The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand says it is disappointed that bishops have “crossed boundaries” to support the ordination of a bishop in a break-away church.
A former cleric in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP) the Rev Jay Behan was ordained in Christchurch on 19 October as bishop of a new church.
Jay Behan was an outspoken critic of an historic General Synod decision in May last year in New Plymouth which paved the way for bishops to authorise individual priests to bless same sex civil marriages.
Worshippers in four Christchurch parishes subsequently decided to leave the church.
Anglican leaders say last weekend’s ordination was “irregular” and they do not regard the new Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand Church as Anglican - but would relate to them through their Council for Ecumenism.
“While they have co-opted the well-known identifiers of “Anglican” and “Aotearoa New Zealand” within their name, they are not a part of, nor in relationship with the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia,” Archbishop Don Tamihere said.
“It is disappointing that this group has chosen to be so disrespectful to our Church, and to denigrate us in their public statements while also seeking to co-opt our name and history as their own.”
He said it was more disappointing “that they claim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the basis for their exclusion and denigration of our takatāpui whānau”.
“We want to reiterate to our takatāpui whānau, including the LGBTQI community that we are committed to being a Church where all people are loved and valued.
“We know that we have done wrong in the past, and we may well make mistakes in the future, but we are committed to listening, to learning, to repentance and to forgiveness. More than that, we are committed to offering to all people the same unconditional love that God first offered us through his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Philip Richardson said he believed in working for a church and a society in which all human beings could flourish and where none were judged “unworthy of the love of God or inclusion in this Anglican Church” because of their culture, their language, their race, their gender or their sexual orientation.
The Archbishops in correspondence last year with the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, who proposed establishing a second Anglican Church in New Zealand, said there had been work in the Church on the question of the blessing of same-gender relationships for more than 40 years.
They said in adopting a way forward, enormous care has been taken to honour and protect the integrity of people who held irreconcilable views.
“We are deeply saddened that some feel unable to remain in this Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia,” they wrote.
They also spoke of the colonisation of New Zealand and the impact on Māori.
“Sadly, a lack of compassion by the settler church led it to being complicit in the marginalising of God's people in their own country.”
They said it appeared the Archbishop of Sydney’s proposal “has used our context and our story for wider purposes and does not understand or respect our history nor the consequences and responsibilities of our foundational and ongoing relationships”.
Earlier this month in Sydney Archbishop Davies – who attended last weekend’s ceremony in Christchurch - told clergy supporters of same-sex marriage to “please leave us”. His comments were met with dismay in churches in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
Archbishops Richardson and Tamihere were disappointed to see Anglican bishops in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and therefore in full communion with the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, attending the gathering in Christchurch last weekend, and effectively supporting it.
Their view was echoed by Dr Peter Carrell, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, who said he was particularly concerned at the boundary crossing of bishops from the Anglican Church of Australia.
“We value our trans-Tasman relationship with our neighbouring church and are disappointed to find a lack of respect for the jurisdiction of our church.”
Dr Carrell echoed the sentiments the two archbishops had offered in an earlier statement that “we wish to place on record our immense thanks for all members of ACANZP who have chosen to remain in this church, both those with similar convictions to those who have disaffiliated and to our takatāpui whanau”.