It is not all bad Anglican news today. Thinking Anglicans reports a pleasing increase in cathedral worship attendance. But read the report to see just where the increase is happening. Interesting!
Tomorrow our ACANZP Motion 30 Way Forward working group meets. Many in our church continue to wait with bated breath to see what way forward there might be. My personal anxiety is that some friends and colleagues seem to be involved in second guessing what the way forward is and are preparing for a way out. Patience, brothers and sisters!
Here is a brief thought from me, should anyone in the Way Forward group chance by here today. (If your BFF is on the group, you could forward the link!)
One way to view the situation we are in as we move forward in terms of Motion 30 is to frame it in terms of "dissent."
On the one hand, there is effectively a call for permission for legitimate dissent from those who wish to bless same sex relationships even when the formal apparatus of our church (constitution, canons, formularies) do not provide for such blessings because they continue (or, would continue if we do not agree to change them) to uphold marriage being between a man and a woman. This call for permission for legitimate dissent extends, of course, to those bishops/dioceses who wish to ordain ministers for the church who live in a same sex partnership.
On the other hand, there is an anxiety on the part of those disagreeing with possible (probable?) change to constitution, canons and formularies as to whether, post change, dissent from disagreeable changes will be legitimate. The anxiety extends to concern as to whether legitimate dissent from the authority of General Synod itself - in respect of matters concerning same sex partnerships - is going to be possible. (Recall that to receive a licence to minister in our church, the recipient must declare that they submit to the authority of the General Synod).
Now, I imagine the lawyers among us have their own anxieties about phrases such as 'legitimate dissent.' Not least because in ecclesiastical history it seems to have been difficult for churches to tolerate dissenters and life made easier when dissenters leave to form a new church.
Nevertheless one way of understanding what Motion 30 means and where the Way Forward lies is that we are going to try to find a way for legitimate dissent to occur as part of maintaining our life together.
Now here is a thought to mull over. Please mull before rushing to comment ...
If, from one side, some of us would wish that we might be granted leave to legitimately dissent from the status quo (if it does not suit our views), should we not be open to others being granted leave to legitimately dissent from the status quo which suits our views?
In other words, if I as a conservative am anxious as to whether future change will be accompanied by the right to legitimate dissent, should I not be open to progressives being able to dissent from the status quo if nothing changes?
What do you think?
In respect of the last paragraph, a correspondent has pointed out to me that for a long time now, conservatives have been open to, or at least accommodated dissent in our church re same sex partnerships being blessed or people in such partnerships being ordained. That is, with rare exceptions, dissenting actions have not been formally challenged by conservatives via legal means. (Probably slightly more than 'rare' have been the occasions when informal challenges have been made, e.g. via conversation with bishops).
A POSSIBLE WAY FORWARD FOR LEGITIMATE DISSENT?
Here is one idea which has come to me since yesterday morning re expressing legitimate dissent in the case in which our church does make legal provision for the blessing of same sex partnerships.
The proposal below presumes that the canon on marriage has not been changed (that being a bridge too far for many if not all conservatives keen to find a way to remain within the life of ACANZP).
In respect of the signing of Declarations (of submission to the authority of General Synod, of adherence to the constitution and canons of our church) in order for licensed ministers/officers of the church to receive their licence (or to be voting members of vestry etc), that there be two options:
Option A: to sign the Declarations in toto and without exception (i.e. as at present)
Option B: to sign the Declarations with an Exception Clause along these lines, "I submit ... Except in respect of "new canon (re blessings)" and reserve the right to teach and uphold the Doctrine of Christ as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles and A New Zealand Prayer Book [as at the day before the new canon comes into effect]."
No doubt lawyers among us, bush and otherwise qualified through less prestigious institutions (!!), could much improve on this suggestion.
A vital challenge to the actual lawyers among us, to our bishops and other leading figures among us is to provide for such a form of dissent so that it applies inclusively to future clergy and office-holders as to present clergy and office-holders.
Conservatives are not interested in the preservation of present job security. We are interested in the future life, growth and development of our church. We note that in many parts of our church expressions of interest in ordination come from young people in conservative parishes.
It's not rocket science ...