Friday, August 22, 2014

Jesus? Here, present and correct.

The question of Anglican identity keeps itself before our eyes. T19 draws attention today to the formalization of primatial oversight for the Diocese of South Carolina by the Global South Primates Steering Committee. Thus 'being Anglican' is about episcopal oversight within the Anglican way of being church: the Diocese of South Carolina is receiving that kind of oversight. It is thoroughly and unmistakably Anglican ... or, let the arguments continue about true Anglican identity.

Identity questions lie at the heart of the ISIS Caliphate. Beyond the imposition of rule by terror lies a question about Islamic identity, explored by Steve Bell and Robert Fisk. One simple observation to be made from their reflections is that while many decry the Caliphate as 'not Islam' or 'not true to Islam', many within the Caliphate, neither an insubstantial population nor territory, happily concur that this is Islam faithfulness being expressed.

For some Anglicans, episcopal oversight means the bishop has a 'seat', a place to sit which we call a cathedral. Once again our local paper The Press brings the ongoing controversy over our cathedral to its frontpage. Anglican identity is being mixed up with local civic identity!

From a different perspective, Anglican identity is also bound up in answers to the question of access to Jesus. Recently here a very informed set of comments (to this post) touched on the 'presence of Jesus', how we discern it and how we experience it. Anglican identity is intimately tied to this question. Fostering notions of 'Real Presence', for instance, is integrated into notions of 'valid ordination' and thus to who the ordainer is, i.e. a genuine bishop or a (so to speak) imposter bishop - a question which arises as we debate the Anglican status of dioceses like South Carolina (i.e. the present bishop is properly Anglican, but will his successor be, etc).

But push 'Real Presence' theology too far (to say nothing of questions about valid ordination) and the question arises 'Why Anglican Catholic and not Roman Catholic?'

Of course these days some Anglicans are answering that question by moving to Rome. There is a robust honesty in taking that step. To not take that step, if one is arguing along Real Presence lines, must be to allow that some criticisms of Roman theology from the English Reformation still stand. That, logically, should mean that we value the place of Scripture as God's written Word in the life of our church, a place from which all claims we make in respect of custom and tradition are subject to the critique of Scripture. When, for instance, this Sunday coming we read Matthew 16:13-20, we concur that the rock on which the church Christ builds is as much the confession of Peter as Peter himself, and then we demur that Peter's role in the founding of the church is a primatial role.

But the confession that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of the living God confronts us with Jesus the one in whom God has become flesh (the insight of John's Gospel) and the one who conquered death and is alive for evermore (the witness of the New Testament). The presence of this Christ in the world today is mediated through the Holy Spirit. There is no church being built by Christ which has its foundation a correct interpretation of the eucharist. The only church being built by Christ has at its foundation a correct understanding of who Jesus is, an understanding, according to John's Gospel, which the Spirit teaches us.

Back to the question of Anglican identity. Somewhere in our debates about our identity appears to lurk a danger that we place an emphasis on the institution of the church (who correctly belongs to the correct Communion), rather than on the confession of the church, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Where that confession is, there the name of Jesus is embedded in the character of the church. When we gather in that name, Jesus is present among us (with or without communion bread and wine).

We could have a roll call at such a gathering and call out the name of Jesus. He would respond, 'Present and correct.'

What Anglicans are wrestling with as we consider the state and status of the Diocese of South Carolina is whether our 'Anglican' version of the church is based on confession and not institutional requirements, and thus whether that Diocese confesses with us what we believe and the peculiarity of how we believe.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This can't be true

That claim cannot be true. Many Neanderthals are alive and wandering around northern Iraq with machine guns and butcher's knives.

UPDATE Consider reading this ... for a Kiwi view.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lessons from a master

One of the best blogs around Kiwiland, in my view, is Kiwiblog, run by David Farrar. It gets a 'best' in my judgment because of its transparency (biased towards the National Party), fairness (always willing to criticise National and to point out fair and good policy from other parties), saneness (astute, sensible comment when fisking articles/columns) and spread of interests (not just politics, also travel, arts, economic data).

