Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't worry folks, all religions are the same and their many ways all lead to the same God

I can think of no other way to explain this news out of Mosul than to say it is simply an expression of the plurality of religions which, at root, are just the same as the other.

No one religion has a monopoly on the truth.

It's all just happy families, this one great family of God's children.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Imago dei and the politics of Jesus - Monday 21 July 2014

Life is rushed this week, and there is the emotional upheaval engendered by the death of a colleague (see post below) holding a pivotal position in diocesan life.

So, this week, I will let someone else do the talking, here. What do you think of what Gary Ferngren has to say?

A final, brief thought: in the light of the terrible evil manifest in the world this week past, our election is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the many blessings we enjoy here.

We have lost a friend

The Diocese of Christchurch and many Christian brothers and sisters beyond the Diocese, throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, Northern Ireland and England (especially Oxford) are mourning the loss of our Dean, Lynda Patterson who died today of natural causes.

Taonga and Stuff report her death and briefly summarise her life and ministry.

This news is a shock to many of us who enjoyed friendship and collegiality with her. For myself I enjoyed both friendship and the special collegiality of co-authoring two Lenten studies together. We were in the process of composing the third in the series when she died.

As further news comes to hand I will endeavour to post it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Muriel Porter complains about representative democracy in the Australian Anglican church

Notwithstanding my support for women being ordained priests and bishops as well as deacons, I can see a silly complaint when I see one.

Muriel Porter, doyen of all things liberal in Oz Anglicanism, is now grizzling at the most liberal step any church can take, to allow itself to have representative democracy!

If only our ACANZP General Synod has similar representative democracy I wonder how voting on the likes of Motion 30 would go!?

Radner on women bishops or, Why I am an evangelical!

Ephraim Radner offers a few thoughts at First Things on the ecumenical implication of the ordination of women bishops in the CofE. Mostly it is a standard canvassing of familiar issues: this is a nail in the coffin of formal unity between Rome and Canterbury, but not the only nail and in any case the body inside is "null and void". There is a sideways glance at Anglicans not agreeing to such ordination, including a prognostication re ACNA resiling from the ordinations it currently accommodates. The article ends with this:

"Without knowing how it will be parsed out, I can say that there is much of this acknowledgement, truth-facing, examination, and confession still to come among Anglicans and their brethren on the matter of women’s ordination and consecration to the episcopate. As on much else. Our work now is to determine how this will happen."
I think this means that Anglicans, Romans and Eastern Orthodox might one day speak honestly and/or change their minds (one way or t'other) and/or repent of what they have or haven't done re ordaining women. (But I am not sure ... your help in comments appreciated!)

My own take on these kinds of thoughts is "This is why I am an evangelical!"

An evangelical is a Bible-reading (so far so most Christians), Bible-respecting (so far not as many Christians as those who read the Bible), Reformation-influenced (so far every Protestant and Anglican), Reformation-keen (not all Anglicans, in my experience) believer who is for ever questioning things passed on as "tradition" or "reason" in the light of the Bible and who poses those questions with Reformation theology as a frame for the questions and as a lens for inspecting the putative answers, with a particular twist which asks "What the gospel of new life in Christ means for this generation?"

That last question, incidentally, brings out the 'evangelical' (i.e. gospel-orientation) in many Christians, as (to take a famous instance) we see happening in the current Pope.

So, I am not that keen on seeing doom and gloom, or simply yet further confusion on the ecumenical front as some are doing.

My keenness is on finding our what the gospel means today. If that means as we read the Bible we are overturning 1 year or 10 years or 1500 years or even 2014 years of tradition, or critiquing received or perceived reason, then so be it. As we find out the meaning of the gospel we should be finding it out as Christians. We should be, as the subtitle to Radner's article says, be 'Facing Truth Together.'

On the ordination of women, why think and write as though Anglicans are misreading the gospel? Our question to Romans and Eastern Orthodox (and to some of ourselves) is, Why do you persist in misreading the gospel?

Ecumenism is a global reading of Scripture together. But such reading comes from 'Facing Truth Together' rather than from (say) 'Presuming Tradition is True' or 'We will be "Together" Facing Truth when you agree with us'

An evangelical never presumes that a majority reading is right simply because it is a majority nor that the traditional or rational reading is right because it is traditional or because it is rational.

