Monday, June 26, 2017

The Politics of Jesus (1917/2017)

In 1917 the Russian Revolution began and in 2017 a Russian Question rumbles through American politics while a Russian Presence permeates Middle Eastern politics centred on Syria.

Also in 1917 T.E. Lawrence helped to lead the Arab Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (6 July is centenary of Battle of Aqaba) and in 2017 the results of that rebellion continue to play out in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics in which Saudi Arabia stirs the pot in Qatar and other places. Turkey, of course, is a key player in what is going on these days, including, today, I notice, defending the interests of Qatar against the meddling of Saudi Arabia.

Here in NZ, 1917 might be best remembered for 850 soldiers killed at Passchendaele on 20 October, the greatest loss of life in a single day in NZ's military history. Back home, in 1917 there was a Reform Party government, led by William Massey. In 2017 we have a National Party government led by Bill English - National is a successor party to the Reform Party.

We might also, to keep comparisons going, compare 1917 and the British government being in a bit of a muddle about how to bring the war in Europe to an end with 2017 and the British government being in a significant muddle about how to extricate itself from its current "war" in/with Europe.

The above paragraphs represent one way of doing history, focusing attention on the big picture, key events, and named leaders. From that perspective it is fascinating, possibly depressing to think how much 2017 looks like a rerun of 1917.

Another way of doing history is to consider ordinary people and the way their lives are lived - social history. From that perspective a number of things are wonderfully changed and life today does not look at all like it did in 2017. (The following apply to the Western world, but also in much of the rest of the world) think healthcare, standard of housing (for most, but not all), ease of producing meals, laundering clothes, moving from one place to another, communication, entertainment, access to consumer goods. Even with wars still occurring, the chances of 850 Kiwi soldiers being killed in a single day this year is almost zero. (Only "almost" because there are rogue states with worrying policies around missiles, nuclear weaponry, etc).

But the point of politics is not to proudly remind people how wonderful life is compared to 100 years ago. The point of politics is to organise society today towards better outcomes tomorrow than were experienced yesterday. From that perspective, our lot could be better. Here in NZ we are concerned about improvements which many other countries also wish for: to housing, to health, to education, and to economic well-being (both lifting individuals out of poverty and improving general circumstances of whole countries).

Our General Election on Saturday 23 September 2017 focuses our minds on whether we should change the government to secure wished for improvements or retain the current government because it is promising to fulfil those wishes.

I hope to keep a Monday series of posts on the theme of "The Politics of Jesus" going until the election, exploring the question of what Jesus' politics mean for us as a democratic people with the ability to apply Jesus' politics to our situation and our wish to see improvements.

But today I note simply that where there are politics there are politicians. And, unfortunately, a desire to see improvements to politics involves, necessarily, improvements to politicians and their ability to deliver better outcomes for people.

On that score the last week has been salutary. We have seen our media hold our key politicians to account and they have been found somewhat wanting. I salute our media (they have done their duty) and I despair of our politicians (at best they have reminded us that politicians have a remarkable ability to tell lies and lots of them).

Should any politician being reading this column, I offer these verses from yesterday's Gospel reading, and ask that you recite them to yourself everyday you are a politician:

"26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."

Tell the truth, dear leaders, it is the best way to avoid one lie leading to another lie.




Friday, June 23, 2017

Can we put to death the Euthanasia Bill?

Recently a private member's bill re euthanasia was drawn from the parliamentary ballot and so we are a nation facing the possibility that our parliament will do what it is has not done before and legalise the assisted taking of one's own life.

I am instinctively against such a bill because the "key" it offers, choice about the time of one's own death, opens the door to later social compulsion to die at the time of one's family's choosing. Even, when rationing of resources kicks in, at the time of one's government's choosing.

For details about the bill and the objections of the Inter Church BioEthics Council (ICBC) to it, read here.

I agree with the ICBC. This bill should be euthanased at this time so that the current select committee process runs its course.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Make Christians? Build church buildings!!

Fascinating article here about some surprisingly high UK stats re young people becoming Christian converts because they have visited a church building (esp. cathedrals). The underlying research is here (H/T Bosco Peters).

I leave it to you, dear reader, to make what you will of the stats but if there is something in them then we should revise our cliched formulae about "church is people, not buildings."

Just maybe, perhaps and possibly church buildings contribute to making church people.

For myself I am confident that buildings are not just bricks and mortar when they are churches. Church buildings point people to God, they symbolise the gospel, they witness to the existence of God, they offer spaces in which people experience special encounters ("sacred space") and they assert the presence of Christian people in the surrounding community.

Yes, the church is people in the sense that church does not stop because (say) church buildings are demolished (as we have experienced in Christchurch).

Yes, the church is people in the sense that if you are down to your last $100k and have to choose between paying the vicar and the youth worker or repairing the church building, then invest in people and not bricks and mortar.

No, the church is not only people because the people of the church are the church when they gather together. And gatherings in many climates need a roof, walls, windows, doors and seats. Rarely is the crunch church building or people. Normally it is both, with reasonable arguments about what size church building and what quality of building.

Of course that brings me to our Anglican cathedral here in Christchurch and our forthcoming debate in our Synod, 7-9 September.

