Friday, July 31, 2015

What does 'Anglican theology' mean?

Tonight I begin teaching a new Anglican Studies course for Christchurch, Introduction to Anglican Theology.

On the fact of it, the theology of the Anglican church is Anglican theology so we should have a course on it.

But digging a bit deeper - yes, I have done a bit of prep for the course - things are not quite that simple. A lot of theology within our church is 'just theology'. We are as happy with reading Barth as with reading Benedict. We draw on Augustine and Aquinas. We even read the same Bible as other Christians! There is not distinct Anglican way of understanding the Trinity or the Incarnation.

Nor can we claim a distinctive Anglican contribution to the history of theology. That lots of superb Anglicans have been superb theologians and made superb contributions to that history doesn't make for 'Anglican theology.' When Rowan Williams wrote his masterpiece on Arian it was accidental to what he wrote that he was an Anglican.

We can claim, however, that some Anglican theologians have contributed mightily to specific Anglican debates over the sense and sensibility of the Anglican church. Par excellent here is Richard Hooker. At a crossroads for the newish Church of England in the late 16th century, Richard Hooker took on Puritan opponents who wished for a different character to the church they were presently dissatisfied with. In batting away their bowling attack, Hooker both set out theologies of sacraments, orders and such, sharpened up the lines and contours of Anglican emphases such as we find in the Thirty Nine Articles.

All to the good, but is this as good as 'Anglican theology' gets?

I'll let you know, and you can let me know, if you discover more going on than meets the eye!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Tuesday 28th July 2015

Supplied by a UK colleague:

#1 Vaughan Roberts on God the Father; #2 Phil Ashey asks are we comfortable enough in our experience of God to let go and trust him? #3 and #7 talks from the Keswick Convention; #10 prayers needed for Northern Nigeria and Pastors facing death sentences in Sudan; #12 pictures of the heavens; #13 something heavenly from Tallis and #14 some young people musicians from Auckland.

Prayers for you for the coming week.

1. The father heart of God - Vaughan Roberts - St Ebbes Audio [Hosea 10:1-11:1]

2. In the Fellowship of Elijah - Phil Ashey - Christ Church Atlanta Video [1 Kings 17]

3.Talks from the Keswick Convention 2015 - Clayton TV [see listing on left for John Risbridger and Paul Mallard talks]

4. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

5. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

6. The bells of St Eustachius, Tavistock in Devon - BBC Radio 4

7. Sunday Worship from the Keswick Convention - Jonathan Lamb preaches - BBC Radio 4

8. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

9. Archived Choral services over the Summer from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

Please pray for the persecuted church: for churches under attack in Nigeria; for Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Reith under threat of death in Sudan; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

10. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Nigeria: Boko Haram kills 25 in Nigeria - CNN
Two Explosive Devices Planted at Nigerian Church _Christian News
Sudan: Defence submits closing statement in trial of pastors - CSW
South Carolina:Prayers from Lent and Beyond

Food for thought

11. CT scan of charred scroll yields oldest Biblical remnant after Dead Sea Scrolls - Times of Israel
1,500-Year-Old Text Has Been Digitally Resurrected From a Hebrew Scroll - Smithsonian Magazine
Forward from Conversion: How We Can Focus on Spiritual Growth and Transformation - Ed Stetzer - Christianity Today
Same-Sex 'Marriage': Evolution or Deconstruction of Marriage and the Family? - Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP, of Sydney - ABC Religion
How to lead a group worth belonging to - Sarah Abell
Don't Read All About It - David Keen
It’s all good. But is it the best? - David Mansfield

12. Consider the Heavens - Hubblesite

13. Spem in Alium - Thomas Tallis - The Cardinall's Musick

14. May your heart - St Paul's Auckland Worship

God bless you

Monday, July 27, 2015

Best argument from Sydney re SSM you'll read this year?

Ian Paul draws attention to 'what I think is one of the best, short arguments against recognising same-sex marriage'. It comes from Sydney but not from an Anglican. Archbishop Anthony Fisher, delivered a lecture recently, an edited version of which is on the ABC Religion and Ethics site.

I appreciate the points Ian Paul underlines and won't repeat his work here. Read it for yourself! Read the comments too because there is a robust response to Fisher's arguments and to Paul's motivations and aims in publishing his response to the lecture.

Incidentally, for non Australian and non Kiwi readers, NZ has approved same sex marriage as a matter of civil law and Australia has yet to do so, though a huge momentum is building for change.

I appreciate Archbishop Fisher's set of arguments very much because reading around the internet these days, I find myself less than impressed by what I am reading. A strength of his lecture is that he takes on five common slogans for same sex marriage:
- It's all about justice
- Sexual differences do not matter
- It is all about love
- It is all about the numbers
- It does not affect me.

These points made by Fisher stand out for me as they relate to our shared theological interests across the Ditch and around the globe in relation to the core question, 'What is marriage?':

'Though customs around marriage vary between cultures and over time, there is remarkable consistency about these four dimensions of marriage:
  • that it unites people of opposite (but complementary) sex;
  • that this union is intended to be faithful ("to the exclusion of all others");
  • that this union is potentially fruitful ("to have and to hold" each other as "man and wife" do and so open to children); and
  • that this union is final ("till death do us part").
In almost every case, a fifth dimension has been that this union is regarded as sacred.'

'What is unjust and untruthful is to say in our laws that there is nothing distinctive about male and female, husband and wife, father and mother, or nothing important about bringing the two halves of humanity together in marriage. It is unjust to children to say having a Mum and a Dad should not matter. It is discriminatory towards those already married or who would like in future truly to marry to redefine marriage in a way that reduces it to emotions and sex.'

