Friday, September 13, 2013

Preliminary thoughts on alternative episcopal arrangements for our church

Last week I posted an idea by Edward Prebble on alternative episcopal arrangements for our church in the event of General Synod 20?? - noting that Christchurch will be pushing for a 2018 decision, not 2014 - agreeing to the blessing of same sex partnerships but on a dioceses may or may not proceed to do so (here). For the purposes of this post I am going to assume that 'blessings' rather than 'marriages' is as far as GS would go for the foreseeable future.

With our diocesan synod, a school reunion, an all day trip to Dunedin and back for a funeral and the usual 'etc' of the week, it is taking me a while to come back to this proposal (on which many comments have already been received). Today is Post Ordination Training so the best I can do in the few minutes available is post some preliminary thoughts.

(1) I agree with Edward that our GS, whenever it does make a decision, is very likely to make one in which episcopal units take up the possibility of formally, officially, and without fear of Title D recriminations when they choose, or not at all. As I understand the history of the ordination of women in our church, this is what happened. The Diocese of Nelson, whose then bishop, +Peter Sutton was at best hesitant re the ordination of women, did not ordain any women in his diocese until c. 1988, some ten years after women were being ordained elsewhere. The ordinations of the first Maori and Polynesian women were years after that (as far as I recall).

(2) I agree with Edward that such episcopal unit determinacy then opens up the question of what happens for (say) conservative parishes in the Diocese of Auckland (which is clearly signalling it would want to proceed with such blessings) or liberal parishes (are there any?) in the Diocese of Nelson (which is clearly signalling it would not proceed with such blessings). I suggest, whether or not Edward's specific proposal is meritorious, that consideration is given to some means of holding dioceses, divided in this way on this issue, together. I also suggest that our history over the ordination of women does not provide a precedent for doing so because at that time we received that decision in a reasonably united way and without great pressure for some kind of alternative episcopal arrangements.

(3) At this point things get harder. Particularly difficult questions concern property, episcopal philosophy (most bishops I know are keen on the idea that they are focoi of unity for their dioceses), synodical representation, ordination (and processes towards ordination), and diocesan 'taxation' (noting that alternative schemes of episcopacy cost money).

That is a good point to exit this post ...


Bryden Black said...

A good enough place to start I guess Peter. Yet there does appear to me to be an essential flaw in Edward’s basic proposal.

You say (correctly I think too): “most bishops I know are keen on the idea that they are focoi (sic) of unity for their dioceses.” Yet that is not the sole scope of such a line of thinking and practice.

Bishops are also necessarily foci of unity AMONG DIOCESES. One profound way this is incarnated is in the rubric there be THREE bishops present and involved in anyone’s consecration to the episcopal office. There is an innate collegiality and catholicity factor in the identity of the office of bishop.

“Pathways” plural, and now this kind of approach, are the recipe for confusion. And we know who is the ‘god’ of confusion ...!

Anonymous said...

Stephen Neill (History of Christian Missions, Penguin) tells us that the Portuguese had the right of appointing Bishops to four ancient dioceses in India - but often failed to appoint for lengthy periods. n 1886 Leo XIII reformed the ecclesiastical structure in India; he maintained the Portuguese rights (Padroado rights) in the four old dioceses, but created many new ones; "And a 'double jusrisdiction was established, through which certain parishe, groups and individuals living in the new dioceses were to remain under the jurisdiction of the Padroado bishoprics" (p340). A member of one of these communities could only be ministered to by- a priest of his own diocese - if they died in a parish of the other jurisdiction it was impossible for the local priest to give the last sacraments.
Different people will draw different conclusions from these historic facts.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Bryden, in my next post, I need to factor in the fact you note above.

'AltEpisO'sight' is more complicated than meets the eye ... (as I have been thinking since posting this morning).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rhys
It could have a bearing on our situation. If my memory serves me correctly, Aotearoa NZ was initially part of the Diocese of Calcutta (which had responsibility for Australia which had responsibility for offshore islands ...).


Malcolm said...

Hi Peter,

As I tried to indicate in a comment on a previous post, I do not think that devolving decisions on chastity and marriage to individual dioceses is feasible.

This is a communion level issue, and the decision of our General Synod will have far-reaching implications for our relationships with other Anglican provinces and ecumenical conversations.

This context cannot be avoided by simply claiming some local option. Nor will alternative episcopal be able to paper over the cracks.