Some evangelicals might part company with me when I also say, conversely, that an evangelical ought not to dismiss a majority reading out of hand (the majority might be the church on the way to universal agreement; opposition to the majority might be over-emphasis on individualism), nor a traditional reading (since for the most part tradition is about the accumulation of universal readings of Scripture) nor a rational reading (since our ability to reason is part of God's gift of humanity).

What is important for an evangelical is that the truth of the gospel is found. Whether it is through affirmation of tradition or deconstruction of tradition matters little.

What matters is being faithful to Jesus, what he taught and what he did, upholding and proclaiming the news which he announced through word and deed. This is a whole Bible matter, not just a concern for the four gospels, because the law and the prophets enable us to understand what Jesus meant and the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles chart the way for  faithful understanding of the meaning of the gospel.

So, Yes, Ephraim, "acknowledgement, truth-facing, examination, and confession". But let it be a renewal of ecumenical relationships through a renewed reading of Scripture together, an evangelical ecumenism.

My own understanding of 'honest' (i.e. what people really think deep down) Roman thinking on ordination is that many Catholics are open to the ordination of women.

It might be that Anglican decisions are God speaking again to fellow Christians about what the gospel means for the ordering of our life together in the one - there is only one - body of Christ.

SINCE WRITING the above I have come across these two responses to the decision: English and Welsh Catholic and Russian Orthodox.

Friday, July 18, 2014

It would be head in sand to be naive about Trojan horses


A commenter here thinks I have written a deplorable post (even after removing a few words from the original wording that I had not realised invoked a spectre I would not ever wish to invoke).

To aid you in judging whether it is deplorable and how deplorable it might be in your eyes, it may be worth reading the following articles from the Guardian newspaper re the matter sparking this post. For clarification, let me reiterate, this is the Guardian newspaper, not the Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph even the Times).

In no particular order:

One article

Another article

Further article

Finally, this article.


Here in NZ we might be slightly pleased with ourselves that we have a settled state of affairs about women in public life, including life as bishops, compared with our counterparts in England.

But from England we can still learn a lesson or two. One lesson is to not be naive about Islam and a particular lesson is in this Guardian report.

That the vast majority of Muslim immigrants are peaceful, law abiding prospective citizens intent on a better life in a (perceived) better land should not lull any receiving country into thinking that no potential then exists for a Trojan horse of separatist, fundamentalist, women-deprecating Islamism to enter the body politic of the immigrant community and seek to influence the wider Muslim community with a version of Islam which seeks to transform the receiving country back to seventh century Arabia.

The Birmingham story is a sharp reminder of the possibility of growth in that influence to the point where the city council of a major city feels constrained to ignore the growth of that influence to the point where there is a 'head in the sand' approach to the development of an approach to education which is at variance with the overall and general shared values of a multi-cultural society such as Britain.

There are already a few signs appearing in our media of 'radical' preachers in our mosques beginning this Trojan work.

The fundamental naivety a Western country such as ours is likely to have is that Islam's core DNA about community and family life is integrateable into other non-Islamic communities. Within that DNA is a streak which is both separatist relative to surrounding communities and totalitarian in ambition, aiming to ultimately control the whole community, but as a closed rather than open society.

The misreading of the West is always that Islam is just like Christianity which has shown (mostly) in its DNA a capacity to go with the flow of surrounding culture, make adroit accommodations and generally work towards an open society.

Islam is not a non-identical twin of Christianity.

POSTSCRIPT: That some NZers are willing to join and work with Al-Quaeda is noted here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good disagreement via discipline of non-demonization?

In the wake of the decision of the CofE GS to permit bishops to be drawn from the ranks of men and women (which, incidentally, over there means, 'the ranks of archdeacons, deans, seminary principals'), the seven spirits of God roaming over all the earth - I am up to my ears teaching Revelation at the moment :) - see some unsavoury things being said on the internet. (There are also some perceptive, careful and often challenging things being said in comments here ... thank you).

The 'unsavoury things' are descriptions of 'the other side' which at best make the other look bad and at worst make the other look demonic. In short, I am reading things which unfairly characterise what that other side to the Tweeter/blogger/punditocrat is saying. It is not ecclesiastical rocket science to recognise that ++Justin Welby's strategy of working with 'good disagreement' (on which, see Bosco Peters) will not work if we cannot accurately and fairly represent other people's views.

