Four congregations have announced they intend to separate from the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand. Their action protests General Synod’s decision on May 9 to authorize marital blessings for same-sex couples.

Archbishop Philip Richardson is in discussions with the vicars of the four communities: Jay Behan (St. Stephen’s, Shirley), James de Costabadie (St. John’s, Latimer Square), Dave Clancey and Chris Spark (St. Saviour’s and St. Nicholas’, South Christchurch), and Steve McNabb (St. John’s, Woolston). In each case these congregations voted by large majorities to disaffiliate.

Richardson, who is administrator of the diocese following the resignation of Bishop Victoria Matthews earlier this year, met with senior diocesan staff and the vicars and wardens of these parishes. They agreed to a three-month exit process.

“This is a broken and painful place to be,” Richardson said. “But we need to find a way to walk through this [uncharted] land that is gracious, hospitable, and realistic.

“It was agreed by all present the way forward needed to be respectful, orderly, and should allow people time to make appropriate decisions. In some cases, it was acknowledged that although the majority of the people attending these churches intended to leave, some might remain. And the diocese is committed to care for those remaining as well as enabling as smooth as possible exit for those choosing to leave.”

Clergy and lay representatives of these churches have agreed to abstain from the election of Christchurch’s the next bishop.

The meeting agreed that all concerned desired to part on good terms and communicate with respect. There will be further meetings to address issues of personnel, buildings and bank accounts.

John Martin

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