Just to get something out of the way, in case I unwittingly convey a sense that this post is building up to some demolition of the Schori sermon, the sermon was fine. Indeed, thinking of all episcopal sermons I have heard in my life, one of the better ones. It began with greetings from the 16 countries of The Episcopal Church. Its texts were 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25. It articulated a case for enlarging our freedom in Christ, and used a number of illustrations from Episcopal life and mission (e.g. Haiti, Sudan) to elucidate the challenges some Christians are facing in respect of enjoying the abundant life of God for which Christ has set us free. In spirit the sermon was akin to a recent one noted here. 'Fine' does not mean I have no theological quibble, but let's see if the text is published or not, before I reflect on that. [Text is now published on Taonga]. But 'fine' does mean lots and lots to agree with, to be encouraged by, as well as challenged by. Incidentally, I thought the Presiding Bishop's voice is very nice to listen to. Not every preacher's voice is (what I call) 'listenable'.
Readers familiar with New Zealand Anglican modes will know that St John's Latimer Square stands very solidly in an area described in terms such as Reformed, evangelical, and low church - with these labels being proudly owned by St John's staff and congregation (see further on their website). In the course of yesterday's speeches of farewell and thanksgiving reference was made to other markers of one aspect of the Anglican spectrum in our Communion: 'Proclamation Trust', 'Sydney', 'Dick Lucas', 'Moore College', and 'Peter Jensen'. By contrast St Michael's and All Angels stands very solidly in an area described as 'Anglo-Catholic'. It would not just be some local Christchurch bias on my part to suggest it is New Zealand's best known Anglo-Catholic church, if not it's longest standing one. Last night's evensong did not disappoint in any way: splendidly robed clergy and lay ministers, a robed choir, bowing and crossing at appropriate points in the service, and incensing. The last mentioned being something on which there is no stinting. I am not sure which theological labels, if any, the staff and congregation there would own, so I will not give any here. (You may wish to explore their website further).
Our challenge as a Diocese, and as a church in these islands, includes holding together our diversity. A wide 'diversity' by any Anglican measure. It includes finding ways to build up the numbers of participating worshippers in 'stock standard' parishes. It includes finding successor ministers to those who have created the great challenge of leaving their parishes in extraordinary good heart and great numbers. It includes discerning what is drawing young people to our parishes (and what is not drawing young people to our parishes), and then fostering the results of that discernment. It includes enhancing our freedom in Christ and appropriation of the abundant life God has promised to us. It includes making decisions about the polity and policy of our church for the years ahead which are both faithful to Scripture-based Anglican theology and representative of the make up of our church. It includes not dividing our church.
Our life as an Anglican church has many things to be grateful for, and huge potential yet to be reached. Its breadth of diversity was on evidence for me personally through the course of yesterday. The day ended on a lovely note, including a convivial and generous reception after the evensong. Such feasts of worship and fellowship are always pictures for Christians of what the church seeks to be in its completeness. We are not there yet. By God's grace may we become what God is calling us to be.
PS There is a very nice photo of my colleague Bosco Peters with ++Katharine at the reception, posted here, and a witty reflection to accompany it!