The passing of same-sex marriage legislation in 2013 has created an ongoing issue within the Baptist Churches of New Zealand. In response, our movement has indicated that churches and pastors should not act as host or celebrant in same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The 2013 Baptist Assembly, in affirming its position on same-sex marriage, sanctioned the setting up of a working party to consider the matter further. This involves weighing issues of local church autonomy in tension with participating together in a cooperative movement of churches.
Assembly Council has to date appointed five members to the working party:
• Ian Brown (former NZBMS missionary, pastor, National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand)
• Naomi Compton (former Occupational Therapist, recent graduate of Carey Baptist College; now a pastor at Karori Baptist Church)
• Brigitte Crowe (ex-South Africa, Children and Families pastor at Pakuranga Baptist, counsellor at Pakuranga Counselling Centre, member of Assembly Council)
• John Douglas (former principal of Te Nikau Bible College and staff member of Bethlehem Baptist, incoming president of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand in November 2014)
• Laurie Guy (former lawyer, pastor, missionary and lecturer at Carey Baptist College; author of Worlds in Collision: The Gay Debate in New Zealand, 1960-1986, and Shaping Godzone: Public Issues and Church Voices in New Zealand 1840-2000; chair of the working party)
• Rodney Macann (former pastor and National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand; opera singer and mentor).
The terms of reference for the working party as set down by Assembly Council is that it “will undertake a consultation process with the Baptist Churches of New Zealand as well as undertaking its own research in relation to the following matters:
1. The current Assembly position in relation to same-sex relationships.
2. The current Assembly position in relation to same-sex-marriage.
3. Implications and issues relating to the autonomy of local Baptist churches and limits thereof, particularly in relation to the issue of same-sex marriage.”
The working party is now calling for written submissions shortly in relation to these terms of reference (see separate advertisement on page 13 in this issue of NZ Baptist). Congregations, boards and individuals within our Baptist churches should start thinking now about the possibility of putting in a submission. Submissions endorsed by members’ meetings will be particularly welcome.
The working party realises the challenge of its role as it explores issues of grace and truth, Scripture and love, traditional understandings and contemporary culture. And, of course, issues of autonomy and cooperation.
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