Thursday, May 31, 2012

Round Up

In NZ we have a weedkiller called Round Up. So in this brief 'round up' you can work out whether it is just a round up of items or a few weeds (i.e. weedy arguments and ideas) that are being dealt to (with thanks to correspondent who alerted me to a couple of items).

Bob Dylan masquerading as a NT academic

Ploughing a farrow in the debate about marriage (warning: quite a lot to consider here as many stones are turned over)

The future of the cathedral in Christchurch may turn on an international tour of inspiring cathedrals and other churches: can weedy ideas about restoring the unrestorable be dealt to?

Meanwhile diocesan duties and deadlines down weigh upon me!

UPDATE: Am keeping an eye on the blogging from the Cathedral tour ... I cannot see any yet (lunch-time 4 June 2012), but I had not noticed before this PDF setting out where the tour is going. I must say that I see some designs there as more inspiring than others; and some as more stark than others. In the end, I think we are going to need a cathedral with the 'warmth' that the present one has. A cathedral with some of the 'old world charm' of Neo Gothic allied with lots of light (a sign of the South Pacific) and features which anchor our new cathedral into its South Pacific cultural, historical, theological and geographical heritage.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Of diocesan duties, deadlines, and disagreements

Light posting over the next two weeks. Diocesan duties must be fulfilled. Certain deadlines re funding applications are fast approaching.

We are in the midst of another swarm of earthquakes, though nothing higher than 5.2.

Question on my mind: how do we Anglicans live with, through and beyond our disagreements?

To observe some reactions (e.g. Andrew Brown) to the bishops of the Church of England doing their best to retain disagreements within the one church, one might have thought some great change to catholic doctrine had been proposed, such as a change to the understanding of marriage, or the loosening of commitment to creedal beliefs such as the incarnation, atonement or resurrection, or, indeed, a lessening of desire to be one church holding as many people as possible within it. To say nothing of the novelty of introducing an Anglican Covenant. Forfend that such novelties should be introduced to the Church of We Have Never Done It That Way Before. (Or is it the Church of We Believe In Bishops Except When They Decide To Do Something We Do Not Agree With? I am confused).

Can we Anglicans ever find a way to agree on how we handle our disagreements?

On that little conundrum I leave you. I shall try to post any comments solving it as often as I can!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost 2012

Some random thoughts about Pentecost on the eve of Pentecost

Reading Acts 2 again, I have been struck by the way in which the story is about speaking. The Spirit comes and people speak: pray, praise, proclaim the gospel. What is a sign of the Spirit at work in our lives? Our speech!

In some recent discussions about liturgy which, in a sense, have been about lively and living liturgy (how to have it?) rather than liturgy that feels just a little bit on the dull side, my mind keeps returning to the 1970s and early to mid 1980s. Wasn't one spontaneous effect of the charismatic movement in those days, lively liturgy. We used the prayer book (viz "1970 Liturgy") because we didn't have any idea that we didn't have to use it, and when we sang we had lively songs which seemed, well, livelier than now (when, do not get me wrong, we have wonderful songs). At any moment singing in tongues might break out or a word of prophecy. The Spirit seemed to move among congregations in ways that doesn't seem to happen now. It is the Spirit's complete and absolute right to move or not to move. But I think it is our right to say, "Come back!"

Or am I being just nostalgic and remembering a few wonderful but rare moments in years otherwise, mutatis mutandis, no different to church life today?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Progressing Christchurch Cathedral Via Social Media

Our cathedral, whether we are talking about any of the three versions of it, is developing its profile via social media. Just in the past two days I have twice heard mention of the cathedral having a blog. I have discovered it and you can follow it here. A couple of posts are here and here.

I understand that there is going to be some frequent updating of the blog posts in the near future.

"Three versions of the cathedral?," you ask.

The damaged one (which is bound to be even weaker today after a 5.2 quake), the transitional one (a.k.a cardboard cathedral), and the future one.

UPDATE (Saturday 26 May) Some good news from the Press about the cathedral situation

To read the Press over the last few months has been to read about a situation which sounds like there is a damaged but easily restorable cathedral, which restoration is both affordable (just $20 million!) and enthusiastically wanted by the majority of Cantabrians, with the only thing standing in the way of the restoration being one dogmatic bishop. The reality has been and is different: a very badly damaged cathedral which is only restorable as a replica building after deconstruction to safe levels, at a huge cost (say $50+ million above insurance proceeds), for which only a few people have actually committed themselves to give towards, with no clear sense of how much popular support lies behind the heated (and sometimes venomous) controversy, with the decision to deconstruct being made by corporate bodies of the church rather than the Bishop alone, and endorsed by the whole Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch. The Press, in my view, in the way it has cast its headlines, framed its articles, chosen its photographs, printed a terrible advertisement from the Wizard, and allowed letters supporting restoration which are over its normal word limit, has flamed the controversy rather than reported the reality in its bare and tragic detail. The cathedral is munted. Quakes did it. Time to grieve, then move on to a new, affordable, quake-safe, inspiring cathedral.

