NZ Synod punts action on gay marriage to 2018 meeting

Evangelical church leaders have applauded last week’s decision by the General Synod to postpone action on church blessings for same-sex civil marriages

Evangelical church leaders have applauded last week’s decision by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to postpone action on church blessings for same-sex civil marriages. After three days of debate, on 11 May 2016 the General Synod adopted a motion calling for the creation of a committee to find ways of holding the church together over its differences on gay marriage and to take up the “Way Forward Report” which called for the church to bless but not solemnize gay marriages, at the next meeting of General Synod in 2018. At the close of the debate the church’s three archbishops, the Most Rev. Brown Turei, the Most Rev. Philip Richardson and the Most Rev. Winston Halapua noted that they were aware of the “considerable pain” the decision not to go forward would have for gay activists, “but we are confident that our determination to work together across our differences will bring us to a place of dignity and justice for everyone.” However the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand (FCANZ) told the Church of England Newspaper it was “grateful that no changes were made to the doctrine, practice, or constitution of the Anglican Church.”  The motion to authorize gay blessings, proposed in the “Way Forward” report prepared by a commission chartered by the past meeting of synod, appeared on course for adoption after the Maori and Polynesian dioceses said on the first day of debate that they would vote in favor. However, the New Zealand dioceses were divided with Christchurch, Wellington and Nelson voicing their opposition and warning that if adopted, the church would see schism. Under the church’s constitution all three branches must approve a change to the canons and prayer book, and with the New Zealand church closely divided a compromise motion, Number 29, was put forward by the Bishop of Waiapu, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Hedge, which said synod “receives with thanksgiving” the Way Forward report, but “resolves that the report and its recommendations do lie on the table until” the next meeting of synod with the “firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made.” It further created a new working group “to consider possible structural arrangements within our Three-Tikanga Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships.” FCANZ’s statement recognized “that deciding to delay the recommendations within the report was extraordinarily difficult for some within our Province,” however “we are humbled by the effort and energy of all General Synod representatives when considering this potentially divisive issue. We are especially thankful that the unity we share in Christ can continue to be expressed within our province” FCANZ Chairman, Rev Jay Behan, said.

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