Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dissenting Anglicans in ACANZP [UPDATED]

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).


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.

Your thoughts?

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 ...


Father Ron Smith said...

In a one-word answer to your ultimate question, Peter; mine is a resounding YES

Jean said...

Hi Peter

I heard from a friend in ChCh re her church having a lot of meetings prior to the discussions about how they would respond. I do not know the church she goes to but she indicated the outcome was a likely departure of their church and a cluster of others around them if changes were made to the canon or whatever the formal aspects are etc... Although she said she personally was keeping out of all the contentious meetings...

If a church chooses to dissent from whatever the outcome is I think that is a plausible option. I do wonder though if this would be sufficient for those (of whatever position) who wish their view to be the authorised one (e.g. one might rather not be the dissenter).

I know St Andrews on the Terrace, a Presbyterian Church in Wellington has long been a dissenter from the view of their denomination on this issue. It is interesting they have over time struggled to maintain, not secular support, but a cohesive congregation.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
Those are wise thoughts. The issues are simpler where a congregation is 95-100% of one view or another. But (anecdotally) most of our parishes are much more mixed in views.

Jean said...

Hi Peter

Your new proposal/addition to comments I think could work. It doesn't alter the foundational beliefs of the Anglican Church but offers those who wish to make their own choice of conscience to carry out or agree with same sex blessings, the opportunity to do so formally.

Utltimately when a couple is blessed it is both their consciences before God, and those of the Priest performing the ceremony which are of most importance. As duly noted by yourself those in the congregation will always have varying viewpoints.

In your proposal would members who take the option B vote be authorised to also preach re marriage as also between those of the same sex - or at this stage given what is up for debate is the blessing rather than carryinng out of marriages, would teaching remain as the status quo?

As the theological debates around this particular issue will no doubt endure for a long time, and its preimmenince of late does appear to be distracting or detractinng of churches representing the preaching and living the gospel, due to secual media attention and some churches spending so much time on this issue themsselves; your suggestion would indeed be a way to move onwards.

As yourself I err on the conservative perspective on this issue so it would be interesting to see if this would be workable for those who do not.

liturgy said...

Peter, I continue to question your use of labels. In particular in this post your use of “conservative”. Labels set up a certain spin. In fact, in what you would term “conservative parishes” there is often a radicalness, and revisionism in many, many areas of their church life.

What continues to remain unanswered is that in NZ Anglicanism when our rules are crystal clear they are broken without consequence – and that includes regularly and publicly by our bishops, and in the presence of our bishops.

But marrying and blessing committed same-sex couples stands as the one thing that is explicitly underlined and in bold as being unbreakable.

The declaration of submission you refer to more than once is known to be impotent and misleading. How it is understood is seen in how our national church-life is actually lived.

The template response from your “conservatives” is that it is the “revisionists” who are stirring this up – the “conservatives” are merely “responding”. The actual reality is that one can get away with practically anything in our church (including in our agreements about Christ’s sacraments of baptism and eucharist, and in what makes us particular – ordination). You can do whatever is right in your own eyes, except bless or marry a committed same-sex couple. Get involved in that and see how long your licence lasts.

This discussion, and meetings about Motion 30, will have some integrity when these are framed in a context of consistency rather than the current hypocrisy.



Father Ron Smith said...

Spot on, Bosco!

There really needs to be more transparency about what the word 'conservative' means in this particular context. If 'conservatives', en bloc, are decisively against any inclusion of 'Same-Sex Blessings', for instance, in ACANZP, then they will be what would appear to be resolutely against the majority of Anglicans in this country, whose concerns on this issue have led, constitutionally, to our General Synod's movement towards S/S Inclusion.

I'm all for tolerance of conservative views - but no the extend of blocking openness towards those of sex or gender difference.

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is advocating mutual tolerance - which might just be the Anglican Way.

Simon said...

Above all, let's continue praying for the 'Way Forward' group in their work.

Father Ron Smith said...

Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray!

Father Ron Smith said...

I have memories, Peter, of a sad occasion of not-so-legitimately exercised dissent - being evidenced in a public stand-off during an actual service of ordination.

Some protesters from the Diocese of Christchurch - and a few others of like mind - made a deliberate decision to interfere with the legal ordination of a candidate in Dunedin, causing offence to those gathered who were in support of the candidate being ordained. The ordaining Bishop, however, went ahead with the ordination - despite the confusion caused by the protesters.

