Anglicans edge toward same-sex union

The Anglican Church has taken a tentative step towards same-sex blessings and ordinations, though the first is likely to be at least four years away.

In the meantime church ceremonies - though not a marriage or a blessing - recognising same-gender couples will be allowed.

Some members are calling for speedier change.

Ten options were put to a church commission set up two years ago to deal with differing views over same-sex unions. One included splitting the church in two over the issue.

After deliberation yesterday in Waitangi, the assembly voted that a working party should explore a process allowing clerics in New Zealand and across Polynesia to bless same-sex couples if they choose to. This would then be presented to the next general meeting of the church in 2016, with two more years after that before changes could be instated.

Couples wishing for a church ceremony before then will be allowed to have their relationship publicly recognised by a member of the clergy as part of a service, though the approval of their local bishop will be required.

Such a ceremony would be a step down from an official blessing or marriage, however.

The announcement also contained an apology for the times when actions of the church contributed to the pain of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

There were wide views on the church allowing blessings of same-sex unions, Archbishop Winston Halapua said. "The synod is committed to ongoing talking as it considers change and to follow the mandate of Christ to love one another at all times."

But priest associate Clay Nelson, of progressive Auckland Anglican church St Matthew in the City, was disappointed by the "snail's pace" of the change.

"It will take way too long in my mind to implement. It's an embarrassment to me that we're still unable to get any further down this path than simply doing the blessing of same-sex marriages."

He had hoped a bigger step would have been taken at the three-day meeting.

"We will be even further behind the curve in accepting the rights of the gay and lesbian community to be fully included in the life of the church."

But retired Wellington bishop Richard Randerson saw the move as a positive one, given the deep ideological division within the church on same-gender marriage.

The likely four-year wait before same-sex couples could have their unions blessed - if at all - was fair, he said.

The Dominion Post