Friday, August 28, 2015

Vote No?

Next week our Diocese goes to Synod. Other dioceses around this time will do likewise. On the books are some General Synod statutes for consideration. If passed in the Diocesan synods they will go back to GS in May 2016 for final ratification.

But at least one statute should not pass. Statute 711. And this post urges all voting synodpersons to carefully consider reasons for voting it down. Never to rise again!

Bosco Peters sets out the issues in a recent post.

It is quite fair and proper for our church from time to time to ask itself what 'authorised services' mean. It seems that for some time we have misunderstood what they mean and that, in part, is a confusion brought about by confusing current legislation.

An obvious remedy for confusing legislation is to revise or repeal the legislation. But Statute 711 goes further and revises our constitution itself.

Bosco Peters rightly warns that we should take the greatest of care when touching the constitution.

What is at stake?

(1) Whether we understand what we have already done as a church.

Already in the liturgical life of our church, we have all the flexibility we need with already authorised flexible formularies, to cope with all possible services which "would be consistent with Doctrine but not become a source of Doctrine themselves, non-controversial in nature, and follow the existing authorised liturgical Forms" (see below).

In other words, argument number one for voting down Statute 711: It is not needed.

We could go further and say that to vote for Statute 711 would be to continue to misunderstand what we have already agreed to as a church about the character of our authorised worship services.

(2) Whether we understand the relationship between authorised liturgies and common life.

The point of authorised liturgies is that they are agreed liturgies, liturgies that we have considered together in our common life (first in the Common Life Liturgical Commission, then in General Synod). In that common life we are guarded from hot-headed decisions, both by the constitution (and the 1928 Empowering Act) and by the twice round process of consideration (General Synod, local synods, General Synod again). We also talk to each other about the core of our life as a church, our worship services. In this way we build unity in the church. Ut unum sint.

Now, generally speaking, we have a long history of services occurring which are "consistent with Doctrine but not become a source of Doctrine themselves, non-controversial in nature, and follow the existing authorised liturgical Forms." We could think of Harvest Thanksgiving services, Blessing of Animals services, Christmas Pageant services, and so forth. No one has objected to those occasional services and no one - till now - have been greatly bothered to formalise them in respect of doctrine, let alone the constitution!

The difficulty is that once we start to formalise such possibilities, we open ourselves to potential doctrinal unevenness, undergirded by constitutional change.

Already - noting an addendum to Bosco Peters' post - a change to the constitution via 711 is understood as permitting Tikanga Maori going ahead with culturally appropriate rites and providing Te Reo forms of services in NZPB not yet authorised in Te Reo.

But this involves services such as Baptism and Ordinations which - in fact - would be, and should be sources of doctrine. Together we should - joyfully - approve these through our common life.

Putting it bluntly, do we want to be a church that says its Baptism service in English is a source of doctrine but its Baptism service in Maori is merely consistent with doctrine?

Is this not fostering division in our diverse church rather than holding unity and diversity in tension as one church?

In other words, argument number two for voting down Statute 711: It is a risk to our common life as one church.

But, as always, what do you think?
Sharpen my thinking ... seven days to go before the Christchurch synod.

To connect with my responses above to Statute 711, see these key (IMHO) paragraphs from two explanations given for changing the constitution via 711:

(from one) "This Constitutional provision would then provide the proper basis, which is at present lacking, for Title G Canon XIV and SLR3.
Title G Canon XIV could then be repealed and replaced with a new Canon which effectively authorises the kinds of activities referred to in the current Canon and SLR3.  Services could be authorised by Bishops or whole Tikanga, but would have to be:
(a) Based on ‘A Form for Ordering a Service of the Word’ and/or ‘An Alternative Form for Ordering The Eucharist’ [being our existing framework for liturgical development]
(b)  Not inconsistent with the teachings of the Formularies 
(c)  Are not themselves Formularies, unless expressly made so on using the 1928 Act procedure, and therefore do not form part of the Doctrine of the Church  
(d)  Will generally be suitable for occasional and non-controversial services in the life of the Church [the point is that this process is a liturgical process re the form of expression not a process for theological innovation as to content of that expression]  
Aspects of these requirements are already found in Title G Canon XIV and SLR3. The 1928 Act has no relevance to such services (unless a formal proposal is adopted to make them a Formulary, which is a separate process). 
Title G Canon XIV could then empower Bishops and whole Tikanga to authorise such liturgies, on that appropriately limited basis.  They would then be Authorised Services for the purposes of Title D, but without confusion as to the Formularies, Doctrine and the 1928 Act."

(from two) "If Statute 711 is passed (which involves the 'twice round' process), then a Canon could be enacted by General Synod to allow other liturgies to be authorised. The expectation, recorded in the notes to Statute 711, is that these would be consistent with Doctrine but not become a source of Doctrine themselves, non-controversial in nature, and follow the existing authorised liturgical Forms."


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter, for this post and your careful thinking. The Statute, as diocesan synods encounter it, comes across complexly, and you help to focus on some of the core of the Statute, helping people see what is at stake. I have updated my post to include a link to this post.



Anonymous said...

You and your readers, Peter, may be interested in a further update of my post resulting from further private conversations:

Update 3: No checks and balances
At present, as has been made clear, authorised services include formularies and experimental uses as authorised by the 1928 Act. Let us be clear: authorised services, at present, involve the whole church at both provincial and diocesan decision-making levels. For a service to be authorised this needs the agreement of General Synod and a majority of diocesan synods.
Statute 711 changes these checks and balances completely. It wants to add “Authorised Services includes …services authorised under Title G Canon XIV.” Now, Title G Canon XIV can be changed by any single meeting of any future General Synod. The checks and balances are gone. There is no say by diocesan synods. There is no opportunity, as presently, for a “cooling-down period” of a year in which anyone can raise an objection.
It is hard to believe such a radical, total overhaul of our agreed understanding of authorised services is being attempted to be squeezed through without significant explanation, discussion, debate, and consultation.



Peter Carrell said...

That is a decisive reason for voting No!
Thanks Bosco.

Bryden Black said...

Sadly Bosco, we live at a time of great impatience, where, contra the Psalmist, we have forgotten how to WAIT ...
Makes one ponder (sic) what effect the DO is having. Er; What Daily Office?!