Friday, April 29, 2011

Anglican: open Bible, pastoral priesthood, common worship

Ruminating on the wedding, Cranmer writes this which conveys something important about the character of Anglicanism:

"The occasion brings to mind that on 28th May 1533, His Grace declared the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to be good and valid. As a consequence, both His Majesty and His Grace were abruptly excommunicated by the Pope. The Church of England then split from Rome more for political than theological reasons, and through centuries of controversy, social upheaval and cultural change, we are where we are today: another royal wedding in Westminster Abbey in accordance with the distinctly Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the asymmetrical fusion of Scripture with reason and tradition. Two billion people – a third of the planet – will today witness and experience something of the Reformed Catholic faith which asserts that Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: the Bible is open, the priesthood is pastoral and worship is common."

I like that phrase "the asymmetrical fusion of Scripture with reason and tradition."

Then this description of our Reformed Catholic faith "which asserts that Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: the Bible is open, the priesthood is pastoral and worship is common."

The New Royal Standard Version (NRSV)

What with momentous events happening around the world this week such as President Obama confirming that (a) he was born where he was born (like me, on an island in the Pacific Ocean!!), and (b) a significant proportion of the USA's population are incapable of basic science (conclusion via evidence, not by conspiracy theory), it is hard to work out whether a wedding in London counts as worthy of reflection. For instance, worthy of reflection is the matter of life and death in the Middle East: why has Libyan slaughter of its own citizens galvanized Western powers into military action but not Syrian slaughter of its citizens? Also worthy of reflection is the question of whether anyone in the world has a reasonable, workable and persuasive solution to the global recession? (If you keep tracking the blogging of Paul Krugman, linked on the righthand column here, you will find that the answer to the question is negative).

There is an intriguing parallel between Obama and Jesus to consider in this early part of Eastertide. No, not the possibility of their shared messianic experiences. Rather, the matter of what constitutes plausible truth in relation to expectations of evidence. It was always entirely implausible that any sane human being (and Obama is certainly one of those) would enter a presidential race while failing a basic requirement of being born on US soil. But for those unworried by plausibility, the cry arose, 'Show us the evidence.' And when the evidence was shown (i.e. production of the short form of the birth certificate in 2008), the evidence was denied, 'Where is the long form of the certificate?'

Now that the long form has been produced, Donald Trump is hinting at the need to check that it is not a fraud. There is no satisfying some folks. This we also find in respect of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. The rise of Christianity is implausible if the body of Jesus lay rotting in a grave accessible to the authorities, or if the disciples conspired to steal it away from further investigation. Nevertheless the cry has been 'Show us the evidence.' When the gospels unitedly testify to the empty grave (and, in Matthew's case, specifically deny that the disciples stole the body away), the evidence has been denied, 'Where is the certificate of emptiness of grave?' No doubt if that could be produced, the Trump of sceptical scholarship would suggest it was a fraud!

The President of the USA is one kind of royalty (America's first family), Donald Trump another kind (celebrity), but the real article is found in Britain, and today is the wedding of the young couple touted as saviours of the monarchy etc etc. Cranmer has helpfully published the wedding order of service. Now even a semi-republican like myself* can appreciate the total musical feast which this service offers. But there are some other things to note about the service. Two of theological interest are the choice of reading and the choice of Bible from which the reading is taken.

The reading is Romans 12:1-2, 9-18. The Bible is the New Revised Standard Version. Cranmer notes with sadness that in this year of the quatercentenary of the KJB that great royal Bible is not being used. It is, one might demur, a matter of joy that the royal family is moving with the times. In choosing the New Revised Standard Version, the royal couple is in fact maintaining a good tradition: the KJB begat the Revised Version which begat the Revised Standard Version which begat the New Revised Standard Version. A very fine translation this New Royal Standard Version is, and it is 'standard' in a number of respects these days, including its very wide usage in the world of academic biblical scholarship.

Many weddings involve other readings from the Bible - 1 Corinthians 13 and all that - but the choice of Romans 12:1-2, 9-18 is a very fine choice. It encapsulates the character of love required for every marriage to succeed while also addressing the character of leadership required for the monarchy to continue in a democratic state.

There you go. I have reflected on the wedding. Perhaps because compared to the complexity of Middle Eastern politics and the global recession, a wedding of such a couple is straightforward to think about.

*I think NZ should not have a Head of State who resides on the other side of the world but can wait until the Queen dies for change to happen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The momentum of the resurrection

A final note from me this Eastertide about the resurrection (more or less picking up on some comments already made below).

Casey's presumption of "appearances" driving the NT belief in the resurrection of Jesus forward, including an increasing desire to narrate that resurrection in ever more physical terms (i.e. empty tomb, Jesus eating food), has a certain attraction to it. For instance, it gets around general post-Enlightenment objections to miracles (of the reversal or acceleration of nature kind) such that they just do not happen, while providing an explanation for how a very strong, core belief in a dynamic religious movement comes into existence. It also helps account for the apparent contradiction between 1 Corinthians 15 (no mention of empty tomb) and the set of narratives in the four gospels which show signs of evolutionary development in the direction of 'bodily' rather than 'appearance' resurrection experiences of Jesus. Nevertheless, as commenters here have pointed out, an "appearances" approach to the resurrection of Jesus raises a number of questions.

One question I am sitting with, especially in relation to accounting for the scriptural references to resurrection, is where the cumulative strength of belief in the resurrection of Jesus derives from? This strength is attested to in the NT via the narratives/traditions (gospels, various speeches in Acts, 1 Corinthians 15), the integration of the resurrection in theology, christology and eschatology (e.g. Romans 1: 4, Ephesians 1:19-20, Philippians 3:11, 1 Peter 1:3, to say nothing of the meta-narrative of the whole New Testament: the whole collection is driven forward by the burgeoning Christian movement which in turn is propelled forward as a mission outreach in the face of immense opposition (religiously from fellow Jews, socio-politically from Greeks and Romans), all generated by the conviction that the mission of Jesus himself did not end with his crucifixion.

I "get" the point made ad nauseam by Western questioners, both within the church and without, that (1) nothing here proves the empty tomb was empty, and (2) narratives of the empty tomb serve the doctrine of the resurrection, so are intrinsically open to suspicion.

But with many other Western affirmers of the belief that Jesus' body was raised to life (in a new resurrection body), I am left with the problem that if "appearances" do not provide sufficient explanation for the cumulative strength of the role the resurrection plays in the NT as a collection of writings as well as in the development of first century Christianity, what does?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Herod's support for the empty tomb?

In his recent book Jesus of Nazareth (see post below) Maurice Casey argues that the disciples saw appearances of Jesus after his death (something had to explain the resurrection belief of the first Christians) but there was no bodily resurrection (nor for that matter an empty tomb to visit - Jesus' body was placed in a common grave for criminals). In arguing that there were such appearances, Casey is not arguing for a set of miraculous visitations of a non-physical Jesus, just that, in common with many grieving humans, the disciples had experiences of their loved one appearing to be present with them.

