Some 360 participants turned out for the first of two Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (NZ) conferences, held at La Vida, Christchurch (and the second begins tomorrow at St Chad's Meadowbank). I estimate that 330 of the 360 were from the Diocese of Christchurch and 30 were from Dunedin, Nelson and Wellington Dioceses. By my count 30 Christchurch clergy were there, including vicars or priests-in-charge of 19 parishes, with 7 clergy from other dioceses. That is probably the largest Anglican conference held in NZ in a long decade. (I do not know how many are registered for the Auckland conference).
The event was well organised and superbly led from the stage by Amy Hayward (MC and worship leader) and Jay Behan (Chair of FCANZ).
We had a Bible Study led by David Short, of St John's Vancouver, three addresses by Vaughan Roberts, of St Ebbe's Oxford (and Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in the Diocese of Oxford) (True Sex, True Love and True Unity), each speaker was interviewed, and there was a workshop space in the programme with five workshops on offer.
For readers here tremulous about the possibility that the day was long on hellfire and brimstone and short on gentleness and grace, let me assure you that it was the latter and not the former.
For readers here anxious that somewhere in our church there is space for clear, convictional, conservative/traditional teaching on sex, based on the principle that sexual intercourse is approved by God within a marriage between a man and a woman and not outside of such marriage, then yesterday was that space, particularly in Vaughan Roberts' first address.
For readers here troubled by how such convictional teaching sounds when it comes from the proverbial happily married mother or father of multiple children, let me tell you if you do not know or remind you if you have forgotten, that Vaughan Roberts is a same sex attracted single man who lives celibately. I salute him for his personal courage and I salute the FCA organisers for inviting him to speak to us. There was an authenticity and integrity to what he had to say which would not be present if (say) I had been the teacher for the day.
For readers here anxious about how the future of our church will unfold then the conference was a clear reminder that there are matters to be anxious about, all of which turn on whether General Synod comes to a decision or decisions which we can live with. The conference was a frank and robust reminder that synodical government can make decisions which cannot be lived with by the whole of an Anglican church. This was so especially when we heard from David Short (whose church, then St John's Shaunessy Vancouver, tried to stay within the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada when that Diocese first agreed to and then implemented blessings of same sex relationships, and found that, in the end, and to great personal cost to David as well as to his congregation, this was not possible).
So, an interesting day, an informative day, and a day which may turn out to be instrumental in clarifying 'the' way forward some Anglicans will go in, depending, of course, on what General Synod makes of 'A Way Forward'.