Monday, January 22, 2018

The Final Report: can we live with the accommodation it offers? (Part 1)

The Final Report of the Motion 29 Working Group is reported on here.
You can see the report for yourself by clicking the link there or directly downloading the PDF by clicking here.

The changes the WG has made to the Interim Report demonstrate that the WG has listened to the feedback it has received. In some cases agreeing with the feedback. In other cases, not so.

The essence of the accommodation proposed in the Interim Report remains: it recommends that we do not change our doctrine of marriage but do make possible, in certain circumstances, the blessing of same sex relationships.

The differences from the Interim Report (as I see) are the following (in no particular order of importance):

- civil marriage is not a prerequisite for an SSB to take place
- a clearer pathway for those “Christian Communities” who are like-minded in the coherency of their theology and wish to stick together (by "clearer" I mean that the proposal does not confusingly mix this in with otherwise already existing "religious orders")
- recognition that some matters are currently in the too hard basket and GS needs to offer further and future guidelines (notably on the question of ordination)
- careful consideration of the possibility of "alternative episcopal oversight" (AEO) (commended for certain situations) but reasoned refusal to recommend "extra provincial diocese" (EPDio) (a challenge to create because it is not solely a decision of our General Synod)
- also, on a matter often mentioned on this site, some careful discussion of the constitutional implications of the proposal.

In sum: I see needed, helpful improvements to the Interim Report and its recommendations. I also see careful consideration of challenging matters which are desired by some but may not be possible or may need General Synod to decide to commission further work on.

For the Interim Report I argued here, controversially as it turned out, that it was a "beautiful accommodation." 

I am not going to do that with the Final Report. Instead I ask, can we live with the accommodation it offers?

I will also ask, of those who say "I/we cannot," what alternative do you propose?

I ask both questions on the understanding that we are a church with such diversity of viewpoint (on many things, on GLBT things) that we are not a church of coherent theology and we are not a church of one mind on GLBT matters.

If we think of our church as somewhat incoherently schizophrenic in its theology, especially on sexuality, then it is fair to ask whether (a) the WG appropriately has represented that mess? (b) whether we could reasonably expect the WG to come up with a proposal other than what it has come up with? (!)

The one thing we should never have expected of either GS or the WG is that they would press the church they represented into a mould that the church was not going to be pressed into; indeed, given our varied state of mind, could not be pressed into.(Yes, I know, resonances with Romans 12:1-2!!).

The best we could expect is that the WG would interim-ly propose a way forward which accommodated the two or more views, then listen to the feedback, assess the feedback, and then finally propose a way forward which continued to accommodate. 

We do not find the WG pressing for the status quo to remain. Presumably that is because there was no strong feedback that we should try to be a church which outwardly professed to believe one view (status quo) while inwardly believing a variety of viewpoints (reality). Rather, the WG continues to discern that as a church some accommodating change is required.

My view remains that the accommodation offered here bends over backwards towards accommodating those who are conservative on the matter of SSB. I also understand - only too well! - that the accommodation offered may not be satisfactory to a number of my conservative colleagues and friends. 

Where to from here?

Episcopal units have opportunity to consider the report and its recommendations before their reps go to GS in May. (The Diocese of Christchurch meets for a synod on Saturday 3 March 2018).

Any member of the church, any ministry unit of our church may consider the report now it is in the public domain. Some ministry units will be having discussions about it or about the prospects for the church should it be agreed to. (I am engaged to participate in such a discussion in a few weeks time.)

You can discuss it here!

This is "Part 1" of my response. "Part 2" will focus on the matter of the Christian Communities and the strength or otherwise of this proposal in comparison to the soft support for AEO and the lack of support for an EPDio.

Other posts that I am aware of

Bosco Peters begins a series of responses here.


An alt.Gregory Dix on the Eucharist?

Many readers will be aware of Gregory Dix's famous passage in his seminal The Shape of the Liturgy when he offers a moving paean of praise for the endurance of the eucharist:

"Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God."*

One of my holiday reading books has been Sara Miles Take this bread: a radical conversion (New York: Ballantine, 2007) - Sara was a speaker hosted by Theology House in 2016.