In the recent turmoil generated through the publication of Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager, some of which focuses on Kiwiblog, lots of questions are being raised about blogging and where it fits in the 'mediascape' of present day NZ. It is becoming apparent that the main blog being critiqued by Hager is a vehicle for unacknowledged diatribes against public figures such as scientists which are paid for by various 'industry groups.'

Out of this turmoil David Farrar reflects on his blogging activities and does so in a way which, with appropriate translation to another sphere, yields lessons to consider for Christian/Anglican bloggers. As well he says some things about blogging which are similar to my own motivations for writing in this public way.

Here are a few excerpts from this post:

(Start of excerpts) "Over the last week or so I have seriously considered walking away from Kiwiblog. While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself (even if you were not the one hacked) floating around, and to also realise that because you are a blogger and pollster, it means you and your office is fair game. One of the worst moments was having a senior staff member of mine, who is also a very good friend, tell me that she had been worried that I might think she was the leak, as our politics are different. I hate the impact this is having on so many people.

Some of the revelations coming out, also do not show aspects of the blogosphere in a good light (to put it mildly) and I’ve thought quite a bit about how this impacts the wider blogosphere.


There is part of me that wants to walk away so I am no longer a target. ... But the trouble is the blog for me is an outlet on what I think – what I like, what annoys me, what amuses me, what appals me. And I can’t imagine it can function as that, if I try and avoid politics. I do genuinely blog because I like having my say – that is my primary motivation.


So after some reflection, I have decided to carry on, but to make some changes. I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere. So I’ve decided on the following.
  1. Kiwiblog is sending in an application today to join the Online Media Standards Authority. I’m not doing this so I can be called media. I don’t intend to label myself as media. I’m a blogger. I’m doing it so I can be held accountable to a public code of ethics and standards, and an independent complaint procedure. The code of ethics and standards will apply to both myself, and all guest bloggers here.
  2. I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.

  3. After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.
I hope people will appreciate the changes. I welcome feedback on them, and other suggestions. I believe political blogs can play a very valuable role in political discourse, and want to do what I can to be a constructive part of it." 
(Conclusion of excerpts)

One of the most time consuming aspects of blogging, I find, is moderating comments!

Links - Tuesday 19 August 2014

1. The bells of St Peter's, Ropley in Hampshire - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh during the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival - BBC Radio 3

3. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

4. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

5. Some archived choral services during the holidays from the chapel of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

6. St Paul in Athens - Canon Michael Green - St Andrew's Oxford Audio [Acts 17:16-34]

7. The Sons of Zebedee: Two Galilean Fishermen - Professor Richard Bauckham - University of Otago Video [mp4]
and audio [mp3]

8. Keswick Convention 2014: The Uniqueness of Christ in a Multi-Faith World - Ravi Zacharias - Clayton TV

9. My Journey to Christ - Nabeel Qureshi - RZIM Video

10. What is the Hope for Humanity? A discussion of technology, politics, and theology with Bishop Tom Wright and Ross Douthat - Veritas Forum Video

11. Various other sermons available
All Souls, Langham Place
their 4,000 sermon searchable archive
St James the Less, Pimlico
Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham Alabama

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq, for the Church of England; for Nigeria where in addition to the still missing Nigerian schoolgirls now young boys and men have been abducted along with further attrocities; for the persecuted church in the Middle East, Iran, Bangladesh and China; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; for wisdom in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

12. Iraq Region: Jihadis accused of new massacres in Iraq and Syria - BBC
Islamic State executed 700 people from Syrian tribe - Reuters
A timeline of ISIS terror - WWM
Iran: Imprisoned pastor threatened by IS members - Open Doors
Prayers for Iraq - Lent and Beyond

13. Nigeria: Dozens of young men abducted - Open Doors
Boko Haram Islamists Kidnap Boys From Village - Sky News
Boko Haram overruns town, kills 100 - WWM

14. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers for the Church of England - Lent and Beyond
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Bangladesh: Attack on nuns said to be first ever in Bangladesh - WWM
China: Zhisheng released but human rights lawyers are still being ‘disappeared’ - Lapido Media
Some details of renowned rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng's horrific torture now known - China Aid
Guo Baosheng: Forcible Cross Demolition and So-called Sinicization of Christianity - China Aid
Prayers for South Carolina - Lent and Beyond

