Monday, July 28, 2014

Politics of Jesus - Monday 28 July 2014

This week a different voice, that of Jacques Ellul: I have emboldened the words which challenge all politically interested Christians ...

"The first truth which must be remembered is that for Christians there is no dissociation between the end and the means. It is a Greek ethical idea which has caused this division. The point from which we ought to start is that in the work of God the end and the means are identical. Thus when Jesus Christ is present the Kingdom has “come upon” us. This formula expresses very precisely the relation between the end and the means. Jesus Christ in his incarnation appears as God’s means, for the salvation of man and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God, but where Jesus Christ is, there also is this salvation and this Kingdom.

Only this situation is the exact opposite of that which we have described as being ours today: while our civilization absorbs the end into the means, in the action of God, the means only appear as the realized presence of the end. The end, this Kingdom, which will “come” at the end of time, is already present when the divine means (the only, unique, Mediator) is present. The whole action of God consists in realizing through his means the end, which is his work. Whether this be the Covenant, or the Law, or the Prophets, or the history or the wisdom of Israel, it is always the same act of God which manifests this unity of end and means. 

But it should be the same in all Christian life; for the Christian also the end and the means are united in the same way; thus he is irrevocably committed to fight with all his might against our present enslavement to means. Above all he must have a different attitude. It is not his primary task to think out plans, programs, methods of action and achievement. When Christians do this (and there is an epidemic of this behavior at the present time in the church) it is simply an imitation of the world, which is doomed to defeat. What we can do is of no importance unless we can offer it with a “good conscience toward God.”

In this situation it is not our instruments and our institutions which count, but ourselves, for it is ourselves who are God’s instruments; so far as the church and all its members are God’s “means” they ought to constitute that presence of the “end” which is characteristic of the Kingdom. Thus we never have to look for an objective outside ourselves, which we try to attain by very great effort (all efforts are accomplished in Jesus Christ), but we, within ourselves, have to carry the objective for which the world has been created by God. Whether we will or not, whether this be regarded as pride or not, Christians are not in the same situation as others with regard to the end: they have received this end in themselves by the grace of God. They have to represent before the world this unity between ends and means, authorized by Jesus Christ. For it is not man who establishes this end, as such, and achieves it; it is God who orders and arranges it and then brings it to pass. This completely reverses the attitude (so usual when one has finished a piece of work) of those who add, as a sort of precaution, that “of course it is for God to make it fruitful,” or “do what you ought to do and let what will happen,” or “man proposes and God disposes,” etc.: all this is merely popular human wisdom, which tries to bring God in somewhere. In this attitude as a whole there is, in reality, a dissociation between the work of man and the work of God, between the means and the end. Such a view of life is radically anti-Christian, when it incites men to carry on his affairs, and then adds “God” out of a sense of “decency” belonging to another age. In reality, the opposite is true: we see that God establishes his end and that it is this which is represented by our means. The direction is reversed, and this is a fact of extraordinary practical importance – it is not an intellectual game.

It means, for instance, that we do not have to strive and struggle in order that righteousness may reign upon the earth. We have to be “just” or “righteous” ourselves, bearers of righteousness. The Bible tells us that where there is a just man justice prevails. It is, of course, understood that here the word “just” means being “justified” by Christ, and that is why justice prevails where there is a just man. This is because the just man lives by the justice of Christ. This justice is present, for it is this which makes him just. Thus justice is not a goal to attain, or a balance to be acquired, but it is the gift of God, free and inexplicable, which exists in our life so that our means are not intended to “bring in” justice, but to “manifest” it. Likewise we have not to force ourselves, with great effort and intelligence, to bring peace upon the earth – we have ourselves to be peaceful, for where there are peacemakers, peace reigns. And it is always the same idea which prevails: this creation by God of good aims, like peace – a living creation in Jesus Christ – which can openly by translated through our means.

Thus the principle of the Christian ethic begins here. We must search the Scriptures for the way in which we ought to live, in order that the end, willed by God, should be present among men. The whole object of ethics is not to attain an end (and we know very well that for a genuine Christian ethic there is no such thing as a striving for holiness), but to manifest the gift which has been given us, the gift of grace and peace, of love and the Holy Spirit: that is, the very end pursued by God and miraculously present within us. Henceforth our human idea of means is absolutely overturned; its root of pride and of power has been cut away. The means is no longer called to “achieve” anything. It is delivered from its uncertainty about the way to follow, and the success to be expected. We can easily give up the obsession with means, from which our time is suffering, and, in the church, we must learn that it is not our possibilities which control our action, but it is God’s end, present within us.
-Jacques Ellul in The Presence of the Kingdom, p. 64-67."

Parting pains

A further update re the separation of Michael and Kimberley Hewat and around 100 members of their (now former) parish from the Anglican church is reported on Stuff.

Whatever we make of the principles and politics involved, for some of us observing on the sidelines this is painful. Michael and Kimberley, ++Philip and +Helen-Ann are Anglicans I respect immensely and I would always go out of my way at a gathering to meet and greet any of them.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Are TEC's litigation garments going through the rinse cycle?

