The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans of NZ (FCANZ) has published a response to the Motion 29 Working Group Interim Report (M29WGR).
The response can be found here. Below it is their original submission to the Working Group, in late 2016.
I like the way this response is introduced, with much appreciation and thankfulness for the approach taken by the Working Group. I also like the fairness of the response because some issues it sees with the proposal made in M29WGR are recognised as issues for those who support SSB.
Among various challenges to M29WGR made in the response, none of which are trivial, I think the most significant challenge concerns its request for alternative episcopal oversight as sine qua non to our church finding a way forward.
Interpreting a few tiny "smoke signals" in the weeks before before reading this response, I suspect that considerable conservative evangelical discussion within some sectors of our church is taking place about alternative episcopal oversight.
I suggest the FCANZ response should be read carefully on this matter, for two reasons.
First, making this request is itself a shift on the part of FCA (as one part of the NZ Anglican conservative evangelicals). Note at the link the submission made last year. It requested an extra-provincial diocese as a way forward. Alternative episcopal oversight against that request represents a commitment to a solution within the life of ACANZP itself.
Secondly, what is said about alternative episcopal oversight is grounded in an aspect of the M29WGR, the Christian communities which it envisages as means of safeguarding convictions.
Substantively, the FCANZ response in respect of alternative episcopal oversight raises an important theological principle: communion in an episcopal church necessarily involves communion with one's bishop. How is this to be so when communion with one's bishop is impaired? The response says this (emboldening is original to the FCANZ post):
"If Bishops allow the blessing of same-sex marriages within their hui amorangi/dioceses there will be some who believe this is unconstitutional and against the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Their relationship with their Bishop will be impaired. Therefore, simply having an additional structure (such as a Christian Community) which exists alongside existing diocesan structures is insufficient. Ministry units of a conviction different to their diocesan Bishop must be able to have alternative, rather than simply additional, episcopal oversight. If such alternative episcopal oversight were to occur from a Christian Community, then the Bishop of that Community would need to have the same privileges and responsibilities as any other diocesan Bishop, and the Community have the same status as a Diocese.
We appreciate that this is a significant development of the suggestions provided in the report, but one which we feel is a minimum necessity to truly safeguard the convictions of those who wish to uphold a traditional position. "
This is a considerable argument because it works from integrity of belief that if a bishop acts unconstitutionally and against the gospel of Christ then impairment of relationship with clergy and laity follows. In turn that raises the question how one might have episcopal oversight from a bishop with whom one is in an unimpaired relationship. The proposal in the cited paragraphs is that the M29WGR proposal for "additional" episcopal oversight (via a bishop who is visitor of one of the envisaged Christian communities) is strengthened and transformed to "alternative" episcopal oversight.
Incidentally, this works two ways in our context: those wishing to conduct SSBs could have alternative episcopal oversight via a Christian Community in order to ensure that from one diocesan bishop to another, permission to conduct SSBs continued.
What do you think?
In conclusion, a note re my original post on M29WGR:
(Slightly defensively!) What does this response do to my "beautiful Anglican accommodation" assessment of M29WGR?
First, yes, it highlights some aspects of M29WGR which could be (so to speak) more beautiful. Some significant criticisms are made, and they are (according to some conversations I have had, internet comment I have seen) shared beyond the part of the theological spectrum inhabited by FCANZ.
Secondly, it recognises that M29WGR is a compromise. Thus a question for our church is whether this compromise could be better (so the response) or whether it is, in fact, the best compromise (because, actually, the criticisms made by the FCANZ response are about matters considered by the Working Group and not acted on).
In particular, as far as I know, alternative episcopal oversight was considered by the Working Group but not acted on.
Nevertheless, FCANZ in this response is pressing the point - note the words "minimum necessity" in the citation above - that alternative episcopal oversight really, really ought to be considered if we are not to have schism.
If schism could be averted by this recommendation, we could still have a (very) beautiful Anglican accommodation!
For clarity: I am neither arguing for nor against "aeo" here. I may or may not one day reflect upon the (de)merits of "aeo" for our church. But what I am urging is that all readers here note that those wishing to avert schism appear to now have the issue of "aeo" to engage with.