Monday, April 11, 2016

A Way Forward: Section 9: A Critical Review (7)

[The full report is accessible here. The section under discussion in this post is accessible here. In these posts I am aiming to work my way forward through A Way Forward report, posting on a new section each Monday in the weeks before General Synod, May 2016. Pagination refers to the PDF version of the report.]

If our church changes the status quo almost certainly some change consequentially will be required to our canon on marriage, technically titled within the raft of all our canons as "Title G Canon III".

Page 25 explains the proposed changes to the canon (i.e. if we agree to blessing of civil marriages) and the following pages in this section set out what the new canon would look like if the proposed amendments and additions are agreed to. For the sake of time I will focus here on page 25, save for one point I make about a possible missing word on page 27.

The first proposed change is that as a church we will no longer have our own list of "forbidden marriages". Rather we will conform our understanding of forbidden marriages to the state's understanding of forbidden marriages. I believe I am not alone in being perturbed by this proposed change: it is a small but significant step in which the church gives away its own sense of right and wrong in conformation to what the state thinks (which, on such a matter, will be largely what the surrounding culture thinks). I would not and could not vote to support this change. Incidentally, I see nothing in the AWF report itself which requires this change.

The second proposed change will enable the blessing of civil marriages (i.e. any civil marriage between any kind of couple). I make not further comment here about such blessed relationships since comment is already made in previous posts in this series.

A missing word?

On page 27, Part B: Of Civil Marriages, 1.1, I am wondering if the word "provided" should be added into this clause as it seems to be saying that "A minister may conduct services blessing a civil marriage ... Tikanga Pasifika [PROVIDED] a. the General Synod ...; and b. the Synod ... for such a civil marriage."

Without "provided" clauses (a) and (b) seem to hang there, and, in particular, it is less than clear that the minister may NOT conduct such a service if her or his Synod had not authorised the use of such a service.


Andrei said...

Fiddling while Rome burns

How many actual marriages were conducted in Anglican Churches by Ordained Anglican priests according to the rubrics of the Anglican church last year Peter?

Not very many I'd be picking

Father Ron Smith said...

It is entirely good, Peter, that you alert our Church to the textual problems of Motion 30 as it stands. However, to consistently contrast Church Law with Civil Law, you may be causing more problems than need be. 'Contra Mundum' could seem to the world outside the Church - especially on matters of common justice and mercy (this for Rosemary) - to be contrary to 'the common good', a factor nourished by the Gospel.

I think that you would concede that, on occasion, civil law has had to precede any movement by the Church to ease the lot of the Outcast - e.g: on Homosexual Law Reform. I for instance, see the civil arena as being infintely more merciful than the Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
I do not know the figures but if every parish in NZ had one wedding each year we are talking some 300-350 weddings p.a. and if (in the future) there were say a 3% addition to that figure re blessings of civil marriages then that would be some 9 - 11 blessings p.a.

Though I imagine in the first year there would be something of a catch up!

Andrei said...

I do not know the figures but if every parish in NZ had one wedding each year we are talking some 300-350 weddings p.a.

I doubt the suburban Anglican Church in our street has conducted wedding in the last decade - which is hardly surprising, the congregation consists almost entirely of pensioners toddling in on zimmer frames

In 1958 over a quarter of all weddings in New Zealand were conducted by "The Church of England", similar figures for the Presbyterians and Catholics conducted just over 15% - Registrars (or what we call celebrants today) only solemnized about one wedding in five. I know this because I just looked it up - alas I cannot find the numbers for the modern age - Doesn't the Anglican Church keep statistics on its Baptismss and Marriages?

I'm not being rude here (I hope) but producing wordy screeds on how to accommodate the Anglican Church to the zeitgeist of Post Christian society is not going to accomplish its mission of spreading the gospel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
Some churches conduct more weddings than others - I have a colleague in one of our picturesque towns with a picturesque church who (with the assistance of others) conducts/co-ordinates some 40-50 or more weddings per year. (I forgot that when I estimated one wedding per parish per year average).
For that colleague some clear guidance re requests for same-sex weddings will be worth the paperwork expended to get to the point of agreed clarity in the life of our church.
But, as a general observation about priorities for our church in a post-Christian age, I think your comment re spreading the gospel is on the mark.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I'm not being rude here (I hope) but producing wordy screeds on how to accommodate the Anglican Church to the zeitgeist of Post Christian society is not going to accomplish its mission of spreading the gospel" - Andrei -

This remark seems a little ingenuous - in the circumstances.

Most weddings in New Zealand are not now 'church' weddings, so we may be comparing apples with nail-scissors.

