Last week the governing body of the Maori jurisdiction of The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia voted decisively against the proposed Anglican Covenant.
To understand the significance of this vote it’s helpful to know something of the unique constitutional arrangements of this antipodean church. As it name suggests it involves more than one jurisdiction and more than one country – Polynesia is actually a number of countries: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. Also, as the name suggests, in the land mass commonly known as New Zealand, there are two jurisdictions, reflecting two histories: the Maori indigenous church [Aotearoa] and the settler church [New Zealand].
The first constitution of this Province was in 1857 and, with the blinkers of colonialism, only reflected the settler church's understanding. This constitution was radically revised in 1992. At the level of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui matters could now be decided not only by a simple majority, or a majority vote in each of the houses of laity, clergy, and bishops, but also by a vote in jurisdictions. In this latter method the three jurisdictions [Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia] need to either assent or abstain. If any of these three vote against a matter that matter is lost.
So the vote last week by Aotearoa’s governing body, Te Runanganui, means in effect that The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia will next July at its biennial General Synod/te Hinota Whanui reject the Covenant.
As reported in the official news magazine of the Church section 4.2 the proposed covenant was seen to be about control. If the Anglican Communion were to adopt the Anglican Covenant, the ability of the Standing Committee to commend relational consequences to the churches or the instruments of communion was viewed as a challenge to their sovereignty. The resolution passed by the Runanganui said, “Clause 4.2 of the proposed Covenant contains provisions which are contrary to our understanding of Anglican ecclesiology, to our way of unndestanding Christ, and to justice, and is unacceptable to the Runanganui.” For the jurisdiction of indigenous tribes that struggled for sovereignty in the structures of the Church for 145 years it was unlikely they were ever going to agree to this covenant. Two of Aotearoa’s dioceses [or rohe] had already rejected the covenant, one of those being the see of the Archbishop, Brown Turei, where it was rejected unanimously with acclamation. This is the equivalent of the Synod of York or Canterbury rejecting the Covenant.
In the other jurisdictions of The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, the New Zealand dioceses are currently three for, three against, and one still to vote. They won’t vote as a whole jurisdiction until just before the General Synod in July, but whatever that vote’s outcome it won’t change the ‘no’ decision for the whole church. The jurisdiction of Polynesia also has not yet voted, and likewise their decision will not affect the end result.
The Rev'd Glynn Cardy of Auckland, New Zealand.