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New Zealand Synod names first presiding bishop

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia met in General Synod in Auckland, New Zealand from 10 May to 16 May 1998 to prepare for the Lambeth Conference and to transact various items of business.

By Brian Reid, special to Anglicans Online, 22 May 1998.
Compiled from web sources and news dispatches.

A General Synod is a periodic meeting of Bishops and other diocesan representatives. Often most of the business transacted at a General Synod is of interest only to church officials, but from time to time various items of greater interest emerge.

The General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia met in Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, from 10 May 1998 to 16 May 1998. The meeting was hosted by the Diocese of Auckland, whose diocesan Bishop, The Rt Rev John C Paterson, was the formal host for the event. The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is, as its name implies, divided into three segments whose official names are te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the Dioceses in New Zealand, and the Diocese of Polynesia. In New Zealand journalism, these sectors are usually referred to as the Maori, pakeha, and Polynesia sectors, respectively.

The most important item to come from the New Zealand General Synod was the abandonment of the title "Archbishop" and the appointment of a Presiding Bishop. The last Archbishop, the Most Rev Brian Davis, retired earlier this year because of illness. The first presiding bishop, who is also the first governing officer of the church under its new 1992 constitution, is the Bishop of Auckland, the Rt Rev John Paterson. Bishop Patterson, 53, is fluent in the Maori and Fijian languages as well as his native English

The pakeha section of the Anglican Church has issued its long-awaited report on sexuality, and but says it is not intended as a final view on the matter. The report recommends that ordination decisions continue to rest with individual bishops, who would deal with applications on a case by case basis, regardless of the candidate's marital status, gender, sexual orientation or sexual preference. The report includes the statement "We cannot simply apply the biblical writers' conclusions about human sexuality (often given in very specific contexts) into our 20th-century Christian cultures as we wrestle with issues of sexual behaviour."

The chairman of the commission producing the sexuality report was the Rt Rev Dr David Coles, Bishop of Christchurch's., He told reporters that in the report presented on 9 May in Auckland that there were few issues in the contemporary Christian church that "stir up controversy as quickly as the issue of sexuality". The report urges a continuation of the dialogue on sexuality. It will go to the Maori and Polynesia sectors of the church (which have not been involved in the report) for information and consideration.

The New Zealand newspaper The Christchurch Press reported on the sexuality document in its edition of 9 May 1998. In other editions The Christchurch Press also reported on the appointment of the new Presiding Bishop and on a resolution that the Anglican Church be more active in anti-poverty efforts, including a march on Parliament.

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