The brewing storm is going to occur over what we decide in the future as a way forward to avoid going to court, whether that court is our civil Human Rights Tribunal or a church tribunal to which a bishop is taken for not observing the standard of chasteness when ordaining someone or making an appointment of an ordained person.
There was quite a lot of chatter last week in and around elements in the case. I cite but two examples of what I have observed on websites, Facebook and Twitter:
This comment made on Taonga, for instance:
"If the canon says they cannot permit people entering into ordination into the priesthood because they are living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Well that accounts for half of the Anglican Clergy in Aotearoa NZ with all 3 tikanga. I know of many clergy living in sexual relationships outside of marriage."
If true this is outrageous. If not true this is either daft (on a generous reading) or libelous against the vast majority of clergy not living in sexual relationships outside of marriage.
Or consider Brian Dawson (a senior priest in our church, Vicar of St Peter's Willis St, Wellington) in a 6 May 2013 essay:
"The real problem for the bishop will be consistency. There are canons / rules within the Church that are ignored on a daily basis, so what makes this one different? It would also be naiive in the extreme to imagine every unmarried candidate for ordination, whether gay or straight, is celibate. There are many, many, many situations where this hasn’t been the case, and many where it still isn’t. Any student at St John’s Theological College in Auckland (our national seminary) knows that the single students apartments aren’t always occupied by just one person and more than one vicarage has been the scene of pre, post and extra marital sex. People in sexually active relationships outside of marriage have been involved in all stages of the ordination process, so any bishop who says “it just can’t happen” is likely to be faced with numerous examples of where it has. But then, who cares?"
Again, let's be blunt: if what Brian says here is true, then this is outrageous. We are, according to this summary report, perceived to be a church with lax sexual discipline in which bishops either avoid imposing discipline or feel powerless to impose it.
Whether or not perception equates to or even approximates to reality - in my view we are a much better church than the comments above suggest - the fact is that such chatter reminds us that there are several matters of significant division between us in the brewing of a perfect storm.
(1) We are a church in which there is a large gaping division between those who view lax sexual discipline as a matter about which little can be done and those who view lax sexual discipline as a matter which we ought to do something about.
(2) We are a church in which some are attempting to make the argument against changing our current 'working' definition of chasteness (in sum: no sex outside of marriage) with serious engagement in biblical hermeneutics while others are attempting to make the argument for changing that definition on the basis that sex outside of marriage is already a common feature of our church's life.
(3) On the specific matter of chasteness being the 'right ordering of sexual relationships' (D 18.104.22.168) we are a church which includes those who feel bound to determine that right ordering with respect to Scripture and tradition and those who feel bound to determine that right ordering with respect to reason and experience.
Here is the thing about Anglican divisions in general terms. They do not necessarily spell the end of the church as we know it. They may be elements only in brewing a storm or two not the perfect storm. We are a church which has been for a long time now a kind of coalition in which different divided parties have managed to live with divisions while continuing to pursue different visions for how the church should be, what gospel should be preached and what missional activity is consistent with that preaching.
But I am proposing that we are brewing the perfect storm through the kind of week we had last week, along with the gathering phalanx of commissions looking into this or that aspect of blessings of same sex partnerships, marriage and related matters.
I am not sure when I can get back to this topic with part (2). An unusual and potentially over busy week lies before me ...