15. Sunday Programme - current affairs with Edward Stourton - BBC Radio 4

16. Food for thought
More craft ale, vicar? Welcome to hipster Christianity - Evening Standard
Seeing beyond the veil - Christianity Today's Woman
Naming Children: England and Wales, 2013 - David Pocklington
Baby Names in England and Wales, 2013 - OSS

17. Richard Bauckham: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - St John's Nottingham video

18. Come, be with me - Lucy Bunce and Keith Duke

19. Rising Star Byron - Mark Gee Vimeo

With acknowledgement to Pageantmaster.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The politics of Jesus - Monday 18 August 2014

Pakeha Forgetfulness

On Saturday morning the Christchurch Press frontpaged an article about Kiwi opposition to sales of farmland. This fearful approach, at least by Pakeha, highlights a form of collective amnesia. How did that farmland get to be farmland in the first place? It was bought (or 'bought') by foreigners to these shores. Last night in Christchurch and many other towns and cities, every person, even those sleeping under park benches, slept on land once bought by foreigners.

There is no sovereign right on the part of current landowners, save for Maori owners of tribal land, to refuse sale to foreigners. Put another way, there is nothing intrinsic about the occupation of NZ being the preserve of European-derived people. We may be in the process of becoming occupied by Asian-derived people. Hopefully this can be accomplished without any 'land wars'.

Worse, of course, than the incipient preservationism going on through our collective amnesia, is the almost explicit racism in which it appears that we object to sales of farms to Asians but not to Americans.

By all means, let's have a political discussion about the merits of the sale of any farmland to anyone, for example, we could reasonably and without amnesia nor racial bias discuss the question, Will the sale lead to improved economic and environmental benefits for the current inhabitants of NZ?

But let's not presume - from a Pakeha perspective - that once we accepted foreign ownership of land here from 1814 onwards we created some right to future bans of sale to foreigners!

What has this to do with the politics of Jesus? My thoughts above were inspired by preparing a sermon on the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite mother, Matthew 15:21-28!

Whaleoil's Egregious Error

Few Kiwis can now be unaware of the existence of NZ's most popular blog, Whaleoil, run by Cameron Slater. Following the publication of Dirty Politics last week, written by Nicky Hager, Cameron Slater and various associates have been in the spotlight in respect of alleged dirty political conspiracies and connivances. Google round to read something about this. Take a grain of salt, at least in respect of whether Dirty Politics is some kind of franchise owned only by the right!

My little point in the wider, embroiling and daily-unfolding-with-new-revelations debate, is that a by-product of the 'attack' approach is to make politics a zone into which only a certain kind of elite will enter: the elite willing to engage in dark arts and to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Why would the great MPs of yesterday, the local businessperson or union official, the keen teacher or farmer rise to the challenge of becoming an MP if they are going to be the targets of muck-raking, innuendo, false allegations and what have you?

Attack politics skews the representation of the people to a small class of political operators who learn their politics at the side of a politician they work for as an assistant. From that position within the 'beltway' they learn how to handle themselves re the dark arts from the very beginning of adult working life.

But the beltway knows little about real life ... read British and American politics to see where Cameron Slater, Nicky Hager and co are taking us.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Justin, Vicky, Justin and David are all Anglicans!

There once was a popular Australian book called They're a Weird Mob. It wasn't written about Anglicans, but it could be republished today about us, though might be redacted to They're a Diverse Mob. Here, for example, are two contrasting stories about, well, you know, le topic du jour ...

Vicky Beeching, a popular Christian musician, theological media pundit tells her story here.

David Ould, Sydney minister and sometimes commenter here, offers two posts on a recent experience in which he and his wife hosted a gay couple in their, well not quite - daytime, not night time - in their home for an SBS 'spouse swap/home swap' type programme, here and here.

(I will not take comments which in any way shape or form a denigratory to either Vicky or David).

