Do not come here for the news if you want to read it early!! Last Friday I was on a very pleasant bus trip with work colleagues touring some churches in my new diocese. But up in Auckland the news was breaking that Glynn Cardy, world famous for the controversy over the Christmas billboard at St Matthew's-in-the-City, will no longer be Archdeacon of Auckland. Only yesterday did I learn this news which is reported here:
"Auckland's Anglican Bishop denies sacking the Archdeacon who sparked controversy with a Christmas billboard depicting Joseph and Mary in bed.
In a letter to a parishioner, Bishop John Paterson says many people found the billboard by Archdeacon Glynn Cardy offensive.
He writes he discussed the matter with the Reverend Cardy at length and asked him to write a letter of apology to his fellow clergy ... and adds he will no longer be the Archdeacon of Auckland.
However Bishop Paterson says the position of Archdeacon was always going to come up for renewal in April and Glynn Cardy's departure has nothing to do with the billboard."
[UPDATE: in a comment below Glynn Cardy disputes aspects of this report, and explains the resignation as archdeacon as customary (i.e. upon the resignation of his bishop, pending the new bishop making reappointments).]
Let's take this at face value. The non-renewal has nothing to do with anything other than (say) time to give another priest a turn in the role ... nevertheless it is a good thing that a priest willing to publicly question the doctrine of the church with the twist of it taking the form of mocking God while sending up a belief that no one actually holds (that God impregnated Mary with divine sperm) is not in a leadership position which is at the discretion of the Bishop.
But wait, there is more. Yesterday I also learned of an interesting sea-change at St Johns College, Auckland (ACANZP's main residential theological college). Until the end of last year most students at the College enrolled for theological degree studies were enrolled for the University of Auckland's B. Theol. degree (a few were enrolled for other theological qualifications obtainable in Auckland city or by distance elsewhere, and a few are enrolled for other courses). But over the summer a signal that there would be a shift in emphasis to the B. Theol. of the University of Otago has been converted to reality: I understand that as many as twenty students at SJC are now enrolled with Otago University (i.e. the university cited in Dunedin).
Otago University for many years has provided distance learning access to its theological degrees, and it has a physical presence with some buildings in other cities. Students taking up this option at SJC will be learning via audio conferences and online communication, associated with face-to-face tutorials with SJC staff members. This is a sea-change at the College. It means that few, maybe in time no students will be learning theology away from the SJC precincts - Auckland's degree studies requiring students to commute into inner city Auckland has been a source of much discussion in our church over the past decade or so.
There is also an element of 'full circle' in this move: once upon a time students at SJC could either take L. Th. courses with SJC lecturers, or, if wishing to obtain a degree, could study for the Otago B.D. at a distance. But in those days distance learning was rudimentary: a course outline, a reading list, and turn up for examination at year's end. A man in Christ I know well decided in those days that he would be better off actually living in Dunedin and attending lectures in the Otago B.D.!!
My own professional interest in the extent of this change relates particularly to the fact that as of Monday 22nd February this year, Theology House, Christchurch will be hosting audio-conferences for Christchurch students enrolled in Otago theological courses. Start in Christchurch, finish in Auckland is a distinct possibility for Christchurch ordinands!