Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Way Forward: Sections 7 & 8: A Critical Review (6)

[The full report is accessible here. The sections under discussion in this post is accessible here and here. In these posts I am aiming to work my way forward through A Way Forward report, posting on a new section each Monday in the weeks before General Synod, May 2016. Pagination refers to the PDF version of the report.]

Section 7: The Processes of Change (pp. 21-23) and Section 8: Changes to Title D Canon 1 (p. 24)

In Section 7 AWF sets out the process of change the working group recommends which has a mix of both required process (i.e. adoption of formularies require a "twice round" process of two general synods and diocesan synods and hui amorangi between the two general synods considering the formularies) and non-required process (i.e. helpfully suggesting that even canonical changes await confirmation in 2018 after dioceses and hui amorangi have a full chance to consider revisions and new elements to canons).

What this section OMITS to tell us is that it although it is legally correct that a twice round process gets us to where we want to go (i.e. to approve or not a proposed new formulary), it is not good liturgical practice to proceed in this way. Liturgical services are more than a set of approved words, they are a set of words which the people of God both believe in and get their heads and tongues around saying. Most formularies in the life of our church (e.g. those encapsulated in A New Zealand Prayer Book) have been worked on at length by the liturgical commission of the day, trialled by congregations, and feedback from those trials have contributed to further finalising of the wording before proposing it to General Synod. There appears to be no such process envisaged here. This is not a comment on the general quality of what is proposed. Although I have not yet reached the formularies in this set of critical reflections on the report and have not considered them in detail, a "first glance" suggests they are well-written. But the liturgical trialling and careful consideration of the proposed liturgies is more than eyes reading text on a page. Only with such a process can we consider what is before us as a first draft, middle draft or worthy-to-be-voted-on final draft. What we do not want, surely, is liturgical revision on the floor of synod!

To make this point in a slightly different way, recall that the "twice round" process does not give dioceses the ability to themselves makes revisions to the texts of the proposed formularies. They have to vote up or down, yes or no to the whole text. (A memorandum may be sent to GS with the diocesan vote, recommending changes, but in the hurly-burly of "trying to get the thing through without so many revisions that the "twice round" process needs to start again" such memoranda have about as much meaning as a tissue ... just after someone has blown their nose into it!) That is, it is VERY IMPORTANT that General Synod does not, perhaps late at night when all are tired, or in the last minutes of the last morning when minds are wandering homewards, offer a flawed text to the diocesan synods and hui amorangi. AWF offers no particular recognition that what it thinks could happen simply and easily, "Here is the text, let's start the "twice round" process," likely needs a lot more time and care.

In Section 8 we simultaneously have some excellent logic at work and and the heart of the ecclesiological and theological dilemma this report and recommendations pose for our church. (To be quite fair to the working group, the constraints of Motion 30 push the logic of the report to this part of their proposals.)

The excellent logic is that if we are going to bless same-sex relationships with the same formality and solemnity that we conduct marriages, that is, if we say that God is blessing such relationships, then sheer, if not mere consistency of theo-logic requires that we also change our understanding of chastity, with particular reference to Title D Canon 1 which sets out what chastity is in respect of licensed office-holders of our church.

Thus this section proposes an addition to our current canonical understanding of chastity in which a blessed civil marriage would also count as rightly ordering a relationship and the licensed office-holder in that relationship being therefore counted as "chaste."

What then is the dilemma?

Strictly there are two dilemma. One, which I won't spend long on here, is that this definition means that (say) James was married in a registry office, perhaps back in the day when he and his wife were somewhat heathenish, and had never actually gotten round to having the marriage blessed in church, and years later following conversion, James was ordained (because counted as chaste, because married) suddenly, on the passing of this change, James would become unchaste. It seems very odd that the proposal here has no "grace" clause which refers to those civilly married after (say) the date of the passing of the amended canon or, likely more workable, after the date when civil marriage of same-sex couples was legalised by our parliament.

The major dilemma here is that the effect of this amendment, in conjunction with the ability of dioceses-by-dioceses to choose whether or not to authorise a service of blessing of civil marriages, is that we will become a church of morally ambiguous clergy. (I know, I know, some might say we already are!) That is, the Rev. Jane and Mrs. Joan Smith would be considered chaste in the Diocese of X but when they were in the Diocese of Y they would not be considered chaste.

Now, this is a dilemma, to be sure, but perhaps the question we need to ask is not whether we are prepared to live with such a dilemma or not, rather the question we perhaps need to ask is whether this dilemma is the price we pay for attempting to be a church of "two integrities." 

