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Dunedin's Anglican bishop says he agrees with those who believe ordination cannot be withheld from gay members, as church leaders move on an issue that threatened to ''tear the church apart''.
The Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, the Rt Rev Dr Kelvin Wright returned late last week from a general synod in Waitangi that appointed a working group to develop a way to allow same-sex relationships to be blessed.
But the new rules would also allow those who were against the idea not to perform such a blessing.
A report from the working group, to be presented in 2016, will also consider the theology of ordination and marriage.
The synod noted the church had been complicit in homophobic thinking and ''failed to speak out against hatred and violence against those with same-gender attraction''.
Its moves have been described as ''tentative'' by a gay Dunedin priest, but Dr Wright said the church was dealing with an issue that had seen it ''completely divided''. Dr Wright said there were two broad positions in the church.
One had a traditional view of the Bible and its passages against homosexuality.
The second took an ''evolutionary'' approach, saw an ''unfolding of God's love and grace'' and had an understanding ordination of gay people could not be withheld.
''I would be in the second camp,'' he said.
Dealing with the issue by arguing the two positions was fruitless, as the sides were irreconcilable.
The synod's decision allowed both sides to live together with integrity.
If one side or another had been chosen, some would have left.
''The Anglican church [in the South] is too small for that.''
Gay Dunedin Anglican priest the Rev Juan Kinnear, whose ordination at St Paul's Cathedral in 2006 sparked controversy, said he welcomed the move.
Mr Kinnear said his personal view was he welcomed the resolution as ''a tentative step towards breaking the deadlock between Anglicans who take opposing views on the status and nature of same-sex relationships''.
''Much work must be done over the next four years and there are no guarantees that we will ultimately be able to strike an acceptable balance, allowing sustained fellowship across the Anglican theological spectrum.''
Mr Kinnear said to those who thought the resolution had gone too far, or not far enough, ''we owe it to ourselves and those who will follow to commit ourselves to this process and find a way in which we may respectfully differ, while avoiding fracture''.