Auckland Diocese Synod votes for full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in ministry

Jeremy Younger, Coordinator of Changing Attitude New Zealand, has forwarded a report of the meeting of the Auckland Diocesan Synod held on 4 September, 2011.

It was a significant day in the ongoing struggle to end discrimination against LGB&T members of the Anglican Church in New Zealand for two reasons.

For the first time an Auckland Diocesan bishop said publicly in his Charge that he would discern and ordain LGB&T candidates for ordained ministry, including if they were in committed same-sex relationships. He qualified that support by saying ‘should the appropriate basis for change be found within the church’ – namely some level of agreement in the House of Bishops and an understanding of, or change to, Canon Laws that would permit this. The relevant paragraphs of his address are printed below.

Secondly, the Diocesan Synod debated and passed overwhelmingly a motion in support of the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in ministry and committed to the listening process, initiated, as the bishop says, after Lambeth 1998. Auckland’s goals and the commitment made in the motion are exactly the same as Changing Attitude England’s and are the focus of our Conference on 24 September in Birmingham.

The Synod motion [as amended with clauses 3, 4, and 5] read:

“That this Synod

[1] Holds that sexual orientation should not be an impediment to the discernment, ordination, and licensing of gay and lesbian members to any lay and ordained offices of the Church; and further

[2] persons in committed same-sex relationships likewise should not be excluded from being considered for discernment, ordination, and licensing to any lay and ordained offices of the Church.

[3] commits to an intentional process of listening to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, organized by the Archdeacons in consultation with the gay and lesbian community.

[4] commits to an ongoing discussion with the ministry units, asks the Archdeacons to facilitate this, and invites responses to those discussions to be submitted to Diocesan Council by 31st March 2012; and

[5] commits to support the process and work of the Commission to be appointed by General Synod Standing Committee, as resolved at its meeting in July 2011.”

This motion was put in parts, and members voted via a paper ballot. The most contentious clause, [2], passed by nearly a two-thirds majority.

Never before has an Auckland Synod so clearly, overwhelmingly, and emphatically endorsed the being, relationships and ministry of its gay and lesbian members.

Two comments from gay members of the House afterwards were “for the first time, after all these years, I feel affirmed by my Church” and “this has drawn a line in the sand that has not been drawn before, and we will never go back”.

Edited section of The Bishop’s Charge delivered by Right Reverend Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland to the Second Session of the Fifty Third Synod of the Diocese of Auckland:

The ordination of people in same sex relationships remains a matter of debate and concern within the Communion as a whole and the member provinces. As the bishop, I am very conscious that this diocese has not done its work effectively in engaging around this issue. Hermeneutical Hui have been held across the Three Tikanga and we have had representatives present at those gatherings, but we have not actively studied the Scriptures in the same way together as a diocese. A Listening Process was initiated following the 1998 Lambeth Conference to encourage the church to hear the experience of gay and lesbian people but I am aware of little if any work that we have undertaken to allow that to happen in our diocese. We have failed to find opportunities to debate the issues around same sex ordinations with openness and honesty.

People increasingly want to know where I stand on this issue. In one sense as a bishop, I give up the opportunity to hold a strong position on matters where there is a lack of clarity within the diocese as a whole. I take on the role of facilitating the church in its deliberations as we wrestle together to establish our mind. At the same time I have the responsibility of offering leadership to the diocese in all matters including those which can divide us. I must do so conscious of the care required so as not to unfairly influence the debate and any decisions. 7

I will therefore be clear that should the appropriate basis for change be found within the church, I would be willing to proceed with such ordinations within this diocese.

However I have been clear from the start that I will not pre-empt the appropriate decision making processes of the church as a whole. Last year information was requested through the Synod as to the status of moratoria in relation to the ordination of those in same sex relationships. I now have a greater clarity about that. The bishops of our province have agreed to impose such a moratorium on ourselves while the hermeneutical processes are continuing and better progress is made towards consensus. In addition this year, advice has been offered to suggest that any such ordination could be subject to judicial challenge under the Canons.

So it is important that the process towards a decision either for change or for the status quo is worked out carefully and in step with one another. The General Synod Standing Committee is in the process of establishing a Three Tikanga working group to undertake the following:

i. A summary of the biblical and theological work done by our Church on the issues surrounding Christian ethics, human sexuality and the blessing and ordination of people in same sex relationships, including missiological, doctrinal, canonical, cultural and pastoral issues;

ii. The principles of Anglican ecclesiology and, in light of our diversity, the ecclesial possibilities for ways forward for our Three Tikanga Church; and

iii. The implications of (i) and (ii) on the place of our Three Tikanga Church as a whole within the worldwide Anglican Communion.

With all of that in mind, I welcome the opportunity for the debate to take place in this session of our Synod. I hope the debate can be conducted in a respectful manner, recognising the sensitivities that exist, the diversity of opinion, and the energy with which those opinions are held. Someone recently mentioned a quote to me along the lines of “Are you really listening to me, or just waiting for your turn to speak?” Let us listen well to one another.

Comments

  1. Cyril Chidi says

    This ‘LGBT’ shouldn’t be an issue with ordianation, afterall, we have gay priests in the Catholic church, just that they don’t marry but they are GAY!

  2. Stephen Donald says

    Not only Auckland synod moved towards fuller inclusion of LGBT – Waiapu (eastern North Island predominantly rural diocese) passed the following resolution the following day:

    “The full motion is: Given that Waiapu has followed a policy of sexual orientation not being a barrier to ordination; and given that there is not and has not been an agreed “moratorium” on ordinations of those in same-sex relationships;

    a) this Synod affirms that sexual orientation is not a barrier to ordination, and

    b) this Synod asks General Synod to move forward with the provision of an authorised liturgy for the blessing of same sex relationships to be adopted by dioceses who wish to do so.

    All sides of the three-hour debate were well represented. Synod chose to deal with each clause separately and voted in houses. Both clauses were passed by more than a 90% majority.

    In a separate motion, synod rejected the proposed Anglican Covenant by a 99.5% majority.”- more details at http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/News/TIKANGA-PAKEHA/Waiapu-asks-for-same-sex-liturgy

    As one of those at the Waiapu synod, I was surprised at the overwhelming support for the resolution and proud that we have come this far. The discussion was generally respectful and good-humoured and the conversations during breaks etc between those holding different opinions were fruitful.

    The latest print edition of Anglican Taonga (quarterly magazine for Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) has an excellent article by retired Waiapu bishop John Bluck. He reckons we Anglicans have got ourselves into a real mess over LGBT ordinations etc, saying ‘Why would we want to resort to canons and lawyers for what are essentially pastoral decisions about suitability for leadership?’ I agree! Unfortunately this article (pp.30-31)does not appear to be online as yet but I am sure will be in due course. Kind regards Stephen Donald (Tolaga Bay NZ)

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