|st matthew-in-the-city, Aukland, petition|
The Wardens, Vestry and Parishioners of St Matthew-in-the-City ask you to consider:
For many centuries gay and lesbian Christians have served the Anglican Church in positions of leadership. Most though have hidden their sexual orientation. In recent times however as Western society has become more accepting of difference many gay and lesbian Christians no longer wish to hide their orientation or their relationships. There are now a number of countries that provide sacred and legal opportunities for couples to commit themselves to each other for the long-term.
In 2004 the US Episcopal Church ordained as a bishop a priest in a same-sex relationship. Due to conservative opposition the Archbishop of Canterbury asked the American church and rest of the Anglican Communion to not ordain anyone bishop who was in a same-sex relationship until the entire Communion could find agreement.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to impose such a moratorium on another bishop or jurisdiction it had to be complied with voluntarily. Initially it was. Vigorous debate ensued. Responding to these disputes many countries declared a state of impaired communion with the American Church. This was not surprising as most of those jurisdictions were in one of the 46 British Commonwealth countries that still criminalize same-sex relationships. In 2009 the Episcopal Church voted to resume ordaining as bishops candidates in committed same-sex relationships.
...'the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to impose such a moratorium' nor in all the history of the Anglican Communion has he ever had. That lack of central authority - and centralised power - had been seen as a strength on the Communion. Because of it different Communions in different cultures could rub along nicely. There were frequent disagreements and some of these on occasions these became destabilising. Yet at the same time there was a huge amount of communication across differences, plenty of mutual listening, learning and respect. Different culture and spiritual traditions may all enrich the whole.
But the desire for centralised authority and power stems from the perception that difference is the problem and narrower conformity is the answer. Hence the Covenant.
The Covenant is designed (a) to grant the Archbishop authority over the whole Communion (albeit through his overlapping roles in the Communion's consultative structures rather than directly) and (b) to reduce the degree of difference between Churches - and to do so at the bidding of the loudest and most implacable voices.
I don't doubt that the the war over the nature of the church and the substance of its teaching (not least on issues of sexuality) has caused a lot of anger, pain and distress. The answer is not to be found in greater uniformity - the answer is to be found in greater comprehension (in the older Anglican sense) and deeper listening to the varieties of the one Spirit.
And, when I looked, I saw 'God, New Zealand' had recently signed the petition.