Intriguingly (to me, at any rate) Casey's overall presentation of the historical Jesus includes argument for (1) Mark's Gospel being written as early as 40 A.D., (2) its abrupt ending being explained by accounting for this gospel as a whole being an uncompleted draft (its incompletion could have been due to its author dying an early death), (3) all four gospels narrate 'empty tomb' versions of the resurrection of Jesus, in contrast to Paul's 1 Corinthian's 15 version of the resurrection without reference to the empty tomb, as a function of 'social memory' or need of respective gospel communities to know that Jesus was raised bodily.

I do not quite understand why such a 'social memory' need would arise so early in the case of Mark and his gospel community, especially when Paul's recounting of the resurrection tradition is ten year's later than Mark's. Wouldn't it make more sense for Casey's view of the resurrection narratives to date Mark in the 60s or later A.D.?

The abrupt ending to Mark's Gospel (i.e 16:1-8 is the original end of the gospel, not the verses 16:9-20 reprinted in most Bibles) is a puzzle. That Mark's Gospel might be a draft goes some way to solving this puzzle. Nevertheless, so far in my reading of the book, I have not seen Casey account for the exceptional cleverness of the structure of Mark's Gospel as we have it. (To give two examples relating to a major theme: note the ways in which the future death of Jesus is carefully signalled as early as 2:19 and 3:6 while the death and burial of John the Baptist is narrated in a way which anticipates Jesus' own death and burial, compare 6:29 with 15:46). If a draft, the Gospel of Mark as we have received it is nevertheless very well written.

Be all that as it may, the story of the death of John the Baptist includes this important detail: when Herod (i.e. Antipas) hears of Jesus' burgeoning reputation as a teaching, healing, exorcizing prophet, Mark writes that some were saying "John the Baptist has been raised from the dead" (6:14) and that Herod himself took this view, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised" (6:16). Whether or not these details are Mark's narrative inventiveness at work or actual views of unnamed persons and of Herod himself, Mark is using the language of resurrection from the dead about a person physically present to observers. In this case the 'person' is complex: the body of John the Baptist is presumed to have been raised and to be moving around in ministry under an alias. This presumption is part of an introduction to the story of how John died so we do not get to learn whether any one bothered to check out the speculation by visiting John's tomb. In any case, as readers we know it is not true: John is John (dead and buried) and Jesus is Jesus (alive but soon to die), two separate individuals.

It is possible, in Casey's terms, that Mark is being exceptionally clever: forecasting the empty tomb and bodily resurrection of Jesus with this subtle introduction to John's death is part of a complicated development for Mark's community of the needed 'social memory' of Jesus' being raised bodily. But was this need so urgent in 40 A.D.? And, was a 7-10 year period sufficient to develop the extraordinary narrative which Mark undertakes? (By contrast, we might compare the development of John's gospel narrative over seven decades!)

But it is also possible that Mark is simply representing a common understanding, at least among the early Christians, if not among Christians and resurrection-believing Jews, that being 'raised from the dead' was a bodily phenomenon. Further, this understanding of being 'raised' was such that a supportive additional clause about the tomb being empty was not required. That is, Mark's words in Mark 6 about John the Baptist being raised from the dead represent an understanding among Christians such that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians about Christ '... he was buried ... he was raised ...' (15:4) it was presupposed that the tomb became empty.

Unfortunately Paul did not anticipate later debates about the contrast alleged between his words and the resurrection narratives in the gospels.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The best book ever on the historical Jesus?

Lovely few days in Hanmer Springs, its Easter overcrowdedness compensated for by the brilliance of the autumn colours. Good congregations too: around 50 on Good Friday and 120 on Easter Day. (Aside: why do more people turn out for the latter and not the former?). Between preparation and leading of services there was some time for reading. Lots of reading as it turned out. In my box were two thick New Testament books and an Old Testament book. One of the NT books was truly appalling (by which I mean "where was the editor?"). I had not realised it was possible to have such a convoluted, repetitive, and ultimately vacuous book published in the name of the academy. You will note that I am not mentioning author, title, or publisher: I do not wish to re-incur the charge of 'denigration' of a few posts back! One reason it is vacuous is that it fails where the other succeeds: in the detail that counts.

The Old Testament book is the late Brevard S. Childs' The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture (2004). In this book Childs compresses an extraordinary amount of reading through millennia of interpretation of Isaiah. Apart from admiring his scholarship, I admire him as a writer: he is clear, concise, and very well organised into short readable sub-sections.

The NT book in which the details count is Maurice Casey's Jesus of Nazareth: an independent historian's account of his life and teaching (2010). At the heart of British academic Casey's argument for what is historical in the gospels are the Aramaic sub-strata. If a plausible Aramaic original can be formulated then likely this part of the gospels goes back to the days of Jesus himself. Casey is the man to do this formulation: study of Aramaic and its use in gospel scholarship has been his life's work, notably on the problem of the Son of Man. Consistently acknowledging with gratitude the availability of the Dead Sea Scrolls, without which reconstruction of Aramaic in the time of Jesus would be impossible, Casey is a whizz at translating (say) Mark's Greek (our oldest source, as argued by Casey) backwards into what Jesus likely said.

I have enjoyed what I have read so far. Casey writes well and is not above skewering some big names in historical Jesus scholarship, while always fairly acknowledging when those big names are correct.

This is not a formal let alone a full review. Cutting to the chase, the challenge in writing a book about the historical Jesus is to critically analyse the gospels, burn away the myth/legend/invention dross, while not letting go for a moment either the cultural context of Jesus or plausible explanations for Jesus being executed or the effectiveness of Jesus, that is, taking care not to burn away so much that the Jesus leftover is (say) not Jewish or (say) inoffensive to authority or (say) lacking inspiration to fire up followers willing to die for him. Gentile academics keen to retain university tenure in Western liberal democratic societies are in grave danger of concluding their quest for the historical Jesus with a mirror image of themselves. No danger of being crucified there. The history of historical Jesus scholarship has thrown up many precedents. Casey is aware of this challenge in spades. Cleverly he recognises one means to meeting the challenge is take a via media between the most impressive recent liberal and  conservative scholarship. From each side impressive correct results are welcomed. On each side the traps previously fallen into are avoided.

Casey's Jesus is Jewish (and Aramaic speaking), constantly in conflict with the orthodox Judaism of his day, and regarded as a great prophet who was so grieved that after his death his followers saw him alive. Simply by being the latest 'historical Jesus', the Casey version improves on (what Casey sees as the) shortfalls of recent versions (Dunn, Wright, Crossan, Meier). His book could be the best ever on the historical Jesus ... until the next (quality) one is written.

I shall keep an eye out for reviews. Some initial scouting about the internet suggests that Casey's sharp sword skewering those to the left and to the right of him has drawn some daggers in response!


