Q1: It is important to obey the commands in the Bible? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q2: One of the most important commandments is Do Not Kill, is it not? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q3: But there are some exceptional circumstances in which even this commandment might be set aside? Correct Answer: Christians debate this matter, so some see killing in a justified war as justified, but others believe it is never, ever right to kill another person.
Q4: So, to go back to Q1, It is important to obey the commands in the Bible but sometimes a command might be set aside? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q5: So, to go back to Q3 and "exceptional circumstances," who decides what those circumstances are? Correct answer: the church has the authority to do that.
Q6: In an episcopal church, presumably the bishops play a role in making such authoritative decisions? Correct Answer: Indeed!
Q7: But what happens when the bishops cannot agree on the correct answer? Correct Answer: "Houston, we have a problem!"
Q8: Surely on the matter of the interpretation of the Bible re which commands might be set aside, and under what circumstances, we could expect bishops to be united, of one heart and mind? Correct Answer: We could.
Q9: Potentially, then, when the bishops are divided, the church itself might divide? Correct Answer: True.
Q10: So, if perchance, the bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia cannot agree on the exceptional circumstances under which one human might kill another human, do we have a potential schism on our hands? Correct Answer: Almost certainly not!!
According to this Taonga article, we have nine signed up bishops saying "No" and one saying "Yes" in a submission to Parliament re euthanasia. But I do not think we have an imminent schism on our hands because of this public disagreement.
Even the non-rocket scientists among readers here will recognise potent analogies here with our parallel debate on same sex blessings and same sex marriage. (There are also some non-analogies, but I am not going to go into all the details of the analogies and non-analogies).
My questions for today are:
A. Why are we so het up as a church re our divisions over one commandment and scarcely raising our collective heart rate over our divisions over another commandment?
B. One answer to the above question A is that on euthanasia we have no fixed canonical/liturgical policy, nor would we see teaching on euthanasia as a matter on which the constitution prescribes or proscribes what may or may not be taught, publicly debated etc. So,
- would we be better off as a church if our GS in May 2016 made the barest minimalist of changes to something* in order to permit ourselves the luxury of continuing to (a) be a church able to hold diverse views, and (b) be a church able to continue to explore difficult questions of biblical interpretation over which we remain and will remain divided?
*For instance: what if the only change GS made was to remove either engagement in a same sex partnership or conducting the blessing of a same sex partnership as a possible offence under Title D? LATER ATTEMPT TO CLARIFY LAST SENTENCE: Title D does not refer specifically to same sex relationships or blessings of them, but it does refer to "chaste" relational behaviour, without clearly defining what that is. There is a view abroad in our church (as I understand things) that unless or until otherwise clarified, the implication of "chaste" is that sexual intercourse for licenced ministers of our church should be inside marriage and not outside it. Thus potentially any infraction of the same could incur a complaint under Title D, whether it was a complaint against a couple living in a relationship not marriage, or a complaint against a bishop who ordained a person in such a relationship or publicly and formally permitted the blessing of such relationship. Thus my argument/proposal is that the "least" change we could make to our current canons and liturgies, a change which kept open conversation between differing groups in our church about the possibility of including a liturgy of blessing in our church as a formulary of the church, would be to clarify what "chaste" means in respect of same sex relationships, but to make no further changes at this time to other canons or to liturgies. Yes, a fishhook or three is immediately apparent ... But would that be liveable with when, it appears, the current status quo is not liveable with, but certain changes could immediately divide our church in two or three pieces?