Sunday, April 29, 2012

Salt and Light appearance, nek minute Bishop of Wellington

I had heard a rumour that Justin Duckworth was going to be a candidate in the election for the Bishop of Wellington. When I spoke with him at the Society of Salt and Light Festival at Gore Bay in February about his 'plans for this year' he was diplomatically coy. His appearance at that Festival was in keeping with his ministry: at the cutting edge of change and connection to people in changing cultures and challenging communities. Nek minute he is the next Bishop of Wellington, as announced formally and officially here. Let no one say our church is incapable of adroit decision-making in response to the pace of change and the size of the chaqllenges we face. ADU congratulates +-elect Justin and prayerfully wishes him the best for this new role.

PS Off to clergy conference this week, which will be in retreat format, appropriately in the electronic wilderness, i.e. patchy mobile signals, so no posts and (probably) no chance to post comments after noon Monday for a few days.

CAMPBELL LIVE Tonight at 7 pm, according to a commenter @Liturgy, will feature an interview with +-elect Justin (Aotearoa NZ viewers only).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thinking Anglicans Stand Firm On Virtue Of Communion With Canterbury (Updated)

Some unthinking Anglicans around the Communion will be surprised to find that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is not planning schism anytime soon. But thinking Anglicans have always sought to peer beyond the headlines about GAFCON/FCA and to discern what is going on beneath the surface of things. Beneath the surface has always been a genuine commitment to a global Anglican movement which works from its heritage towards a new future. That heritage is both the BCP/39 Articles axis and relationship to the Church of England and to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Sure, from time to time strong criticism of the present incumbent in the See of Canterbury has been made, one or two churches have removed specific reference to Canterbury from their constitutions. But, when we think about it, we have never heard the GAFCON/FCA leaders talk about leaving the Communion (even as they exercise a right to temporarily withdraw fellowship), nor about starting a completely different, independent global institution (even as they exercise the right to form a movement within the Communion).

Thus this morning, reading my fellow Kiwi David Virtue's report on the FCA meeting in London, I find this opening paragraph:

"Fellowship of Confessing Anglican leaders meeting at St. Mark's Battersea heard Bishop Michael Nazir Ali say that the intention of the FCA is not to break with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion but they will continue to support orthodox dioceses and parishes in liberal and revisionist provinces like the US and Canada."
You see, these are thinking Anglicans meeting who are willing to stand firm on the virtue of continuing Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. From a Kiwi perspective I am not surprised because the bishops and clergy I know who have gone are not anti-Communion. Rather they are pro fellowship and want to find, build and strengthen fellowship around the globe with Anglicans who share that common heritage in orthodox faith as handed down to us through the specific Anglican history of a catholic-and-reformed church.

In fact far from being schismatic, the FCA is likely to push for an enlargement of the Communion. At the appropriate time we will find a push being made for the inclusion of another member church of the Communion, namely the Anglican Church of North America. Their Archbishop Bob Duncan and other leaders (including another Kiwi domiciled in North America, +Julian Dobbs) are at FCA because in the eyes of the rest of the FCA they are true and genuine Anglicans with whom they are in fellowship.

In my view GAFCON/FCA is stealing a march on the creaking structures of the formal Communion institution by proposing GAFCONs (i.e. global conferences of leaders) every five years rather than the every ten years for Lambeth), and taking an initiative in proposing changes of direction in leadership commensurate with the shifting of the centre of world Anglicanism to Africa: electing a Chair of the Primates Meeting would not ensure an African chairs that body (as previously noted by me in a post below), but would open that possibility up for the future. Such changes are needed (in my view) if the formal Communion institution is to keep up with the pace of change in Anglicanism (indeed in Christianity itself in the 21st century). New wineskins for new wine is one of the oldest of all Christian mottos!!

What about TEC and its role in the new shaping of the Communion? I have no particular insight into what the GAFCON/FCA leaders might be thinking on that. But I note that TEC is in significant trouble right now in respect of ordering its own life in accordance with a new triennial budget it is having great trouble in setting. This trouble is not being revealed to us by the usual suspects (such as David Virtue) who have run sniping campaigns against TEC for years. No, this is being played out on the blogs and news services of those most keenly committed to TEC and the direction it has been pursuing since 1979 (e.g. here, here and here). My sense is that TEC is at a crossroads in its presentation to the Communion of the virtues of progressive Christianity. Can it show progressive Christianity as a fruitful pathway for global Anglicanism to follow? If it can, others will follow the lead, and look to the leadership of its Presiding Bishop on the councils of the Communion. If not, the influence of TEC on the Communion will be on the wane, ignored not only by GAFCON/FCA, but by others in the Communion who will increasingly recognise that the dominant bloc in the Communion is GAFCON/FCA.

As for the Covenant, if it does not become the adopted means of restating our Anglican perspective on orthodox Christianity in the 21st century, then I am afraid the Jerusalem Declaration, for all tis inadequacies, will simply become by virtue of lack of competition, the guiding light for future discussions about the content of orthodoxy in Anglican perspective.

The future of the Communion's character is there for GAFCON/FCA's shaping if it stands firm on a number of matters, including Communion with Canterbury.

UPDATE: the event being over various statements, reports etc can be read. Thinking Anglicans offers a series of links here and here. The final statement in PDF form is here. At first glance I am not seeing anything new emerging apart from a strong confidence in the futue of the movement. The underlying motive of the movement, to provide fellowship where none can be found, comes strongly through.

FURTHER COMMENT: I wonder if GAFCON/FCA has some umbrella aspects to it which we should take account of before labelling it 'extreme conservative' or some other epithet which might give comfort to those who want to dismiss the movement. It is an umbrella, for instance, to developments in the Church of England, especially in the Southwark Diocese, whereby parishes are seeking to develop ministry and mission with as much separation from the established power structures into which strongly liberal leadership has been placed and from which conservatives seem to have been excluded. Yes, for some evangelicals in the C of E, this aspect of GAFCON/FCA seems to be extremely conservative. But GAFCON/FCA is also an umbrella to Anglicans in North America who represent a range of conservative (a better descriptor might simply be 'traditional') perspectives but are disenchanted by the extreme liberal/progressive tendencies of the leadership of TEC and ACCan. Ditto, dare I say it, for some Anglicans in my church who are concerned at the direction their dioceses are heading in. Plus GAFCON/FCA seems to be a natural place to gravitate to for many Anglican leaders from Africa and South America (but not, I notice, looking at the photos on the PDF linked to above, from Asia) who would not describe themselves as conservative or liberal but simply 'Anglican' as they have grown in their Christian walk with Anglicanism as handed down to them. In sum: a movement drawing from 30 member churches of the Communion is going to be complex rather than simple, diverse to an extent rather than monochrome.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breaking News: Cathedral asked to release reports

For ages now (well, it seems like ages), the Christchurch Cathedral and Diocese have borne the brunt of a significant amount of popular disquiet over the deconstruction of the cathedral. It is not just that there have been many newspaper headlines and letters to the editors, it has also been a phenomenon in which every citizen has a view about the cathedral, as many of us find when we talk to our friends, family and neighbours. Some are very accepting of the need to deconstruct the building and are already looking forward to a new cathedral fit for purpose and iconic for a new age. Others much less so, with many not believing what they have been told, and arguing that the cathedral can and should be saved.

Through this unfolding situation the relevant diocesan and cathedral authorities, centred on a Cathedral Project Group drawn from the Church Property Trustees and the Cathedral Chapter, have steadfastly maintained both that they have excellent supporting engineering advice, peer reviewed, as well as supporting advice from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA)'s engineers, and that they are not obligated to release that advice. For what it is worth, I trust the soundness of this decision.

Today however, in breaking news for the cathedral and diocese, a new development has occurred. The Right Hon Gerry Brownlee, Government Minister for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery has announced that CERA will release over a thousand pages of its files on the cathedral and called on the cathedral to do likewise with its files.
"Brownlee, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, said the cathedral should release its advice as there was huge public interest in the fate of the building.

"There is a range of views on the very difficult decision the Anglican Church has made about the future of its cathedral, and given the significance of the building, this issue is of huge concern to many people in the community,'' he said.

"I believe that if the public is able to see the advice the church has been working from there is likely to be more understanding about the extent of the damage to the cathedral and the rationale behind the decision to partially deconstruct it.

"At this stage, a demolition permit has been issued to deal with the dangerously unstable tower, and further permits will be issued to partially deconstruct the building as carefully as possible to no lower than two metres." "
Another report is here, now with response by our Media Officer, Fiona Summerfield.

I am going to be praying for our leadership as they respond through Bishop Victoria to Gerry's challenge. May they know the right thing to do.

UPDATE: Go here for the documents being released by CERA. Read here for latest report

Below that report are comments. I cite one here:

"Having scan-read the full document, from my point of view the correct decision has been made. The photos are very helpful The damage is not only to the west end of the cathedral but throughout the building and even in the apse, east end. Let's hope these documents are helpful to those who hold onto the dream of things past. It is gone! Focus on rebuild."
FURTHER UPDATE: What is going to happen, precisely? In this report a leader of the group determined to see the cathedral saved has met with Bishop Victoria and she has promised a response within a week.

Could ++Katharine Jefferts Schori be next Chair of the Primates Meeting?

Be careful what you wish for! The GAFCON Primates have called for an elected Chair to head the Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting, rather than the Archbishop of Canterbury as is the ex officio tradition to date. Now I do not think it involves any expertise in rocket science to draw a conclusion that the GAFCON Primates would expect the first such elected chair to be a man. But, in fact, it could be a woman, that is, the one and only woman primate, ++Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Consider: there are 38 primates who can go to that meeting (if they all turn up, which hasn't happened recently).* Would there be 20 possible votes for ++Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Let's see: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Canada, TEC, Australia, ACANZP, Melanesia, Southern Africa, Japan, Brazil, Central America, Mexico, Korea, Papua-New Guinea, Philippines, Myanmar, South India, North India. That would be, in my view, twenty possible votes.

OK, sure there would be those who might not be so agreeable to ++KJS on, say, theology. And, almost certainly, there is the problem that her tenure as primate is time limited and this would rule her out of consideration. But then if those twenty did not vote for her, whom might they vote for? ++Nigeria? Possibly. ++England? Ah, now there is a thought, there could be a majority for electing the one who formerly held the role ex officio!

*Technical aside: while the ABC has been Chair as an ex officio matter, the Archbishop of York has turned up as alternate Primate of the C of E, a theoretical maximum of 39; but under a new regime, surely things would revert to one primate per member church attending.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anglicans abhor organisational vacuum

One of the points I tried to make at our Synod on Saturday is that if the Covenant does not pass and the life of the Communion does not improve as a global body with a degree of organisational unity then another Anglican global body will emerge and gather strength. Emerging for a while now has been the GAFCON/FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) movement which is taking another step forward in being the leading global body of organised Anglicans by holding a conference in London as I write, with leaders drawn from 30 or so Anglican churches. Let me say again what I have said before here, and two bishops and some clergy from our church in these islands!

What opponents of the Covenant have lost sight of (in my view) is that the debate about the Covenant has not been about two equally worthy alternative future scenarios for the 38 member church Communion: more tightly knit together Covenanted Communion versus looser unCovenanted federation or association of independent churches. (If equally worthy and productive for future organisation of Anglicans around the world, who wouldn't go for the latter with its greater freedom and its perceived non-aggression against gay and lesbian Anglicans!) Not at all. The issue has been whether the presentation of the global Anglican community to the world as part of our mission would be 'the Anglican Communion' as a genuinely geographically wide world body, theologically broad but with limits defined by the Covenant, and some commitment to internal discipline to hold ourselves together around a reasonable centre within that breadth, or something else (or somethings else) which would be less satisfactory (from the perspective of broad Anglicanism).

Well, the following scenario could be emerging with this present meeting in the midst of the waves the refusal of the C of E to approve the Covenant have sent around the Communion: the largest global body of organised Anglicans being led and shaped by the leaders of the most conservative Anglican churches in alliance with the most conservative leaders of other churches (e.g. Archbishop Peter Jensen from Australia), with a theology set by the Jerusalem Declaration and a smaller body of organised Anglicans (but always a bit disorganised because of a refusal to be bound by any particular theological discipline) which turns out to be dominated by white Western more liberal/progressive than conservative Anglicans (TEC, Canada, Australia, Atlantic Isles, ACANZP churches).

Sadly, neither body will be representative of the historic breadth of Anglican theology and ecclesiology. There may be something of a 'turf war' as to who claims the right to be called 'the Anglican Communion' (that is, the FCA leaders may remain within the Communion and assert their dominance in meetings such as the Primates Meeting where there is a signal that a push will come for that body not to be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury). Either way, a lot is going to be lost by rejecting the Covenant. (That is not to say that some kind of guaranteed future for the Communion would emerge if the Covenant were to be signed: a lot would then depend on actual conduct of signing members).

In short, the new ABC could well be an ABC shorn of many Communion responsibilities. The shape of the Communion is going to be set, one way or another, by the sheer strength of numbers of global Anglicans intent on filling the organisational vacuum created by the debacle of the last decade and cemented by the refusal to support the Covenant by the previously dominating churches such as TEC and the C of E.

Yes, all this makes little difference to day to day life for Anglicans here in Christchurch (where the cathedral remains a daily issue, latest report, including an attempt by our Synod to improve communication and consultation here). But my prediction is that when we do find global Anglicanism mentioned in the newspapers of the future, the leading opinions are going to be shifting away from the old guard of slightly left of centre bishops and theologians (to say nothing of the airtime given to the far left Spongs) towards the right of centre leaders, mostly coming out of the new dominance of Africa and Asia.

For ages now the pundits have been saying that the centre of Christianity is shifting towards Africa. It is so and global Anglicanism is being drawn in the same direction.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's a long and winding road

If there is one thing just maybe every reader here might agree on it is that being a Christian in the 21st century seems to get more and more complicated. Whether one is a Christian in England feeling the tide of established Christianity is ebbing fast, or a Christian in the USA trying to negotiate a way through the 'culture wars' there, or a Christian in Iraq bewildered by the way in which life has become more dangerous in the years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, or even an Anglican in Christchurch unable to work out how a secular city with a cathedral has become a spiritual conflict zone over the prospect of not having a cathedral, the way of Christ seems more complicated than it was in the 20th century.

One sign of that complication is that when we think about the best form of Christian community to belong to, that is, which church to participate in, this too seems complicated. One way to think about current Anglican difficulties is that we are searching among ourselves for the things we agree together are characteristically Anglican, the things that is that distinguish us as one group of Christians from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it our common prayer, our continuity with English Christian tradition, our coherence in respect of certain theological markers (such as incarnational theology)? Is it somewhat more negative: we are quite catholic but do not think it good to have a hierarchy like Rome, or we are quite evangelical but value being an episcopal church (so long as no bishop tells us what to do!!), or even when all sorts of unsatisfactory things are at work among us, the Anglican church is still the best boat to fish from? The complexity of the situation is that it has become incredibly hard work to secure any kind of agreement among us (dare I mention what is a relatively simple proposal, the Covenant?)

Naturally in such a situation it is tempting, perhaps very tempting to find an alternate community of faith to belong to. Part of what is going on in global Anglicanism is the setting up of alternate communities under an Anglican umbrella (or, if you prefer a different image, within an Anglican framework). But also we are finding that the search for a workable community of faith has led to some unexpected proposals such as the Anglican Ordinariate within the fold of Rome proving attractive. For some this is an unworkable halfway house, and the step is taken to transfer straight through to Roman Catholicism without the Anglican flavours of the Ordinariate. The Telegraph offers a report on one parish's experience in London of losing its vicar and a sizeable chunk of its congregation. (It is worth persevering right to the end of the report to find that the ex-vicar will soon be ordained to be a Roman priest and will be given charge of the congregation which his fellow parishioners have joined, a congregation of no less than 2000 people. How many C of E congregations are that large?)

On the face of it, in an Anglican world of shifting sands of what it is we believe about theology and ethics, the Roman option has definite attractions because of its definite doctrines and ethics. The departing vicar quips,

"In the Church of England, you don’t know what the Church believes from one synod to the next."

Except life is not quite that straightforward, even in Roman Christianity. Head across the Atlantic to find the mother of storms brewing within American Roman Catholicism. Nuns in conflict with Rome is scarcely a new story, but this particular story has an edge to it. In the context of the great culture wars being fought out in 21st century America, Roman Catholics (absolutely, by a huge margin, the largest community of Christian faith in the States) are speaking with a forked tongue, the bishops saying one thing, the nuns another, and many Catholics by their actions (e.g. using artificial contraception) another (albeit more closely aligned to the nuns than to the bishops). Can Roman speech in that context be united? Has the genie escaped from the uncorked bottle?

Time will tell, but right now, surveying the global landscape of Christianity, working out the simple questions of what we believe, how we should live and who we should associate with as church appear to have complicated answers. It's a long and winding road to finding the perfect church.

And, as the old joke goes, when you find it, do not join it, lest it cease to be perfect because of its latest member.

Monday, April 23, 2012

No Julian No!

Dear Bishop Julian,

It is great that you have grown from strength to strength in your ministry as an ordained person within global Anglicanism, to the point where you exercise ministry as a bishop within the CANA fold. You have journeyed a long way from a curacy in Westport, New Zealand!

However, within Anglican polity we hold that any one of us, even a bishop, is capable of fallible pronouncement. Thus it is worth pointing out that you have made a judgement call which is unfair and unfounded. According to a writing of yours, published on VirtueOnline (H/T Fr Ron Smith), you have written,

"On 16 April, the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch held an international press conference and public celebration (in a stark, visual demonstration of the wilting moral and spiritual leadership of that body, only 40 'locals' showed up from that city's population of 384,000 according to The New Zealand Herald) to unveil avant garde Japanese architect Shigeru Ban's model for a NZD 5 million (USD 4.2 million) cardboard cathedral."
It would be difficult for anyone in Christchurch, whatever you intended by this statement, not to feel that you have made a judgement call on the work of Anglicans in the Diocese of Christchurch: "the wilting moral and spiritual leadership of that body." What is the basis for saying this? According to you it is because "only 40 'locals' showed up from the city's population of 384,000".

I suggest a bishop, as a theological and spiritual leader might be expected to show more human insight than you demonstrate here. Insight that press conferences are not church services so the number turning up has no direct relationship to spiritual health and vigour; insight that in a post quake stressed city there might be one hundred and one other things needing to be done rather than turning up to press conferences; insight that the project of building a cathedral for permanent service in the worship of God might be a long project, long enough to warrant a temporary, transitional structure such as a 'cardboard cathedral' to be built; insight that whatever the religious background of the architect, whatever the building materials and whatever the cost, to make progress on such a matter at such a time might have cost many people tears, sweat, sleepless nights, and much time in prayer. In short, I think a bishop could be expected to show some appreciation for his brothers and sisters in Christ and their labours in the Lord's Name and for the Lord's service.

Instead we have this cutting judgement (of which only a part is cited above). The moral and spiritual leadership of Anglicans in Christchurch is not wilting. It is not perfect, and like any flower it could do with some tender love and a pouring of the water of encouragement. But 'wilting' as a judgement on our leadership is neither fair nor founded on any evidence you bring forward.

If, however, we are judged in this way from afar we might just wilt from discouragement. But is a self-fulfilling judgement on us the lasting memory of your ministry which you wish to leave with us?

Yours in Christ, even in disagreement,

Will the Anglican Church Down Under also Give the Covenant the Amber Light?

The result of the vote on the Covenant motion here in Christchurch is sufficiently ambiguous to place no great constraint on our General Synod representatives when they take part in the actual vote on the Covenant which counts, that is, the vote of our church as a member church of the Communion at our July General Synod. (Recall, the motion was defeated in one house but the overall vote was in favour). With respect to all who travel to Fiji for the General Synod, obviously some members will go to the General Synod intent on voting the Covenant down, others on supporting it, and some with an open mind in respect of a "for/against the Covenant" motion. Among our bishops I sense there may be a slight majority in favour of the Covenant, if only because their episcopal travels and consultations around the globe will have impressed on them the depth of the fractures in the Communion and the importance of doing something rather than nothing about this. There is also, as was made clear on all sides in our Christchurch debate, a significant commitment in our church to the future of the Anglican Communion and its well-being.

If you are agreeable to what I say thus far, you might recognise with me that our General Synod might be open to a way forward other than a straight out acceptance or rejection of the Covenant. That is, if on the floor of General Synod a motion is proposed which is not a straight up and down for or against the Covenant motion, then the result, at this point in time, is less predictable than for a motion asking for acceptance of the Covenant. Alongside that I also wonder where Australia will head on the Covenant, knowing very little about what is going on there, other than knowing that there is a conservatism in Australia somewhat unknown to us Anglicans in ACANZP in which the whole church seems able to arrive at some positions we cannot envision here, and I wonder if one such position is support for the Covenant to some degree or another. So, to get to the point of this post:

I wonder if we might find ourselves here in Down Under Anglicanism following the lead of the Anglican Church in Wales, as reported last week, as giving an amber light to the Covenant. A classic and somewhat enticing Anglican fudge, but nevertheless a way forward for those who have genuine concerns about the Covenant while also having a deep commitment to the Communion not unravelling further than it has done.

As reported on Thinking Anglicans, the 'amber light' approach is this:

"i) affirm the commitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Communion;

ii) Affirm its readiness to engage with any ongoing process of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant;

iii) Request clarification from the 15th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as to the status and direction of the Covenant process in the light of the position of the Church of England;

iv) Urge upon the Instruments of Communion a course of action which continues to see reconciliation and the preservation of the Communion as a family of interdependent but autonomous Churches."
I cannot see anything at all in clauses 1, 3, and 4 which would be disagreeable to any of the episcopal units of our church (ditto Australia). I see in clause 2 something likely agreeable because it neither accepts nor rejects the Covenant and because it contains a hint of the final version of the Covenant being not quite as final as has been put to us thus far. To the extent that objections to the Covenant have been objections to specific aspects of the Covenant, "any ongoing process of consideration" keeps open the door on the possibility of those objections being met. (I am well aware that there are other objections to the Covenant which involve rejecting the Covenant full-stop, whether as an unAnglican things to do, or as a complete waste of time re dealing with current difficulties. Such objections are not met by the Welsh resolution).

In our church we have a particular reason for embracing the amber light approach: ACC is being held in Auckland in late October/early November, and I think it fair and reasonable if our ACC-minded folk (including our episcopal, clerical and lay reps) would feel more comfortable going into that meeting having not rejected the Covenant outright. Thus I go so far here as to say that I expect some exertion in our General Synod towards an amber light resolution re the Covenant. Working on a hint already received from beyond my own diocese, I predict that those supporting the Covenant at General Synod (but knowing the Covenant is unlikely to pass there) would vote for an amber light motion. The question would be whether the reps from the episcopal units which have voted against the Covenant feel they could reflect those decisions and the debates preceding them by voting for an amber light motion.

Whether Australia might be more explicit in its support for the Covenant is always possible, but knowing a little of the variety of forces at work in that church, I can imagine Australia also going for the amber light.

At that point the remainder of Western Anglicanism might fall like dominoes towards the ongoing consideration of the Covenant. Even by October/November this year it might seem obvious to the ACC that the Covenant's future lies in a revision of the formerly final version.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Who needs enemies when you have friends like

Stand Firm. I cannot believe the tone in this article on Stand Firm in which one of their leading writers, excoriates Truro Church for the agreement they have reached with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia re their property and other assets. The article's title sets the tone for what follows: "The Incomprehensible Surrender of Truro." I reckon the tone to be spiteful rather than graceful.

For readers unfamiliar with the politics of Anglo-Episcopalian or Episco-Anglicanism in North America, Stand Firm and Truro are on the same 'side' (albeit if we thought in terms of a spectrum they might be on different places, but, again, they would be at one end of the spectrum rather than at opposite ends).

Essentially Truro, a departing-from-TEC congregation wanted to keep its buildings, but, many courtroom battles later, it has recognised that it cannot do that, and it has negotiated a deal which means they stay a bit longer etc, but eventually leave. And compared to some deals (or, more accurately, non-deals) elsewhere in TECland, this is a good deal.

There is something dispairingly dark in the soul of some parts of conservative Anglicanism around our globe, a part which can spit and snarl even at people fairly close in theology and ethos. I wonder why that is?* I wonder why there is a lack of grace in some of us (I do not want to exempt myself here as I am not always gracious) even when we have been converted by the God of grace through the gospel of grace. This article, to me, represents that spit and snarl.

In the meantime I hope Stand Firm's firm of writers do not want to be my Facebook friends because, frankly, I won't be accepting until I see some more grace being posted on Stand Firm. If any one on Stand Firm is reading this - Sarah Hey sometimes passes by here - please, please think about what being 'Christian' really means, and start with loving your friends.

*Thinking some about this question, I wonder if this is going on: saved by grace we might then be sympathetic to human weakness or intent on finding and maintaining perfection. If the latter, then lots of things in the life of the church fall short of perfection, so there is always lots to criticise. But if I fall short of perfection by 5%, haven't I done 95% worth of things that could be appreciated? (I am not talking about sin here so I am not talking about approval of being nearly righteous). In the case of Truro, they have fought the good fight, they have tried to act with grace, in a spirit of reconciliation, and in recognition of the reality they were up against. Why not write about the 'Comprehensible Good Sense of Truro'?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not today: Covenant goes down in Christchurch

I haven't much to add to Bosco Peters' report on our Covenant debate today. It was a good debate. We had plenty of time (too much really, as we ran short on other things later in the day). We voted in as decisive a manner as one can do (by houses) and the outcome was the motion did not pass, defeated in the house of clergy, although passed in the house of laity.

For what it is worth, here is my mover's speech:

"Madame President, and members of Synod. On the night before he died, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed strategically that his disciples ‘may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ [John 17:21]. In this prayer Jesus connects the communion within the Godhead with the communion of all believers and integrates it into an apostolic strategy for God’s mission to the world. Later, Paul writing to the Ephesians discloses the divine vision for the history of the universe when he says that God’s plan for the fullness of time is, ‘to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth’ [Ephesians 1:10]. Unity, harmony, fellowship and communion between Christian believers is not an optional extra but the heart and soul of the corporate life we are called to in Christ. It is vital to our witness to Christ and when we are divided we blight that witness and dishonour God.

The Anglican Communion Covenant is a document which sets out the possibility for a new development in building fellowship and communion between the member churches of the Anglican Communion. For over a hundred years the Communion was blessed with a common life which held together without much in the way of paperwork but with deep ‘bonds of affection.’ But in recent decades, and especially in the last decade, those bonds of affection have frayed, and relationships have broken down. Instead of strengthening our common life around the globe, we have worshipped at the altar of diversity. The prayer of Jesus that we might be one has been drowned out with assertions of the independence of member churches. Our rights to do what we see fit in our local contexts have replaced any sense of obligation to work with the divine plan for the unity of all things. In 1963 the Toronto Anglican Congress pressed on Anglicans the obligation in Christ of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ. The Anglican Covenant is the Communion nearly 50 years later taking up that obligation and doing something concrete about it.

The Covenant consists of four sections: (1) Our inheritance of faith;  (2) The life we share with others: our Anglican vocation;  (3) Our unity and common life;  (4) Our covenanted life together. In these sections we re-state what it means to be Anglican, we recommit ourselves to being a Communion of churches intent on being an expression of God’s one, holy, apostolic and catholic church, we express our commitment to the importance of all other Anglicans, we enter into ‘a voluntary commitment [by] all churches to listen to others before acting’ [Mark Chapman], and, finally, we recognise the need for mediation and conflict resolution when conflicts arise.

In 2010 our General Synod passed a resolution which approved in principle Sections 1-3 of the Covenant but raised a legal question about one aspect of Section 4. That legal question has not received a clear answer but it seems not to be a problem. General Synod also referred the whole Covenant back to each episcopal unit prior to the Covenant coming back to this year’s General Synod for adoption or not. Today we consider the Covenant knowing that friends and colleagues in other episcopal units and in other churches have rejected it, but also knowing that some member churches of the Communion have approved it, more in fact than have rejected it. I want to be quite blunt about my assessment of the rejection of the Covenant by those friends and colleagues elsewhere: I think they have either rejected a perception of the Covenant and not the Covenant itself, or they have asserted their independence as self-governing bodies without due consideration of the obligation in Christ for mutuality and interdependence in our life together. I want to suggest that we should consider the Covenant on its merits for ourselves whatever other bodies have made of it. I further suggest we consider whether or not the Covenant expresses a vision for relationships between churches in our international Communion of Anglican churches which is in accord with Christ’s prayer for unity. Today we ask whether this vision is our diocesan vision or not.

The Covenant is a challenging document because it does not only say things in the first three sections which nearly all Anglicans seem agreeable to; it also says in Section 4 that we should be accountable to one another for whether we uphold what we believe in common. It is on these matters of committing to listen to one another, being accountable to one another, holding in covenanted love for one another our catholic character as Christians that the Covenant is most controversial. In its fourth section the Covenant sets out a mechanism for resolving those occasions when listening, being accountable, and holding one another in covenanted love proves too hard and thus conflict arises. Section 4 has excited some as draconian in its punitiveness, concerned others about its alleged centralising tendency for the management of the Communion and angered others in its weakness as offering no real consequences for those who act in unAnglican ways. Stephen Kuhrt, writing recently on the Fulcrum website, said,

“No one on either side has yet been able to say how ‘a centralising strait jacket that will impair freedom and innovation’ can simultaneously be ‘a toothless proposal designed to produce constant dialogue and no action’.”
I suggest that Section Four is pitched perfectly when it provokes such contrasting and counter-balancing allegations and accusations. Personally I have no problem with adopting Section 4. Today’s motion recognises the degree of controversy surrounding this section. It invites us to take a lesser step than wholly adopting Section 4 when it says in Part 3 of the motion, “Supports in principle the adoption of section 4.” We could amend this part of the motion by omitting the words “in principle”. I would support that. But let us discuss together whether the Covenant is our vision for Anglican global fellowship and see where that takes us.

I conclude with some words of St Paul: ‘Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind ... Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among you which is yours in Christ Jesus’ [Phil 2:2-5]"

Saturday round up

I still do not see the Press publishing the response of the Diocese of Christchurch to the articles (and subsequent letters) about the Cathedral's request for a Council grant to help with running costs for the transitional cathedral.

Bishop Kelvin Wright, in town for a meeting of our bishops, has a superb post on his trip around the red zone yesterday.

Taonga carries a report on the meeting of the bishops, but I have written to the Taonga editorial board and questioned whether their note about the open letter of a group of evangelical Anglicans is fairly reported on: I have seen the letter and I do not think they are threatening to leave our church.

Commenters here might like to look at the last few comments on my post below re lay presidency. There I try to offer an example of how an otherwise fine comment veers into ad hominem comment. I welcome comments here but the simple lessons I need to keep emphasising are: do not use "you" language about another person, and ESPECIALLY do not make presumptions about what other commenters think, do or might do as a speculative extrapolation on your part. If I make some liberal noises about one matter it does not make me a liberal ... if I support penal substitutionary atonement it does not make me a fundamentalist ... if I admire the current Pope it does not mean I am a Papist ... do we get the point? I hope so!

Otherwise I am off to Synod and offline for the rest of the day, maybe even the night!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spicing up our Synod?

Somewhat typical of our increasingly mischievous daily paper, The Press (motto: Nihil Utile Quod Non Honestum), I cannot see where either yesterday or today it has published the explanation for the Cathedral's request for an annual Council grant which I posted yesterday. (I understand that the Press has been sent the explanation). Having made trouble with its headlines about the Cathedral's cash request, it has gone silent. Its motto really should be printed as Nihil Utile Quod Does Not Sell More Newspapers (or, in modern Latin slang, 'Yeah, Whatever').

Tomorrow our Synod is being held in which we discuss the Covenant and then many matters relating to the post quake future of the Diocese. This morning in the Press (A5) is an advertisement with two prongs. One, from the Wizard of Christchurch advertises a protest rally outside the Synod at 10.30 am, the other is an open letter from the Chair of the Christchurch Civic Trust to Bishop Victoria and the Chapter appealing for a stop to the order for demolition.

The advertisement for the protest is quite lurid and bizarre, and in the end unreasonable in its argument:

" People of Christchurch it seems impossible to credit it but you have been completely misled by CERA [authoritative body dealing with buildings and their safety], the Bishop, the newspapers and television stations. The Cathedral does NOT have to be demolished." Yeah, right. All those responsible people and organisation are misleading. Pull the other one, Wiz!

"It is being pulled down by the Anglican Church authorities with the backing of CERA who have given no good reason whatsoever ..." Er, good reasons have been given: it is very badly damaged, it is unsafe to leave up, it is getting worse and worse by the day, it would be unsafe to have workers working in it, the expense of repair and restoration (were it feasible) is beyond the reasonable expectations of the church. Need we go on?

"Unless we stop this spiritual slaughter, the city will never be the same again." Umm, the city is already different and will never be what it was again on 3 September 2010 ... we have had major, destructive earthquakes which have, er, changed things.

"What about the generations of personal memories and the major civic events witnessed there?" Ah, yes, all those somewhat staged and formal services with dignitaries not used to being in church shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, coughing and clearing their throats in the wrong places. Not that I can personally say I will miss those memories as I never went to such a service.

"What about losing the central focus of our tourist industry?" Now here is a very good point. The Cathedral was such a focus (except when the Buskers' Festival was on, the Ellerslie Garden Show happening, the weather hot enough to force people to the beaches or cold enough to spur them to the skifields, the Crusaders or All Blacks were playing, or the daffodils displaying their spring colours in Hagley Park). But why not tell us, dear Wizard, why it is the church's responsibility to consider that factor while also racking its conscience over complicity in 'spiritual slaughter'?

But then, most bizarrely, the nub of the argument being made is that, "We are only asking for a pause so that this vital issue can be decided on calmly before action is taken that can never be undone."

Whatever else has happened in our diocesan leaders making the decision about the Cathedral, they have taken considerable time over the matter, acted with complete calmness, and been crystal clear that to deconstruct a building is a decisive action which cannot be undone.

But here is the thing, our leaders have also been clear that to deconstruct the Cathedral is not to decide what then happens. If we want a restored neo Gothic stone building (to modern safety standards) we can still do that, but (as I understand things) we do need to deconstruct in order to build an edifice that generations to come feel safe to enter. We would also need some cash. Quite a bit in fact.

So should the Wizard read this, here is the protest that might work tomorrow morning: gather together, pass the hat around, come up with $100 million plus, and chant, "Here is the money. Let's restore the icon. Here is the money. Let's restore the icon." I have no idea whether it would lead to the Synod agreeing to rebuilding the Cathedral as the icon it has been, but it would certainly give us 'pause' for thought!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Christchurch Cathedral News

One of the most interesting things about the letter I print below is that it names, I think for the first time, the Acting Dean of the Cathedral following the retirement of the Dean Peter Beck and for the period of searching for the new Dean: congratulations Lynda Patterson!

The following letter was sent out yesterday and has been written in response to some virulent criticism of the cathedral in the pages of the Christchurch Press, and also in comments online about the request of the cathedral to the City Council for an annual grant to assist with the running costs of the cathedral when it is in its new transitional structure (see a post or two below).

Dear Friends,

Recent articles in The Press appear to have caused some misunderstandings about the Transitional Cathedral.

No ratepayers’ money is being sought for building the Transitional Cathedral. The Diocese of Christchurch has approved $4 million from insurance monies. Final detailed costings are being undertaken at the moment, and the build budget will be strictly controlled. The Cathedral is not seeking and will not seek any funding from the Christchurch City Council [CCC] to pay for the building of the Transitional Cathedral.

For the ten year period up to 2011/2012, the Cathedral received CCC funding for two reasons: in acknowledgement of the civic functions, concerts and exhibitions that the Cathedral undertakes (e.g., ANZAC Day Citizen’s Service, Kidsfest, Christchurch Youth Orchestra, Antarctic Festival Service and many others) and for the use of the Cathedral land in the Square for civic events (like welcomes for visiting dignitaries and New Year’s Eve celebrations.) We did not apply for CCC funding in 2011/2012 because the Cathedral was too badly damaged to undertake civic functions and there was no public access to Cathedral land in the square.

We are seeking a CCC Metropolitan grant in 2012/2013 because we anticipate that the Transitional Cathedral will undertake some of the same civic functions as the Cathedral in the Square. In addition we hope it will stimulate tourism, encourage people to return to the central city, and support the rebuild of Christchurch as a whole. The CCC have, of course, every right to turn down the funding application, although we trust that they will judge it on its merits.

Council funding in the past has been on the basis of use of the Cathedral for civic events and public use of Cathedral land only. CCC have never asked for a role in the governance of the building–that remains vested in the Cathedral Chapter, the Standing Committee of the Diocese and CPT as the building’s owners, and it was their duty to make the decision about the future of the building after the CERA S38 notice.

A Transitional Cathedral will not postpone or slow down the building of a cathedral in the Square. It will offer a home, a place of worship and a house of prayer for the Cathedral Community for the next ten years. After this, the building will continue to serve as a home for the parish of St John’s, Latimer Square.

Many in the Diocese and beyond have been married or ordained or installed in the Cathedral. Others have worked for hours to create a floral carpet or have slipped in for a noon Eucharist or simply to pause in the midst of a busy day to remember God’s love and mercy. Every Christmas children would come to place a gift under the Christmas tree and whole classes would sing their song on the chancel steps. There have been concerts and memorial services; civic occasions and times of corporate sorrow and grief when hundreds have gone to the Cathedral for solace. It is with very heavy hearts that we make the decision about lowering the Cathedral walls for the sake of safety. We continue to pray for all who are broken hearted about this decision and look forward to a time when we are able to gather again in the heart of the city.

The Ven. Lynda Patterson,

Acting Dean of the Cathedral

The Rev’d Craig Dixon,

Marketing and Development Manager of the Cathedral

The Rt Rev’d Victoria Matthews,


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some notes on lay presidency v clerical presidency

It has been interesting to follow comments to my post a few days ago drawing attention to a post or two on lay presidency at the Ugley Vicar. I am not particularly persuaded by some comments so here I take the opportunity to share a few thoughts of my own.

(1) The way we order our ministry within different churches is impossible to align precisely with Scripture because Scripture is unclear on the matter of any preferred order for ministry. Just before anyone challenges me on the previous sentence, please be prepared to tell me about how the order of widows works in your church.

(2) Consequently the way we order our ministry is likely to be informed by a mixture of tradition (the way things have been done) and of theology (the way we think things ought to be done in respect of sound theological principles). That tradition may be very longstanding (so Roman, Eastern, Lutheran and Anglican churches) or it may be more recent (so Presbyterian, Pentecostal and Plymouth Brethren), and in all cases (that I am aware of) some connection is made with Scripture as support for the tradition (and some may go so far as to assert a total scriptural justification for the tradition).

(3) Given the sheer longevity of the ordering of ministry involving bishops, presbyters (priests, understood as a synonym for presbyter, being a contraction of that word), and deacons, it is reasonable to argue that this is the preeminent ordering of ministry within the breadth and length of Christianity. By 'preminent' I do not mean that this ordering may not be questioned, have alternatives put up for consideration, nor that it has suffered no variations through the years that might be appropriately revised or renewed (e.g. (and without particularly wanting myself to discuss this matter), it is, as I understand things, something of a travesty of the original establishment of the diaconate that deaconing for some churches is now simply a year or so as an apprentice presbyter). But the fact of the matter is that most Christians through most of time, including our generation, have lived out their corporate experience of Christianity within the ordering of ministry marked by bishops, presbyters and deacons. This should in my view weigh a bit more heavily on the minds of some Protestants than it does. It is also a reason why as a Protestant, evangelical Christian myself, unpersuaded by all the claims of the Bishop of Rome, and suspicious of the cultural and theological bondage of Eastern Christianity to certain points in times past, I find it congenial to remain and, indeed, promote Anglican Christianity.

(4) Consequently the most reasonable starting point for considering the possibility that the eucharist might be presided over by a non-ordered person (i.e. 'lay presidency') is not that the churches have misunderstood the leading of God in the ordering of ministry re the orders of bishop, presbyter and deacon (though some misunderstanding may have crept in, e.g. where celibacy is insisted upon) but that the right and proper enthusiasm of the local church to celebrate the eucharist together weekly might be impeded by a shortage of bishops and presbyters. This indeed, as I understand our own Kiwi Anglican discussions of lay presidency, has been the reasonable starting point.

(5) An adjunct point is that it is somewhat churlish to implicitly if not explicitly criticise desire for weekly communion as a sort of Johnny-come-lately phenomonen driven forward by obsessive 'parish communion' type Anglicans. The desire for weekly remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Lord's day through the sharing in eucharistic celebration is entirely consonant with Scripture. If some Anglicans in some century or another did not have this desire, well, good on them, but that is no basis for not doing our best to ensure the weekly celebration of the eucharist.

(6) So, what to do about a shortage of presbyters and/or bishops? There are, as canvassed below in comments to the previous post on lay presidency, three logical options:
- license lay presidents,
- ordain more priests (and/or bishops, but perhaps all here are united in thinking that fewer rather than more bishops is a good idea!), or
- develop extension of communion from one place with presbyter to another without presbyter.

(7) Speaking to the first option I have generally found in listening in to Anglican conversations about lay presidency that we never talk about an open lay presidency (say, like the Plymouth Brethren) but always about a select lay presidency. That is, we mean that a lay president would be educated, trained, mature, respected by the congregation, enjoying the confidence of diocese and parish. I find it difficult at this point to distinguish the suitably qualified hypothetical Anglican lay president from the real possibility of such a person being ordained to be a presbyter for the congregation concerned.

(8) As Bosco Peters points out, we have a history in Kiwiland of ordaining 'more priests' but sometimes in such a way that some very significant questions are raised about training and education of the 'more priests.' Nevertheless we have experience of some superb 'local priests' being ordained, trained and educated well (which need not mean to a Master's level). My solution to the lack of priests? Ordain more (but train, educate and support them).

(9) Yet a real question will remain for some congregations about where their presbyter would come from because, frankly, that person is not currently in the midst of the congregation. Well, extended communion is a fine option, and which is in various places well used (and, in our church, provided for liturgically in our NZPB).

To sum up: there is, on closer inspection, no need for lay presidency.

That's quite a bold conclusion :)

A few Kiwi/Christchurch notes on the Covenant

With our local diocesan Synod coming up on Saturday this week and a motion on the Covenant, I append here, first the motion as it will be presented at Synod (wording slightly changed by our Resolutions Committee from original wording sent out to Synod members) and a few notes I offer re some issues re the Covenant and our church (its constitution, canons and Standing Resolutions) - some of which respond to a correspondent's question/observation about the virtual lack of formal, verbal recognition in our constitution and canons of the Instruments of Unity and the Anglican Consultative Council.

The motion
That this Synod:

1 Affirms the Anglican Communion Covenant in principle

2 Supports the adoption of sections 1 to 3

3 Supports in principle the adoption of section 4.

My notes

It may be useful to clarify (or attempt to clarify) some aspects of the possible permutations in the debate over the Covenant, if only to avoid - if possible - sidetracks which waste the precious minutes of Synod on a very full day.
(1) It has been pointed out that the Covenant comes into effect as two or more member churches adopt the Covenant. I suggest however that the Covenant is not of much effectiveness in the deepening unity of the Communion if most of the churches do not sign up.

(2) It is no doubt embarrassing for the C of E and for the ABC if most churches do sign the Covenant and the C of E has not signed. But, as I understand the situation in respect of the membership of ACC by the ABC, the lack of the C of E signing makes no difference to the role of the ABC in the administration of the Covenant by the Standing Committee of the Communion, or to the role of the ABC in meetings of the Primates, the ACC and of Lambeth.

(3) It is the case that our church only mentions the ABC in one place in its constitution and canons, and makes no mention of the other Instruments of Unity, but it is not the case that our church has no history of involvement in and respect for the Instruments of Unity, nor that it is without right as it governs its life through General Synod to elect representatives to attend meetings of the ACC. The fact of continuing elections for such representatives demonstrates that we do not need a canon to tell us to so elect and thus implies we do not pass unnecessary laws! De facto our church recognises with respect the Instruments of Unity even if it does not acknowledgement any authority of the Instruments (especially and notably the instance when the Primates Meeting questioned our new constitutional arrangements in the 1990s).

(4) All involvement in the Communion and, I suggest, the possibility of engagement with the Covenant is consistent with the following statement in the Constitution: " AND WHEREAS (18) this Church is part of and belongs to the Anglican Communion, which is a fellowship of duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces or Regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, sharing with one another their life and mission in the spirit of mutual responsibility and interdependence;"

(5) My next point could indeed be debated on the floor of Synod but I suggest that the Covenant is primarily about the conduct of our relationships with other member churches of the Communion and not about how we do our work of mission and ministry. Thus the adoption of the Covenant by our General Synod does not need prior formal recognition of the Instruments of Unity (which, in any case, can be given within legislation which expresses our adoption). Adoption of the Covenant on this logic would not be about our church genuflecting to a new set of authorities hitherto unmentioned in our constitution or canons (save for the See of Canterbury) but about our church recognising that we might one day be called to account for some course of action by the Instruments of Unity, a recognition which would be consistent with the statement cited above, "sharing with one another their life and mission in the spirit of mutual responsibility and interdependence."
(6) Incidentally, in my perambulations through the constitution and canons I have come across the following Standing Resolutions: " ECUMENICAL RELATIONSHIPS SRER SRER1. THE COVENANT (SR24) That the Church of the Province of New Zealand do enter into the Covenant between the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand, the Church of the Province of New Zealand, the Congregational Union of New Zealand, the Methodist Church of New Zealand and the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand as contained in the 12th Report of the Joint Commission on Church Union. [1980] SRER 2. AGREEMENT TO COOPERATE WITH OTHER CHRISTIAN CHURCHES (SR25) ..." We might also mention the recent Anglican-Methodist Covenant in this country! Might I humbly suggest that we do not waste time saying that the Covenant is "unAnglican", lest we spend time in a sidetrack about our own history as a covenanting Anglican church!?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Holy Alliance

To the locals of the Christchurch Diocese a proposal, say, on the 3rd September 2010 for the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral and Parish of St John's Latimer Square to co-share a site together, would have been met with stares of incomprehension, along with some pastoral concern for the mental well being of the proposer. This concern and incomprehension would have arisen because of perceptions and convictions that each stood for highly different versions of what being Anglican means: to invoke labels, one for Reformed Protestant low church Anglicanism and one for liberal Catholic high church Anglicanism. But today at 1 pm it has been announced that the vacant (after all property was demolished) St John's site on the corner of Madras and Hereford Streets will house the transitional "cardboard" cathedral for as long as it takes to build a new cathedral. It is the closest piece of 'spare' church land to the site of the permanent cathedral in the Square. The transitional cathedral is expected to be up and running by Christmas 2012.

What has made the difference since 3 September 2010? In one word, earthquakes. St John's has become an empty site with flexibility as to what is built there. The cathedral is irreparably damaged. The worshipping congregations of St John's are happily settled into alternative worship spaces; the congregations of the cathedral have been hosted generously in the chapel at Christ's College but such arrangement has always been provisional. Going forward both ministry units will have their administration on a shared site but likely the congregations of the cathedral only will worship in the new building which, eventually, will become the parish's worship centre (or one of them) when the new permanent cathedral is opened.

I congratulate all concerned who have negotiated the agreement which has led to this announcement.

Here are some artistic impressions of the new transitional cathedral

I like the light :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lay presidency rears its Ugley head

I noticed a few days ago that John Richardson has posted on Lay Presidency at The Ugley Vicar. The actual heading for the post is "Could lay celebration renew the Church of England?" I find it intriguing to think that lay presidency at the eucharist could be key to this renewal. To my mind other possibilities are worth exploring, including a new baptism of the church by the Holy Spirit. Anyway before I have found time from my busy life worshipping here and there to post about it, others have noticed this rearing of lay presidency, including a local colleague, Ron Smith, and an international colleague, Fr. Jonathan.

I myself once thought a bit about lay presidency, though not as I recall with any particular conviction in favour of it (and before anyone rises up to name Sydneyist tendencies in my own self, might I remind local readers here that the Diocese of Christchurch in the past (the 1980s as I recall) had a reasonably serious look at lay presidency as it grappled with a shortage of priests in rural areas of the diocese).

But in this week of preparing for our diocese's consideration of the Covenant, I am pleased that John Richardson has raised the matter. It is a salutary reminder that Anglicanism always contains the DNA of catholicity and of reform, so it maintains the tradition of ministry orders and questions them at the same time, thus invoking the need for contemporary statements of what being Anglican means and thus also statements which help us to know how to recognise Anglican life and to distinguish it from non- or un-Anglican life. Save for a considerable round of global Anglican discussion, of meetings to confirm such direction, and of a period of reception, lay presidency embraced by the village of Ugley or the Diocese of Sydney or the Province of Wherever could never claim to be Anglican.

Whatever lay presidency might renew in Church of England, it would not be its Anglican character!

For a useful antidote to a (bifurcating) ecclesiology which opposes the Covenant, read Stephen Kuhrt at Fulcrum.

Worship at new cathedral in Christchurch

Last night I went for my first service at the new cathedral in Christchurch. Its opening has escaped public debate in the Press because it is cunningly not called a 'cathedral' but a 'stadium'. But it is big and airy like a cathedral, with seating for a big crowd, and the lights of the world shone strongly so all the liturgists as well as the congregation could see what was happening.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the occasion was the sermon. It was preached by a new preacher, Tom Taylor, who made 31 points in all. Of course, normally that is too many points for a sermon, but last night they went down very well, especially since the visiting preachers could only make 24 points in response.

Another point of interest is that the congregation at this cathedral have been used to preachers who have been to the right theological college, Christchurch Boys High School, but Taylor was educated at Burnside High School, as were the two halfbacks, Ellis and Heinz who passed brilliantly all night.

Anyway it was a lovely experience, apart from the young people in the row in front of us who should have been out in Sunday School instead of getting up every two minutes to go to buy a bottle of beer, then three minutes later go to the toilet. Where were their parents?

The cathedral's magazine report of the occasion is here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

News from America and news from Australia

Just posted on Preludium is an article on three proposals re the Covenant which will go to TEC's July General Convention. The newest of these proposals would see TEC all but commit to adopting the Covenant, and is masterfully set out as a series of resolutions which refer to the detail of the Covenant. I shall study this carefully with a view to firming up my mover's speech for our Christchurch motion (which, by the way, is ever so slightly changed by our Resolutions Committee, as Synod members will find in the next mailout re Synod).

Posted on the Bible Society of Australia's site is an article about, "A “protocol” passed by the Australian Anglican Bishops reaffirms policies against gay priests and bishops passed by earlier Anglican meetings." This is worth a read, if only to keep in touch with what our Anglican brothers and sisters are determining on their side of the Tasman. As far as I can tell (and recall), what the bishops there have reaffirmed is pretty similar to what our bishops (over the past few decades) have affirmed, veered from in some cases, and returned to by way of a current "moratorium" which is under pressure in various ways at this time. (That "pressure" may or may not come up at our GS in Fiji in July. There was a flurry of excitement last year, and notice given on forming a commission of eminent persons, but, so far this year, that commission has not yet been announced, so I am confused about exactly where things are at).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's coming, next Tuesday, on Prime TV

I have watched snippets of Rev on YouTube and thought it brilliant comedy. But would it come to secular NZ? Probably not. No, wait, it is coming. I saw it advertised on Prime TV last night, for a start Tuesday 17 April. So hurry home from your Tuesday night meetings and sit down to laugh out loud at the foibles of Anglicanism and its splendid clergy :)

With apologies to all archdeacons who count themselves as my friends, and to all archdeacons who do not feel friendly towards me, here is a clip I have particularly enjoyed ...

... mind you I have never personally met such an archdiaconal figure as the one portrayed here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why bother with second fiddle when first pays better?

There is a most unfortunate myth in the Anglican Communion that the top job is the position of Archbishop of Canterbury (even though, we hasten to add, this is not an equivalent job to that of the Pope and nothing will change about that even if the Anglican Covenant is passed). No, the top job lies across the briny sea, in New York. And, as you can see from our intrepid reporter David Virtue, who conveys the report of another journalist, the top job pays rather better than a humble clergyperson anywhere else in the world is paid. I am prepared to bet my last sovereign and nickel that it pays better than the ABC's job.

All to play for in Christchurch Covenant debate

I was reading an article yesterday about the differences between US and Kiwi political life, in connection with a book published by an academic for whom the key summary words are, respectively, freedom and fairness. In the spirit of that Kiwi fairness, to readers here who are also members of the Christchurch synod which will engage in debate on the Covenant on 21 April I note that I have been given to understand that some interesting re-thinking about the Covenant is emerging within Tikanga Maori. That is to say, I would not take it for granted that Tikanga Maori will vote against the Covenant at General Synod in July 2012. [POSTSCRIPT: a commenter in the comments below makes it clear that Te Runanganui has mandated that the vote at GS shall be 'No'. So while some Maori are rethinking that makes no difference at this time to the decision made].

In the last few days I have also come across some interesting views on the governance and organisation of the Anglican Communion espoused by one of our bishops. I wonder if readers can guess which of our bishops has written this:

"It is the duty of all loving members of the Church to submit their own private opinion, in matters indifferent, to the judgement of their brethren ... There need be no servile uniformity, if there be but a recognised authority, which all are willing to obey. The scouts of an army may push on in front, but they must obey the signal of recall when they advance too far. The whole of our Church is interested in obtaining this happy combination of elastic freedom from efficient control. ...

May we not hope that some central authority, elected and obeyed by every member of the whole Anglican communion, may be appointed to exercise this power of controlling inordinate self-will, and zeal not tempered with discretion: saying to the too hasty minds, who claim as lawful, things which are not expedient, 'Thus far thou shalt go, and no further?' "

Unfortunately this particular bishop is not a member of the Christchurch synod and I will not be able to call on him to speak for the Covenant.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Growing the church

If Easter Monday is not a time to reflect on church growth then I do not know what is a better time! Having preached yesterday on the resurrection as vindication and victory, drawing attention to the resurrection as an invitation to personal participation in the life of the risen Jesus as well as to the public fact of the resurrection as an event in history, this good news just has to be fruitful news. What is not to like about joining Jesus' merry band of Christians, full of life and hope?

In reality, life is not even across all our ministry units. Some see this fruitfulness developing in front of them; others can only look back to a golden era in the past while the present is a discouraging decline in numbers and increase in congregational age. Andrew Brown, Guardian journalist, picks up some thinking on this in the midst of an article about the C of E needing a rebirth:

"But [+Justin, Bishop of Durham] Welby's experience of the outside world before his training is typical. So is his pragmatism about church growth. Although he is generally reckoned to be an evangelical, he doesn't believe that it follows from any particular theology. The idea that strict churches grow while liberal ones decline isn't borne out by the facts: "Church growth is about doing standard things well – funerals, baptisms, weddings: making sure you're welcoming and tolerably warm and the sermons are worth listening to."

These seem quite simple things. But in practice, they can be very hard. Jessica Martin is a former English don at Cambridge, who left that job two years ago to become the priest of three small villages south of the city.

"I don't feel that what I am doing at the moment is actually managing decline at all. What we're experiencing is modest growth."

She talks about a pattern in which the decline is still happening among older people, who grew up with Christianity and are now dying off. "I feel we might be in a sort of transitional point."

The growth is coming among families: "Getting your children baptised is how the overwhelming majority come." But these new members have grown up away from Christianity and the language and traditions of the church. Pretty fundamental Christian concepts, such as sin, just don't make sense to them any more. "I find families very ignorant and very responsive, and happy to come to stuff that they feel they might have some chance of following."

The problem, she says, is finding ways of reaching half-believers. "The cultural assumptions of the people under 40 who I meet are just totally different, and the habits of being that the church both assumes and inculcates are new. When people are confirmed as adults, a lot of them have problems with penitence; they say: 'But I have always been a good person!'"

Yet the church remains attractive in her villages partly for reasons that have nothing to do with theology, she says: "I encounter quite often in the people who do flirt with church a quite explicit desire for physical community: an anxious sense that people need to get together and do stuff in the same place and time." "
Within this citation, these words stand out, part quote from Welby, part comment from Brown:

""Church growth is about doing standard things well – funerals, baptisms, weddings: making sure you're welcoming and tolerably warm and the sermons are worth listening to." These seem quite simple things. But in practice, they can be very hard."
In my experience, limited as it is, I agree with Bishop Welby that church growth is about doing the standard things well. In NZ that might mean less emphasis on funerals, weddings and baptisms as 'the standard things' (we have less of them these days than the C of E appears to have) and more on Sunday services, Mainly Music mid-week programmes, connecting with local schools through Bible in Schools and the like. I concur with Andrew Brown that these seem quite simple things but in practice they can be very hard. Take just one matter, doing Sunday services well.

Reimmersed in parish practice as I am at the moment as part-time, interim priest-in-charge of a parish is a reminder that the every Sunday thing we do, services of worship, are complex realities involving varieties of people, gifts, contexts, possibilities (drama, children's talk, special musical item), expectations, habits, traditions, bits of paper (or slides on a screen or both), equipment (which may malfunction or mishandled) and supplies (wafers and wine, laundered linen), to say nothing of choices re collects, readings, which reading to emphasise in sermon, what to pray for, songs and hymns. Is there going to be fairtrade tea and coffee for morning tea? Chocolate biscuits or plain? In the midst of all that complexity is the question of the sermon! How to preach the gospel truthfully, enthusiastically, and to a consistently high standard of clear, accessible, disciplined communication?

In practice, it is indeed hard to get worship services working in such a way that they contribute to church growth (e.g. because they have a consistent quality which emboldens people to invite friends and new neighbours to them, or simply because when people search for a new church, they like what they find at our church). Anecdotally I know that for some vicars it takes years, not weeks, to evolve their services from what they inherit on the day of their induction to the point where numbers attending increase rather than decline. Incidentally, the evolution of services in respect of doing them "well" is not only about improving what may not be going well, but also adapting what we have become used to doing to a changing context.*

The encouragement within Andrew Brown's article is that there is evidence that the church grows when it does the standard things well. The challenge for the Anglican churches around the world, and right here in the Diocese in which I serve, is to do the standard things well in all our parishes all the time.

(*In my experience some of our parishes with declining-and-aging congregations offer worship services of a high standard, but it is the high standard of the 1970s or the 1990s, and not of the 2010s. Thus locked in a time warp, they find younger people do not join in. One of the greatest challenges in parish ministry is transforming an aging congregation with few or no members under the age of 50 (or even 60!)).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trouble at mill?

You can tell something is on someone's mind when they speak about it. It is especially telling when a person in authority makes reference to challenges to that authority. It shows that some special anxiety is at work. The more so, I suggest, when it is referenced in an occasion which is otherwise given over to traditional reflections in keeping with the season.

"Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?"
That is none other than Pope Benedict XVI speaking two days ago at this year's papal Chrism Mass.
Benedict's whole response to this particular challenge is steady, theological (asking whether it is 'configuration to Christ' or not) and pastoral (he has got to keep the global Catholic church together).

But what is he going to do if these several hundred European priests become several thousand European, British and American priests? Imagine if some Kiwi priests join in? (Here's a fact: talk to Kiwi Catholic priests in NZ about the ordination of women and you will find a lot in favour).

This is an interesting time for the Romans: on the one hand offering the Anglican Ordinariate, reasserting the importance of the Latin Mass, tightening up on this and that which flowed from the loosening up which as Vatican II; on the other hand facing a liberalising movement which could get out of hand in which shibboleths are challenged. Dare the Pope call rebellion the many Catholics throughout the world who ignore Humanae Vitae? Is it really 'rebellion' to follow a common sense understanding of the possibilities of modern life, whether it is utilising artifical contraception to enhance family life or seriously considering whether women might be priests?

Rome's challenge through the next pope or three will be facing the facts on the development of human life through the last century. A new fullness of humanity is being enjoyed by women, as educated, emancipated, empowered persons. If this is faced up to in a theological manner, that is accepting that these developments are a 'configuration' to Genesis 1 and 2, and Galatians 3:28, a configuration to our imaging of God and to our redemption by Christ as male and female, then change might occur. A key theological shift would be to move away from the priest as the icon of Christ's gender to the priest as the icon of Christ's humanity. Underlying this shift would be a (perhaps somewhat Anglican) emphasis on the incarnation: the Word became flesh, not the Word became male.

Otherwise it is going to be 'trouble at mill' for Rome. I expect change, but not necessarily in my lifetime.

In other news, some poor arguments against the ordination of women to positions of authority continue from Protestant pens. Here is Cranmer's Curate:

"It was precisely to counter spiritual disorder in the early Church that much of the New Testament was penned. Important New Testament epistles such as 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, the Johannine letters, Jude and the Revelation to John were written against the background of local churches facing serious theological threats.

The two Pauline epistles where the Apostle to the Gentiles directly asserts the requirement for male headship in the ordering of the Church – 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy – were written to counter serious disorder in the congregations at Corinth and Ephesus.

Even those NT documents apparently not occasioned by a particular theological crisis, such as St Paul's epistle to the Romans, certainly contain warnings against false teaching and ungodly behaviour.

Various New Testament churches, within a few years of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, had got themselves into a mess and needed sorting out. Hence the exalted Christ sent forth his divinely inspired Word to bring order to the unruly seas of ecclesiastical chaos.

Furthermore, in his providential and sovereign wisdom the reigning Christ ensured that these authoritative Holy Scriptures would be preserved for coming generations of Christians in order to remedy future disorder in his Church."
This approach is seriously interesting inasmuch as it begs a question or two about why God let the church which began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit grow into such disorder without prior written instructions to signal the order that was meant to have been followed, to say nothing of the question of whether a response to the unruly seas of Ephesian and Corinthian church life was intended to forbid women ever leading a church in any situation, including one in which there is neither chaos nor disorder.

I suggest another explanation is better: God cares for the order of the church but does not care particularly which order is followed. In all discussions of church order in the New Testament we do well to observe that no one order is set down which is to be followed by all in all situations. Bishops, elders, deacons, ministers, co-workers are all mentioned but never in a definitive 'this is how the church offices are to be ordered for all time' manner. The greatest detail in 1 Timothy about the ordering of ministry and church life concerns widows. Twenty centuries later, I know of no church which follows this order!

The early church was a church propelled by the Spirit which fuelled it into life at the first Pentecost. Carried along in the Spirit the church was led by the apostles (for the obvious reason that they were the people closest to Jesus and commissioned by him to continue his work) and thereafter made things up as it went along according to the challenges it faced (table ministers in Acts 6, men and women leading churches in Romans 16, women being prohibited from usurping authority in 1 Timothy 2), though it always responded with responsible theology, anchoring its responses into its knowledge of God, of the Spirit, of Christ, of the church as the body of Christ in which varieties of gifts and ministries are to be found, and of the need for good order and sound teaching.

What Cranmer's Curates approach in the post I cite from above, and what Benedict XVI's chrism sermon are not reckoning with is the possibility that women might serve in the church of God in a manner in keeping with its order rather than in a way which promotes disorder and rebellion.

It is not reasonable to suppose that the likes of Phoebe and Priscilla were contributors to disorder in the churches they were part of and it is incredible to suppose that they needed prohibitions to govern their roles in authoritative leadership and teaching. We may properly suppose that their ministries as leaders in the church were a 'configuration to Christ'.

At this Eastertide it may be especially useful to consider the rationality (i.e. logic) of the resurrection: in Christ everything is made new, including divided and hostile humanity being made into a new society (Ephesians 2), so our reasoning about what constitutes order in the new order of the resurrection now allows for the fullness of our renewed humanity to be represented in the life of the church. In Christ there is neither male nor female is not just a baptismal formula affirming that all are redeemed through the cross of Christ. It is a ministry formula affirming that in Christ there is a new humanity in which old distinctions between men and women in respect of ministry roles have passed away (see further via link a lovely essay by Benjamin Myers). That they were reinvoked in 1 Timothy shows how seriously stormy the ecclesiastical seas had become in Ephesus, but that reinvocation tell us nothing about the ordering of ministry when the seas are calm. The letter to the Ephesians tells us nothing about gender in ministry, presumably because it was written after the storms had abated or before they arose.

In short, Benedict XVI's problem on Maundy Thursday is resolved on Easter Day and Cranmer's Curate's theology is challenged on that same day.

These are not idle ramblings at this season (though I acknowledge they may appear to be so). When we consider the cross and the resurrection we must do so precisely in relation to the world as we find it today: Jesus died for it and lives for it as much as for the world in AD 33 or 1533. Do we have within Christianity a coherent message for humanity as 21st century humanity or not? If we are, in part or in whole suffering from incoherency, then there may be no part more so than the Anglican churches individually and collectivised into the Anglican Communion (see further an essay by John Milbank which repays very careful reading).

Those Austrian priests challenging Rome are an intriguing part of a great convulsion going on within world Christianity. In 2012 we may be as close to the epitome of that convulsion as Christians were in 1512 to the epitome of the Reformation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday and Holy Saturday

A final song for the week, Once Again, by Matt Redman


Jesus Christ, I think upon Your sacrifice

You became nothing, poured out to death

Many times I've wondered at Your gift of life

And I'm in that place once again

I'm in that place once again

And once again I look upon the cross where You died

I'm humbled by Your mercy and I'm broken inside

Once again I thank You

Once again I pour out my life

Now You are exalted to the highest place

King of the heavens, where one day I'll bow

But for now, I marvel at Your saving grace

And I'm full of praise once again

I'm full of praise once again

Thank You for the cross

Thank You for the cross

Thank You for the cross, my Friend

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday in Holy Week

How Wonderful How Marvellous (lyrics by Chris Tomlin) - several versions to listen to ... a bit of classic country, Welsh congregational, Jason Eaton, and this brass band!

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,

And wonder how He could love me,

A sinner, condemned, unclean.


O how marvelous! O how wonderful!

And my song shall ever be:

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!

Is my Savior's love for me!

He took my sins and my sorrows,

He made them His very own;

He bore the burden to Calvary,

And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory

His face I at last shall see,

’Twill be my joy through the ages

To sing of His love for me.

A few bonus tracks: Let's Go Down to the River to Pray, How Great is our God, I could sing of your love forever.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday in Holy Week

Thank you for the cross Lord / Worthy is the Lamb by Darlene Zschech

Thank you for the cross Lord
Thank you for the price You paid

Bearing all my sin and shame

In love You came

And gave amazing grace

Thank you for this love Lord

Thank you for the nail pierced hands

Washed me in Your cleansing flow

Now all I know
Your forgiveness and embrace


Worthy is the Lamb

Seated on the throne

Crown You now with many crowns

You reign victorious

High and lifted up

Jesus Son of God

The Darling of Heaven crucified [or: The Treasure of Heaven crucified]

Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb


Worthy is the Lamb

Worthy is the Lamb

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week (with note about Chch cathedral)

Never let it be said that ADU is not catholic ... at least in taste: Tommy Tallis zooms into Holy Week favour with this song

Spem in alium

Spem in alium nunquam habui
praeter in te, Deus Israel,

qui irasceris et propitius eris,

et omnia peccata hominum

in tribulatione dimittis.

Domine Deus, creator caeli et terrae

respice humilitatem nostram.


My hope have I never put in any

but in you, God of Israel,

who will be angry and again be gracious,

and who forgives all the sins of humanity

in their time of trial.

Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth,

have regard for our lowliness.

Thomas Tallis (1505-85)
As well, I note here a very heartening initiative from Christchurch church leaders who have written and signed a letter of unified support for Bishop Victoria Matthews in respect of the controversy here about our decision to deconstruct our cathedral.