'I have here argued that to admit SSM would not be to broaden the group of those to whom marriage is open, but rather to change altogether what it is we call marriage; that this is not the further evolution of marriage but its further hollowing out - not liberation of that institution from the confines of religion and prejudice so much as deconstruction of that institution. '

The weakness of the slogans Fisher takes to task is highlighted by this article in the New York Times. It would be unjust (would it not?) to deny such open minded ethical cheating? No one can deny that love drives this movement forward. It seems to be popular. It certainly doesn't affect me. So why wouldn't the church approve ethical cheating?

Now there's a question!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tectonic shifts in global Christianity?

Far reaching or far fetched? A couple of articles in the Catholic Herald have caught my eye. If they are 'on the money' then they have far reaching implications for the future shape of global Christian life. But they might be a bit far fetched. What do you think?

Luke Coppen thinks the Pope is reaching out to unify 'Evangelicals' with the Catholic church. Imagine this were to happen: it would be the largest re-alignment in Western Christianity since 1517. In 2015 it seems unimaginable (e.g. because of the huge lack of unity among Evangelicals themselves). But the world is changing fast. It is not unimaginable that the rise of Islam's global influence will focus the minds and hearts of Christians. In 2065, might we find we drag our feet no longer towards a re-marriage of the strands of Western Christianity?

Raymond de Souza, complimenting Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and now his own church on their 'green' credentials, reads into these credentials a new evangelization strategy.

"The key to understanding the environmental push is the Holy Father’s priority on the Church in mission. If the Church goes green, it is to improve the cultural climate for evangelisation. In this, Pope Francis’s pastoral strategy is to join an effort that has been underway for decades in both Orthodoxy and Anglicanism."
Now I absolutely get the point in the paragraph above when aligned with a point in the paragraph below, that a key to evangelization is for the church to keep close to the culture of the people it wishes to reach with the gospel:

"In the 1980s and early 1990s, as it became clear in both Constantinople and Canterbury that their respective communions were becoming increasingly marginal players in their own cultures, a conscious decision was taken to move environmental issues to the forefront of their public witness."
But, as an Anglican, I am not at all sure that we (via Canterbury) are capable of saying that we are increasingly distant from our own cultures, what will we do, I know let's choose environmentalism as an issue which will lead to re-connection. My strongest suspicion is that we simply saw environmental degradation and decided that we ought as biblical people to do something about it.

Nevertheless, there is some thing to reflect on here as Laudato Si makes waves around the world. If we want the gospel to be heard, what 'climate of listening' are the churches creating (or damaging) as we go about our public, corporate witness?

Back to Coppen's article. If there really is a document in the Pope's office which speaks of Catholics and Evangelicals "united in mission because we are declaring the same Gospel" then that goes to the heart of Christian unity: our message and our mission based on that message.

If this understanding of the gospel is centred on Jesus, then we may be hopeful of greater unity in the years ahead. I was particularly heartened to read this in the Coppen article:

"Francis is said to have told an Evangelical leader recently: “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community. Let’s be about showing the love of Jesus.”"

It is not that hard, is it?

Note to USA Readers: Your Days Are Numbered!

In news out of Antarctica, global warming is going to ...

No. That is not the news that interests me today. Rather, a local news item about withdrawal of Catholic priests from US Antarctic bases makes the point that this is due to "a decline in church-going".

There have, of course, been signs for a while now that church going in the States is in decline. And there are certainly many signs of social change in the States which bear witness to a dramatic loss of influence by the churches on the citadels of power.

But here, 'Down Under' in the stretched version of the term, stretched all the way to the South Pole, we have an intriguing consequential sign of that decline.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

El Dorado at El Rancho

Nothing excites me more ecclesiastically these days than visiting churches where loads of young people and/or families with young children are present. I had such an experience visiting a local parish on Sunday morning.

The day before I returned from being part of the Wellington Diocesan Ministry Conference at El Rancho, Waikanae. Although I had been invited to give some Bible studies and workshops, the Conference was the opposite of draining or tiring for me. It was a real spiritual tonic. Great worship, excellent contributors (i.e. other than me), super cool MCing by my colleague Spanky Moore.

But best and most invigorating was simply being with the ministers (ordained and lay) of the Wellington Diocese and their families. It was a chance to catch up with some old friends as well as to mix and mingle with a large group of folk new to me. About 160 in total. Very energetic. Pure gold.

I didn't do a count but it seemed like over half were aged under 40. Very cool. Let's face it, when most of one's working life has been spent in the working for the good health and growth of our Anglican church, it is quite satisfying to think that this church might still be around in fifty years' time! Incidentally, simultaneously, a national church Theological Hui teeming with young people was being held in Cambridge, Waikato.

But what sort of church will ACANZP be in fifty years' time?

Well, going on my visit to the Diocese of Wellington, it will not be the church it is today. I say that because my experience at the weekend was an experience of a diocese as it changes from what it once was to what it is becoming. (Trust me on this. It's partly hard to put my intuition into words. To the extent that I could put it into words, I haven't time to set them down).

The fascinating thing about Anglicanism in these islands (and elsewhere across the Communion) is that even as we attempt to change or resist change on matters such as Motion 30, we are changing in various ways as we attempt to adapt what we do as 'church' in order to connect with community around us.

We are in a race for survival. Some stats suggest a graphline which will zero out sometime in 20??. But in the race for survival we are recognising that the fittest survive and the fittest are those who adapt themselves to changing environments.

My experience at the weekend (both the conference and the local church service) highlights some ways in which we are winning the race.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Episcopal Voices (Updated)

Keeping track of developments in the States, post TEC's General Convention:

Love Letter From Albany

Central Florida Speaks

While keeping track of developments in the States, here are two more 'arguments' re same sex marriage:

Jordan Lawrence

Brandon Ambrosino