Wednesday, September 17, 2014

3 DOWN Are Kiwis constitutionally bound to madness? (1,7) [Hint: Key]

We are three days out from an election. Overseas readers will recognise that the (depending on your point of view) holy/unholy trinity of Greenwald, Assange and Snowden visiting our country over recent days has had the potential to skew our election. (Incidentally, only one of the trinity 'incarnated' themselves here, can you guess which two were only 'spiritually' present via the internet?)

The gist of their message to us has been that our spy services do more spying that our PM John Key has let on. (Numerous articles abound, here are two of the latest, Fairfax and Herald. You are allowed to be confused by the details!)

On the one hand this is sending some people, including a number of journalists into paroxysm and frenzy, driven by the moral crusade of trying to prove that John Key has broken the rubber band of truth stretching into an actual, proveable lie.

On the other hand some people (including myself) are 'So?' So what? I am So over this. So, what about real issues in Kiwis' lives like child poverty, access to affordable housing, better paid jobs? Of these the media appears disinterested.

Fuelled by Monday night's Moment of Truth event at which the trinity appeared, our media are acting as though preserving the secrecy of our spy services is a self-serving quest of the National Party, treating good men such as Ian Fletcher (head of GCSB) as some kind of villain out of an Orwellian terror nightmare and generally shouting SHOCK HORROR when their role in the service of the country they do not seem to love should be supporting the importance of NZ playing its part in the global defence of democracy and fair trade. (An honourable exception is Fran O'Sullivan). If only one journalist let along one opposition politician would utter these words, "United we stand, divided we fall, I favour a bi-partisan approach to intelligence gathering. Now let's get back to child poverty."

So there is a kind of madness going on, though there is a good chance that common sense will prevail and our votes when counted on Saturday night will support the status quo. Yes, that means supporting the sensibleness of our spy agencies keeping NZ safe, even if it means my unpublished thoughts (not many exist!) and your internet shopping raids might be viewed by GSCB clerks with nothing better to do. (Yeah, right ... they are, of course, looking for you to use other words on the internet than 'Amazon' or 'BNZ'. Words such as X-Keyscore ...).

There is a deeply unChristian angle to the presupposition beneath the trinity's crusade against their own countries involvement in the so-called Five Eyes network. That presupposition was clearly articulated by Glenn Greenwald on a Radio Live interview with Duncan Garner (yesterday afternoon, here). In that interview - which helped pass the time of day between Christchurch and Timaru - Greenwald asserted the absolute human right to privacy, to being able to do and say things behind locked doors and passwords which no one else could access.

There, I realised, is the intrinsic presence of sin and darkness within their crusade which, ironically is justified in terms of shedding light on aspects of government. By contrast, a Christian approach to living life is that we are to live in the light, hiding nothing, doing nothing under the cloak of darkness (e.g. 1 John 1:5-7). A Christian has nothing to fear from any eavesdropping on conversations or reading of emails.

Greenwald's argument is quite scary. By asserting this absolute human right to privacy he denies the possibility that the state might have a legitimate interest in private thoughts which involve the planning of evil acts of terror. Taken to its logical conclusion, Greenwald's argument would mean that we wait for terrorist actions to happen to us, rather than seeking to prevent them occurring.

If we have the means to prevent terrorism then it is unloving towards our neighbours, unloving of others to permit those actions to happen for fear of infringing on 'privacy.'

That we have few commentators willing and able to think clearly, beyond the media feeding frenzy, is a sign of the possibility that we are lacking philosophers to serve the common good of our society. Instead we have circus managers and an unending supply of clowns.

Of the latter, even our government has supplied a few. I am completely unimpressed that our government permitted the organiser of the Moment of Truth event, Kim Dotcon, into our country.

I am not particularly impressed with John Kay's handling of the intelligence matters. He has revealed too much and he has failed to offer an appropriate apologia for the importance of a cutting-edge community of intelligence agencies.

He will likely still be our PM after Saturday because part of the unfolding political tragedy of 2014 is that not one other party leader is capable of holding a candle to his abilities, exposed as they are to their many shortcomings. Seddon, Fraser, Holyoake, Kirk, Rowling, Lange, Bolger, Clark. They will either be rolling in their graves or rolling their eyes this week.