In the course of talking about her conversion - memorably through being irresistibly drawn into a eucharist at St Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco - she develops her testimony of being fed by God and feeding the people of God. In the midst of a discussion about what the church has done with Jesus' Last Supper, there is this purple prose passage on the eucharist which I think stands in the 21st century with Dix's 20th century paean:

"The entire contradictory package of Christianity was present in the Eucharist. A sign of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, it was doled out and rationed to insiders; a sign of unity, it divided people; a sign of the most common and ordinary human reality, it was rarefied and theorized nearly to death. And yet that meal remained, through all the centuries, more powerful than any attempts to manage it. It reconciled, if only for a minute, all of God's creation, revealing that, without exception, we were members of one body, God's body, in endless diversity. The feast showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish. At that Table, sharing food, we were brought into the ongoing work of making creation whole." [pp. 76-77]

Miles' is not quite Dixian as a paean of praise, but it is utterly realistic about the capacity of the eucharist to fracture the church even as it never loses its capacity as a sign of God's renewal and reconciliation of creation

What do you think?

*from from Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Dacre Press, Adam and Charles Black. (1964 printing), pages 744-5. copied from Texanglican.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Russell Brand meets Jesus!

Some readers may never have heard of Russell Brand. Those who have will have mentally marked him down in the "not the guy I want one of my daughters to marry" category." But the article aboves reveals someone in whom God is at work #nooneisbeyondredemption

And he makes a point, one which might be a bit of a theme this year on ADU: Jesus has a message of healing for a broken world ...

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

David Bentley Hart's New Testament translation: Wright or wrong?

I am working my way through David Bentley Hart's translation of the New Testament, partly with an eye on reviewing it here on ADU.

But I do not think I am going to do better than Tom Wright's review here.

Tom has certainly spotted strange English renderings which I have not but he also highlights two concerns I already have, even though I am only up to Matthew 11, along with having read the introduction and the epilogue.

(1) The use of "a Holy Spirit" in (e.g.) Matthew 1:18 is very, very odd. If one wants to be strictly literal then the Greek should be rendered "a holy spirit". That is, without looking ahead to the Trinitarian consciousness of the Nicene church, we read that Matthew says that Mary became pregnant through the action of a spirit, qualified as a holy spirit. The use of CAPS in Hart's actual rendering supposes that Trinitarian consciousness but in that consciousness there is not "a" Holy Spirit, only "the Holy Spirit" (as all other English translations I am aware of).

(2) Tom also spots that Hart says he is avoiding dogma when he, in fact, does not. On the not unimportant subject of salvation Hart presses positively along an Eastern Orthodox line and negatively implies in the NT text itself (and associated footnotes) as well as explicitly in his introduction and epilogue that the Western tradition is simply wrong. Bias is hard to escape and no English translation I am aware of is completely free of it. Hart's translation would be the better for fronting up to the fact that his sits neatly within his own Eastern Orthodox theological frame of mind.

Also worth a look are these thoughts - not a full review - by Michael Bird.

POSTSCRIPT After writing the above I came across Doug Chaplin's post about Wright's review and Hart's response to it. Doug makes a great point about the wisdom and efficacy of NOT having one individual translate the Bible!

Hart's response is here.

To the extent that Hart himself responds to Tom Wright's own translation of the New Testament I have no comment to make: I am not familiar with Wright's translation. I also have no comment to make re the intricacies of Hart's critique of Wright's deficiencies on ancient Judaism. I note some rejoinders by Hart to points I make above but I remain less than convinced by them. I also side with Wright on criticising Hart's use of "alee," "tilth" and "chaplet"!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hello 2018. Would you mind starting again?

So, here we are, just on halfway through the first month of 2018 and I and perhaps you as well are asking for 2018 to begin again.

In no particular order of importance:

(1) Down Under Summer: too much rain! Too cold! (Or, if in Oz, too hot!) Perhaps we could have a decent run of sunny, holiday mood suitable days and weeks of weather?

(2) President Trump: could we forget and wipe out certain things you have said and start afresh, speaking about and to the world in a kinder, gentler, respectful way?

(3) Visiting cricket teams to both Oz and NZ: a better standard of competition, please!

(4) I am starting back at work today and I am glad for all the practical things I have gotten done about the house and about my study ... but, really, there is still quite a bit to do and I wouldn't mind some more holidays in which to accomplish them :)

On a serious note, my holiday musings (including some contributory comments by readers and responses by me to the post immediately below), holiday reading, and holiday experiences at different places of worship, have gotten me thinking and thus re-keened up to blog in 2018.

Something I wonder if I might do is try to offer a bit more theological solidity e.g. by offering reviews/responses to serious theological reading. (However that is very hard to "live into" so "I wonder" and not "I promise"!).

Out of a wide ranging set of reading, thoughts, conversation, experiences, for the purpose of this blog, a very simple question comes to mind, What is the church?

