Although the Anglican mother church, the Church of England, officially opposes gay marriage despite its recent legalisation there, the general synod of the church in New Zealand and Polynesia is seeking a flexible approach to the issue dividing the church around the world.
In a statement on Wednesday from the regional synod meeting in Waitangi, Archbishops Brown Turei, Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua say the synod upholds the traditional doctrine of marriage but also wants to develop ways to respond to “committed relationships between two people, that tell of the love of Christ, regardless of gender”.
The statement said a working party would be appointed to recommend processes and structures for people to “choose whether they lead, or not lead, same-sex blessings.
“That choice will be dependent on whether each person believes such blessings are contrary to, or in agreement with scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law.”
New Zealand’s parliament legalised same-sex marriages last year, but the synod noted there were legal restrictions elsewhere in Polynesia on same-sex relationships.
The working party would also propose a liturgy to bless gay relationships and report on how such blessings may impact on ordination of priests and the rite of marriage.
The working party will report to the next general synod in 2016, but the statement says any change is likely to take at least four years.
Before then clergy can recognise people in a same-sex civil union or state marriage in public worship, with the approval of a bishop and licensed leadership body.
But “such recognition cannot be a rite of marriage or a blessing”.