Peter and Lorraine Lloyd write as members of the team from AFFIRM – Anglicans For Faith Intercession Renewal and Mission – who are working to bring a new community into being. They believe the ‘Christian Community’ offers Anglican churches a place where they can stand with integrity without having to leave the Anglican Church.
As we travel around Aotearoa New Zealand as staff of AFFIRM, we hear comments that show many Anglicans have failed to grasp the full story of what happened at the 2018 General Synod-Te Hīnota Whānui.
“I don’t know how I can remain in a Church whose leadership is taking us in a direction that I believe runs contrary to my understanding of the Bible,” said one senior layman of long standing in the Anglican Church.
“Many of my relatives and friends are leaving the Anglican Church and going to other denominations because of the decisions of the 2018 General Synod,” said another retired vicar.
Many people are under the impression that the only options are to agree with the Synod’s decision to bless same-sex couples – or to leave. But the genius of the General Synod decision was that it sought out and found a third option. That fact has often been lost in media reports that failed to give the full story of what this Church agreed to in 2018.
Back in 2014 and 2016, General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui faced the problem of irreconcilable views on human sexuality that are firmly held within our Church.
At that time the groups holding different views were blocking the forward movement of the others. Were the only alternatives to divide, or to use political power to overwhelm and silence one view?
The term “two integrities” was coined to describe this phenomenon.
So we have strongly held views about human sexuality at both ends of the spectrum, each held with integrity and each having the weight of scholarly opinion backing them. Was it possible for us to remain together in one Church with such diversity?
A small working group was set up to find structures that could accommodate the different views. Meeting that group was a lesson in gracious listening.
The AFFIRM movement had made submissions to the group, after nationwide consultation, and we were there to explain what we were looking for. We asked for four things: Identity, Integrity, Resources and Leadership.
The Anglican churches in the AFFIRM movement make a significant contribution to the life of our Church. “How can we structure our Church so that those churches have a clear Identity?” we asked.
The theology we espouse is well-respected throughout the Anglican Communion, but in Aotearoa New Zealand it has not always had the respect we believe those views deserve. Could there be structures that supported and honoured our theology?
In addition, we did not want to repeat the experience of Episcopalian and Anglican churches in North America with their acrimonious and expensive lawsuits.
Could there be structures that would enable us to retain our point of view and not lose our buildings and trust funds? Finally, because we are all loyal Anglicans, we asked that we have some form of episcopal oversight to ensure that our point of view would be represented in the House of Bishops.
Having listened carefully, the Small Working Group came up with the idea of a Christian Community that would not only suit us, but be available to any who wanted to gain the four things we had requested.
With the decision of General Synod - Te Hīnota Whānui to accept the proposals of the Small Working Group, the AFFIRM Council agreed to put its resources of people and finance behind the task of setting up a Christian Community. Our aim is to work at this for the next two years and then hand over the Christian Community to be entirely self-supporting by the end of 2020.
At this point, General Synod Standing Committee has approved the Christian Community’s Constitution, which has also been considered by the House of Bishops.
The first Convocation of the new community will meet in November of this year and among other things will choose a name for the Christian Community and select its Visitor Bishop.
To date, nine Ministry Units in Tikanga Pākehā have decided to join the Christian Community and sixty individual members.
Auckland has four member parishes: St George’s Papatoetoe; Church of the Saviour Blockhouse Bay; St Margaret’s Hillsborough; and St Elizabeth’s Clendon. Three come from the Diocese of Waikato -Taranaki: St Mark’s Nawton in Hamilton, St Peter’s Katikati and St Mary’s Gordonton, and one each from the Diocese of Christchurch (Sumner Redcliffs) and Diocese of Waiapu (Holy Trinity, Tauranga).
Any Anglican Ministry Unit that shares the theological convictions of the Christian Community can join after achieving a two-thirds majority vote to do so at an AGM. Any individual Anglican may also join.
The Christian Community (as set up by General Synod 2018) enables parishes to:
• Identify clearly to themselves and others their agreed theological position
• have ordained ministers who are affirming of that position
• and access to a Visitor or Protector Bishop to provide support and advocacy.
A parish remains part of its existing diocese and the diocesan bishop remains the licensing bishop.
Our major concern is to communicate the truth of what really happened at the 2018 Synod to Anglicans who are not in agreement with same-sex blessings.
There is no need to leave. We can stay with integrity. The provision of Christian Communities means that anyone dissatisfied with the decisions made in 2018 can retain a place to stand – without compromise.
For more information on the Christian Community, contact:
Lorraine and Peter Lloyd (Affirm Executive Officer and Network Coordinator), firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Williamson (Affirm Council Chair), email@example.com