Synod debates motion on sexual identity and pastoral care

Synod debates motion on sexual identity and pastoral care

Synod considered Motion 19, entitled the Sexual Identity and Pastoral Care Motion.  This motion was proposed by Neill Ballantyne, a member of the St Peter’s on Willis parish, and seconded by one of that parish’s co-vicars, Archdeacon Stephen King.  The motion was amended at the beginning of Synod, from the one found in the Programme of Business book, with the adapted text as follows:

19 SEXUAL IDENTITY AND PASTORAL CARE MOTION

Neill Ballantyne, Archdeacon Stephen King

NOTING the desire in the recommendations accompanying Motion 30 to General Synod Te Hinota Whanui in 2014: “…to make further response pastorally and prayerfully to LGBT people in [their] faith communities”

AND, noting the current public concern in Aotearoa-New Zealand about the pastoral practice known as ‘gay conversion therapy’, including the call for it to be outlawed by Parliament,

AND, noting that in July 2017 The Church of England passed a motion condemning said practice,

WHILE recognising the challenging nature of conversations around human sexuality in a community that has different perspectives,

AND also remembering that regardless of our differences we are called to responsible pastoral care of each other in the Body of Christ,

THAT this Synod:

  1. Call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity and sexual orientation; and
  2. Acknowledge differing and strongly-held perspectives on the matter, and therefore call upon the Church to make room for careful and honest conversation that is safe for all participants; and
  3. Stand against any denigration of the character or personhood of those who hold a differing perspective on matters of human sexuality; and
  4. Condemn any pastoral practice which is coercive and/or disempowering of the recipient; and
  5. Call on all church leaders to engage in constructive dialogue with each other and government on ways of protecting vulnerable minorities, especially those who identify as gender and sexual minorities, from these harmful practices; and
  6. Remind all ministers of the obligations incumbent on them, and the principles to be upheld, when offering pastoral care, as outlined in the Diocesan Codes of Conduct and Ethics, especially that,
    • Every person, being created in God’s image, has infinite worth and unique value, irrespective of origin, race, ethnicity, gender, age, belief, social or economic status, sexual orientation, marital status, contribution to society or present psychological, physical or spiritual state;
    • All ministry, regardless of its form, should seek to bring glory to God, and further the best interests of those who receive it;
    • Every person may expect to be supported in the development of their God-given potential, while recognising the same expectation in others;
    • Every person, whether or not presently a member of the Church, may expect to receive objective and disciplined knowledge and skill, to enable that person to grow in the Christian faith; (Code of Ethics, (2) (a)-(d))
    • Ministers must respect the ethnic and cultural background, gender, class and sexual orientation of those to whom they minister;
    • Ministers should question practices in the church community that appear to be harmful or abusive (Code of Conduct, (3) (vi) (e), (g)).

Neill spoke to the motion and told of his experience of being a gay man devoted to Jesus Christ.  He shared of his experience of being asked to attend counselling sessions by his pastor, and how he deemed this to be a form of harmful gay conversion therapy – a set of practices based on the “deep dark days” of psychology, when electro-convulsive therapy and chemical castration were some of the methods used to attempt to “convert” people to a heterosexual identity.  He said that such practices assume that homosexuality can be fixed, and asserted that this was not the case, and that such practices do not work.  Other members of Synod shared of their own experiences of minority sexual and gender identities, whilst also affirming their parishes’ moves to provide a safe community in which they can freely belong, and freely worship.

There was concern raised by some Synod members that the obligation of ministers to respect the sexual orientation of those to whom they minister would prevent them from holding to an orthodox biblical view, however members were reminded that to respect someone does not equate to agreeing with them on a matter.

One member reminded Synod that there are and have been ministries in which Christians have been empowered to leave behind brokenness, hurt and trauma in their lives, and in doing so, have been able to leave behind homosexuality as they journey with Christ towards wholeness.  He asserted that if people want to leave behind a homosexual lifestyle, then we all have a duty to help them.  He lamented that it seemed taboo to talk about such ministries, which have worked.  Yet other ministries were highlighted where the approach taken had led to Christians being further hurt in the process.

Bishop Justin thanked the Synod for their courage.  He spoke of the courage of all speakers to share their thoughts, regardless of the viewpoint from which they came.  He also mentioned the work undertaken to re-word the motion prior to Synod to make it more appropriate for our situation, in which multiple biblical integrities are upheld.

A verbal vote was undertaken, and the motion was carried.

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