I am committed to having a cathedral in the Square which is the heart of our city. Our forefathers envisioned a city built in ways reminiscent of Oxford. *That vision led to a predilection for stone buildings in the Neo-Gothic style. While not original to that vision, the early settlers settled on having a cathedral at the heart of the city. Doing so underlined the "Christ" and "church" in "Christchurch."* Whatever kind of cathedral (reinstated, brand new) it should be there and not somewhere else.

Imagine if we let go of the site and a mosque was built on it instead ...

Postscript: Brian Law, former director of the Cathedral Choir, argues cogently in this morning's Press about the deficiencies in the cathedral that was while pressing the claims of Miles' Warren's proposal that the cathedral be rebuilt according to the original George Gilbert Scott design.

Footnote:
*The original post read, between the asterisks, "Our forefathers envisioned a city built around a cathedral and it was a great vision." This is not accurate as the original vision was for an Oxbridge type college at the heart of the city (i.e. what is today Christ's College).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Benedict Option Wrong for Down Under?

In a week where days fly past and major issues in Kiwiland remain untouched herein, notably further developments re the Christchurch Cathedral and the imminent question of legalisation of euthanasia, the least I can do is point you to a superb and, for me, persuasive, argument from Michael Bird (Ridley College, Melbourne).

Against a background in Australia of increasing hostility towards Christianity, Michael Bird argues in a North American magazine, Christianity Today, that the Benedict Option being debated there - concerning engagement between Christianity and secular society - is not apt for the Down Under context.

NZ is not Australia. They are not as good as us at rugby (for instance!). So I am interested in readers' comments about the Benedict Option versus the Thessalonian Option for consideration in our Kiwi situation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bizzy

A few verses from Job 9 in the daily office this morning help explain infrequent blogging of late ...

"25“My days are swifter than a runner;
they fly away without a glimpse of joy.
26They skim past like boats of papyrus,
like eagles swooping down on their prey."

(Except the "without a glimpse of joy" bit ... I am a happy camper in the midst of terrific bizziness.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dunedin's Successful Global Search for New Bishop

He will come from London to be the next Bishop of Dunedin - but Steve Benford is no stranger to the city.

Archbishops Winston Halapua and Philip Richardson have announced the election of the Rev Dr Steven Benford as the next Bishop of Dunedin.

Bishop-elect Steven, who is 56, currently serves as vicar of St Joseph the Worker, Northolt, in the Diocese of London, where he is also a Bishops’ Advisor for Ministry, a new incumbents’ ministry mentor and spiritual director.

The archbishops today confirmed Steven Benford’s election, which has been ratified by General Synod, after he was nominated by the Diocese of Dunedin’s Electoral College held from May 26-27.

It is an appointment which signals a return to New Zealand for the qualified doctor who worked in Otago in the early 1990s. His wife Lorraine was born in Dunedin.

Making the announcement, Archbishop Philip Richardson welcomed Steven’s appointment.
“I look forward to welcoming Steven back to Aotearoa New Zealand.”

“His experience of living a vocation in the service of others will be invaluable as he leads the clergy and people of Southland and Otago to develop creative ways of serving their communities in the Spirit of Christ.”

Archbishop Philip recently met with Bishop-elect Steven in London. The new bishop describes himself as a ‘people person’.

“Steven is a very warm and engaging priest with a heart for mission,” said Archbishop Philip.

“He will be sadly missed in Northolt, whose people speak highly of his leadership, hard work and creativity.”

Steven Benford’s career has been shaped by a dual vocation to ministry and medicine.

For 29 years he served as a medical doctor, specialising in anaesthetics since 1990.
Steven’s medical career initially took him to Leicester, Leeds and Gibraltar. Then in the early 1990s, he and Lorraine – who grew up in Gore – brought their young family to live in southern New Zealand.

From 1991-95 Steven worked as a GP in Oamaru, where he also established a free clinic. Over those years, he kept his hand in hospital-based medicine, working one day a week at Dunedin Hospital. In the family’s last six months in New Zealand, Steven served in the emergency department at Tokoroa Hospital.


Despite his love of medicine, Steven felt God’s insistent call to the ordained ministry from a young age. In 1996, he entered the ministry discernment process in the Diocese of York and was ordained there in 2000. In his first four years as a priest he served as a curate in a three-church rural cluster, while remaining a full-time specialist at Friarage Hospital, Northallerton in Yorkshire.

(This is the Official Media Release, also at Taonga, where the suggested headline in the media release is followed, "Dunedin Elects New Bishop".)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yeah, right, Oz Equip!

(In the light of a fair comment below, what follows is a revision of the original, unkind post.)

Each year in Sydney there is a conference for women called Equip.

The most recent one had a dose of restlessness, as you can read here.

About short hair.

And extending submissiveness to men in the workplace.

Intriguingly on the Equip website, I see women involved with the running of the conference with short hair!

The age old intra evangelical debate re relationships between men and women, in marriage and in the church, complementarianism / egalitarianism, continues around the globe.

But is this latest call, as reported above, a step further than warranted even by a complementarian reading of Scripture?

I have my own thoughts on the matter. What about yours?