we can to grab readership :)

Father Ron Smith said...

Panic mode again, Peter?

I have just placed on my web-site 'kiwianglo' the definitive statement on the legal implications for ministers of religion and church bodies, of the proposed new Same-Sex Marriage legislation in England and Wales; which surely will influence the instigation of a similar process of legislation in New Zealand.

You are highlighting in this post the fears of an anti-Same-Sex Marriage advocate doing his best to frighten people into thinking the the N.Z. Government may not follow the U.K. process of providing a guarantee of religious freedom to clergy and church bodies to either opt in or out of any legislation that would enable Same-Sex couples the right to be married in a civil ceremony.

The thought that ministers of religion in new Zealand might be forced to marry Same-Sex couples - when there is no Church/State legal relationship here is ridiculous.

The short answer to your fear is resoundingly NOOO! Negative!!

To raise the spectre of possible legal action against Kiwi clergy -
who feel themselves conscientiously unable to conduct Same-Sex Weddings - could be thought irresponsible.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I am not panicking; just feeling alarmed :)

I am responding to a report to our parliament about our proposed legislation, not to what the government of the UK is planning to do. Further, I note that the Select Committee think they have got the religious freedom bit sorted, but the actual words they have used raise questions.

It would be good if you responded to my point about the beliefs of 'religious bodies' and what that means if those beliefs change, rather than presume all is well because where England goes NZ will always follow!

Andrei said...

The opt out clause for ministers of religion means nothing anyway, after all we were solemnly told when civil unions were legislated for that marriage as we have received it would remain sacrosanct.

I didn't believe the politicians then, rightly as it turn out, and I don't now.

This law is BLASPHEMY pure and simple legislation enacted by a Godless parliament.

Bryden Black said...

Bosco, Bosco, Bosco - has that thrice naming got your attention ...!

Two wrongs do not make a right - right!

And that's all that can be said.

Father Ron Smith said...

Now, Peter, I'm beginning to get your drift. You are asking (substantively) what would happen to individual clergy in New Zealand if ACANZP were to accept a new doctrine of Marriage - to include Same-Sex Couples.

Well, I give you the same answer as Fr. Bosco, who reminded you that the re-marriage of divercees is legally permissable in New Zealand - by both Church and State; but NO priest has ever been disciplined for refusing to re-marry divorcees.

Do you find it so incredibly difficult to believe that the same freedom would be allowed to clergy, should the Church ever change its canons to include a service for Same-Sex Marriage?

Bryden Black said...

I think Ron that Peter is correct to address the strict wording as presented by this Committee. After all, it is the wording of legal documents that is uppermost when judges seek to apply/interpret that legislation. And nice distinctions such as "bodies" & "organizations" versus actual "celebrants" whose own consciences or "beliefs" might be involved is what is being suggested ...
Of course, what actually transpires in the House itself will determine the eventual wording.

malfalloon said...

Hi Peter,

I think your concerns are valid. The proposed bill that went to the select committee had the naive assumption that simply making the pronouns gender neutral was all that was needed to achieve their political objectives. But those simple changes render the bill incoherent in detail.

I see the same naive assumptions being made by those who accuse you of scaremongering. However, It is only in the detail that the inconsistencies of whose rights prevail over another's conscience becomes clear.

And as Christians, we face a legal tradition that has shown itself to be increasingly aggressive toward those whose conscience puts them at odds with the prevailing fashion.


Paul Powers said...

This isn't a legal opinion since I'm not licensed to practice in New Zealand, but clergy members who oppose same-sex unions or marriages even though their denomination permits it might still be protected by the first part of the statute:

"A marriage license shall authorize but not oblige any marriage celebrant to solemnise the marriage to which it relates."

Of course whether such a clergy member is subject to discipline by the denomination is an internal matter for the denomination, not the state.

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Paul; that does clarify ... nicely, in both directions.

liturgy said...

Bryden, of course two wrongs do not make a right, but that is by no means all that can be said!!!

The Human Rights Commission addressed Peter’s point in August 2012:

““Religious ministers have the right to refuse to marry anyone. That right will not change if the Bill becomes law,” said Chief Commissioner David Rutherford. “It will be up to any individual marriage celebrant, including those who are religious ministers, to decide whether or not they wish to marry a same-sex couple.”
This right already exists in section 29 of the Marriage Act which states that a marriage licence “shall authorise but not oblige” any marriage celebrant to solemnise that marriage.
This position also reflects international human rights law.”

