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A pastoral letter from all the Anglican bishops in Aotearoa New
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Fri, 19 Nov 2004 11:54:43 -0800
ACNS 3913 | NEW ZEALAND | 18 NOVEMBER 2004
A pastoral letter from all the Anglican bishops in Aotearoa New Zealand and
The 2004 Meeting of Bishops the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand
and Polynesia has issued a pastoral letter to the Church on the release
of the Windsor Report.
The letter that was sent to local churches on 25 October 2004 follows:
The Windsor Report from the Lambeth Commission on Communion reached the
media before the Church it was written for had read it. The debate
triggered on the Internet before and after the report's release bears
little resemblance to the careful and prayerful process of reception
that the Commission proposes.
Much of the media debate has little to do with what the Windsor Report
is really about - which is the question of how we stay together as
churches within the Anglican Communion and how we keep talking to each
other across significant divisions of culture, history, and
understanding of Scripture.
The Commission of 19 people from 14 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican
Communion included 2 New Zealanders, Bishop John Paterson of Auckland
and Dr Jenny Plane Te Paa, Ahorangi of Te Rau Kahikatea. We are grateful
to them for their comprehensive 93 page report, and commend it to every
local church for study and reflection. Especially valuable in our view
is the section on fundamental principles of scriptural authority and
interpretation. This section provides a rich resource for us all and
contains some challenging proposals for holding the authority of
scripture alongside the principle of making decisions as close as
possible to the local level, and the discernment of which issues we can
disagree about without dividing the Church.
The report contains a number of strong recommendations that will need to
be considered by a much longer process of consultation internationally,
beginning with the meeting of the Primates in February 2005 and followed
by the Anglican Consultative Council which meets in July next year. Our
own General Synod in May 2006 will need to address the outcome of this
international consultation process and discern what decisions are
appropriate for the life of this Church.
The strongest recommendations address the Episcopal Church of the USA,
and invite that church to express regret for ordaining the Bishop of New
Hampshire without sufficient consultation with the rest of the
communion. It also called for a moratorium on the ordination of any
further bishops who live in same gender unions until "some new
consensus" emerges internationally, among Anglicans.
Bishops were urged not to proceed with approving rites for the blessing
of same sex unions. More biblical and theological study of the issue was
encouraged, including a need for clarity about the distinction between
same sex union and same sex marriage.
A very strong recommendation calls on bishops who believe they should
intervene in other dioceses and provinces to express regret and cease
any further interventions.
We have yet to hear how those directly addressed by all these calls will
The report is very valuable in the advice it gives on maintaining
dialogue across deep divisions which can so easily be jeopardised by
precipitous action and demeaning the oversight role and authority of the
Among the ways ahead that the Commission proposes is a number of
recommendations that would strengthen the international role of the
Anglican Communion and its councils as "instruments of unity". A
proposal for an Anglican Covenant is offered in order to foster "greater
unity and consolidate our understandings of communion", and a clearer
and better supported role for the Archbishop of Canterbury is outlined.
We are encouraged that much of the spirit and direction of this report
echoes our own General Synod resolution in May 2004, including the
acknowledgement of the ministries and contributions of gay and lesbian
people in this Church. We note that discussions following our General
Synod have heard a clear call from Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pasifika
for more time to work separately in addressing issues of sexuality, both
culturally and theologically. We also note that this report does not
address the issue of new ordinations of gay and lesbian people, any more
than it addresses the question of homosexuality in general. Those
matters were outside its mandate. But the work on the same issues that
we have called for in our General Synod still remains to be done.
In our deep concern over all these issues and their potential to divide
us, we are determined as bishops not to close any doors or drop a
portcullis on the debate. Our determination is to keep the dialogue
going respectfully in order to win each other over, not to one side or
the other, but to the values of the Gospel that we share and that calls
us all to account.
In the words of the Windsor Report, "our aim is to work for healing and
restoration. The real challenge of the Gospel is whether we live deeply
enough in the love of Christ, and care sufficiently for our joint work
to bring that love to the world, that we will 'make every effort to
maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace' Ephesians 4-3.
As the primates stated in 2000, 'to turn from one another would be to
turn away from the cross', and indeed from serving the world which God
loves and for which Jesus Christ died."
Christ's peace be with you all.
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