Some things I am pondering as I continue to read Casey are these ideas:

- a chaotic theory for Q (common material in Matthew and Luke not shared with Mark) (i.e. Q was not a single document; a mixture of material). I think he is onto something there.

- John's Gospel contributes absolutely nothing to the history of Jesus (all its genuine historical notes are derived from the other gospels). I had been going along with the idea that some genuine history can be excavated from John.

- Mark is the oldest gospel source (much of it is readily retrotranslated into Aramaic). But is it as old - 40 A.D. - as Casey argues for?

- There was no empty tomb, Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead. I may post on this. I think Casey may have missed a weak point in his argument.

Nothing is new here, but Casey brings much fresh insight and vigour to the arguments.

Final note: in one way this book is not the best book ever on the historical Jesus. It is full of learning, of erudite comments on other scholarship and of profound work in individual verses and pericope but it has only a general subject index and no verse index.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Readings for Easter Weekend

A blogging holiday is about to begin, in keeping with the season of memorial, thanskgiving and celebration of Jesus Christ one oblation of himself once offered.

Here are my recommendations for some reading over and besides Scripture in the next few days:

Our Archbishops' Easter message.

A fine exposition of the case for maintaining the tradition that baptism precedes eucharist. (H/T Preludium).

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Ecumenical Easter Letter.

And, LATE GOOD NEWS, this re grace and the Diocese of Christchurch.

With all good wishes for readers through these days.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Autonomy and Catholicity: a puzzle

Why do Anglicans entrust some decisions to diocesan synods, other decisions to General Synod/Convention, and none (that really matter) to global Anglican gatherings?

What is it that we find untrustworthy about diocesan synods and about global Anglican gatherings?

(If you do not like the word "untrustworthy") what makes a General Synod/Convention the most trusted Anglican decision making body?

In what sense is the fellowship of Anglican churches genuinely 'catholic' if it has no means for determining which General Synod/Convention has made the correct decision if one makes a decision contradicting another's decision?

Consistency in Anglican Theologies (5)

Support for the ordination of women, Yes; support for blessings of same sex relationships, No. Support for Nicean canons on bishops, dioceses, etc, Yes; support for the ordination of women, Yes. Support for the ordination of women, Yes; support for lay presidency at the eucharist, No.

Are twinned commitments such as outlined above consistent when held by Anglicans or not? Here I "have a go" at arguing how they might be consistent. My emphasis is on 'consistency', not on proving one or other or all such commitments to be valid. (You may wish to comment on validity but I am unlikely to engage in reply).

I suggest that when Anglicans think through various commitments in faith and practice, especially those that involve some departure or perceived departure from historic norms, a couple of activities are going on. One is a general Christian theological process of reflection and reasoning: is X consistent with universal Christian faith and practice? There may have been more Anglicans than not who have questioned the doctrine of the Trinity, but their questions have been Christian questions, not Anglican questions. The other activity is working out what 'Anglican//Anglicanism//being Anglican' means? A pertinent question being worked through could be, Is Y of the essence of Anglicanism? (A related question would then be, Who defines the essence of Anglicanism?)

In respect of the commitments outlined above, I suggest that lay presidency at the eucharist is an Anglican rather than a Christian issue. The New Testament gives no indication who presided at the eucharist, so Christians looking to the New Testament for guidance about such a matter are not prohibited from pursuing it. But Anglican Christians have a constraint: it is (so I and many Anglicans would argue) of the essence of Anglicanism that we are a church ordered in such a way that only bishops and priests preside at the eucharist. By constrast it is not of the essence of Anglicanism that only men may be ordained. Providing satisfactory Christian arguments support the case for the ordination of women, an Anglican Christian may consistently hold to the ordination of women and to the prohibition of lay presidency.

The Nicean canons relating to bishops and dioceses are a little trickier. In re-forming the Church of England in the sixteenth century nothing was said in the BCP or the 39 Articles about directly sticking to those canons, come what may in changes to ecclesial life. It could be argued that they have no ongoing application to Anglicans. However in retaining bishops, it could be argued that the Church of England implicitly retained a commitment to the general historic structure of episcopal leadership, thus an Anglican could hold to the Nicean canons as well as to the ordination of women to the episcopate.

How about being committed to the ordination of women and not to the blessings of same sex relationships (or to variations such as committed to both or committed to the latter and not to the former)? I do not see that it is of the essence of Anglicanism that men only are ordained or that only heterosexual couples have their relationships blessed. These questions are 'Christian' questions about how Christians read Scripture, understand tradition, and engage reason in theological reflection. (The exception would be where Anglicans are hesitant to agree to anything in these areas unless the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox also agree to them: that hesitancy is likely to be peculiar to Anglicans and not shared by Protestants). Can Christians (and thus Anglican Christians) hold to consistent positions on these matters? For some the matter will turn on the general basis for consistency. Scripture, for example, is argued to be supportive of ordaining women and not supportive of blessing same sex relationships. Justice demands, others would argue, the inclusion of women and gays in all aspects of the churches' ministries, so we ordain women (and gays) and bless same sex relationships. Yet others could argue that the tradition of the church is crystal clear re ordination only for men, but ambiguous about blessing relationships.

Well much much more would need to be said to satisfy all comers on debate on these matters. My point here is simple and twofold: I suggest 'consistency' in Anglican theologies is relatively easy to achieve in a number of instances relating to contemporary debates, but it is not achievable in all instances. Where consistency is not achievable (e.g. re lay presidency and associated commitments) the intriguing question is raised, who decides what is of the essence of Anglicanism? Which brings me back to the case for the Covenant ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Consistency in Anglican Theologies (4)

I am realising, as I reflect deep and wide on this matter, that potentially I do not have time to explore every nook and cranny of the dark cave called "Anglican claims to consistency" so what I offer here will have a number of shortcomings. Perhaps down the track I can seek to overcome them. Here goes for now.

I see Anglicans claiming consistency for their theologies resting their claims on these presuppositions (one or more of them): the Spirit at work in our midst guides and leads us (charismatically through individuals; collectively through meetings); Scripture teaches us thus and so (and where we change our minds on the basis of Scripture we may have a new understanding of what Scripture really means); Sixteenth century Anglicanism (i.e. as represented in the BCP, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity) lays a foundation which we consistently follow). Any other hand "S" words to consider?

Thus we might find a 21st century "progressive Anglican" claiming on the one hand that a new decision is "the Spirit at work in our midst" and "the consequence of applying reason (cf. Hooker)" to the matter.

A 21st century "evangelical Anglican" might emphasise "Scripture teaches thus and so" with a reserve argument, "and it is in keeping with Article A, B, or C."

Then a 21st century "catholic Anglican" might draw on the Spirit, Scripture and the Sixteenth century to support a proposal.

The ordination of women to the presbyterate or episcopacy is a case in point: the Spirit has moved the church to do this, Scripture (rightly interpreted) does not forbid it, indeed offers positive examples of female apostolate, and it stands to reason. (With opposition claiming Scripture does not allow it and the Sixteenth century did not provide for it).

