The Council of Assembly met for a one-day meeting in Wellington on 31 August 2013.
The initial purpose of the meeting was to engage with, and respond to, church council and presbytery responses to discussion documents concerning the role of the Moderator in the Church, the status and support of the Moderator of Te Aka Puaho, and the proposal to established a mission enterprise fund to, primarily, support the work of Press Go and the mission of the Church.
The Council asked the AES to draft a second series of discussion documents around these issues, based on the feedback received from presbyteries and church councils.
Also under consideration were letters received by the Council in response to the publication of the Book of Order and Advisory Committee’s legal opinion on the relationship between the Church’s stated policy on the nature of marriage, and the decisions individual ministers and church councils might make in terms of agreeing to conduct same gender marriages and/or allow their facilities to be used for such ceremonies.
The Council had a lengthy discussion about how best to respond to correspondence on this matter. There was acknowledgement of the deeply held convictions within the Church on these matters, and that we live within a time of uncertainty.
The Council does not hold legislative power and so cannot advise or direct minsters, or church councils, to act in any way that is not described by our current Book of Order regulations.
Because of these limitations, and on interpretive advice from the Book of Order Committee, the Council could not support the requests it received from some individuals and church councils to hold an emergency or special Assembly on this matter. Therefore, constitutionally, next year’s General Assembly is the only forum in which these issues may be considered and acted on.
The Council received a paper from the Doctrine Core Group on the nature of marriage and the Reformed faith. The Group was invited by Council to develop a discussion document for the Church, which will facilitate discussion both about the nature of marriage and the freedom or limits to that freedom Presbyterian ministers and church councils may exercise in relation to the conducting of marriage ceremonies, from the position of biblical and Church teaching (as expressed by General Assembly resolution).
The document is also to look at how people with deeply held convictions can reach very different conclusions from the way they read, and interpret, Scripture.
It will be circulated to presbyteries and church councils for consideration. The Council anticipates that this will help ensure an informed discussion prior to next year’s Assembly.
The Council expresses its thanks to all those that uphold it and its work, in prayer.
The next regular meeting of the Council will be in Dunedin from 15 to 16 November.
The Rev Wayne Matheson
Council of Assembly
The Rev Dr Colin Marshall
Council of Assembly