Anglican Curmudgeon is worth keeping up with these days, as TEC's litigation against the Diocese of Quincy gets rinsed and its litigation against South Carolina unravels.

If to lose one vicar is careless, to lose two is what?

In my view, being up front at the start, I do not think anyone should leave our church because of Motion 30 approved at our recent General Synod. But some are leaving. I can imagine some are leaving because Motion 30 does not go far enough towards blessing of same sex partnerships, but I have no specific evidence of that. Some are leaving because Motion 30 goes too far towards blessings and appears to presage a future line our church will cross.

A few weeks ago Charlie Hughes, then Vicar of Henderson, left. This past week Michael Hewat, until yesterday Vicar of West Hamilton, and a sizeable number of his congregation have left. By Sunday they will be worshipping in a new location. You can read the NZ Herald report here.

Rather than discuss why someone shouldn't leave at this time, here are my present reasons for staying:

- we have not crossed the line where we have changed either our constitution or canons in an unacceptable manner,
- the grace of inclusion of viewpoints at GS in Motion 30 requires a reciprocal obligation for holders of various viewpoints to remain engaged with the process of the next few years,
- the evangelical witness within the Anglican church historically has been a witness against the tide of majority viewpoint and the current tide is flowing no more strongly than in past times,
- if our church does not wish to retain an evangelical witness within its midst, the church should be honest about that and drive that witness out through expulsion rather than have that job done for it by resignations and departures,
- speaking personally, I have gay friends in the church whom I would like to remain in conversation with as a fellow Anglican rather than as a former Anglican.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Funeral Details

Lynda Patterson's Christchurch funeral will be at the Transitional Cathedral at 1 pm this Tuesday 29 July 2014. A day or so later her body will be flown to Northern Ireland, accompanied by Bishop Victoria Matthews, where there will be a funeral in Dromore Cathedral.

With Dromore in mind, and H/T Taonga, here is a lovely tribute to Lynda which all who knew her in NZ will endorse:

"“She was our Head Girl and our brightest star - the warmest, smartest and funniest individual one could hope to meet. Everyone in Dromore was very proud of what she achieved and the positive impact she has had on people both at home and in New Zealand. This is such sad news and my thoughts are with Lynda’s friends and family."

This is the full text of Bishop Victoria's letter to the Diocese a few minutes ago:

"Dear Friends,

As you are aware the Very Reverend Lynda Jayne Patterson died of natural causes at home this past weekend.  She was just forty years old.
Her New Zealand funeral will be at one o’clock (1pm) on Tuesday 29 July 2014 at the Transitional Cathedral.  There will be seating for approximately 700.  Following the service afternoon tea will be served. 

Clergy are invited to vest in an alb and white stole.  The vested clergy will form an honour guard for Lynda at the end of the service.  Due to the very limited space at the Transitional Cathedral, the Diocese requests that clergy vest at their cars and walk to the Cathedral in alb (or cassock and surplice) and white stole. The service will be a Requiem.

The casket will arrive at the Cathedral by 10 am on the 29th July and people are invited to come early to pray.
It is anticipated many of the Cathedral Deans and some Bishops of the Province will be in attendance plus numerous out of town friends and family.

Lynda’s Northern Ireland funeral and burial in the family plot will take place in Dromore Cathedral, later in the week.  I will accompany the body to Northern Ireland and will assist with the funeral there.

Thank you so much for your prayers at this difficult time.  Lynda was a friend of so many of us and the preacher, teacher and writer that regularly inspired our ministries.  Her extraordinary and delightful  intelligence always invited us to be our best selves and encouraged us to grow into the people God created us to be.  May her memory be honoured by our continuing to grow into the image of Christ.

“When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this immortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
Death has been swallowed up in victory”.  1 Corinthians 15.54

In the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ,

All manner of things shall not be well

One of the naffest things said amongst Christians - even by myself from time to time - is Julian of Norwich's "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well".

When we continue to read of the situation in Mosul for Christians and possible implications for rising Islamism in the world, for instance in this and this First Things articles, can we say "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well?"

Christianity's success in bearing brave witness has been where Christians have not been expelled or exterminated. The bravery of Christian witness in North Africa, for instance, got the church nowhere as Islam's sweep across that region in its first centuries swept Christians before it with the sword. To this day the church has only a little toehold, certainly not a foothold in North Africa (Egypt excepted).

Yet the chilling thing about ISIS' caliphate is not only that it is putting Christians to the sword but also any who oppose it's advance. So this morning I read in our Press of three Sunni clerics in Mosul killed by the footsoldiers of ISIS. Their crime was to oppose the advance of ISIS' peculiar Sunni-ism.

On a brighter note I have just had a most enjoyable few days at St John's College, Auckland. My primary reason for being there was to do some teaching on the Book of Revelation for a B.Theol. course but a stay either side of the classroom hours provided excellent opportunities to meet with Christchurch students and College staff. All manner of things are well at the College!

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.