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NEW ZEALAND: Anglican church leaders resign over Anglican decision on same-sex blessings

NEW ZEALAND: Anglican church leaders resign over Anglican decision on same-sex blessings
St Christopher's Anglican Church minister Sam Anderson and his assistant pastors Hamish Toose and Stephanie Toose are leaving the church over same-sex blessings

September 6, 2018

A Blenheim minister and his two assistant pastors have resigned over the Anglican Church's decision to allow blessings of same-sex married couples.

St Christopher's Church minister Sam Anderson said he intended to leave the Anglican Church of New Zealand altogether, saying he did not think the Bible endorsed same-sex relationships.

"It's not easy to be a Christian in today's society, so if you're actually going to be a Christian you may as well hold onto what you believe rather than running with the crowd," Anderson said.

The Anglican ruling body, the General Synod, voted in May to allow same-sex blessings, but only if they are authorised by the local bishop. Former Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews discusses the regional synod vote in March.

His last service at the Redwoodtown church would be November 11.

Assistant pastors Hamish and Stephanie Toose would leave later this month, cutting their two-year contract short before heading back to Sydney, Australia. They would remain part of the Anglican Church.

The ruling means same-sex couples cannot marry in Anglican churches, but can receive a post-wedding blessing.

In May, the Anglican Church of New Zealand approved Motion 29 which allowed same-sex blessings, but only if it was authorised by the local bishop.

The ruling meant same-sex couples could not marry in Anglican churches, but could get a post-wedding blessing.

Nelson bishop Richard Ellena could not be reached for comment.

Minister Sam Anderson says young parishioners are often more conservative in their views.

However, a statement from the Nelson Diocese website talked of the "sadness and disappointment" of the wider Church's move away from the "traditional orthodox theology".

"[The] Synod acknowledged the strained, but not broken, relationship that now exists with some over matters of theology and practice," the website said.

The Nelson Diocese, however, voted "overwhelmingly" to remain in fellowship with the Anglican Church of New Zealand, it said.

Nativity Church Blenheim vicar Bob Barnes says a same-sex blessing is too close to "giving the nod" of approval.

Anderson said if the diocese had left the Church, he would have stayed in his position.

"I think it's one thing for society to decide to allow same-sex couples to marry, society is entirely free to make that decision, but I don't think the Church should.

"I believe that the Bible is the foundation for what the Church teaches and I personally don't think the Bible endorses same-sex relationships."

Anderson, 40, said people often thought older Christians would be more conservative in their views, and younger Christians more liberal, but that was not always the case.

"From what I've seen it's actually the opposite. In the past, general society, whether they were Christian or not, held to a very similar moral code to Christians; the morality of the Church was very similar to the morality of society, but I do think that's increasingly changing."

This was not an "anti-homosexual" view point, Anderson said.

The Bible also ruled out things like teenage sex, affairs and pornography.

"It's not that the Church is anti this one thing, it's just that the Bible has a very, very narrow place where sexual activity can occur."

Parishioners at St Christopher's Church were split on the issue, but some would leave the church, Anderson said.

Anglican vicar Bob Barnes, of Nativity Church Blenheim, said he too did not support the decision to allow blessings of same-sex couples.

A blessing was too close to "giving the nod" of approval, he said.

"A blessing is to speak God's approval and it's certainly not our place to do that.

"The Church has a very longstanding understanding of what the role of marriage is. If society wants to allow same-sex couples and other groups to marry, society can choose to do that, but it's not the Church's place to do that."

Again, younger parishioners at the Nativity Church were a lot firmer "holding the line" against same-sex blessings, but opinions varied, Barnes said.

"Times are changing ... 'anchored to the rock geared to the times', I see us remaining faithful and yet responding in love to the world around us as we've always tried to do," he said.

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