There are varieties within these broad schools of Anglican thinking. Some catholic Anglicans feel more comfortable with making decisions in keeping with the great catholic churches (Rome, Eastern Orthodox) so it is not a question of being against the ordination of women (per se) but of when the other churches would also approve this development; other catholic Anglicans would see themselves in the vanguard of discerning the Spirit's lead on the matter and look forward to the day when other churches catch them up.

Within evangelical Anglicanism there are those who are 'neo Puritan' in the sense that they see Sixteenth century Anglicanism as a bit of a muddle: the Puritan vision of reformed Anglicanism was stymied then and subsequently, which is a pity, because Anglicanism has been lacking consistency ever since. The 21st century is a new opportunity to complete the Puritan reforms.

My next and probably last post on this theme will look at the following questions: on the one hand, is it consistent to support the ordination of women and not to support the blessing of same sex relationships (both, arguably, departures from Scripture and from catholic doctrine), and is it consistent to oppose lay presidency at the eucharist while supporting the ordination of women (arguably the former is not prohibited by Scripture and latter is; while both the former and the latter are prohibited by catholic doctrine)?

Catholicity Outweighs Autonomy

Perhaps the briefest but bestest apologia for the Covenant and the urgency of agreeing to it is found in this Fulcrum published advocacy by Paul Avis, Catholicity Outweighs Autonomy. Here is a stirring excerpt:

"The Covenant is not perfect and it is not completely clear to me how the “consequences” aspect of it will be worked out, if it comes to that. But I don’t think that is the most important thing about the Covenant. The key, for me, is that by subscribing to the Covenant, Anglican churches will signal in a serious way their intention to remain together. They will signal this to themselves, to all the other Anglican churches throughout the world, and to other Christian world communions, who are watching anxiously and do not want to see the Anglican Communion finally fail as a worldwide fellowship of churches. Such a failure would indicate a serious weakening of Christianity and its witness on the world stage. It would also bring grief and heartbreak to millions of Anglican Christians around the globe.

But is the Anglican Covenant asking too much of member churches? Does it fatally compromise the hard-won autonomy of the “provinces”? I think not. “Autonomy” cannot be the first thing that we have to say about ourselves as Anglican churches. I think the attributes of the Church of Christ in the Creed come much higher up: unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity."

I look forward to catholic Anglicans who comment here explaining what is wrong with this understanding of catholicity ...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is this a wind up or a marketing flourish?

Mark Thompson, writing a post defending the Diocese of Sydney from the charge of congregationalism, mentions a forthcoming book about Sydney Anglicans. To keep focus on his topic he distracts not his readers by giving either author or title of the book. But a little Googling leads me to this announcement of a book due August, 2011:

Muriel Porter, Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism.

Followers of the Australian Anglican Church and its colourful life - let's be honest, we Kiwis are a little drab by comparison - will know that Muriel Porter and the Sydney Diocese go together like Sarah Palin and the Democratic Party. They both profess to know a lot about the other but do not claim to be the best of friends.

Surely this title is either a wind up or a marketing flourish? The Sydney Diocese is strong in unity, numbers and missional aims, well heeled financially (do not let that little recent loss on the stock market fog your view of their overall, long-term wealth), and blessed with great leadership that keeps producing strong new generational leaders. But it is not a threat to 'World Anglicanism'. Of course the title might mean 'There is a threat to World Anglicanism and Sydney Anglicans contribute a tiny amount to that threat.' But that is not quite the force of the publishers blurb when we read,

"Under Archbishop Peter Jensen they are not just set apart from most other Australian Anglicans, but have become prominent in the leadership of the global movement that is threatening worldwide Anglican unity. Muriel Porter unpacks how Australia's largest and, until recently, richest diocese developed its ideological fervour, and explores the impact it is having both in Australia and the Anglican Communion."

Where does one begin with this piece of lazy reportage? First, there are many threats to 'worldwide Anglican unity', but you would not know it from this paragraph with its implication that there is only one threat, 'the global movement' (unstated, but obviously meaning 'GAFCON'). Secondly, there are not many Sydney Anglicans involved in the leadership of GAFCON. Archbishop Peter Jensen is prominent in the leadership of that movement (he is secretary of the Primates Council), but how many others are prominent in the leadership? (The distinct impression I have is that while ++Peter is away on GAFCON business the remaining Sydney Anglicans are beavering away in mission in Sydney). Thirdly, the easy impression is given that Sydney is no longer Australia's richest diocese without naming which has overtaken it. I could be quite wrong on this matter but I suspect that Sydney, notwithstanding a recent major loss on its financial investments is still the richest diocese in Australia.

Of course titles like this - I readily admit, as one known to be provocative in the titles of blog postings - may not be a wind up but a piece of marketing. If so, good on Muriel and her publisher. It's a cut throat market out there when selling books.

Here's the thing. There are many critics of Sydney and many criticisms, and I have been known to make some of them. But Sydney Diocese has a strength in numbers - of worshippers, of ministers, of students in its theological college - which should give all Anglicans pause for thought, especially those Anglicans wondering how much longer their tiny, aging congregations can hold on. Is there anything we might learn from Sydney about the gospel, about mission, about discipleship, about determination to renew the generations in the church?

Is Sydney Anglicanism a threat to World Anglicanism or a sign pointing the way to a better global Anglican future?

Consistency in Anglican Theologies (3)

Moving on from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodoxy theologies as examples of theologies in which supporters strongly believe they adhere to a consistent theological system, a question arises about non-Anglican, non-Roman, non-Eastern theologies (i.e. Protestant theologies anchored in the Continental Reformation). I realise that I do not know enough about Calvinism and Lutheranism to say much about their consistency or otherwise. I guess their shared weak point is getting the relationship between Scripture (which figures very large in all Protestant theologies) and non-Scripture right. By 'non-Scripture' I mean the mixture of tradition (here, in a Protestant context, how the church has interpreted Scripture through the ages) and discernment (how the church determines in its present context either what the meaning of Scripture is, or what the Spirit is saying to the church on a matter on which Scripture says nothing). This is a weak point because, depending how the relationship between Scripture and non-Scripture is worked out, it may incur the charge of "pick 'n' mix" (e.g. why choose the decisions of these ecumenical councils and not the decisions of those ones?) or "bias" (e.g. why weight teaching on salvation towards Romans and Galatians rather than towards Matthew 5 and James?), to say nothing of the charge of offering an inadequate account of "authority" (e.g. who appointed Calvin to be God's spokesperson, or why does the congregation (i.e. smallest unit of the church) have so much say in discernment of God's will?)

