Before we begin this week's review
I commend to you a blogpost by Trevor Morrison, entitled Two Ways Forward. His opening is brilliant and unerringly focuses all our minds on where our church needs to go at the forthcoming GS (his emboldening):
"Two ways forward lie before the Anglican Church in the province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. One way is to adopt the recommendations that have been made in the report of the Working Group that was formed in consequence of Motion 30 as agreed at the 2014 General Synod / te Hinota Whanui. To choose that way is to choose to divide our Church. There is not the slightest possibility that conservative parishes and clergy will agree to remain part of a body that had accepted the recommendations framed as they are in the Working Group’s report. Nor could any conceivable amendments make the recommendations acceptable.
The other way is to analyse why the Working Group has got it so badly wrong and to start again and do it right this time. I hope that that is the path we follow, and so I offer my own preliminary analysis here."
The essence of his critique is that GS 2014 and Motion 30 were a hopeful starting point for finding and forming two integrities in our church on the matter of blessings, but AWF provides no fulfilment of such hopes. Not least, Morrison highlights, in my words, that AWF's failure is because it does not demonstrate an understanding of what a "conservative" integrity would look like even as it effectively argues for and seeks to establish a "progressive" integrity alongside of which conservatives are thrown a few bones such as the ability to refuse to undertake blessings.
This, among other points well made, is an astute one (this time my emboldening):
"The report that the Way Forward Working Group has produced contains some useful observations and findings. Nevertheless, it shows signs of the pressure of time under which it was produced. Its preliminary sections are one-sided, representing the view of the majority who are in favour of the blessing of same-sex relationships and failing to give respectful acknowledgment of the views of the minority who are not. If the Working Group’s recommendations are to form the foundation of the ongoing recognition of two integrities within the Church, surely its own proceedings and report should have modelled that very thing, but they do not."
I leave it to you to read the whole of his post. Better still, circulate it to your GS reps!
First, I repeat my questions noted in last week's post:
"- why beat about the bush, why not name the rites so that we are clear which is which in respect of same sex civil marriages and differently sexed civil marriages, rather than "Form 1" and "Form 2" and use your magnifying glass to work out the difference between each?
- are they too wordy?
- do we get to trial them (as part of a considered process, likely longer than two years, in accord with how previously we have done good work in adopting new rites)?"
Secondly, I pick up a point made here (in comments, and, sorry, can't remember all who have made it in respect of one issue or another), that it is more than confusing, it is dangerously verging in disingenuity to proclaim in AWF that no change is envisaged to our doctrine of marriage and then to recommend acceptance of "proposed rites of blessing" that include the phrase "civil marriage" in their title, and include the word "marriage" in their main contents. There are at least three criticisms to consider at this point:
(1) To (Christianly) bless a civil marriage for which civil marriage is a necessary condition while also distinguishing "civil marriage" from "Christian marriage" looks awfully like blurring any meaningful distinction between a blessed civil marriage and a Christian marriage.
(2) To require the blessing of a civil marriage in order to consider one or more of the couple in respect of ordination or licensed ministry position to be "rightly ordered" is a change to our current doctrine of marriage because currently we consider a civilly married person (with or without blessing) to be rightly-ordered.
(3) To require the blessing of a civil marriage in order to consider one or more of the couple in respect of ordination or licensed ministry position to be "rightly ordered" is a change to our current doctrine of marriage because it introduces the idea that a priest is requisite to a couple becoming married (i.e. "properly married in the eyes of the church") when hitherto we have understood that the couple marry themselves before God (with priest and witnesses attesting to this public marrying, and priest praying for the marriage to be successful. I may not have expressed this criticism well and you may be able to do it better.
Thirdly, the introduction of a formulary for such blessings demonstrates that our church thinks this is a matter of our doctrine but the simultaneous introduction of a canon which permits dioceses to choose whether or not they authorise the formulary for use confuses this matter because
(i) it implies that dioceses may choose which bits of doctrine we believe and which we do not (which seems quite odd!, if not contradictory of Anglican governance);
(ii) it raises the significant question of whether we can via a canon do this kind of dividing of the church into two integrities on this matter:
on the one hand a canon is easily changed, at one sitting of GS, without recourse to the dioceses* and thus such a decisive piece of governance is always at risk;
on the other hand it is very, very arguable that we cannot actually do this kind of "canonical" shaping of our church, since the precedence for doing so (re canons currently governing aspects of marriage) is on shaky legal/constitutional ground (so Bosco Peters) and the logic of doing so is non-existent (how can a canon trump a formulary when one is of lesser legal weight than the other?).
**AWF does helpfully ask that GS offer a "twice round" process on this particular occasion to the canons it proposes so that they will go to the diocese for consideration along with the proposed formularies.
Fourthly, I do not, in the light of the three critiques above, wish to actually examine the formularies in any depth. We need to sort out what we are doing, what we understand marriage to be (and not to be) and work on what it means to be a church of two integrities (i.e. in only one of which would people actually being willing to say "this service reflects what I believe as an Anglican") before we worry about the wording of services of blessing.
But if you want to think critically about the formularies, as presented in AWF, then I suggest, as above, asking these questions:
- are they too wordy?
- should we be approving formularies without trial?
- do they get the relationship, important to Anglicans, between "liturgy" and "scripture" correct, with special reference to scripture informing liturgy?
- what are they blessing? (e.g. note at the top of p. 34 = second page of Form 1 the emphasis on friendship, "best of friendships": if we are blessing friendships, does that provide a way forward?)
Can We Be Constructive About A Better Way Forward?
I think we can and I suggest that the formation of FCANZ could be significant in finding that way forward. Come back Tuesday, and I will explain ...