Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Anglican Synod fails to approve gay marriages

The Anglican Synod today failed to approve the blessing of gay marriages. Photo / iStock
The Anglican Synod today failed to approve the blessing of gay marriages. Photo / iStock

Gay Anglicans are reacting with a mix of fury and resignation after the Anglican Synod today failed to approve the blessing of gay marriages.

Wellington Anglican Paul Day posted on Facebook that he was leaving the Church for a second time "over the ongoing hatred they show for people like me".

"I know you must be writing this with the collective fury we all feel right now," he said on the page of the liberal church St-Matthew-in-the-City.

St Matthew's vicar Rev Helen Jacobi, who was an observer at the General Synod in Napier, said: "Today I hang my head in shame."

Massey University social work professor Mark Henrickson, who led a research project on New Zealand's gay community, said he was a lifelong Anglican but withdrew from the Church two years ago when it set up a working party on how to "bless" gay unions without actually marrying them in church.

"I have disassociated myself from the Church for the last two years since the last General Synod and I don't see any reason to amend that decision now," he said.

This week's synod voted to set up yet another working party to report back on the issue at the next synod in 2018.

The Church's three archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua said they still had "a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made" at that time.

"We are aware of the considerable pain that this decision will cause to those most affected," they said.

"But we are confident that our determination to work together across our differences will bring us to a place of dignity and justice for everyone."

However, people on both sides of the argument said agreement would be no easier to reach in two years than it was now.

Massey University religious scholar Professor Peter Lineham, a member of the Auckland Rainbow Community Church which meets at St Matthew's, said the synod appeared to have been spooked by a petition from the conservative Fellowship of Professing Anglicans which was seen as a threat to secede if gay marriages were blessed.

The fellowship drew almost 500 Anglicans to two pre-synod conferences in Christchurch and Auckland. The crowd of 360 at the Christchurch event was described by Christchurch diocese education director Rev Peter Carrell as "probably the largest Anglican conference held in NZ in a long decade".

Fellowship head Rev Jay Behan, another Christchurch minister, said after the second meeting in Auckland that the group "honoured" Rev Michael Hewat, who took his Hamilton West congregation out of the Church in 2014.

He told Mr Hewat and his wife Kimberley: "We rejoice in our fellowship with you, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in gospel ministry, and we recognise you as authentically Anglican."

Mr Hewat said today that the working party, led by Auckland lawyer Bruce Gray QC, was given an impossible task of reconciling two "irreconcilable" doctrines.

"One of the telling things Bruce Gray said in his presentation was that one of the problems the working group faced was that they didn't agree on where to find the doctrine of Christ," Mr Hewat said.

"If the Church can't agree on the doctrine of Christ, or even where to find it, it doesn't look good."

He said parishes in every diocese might leave if the Church eventually approved blessing gay marriages.

"It just seems to me there is no way out because you can't have two opposing positions," he said.

But Dr Henrickson said Anglicans in Canada had approved blessing gay marriages, and in Scotland and the United States they had approved actually marrying gay couples in church -- although the US Episcopalian Church has been partially suspended from the wider Anglican Communion as a result.

"We are simply waiting until the voice of the hardline conservatives is too old and too tired to speak any more," he said. "I think that time will come."

- NZ Herald

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