For this post we are concerned with the Introduction and the Executive Summary.
Incidentally, on the front page of the report, is the name of our church correct? I thought it is "the Anglican Church IN Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia" but the title page has "the Anglican Church OF Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia."
Why a Critical Review?
The unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined report is not worth having. Given that this report and its recommendations have some capacity - depending on what, precisely, General Synod in May 2016 agrees to - to (at best) divide the church into two integrities and to (at worst) divide the church into two schismatic tendencies, it is worth subjecting the report to careful, critical scrutiny. To an important degree that has already happened here at ADU with brilliant comments made to my initial posts about the report last week. But the series I am proposing through this and subsequent Mondays (+/- a day), between now and General Synod, will enable some systematic consideration to be given to the report, section by section.
I will just say once in this series: our church owes a great deal to the group who produced the report. They worked hard, and spent countless hours on the task. They deserve our thanks and praise for producing something worth discussing and, it perhaps will prove, in the end worth passing into legislation.
So, to the Introduction and Executive Summary
I don't have much to say about the Introduction and the Executive Summary, sections 1 and 2. They are what they are, and useful for that. But the Introduction does remind us who was on the group that produced the report: thirteen members of our church, drawn from our three Tikanga. In the Introduction we are told of something I suggest all readers of the report keep in mind at all times:
"While working group members agree that they have met the brief given, they were not and are not of one mind on many issues."
And later, in respect of the key to any such report, its substantive theological base, as well as connecting that theological set of explanations to our constitution and Church of England Empowering Act (1928):
"The explanations are not necessarily the views of every individual member."
So, General Synod, good luck with making a decision, from your working group that could not find a common mind on a set of compromises!
The Executive Summary is what it is, but a couple of statements within it could be highlighted here.
First, in respect of an issue for a number of clerical colleagues, that changes to what we believe as a whole church might imperil any priest refusing to conduct the blessing of a same sex relationship if that couple chose to sue the priest on grounds of discrimination:
"The canons of this Church already make provision for any priest or bishop to decline to perform a rite of marriage. It is not anticipated by the group that any such minister could be held to be non-compliant with any relevant parliamentary legislation through electing not to perform a rite of blessing for a couple married under civil legislation."
I think I see the legal reasoning here: a civilly married couple are not being refused marriage by a priest who will not bless their relationship. But would that, in itself, prevent a case being taken by a lawyer who generally sought to convince a judge that said priest acted in a discriminatory manner by refusing to bless the couple?
Secondly, in respect of the matter of two integrities in our church (should the report's recommendations become, in due course, legislated into the canons and formularies of this Church):
"The working group believes that the proposed rites and canonical changes contained in this report, if adopted, will enable every priest and bishop in the Anglican church in this province to retain their integrity within the Church: those who believe the blessing of same-sex persons is congruent with scripture, tikanga and doctrine, and those who believe that such a blessing is contrary to these."
At precisely this point I would like to know if this is, in fact, the unanimous view of the working group or whether this is a matter on which the working group was not of one mind. If the former I would feel more confident that these two integrities have a chance of being birthed. If the latter then I would be interested to learn more about what other possibilities exist in the minds of the working group members.
This matter of "two integrities" is of the highest importance if we are to remain one church. There will be more to say in subsequent weeks as I work through the next sections of the report.
Next week, the "dynamic nature of Doctrine." And, no, "Doctrine" is not one of the names of the new teams in the expanded Super Rugby competition.