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NEW ZEALAND: Same-sex blessing vote could split Anglican church

NEW ZEALAND: Same-sex blessing vote could split Anglican church

By Charlie Gates
May 20 2018

The vote allows same-sex couples to have their marriages blessed in Anglican churches.

Conservative Canterbury Anglicans could leave the church after it voted to allow blessings of same-sex married couples.

Rakaia vicar Al Drye, of St Mark's church, and Shirley vicar Jay Behan, of St Stephen's church, have both resigned from the Anglican general synod and are looking at ways to leave the church. The synod last week voted to pass a motion allowing same-sex blessings in Anglican churches. The motion was was an attempt to compromise on the issue in order to keep the church united.

It allows each Anglican bishop to decide if same-sex blessings are allowed in their diocese. In 2014, the New Zealand Anglican Church defined marriage as being "between a man and a woman". The decision meant same-sex couples could not marry in Anglican churches. The new motion allows only for blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples who were married elsewhere. The proposal would also give each diocese's bishop and clergy immunity from complaint if they refused to conduct blessings of same-sex couples.

Vicar Helen Jacobi, of St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland, supports the motion.

Behan is chair of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand (FCANZ), a conservative group within the church that opposes same-sex blessings. A statement on the FCANZ website greeted the synod vote with "deep sadness".

"We are ready to support people and parishes that cannot remain within this changed Anglican structure. We will work together nationally and internationally to provide fellowship and support as we look towards new ways and structures of ministering the unchanging good news of Jesus," it stated.

Drye said he did not know if he would leave the Anglican church.

"We don't really have anything to say because we are in the middle of negotiations and we need to deal with our own churches.

"This is quite a big deal for us and we need to work out what we are going to do. If the church goes pear shaped who knows what will happen from here. Nobody knows what is happening from here."

Behan did not return calls for comment.

Vicar Helen Jacobi, of St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland, said it was "pathetic" Canterbury vicars were considering leaving the church.

"We have spent the last few years negotiating in good faith to find a way that would suit everyone so we get this weakened proposal and then they are leaving anyway," she said.

"It is pretty pathetic that they are leaving anyway.

"They would have to be on the very hard conservative edge to leave because the proposal has been very watered down."

Jacobi said Anglican rules meant they could not take the building or funds with them if they left the church.

"They can leave and the people can go with them, but they can't take trust funds or buildings. So they have to start again in a school hall or something."

She also did not anticipate much demand for the same-sex blessing.

"One of the things about what we have passed is it is so weak in terms of what we are able to offer people. You would have to be a church person to want that in the first place. Our expectation is that there will not be a huge demand for blessings."


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