The Gafcon movement has yet to close a sale with congregations quitting the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Ink has learned. A congregation that quit the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki last month tells AI that it has yet to decide whether it will remain Anglican.
The Rev. Michael Hewat, the former vicar of West Hamilton Anglican Church in Dinsdale, New Zealand stated he had had informal talks with an Australian leader in the Fellowship of Confession Anglicans (FCA) movement before the split, but no action has been taken so far. “We haven’t decided yet whether we want to remain Anglican,” he wrote in an email message to AI.
In a letter published last month in the Waikato Times, Mr. Hewat said he was withdrawing from the province as a consequence of the May vote by General Synod to begin the process towards authorizing gay marriage. Motion 30 approved by synod set in place a two year process towards finding a theological rationale for revising the church’s doctrine on marriage.
Mr. Hewat objected to the motion, noting that it was unlawful on its face as it suspended canon law by changing doctrine not through the required constitutional process but through a pastoral consultation. “To change doctrine, in effect, means you have to change sources of doctrine so, in other words, the Bible is no longer the source of doctrine,” Mr. Hewat said.
In a letter sent to the other congregations in the diocese the Bishop of Waikato, the Rt. Rev. Helen-Ann Hartley, and the Primate, the Most Rev. Phillip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki, (pictured) denied Motion 30 contravened church doctrine and violated church law. The motion sought to find ways of including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people into the life of the church and was an “indication of the church’s willingness to engage in a further process to explore ways in which different views can exist together, in the same house.”
The members of the evangelical parish, however, were not persuaded by these arguments and last month 95 per cent of the congregation backed the vicar’s decision to leave. “We have moved, almost entirely intact,” Mr. Hewat noted, “as a congregation to leased premises close to our former church buildings.”
Two evangelical congregations have quit the New Zealand church following the Motion 30 vote. In May the Rev. Charlie Hughes, vicar of St Michael’s Anglican Church, and the bulk of his congregation withdrew from the Diocese of Auckland. It has not sought oversight from the FCA.
No decision has been made on the West Hamilton congregation’s denominational affiliation. “We will not be an independent congregation, but have yet to decide whether we will seek alignment with FCA or with some other Protestant denomination, e.g. Wesleyan Methodist or Baptist,” he explained.