Monday, September 9, 2013

Marriage is marriage, say Auckland laity

Our Christchurch Diocesan synod is over. A priority to participate in a school reunion event means that I was not present for the wrap up of the debate on my motion on marriage/General Synod, so I need to leave to a later post the wording we agreed to. Nevertheless some interesting news on marriage in our church comes out of Auckland Diocese.

Here is the Taonga report in full:

"Auckland Diocese has rejected a motion pressing for progress towards gay marriage, despite the two bishops voting for it.
The motion was debated at this weekend's diocesan synod.
While largely aspirational in nature, the motion sought both legal and liturgical progress on same-sex marriage.
It failed to reach a majority among the laity and thus failed to pass.
The voting was:
Bishops 2 for, 0 against; clergy 80 for, 44 against, 4 abstentions; and laity 72 for, 65 against, 8 abstentions.
A second motion in effect was an endorsement of liturgical blessings for same-gender couples.
It asked for work to be done on developing services for the blessing of same-sex relationships, to be taken to General Synod/te Hinota Whanui. 
This motion passed comfortably in all three houses:
Clergy 91 for; 36 against; laity 104 for; 49 against; and the bishops assented.
The difference in voting seemed to reflect the perception that the word “marriage” is sacrosanct.
Any definitive change will require related motions to be passed at General Synod in May next year."

This is a very interesting outcome in a diocese with a clear, trending liberal/progressive lean on these matters, considering recent synodical decisions.

1. It supports a line being pursued by some in discussions here: marriage is marriage but blessing of same sex (or, if you prefer, same gender) partnerships is another matter. Anecdotally I could take you to conversations I have had with self-declared liberals who think similarly to some conservatives on this distinction.

2. It offers a powerful challenge to those inclined to use the label 'homophobic' for resisters to changing the theological definition of marriage. In the mighty Diocese of Auckland that label would be applied to over a third of its clergy members of synod and nearly half of its lay members of synod. Still, don't let numbers deter you if you wish to so label ... after all, you know the truth and its frees you to cast aspersions on whom you will.

Additional comment (at 11.48 am Monday): I have just posted a (just discovered) comment from Edward Prebble (first of the comments below) about a third motion put to the synod, precisely on the topic of homophobia. Please read his comment below.

3. Noting the consistent voting of its two bishops, it raises the question whether Auckland should have a third bishop to reflect the conservative third of its synod :)

I have yet to come back to offer my own comment on Edward Prebble's proposal re future arrangements in our church ...

But the fourth and perhaps most important observation I offer here is the thought that this turn of events in the Auckland synod may offer a clue as to where GS 2014 should head if it has any interest in holding our church together.

4. Could GS 2014 offer an olive branch to all by resolutely leaving our doctrine of marriage alone but permitting and encouraging work to be done on a liturgy for the blessing of a relationship between two people of the same gender?

Postscript: I distinguish between the offering of such an olive branch and the reception of such an olive branch. I think that grace requires we offer olive branches to all. Whether all are willing to receive olive branches is another matter.

37 comments:

Dr Edward Prebble said...

Hello Peter
Yes, I am awaiting your substantive response to my posting, which was itself offered as a sort of olive branch. But here, let me, as a member of Synod in the "Great diocese of Auckland" (thank-you for that recognition) let me comment on one aspect of our proceedings that you do not comment on. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume you did not know about it.

There were in fact three motions on this subject. The one I was most involved in specifically addressed the question of accusations of homophobia. After a fulsome debate, and many amendments, the synod unanimously approved a text recognising that all sides of this debate - and there are more than two - are equally motivated by the desire to follow scripture and be true to the gospel (or at least that in the context of debate, we should assume this to be so. There was a very strong mood of mutual respect in all three the debates. No person present was accused of homophobia.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, considering the fact that conservative opposition to Same-Sex Marriage is largely based on an admitted opposition to Same-Sex relationships at any level; it does seem odd that - in order to avoid any 'contamination' - of the Heterosexual Marriage status quo - dissenters on Same Sex Marriage are even prepared to accept the possibility of Same-Sex Blessing.

Most opposition to homosexual people on your web-site is based on a fundamental denial of the fact that homosexual people are created, not perversely preferring to be Gay

I, personally, would prefer the Church to offer Same-Sex Blessings; rather than to deny the fact that many Christian LGBT people need the Church to recognise their intention for monogamously intentional and faithful relationship.

After all, this is what society had hoped for with heterosexual relationship (committed, faithful, legal Marriage); which couplings seem, in the present climate, to do pretty well without either State or Church 'blessing'.

The Auckland Diocesan Vote would seem to tell us that the majority of Church members would actually approve of Same-Sex Marriage - despite your seeming reluctance to admit that this is so.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am prepared to publish your views here on the basis that I can straightaway say that in your first two paragraphs you are both wrong and uncharitable to make such a sweeping and general judgment about commenters here, perhaps even about my own views.

