[POSTSCRIPT: ++Justin makes important points in this interview. Apropos of the last part of the post below, conservative Christians need (or, I need) to work out how we uphold the doctrine of marriage without doing harm to people in our society, especially in our churches who constantly are liable to exclusion, vilification and to thoughts of self-harm as a way out of ostracism. Conservative Christianity is distancing itself from the general secular proposal of Western society to open marriage equally to all in order to complete a (so to speak) grand project of normalisation. But in doing so conservative Christianity appears generally to be failing to offer a grand proposal for how we include gays and lesbians in everyday society. Increasingly I find comments here from conservatives to presume the world is made of 'us' and 'them' as though the 'them' are not the sons and daughters of loving parents, or the sisters and brothers of caring people, or the friends of people who want to continue to be their friends. Indeed, the 'them' might be our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends. If we cannot find a bridge between the 'us' and 'them' we are guilty of fostering a ghettoization of the 'them'. ++Justin is clearly working on the bridge.]
There are three groups in our Anglican church on the matter of same sex relationships. (In no particular order of merit) group one cannot bless what God does not bless, that is neither agrees with the blessing of same-sex partnerships nor with gay marriage. (I distinguish here between the former as something the church might promote without change to its doctrine of marriage and the latter as involving a change to its doctrine of marriage, specifically the understanding that marriage involves a man and a woman). Group two can bless a same-sex partnership but cannot agree to change to the doctrine of marriage. As some in my hearing would say, marriage is different to a same-sex partnership. Group three will bless same-sex partnerships, supports gay marriage including change to our doctrine of marriage.
Currently our church is in a process of considering its theology of marriage, including setting up a doctrinal commission on the matter. As an aside, a Theology House contribution to the exploration of the theology of marriage will be a conference here in Christchurch 16-17 August, more details later. But is this exploration in vain because our parliament has essentially decided for us that there will be no change to our doctrine on marriage?
Let me explain. I will try to be as clear as possible!
(1) Previously I have pointed out that the select committee on the bill on gay marriage before parliament (which is moving ahead) has recommended a clause which permits ministers to refuse to perform a gay marriage ceremony, without fear of being taken to court for discrimination, where the beliefs of the religion to which the minister belongs do not accept gay marriage.
(2) This recommendation only protects ministers (or celebrants) belonging to such an organisation but not ministers or celebrants who do not belong to such an organisation, no matter what their beliefs. This is well addressed on M and M. A lay Catholic celebrant may believe the same things about gay marriage as a Catholic priest but only the latter is protected by the legislation as the former would be operating as an individual celebrant not as a celebrant belonging to an organisation.
(3) Consequently, once the legislation has completed all its legislative stages, it will mean that any church which changes its beliefs on marriage to include acceptance of gay marriage, will expose its ministers who disagree to the possibility of being taken to court.
(4) In the case of our Anglican church, noting my division of the church into three groups, two of which oppose gay marriage, this would expose somewhere between 40 and 70% of its ministers to the potential for prosecution.
(5) I cannot see our General Synod making a decision with such effect on the ministers of our church. (Or, in other words, even if the mind of General synod were leaning towards embracing change to our doctrine of marriage, it would not give expression to that because of the turmoil it would create for the ministers licensed under its authority in relation to the civil Marriage Act of NZ).
(6) We will not change our doctrine of marriage (though we may authorise blessings of same-sex partnerships).
(7) the commission on the blessing of same-sex partnerships which seems to also have a brief to look at the doctrine of marriage, if it is purposed to support reform of the latter, may be a waste of time of otherwise busy people.
Parliament has painted our church into a corner!!
POSTSCRIPT. I acknowledge that these matters are not easy. To analyse as I have done above could be construed as adding to the 'hate' which envelopes gay and lesbian people today. Derek Flood makes a pertinent point when he notes that Jesus made no contribution to increasing hatred of people, neither one hating another, nor someone hating themselves.
"Regardless of where we stand on the rightness or the wrongness of being gay, none of that matters much when people are dying [through suicide]. We can argue over what the Bible says about homosexuality, but one thing is utterly clear: Jesus clearly teaches us to love people, not to hate them, not to make them feel hated, and not to stand by while that is happening. From the perspective of the New Testament there simply is no room for doubt on this. We know exactly where Jesus stands. He stands on the side of the least, the condemned, the vulnerable. ...
What this all comes down to is we, as Christians, acting like Jesus. It's about discerning what Jesus would want us to do right now, and the answer is clear: We need to change our priorities and focus on the critical issue of communicating love and acceptance to people -- especially the very people our society so often ostracizes, condemns and rejects. Because that is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus was known for hanging out with "sinners" and was frequently accused of being a sinner himself because of it. But that did not stop him because he cared more about those people than he cared about being judged.
So let's stand alongside of LGBT individuals. Let's let them know they are loved, they are welcomed, they are not alone. I think when we do, we will find that Jesus has been there with them for a long time now. It's time we joined him."