Andrei has highlighted a far more interesting issue.

Please list here the names of currently ministering Anglican clergy in New Zealand who refuse to marry divorcees because of their reading of the plain teaching of the Bible.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I appreciate the personal and past assurance of David Rutherford to a degree. The degree stops where the actual wording of the legislation starts. (I do understand that waht was published yesterday was proposed wording and the legislative course of the process could lead to a different outcome).

I do not know how one would obtain names of ministers who have refused to celebrate the remarriage of divorcees. Anecdotally there are, to my knowledge, ministers who do refuse to undertake such remarriages.

And there is the interesting question of Roman priests who (I believe) routinely refuse to remarry divorcees (whose previous marriage has not been annulled) but are willing to remarry those who are divorced in the eyes of the state but have a status in the eyes of the Roman church of having had a previous marriage annulled). I am not absolutely sure whether I should have put the words 'divorcee', 'marriage' and 'annulled' in the previous sentences within scare marks to indicate the tricky matter of what those words actually mean in Roman contexts!!!

liturgy said...

Peter, are you suggesting that Section 29 of the Marriage Act may be revised in the current process?



Bryden Black said...

You are of course right Bosco: more could be said and has indeed been rightly said about divorce under quite specific circumstances and remarriage after also specific circumstances. We have flogged this dead horse repeatedly on ADU you and I. And we are in heated agreement that current practice is FAR TOO LOOSE.

But that wrong does not actually change the wrong and misguided current desire to 'marry' SS couples.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I am suggesting that enough anxiety exists about the changes for our parliamentarians to propose 'belt and braces' clarity about exercising discretion not to perform a ceremony, as indicated in the report in respect of the following proposal re S29 (I give it as copied from the PDF, "5A Section 29 amended (Licence authorizes but not obliges
marriage celebrant to solemnize marriage)
In section 29, insert as subsection (2): 20
“(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), no celebrant
who is a minister of religion recognised by a religious body
enumerated in Schedule 1, and no celebrant who is a person
nominated to solemnize marriages by an approved organisation, is obliged to solemnize a marriage if solemnizing that 25
marriage would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body or the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of the approved organisation.”").

My question is whether this wording actually provides 'belt and braces' clarity for Anglican ministers who face the possibility of our church changing its official beliefs on marriage.

Father Ron Smith said...

Whilst acknowledging that articles in 'The Press' may not always be an indicator of the actuality, I would commend the A7 page in today's issue which has the following comment:

"The Committee (considering the Same-Sex Marriage legislation) recommended an addition to the proposed legislation to make it
clear (that) celebrants and religious leaders would not have to conduct weddings for same-sex couples if that was against their beliefs"

Well here we are, Peter. Seemingly not only religious celebrants but also civil celebrants will not be
'forced' to conduct same sex weddings. What more could you want?
- except, of course to prevent the marriage of same-sex persons!

However, it would seem that the majority is in favour.

Father Ron Smith said...

"...clarity for Anglican ministers who face the possibility of our church changing its official beliefs on marriage."

Well, I suppose Peter, that in the end, each individual minister must answer to their own conscience in such a matter. If one felt that the Church was entering into dicy territory - re a new perspective of the admissability of same-sex to the culture of marriage; then I'm sure ministers would not be prevented from resigning their ministry if they felt the Church - from their perspective - were becoming apostate.

Interestingly, though, this hasn't happened - so far - with divorce. Some who obviously hate divorce are still being recruited into the ministry of our Church.

I guess a lot depends on the cost of one's own individual conscience. Or maybe whether one can submerge one's own conscience in favour of ministering in the Church. If I did not believe that the Church was folllowing the right path - or at least showing some promise of doing so; I would have to resign my ministry in it.

Peter Carrell said...

A lot will depend, Ron, on whether our church can be appropriately pluriform about what the right ways might constitute.

carl jacobs said...

If the state changes the definition of marriage such that civil marriage is no longer compatible with Christian marriage, then the wise minister will refuse to act as an agent of the state when solemnizing a marriage. Shake the dust from your sandals as a testimony against it.


MargaretG said...

I also worry about what will happen to the non-Church marriage celebrants. Will this become an occupation that no conservative christian can undertake, because they cannot decline to do same sex marriages? In England social work (particularly but not only adoption and marriage counselling) and the hospitality industry have both become occupations which lay christians who hold the traditional view of marriage can no longer follow with good conscience, is marriage celebrants going to go the same way here?


