Sexuality questions raised at General Synod – Waiapu’s role
Waiapu’s role in debating the issues of the ordination of people in same-sex relationships
Three motions concerning sexuality issues were presented at General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui in Fiji last month: on the blessing of same-gender relationships, on the nature of marriage and on the autonomy of a bishop to make decisions within his diocese
Waiapu’s motion asked General Synod to “affirm the long tradition of episcopal autonomy where discernment for ordination is concerned.” (“In plain language, that’s about a bishop’s right to pick candidates for the priesthood.” Anglican Taonga).
All three motions specifically referred to implications for same-gender couples in their preambles and/or content, and all three engendered significant anxiety amongst many of those attending GSTHW. The anxiety was predictably around the following kinds of issues:
• We haven’t had enough time to talk!!
• We will undermine the work of the commission
• The church will be divided
• If a bishop were to act precipitously then a Title D complaint would be made and our doctrine would be determined by the judicial committee
While there were some who would have preferred these motions to be withdrawn altogether, it was clearly important that they were presented. All three were scheduled to follow a presentation by Sir Anand Satyanand who spoke about the initial meeting, and planned approach, of the “Ma Whea? Mei Fe Ki Fe? Where To? Commission”, of which he is the chair.
Waiapu were keen to ensure that Sir Anand heard the debates around these motions, as this would be a rare opportunity for him to hear the ways we engaged with each other across dioceses and hui amorangi about these issues.
In the event, only the motion on the nature of marriage was debated in Sir Anand’s presence, as he had to leave the following morning before the Waiapu motion on episcopal autonomy was presented. The motion on the blessing of same-gender relationships was withdrawn. While the length of the debates was somewhat limited, there were contributions from all three tikanga, and from a variety of perspectives. There seems to be a greater sense of urgency about having the conversations, and a belief held by many that the adoption of resolutions similar to these is inevitable so it is important that we focus on ways of moving ahead together.
Waiapu’s motion was presented and tabled until the next general Synod in 2014
Extracts from Jo’s speech moving the motion on episcopal autonomy
This is not something I do lightly, nor do I have any desire to see us divided. As hard as this is for all of us, we still need to talk about this motion, because I believe it goes to the heart of who we are as a Church.
This motion is about who we ordain and about the people who ordain them. It is about people of faith who offer themselves for ministry. It is about God’s people in all our diversity, with all the gifts we have to offer as well as all our shortcomings.
We in this Church have been the beneficiaries of some incredibly faithful and extraordinarily gifted ministry. Some of those gifted people are in committed, loving relationships and others are not, some are homosexual and others are not.
There are some who want to make this a debate about canons and about policies. But canons and policies are meant to be tools; it’s up to us to choose how we use them and whether they become a means of control and restriction.
If we are truly committed to each other and to our faith, we can find ways through together. We have heard about the Commission which has been put in place to help us do this work, and we are fortunate to have this particular group of people who are so willing to listen with us, and to try to find ways ahead.
I would hope that when our collective discernment presents our bishops (and us) with challenging issues, like the ordination of people in same-gender relationships, they (and we) will not retreat in the face of those challenges. My hope is that we will seek ways forward and be prophetic.
I move that this Synod affirms the long tradition and practice of episcopal autonomy in the discernment of a person’s call to ordination.
Extracts from Brian’s seconding of this motion
The Diocese of Waiapu could have framed this motion in ways that never mentioned issues of sexuality. We did not do that because we believe this is a time for honesty.
I know where those who disagree with Waiapu's position are coming from because I've been there myself, and again I want to acknowledge the significance of these conversations for us all.
Waiapu does not want to suggest that bishops have absolute power without constrain or boundaries. However we do believe that it is the role of our bishop to prayerfully discern these matters, in collegiality with the diocese. Bishops in our diocese and numerous others have been fulfilling this role and discerning a call to ordination of many who have been lesbian and gay, including those in loving, committed, same-gender relationships, for decades. And we believe we have all been blessed by the ministries of those people.
Waiapu does have strong guidelines for ordination selection. Candidates are expected to meet a number of criteria, including fidelity and faithfulness within their relationships, but, as our synod confirmed very, very strongly last year, sexual orientation is not one of those criteria.
We do not and never have expected bishops to consult each other about every potential ordinand.
For Jo and Brian’s full speeches, go to “Latest News” at http://www.waiapu.com/latest-news-2/latest-news-2/