Meanwhile, ++Justin Welby (mentioned in the Beeching interview) has been to NZ (well, Auckland) on a flying visit, as reported in Taonga. Naturally he was the epitome of the middle ground in all our diversity.

Today in the Press ++Justin has some astute and helpful things to say about cathedrals!

But he is not the only +Justin hereabouts. It is very nice to see the Bishop of Wellington mentioned favourably in this Wanganui-based blogpost.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kiwi Anglicans favour decriminalization of weed?

OK, the +Bluck post on liturgy, as previously promised. With a nod to someone else who talked about the good plants and the weeds growing (!), +John talks of our liturgyscape in terms of flowers blooming with the odd weed, and, changing metaphor while citing someone else, also as 'tiger country.'

In his view the liturgical genie has been let out of the bottle and it isn't going to be shoved back in anytime soon. His wrap up leads me to a first point I want to make in response:

"Nobody knows where all this will take us the Selwyn Lecturer I introduced earlier, Philip Tovey, told us that there is no evidence that being freer or more formal in liturgy makes any difference to church growth, any more than it does being high, low, middle or messy church.
I do know that new and creative liturgy, when it’s done with clumsy words, bad taste and a hectoring tone, can exclude and alienate congregations as surely as the most archaic and irrelevant language. 
I do believe our liturgical tradition, and especially our attempts to anchor it in the imagery and experience of Aotearoa, has distilled great wisdom and beauty that we ignore at our peril. 
And I long for the day when I can sit in the back row of an Anglican church and worship God with some words and lyrics that evoke rather than instruct, celebrate where I belong, respect all sorts and conditions of fellow pilgrims around me, and just once in a while, leave a little space and silence for  the imaginings of my heart and soul that lie beyond words."

I suggest the great question before us is not first of all, Do we want the genie back in the bottle?

The great question is,

What kind of church do we wish to be as we travel into the future?

There is a sharp edgy question trailing in its wake:

Will we exist in the future?

Our church is in dire straits. The overall profile of our congregations is aging and the statistical trend of attendance is downwards. We face the real possibility that a couple of recently departing clergy and congregations will become a significant split if the Way Forward group (post GS 2014, meeting in Auckland today and tomorrow) cannot find a way to keep us together.

There is no guarantee that fifty years hence there will be an Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.

It is not just that the church is always one generation from extinction, it is that we do not know what liturgical road is the highway we should be travelling to the future. From that confusion flows the strong possibility that we will mistakenly pursue pathways which currently look promising but in fact will be dead-ends, because current congregations will eventually die and new attendees will attend other churches.

What +John is describing is a church desperately trying to find that highway to the future. Perhaps it is following NZPB services: many congregations do that. It could be via not following NZPB services, even to the point, as a commenter on the earlier post noted, of a bishop offering his 'own' liturgy: many congregations do this. It could be via offering a menu of diversity each Sunday: many city parishes do this. (But if that is the highway, it is not open to most country parishes).

Out of this desperation to find the way to a healthy future (if not, noting Philip Tovey's observation above, to a growing future), we should be asking questions I am not convinced we are asking of ourselves. 'We' here is 'all of us who love our church'.

Such as: (in no particular order of priority)

What is working and what is not working? (Yes, to be measured by whether congregations are reverse aging and declining trends)

What would be better if we did it better? (I think this question is one of the major underlying drivers for Bosco Peters' posts on our liturgical life on his site Liturgy).

What should we stop doing (because, frankly, it belongs to a former era and has no future)? [My example: using the burse and veil!]

What value should we place on Common Prayer - the prayers we all pray together in every parish and rohe?

What rules and regulations both assist us and agreeably bind us together in one worshipping church?

In respect of the last question, it is a clear inference from +John's post that we collectively do not think much of our rules and regulations in respect of liturgy. We are not keen to see anyone criminalized for growing liturgical weed!

As for the question before that: the +Bluck post bears witness to the readily observable fact that in the age old tension between unity and diversity, we value diversity over unity.

There are a few thoughts for starters. I see Bosco has a post up about Bill 4 ... the fate of which is germane to the issues above.