One hopes this travesty would never again be encouraged in ACANZP.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
My understanding of that event is that dissent was legitimately expressed.

I am not sure how far worrying about giving offence takes us. I have heard and seen a number of things in the church over the years said and done by people I disagree with and found offensive. But none of them have ever worried about offending me.

Peter Carrell said...

There are some very good comments above to which I have not yet responded - they need more time than currently available to me.

Tomorrow morning? Saturday? I will get back to you!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
Re teaching
On the scheme above, teachers could teach all they wish about marriage being between a man and a woman (as per continuing canons and formularies re marriage services).
I suggest the question of same sex blessings would need to be treated respectfully (e.g. "our church permits this to happen, though I do not think it supported by Scripture ...; rather than "our church has made a terrible mistake ...).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Labels are convenient.
'Conservative' here = 'conservative on this matter though not necessarily on other matters.'
Two wrongs do not make a right. Let's suppose our bishops stick faithfully to authorised services etc. You may disagree with me, but I think clergy today are much more careful about the Declarations, what they mean, and signing them because they are committed to them. In a better, non-hypocritical church, I think we need some form of 'legitimate dissent.' I fail to see how current 'illegitimate dissent' (or even 'I didn't realise I was acting as a dissenter') provides solid grounds for moving forward on Motion 30.

Finally, for some, Motion 30 points to the straw that breaks the camel's back after many of the failings of our discipline to which you point.

Father Ron Smith said...

I await, with hope, the outcome of the Motion 30 discussion - that monogamous same-sex couples may be encouraged to profess their love for one another in the presence of fellow Christians in their congregations in our Church.

(p.s. - Peter and Bosco; I pass on greetings from Perry Butler, whom I entertained 'en passant' between CHC and Dunedin on Monday)

liturgy said...

You are absolutely correct, Peter, that the prevalence of dissent in our church is no foundation for Motion 30. But that is not my point.

There is no need for a Motion 31 that we be allowed to use unconsecrated shot-glasses of grape juice at Eucharist, because anyone can do this and get away with it. There is no need for a Motion 32 to just use Paul's Last Supper account instead of an agreed Eucharistic Prayer, because anyone can do this without consequence. There is no need for a Motion 33 that a bishop can alter or make up an ordination rite, because bishops do this without consequence. There is no need for a Motion 34 that we toss out consecrated bread and wine, because it happens week by week without any issues. There is no need for a Motion 35 to change our baptism rite because priests and bishops do this Sunday by Sunday without comment.

But bless or marry a committed same-sex couple and all hell breaks loose. That's why we have Motion 30.

And please be honest: it's not a last straw - or we would see those against blessing committed same-sex couples following the other agreements. In fact it is quite the opposite.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
We have Motion 30 in part, I presume, because same sex couples would like to have their relationship blessed as a legal action of our church rather than an illegal action.

That other illegal actions are currently not disciplined in our church does not make a further illegal action legal.

But to honour same sex partnerships via Motion 30 involves asking ourselves (what we should be asking re other matters you raise via the series of hypothetical motions you mention) whether we are a church which does officially, legally, and formally agree with such blessings and what the situation is of those not agreeing.

My point about the straw breaking the camel's back is that some of the strongest/loudest voices supporting such blessings have come from those who also promote liberal/progressive/sceptical theology. Voices not disciplined in our church which - as you point out - is not good at discipline. Perhaps if the strongest/loudest voices over the past decade or two in favour of blessings had come from those who (say) do not question the bodily resurrection of our Lord then there would be neither back breaking straw metaphors or scenarios in which all hell breaks loose.

Father Ron Smith said...

I wonder, Peter, in connection with your last comment on this post, you have the details about any particular clergy in ACANZP who actually " question the bodily resurrection of our Lord "? And, if you can state when and where this situation was borne out in fact; how the number of such people compares with the number of those who are fighting against same-sex blessings among the clergy of our Church?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I don't have numbers, but just one is more than enough!

