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Auck sees no bar to same-sex ordination

The Diocese of Auckland decides that people in same-sex relationships should not be excluded from ordination.

• Covenant clause 'contrary to Anglican ecclesiology'

• Mover's speech on same-sex relationships

• Covenant comes to the crunch

Taonga news  |  04 Sep 2011  |  3 Comments  

The Auckland Diocesan Synod has decided that people in same-sex relationships should not be excluded from ordination.

After a debate lasting much of yesterday, Synod also agreed that sexual orientation should not be an impediment to ordination or any other offices in the church.

The mover was Rev Glynn Cardy, and the seconder Margaret Bedggood.

Bishop Ross Bay deliberately allowed time and opportunity for a variety of views. These included a plea from Glynn Cardy that the motion was about justice and a love ethic; those opposing the motion cited biblical authority. 

Some parishes reported that if the motion passed, some members would leave. Others said parishioners were already leaving because they perceived that gay and lesbian people were not acceptable.

Synod heard a call for more time to talk and study the issues, but others said they had been doing this for many years. Clauses 3, 4 and 5 gave voice to this concern without changing the wording of the original motion. 

Synod was aware that choosing ordinands is an episcopal one, where the bishop has voluntarily put himself under the constraint of waiting for agreement from the House of Bishops. 

A concern for process, allowing intentional listening by ministry units to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, saw three amendments to the motion. 

Voting for all five parts of the motion was done by secret ballot across houses and all five parts were passed with a strong majorities.

The motion

The full text of the motion is:

"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."

The motion was voted on in parts. The most controversial clause, 2, passed by a two-thirds majority, according to a participant. 

Bishop sympathetic 

In his synod charge, Bishop Ross Bay said he would ordain people in same-sex relationships if the wider church agreed to it.

"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," he told synod.

"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.

"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 full charge


Bryden Black

It is very good to have now Bp Ross's follow up letter dated 16 Sept. It especially heartening to see his willingness to work both more widely and under the authority of GS. One trusts the proposed Commission might yet be not still-born.

Fred Dagg

It would be a shame in some ways to break fellowship with some brothers and sisters in Auckland, but, by the look of it, it may have already effectively occurred. Perhaps the time has come to create a fourth independant Tikanga: Believing Anglicans? and let the liberal Anglican "church" just wither and die.

Bryden Black

What is probably most distressing about this decision is the way it preempts GS’s move for a Commission that would seek to consider ALL in our Church at this time. Now Auckland has simply denied any possibility of constructing a way forward that might allow ACANZ&P to be in some semblance a unified body - using perhaps the very three-tikanga format as a model. Thanks folks for your haste - Judges 21:25 rules; OK!