PS Shakespeare got it right when he said that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Kiwis, if we don't get over this madness, we will destroy ourselves. If we want to solve child poverty we need an economy which performs well. As Fran O'Sullivan points out the GCSB is at the heart of government moves to assist our great corporations in remaining at the top of their commercial game.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chloe's pink fluffy slippers are very fluffy (1 of 3)

Obviously when an experience of worship invokes amusing thoughts about Chloe's pink slippers we need to explore how fluffy those slippers might be, if not whether the precise hue of pink they might be coated with matters ...

The fluff exploration starts with the imagination of Bishop John Bluck when he wrote a Taonga blog recently about the state of the liturgical nation (also known as ACANZP). A man of pure motives but writing mixed metaphors, the title is 'Tiger Country at a Church Near You' while the most memorable image is in the last lines of this citation:

"In 25 short years, we’ve shifted from being a church that prescribes forms of worship to one that lets a hundred flowers bloom and a few weeds as well.
This new-found freedom assumes a minimum level of literary and poetic skill, theological literacy and aesthetic judgement.
The latter quality is especially tricky. Without it, you end up offending, distracting and worst of all boring a congregation silly. Liturgy that trivialises and indulges ends up giving worth to ourselves rather than God. Worship ends up as therapy.
In recent months I’ve been invited in liturgies to think of God as creeping around like an undercover cop, acting like a blatant burglar, hiding in the compost under pregnant forests, cavorting happily with whales.
I’ve been encouraged to confess grave global crimes and silly misdemeanours, driven by motives that I’d never thought of. And I’ve been offered communion with words I’m more accustomed to hearing in pop song lyrics.
No doubt all this is good for broadening my tastes and testing my tolerance, but I still come away feeling I’ve been asked to wear Chloe’s pink fluffy slippers rather than don anything resembling the armour of faith. "

Bosco Peters comments on the post with yet another metaphor in his title, New Container for The Genie. I urge you to read that post for important issues issuing from or related to +Bluck's interesting reflections and observations.

Here I want to take another tack, trying to get inside the mood and mode our church has been in since 1989 (the year of publication of A New Zealand Prayer Book) which happens to be quite near the beginning of my journey as liturgical leader in ordained mode (1987 onwards), a journey which has included nearly 14 years of being a trainer of ministers (a role in this context not praised by Bosco!).

My role in fluffing Chloe's slippers

Let me start with a confession, noting a point Bosco makes re the 1998 General Synod: I was part of the voting majority at that Synod in favour of the decisive change to the rubric at the top of p. 511 of NZPB.

Why did I vote that way then? Would I still vote this way now? Where do I think we need to go as a liturgical church into the middle of the 21st century? I am going to need a few posts to unpack answers to those questions!

Why did I vote that way then?

In 1998 I was the Vicar of Blenheim South. When I began there in September 1995 I inherited a recently changed morning worship pattern which had transformed 8 am and 10 am prayer book services to a 9 am NZPB service (largely attended by people aged 60+ years) and a 10.30 am informal service (mostly attended by families with young children).

Our 10.30 am service used no prayer books. We had an OHP on which we placed transparencies for songs and prayers. We followed an 'identifiable' Anglican pattern re prayers (confession, absolution, the Lord's Prayer, eucharist) but the confession was drawn from a medley of prayers in a file box, only a few of which were copied from NZPB, and the eucharistic prayer I redacted downwards (though not by much!) in order to fit on an A5 sheet of paper, distributed to each person with weekly newsheets as they arrived.

For a creed we would sometimes use the Apostles or Nicene creeds but mostly we sung a creedal statement as per the good office of a songster such as Graham Kendrick. Intercessions were largely led on an informal basis.

In short, prior to 1998 General Synods, we were acting strictly illegally, though with the support of our bishop as we and most other Nelson parishes sought to find a service medium which fitted with the changing culture of our time. To vote in 1998 for the legality of what we were doing was as easy as turkeys voting against an early Christmas!

I was not voting, of course, just so I could escape arrest by the church police!

My concern then, shared across the Diocese of Nelson and through many other parishes in our church, was that we who were proudly Anglican, appreciative of our liturgical heritage and committed to the Anglican church having a future, could explore ways of being missionally relevant and pastorally supportive of worshippers who found holding a prayer book and saying the same thing week after week uncongenial.

