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NZ: Splinter group splits from Anglican church over same-sex blessing

NZ: Splinter group splits from Anglican church over same-sex blessings
Bishop elect Peter Carrell voted in favor of same-sex blessings. (Photo)

September 4 2018

A splinter group of renegade worshippers has split from the Anglican church over the decision to allow same-sex blessings.

Hundreds of worshippers in four Christchurch parishes voted in June and July to leave the Anglican diocese because they felt same-sex blessings contradicted the Bible.

Church officials says as many as eight more parishes across New Zealand were considering a similar move.

The vote in May allowed same-sex blessings in Anglican churches across New Zealand.

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. The motion only allowed 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.

Soon after the motion was passed, congregations in St John's Latimer Square, St John's Woolston, St Stephen's Shirley and South Christchurch parishes voted to leave the Anglican diocese. Two of the congregations voted above 90 per cent to leave, while the other two were above 80 per cent.

Bishop elect Peter Carrell says it is sad worshippers have chosen to leave the Anglican church over same-sex blessings. He voted in favour of the May motion.

St Stephen's Shirley vicar Jay Behan said the congregations voted to leave because they felt the motion could not be tolerated.

The decision was "sad" and not an easy one to make. "We feel like we have been left behind," he said.

"Synod has made a decision that we feel moved the church beyond where we can go. We haven't changed in terms of doctrine and the things the church believes.

"The church's belief has been that the Bible sets the standard for who we are and how to live and there is a feeling that we have moved away from that.

Vicar for the parish of South Christchurch, Dave Clancey, said the decision was "not because we are against any individuals or groups of people".

"The majority of the parish felt the motion was going to a place and an understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith that we believe is inconsistent with what the Bible and the Christian faith actually teaches," he said.

Some worshippers in two of the four parishes have decided to remain in the Anglican diocese. The worshippers and clergy that have voted to leave will no longer be able to use Anglican property and buildings. Two of the parishes lost their places of worship in the Canterbury earthquakes and were using temporary facilities.

Canterbury Anglican bishop elect Peter Carrell voted in favour of the motion. It had divided the church, he said, but the majority of Anglicans wanted to remain.

"You really can't get a sharper division than people leaving the church over a decision," he said.

"It is very difficult. We are very reluctant to see people go and it is a great sadness that they are going."

The same-sex blessings motion allowed for different interpretation of the Bible, Carrell said.

"Most Anglicans are comfortable with the fact that we encourage a diversity of views within the church."

St John's Woolston vicar Steve McNabb and St John's Latimer Square senior minister James de Costobadie both declined to comment.


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