In today's society, the Church needs to stay in the same ball-park with the people it has been created to serve - as agents of God's great mercy and loving-kindness - not as as so-called guardians of an out-dated and unworkable quasi-legal system of puritanical disdain.

Christ came to set us free from 'The Law of Sin and Death'. Our insistence on returning to 'The Law' is rapidly turning people away from the Church. What is needed is something of Pope Francis' new insistence on hospitality, born of God's Mercy. Love and Forgiveness.

Our unwillingness to meet people 'where they are', in all the situations of deep human need, seems to have emptied all but the most youth-oriented middle-class parish churches. Read Fr. Giles Fraser's latest blog relating to his down-market mixed-race parish in the Church of England, and you'll get some idea of what it is to minister to the neediest in today's society.

The Church needs to surrender its 'upper-class' attitude to moral imperatives, in order to deal with reality in today's world - if ever it is to regain real influence in today's society. Viva il Papa!

Jean said...

Ahh Fr Ron Love meets people where they are, but He does not leave them where they are ... Does Drug Arm consider drug abuse sinful (probably?), yet they dedicate themselves going out walking the streets at night providing hot drinks, friendship and prayer, blankets, food and the occassional ride home to those on the streets because of love (perhaps?). Are their viewpoints and subsequent actions legalistic?

I think the marriages in churches today most likely mirror the number of people who are actively Christians alongside those who by family association or history consider themselves connected to the Christian faith. So it is not going to be large or take up a lot of time for many Ministers,, Still they happen and this practicality means guidelines need to be available. And we can always bank on the miracle God will grown his church in our land.... and the weddings will come a flooding in...

No doubt your colleague Peter too may have had the odd tourist venture advertising same sex marriages in his picturesque setting creating the odd complication : )

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter, has there been any discussion of the rather odd statement in The Way Forward where it says, New Zealand civil legislation has facilitated marriage fully independent of any Christian denomination since the 1970s, yet couples have never been required to have civil marriages blessed in order to be recognised as married by the Church.
The 1854 Act states Any person who shall object to be married under the provi sions of this Act in the presence of any Officiating Minister may after compliance with the provisions of this act in all other particulars, contract and solemnize marriage at the office and in the presence of some Registrar, in the presence of two witnesses, with open doors and between between the hours aforesaid:
furthermore the act referred to Hebrew marriages.
The 1955 Act allows any organisation whose purpose is to uphold or promote religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions to have marriage celebrants act on its behalf.
The Way Forward use of what seems to be erroneous information reflects the special pleading which it seems to me is a feature of the Report.
Regards, Rhys

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter - and another question - has there been discussion of the proposals of the Way Forward that a new definition of chastity in title include the following

Chastity is the right ordering of sexual relationships. Rightly ordered relationships are those in which ministers:
are celibate; or
are married pursuant to Title G, Canon III, Part A; or ---

Quite what pursuant means i'm not sure - apparently, in accordance with, or with reference to, or following the requirements of a statute. Am I, married by a Methodist Presbyter in England, married pursuant to the proposed ACNZAP title G (with its requirements for a priest or bishop to give the blessing)?
Regards, Rhys

Malcolm said...

Dear Rhys,

Because the report has moved the emphasis from the couple's intention to marry, to the church's intention to bless, I would have thought you have right to be concerned. The status of the church and the liturgy used must become a significant consideration, as it is when it is unclear as to the validity of a person's baptism.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rhys
1. No I have not seen that - to me too - rather odd statement discussed.
2. I see reason to probe and ask questions of the proposals re status of previously contracted marriages, but I don't see reason for you yourself to be "concerned". I can only read the proposals as changing the status of "civil" marriages and not of "church" marriages.

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter, I wondered whether 'the lacuna identified in the report' meant that something had dropped out of the old canons and was lost when the 1970 marriage revision took place. If this is so can someone enlighten us. Otherwise my observations in the previous post remain relevant
The Taonga report on the Way Forward of 22 February says that "Since the 1970s, New Zealand law has given its legal thumbs-up to civil marriages – --- At the same time, there’s never been any question about the church recognising that these couples are, in fact, married – they haven’t been required, for example, to have their civil marriages blessed retrospectively in order to be recognised as married".
So in Taonga's view, no blessing, no marriage! And this I fear is what people at large will hear.
I wasn't concerned about the status of my marriage as I would on no account submit to any suggestion that it is not rightly ordered. But I am concerned about many other aspects of the report, one of which is that title D may in future read "Rightly ordered relationships are those in which ministers:
are celibate; or are married pursuant to Title G, Canon III, Part --." If the reply to that is, they don't really mean it, i wonder what else in the report they don't really mean. Yours, Rhys