A further point may be made about Protestant theologies: as they are worked out, they tend to involve a large amount of continuation of the theology of the universal church (e.g. holding to rather than revising the ancient creeds, retaining Scripture (albeit with variation in importance of the Apocrypha), as well as strong emphasis on the points of protest against medieval Roman Catholic theological understandings (some of which have been reworked by Roman Catholic theologians). Why maintain a theological apparatus from a separate standpoint when so much is in common with the theological apparatus based in Rome?

Time does not permit me to continue this line of thinking, but any Protestants reading here who wish to comment are most welcome. Tomorrow I aim to move from this set of observations to think about Anglican theologies and their consistency, or otherwise.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Phew, this bloke is not an Anglican

Imagine if you read on the internet that 'taking up the cross' was accepting the suffering which came your way in life. As a Christian you would be embarrassed that someone had such a poor understanding of 'taking up the cross.' As a non-Anglican you might be tempted to assume that, once again, it was an Anglican having such a low knowledge of theology who was unhesitatingly launching into print. However I am greatly relieved to report that a current writer on the subject is not an Anglican. Phew. Narrow escape?

Dead Duck Covenant?

It is getting close to the duck shooting season here in NZ. The aim of duck shooting is to kill ducks. The aim of many against the Covenant is to kill the Covenant (but, remember, we have been assured here, that some against the Covenant are only against this Covenant, though you will struggle to find any anti-Covenant website publishing an alternative written Covenant for consideration). Just as duck shooters having little luck hitting ducks are cheered to find someone else has hit a duck and secured a meal as a result, some cheer is found around the Communion (e.g. at Preludium where a different kind of shooting metaphor is invoked) as news emerges from Facebook, where else, of one of our episcopal units, Te Manawa o Te Wheke, passing a resolution rejecting the Covenant. I cite the motion as reported by Liturgy:

"That Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o te Wheke, for the purpose of providing feedback to te Hinota Whanui/General Synod, states it’s opposition to the Anglican Covenant for the following reasons:
-After much consideration this Amorangi feels that the Anglican Covenant will threaten the rangatiratanga (self determination) of the Tangata Whenua (local people).
-We believe the Anglican Covenant does not reflect our understanding of being Anglican in these islands.

-We would like this church to focus on the restoration of justice to te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi which tangata whenua signed and currently do not have what they signed for."

A few comments from myself. I make them with acceptance that this is a decision made by this hui amorangi and unlikely to be reversed before General Synod 2012 but with an eye on other hui amorangi and synods which may engage with motions about the Covenant between now and General Synod 2012:

Clause One raises all the questions which notions of 'autonomy' raise in connection with the Covenant, and here an answer is given which is in keeping with one significant argument against the Covenant: Anglican autonomy should not be overridden. A particular question from my 'pro Covenant' perspective is: in what ways would the Covenant "threaten" rangatiratanga? Another is: would it threaten rangatiratanga any more that being bound into a three tikanga constitutional framework does?

Clause Two is a democratic expression of our right to believe what we will about what it means to be Anglican in these islands. But has our church ever engaged in a debate as to what it means to be Anglican in our islands? Beyond a 'belief' about such a matter, where is the evidence that the Covenant does not reflect our 'understanding' of what it means to be Anglican?

Clause Three, if followed by our church as a basis for prioritising foci, would mean that our church will never sign the Covenant. We are working on justice in respect of the Treaty, but progress is fitful and the restoration of justice sought here is, arguably, unattainable. On the basis of clause three in this resolution we would never debate the Covenant again!

In our church's governance, if one tikanga votes against a matter, that is it. It is a dead duck. One of five hui amorangi has spoken. What will the other four determine? Where will seven pakeha dioceses go with this? What will the Diocese of Polynesia say?

[The series on consistent Anglican theologies will continue].

Consistency in Anglican Theologies (2)

Reading around the internet, noting, for instance, criticisms of Anglicans and their beliefs, perhaps from a recent Anglican who has now formally subscribed to Roman doctrine, I note that criticism of Anglican theologies re internal consistency occurs in broadly two ways. One is Anglican v Anglican along the "How can you as (say) an evangelical Anglican subscribe to X and not also to Y?" Explicitly or implicitly the associated jibe is "By contrast the liberal/catholic/other Anglicanism to which I subscribe escapes such charges; perhaps you ought to take it more seriously!" The other criticism is a "plague on all your houses" critique: "It doesn't matter what variety of Anglicanism tries to be serious about theology, it is intrinsically flawed because it lacks X, Y, or Z," with the flaws noted likely to relate to the question of 'authority'.

Of course critics from outside Anglicanism have something of an easy time finding something to criticise: we are all over the shop. Bryan Owen, in the post I noted yesterday, cites from a writer Carston T. Clark a lovely paragraph expressing our mind-boggling diversity! Those external critics - as I understand it - believe their vantage point to be one of consistency in theology.

Thus Roman Catholic theology holds itself to be consistent because nothing lies within it which has not been approved by proper authority, i.e. the Pope, and its own belief concerning this authority is that it is divine authority because the Pope is 'the Vicar of Christ'. I summarise, of course, a complex theological argument about the ongoing role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, the role of councils of bishops, and the reasons why Rome's bishop and not another is the apex of the Roman understanding of ecclesial authority. The achilles heal of the Roman system of belief lies precisely at the point of its proclaimed strength: what if the Pope is not the Vicar of Christ (e.g. because Christ did not found such a role)? Nevertheless, accept the papal claims and there is good consistency, not least because any change in doctrine (or practice), even a reversal, would always be approved by the pope and thus always consistent as a 'papally approved' teaching.

Eastern Orthodox theology holds itself to be consistent because nothing within it lies outside what has been approved by the first seven Ecumenical Councils. In one sense (providing any tensions within the set of decisions made by those councils is able to be lived with) there is no possibility of theological inconsistency because such a possibility never occurs. Theoretically it could occur, when an Eighth Ecumenical Council took place, but in practice this is not going to happen this side of the Second Coming. Whereas a strength of Roman theologising is the possibility of development being accommodated in the growing body of papally approved doctrine, a weakness of Eastern Orthodox theology is it has no mechanism for making reasonable adaptation of its theology in the light of real gains in knowledge, insight, or experience of life. (Or does it?). Acknowledged here is an attractive strength and security for Western Christians converting to Eastern Orthodoxy: the stresses and strains of theological reform and development will never again be encountered. (But a caveat emptor would be a warning about power crazed patriarchs providing a different source of stress!)

Have got to stop there for today, but I will be thinking about 'consistent' non-Anglican-but-Protestant theologies.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Consistency in Anglican theologies (1)

A post or two ago a question was raised about the theological consistency of a commenter who drew attention to the importance of a Nicean Canon while also supporting the ordination of women. In other comments over the years I have been pressed by my critics in respect of the consistency of my theological arguments expressed here. Effectively these are charges that if I believe X I also ought to believe Y and Z, and since I don't my 'theological system' is weighed in the balance and found wanting. A further charge implied or even made explicit is along the lines that if I believe A, B, and C then I may as well go the whole hog, pop my swimming trunks on and swim the Tiber, or sign up to GAFCON. You will understand my disappointment that no one is offering me a free flight to Geneva or a cruise across the Bosphorous!

