The Wardens, Vestry and Parishioners of St Matthew-in-the-City ask you to consider:
For many centuries gay and lesbian Christians have served the Anglican Church in positions of leadership. Most though have hidden their sexual orientation. In recent times however as Western society has become more accepting of difference many gay and lesbian Christians no longer wish to hide their orientation or their relationships. There are now a number of countries that provide sacred and legal opportunities for couples to commit themselves to each other for the long-term.
In 2004 the US Episcopal Church ordained as a bishop a priest in a same-sex relationship. Due to conservative opposition the Archbishop of Canterbury asked the American church and rest of the Anglican Communion to not ordain anyone bishop who was in a same-sex relationship until the entire Communion could find agreement.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to impose such a moratorium on another bishop or jurisdiction it had to be complied with voluntarily. Initially it was. Vigorous debate ensued. Responding to these disputes many countries declared a state of impaired communion with the American Church. This was not surprising as most of those jurisdictions were in one of the 46 British Commonwealth countries that still criminalize same-sex relationships. In 2009 the Episcopal Church voted to resume ordaining as bishops candidates in committed same-sex relationships.
Although the debate has never been about ordaining deacons and priests in same sex relationships many bishops have voluntarily barred gays and lesbians. Currently most New Zealand bishops feel constrained not to select or ordain any gay and lesbian candidates unless they are committed to permanent celibacy. Where bishops have acted in this discriminatory manner they have done so without the mandate of New Zealand’s General Synod.
The Anglican custom is that bishops, guided by some general principles[i], have the responsibility to discern who is called by God to ordination within their diocese. To put a constraint on this custom by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation needs to be subjected to public debate.
It is highly appropriate that gays and lesbians are in positions of ordained leadership and there are a number of ministry units who are suffering as a result of such discrimination both in terms of pastoral care and mission.
The primary reason our Archbishop Moxon has given for this discrimination is so not to offend the rest of the Anglican Communion. However it is an offence to the Gospel. It is an offence to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, be they Anglican or not. It is an offence to our commitment to human rights. It is an offence to sovereignty and independence. NZ gay and lesbian Christians who are called to leadership are being denied the dignity of equals by countries that still criminalize their gay and lesbian neighbours. It is hypocritical for the Church to proclaim a message of love then limit that love to heterosexual relationships.
Therefore, we ask all New Zealanders, Anglicans or not, and the world to express their belief that it is time to end this practice. The imperative for justice here cannot be locked down by the desire for unity everywhere.
[i] In our case Title G canon 13, and Title D canon 1. See www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Canons