My apologies for entering somewhat late in this discussion, following computer difficulties. I appreciate the way that you, Brian, Christopher Seitz, and Bryden and others are trying to find a way around a fundamental conundrum associated with this topic. How can a group claiming to be inclusive hold within it a subgroup whose position excludes the position of the larger group? One of three motions at the Auckland Synod this weekend addresses the fact that we have two groups, each passionately holding that its view is derived from scripture, from the call of the gospel, and from a commitment to Anglican traditions, but holding opinions that seem impossible to reconcile.
I agree with Christopher Seitz that the gospel places a particular burden on majorities – what might be called a liberal majority in Auckland and Waiapu, and a conservative majority in Nelson. (Again, please excuse the use of very inaccurate labels to avoid lots of other words). It is not appropriate for the majority to say, “ Look, we had a vote – we won, you lost, get over it.” I suggest that it is equally inappropriate for a minority to hold out for many years preventing an action that a majority of their sisters and brothers believe to be a response to gospel imperatives.
If we are determined, as we seem to be, not to divide on this issue, then we will have to keep talking, and talking and talking to each other until we find a way forward. In the meantime, life has to go on. So we come to Brian’s “mixed economy”. I agree with him; it seems likely that General Synod will decide that some of these decisions may be made at diocesan level. But while that would prevent the probable liberal majority nationwide having a free hand, it would not solve anything at diocesan level. What happens to the conservatives in Auckland, or the liberals (I presume there are some) in Nelson? I really don’t think the Tikanga structure helps here, as that was a solution to a quite different problem, but our willingness to do something that radical should open us to ways forward that may seem equally far-fetched.
So how about this for an idea? General synod indeed authorises dioceses (and Tikanga Maori bishoprics)to decide whether they will bless same-sex unions, and whether they will ordain openly gay/lesbian candidates. There would also be an agreement that we allow ourselves a transition period of say ten years. The dioceses would then be authorised to allow a number of parishes in each diocese (say the lesser of 10% or five parishes) to be seconded by another diocese which holds to a different approach. The synods of the home diocese and the seconding one would each have to agree, but the parish would transfer its financial contribution to the seconding diocese, which would be responsible for appointments, confirmations, ordinations etc. After ten years, there would be another Ma whea? Commission or similar, and we would make a permanent solution, informed by 10 years experience. Presumably a later General synod could extend the arrangements, but the presumption would be that all parishes revert to their home dioceses after the transitional period.
So if Auckland Dunedin and Waiapu permitted same-sex blessings/marriages and ordinations, but Nelson and Christchurch did not (I won’t guess about Wellington, W & T, or the TM bishoprics) it might be that four or five Auckland parishes plus Holy Trinity Tauranga might join Nelson for ten years, and 3 or 4 Christchurch parishes might join Dunedin.
This would not be the same as the CofE flying bishops, as authority to the seconding bishop would be clearly delegated by the home bishop. The bishops would hate it, but I think this would allow a sort of Gamaliel approach for a decade or so, in a situation where public opinion is changing much faster than we are able to keep up with.
I will tell you what I think ... eventually, and perhaps only after getting through our own local synod this weekend!