I am not at all reluctant to admit that the majority of our church members likely approve Same-Sex Marriage. What I am trying to draw attention to is the size of the minority who likely do not so approve. If in the Auckland diocese such a sizeable minority exists, it behoves us as a church to think carefully and creatively about how we live with two such sizeable 'blocs'.

Chris Darnell said...

As I commented on the Taonga article, I am disappointed by the tone of the article, talking about the diocese "stalling" against "progress".

Surely our denominational media can be a little more careful in their reporting of this contentious issue?

Andrei said...

Most opposition to homosexual people on your web-site is based on a fundamental denial of the fact that homosexual people are created, not perversely preferring to be Gay

The relationships human adults form with each other is none of our business Fr Ron.

There is however one adult human relationship that is and that is the procreative relationship between a man and a woman and the reason why we have an interest in this is because of the children who result from it and their welfare. This is why God gave us marriage.

As for a liturgical rite for same sex blessings, the horse has bolted, it will be deemed to be marriage simply because it will be registered as such by the State.

Sophistry and word games as a compromise just wont hold water

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
I suggest you take up the quality of the reporting of such motions with the Media Officer of the Auckland Synod. That person, surely, is responsible for what disseminates from the Synod?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Edward
I am working on the basis of the Taonga report (which does not report the third motion you mention) so it is very good to hear about the third motion. (I will make a comment within my post about that).

carl jacobs said...

Peter

It's not a compromise. The name applied to the relationship is not relevant. Distinctions in Liturgy do not address the fundamental problem. Any blessing of an explicitly homosexual relationship removes homosexuality from the category of sin. The church manifestly cannot condemn what it blesses.

All of these 'compromises' all revolve around the same basic trade.

1. The church legitimizes homosexual relationships, and by implication changes both its teaching and practice.

2. Those who dissent are free to disagree and in some sense opt out.

That trade doesn't work. It is a non-negotiable position of my side that the teaching and practice of the church agree with us. We aren't willing to be content with an expression of private disagreement.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
The distinctions you say do not matter, do not matter to you. They may matter to others, including voting members of our synod.

There are various ways to look at 'compromise' possibilities, especially in the life of my Anglican church which lives with compromises ...

One such way is whether two integrities can be held together (as we kind of do here with our three tikanga structure).

Shawn Herles said...

There is no opposition to "homosexual" people on this site by any posters. The opposition is to a practice, not a person, regardless of how that practice is formed. Nor is opposition to changing the sacrament of marriage merely a "conservative" issue. As Peter rightly points out some self-identified liberals are also opposed.

Putting people in simplistic boxes, especially inaccurate ones, does not help the debate.

Bishop Victoria is right. We should not even be voting on this yet. We have not remotely done the theological work at a deep and serious issue to possibly come to decision one way or another.

I would also note that companionship blessings open to all (inclusive of but not limited to those who identify as homosexual) are not the same thing as the sacrament of marriage. It is reasonable to be in favour of the former and opposed to changing the latter.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Chris!

I don't bother reading Taonga at all. It's clear liberal-left bias on a range of issues makes wading through it pointless to me.

Shawn Herles said...

Contra Ron's odd claim, the vote clearly shows a majority against changing the traditional and Biblical understanding of the sacrament of marriage.

Bruce Richardson said...

The other interesting feature about the Auckland Synod's debate is that issues surrounding our church's constitution were raised. It appears that any change to the definition of marriage would be prevented, at this stage, by the fundamental provisions of the constitution. This could also be the case for any liturgy for blessing same sex relationships. This does not mean that change is impossible, but it would have to begin by making those fundamental provisions "non-fundamental". Which of course raises a whole lot of other issues.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I am prepared to publish your "opinion" about Taonga, see above; but I want to identify it as an opinion. I fail to see how you can establish a clear left/liberal bias etc, given the range of articles published on it.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

You are playing a game of 'inside baseball.' You are very concerned about Synod votes and compromises between those who attend such things. Yes, I have no doubt that there are many people among such a grouping who would consider these distinctions very important. These people have a strong vested interest in institutional unity. But how are they going to carry the laity along with them?

The most important outcome of such a compromise will not be the Synod vote. It will be the beginning of quiet membership loss. People will get fed up, walk out the door and never come back. They won't say anything. They will just leave. These are the people who won't make fine distinctions between blessing and marriage. They will say "This church is countenancing sin and I will have no part in it."

This dynamic has two important effects. It destabilizes churches which means rectors start to consider seriously the shape of their future in this new religious environment. It also makes the progressive agenda that much easier to implement. Every conservative loss makes the church that much more liberal which in turn increases the conservative loss rate. This is the universal experience of churches with liberal leadership attempting to push their church in a liberal direction.