Peter Carrell said...

I think you are right, Margaret!

liturgy said...

Yes, Peter, I am now in agreement about the confusion that the amendment you quote seems to have. From your quote it appears to speak of "obliged to solemnize a marriage". My reading of current Section 29 would be that no one (ordained or lay) is "obliged to solemnize a marriage". I have never received the impression that the intention is that this principle be altered - so my reaction to this is that it just appears very badly worded & the words need to reflect the intention. I think it is at the parliamentary rather than the church commission that this clarifying work is best done. The addition you quote appears to contradict the previous line.



Bryden Black said...

What amazes me Peter is that it took so long for some readers of this blog t get the basic (nice!) legal distinctions being alluded to: between those beliefs of "bodies" and"organizations" and those of individual celebrants!!

This failure of one's close reading abilities colours now in my mind quite a range of wider topics perhaps and folks' inabilities t actually read mark learn and inwardly digest. This is not ad hominem; it has to do with reality ...

liturgy said...


I obviously lack Bryden’s erudition and eloquence so cannot respond to his comment at his level, but I cannot but take his comment other than that it directly refers to me.

Yes, I have been extremely busy recently – more than usual, with one of my comments following a 14 hour day; and am involved in some highly stressful emotional contexts so that I have not given my comments the sort of doctoral quality that is evidently expected. From some (but only some - there are some comments on this site that do not get this type of response). By some. Furthermore, this topic does not focus my attention in the way that it does others.

I had actually been of a mind not to participate, and clearly made an error of judgment in once again joining a discussion here. That acknowledgement of my agreement with Peter, and recognition that I think the recommendation could be improved on the Second Reading, is greeted with a declaration of the general failure of my ability, reinforces once more my lack of wisdom in participating in discussions here.

If questioning a person’s ability rather than discussing responses case by case, issue by issue, is not ad hominem – then I clearly have not read the definition of ad hominem closely enough either.

But wait. That is by no means all that can be said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The basic (nice!) legal distinctions being alluded to: between those beliefs of "bodies" and"organizations" and those of individual celebrants is only one close reading of the situation. MargaretG has picked up another reading, and Peter, presumably joining me in the failure of my close reading abilities and hence colouring, in a non-ad-hominem way, quite a range of his wider topics, supports her.

If we can step back a moment from our self-absorbed, narrow-minded, fixation on our religious "bodies" and"organizations" to the general principle of the current Section 29, its evident intention, the intention of the revision, and the assurances of the Human Rights Commission, then could we not, as Christians, be advocating for wording assuring the rights of any marriage celebrant to retain the current full discretion to decline to conduct the wedding ceremony of any couple?

Whatever response there is to my advocating a far more consensus approach to working across different perspectives at the political level to produce there something that does not lead to a lessening of the rights of the current Section 29, I hope that my ongoing busyness and stresses do not blind my wisdom in taking greater care in participating here in the future.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I didn't ' understand Bryden's comment to be referring to one person, but I may have got that wrong.

Agreed, there is a better way to assure discretion than the currently proposed wording.

To other commenters: I may not have Internet access for a while so be patient, please, if your comment is not published!

Father Ron Smith said...

What Bosco said! Bravo, Bosco!

(Dear Ed. Sorry, but I'm not really scholastically equipped to enlarge on my reception of Bosco's response to the more scholarly contributors here.
Am taking Riting 101 to try to improve my contributions.)

Bryden Black said...

Peter is correct Bosco. My last comment is aimed generally. Yet if the cap fits, by all means wear it. The "reality" has to do of course with the sheer meaning of the proposed wording. Which therefore is not per se "ad hominem" but is the case (until 'interpreted' by their lordships of the court!).

Sorry t hear you have been so hectic: I know t feeling ...

liturgy said...

Thanks, Bryden. Happy to wear at least part of the cap as I indicated. Ultimately, I guess I have to prefer the stress of my hecticness due to multiple ministry demands of growth, complexity, and a variety of contexts, than the stress that some of our colleagues might be feeling as their context shrinks.


MichaelA said...

"Do you find it so incredibly difficult to believe that the same freedom would be allowed to clergy, should the Church ever change its canons to include a service for Same-Sex Marriage?"

Given the intolerant attitudes shown by liberals once they came to power in the Episcopal Church of USA, and the intolerant attitudes expressed by liberals who are not quite in power yet in Church of England, you should find it difficult to believe!