The Angli­can earth­quake

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

And they don’t want a bless­ing from the church.

‘‘I don’t want to up­set any­body any fur­ther than I need to. It’s up­set­ting . . . I’d love to be able to go with my fam­ily, and have been in­vited by mem­bers to come along, but I do know there are peo­ple who don’t be­lieve that the way that I live is an ac­cept­able way to live, and I don’t want to ex­pose my chil­dren to that.’’ That’s ex­actly what Philip Richard­son doesn’t want to hear. The Angli­can Arch­bishop of New Zealand says Mo­tion 29 was a care­fully con­sid­ered, long-thought-out mech­a­nism to unite the church in rapidly chang­ing times.

The trou­ble for Saun­ders, Rim­mer and many others is that churches don’t do rapid. What Richard­son claims as a ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant step’’ for the church has been reached by a decades­long process.

‘‘We’ve been work­ing since the 1970s around try­ing to un­der­stand, gain­ing as much knowl­edge from sci­ence, from read­ing of scrip­ture, from try­ing to un­der­stand con­text.’’

He says the church sup­ported law re­form in the 1980s that de­crim­i­nalised ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. That move­ment gained more mo­men­tum in the past decade, with fur­ther changes to New Zealand leg­is­la­tion, cul­mi­nat­ing with the Mar­riage (Def­i­ni­tion of Mar­riage) Amend­ment Act 2013, which le­galised same-sex unions.

Angli­can fo­rums in­cluded the Ma Whea? (Where to?) com­mis­sion trav­el­ling the coun­try to hear sub­mis­sions on the sub­ject; a doc­trine com­mis­sion look­ing at the bi­b­li­cal and the­o­log­i­cal is­sues around same-sex bless­ings and or­di­na­tion; and another work­ing group called The Way For­ward, which put rec­om­men­da­tions to the 2016 synod.

Those cen­tred around two ‘‘very clear, ir­rec­on­cil­able po­si­tions: one which said scrip­ture was un­equiv­o­cal and ho­mo­sex­ual ac­tiv­ity was sin­ful; and another that you need to read this along­side the big, broader themes of the scrip­ture’’.

The over­rid­ing is­sue, says Richard­son, was find­ing ‘‘a way to struc­ture our life in the church which can hold that level of di­ver­gence in the same fam­ily; do we have to frac­ture, do we have to split, does there have to be win­ners and losers?’’

The lat­ter seemed the most likely in 2016, when the Gen­eral Synod deemed the po­ten­tial for up­heaval too great. ‘‘So we pressed the pause but­ton.’’

They fi­nally found The Way For­ward in New Ply­mouth two weeks ago, when the new ‘‘leg­is­la­tion’’ was passed unan­i­mously by church lead­ers.

Richard­son is proud of the achieve­ment and the thought

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