"What is the church?" touches on associated questions, "What or who is the church for?" "What should our experience of church be?" "What did Jesus want the church to be?" "What would Paul and the other apostles make of the church in 2018?" "What makes the church? Preaching? Eucharist? Both? Something else?" "Where is the Holy Spirit in the life of the church today?"

Something I keep observing to myself is that different styles of church will mostly seem right and proper "church" to those enabling them either by preparing and performing or by choosing to faithfully participate in them. Yet pretty much every different style today - in my humble or not so humble opinion - can be severely critiqued from the perspective of Jesus and the gospels (e.g. see one book I have read on holiday, Sara Miles Take this bread), if not from the perspective of Paul and his charismatic, house churches.

Yet I also find, for myself, much that is good in each of the styles I experience and much to agree on in what I read. Obviously the perfect, if not ideal church is an amalgam ... :)

Praise the Lord: God in Christ is Lord of the church! And I love a comment in a Christmas letter sent to me. I paraphrase it here to avoid unfortunate and/or unnecessary identifications being made:

"For us the [Anglican church of the nation to which we belong] continues to amaze, astound, depress (delete as applicable – [where we live and go to church] IS the Diocese of Aregion!).  We are consoled in recalling that the [Anglican church etc] is NOT the Church as defined by [our] brother Paul."

So, I shall continue blogging in 2018 in a continuing attempt to contribute something, however tiny, towards the church becoming what God intends it to be ... thank you for reading, keep up the commenting :)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Last Post for a While

Dear Readers,

Thank you for reading this year. Thank you for commenting.
If nothing else has been achieved by my blogging and interacting with your comments, my own thinking has been sharpened up!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year :)

In accordance with a very ancient ADU tradition, I won't post again until sometime into the New Year. We will all be fresher for a break. And I have some very exciting reading to do: thrillers and theologies ... if the latter don't inspire some 2018 posts what will?

PS We were given a "Google Assistant" today for a present ... wow! I think I will be posting about AI, robots, and techno-persons-at-the-dinner-table in 2018.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Will "Christmas" collapse as a cultural celebration in the West?

A thought popped into my head recently. As they occasionally do.

Will the cultural insanity of Christmas (shopping, parades, decorations, work festivities, community festivities, family festivities) implode?

Will the implosion come when we wake up as a secular society and ask ourselves what we are celebrating? Many will not know. Some will remember a connection with the Birth of Christ. Will the collapse be hastened when those who so remember think to themselves, "This is nuts. 20??* years after his birth, WHY are we celebrating his birth when we never think about him on the other 364 days of the year?" (*I am predicting this will happen sometime this century.)

As sometimes happens with popped in one's head thoughts occur, I noticed a couple of related items on the internet.

One - don't know where now - was an observation that in 19th century England, Christmas as a social festival was waning. Then Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, revived it and the rest, thanks to Disney and Coca Cola, is the history of modern Christmas. My point: what has been revived can yet die.

Two - this article posted on Stuff recently. While the point of the article is not quite my question-come-point, it is pretty close to it, especially with the sentence in the headline, "Christmas has had its day."

Now, not to misunderstand, what might happen.

Here Down Under, 25 December is near the end of the calendar year and the beginning of the major summer holiday period. I am not envisaging Christmas and Boxing Day ceasing to be public holidays (which will be helpful for Christians who will keep wanting to worship the Christ-child on Christmas Day). Nor am I envisaging "end of year" festivities ceasing in schools, work places and so forth: the events of the past year are worth celebrating and giving thanks for. But maybe singing Christmas carols or at least having the music of carols in the background will stop featuring at these events.

But I am envisaging a time when the commercialism which drives Christmas, focused on "gifts" (and the tradition of "gifts" which sends people to the shops), but also fuelling parades and decorating streets, collapses. It could happen pretty quickly when a few people ask themselves why gift giving is associated with the end of the year. There is no association (other than, say, thank you gifts to those whose service through the year we have appreciated).

It is not as though children do not have another annual occasion on which to receive gifts (their birthdays). It certainly is the case that adults repeatedly ask themselves why they give and receive completely useless things!! Once that asking translates into sufficient numbers saying "Let's not give gifts. Let's put the money into more booze and chocolates", the cultural Christmas of 21st century Western societies is over. Unless there is a 21st century Dickens ...

We manage to celebrate Easter with public holidays, festive food and no fanfare in the streets. I am prophesying the same for Christmas Down Under!