In the just published Easter print edition of Taonga I write these words in respect of how conservatives might respond to changes which may take place in our church re same sex relationships:
"I think we remain a church where, depending on decisions made in the future, we could see some conservatives leave, some remain providing there are new episcopal arrangements, and some remain whatever happens." [p. 15]
These words along with some similar sentiments from Bishop Richard Ellena (Nelson) re alternative episcopal arrangements reported on p. 11 have been noted in a comment made on ADU earlier today.
Certain thoughts spring to my mind in consequence.
(1) Christ calls the church to unity, ut unim sint (John 17).
(2) Responding to this call is difficult, and always had been (Acts 6, 10-11 etc).
(3) Many questions arise: what is the basis of our unity? What happens if that basis fractures?
(4) Generally the Christian experience of unity is the experience of unity-in-diversity, so what is the nature of our diversity, are there limits to it, and so forth?
(5) Various pragmatic moves have been made through the centuries in order to secure unity (or as much unity as possible under the circumstances): here an agreement to a creed, there an agreement to a canon of sacred writings, over there a commitment to a particular bishop (Rome?) or to no single bishop (Eastern Orthodoxy) or to the congregation etc.
(6) Our church, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia has found ways to forge a form of unity in the fires of diversity, most especially in securing a novel form of episcopacy in which a single geographic territory can be double or even multiple episcopal territory, so we have two bishops based in Christchurch.
If our diversity over sexuality is to be held together in one church, how is that to be so?
I would prefer it to not lead to new episcopal arrangements. But there is no significant reason I can think of why it should not lead to new arrangements.
A. We have already allowed to ourselves the possibility that significant diversity (cultural) should lead to such arrangements. Why not significant theological diversity leading in a similar direction?
B. If it is charged that it is 'novel' to head down this route, why would that be a problem? After all, the blessing of same sex relationships after a manner formally approved by General Synod would be a novel thing. I know of no one who is not conservative who is saying that we should not do that novel thing because it is novel! If one novel thing, why not two?
But, to reiterate, my fervent prayer and wish for our church is that we find a way forward which does not involve new episcopal arrangements, which maintains our unity, which honours Christ's wish that we be united and is prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain the unity we claim each week in the eucharist that we are committed to maintaining!