[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have established a working group to identify “structural arrangements” which would allow all those with differing views on same-sex relationships to remain in the Church. The working group was requested by the Province’s General Synod earlier this year when it postponed a decision on the A Way Forward report until the 2018 Synod.
The Primates say that they were “inundated with submissions” following the Synod decision from people suggesting who should be on the working group and what the submissions should be. They have decided on a two-tier approach: the working is a six-person body with a “tightly focused mandate to identify ‘structural arrangements within our Three-Tikanga Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships’”. The three Tikanga refers to the three cultural streams of the province: Māori, Pākehā (European settlers), and Polynesian.
There will also be a wider panel of consultants to serve as a point of contact for the working group. These will comprise people suggested by various lobby groups including Affirm, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and Changing Attitudes. It will also include legal advisers.
The three Primates of the province wrote a letter to the church this week in which they described being “humbled” by their meetings with those who have sought to discuss issues of sexuality with them since the Synod decision in May.
“What has stood out is the grace, the compassion and the goodwill reflected in these discussions,” the Primates said. “A very high proportion of those who have spoken with us are so clearly genuinely seeking to step into the shoes of those they disagree with.
“There is a clear determination to come around the table and work for mechanisms that allow us to move forward together in mission without minimising or denying our differences.”
The six-person panel includes both lay and ordained members. It comprises the Bishop of Nelson, the Rt Revd Richard Ellena; the former provincial general secretary, Mrs Jackie Pearse; the Vicar of Massey in Auckland, the Revd Learne McGrath; the Chancellor of Christchurch diocese, Mr Jeremy Johnson; a lay member from the Diocese of Polynesia, Mr Fei Tevil and the Dean of Tikanga Maori at St John’s College, the Revd Katene Eruera.
The working group have been asked to provide feedback on different suggestions put to them by the end of January 2017; with a finalised set of proposals for consideration by the wider church by 1 July 2017.