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Church to explore blessing of same gender relationships

Media Release – May 14 2014

Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

The General Synod/te Hinota Whanui of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has decided to explore ways that the blessing of same gender relationships could be part of Church life.

The ruling body of the Church is meeting in Waitangi this week to acknowledge 200 years since the arrival of the Christian missionaries to Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The three Archbishops, reflecting the three tikanga structure of the Church, Archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson, and Winston Halapua, say the Synod upholds the traditional doctrine of marriage. At the same time the Synod wants to develop ways to respond to committed relationships between two people, that tell of the love of Christ, regardless of gender.

The Archbishops say the Synod holds a wide range of views but it has expressed unanimous support for the decision to identify what changes could be recommended. The Synod wants to protect diversity in the Church as a way forward is developed.

Archbishop Winston Halapua says, “The Synod is committed to ongoing talking/talanoa as it considers change and to follow the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times.”

Archbishop Philip Richardson says, “We have witnessed across the Church a depth of extraordinary trust and respect, there is a unity in Christ in conversations that have enabled us to get to this point. There is a hope that this trust we have seen with faith, hope, and love will continue as change is considered.”

The Synod statement has recognised that over many years it has become increasingly aware of the pain to the LGBT community. The Synod has apologized unreservedly for the times actions of the Church have contributed to that pain.

A working party will be appointed to recommend processes and structures that allow people to choose whether they lead, or not lead, same gender blessings. That choice will be dependent on whether each person believes such blessings are contrary to, or in agreement with scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law. The Synod was very mindful that there are present legal restrictions in some nations in Polynesia on same gender relationships. The working party would also propose a liturgy to bless right ordered same gender relationships.

A report has also been requested on how such possibilities may impact on future requirements for ordination and the rite of marriage.

The working party will report to the next General Synod in 2016. Any change is likely to take up a minimum of four years as it may require
constitutional change for the church as well as parliamentary legislation.

The Synod is mindful of the need to respond to members of the LGBT community in a more immediate time frame. A decision was made that those in a same gender civil union or state marriage can be recognized in public worship with clergy seeking the approval of the local bishop and licensed leadership body. Such recognition cannot be a rite of marriage or a blessing.

Archbishop Brown Turei says it is significant that this conversation about change for the church, that holds differing views, has taken place at Waitangi.

“This is the place where Maori and Pakeha talked and trusted each other and began a new journey 200 years ago. The discussion we will have as change is considered, like those first ones here at Waitangi, will not be easy at all times but may we hold the mana of each of us made in the image of God,” says Archbishop Brown.


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