Some of those worshippers felt that way because they came to our parishes from other Christian traditions. But some were like me, lifelong Anglicans. Guess what? During those lifetimes, things were changing about how we felt Anglican worship should be conducted.

The 1990s were a decade in which we realised we did not need books. OHPs were in every church and even beginning to be phased out in favour of Powerpoint/projector combos. The irony of publishing NZPB in 1989 was that we could deem that to be the Year of the Begining of the End of Books Made of Paper!

Our lifetimes to the 1990s had included the charismatic renewal of the 1970s and 80s. Through that renewal we realised that the Holy Spirit was as much present among Anglicans when space was given for spontaneous, unplanned, unstructured moments as when space was confined to ordered, planned, structured moments, charted by the sequence of prayers written on the pages of services composed years, if not centuries beforehand!

Our lifetimes to the 1990s also included new ecumenical appreciation of the liturgical treasures to be found in the liturgical offerings of other churches.

My vote in 1998, then, was a vote for the liturgical rules of our church to provide for and support the flexibility and informality I and my congregation needed as we charted a way forward for our worshipping community in an environment which (in my view) was already different to that which existed in 1989 and certainly was very different to the 1960s and 1970s when I, as a child then teenager, worshipped in services geared for family attendance.

Would I still vote the same way today? Where do I think we need to go as a liturgical church into the middle of the 21st century?

I will attempt to answer the first of those questions in my next post in this series.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Politics of Jesus - Monday 15 September 2014

UPDATE: Underwhelmed by tonight's Moment of Truth event, sponsored by Dotcon, I see no need to change anything written below!

Here we go ... a few days till the election closes at 7 pm on 20 September (yes, voting is already open).

Today is the day when Kim Dotcon wheels the real Glenn Greenwald out to an audience, with a hologramic Julian Assange in attendance to reveal (likely) evidence that our 'five eyes' GCSB communications' agency has conducted 'mass surveillance' of NZ citizens.

Alongside thinking about how many crooks will be in attendance at this meeting tomorrow night, you might like to read our John Key's diplomatic and nuanced description of Greenwald's role at Dotcon's side here.

Frankly, I see Dotcon, Assange, Greenwald triumverate as an unholy and dangerous alliance. Their view of 'freedom' seems to involve reckless disregard for the real danger to freedom of permitting terrorism to reign unchecked without appropriate surveillance of electronic communications. Their view of properly elected officials such as prime ministers, to be treated as targets to be taken down in the name of their distorted version of the future of the world, shows callous disregard for the importance of their role at the helm of state security.

As guardians of state security they need to balance keeping secrets with leading democratic nations. Obviously they are going from time to time to be forced - by the free press and free politicians - to make statements which either run the risk of blurring the truth or may even involve outright lies. As best I can understand, prime ministers from either side of the centre are pressed into this unenviable position.

Rather than hound them from office when some kind of proof (or 'proof', tonight?) is found of lying, should we not ask what curtailment of freedom we are willing to endure in the cause of continuing freedom.

We might also ask whether we like living in NZ with the GCSB or we would prefer to live in Russia with the KGB (cf the triumverate's mutual friend Edward Snowden's new abode) or in Saudi Arabia with their religious police or, pace Mr Assange, in Ecuador with its interesting approach to politics.

The good news is that it seems that most Kiwis are blessed with profound discernment and recognise that the GCSB is on the side of the NZ people rather than against them.

Otherwise, as we head into the final straight, the 'politics of Jesus' is in play for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The central issues of the election remain the issues enumerated last Monday which lie at the core of each of the four parties I consider worth paying attention to.

(In no particular order of preference)

"National: personal responsibility

Labour: fairness

Greens: clean, sustainable environment

Maori: self-determination for Maori in accordance with Treaty of Waitangi."

Reasons for not voting for the parties associated with these issues abound (see discussion here last week about the Green's abortion policy). But if we vote then we will be making an assessment that the calculation of positives versus negatives has a positive sum.

May God help us as we choose ...