You need to address the fundamental problem. Only one side can have its position reflected in the teaching and practice of the church. The only thing that matters in the debate is which side receives this status. That side wins by definition. You are attempting to find some way to change teaching and practice while devaluing it but only for conservatives. That cannot be done.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
You may be right.
On one matter I would like to assure you: I do not think our synods are out of kilter with the parishioners in the pews.

Bruce Richardson said...

Hi Peter,

I am not sure I entirely agree with you here. The conservative parishes in Auckland, which are in the main, the larger ones, are rather underrepresented at synod. While I don't think this would change markedly the way synod has voted on this issue I think it would have made the vote a bit closer, particularly in the house of laity.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bruce,

I could be wrong! What I am suggesting is that, when all is said and done, our synods are representative.

Now the issue of under-representation of larger parishes is an issue indeed for synods (e.g. when it comes to setting diocesan quotas ... no taxation without representation ...). But my sense of what is going on in the pews, even of larger parishes, re human sexuality, is that there are a variety of views ... so would a larger parish with more lay reps at synod necessarily produce more votes for one side of an issue? Possibly; but possibly not, as those extra reps might themselves vote diversely.

Bruce Richardson said...

Hi Peter,

I am not so sure, speaking to colleagues in larger parishes up here. There is only one real way to tell and that is to hold a referendum!

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

Well that's nice of you, given that it contained no ad hominem. I see no reason why you might br hesitant in the first place. But then I have given up attempting to understand your moderation policy.

On political and economic issues, or "social justice" issues, there is no range at all. The left wing bias is clear, and on Church issues there may be more range, but not that much more. I establish this by simply reading it, which I did a great deal while at St Johns, before deciding it was a waste of time.

Shawn Herles said...

Anyway, getting off topic. I agree that a straight out referendum would be useful. I'm not remotely convinced that our leadership and the Anglican commissions are representative (how many National/Act people are employed by the Social Justice Commission), and having attended long term several large Anglican evangelical churches I have not seen any evidence of "variety", more like a few exceptions to the rule. When the Bishops released a press statement after the anti-terror raids against people training for civil war, and accused non-Maori of being Egyptian slaveholders, how representative was that?

But a straight out one person one vote system or referendum will not be allowed any time soon because the minority liberal wing would lose every time.

The status quo was designed to protect liberal hegemony, not provide genuine representation.

Anonymous said...

Shawn writes: "The status quo was designed to protect liberal hegemony, not provide genuine representation."

Perhaps it wasn't "designed" to do that, but that's what it does. Liberals are much better political animals than conservatives, who prefer to spend their time in 'churchy' things like prayer meetings, Bible study or evangelism. A system that represents people according to churches rather than actual numbers will always be weighted in favour of the smaller and more numerous liberal catholic congregations. That's how conservatives got out-maneuvered in Tec, and how southern liberal catholics have a hegemony in the Church of Ireland - notwithstanding the numerical strength of that church being in the more evangelical north.

Martinos Demosthenes

Shawn Herles said...

Yes Martin, "designed" was not a well chosen word. I meant that the status quo system supports Liberal minority hegemony, though was probably designed or instituted at a time when hardcore Liberalism was barely, if at all, an issue.

carl jacobs said...

About the resolutions on 'homophobia.' It should surprise not at all that such agreeable statements should be made at this time. Comity rules the day with talk of two integrities. Both sides have an interest in maintaining respect. But wait ten years. Wait until homosexuality is firmly established in the church leadership. Then see how these resolutions would change.

The experience with WO is indeed instructive.

carl

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Carl,

while I understand the pov your coming from, given the situation in TEC, I am nevertheless inclined to agree with Peter that the situation in New Zealand is not identical, that there is more, if not far more, of a willingness to preserve unity, and to compromise (leaving aside for the moment whether compromise is a good thing or not)and find a way for both sides to coexist.

There are intransigent hardcore Liberals and Conservatives on both sides, but they are a minority, even taken together.

And personally, I think the time frame issue actually works in favour of those wanting to preserve the sacrament of marriage as is. Hardcore Liberalism is very much on the wane here.

Hi Peter,

Waking up this chilly morn, and checking in here, I realise that my comment above ("That was nice of you") may have sounded snarky, when it was supposed to be tongue in cheek and friendly. Just wanted to be clear about that.

Blessings all.

Peter Carrell said...

No problem, Shawn!

Father Ron Smith said...

"That trade doesn't work. It is a non-negotiable position of my side that the teaching and practice of the church agree with us. We aren't willing to be content with an expression of private disagreement."

- carl jacobs -

Such a 'trade' may well not work for (say) a conservative ex-military man in North Carolina; but ACANZP is almost exempt from the possibility of a 'military takeover' from either side of the debates.