One of the things which particularly concerns me is a kind of snide attitude towards the CofE retaining and supporting that wing which does not support the ordination of women, let alone women being ordained as bishops. "How can the church maintain 'patriarchal authoritarianism' within it?" some are grizzling into their latte cups.

Put like that, how can it?! There is nothing more awful for men as well as women to have authoritarian patriarchs running amok!

But what if we discipline ourselves to speak justly of one another, to render each other's views accurately and to engage empathetically with the general view of the church being espoused? Might we then find that we do not have authoritarian patriarchs running around let alone running amok?

A case in point is a sermon preached just before the GS by Cranmer's Curate. It is as good and clear a statement of a sincerely held belief that women ought not to be ordained priests or bishops as you will find around Anglican blogs today.

As I have reflected on the sermon over the past couple of non-blogging-because-travelling days I find what is fair and true about the sermon and what is promoted within it is a view about the way God orders the church and the world. In this ordering of the world, the sun rises every day, if I step off a cliff I fall to the ground below, men teach mix congregations and women do not, and the All Blacks win nearly every game they play. An associated point is that the Bible is particularly clear on the one point which is not necessarily obvious from observations about the ordering of the world re nature and athletic supremacy.

Our appreciation of this point of view lies in recognising that what is being advanced is not authoritarian patriarchalism but an understanding of God's plan for the world. The commitment to advancing this understanding is fuelled by a desire to honour God. That is why both women and men support this teaching. And, if Anglicanism is not duplicitous, if it is honest and has integrity when it says we are inclusive of diversity, then a way should be found to allow this understanding of God's ordering of the world since it is an understanding with a history in our tradition as we have read Scripture. (To be clear, in some speech by Anglicans, some similar sentiments are expressed which sound for all the world like a rubbishy, misogynistic, authoritarian patriarchalism ... nothing said here is appreciating or supporting such deprecation of women as part of our diversity).

But the converse is true in respect of Anglican diversity. Holders of views expressed along the lines of Cranmer's Curate should be able to appreciate alternative views which teach a different understanding of the ordering of the world and of the church, also fuelled by a desire to honour God. In this understanding the world is not quite so rigidly ordered in each dimension. The sun rises everyday and jumping off cliffs is not advised but the weather is not so ordered and the All Blacks lose more knock out games at World Cups than general statistics would predict. In particular, the ordering of the church along gender lines is not a clear teaching from New Testament scriptures which offer a fluid picture of leadership development in the context of a new appreciation of humanity 'in Christ' in a 'new creation' called into being by the undoing of the reign of sin through the cross.

Of course there is an unfortunate smattering of talk in support of women bishops which seems to owe more to United Nations' charters or postmodern social democratic chatter about glass ceilings than to Scripture. But we should be no more put off affirming the decision made by the CofE as part of Anglican diversity than we would expect people to be put off the views of Cranmer's Curate by reading rubbishy patriarchalism elsewhere in the blogosphere.

(As an aside, further, the association of the decision with the 'agenda' to foster further change down the line re homosexuality is not a reason to resist women bishops. It has always seemed unfortunate to me that the affirmation of women in leadership might be imperilled by concerns about what men do together.)

Can we avoid demonizing each other as we explore what 'good disagreement' might mean?

As a postscript, another concern in these debates can be our relationship as Anglicans with Rome. Writing about the CofE decision, Damian Thompson makes an astute point about the response of Pope Francis in his own acerbic, take-no-prisoners way:

"How will Pope Francis react? Some Anglicans suspect that he’s secretly pleased: they see him as a fellow liberal who would be open to ordaining women if only John Paul II hadn’t declared it to be a theological impossibility. They’re wrong. Francis talks about expanding the ‘ministry’ of women, but when he’s pressed on the subject he makes jokes about bossy priests’ housekeepers and Adam’s rib. There’s definitely a streak of old-fashioned Latin American misogyny in the Holy Father. 
On the other hand, the Pope won’t lose any sleep over this, since he doesn’t believe that Catholics and Protestants should waste time debating irreconcilable doctrinal differences. His message to the CofE’s new women bishops will be: join me in spreading the Gospel." (my bold)