Anglican beliefs on homosexuality are changing. The Anglican Church in New Zealand has voted in favor of blessing couples who desire a same-sex marriage.
It means priests will now be able to bless or refuse to conduct same-sex marriages or civil unions without penalty. Same-sex marriages, however, are still not permitted to be conducted in churches.
The new policy appears to be intended to keep the church from dividing over the issue, which has been the source of earnest debate in New Zealand for almost 50 years.
At the 2016 Synod, church leaders looked for ways to allow new rites of blessing rather than doctrinal changes. Following the gathering, the province established a working group to explore “structural arrangements” that would allow people who hold differing convictions about same-sex relationships to remain together in the Church.
It does not appear that goal will be realized.
Anglican beliefs on homosexuality Could Divide New Zealand’s church
“By contrast to General Synod 2016, when the Way Forward report and its recommendations were shelved, the reaction to today’s decision was, after a brief burst of applause, quite muted,” Anglican Taonga reported. “Sadness, perhaps, though, that despite the best efforts of the Motion 29 working group, some have said they can no longer stay in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.”
During a speech made at General Synod, Jay Behan, who is the Vicar of St Stephen’s Shirley, Christchurch, spoke against the motion, and said he couldn’t “live with it”.
“This issue has never been for conservatives, about bigotry, or about exclusion, or about hatred. It’s a difference of opinion over how you love,” he explained. “The passing of this report finds us left behind and unable to move forward with you in good conscience as we seek to honour the Lord and love His people,” he said in a letter also signed by another conservative. “We leave with no anger or bitterness in our hearts and we wish you the best as you seek to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Anglican Taonga reported a speech from the other side of the debate, and said member Cruz Karauti-Fox, Manawa o te Wheke said: “I have many friends in the LGBT community. I myself am a part of the LGBT community.”
Anglican priest and blogger Peter Carrell says there will be Anglicans who are “unhappy with the decision”.
“There will be Anglicans who wish to stay in our church and wonder if they can live with this decision: to you I make this observation: there will not be one canonical change which requires you to do anything differently to what you are currently doing or to believe anything differently to what you currently believe.”
The motion noted that the Pacific Island countries within the diocese – Samoa, Tonga and Fiji – do not recognize unions between people of the same gender; and said that a debate at the Polynesia diocesan synod had shown its members were opposed to the blessing of same-sex relationships.
The province becomes the third in the Anglican Communion to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships, after the US-based Episcopal Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church. Unlike those two, the Church in New Zealand has done so without changing its official doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman.