News reports and St Matt's own page here, here and here.
Actually as St Matt's billboards go, this is probably the least provocative of them all. If there is any poor taste here it is the disrespect shown to Judas, who clearly had other things on his mind than checking out Facebook just before he committed suicide.
But what is a genuine worry in these days of upholding Anglican identity and all of us saying how fine a theological statement the first three sections of the Covenant make and all, is what Glynn Cardy, Vicar of St Matthew's says to justify the message they want to promote through the billboard.
In Anglican Taonga we read this,
"In explaining the billboard, Mr Cardy says Jesus’ death caused his followers to blame each other and themselves, and Judas was particularly vilified across the ages – symptomatic of the human desire to hold someone responsible for tragic events.
“Jesus did not die for our sins. He died because he peeved a bunch of powerful people off,” he says.Where does one begin in disappointment if not anger that one of our leading clerics believes and teaches these things about our Lord and Saviour and the meaning of his death on the cross?
“He lived and preached a message of radical inclusion that threatened the status quo [and] the authorities killed him for it.
“The ‘dying for sins’ business was a spin the church applied at a later date.” "
The consistent witness of the New Testament is that Jesus did die for our sins. That Bible which Glynn is required to read Sunday by Sunday (and to have his congregation say "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church" or "This is the Gospel of Christ") includes these verses Matthew 26:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 24:45-47; John 1:29; Acts 5:30-31; Romans 3:22-26; 5:8-11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Galatians 2:17-21; Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 2:6-15; 1 Thessalonians 2:10; 5:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; Revelation 1:5.
So, problem #1, How does Glynn know that Jesus didn't die for our sins? The New Testament which tells him about Jesus (including, yes, that he peeved a bunch of people in authority) also tells him that Jesus died for our sins.
Glynn gives an explanation, but really this is problem #2, "The ‘dying for sins’ business was a spin the church applied at a later date." A spin? This is a licensed cleric of our church and he calls the gospel message preached by the apostles "a spin".
Spin? It was the preaching of the gospel that Jesus Christ died for our sins which began the parting of the ways of Christianity from Judaism, for the former no longer believed that the key to the forgiveness of sins lay in the sacrificial system centred on the Temple. It was the preaching of the gospel that Jesus Christ died for our sins which spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean and over to the British Islands. It was the preaching of the gospel that Jesus Christ died for our sins which impelled Samuel Marsden to first preach the gospel in Aotearoa New Zealand on Christmas Day in 1814, which led the Williams brothers and other missionaries to these islands and which drew Selwyn to become our first bishop.
If that is 'spin' then Christianity is one gigantic mistake. Worse, it is one gigantic mistake which was perpetrated by 'the church'. Which brings us to problem #3.
'The church' here is made to sound like a cancer on the body of Christianity. There was Jesus, pure, simple, innocent man with a clear message about power and authority which got up people's noses. Along came the church and misinterpreted Jesus right from the beginning by teaching the wrong things about Jesus. If we know the truth about Jesus, the real truth, not the spin by the nasty church, why would we want to have anything to do with the church?
But Glynn is an ordained, licensed clergyperson sworn to uphold the teaching of the church, to further its aims and goals, and to contribute to it bringing glory to God. He belongs to the church which was founded on the preaching of Christ as Lord and Saviour. It stretches credibility that one can be part of 'the church' in such an integral way and call the foundational message of the church 'spin.'
Does this approach to Jesus dying for our sins constitute 'false teaching'? The width of Anglican tolerance means we explain 'died for our sins' in a variety of ways. But it does not mean we are free to describe it as 'spin'!