My point is not to single out individuals or individual parishes that have made creedally lax pronouncements while pushing for change on blessings but to say that I respect my colleagues who (as far as they have experienced) too often have seen our church tolerating creedal laxness (whether a bishop preaching an Easter sermon there, a lecturer sharing her or his doubts with students, or a blithe pronouncement to the floor of Synod that we can now no longer believe such and such)

It would be unfair to pick only on this one (albeit prominent) parish but the stories would be multiplied by my "labelled" colleagues through these past two decades of stories of collegial laxness in affirming the creeds with passion in pushing for change re same sex blessings.

(For what it is worth, I think our church is changing on this. Generally my experience of younger leaders, of ordinands at SJC, etc, is of creedally conservative believers).

Now there are many honourable examples of clergy and lay leaders in our church being creedally faithful and keen to see change re blessings. Such faithfulness will be important going forward if we are to have a chance to hold together. For the bare necessity of holding together is that we can all say the creeds without our fingers crossed behind our backs.

Anonymous said...

I know it's pedantic, but you probably want to sign 'in totum.' As the rhyme goes
Use the ablative with de
cum, coram, ab and e
sine, tenus, pro and prae.

It's a small difference, but if we are to use Latin...

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Peter, for your response to my last. However, I do not see that being a Creedally believing Christian (and I am one of them) should commit us to denying the fact that some people are intrinsically LGBT, and treating them with the respect that they deserve.

Kurt said...

“There is no need for a Motion 31 that we be allowed to use unconsecrated shot-glasses of grape juice at Eucharist, because anyone can do this and get away with it. There is no need for a Motion 32 to just use Paul's Last Supper account instead of an agreed Eucharistic Prayer, because anyone can do this without consequence. There is no need for a Motion 33 that a bishop can alter or make up an ordination rite, because bishops do this without consequence. There is no need for a Motion 34 that we toss out consecrated bread and wine, because it happens week by week without any issues. There is no need for a Motion 35 to change our baptism rite because priests and bishops do this Sunday by Sunday without comment.”—Fr. Bosco

Wow! The above is very disturbing to this Episcopalian! And the "conservatives” criticize us?!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

MichaelA said...

"Thinking Anglicans reports a pleasing increase in cathedral worship attendance [in England]"

Peter, whilst any increase in church attendance is usually encouraging, the reason for this particular increase may not be. Not bad, just not particularly encouraging:

The most likely reason for the increase in mid-week service attendance at English Cathedrals is that over the same period, many of them began to charge tourists for admission. Not all cathedrals do this, but more and more do it, and I believe now it is most of them.

The price charged also varies - most families cannot justify the price of taking kids into St Paul's in London, for example, whereas I found Lincoln still fairly reasonably last year.

However, there is no charge for attending a service, so many tourists just avoid the admission charges by entering at service times.

This issue is commonly discussed in CofE – note the comments in the Thinking Anglicans article by those quick to point out that their particular cathedral is one of those which doesn't charge admission!

MichaelA said...

Further to my last, the recent English practice of charging for entry to Cathedrals and famous churches contrasts with the practice of most Roman Catholic churches in Italy.

Although one or two of the most famous will charge, most are free to enter despite many of them containing the most amazing art work. They hold to the idea that anyone can enter to contemplate and worship, and the tithes of the faithful will maintain them.

One of my favourites is the titular church of Cardinal Wuerl on the Oppian Hill, the Basilica of San Petri Ad Vincula. They will charge you if you want to photograph Michelangelo's Moses (which is fair enough since its one of the most famous art works in the world) but the poorest person in Rome can go in and see it and the other art treasures for nothing.

Jean said...

Hi Michael

Are the Cathedral's not charging because the English government has withdrawn the amount of funding given to maintainance of the Cathedral's, which have huge operating costs just to keep open due to the number of people who pass throught them every day? Although not ideal I can see many would be left between a rock and a hard place.

Would explain increase in service numbers though : ) ... mind you that could be positive (e.g. if you intention is to worship there is still no charge).


MichaelA said...

Hi Jean,

There have been claims that the overall level of government funding for the upkeep of cathedrals has been reduced over the years, but these are not easy to assess - funding comes through a variety of sources, and some argue it has actually increased.

Whatever, I suspect any reduction pales into insignificance compared to the drop in Church of England income generally. That's the real issue - less parishioners means less income.

I can't comment on whether the people coming in at service times have an intention to worship - without knowing them personally!