All politicians on the left who have climbed into John Key and National because of Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics are going to regret their hasty zeal. First, because the election noise about this book has all but drowned out the left's attempt to focus on the issues of unfairness in our society. (In this last week Dotcon's games will do the same). Secondly, because, despite protestations that the publication was solely driven by 'public interest', the one sidedness of the book's revelations means it is a piece of leftwing propaganda, biased towards non-revelation of the left's issues re public trust and accountability. Propaganda always had a grain of truth and describing the book thus is not to deny what is true in it. But its bias makes it fair game to those rightwingers keen to play Hager at his own game. He has left open the possibility of the sanctimoniousness, if not hypocrisy of politicians on the left being exposed at an opportune time. That exposure has already begun (as I read around the 'net). Thirdly, because if a National-led government wins this election it will win a fourth term (which I believe is John Key's ambition since by doing so he will equal Keith Holyoake's great achievement of the 1960s). That win will be predicated on National's ability to survive an onslaught of mud-slinging being a demonstration of the mind and mood of the populace. Besides which, they will learn some lessons from this election. Slater will not be on Key's speed dial list!


To finish, one of the best Tweets I have ever come across, tweeted after Saturday night's amazing AB win over the Springboks: if you need to know who 'Richie' is, then you may be an overseas reader!

What has that got to do with politics? Well, if Richie was running for Prime Minister we wouldn't be having half the shenanigans we are having. Dirty Politics would have a whole new meaning ... more mud on your shorts than mud on your blogs :)

Sacred, spiritual and sermonic links - Monday 15 September 2014

1. The bells of Merton College, Oxford - BBC Radio 4

2. Choral Evensong from Hereford Cathedral - 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. Archived choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge

6. Let the Children Come - Bishop Rennis Ponniah - St Andrew's Singapore Audio [Matthew 19 and Proverbs 2]

7. I Need More Proof - Tom Custance - St Helen's Audio [1 Corinthians 15:1-22]

8. The Book of Micah - Bishop Rennis Ponniah's 3 part Bible exposition - St Andrew's Singapore Audio

Please pray for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in the Middle East, Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; for wisdom in dealing with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and for the Diocese of South Carolina.

9. Iraq Region:
The Trauma is Indescribable TGC interview
more Media Reports from FRRME

10. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Prayers against Ebola - Lent and Beyond
Nigeria: Villagers told: convert or die - Release Intl
Egypt: Egyptian fire crew in no hurry to put out church fire – WWM
Pakistan and Iran: 55 Christians accused of ‘blasphemy’ after graveyard row - Release Intl
South Carolina: Bishop Lawrence Calls for Fasting and Praying for the Persecuted Church September 14-15

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

12. Food for thought
National day of prayer for Scottish referendum - Christian Today
It’s because we don’t believe in God - Sam Norton
Imam in Residence program at Calgary’s St. Martin’s Anglican Church - Calgary Herald
Why we must fight ISIS with more than missiles - Thomas Farr - First Things
The hardest prayer: why it's time to #prayforISIS - Christian Today

13. Not Enough Evidence?- St Helen's Vimeo [see #7 above for more]

14. Land of Hope and Glory - BBC Proms 2014

15. Earth images from Alexander Gerst – ESA

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NT scholar's secret life as Vatican propagandist?

In the spirit of NZ's current Dirty Politics saga, that is, revelation of secrets such as who is secretly working for otherwise undeclared "whom", ADU can exclusively reveal that Richard Bauckham may be secretly working on behalf of the Vatican.

The evidence is here in an excellent book review of Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses:

"the portrait he paints of the Church of the first generation looks suspiciously like what Catholics say it should/did: with an apostolic college (the Twelve) having authority over the Traditions and over the people, and this apostolic college being headed by a Jesus-appointed chief apostle, Peter."

Now various pundits will have a field day with this evidence since, in the spirit of Prof. Bauckham's own meticulous scholarship, they will necessarily be considering the possibilities that:

- inadvertently the Prof has paralleled precisely the case the Vatican would itself like to make for the primacy of Peter;
- since all Protestants are just lost children of Mother Church (and Anglicans are confused, lost children), the Prof unknown to himself was channelling his inner catholic longing to return home as he wrote this book;
- with a slight concession being made to Calvin, who spotted that just as truth is predestined to win over falsehood so genuine seekers after truth are predestined to theological conclusions which conform to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Prof has simply arrived at the central truth of church history by a circuitous route which God shepherded him along.