The question of theological consistency for Anglicans is actually quite an interesting one and I hope to explore it a little in  a small series of posts. In the meantime here are links to two posts worth reading in their own right, but also worth reading as prolegomena for my small series.

Philip Turner on the achilles heal of Anglicanism.

Bryan Owen on the essence of Anglicanism.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Communion as church?

Woven through some exchanges of views to recent posts here re the Covenant is the question of what the Anglican Communion is or is not in respect of the idea of 'church.' One argument seems to go like this:

The Communion is not a church therefore it neither needs a constitution-and-canons to structure its life, nor is it fair to raise the question of consistency of those who oppose the Covenant but live with constitution etc in their own member churches.

A possible response to this is: if we enjoy belonging to a member church of the Communion, why not enjoy belonging to a global Anglican church, part of that enjoyment being the joy of being united in Christ by the things we hold in common as Anglicans?

Another related matter raised recently has been the question of what is 'Communion breaking' behaviour, as in (say) 'diaconal presidency is not, for me, a Communion breaking matter.' The implication is, we Anglican Communion-ites can live with such a wide range of diversity we do not need a Covenant (which is an attempt to limit diversity in order to render 'Anglican' as having some meaning).

I have been thinking about this idea of 'Communion breaking' a little: perhaps a difference between me and some commenters here is that (on balance) I think I am more interested in what 'builds Communion' than in what 'breaks Communion.' I see the Covenant as helping to build the Communion (by building up what we hold in common together) rather than fixing the Communion when something seems to be breaking Communion. In respect of, say, diaconal presidency, the Covenant (on my 'building Communion' approach) asks the question 'whether or not this development builds Communion between one another?' rather than condemns the development because it breaks the Communion.

One of the reasons why I am interested in the possibility that the Anglican Communion becomes a global church is that 'communion' is not a static state: either we are being drawn more deeply into fellowship with one another in Christ or we are not. Communion which deepens is becoming church. Communion which lessens is becoming a something else (alliance, association, loose affiliation). The Covenant, rightly discerned by its critics, is about the question of whether the Communion is becoming a church or not: if the Covenant builds Communion life then the fellowship between member churches deepens and the Communion is becoming a church. (For clarification, this last sentence is about the 'theological implications of the Covenant as we reflect on its meaning and significance', not about revealing secret conspiracies and hidden intents of the Covenant designers).

Even if I get the 'No Covenant Coalition' wrong etc, I remained interested in why we Anglicans (i.e. some or many of us) seem loathe to engage with the theology of Christian unity in Christ (John 17, Ephesians 2, Philippians 2), let alone with the implications of that theology: that a global fellowship of Anglican churches would want to become a united global church, and beyond that, would want to see the unity of all Christians. Is it because we immediately see too many difficulties to make any real progress towards unity? Is it because we can only understand 'unity' as 'uniformity'? Is it because we lack understanding of the theology of Christian unity? Is it because we take an eschatological view: Christ will sort it all out at the end of time?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where does the fullness of the church catholic lie?

In a recent comment I wrote this: “I am not convinced that the fullness of the catholic church is found in a diocese (but am open to that concept which clearly has both ancient and modern theological underpinnings). Why am I not convinced? Because I do not know of any church which trusts that the fullness is present in a diocese alone: Anglicans like to confirm nominated bishops through ultra-diocesan means.”

Bosco Peters (a colleague here in Christchurch has responded): "With respect, Peter, I think you are confusing sensible human regulations with ecclesiological esse. The sensible human regulations can change (bene esse). It is a venerable ancient practice which calls for several bishops to participate in the ordination of a new bishop. But this is not essential. If a bishop ordains his successor by himself, it may not be the best idea, but it is perfectly valid. Our own province’s processes for a diocese selecting a future bishop have changed more than once – there is nothing unalterable about the process we have now. Probably the best way into this ecclesiology is the work of Zizioulas, who makes it clear that structures beyond the diocese do not belong to the ontology of the catholic church."
I appreciate very much the points Bosco brings here in response to my concerns. I do understand that (say) an asteroid wiped out all the remainder of the Christian church except one diocese with bishop, then the fullness of the catholic church would be present there, life could go on, and that bishop could ordain another bishop to form another diocese or to continue episcopal succession in the existing diocese. Nevertheless I wonder if the way Anglicans work out their polity around the Communion does take seriously the venerable notion that the fullness of the catholic church lies in a diocese.
My (admittedly vague at this point) understanding of church history suggests that the origins of this notion lie in a time when dioceses were not tightly lined up together in a larger organization, let alone bound into a strong canonical connectedness to Rome. Where a diocese was, there was the catholic church.
But, fast forwarding through many centuries, with developing Roman domination in the Western church, growth of national or cultural churches (e.g. Church of England, Russian and Greek Orthodox churches), to the specificities of churches such as the one Bosco and I serve in, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (a church straddling multiple nations and multiple cultures), are we not in the following situation:
(1) "sensible human regulations" re the ultra-diocesan structure to which dioceses belong, regulations which can change from time to time: regulations, that is, that arguably do not belong to the "ontology" of the church;
(2) an absolute determination that dioceses may not operate independently, may not choose to leave one set of "sensible human regulations" for another set, may not legislate within their own synodical life for revision or reform of doctrine belonging to the church, allied with an equal determination that (depending on whether we are talking about the Anglican or Roman or Eastern branch of the 'catholic church') revision or reform of doctrine may take place through appropriate ultra-diocesan means (i.e. respectively via General Synod or Papal-led synod or (new) Ecumenical Council).
That is, (2) is a change to the ontology of the catholic church: no ancient catholic church, with more than a passing knowledge of Nicean Canons and such like, actually believes that the fullness of the catholic church lies in dioceses, but rather believes that a limited expression of the catholic church lies in dioceses, the fullest expression lies elsewhere. Beyond possible variations in human regulations as to how ultra-diocesan life is worked out, beyond actual variations re the way Anglicans, Romans, and Eastern Orthodox make decisions, the shared ontology of these great branches of the catholic church is that the fullness of the catholic church lies beyond dioceses. I am daring to suggest that Zizioulas is wrong!
I put this up for discussion - respectful of the learning which Bosco brings to this blog on this matter on behalf (so to speak) of the catholic church - I am not wishing to imply that my onw knowledge of these things is such as to deem me to be right.
What do you think?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I will take the No Covenant Coalition more seriously when ...

... I find they are promoting in their own Anglican churches the dissolution of the constitution, canons and relational consequences of infractions of the canons and constitution in favour of walking together with common sense and some charity.

But until then I just see inconsistency when Covenant deniers (i.e. those who deny that the Anglican Communion should have a Covenant) are happy to serve in churches which impose requirements on them in regard to the conduct of ministry and the contours of belief.

