Thursday, September 28, 2017

Towards revising a draft submission for 17 November

OK so comments back and forth have been vigorous re my (very draft) draft submission for the GS Motion 29 Working group (due 17 November). The guts of which were:

"I ask that the idea below is considered against the background of the "broad place" Anglicanism noted above, along with the fact that in the past few decades, despite same sex partnered clergy being part of the life of most dioceses, no bishop has been taken to a disciplinary tribunal for licensing these clergy.

My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:

(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal

(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit

(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position.


I think (2) and (3) are the minimum we would need for space to be given for SSB (or, indeed, House Blessings) to be conducted in our church and for bishops to lift the moratorium on accepting candidates for ordination etc.

I suggest (2) would remove bishops from disputes with clergy who do not think they should be giving permission for such to happen or approving forms of service for SSBs. It would also enable the possibility of SSBs to occur in a ministry unit in a Diocese which otherwise generally held the view that SSBs ought not to happen.

Obviously (3) could lead to disputes with bishops, but would it lead to differences of view between bishops and their clergy which are not already in existence?
Incidentally I cannot recall one comment on the specifics of this particular proposal which I naively thought might get us around certain difficulties with the current proposal being discussed by our diocesan synods and hui amorangi.

But here is the thing: there is definitely, within our church, a school of thought which, frankly, wants no SSB happening anywhere, anytime, under any conditions which imply official or formal approval of our church.

There is also a(n overlapping) school of thought which seeks theological work to be done which has not be done - despite some work being done, the proposition here is that more work needs to be done. We should be principled in our pragmatism rather than pragmatic in our pragmatism - if, indeed, our principles permit us to be pragmatic. (On which we might usefully read this blogpost about our already constructed pragmatism).

Of course there is a school of thought which wants the status quo to change, and yesterday!

What is to be done?

Here is one of the simplest things we could do, on the face of it: to carefully and graciously separate our church into two churches, one which has nothing to do with SSB and one which has something to do with SSB. But this possible way forward is not as simple as it sounds because our church does not neatly divide into two groups on SSB (remember, on any issue in our church there are always at least three groups: conservative, moderates and progressives).

Here is another of the simplest things we could do, on the face of it: to commit to patient unity. If we are called by Christ to unity (and we are) and if we are in such disunity on an issue that we might split apart (anathema), then ecclesio-logic commends that we make no decision to change the status quo. On this approach we could certainly, at the least, commit ourselves to theological work together.

Then there is the recommendation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans NZ, that we institute alternative episcopal oversight so that we make the best unity out of our disunity: various groups within our church are in unity with one or more, but not all bishops. I won't here canvas the pros and cons of this proposal (there are many), nor set out a judgment on the possibility, suffice to say that this is as much worth considering as the two possibilities set out above it.

At this point I am not setting out a revision to the first few paragraphs above - specific comments to any or all those suggestions welcomed.

I also welcome comments on three suggestions above for "What is to be done?"

APROPOS of a Comment or two below about braided rivers:


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, as the main subject of our disagreement here involves the Sacrament of Marriage, may I draw everyone's attention to the fact that we have stayed together despite differing views on its dissolubility. Parishes have not divided on this issue. (Even our clergy are not immune to divorce and re-marriage! And yet the Marriage Canon remains).

I submit, therefore, that; as our Church has decided in the meantime not to change the Canon of Marriage - on the issue of it being for heterosexuals only; we makes a decision to live together with the prospect of S/S Marriage being recognised by the same sort of tolerance that is given to divorced persons.

Certain churches may have a problem with Celebrating the marriage of divorcees, but this has not split the Church.

Likewise, certain churches may have a problem with Blessing the marriage of a faithfully-committed same-sex couple.

Any attempt to distinguish between what some people see as the violation of the Marriage Canon in each of these cases would seem to call for a degree of equal anathema or treatment on both. Tolerance of both (with the license for parishes to make their own judgement - as they do with the treatment of the re-marriage after divorce) might avoid a split in the Church.

