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NZ: Four evangelical parishes cut ties with Christchurch diocese following General Synod's blessing of same sex marriage

NZ: Four evangelical parishes cut ties with Christchurch diocese following General Synod's blessing of same sex marriage

By David W. Virtue, DD
July 6, 2018

Four evangelical Anglican parishes in the Diocese of Christchurch, NZ, have cut their ties with the national church, with the leavers saying they do not want to be a part of a church which permits the blessing of same-gender relationships.

They are part of a growing movement worldwide in Anglicanism that is seeing schism in liberal provinces that permit not only non-celibate homosexuals to become priests, but same-sex marriages and, in some provinces, openly embracing non-celibate homosexual and lesbian bishops.

According to Taonga News, talks have begun to try to reach an amicable separation between members of four conservative evangelical congregations and the Diocese.

These negotiations follow from the decision taken by this year's General Synod on May 9, which paved the way for the blessing of same-sex partnerships.

Following that decision, four conservative evangelical Christchurch parishes held votes to decide whether their members would disaffiliate from the diocese -- and, in each case, large majorities chose to do so.

On Wednesday last week, Archbishop Philip Richardson, with jurisdiction for the Diocese of Christchurch. following the resignation of Bishop Victoria Matthews, along with senior diocesan staff and archdeacons met with vicars and wardens of the four parishes in question to discuss how their members could disaffiliate "in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open."

Three month exit process

They agreed on a three month exit process, with Archbishop Philip recognizing the "time, energy and cooperation from both sides" that had gone to "seeking to find a way forward together".

"This is a broken and painful place to be," he said. "But we need to find a way to walk through this unchartered land that is gracious, hospitable and realistic."

The four groups were led by the Reverends Jay Behan from St Stephen's Shirley; James De Costabadie from St John's Latimer Square; Dave Clancey and Chris Spark from St Saviour's and St Nicholas', South Christchurch; and Steve McNabb from St John's Woolston.

They agreed that a three-month "resignation or exit process" was appropriate, to allow for "logistics to be sensitively managed" so that the disaffiliation could take place "in good faith".

"It was agreed by all present the way forward needed to be respectful, orderly and should allow people time to make appropriate decisions.

"In some cases, it was acknowledged that although the majority of the people attending these churches intended to leave, some might remain. And the Diocese is committed to care for those remaining as well as enabling as smooth as possible exit for those choosing to leave.

"It was agreed that clergy and lay representatives who are disaffiliating would voluntarily not take part in the upcoming Electoral College.

"Furthermore, it was agreed in principle that there was a desire from both parties to part on good terms and to communicate with and about each other respectfully.

"Further meetings will be held with the churches and Diocesan representatives to work out exit strategies to do with personnel, plant, buildings, bank accounts and more.

"It was agreed decisions about these things will happen on a case by case basis depending on particular circumstances and fairness.

"It was agreed that the Diocesan Manager, Edwin Boyce, is the first point of call for any questions or matters to be reconciled.

There are 61 parishes in the Diocese of Christchurch -- including 37 city ones, and 24 rural and small-town parishes. The four city congregations involved in these talks have about 800 to 1000 members between them.


In 2016 the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans NZ (FCANZ) was launched with some 500 Anglicans from around New Zealand, including the Vicars of many larger churches met as a local expression of the Gafcon movement, and a message of support was read out at the conferences from Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala, Chair of the Gafcon Primates.

Video greetings were also received from Most Rev Foley Beach (Primate of ACNA) and the Rt Rev Richard Condie (Bishop of Tasmania and Chair of FCA Australia). Rev Canon Vaughan Roberts (St Ebbe's, Oxford) gave 4 talks on True Gospel, True Sex, True Love and True Unity, and was joined by Rev Canon David Short (Vancouver), Dr Peter Adam (Melbourne), Rev. Dr. Sarah Harris (Auckland) and others.

The formation of FCANZ has been in response to the passing of Motion 30 in 2014 and the subsequent release of the A Way Forward Report, which was presented to the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. The report passed a motion blessing same-sex civil marriages thereby rendering them as "rightly-ordered" relationships opening up the possibility for those in them to be accepted as candidates for ordination.


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