On the one hand we may collectively give the answer that we are prepared to pay that price; on the other hand we may come to the conclusion that such a price to pay is a folly and the attempt to be a church of "two integrities" should be stopped in its tracks.

What is at stake?

Sunday by Sunday we say the creeds, and in both the Nicene and Apostolic creeds we say we believe in the "catholic" church. That means we believe in the church being an amalgam of universality, common mindedness, agreement with as many Christians through as much of time on as many matters as possible, and generally being a church which moves together in the journey to which Christ has called us. 

What is proposed in the report is not catholic. It does injury to the catholic character of ACANZP. This is not the way forward. We need to think again if we are going to continue to recite the creeds in our worship.

What do you think?


Father Ron Smith said...

"What is proposed in the report is not catholic. It does injury to the catholic character of ACANZP. This is not the way forward. We need to think again if we are going to continue to recite the creeds in our worship." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Dear Peter, regarding the world 'Catholic', it has become obvious that this word cxan mean almost anything one wants it to mean - depending on the point of view one takes. At one time, it used to mean becing in Communion (for the Western Branch of the Church) with the Pope.

As Anglicans no longer believe that to be the origin of institutional 'catholicity', we have to try to define that word by a different set of circumstances.

As an Anglo-Catholic, I have long thought that our catholicity still relies upon a consonance with - not the Thiry Nine Articles - but with the 'Catholic Creeds'. These affirm the divinity of Christ and the veracity of the Triune God. The rest is subject to all sorts of speculation, e.g., the various interpretationso Scripture.

In the light of your objection to the substance of 'Motion 30' being 'non-Catholic' for Anglicans, I am left wondering; on what grounds?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
(1) Please reread my post. If my case is not clear then it is not clear and I may need to rewrite.
(2) Let me ask you a question in return: in what way is diocese-by-diocese decision-making re use of formularies consistent with the Anglican church claiming to be "catholic" in its character?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter; I must confess that you have posed a rather tricky question. You have certainly hit upon a particular weakness, I think, of the whose process which suggests that whole dioceses - under the leadership of the local Bishop and diocesan synod - should be left to determine their own undrerstanding and interpretation of what is involved in the attitude otwards, and implementation of, Motion 30.

However, even in the broader 'Catholic' church, a Bishop can be made responsible for the implementation of local discipline relating to matters of adiaphora (non core-doctrinal issues), which I believe to be involved here.

After all, was this not once the case with the application of local discipline with regards to the conduct of re-marriage after divorce? I remember having to apply to my bishop for permission to re-marry a divorced person - until he decided that I was competent to make such a decision for myself.

However, it would be much tidier - and perhaps more 'catholic' in your terms of reference - for the whole Church (ACANZP to go ahead with allowing for Same-Sex Blessings - except in those parishes whose Vicar and Vestry agree to exercise an opt-out conscience clause.

I, personally, think that would be much better than landing a bishop with sole responsibility for 'allowing' something to happen in her/his diocese that happened to conflict with his/her conscience. This is, obviously, already happening in the situation of re-marriage after divorce. (I think it may be the same bishop/s involved).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It might also be a catholic response for our church to generally not agree that blessings of SSR represent the doctrine of this church but to allow parishes on a case by case basis to opt in to blessings.

Father Ron Smith said...

I agree, Peter, that this would be 'Another Way Forward'. Agape!

Anonymous said...

Unless I am mistaken,office bearers in our church include synodspeople, wardens and vestry members among others and are subject to Title D. Again unless I am mistaken, we will have the situation of people in perfectly proper marriages being deemed in some sense improper by the proposals of A Way Forward. Whatever the solution to the conundrum facing the compilers of the report, the one they have chosen is so absurd that it should be rejected.
"the group agreed that a rightly ordered relationship is only one that has been committed to God and received the blessing of the Christian Church". Their elaborate theological justification of this, for all the pleasing beauty of its sentiment, is laying upon the 'blessing' of the marriage a weight which it has never borne in our church , which has no parallel in Anglicanism that I am aware of (surely they would have quoted it had there been), and which has no obvious scriptural justification. Would it ever have been thought of, had the group not needed a way to justify the innovation in terms of the traditional approaches to marriage and ordination?
The change is actually a direct contradiction of the old service. " Forasmuch as n and n have consented together in holy wedlock --- and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring and by joining hands, I pronounce that they be man and wife together" Note they are now in holy wedlock; they are married "before God and in this company". Only then does the Priest bless the couple. Were the priest struck dead before the words of blessing their marriage would still be holy - and therefore rightly ordered Rhys