Here in Aotearoa/New Zealand we do not have the same combative mentality in the Church that one understands is 'de rigueur' in the Southern States of the U.S. of A. We do not have the same Good Ol' Boy constituency. Our Church has changed in several areas of what might once have been considered dogmatic absolutism - into a more eirenic understanding of the fact that "God so loved the world...".

Shawn Herles said...

As someone born in the US South I find Ron's remarks extremely offensive and nothing more than bigoted ignorance.

There is instransigence on both sides of the debate in Rhe US, and a great deal of it comes from the side Ron supports, and from the Northeast of the US.

My father, who I recently buried, was a Southerner and a military man, and had far more tolerance and openness than Mr Smith.

That post was beyond the pale, extremely hateful, and should not have passed moderation.

carl jacobs said...

FRS

I don't live in North Carolina. I don't live in the Southern United States. To suggest by inference that I am a 'Good Old Boy' displays a staggering degree of ignorance both of me and of the United States. If you want to insert your personal prejudices into the argument, you'll have to do better than that.

carl

For the record, Peter, I was not offended by FRSs post. He isn't capable of offending me. Besides which, I think that posts such as his last post are (shall we say) useful. Please don't rebuke him on my account.

Shawn Herles said...

Well I tried, but if ad hominem and bigotry filled rants like Ron's last post are getting through moderation then it is not good for my spiritual health to post here. I keep hoping things will improve, but sadly that hope seems to be in vain. I cannot post here until Ron is permanently banned.

carl jacobs said...

Shawn

I think you are underestimating the tenacity of liberal leadership in its effort to work its will. I also think you are assuming that the desire for unity will remain unchanged by the impact of that effort. A commitment to unity will not long survive in the presence of a challenge to non-negotiable principle.

Ultimately, these two different religions must separate. My argument is dependent upon the observation that liberals are not dislodged from positions of power once those positions are achieved. That means conservatives will be the ones departing. Everything changes if you can demonstrate some way of removing liberals from power.

I will say however that all this talk of compromise will tend to secure liberals in power. If you are really serious about turning them out, then stop giving them money. That's the most effective weapon you have at your disposal.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn and Carl
I am suitably chastened, and apologise for letting that comment through from Ron.

Hi Ron,
I will not post any further comments from you for seven days from now. I make this temporary ban as a sign of good will to those whom you offend and as a signal to you that if you wish to be welcome to post here you need to stop make remarks about other people rather than about the issues.

It is not fair on me as much as anyone else here that I have to vet your posts for the ad hominem a that you so adroitly slip into them.

carl jacobs said...

Shawn

If I may be so bold. You need to adjust your perspective on FRSs posts. Consider.

1. A post like that doesn't do damage to you. So he insults you. So what? It's meaningless so long as you refuse to give it meaning.

2. A post like that does damage to him. In the first place, he is not offering substance when he is going on about North Carolina. He is playing a transparently obvious 'guilt by association' fallacy. In the second place, your reader will notice what he is doing. He is actually making your life easier by tossing around these meaningless insults. It demonstrates he has nothing of substance to offer.

This is why I said I considered these posts useful. To use a soccer analogy, he is scoring an own goal when he post like that. So don't get mad. Just trust your reader, chuckle, and repeat to yourself a form of that famous Reaganism 'There you go again, Ron.' Then point out his logical flaw with calmness and good humor.

You will save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress. I guarantee it. I learned this lesson the hard way.

carl

Shawn Herles said...

Thankyou Peter. For me though I think it best to stay away as wading through Ron's posts just brings out old ways of thinking and responding that I would like to leave behind. I need more time to allow God to work in me, and would prefer not participating in any forum where Ron is allowed to.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, someone doesn't know his (Tar) Heel from his Palm (etto)! :)

The return of Martin Guerre

Shawn Herles said...

Your right Carl, but I'm trying to get out of the us vs them tribalism of the current Christian civil wars, and I'm not sure engaging in debates, on any forum, is right for me at this point, regardless of Ron's presence or lack of it. Too much in my life, theology and spirituality is changing and I find that when I engage in debates I lose my sense of myself and my sense of God's presence and work in my life. So regardless of the issue here on ADU, I am pretty sure that God is calling me into the desert, metaphorically speaking, and to fast for a time, in part by not engaging in conflict of this sort.

Blessings to all.

C Seitz said...

Yes, all those terrible southerners in the US (like the GA Supreme Court which sided with TEC against Christ Church Savannah).

And now we have a judge in Illinois (a state in the Midwest, north of the Mason Dixon Line), saying he finds the GA Supreme decision questionable and has ruled solidly against TEC in Quincy.

So much for convenient stereo-types. This Quincy ruling, following the one in Texas, shows judges coming up to speed on TEC's curious polity.

You can see the story at Anglican Curmudgeon. ACI's expert testimony was pro bono in this case, as compared with TEC's 1 million dollar Bruce Mullin.

Nice to see a moral as well as a legal victory.