New Anglican diocese created in New Zealand as wider Province moves towards same-sex blessings

Rev Jay Behan (r) has been elected as the new diocese's first bishop

An independent diocese has been created by orthodox Anglicans in New Zealand following moves within the wider Province to allow same-sex blessings.

The establishment of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand follows the passing of a resolution by the Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia paving the way for churches in the province to bless same sex relationships.

'Motion 29' recommended no change to the Church's official definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but said that individual bishops should be able to use existing canonical provisions to hold "a non-formulary service" allowing for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

The resolution, which was passed earlier this month, also stated that the existing canon should be amended to make clear that members of the clergy will not face disciplinary action for refusing to conduct the blessings. 

The Church of Confessing Anglicans has been set up by the representatives of 12 conservative Anglican churches across New Zealand.

The Rev Jay Behan, vicar of St Stephen's Anglican Church, Christchurch, has been appointed as its first bishop. 

The new diocese said in a statement that it was "committed to the authority of the Bible". 

"By the grace of God we are a new Anglican Diocese in these Islands, standing firmly in Anglican faith and practice, and structurally distinct from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia," the statement reads. 

"This new diocese is united in the crucified, risen, ascended and glorified Christ, committed to the authority of the Bible, and dedicated to our common mission of proclaiming to all the good news of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

"We praise God for his guidance and grace, and the sense of unity and common purpose we shared as we met."