Let parishes that have problems with each of these anomolies continue to avoid their perceived 'pollution'by refusing to become involved.

And let those of us who believe that love covers a multitude of sins - in parishes where this is its mission of 'radical inclusion' - go ahead with offering (1) to Celebrate the Second Marriage, and (b) to offer a Blessing to leaglly married Same-Sex Couples.

This seems to me to be adequately justified and fair in the circumstances.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
When you put it like that, the logic seems irrefutable!
On the one hand, I am open, as per my posts here, to the breadth of our church resulting in some kind of tolerance and openness to differences in understanding being worked out in practice.

On the other hand, I am trying to understand why on the matter of SSB there is a significant part of our church which does not think it fits within the breadth. When we boil down the objection to its essence, it remains problematic whether we can be a church which (to some degree of official/canonical/liturgical recognition) both teaches that something is sinful and that it is not sinful.
That is a contradiction and some contradictions are easier to live with than others ...

Andrei said...

Scottish Anglican church faces sanctions over vote to allow same-sex marriage

Father Ron Smith said...

GAFCON has already pronounced its own anathema on that one, Andrei.
Gafcon is no longer bound by the Anglican Communion's resolutions.
Neither is the Orthodox Church.

Anonymous said...

Peter, it seems that two desires shape proposals for SSBs-- on one hand, a desire not to be punished for performing them; on the other, a desire to be dissociated from such performing. Is it right to say that your new proposal is to grant the desire for permission but to deny the desire for dissociation?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Rereading what I wrote I see how you have come to that question.
But that is not what I am thinking (or, at least, not quite I think I am thinking!) so I may need to revise the revision.
What I am trying to do is to minimise the number of objections people might have to SSB occurring, e.g. take the bishop's "positive" role out of the interim proposal (determining that SSB might take place) and substituting it with a "neutral" role (no permission given, no discipline taken).
If, nevertheless, dissociation takes place, then it takes place. But what I am trying to point out - to those willing to listen and/or, if old enough, recall relatively recent, pre 2003 history - is that my "minimalist" proposal takes us to a place we were once at, in which there was little dissociation, if any.

Anonymous said...

So then the deep question is: can we dip our feet in the same river twice?


Peter Carrell said...

Excellent point!

Father Ron Smith said...

Fortunately, Bowman, for the sake of YOUR conscience, it's not your feet that will be gettng wet. No need to fret for us, we can look after ourselves. We Kiwis have sometimes acted on other matters dear to us in our own context - before ECUSA. Take synodical government, for instance. We are not always followers. Sometimes on matters of our own interest, we are innovators.

Anonymous said...

It (DK22B12) was made by Heraclitus (535-475 BC), first philosopher of the Logos--

ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμβαίνουσιν ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ

"On those who step into the same rivers, ever-new waters always flow."


Peter Carrell said...

Poor Heraclitus. Imagine if he had visited one of NZ's famous braided rivers. He would still be pondering which braid he should be offering rumination on when the river flowed changed and that braid disappeared!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Father Ron, it sounds to me as though you will all thrive under any scenario that we have imagined. In fact, the prospects on the blessed isles are so good that I am surprised that the dreams down under are not much bolder than I read here.

Synods are not your fault. The New Zealand BCP and the tikangas are path-making.

Peter, what is a braided river?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I am inserting a photo at the bottom of the post above of one of our braided rivers in Canterbury (where I live).
I understand that such rivers are not common around the world.
They arise because of erosion from our mountains which leads to shingle slides cascading down their slopes (mostly stable, I have walked across some) but over time the shingle movess to ground level, some gets swept by rivers with varying levels of water through the year (tending towards flooding after run or snow melt), and thus stones are churned towards the sea forming the braiding patterns in the river.
The main course of the river may not change much over human time (the odd bank being cut into etc) but the course of the braids varies with every flooding.

Anonymous said...

Even the rivers are more lovely on the blessed isles.