[LATER: I stand corrected on an important aspect of the No Covenant Coalition website: it is against the currently proposed Covenant, not the possibility that there might be some Covenant or similar document enhancing our life as a Communion. It would be great to see an alternative proposal coming forward from such a grouping of concerned Anglicans. My suspicion is that if the Covenant is not adopted around the Communion then we will see no covenant or similar, and the Communion will continue talking itself into obscurity].

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nuancing a point re Anglican coherency and the Covenant

A comment to the post below about diaconal presidency in Sydney not being a 'Communion breaking' issue raises an interesting question, for me at least:

Is the Covenant, when all is said and done, about Communion breaking matters (and what to do about them) or about building Communion coherency?

Negative motivation or positive?

I am keen on the positive case for the Covenant.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How the Covenant will help the Australian Anglican church

In past posts I have drawn attention to the merits of the Anglican Covenant in checking the unrestrained progress of diversity within the Anglican Communion, diversity which runs the risk of evacuating the word 'Anglican' of any useful meaning, and rendering the word 'Communion' meaningless as we have less and less in common. A specific case in point noted by me is the recent move of the Diocese of Sydney to institute diaconal presidency at the eucharist and to underline (again) its insistence that mere pragmatic considerations restrain archepiscopal hands from signing lay presidency into life. The Covenant I have suggested would highlight the lack of Anglican character and polity in this move. Opponents of the Covenant counter-claim that instituting the Covenant will not fix such problems.

This counter-claim involves one of two views about Anglican coherence: either it does not matter ('let diversity reign ... "unity" is just uniformity and we do not want that') or it can be achieved by current Anglican policy, that is, by continuing to talk with one another. That the latter seems to involve a form of increased coherence by virtue of people dropping out of the conversation appears to be a kind of 'collateral damage'!

By contrast, the Covenant's prospect invites Anglicans everywhere to consider whether or not we might be more active and intentional about being a coherent, distinctive body of Christians in the world than wistfully hoping that it might somehow happen. The Covenant challenges us to consider what a consistent Anglican polity looks like across the layers of Anglican life, parish, diocese, member church, Communion. It also invites us to make a similar sacrifice at each level of engagement with one another, that is, sacrificing autonomy so parishes are guided and governed by diocesan synods, diocesan synods are accountable to General Synod/Convention and so on. In doing this the Covenant is in harmony with God's revelation in Scripture that we are to be one (John 17), of one mind (Philippians 2), and united in Christ as Christ unite all things (Ephesians 1-2).

One of the things you will not see explained in No Covenant writings is why parishes and dioceses are not autonomous but member churches are. It has been a convenient tradition that member churches are autonomous relative to other autonomous member churches of the Communion. But when every aspect of Communion life is under examination in a time of crisis we need a theological justification for continuing autonomy. If we continue to think that autonomy is not a virtue when it comes to parishes, dioceses and member churches, that is, we Anglicans think there is virtue only in limited autonomy for parishes relative to dioceses, and for dioceses relative to General Synods/Conventions, why would we stop there? A Christian theology of unity should be consistent across all layers and levels of the body of Christ, not arbitrarily stop when we feel it suits us.

You will also not see explained in No Covenant writings how expanding Anglican diversity might be constrained. The Covenant involves a formal mechanism for one part of the Communion to call another part of the Communion to account for its claim that some new development is consistent with being Anglican. Without that formal mechanism we are doomed to talk ad infinitum while expanding Anglican diversity continues unchecked. In the end 'Anglican Communion' will mean 'this group of people like to meet together'. Is that what we want the Anglican Communion to be? If we do, well, that is the way things will be. But do we want that? Do we want to continue watering down our wonderful heritage, diluting its substance to the point where we are all style?

What might this mean for the Australian Anglican church? It could mean quite a lot, actually. Something unusual about the Australian Anglican church is that it involves a constitution which gives more power to individual dioceses to block church-wide decisions and less power to its General Synod to call individual dioceses to account than is the case in other Anglican churches. In part this reflects an Australian socio-economic polity in which the independence of its states, and their rivalry (especially Victoria v New South Wales) has shaped the formation of Australia's federal constitution. In another part it reflects the strength of the Diocese of Sydney combined with its independent Anglican spirit: effectively the Australian church operates a compromise in which Sydney is kept on board at the cost of permitting Sydney to live a different kind of Anglican life.

That is, coming back to the Covenant, the Covenant's primary challenge to the Australian Anglican church is not directly to the Diocese of Sydney but to the Anglican Church of Australia itself. Does it intend to review its arrangements with a view to lessening the autonomy of dioceses and to increasing the coherence of its life together? Can it put such a review into action, implementing changes which would enhance coherence in its ministry and mission as an Anglican church? Changes, that is, in the specific matter of eucharistic presidency, which would see Sydney accept that it has been moving away from (so to speak) an Anglican ordering of ministry orders and consequentially draw itself back into the Anglican fold?

Observers here might quickly put such an outworking of the Covenant in the life of a member church in the "too hard" basket. It would be very hard. There is no question of that. But the alternative needs to be considered. While Australian Anglican constitutional arrangements permit the unconstrained reinterpretation of Anglican life by one of its dioceses there is no particular pressure on any other member church to restrain diversity. Without constraint on diversity the Anglican Communion will wither on the vine ... for want of people willing to take on the hard challenges. And individual member churches will continue to fracture along party or cultural or other lines, my own church as much in danger of that as any other.

The point about a theology of unity is not that eventually a group of Christians will wake up to it, do something about it and all will be well. Rather it is a call to act now, before the group ceases to be a group.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quite a subtle joke (strictly Christchurch readers only)

The following, recounted to me by a friend, is very subtle in its wit. Probably only readers familiar with Christchurch, its sporting milieu, along with the most recent financial crisis to beset us and test the management of our finance minister, will get this ...

"AMI Stadium will have to go back to being called Lancaster Park. We already have an English Park."

Not letting the earth settle under their feet

For those Anglicans wondering what might be unfolding among those Anglicans somewhat (if not completely) disengaged from the formal regular elements of the Communion's life, David Virtue offers a couple of snippets: a CAPA meeting to watch for, and a GAFCON conference to look ahead to.

"The Archbishop of Nigeria also let it drop this week that the CAPA Primates will meet in Nairobi in April to assess the situation in the worldwide communion and to continue to plan its work of mission and evangelism. There is more to this statement than meets the eye. Can we expect an announcement that they will further disengage from Dr. Williams and the pansexually-driven West?

GAFCON is alive and well, reported Okoh. "There will be leaders meeting this year in New York, which will have an ecumenical character. Church leaders other than Anglicans who share our stand on the contentious issue of human sexuality and same-sex unions will be invited. The full GAFCON Congress will be held almost certainly in Jerusalem again in 2012." "

Friday, April 8, 2011

Post Colonial Cathedral for Christchurch?