However this pundit thinks that maybe the Prof cannot and should not be corralled in the way the reviewer does in the service of Petrine propaganda. The citation above begs the question whether (a) the 'apostolic college' consisted of just the Twelve (James the brother of Jesus was a pillar of the Jerusalem church); (b) Peter was appointed 'chief apostle' by Jesus (cf. the striking role brother James plays in the early church, the lack of clarity through (say) 1 Corinthians that Peter was chief among the apostles; (c) indeed, whether any one person was 'head' of the apostolic college; (d) what we are to make of the fallibility of Peter as one of the chief apostles?

It is striking, is it not, that Paul (if we are consistently anachronistic here) the leading Protestant of his day, should have cause to challenge Peter!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pray our Way to the Polls

In the run-up to elections in both Fiji (17th ) and Aotearoa New Zealand (20th), the General Synod Office offers the following collect/prayer as a resource for this Sunday and following.
A Prayer for the Election
God of love,
You give us minds and hearts with which to make decisions.
Bless these islands as we approach the general election,
help us discern your will for our nation,
give us wisdom and courage to make good decisions.
Grant that all those who are elected may become servants of the common good,
so that all the people of this place may live in justice, freedom and in dignity
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour
who lives and reigns over all nations with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and forever.
(Source here).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is The RCC becoming Anglican lite?

Yesterday in the Greek class at Theology House we worked through this Sunday's gospel reading and thus by no piece of random luck chanced upon verse 5,

"One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

That is a lovely reminder that God loves Protestants and Catholics equally!

But later in the day, surveying Twitter, from which I detect rising anxiety that Scotland will sever ties with England, apparently not having really, really enjoyed several hundred years of marriage, I chanced upon Damian Thompson musing on ...

... the state of the marriage between 'left' and 'right' in the Roman Catholic church as exposed by the question of another kind of marriage.

For those who do not know Damian Thompson, he is a conservative Roman with deep ties into the English hierarchy and the inner sanctum of the Vatican. He is always worth reading, if slightly uncomfortable at times, for few Christian leaders avoid being targets of his lacerating barbs.

In this post even the Pontiff is subject to this vituperation:

"Pope Francis has done his own smudging with the theological photoshop."


From an Anglican perspective, it is fascinating to watch this emerging differences of viewpoint within a hierarchy now empowered to voice questions about the application of doctrine (though not encouraged to voice questions about doctrine itself).

Suddenly sharp Anglican differences over homosexuality do not seem quite so wayward. When the benchmark was Benedictine doctrinal purity to the 16th degree, we looked like a theological rabble. If not living in a parallel universe, marked by chaos compared to the strict order of the Vatican, then we were travelling in such a way as to eventually put light years between our two communions.

The quaint notion that our church was some kind of Roman-lite church and thus ever in proximity to re-union with Rome via ARCIC has taken a severe hammering through the years between Gene Robinson's consecration and the end of the Benedictine papacy. But now the tables have been turned by Francis.

The emerging debate openly described by Damian Thompson acknowledges what Anglicans have publicly wrestled with for years: we are in the midst of a striking transformation in Western society in respect of the contours and boundaries of human relationships and the least we can do as a church is work on an appropriate God-honouring response which respects human dignity.

For Rome to engage with a degree of openness of voice and width in the range of questions being spoken indicates that, if anything, the question today is not whether Anglicans are Roman-lite but whether Rome is becoming Anglican-lite.

To be sure, it is only 'lite.' Thompson is clear (as we might expect of a conservative) that the inner sanctum of doctrine itself is not about to be broached let alone breached. We are formally no closer to re-union but perhaps empathetically we can engage in dialogue about the great question of how we live Christianly in the reality of a changing world.

I will NOT publish comments which engage with the general debate about homosexuality (as often featured here previously - I see no need to re-cycle that debate). I will publish comments which engage with the specific question of the present and future of the Roman Catholic church as it engages with current issues (including marriage and divorce), as sparked by Thompson's post, and especially as referenced to the present and future of the Anglican Communion.

POSTSCRIPT: Yes, yes, I understand that the truly conservative Anglican has known for years that Rome cannot be trusted and thus one has always looked further east, beyond the Tiber to the Bosphorus for rock-solid faithfulness to apostolic doctrine :)