In this morning's Christchurch Press Dr Katie Pickles a University of Canterbury historian argues that the earthquake may be Christchurch and Canterbury's moment to break free from its colonial past. She does not quite go so far with specifics to also argue that we should rebuild our  Anglican cathedral as a post colonial cathedral, but that prospect could be inferred from her article.

Our Anglican cathedral is badly damaged, beyond the obvious visible damage seen on TV screens around the world (at the west end). To a layperson such as myself in engineering matters it seems that the least radical decision, to rebuild the Cathedral stone by stone, would be an exercise in total deconstruction before beginning again (presuming, of course, potential difficulties with the land beneath being sorted out and clearance to rebuild such a big, and heavy structure being given). As a resident of Christchurch it is intrinsically unlikely that even this least radical decision - should it be made by church and civic authorities* - would not be subject to vigorous debate. The cathedral was built originally out of a colonial vision. Through the twentieth century it acquired its post-modernist status as an icon of the city, one of the symbols which readily identifies Christchurch as Christchurch, and one of the places which locates the centre of the city. "Meet me at the cathedral at 12.30 pm" needs no further explanation or direction to a fellow citizen (except for this period where it is out of bounds in the red zone). Do we want the icon to continue as at present or to become different, perhaps expressing a new sense of what Christchurch means to its citizens? Do Anglicans want to vest their identity in a mother church for the diocese which reminds us of the English rock from which we were hewn or which encapsulates some other value or set of values?

I have no idea when the debate about the future of the Anglican cathedral will properly begin. I predict it will be a debate both internal to the Anglican diocese and external to the citizens of Christchurch (and beyond). I appeal to fellow local Anglicans reading this post to not underestimate the external debate which will occur, that is, to not be naive, should we be so tempted, to think that we can make decisions purely on the basis of our own ideas discussed in house in our synod.

In part the debate will be constrained by what engineering reports recommend and what finances are readily available (i.e. insurance, city or national grants). It will involve arguments for retaining the visibility of our past and arguments for providing sacred space for the future of our post-colonial, post-modernist, post-secular, etc communities of faith (yes, there will be arguments for/against its ecumenical availability and arguments for/against its multi-faith accommodation).

Katie Pickles' op-ed this morning has not fired the first shots in this imminent debate, but it has opened up one of the areas over which the battle of ideas, if not of ownership of the vision for the cathedral's future will range. Is this the moment to leave our past behind by building a cathedral representing a post-colonial vision of our future?

*While the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch ultimately will make the decision as to what it will do with the land on which the cathedral sits, to which it has title, no building in our country can be built without resource consent and building permit, as granted by civic authority, and to which process of permitting, citizens may contribute their views.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Misleading Impression re No Covenant campaign?

Whether formally networked together or not, a fair number of Anglican blogs constitute an effective collective promoting 'No Covenant' (some are linked to on my sidebar, including Preludium, Kiwianglo's Blog and Thinking Anglicans on a regular basis, but recently my friend and colleague Bosco Peters at Liturgy also chimed in). I suggest a casual Anglican reading around the blogosphere would likely form an impression that the No Covenant campaign was well supported around the Communion and even arrive at the conclusion that the campaign is destined to succeed.

Quite why there are few Anglican blogs such as this one which promote the Covenant I am not sure. Perhaps Covenant supporters are busy on other matters! But at risk of incurring an 'of course you would say that Peter' response I suggest that No Covenant campaign's probability of success should not be measured by its posting prolificity. In the end the arguments in favour of the Covenant are simple to explain, reasonable, and thus likely to win favour in Synods (where decisions are actually made, much as some of us might like to see decisions made via comment threads to which we contribute our self-evident wisdom).

The simple argument in favour of the Covenant is that the Communion needs to reestablish its constitutional basis as a coherent organisation. It has been exposed in the last decade as having insufficient means to engage in a guided process towards resolution of serious disagreement if not division. To the argument that no new constitutional basis for the Communion is required because we Anglicans do things less formally there is a simple reply in the context of any General Synod or Convention: if we really believe that then why not abolish the constitution of our own church, and if we think a consitution is a good idea for our own church, why would it not be a good idea for the Communion?

It is, contra quite a lot of prognostication via the internet, entirely reasonable to expect member churches governed by their own internal constitutions to accept that the growth and development of the Communion now requires a fit for purpose constitution for the Communion. What is good for the member goose is good for the global gander.

I get the point made in a comment a few posts back by Bosco Peters that 'Covenant' is not the appropriate name for what is going on. Although it is a bit of a mouthful we are talking about a 'Communion constitution.'

A final thought: why are advocates for the blessing of same sex relationships so against the Covenant? Are they projecting the weakness of their arguments onto the Covenant? If the arguments for the blessing of same sex relationships are theologically strong and biblically mandated this will be recognised by the wider body of Anglicans covenanted together to find common cause and common ground for Anglican doctrine.

In the end I think the Covenant is likely to be agreed to by most if not all members of the Communion (i.e. those still engaged in the regular life of the Communion) because it asks people to be in favour of something which is a holy and good purpose: that the Communion be a coherent global body of Christ.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Question for Kiwi readers

If my informants tell me correctly, there is no current printed material which could be put into the hands of an enquirer telling them about the Anglican church with special regard for the Anglican church in these islands. In past times there has been such material (e.g. published by Genesis). At present there is some very good, detailed material within the series called God's Never Ending Story (published by Theology House). But - seemingly - no handy booklet format material to hand to an enquirer helping them (or a group of enquirers meeting together) what 'being Anglican' means today.

Are my informants correct?

If such a booklet were available - let's imagine it was just 60-70 pages, attractively produced - do you think this would be a welcome item on the buying agenda of clergy, laity, and parishes?

Looking forward to your answers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keep praying for Christchurch

Thank you for your prayers to date. And keep praying for Japan.

Here in Christchurch in the past few days we have been learning that:

- the city's sewerage system is on the verge of collapse

- the Roman Catholic cathedral is two months away from having any kind of report on its future (because its dome needs removing by a special crane or two in order for the building to be safe enough for engineers to enter the building)

- the Roman Catholic bishop, Barry Jones has had a slight stroke

Otherwise we remain in a period of constant change mixed with (seemingly) nothing happening. Changes include new traffic lay outs at newly congested intersections. 'Nothing happening' is the appearance for a number of our churches which await what is - I am sure! - slowly happening: conversations between engineers, insurance assessors, and diocesan property authorities.

'New normal' is an emerging description among Christchurch inhabitants about life at the moment. But in this 'new normal' quite a few things change so much from day to day that confusion is part of the new normal. To make matters worse, some information we receive is confusing too, like a building I noticed on a recently issued list of damaged buildings: it appears twice, once requiring 'demolition' and once requiring 'partial demolition.'

Friday, April 1, 2011

Local or Universal or One?

May or may not be online over next few days. Here is a post worth a look, by Bishop Dan Martins, re the character of our life together as Christians living locally and interconnected globally.