Today the Press prints some good news about that reality: Cantabrians, the ordinary people of Canterbury without famous names and profiles and first Four Ships ancestry, get it. A majority, 54%, in a survey think the cathedral should be demolished. Only 42% think it should be saved.  See comments here.They are also financially canny: they know that restoration will be way more expensive than a new build and worry the extra cost will be an add on to their rates and taxes. Go Red and Black!

Cleaning up the liturgical mess

A couple of posts ago I set out what I would do if I were the czar of liturgy in our church. Memo to self: you are not the czar. What then might we propose to General Synod as a corporate body to consider doing as a reaonable, modest and achievable possibility, given the messiness of decision-making which always accompanies corporate actions of such diverse bodies (unless voting for apple pie and motherhood)?

In point of fact, General Synod this July should have a proposal before it, from the Diocese of Christchurch, which it could take up as something not far removed from apple pie and motherhood, that is, a motion for GS to set in train a review of our liturgical regulations with a view to simplifying them and making them clearer for the liturgical ministers of our church. (In my experience the easiest decision for a synod to make is to not make a decision by calling for a review instead!

So what follows are some thoughts towards such a review taking place.

(1) We should take a big picture look at what kind of regime we want in place about liturgical rules. It is easy to under prescribe and to over prescribe. Generally speaking I vote for minimal prescription. The DNA of Christianity is freedom from rules while not being licentious in behaviour. Our liturgical life needs to know when it is being licentious, but does not need prescription for every eventuality. One question I am raising in this series of posts is whether we have unintentionally become over prescriptive with the decisions we have made since the publication of the 1989 prayer book (NZPB).

(2) We need to hold together two identities, Christian and Anglican. Great liturgy is not Anglican per se, but Christian, sitting within and flowing with the great liturgical tradition of global, historic Christianity. Yet we are an Anglican church with some distinctives, shaped by our English heritage and by the imprint of the Reformation, and our liturgies should give expression to those distinctives. It is my view that with our two prayer books, BCP and NZPB, we have both those identities covered, embedded down in our formularies. So a question I have is what in past twenty years or so has changed to either Christianity or Anglicanism which warrants further material being embedded down into the formularies as compared with material which is allowed for legal use?

(3) We need liturgical material which is accessible in ordinary parish life without being impractical. NZPB is a handy sized volume of material as it is. But if we published in one book all the authorised material from the years 1990 to date, would we have a handy sized book or un unweildy tome? If the answer is the latter then I think we need to take stock of what we have done!

All in all, I wonder if we should follow up a review with the following revision:

At the level of formularies we only have BCP and NZPB.

Everything else we have approved for use over the years (albeit with a little trimming like dispensing with the Template) sits in a category "approved for use", made available for downloading via the internet.

In short, we would have just two categories of material, formularies and approved for use, with the twist that we say to ourselves "and that's it for a long time to come because we have more than enough material on our books."

What about the bits and pieces of parish life where we want to dosomething and do not see where the formulary or approved for use service exists for it? Blessing a new columbarium or celebrating a new drum-kit ... that sort of thing! At some point we need to trust each other to live up to our Anglican character and identity within a clear sense of what being Christian means.

Funnily enough, this morning on Titus One Nine I came across the following words by John Paul II, from an apostolic constitution on education called Ex Corde Ecclesiae:

"“Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected. Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”"

With a little translation into Kiwi Anglican speak, this could be:

"Anglican teaching and discipline are to influence all liturgical activities, while the freedom of conscience of each liturgical minister is to be full respected. Any public service of worship of the parish or school or other ministry unit is to be in accord with its Anglican identity."

What could possibly go wrong if we lived liturgically by that?

 I suspect I have written some contestable things above ...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is General Synod messing with our liturgical heads?

The question of what we may, must, or may not use in worship as licensed clergy of the church in these islands is not a debate between liturgical theoreticians who are looking for something more abstract to get their teeth into than how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Our church has canons pertaining to the ordering of worship and to the maintenance of standards of ministry by its licensed officers. Infringement of those canons makes licensed ministers liable for discipline, the consequences of which can be quite serious if one were to lose one's position as a result.

Of special relevance to the question of what services of worship clergy may, must or may not lead are the following sections in our regulation on ministry standards (Title D). Bear with me. Especially if you want to avoid the tribunal!

Title D Canon 1 Section A Subsection 4 (hereafter such references will be styled 'D.1.A.4') says this:

It is the responsibility of Ordained Ministers to lead God’s people in praise and thanksgiving to God, to ensure reverent, regular and carefully prepared divine service using the forms authorised by this Church."
Then D.1.A.11.4 reinforces the point:
"11.4 Use duly authorised forms of public worship;"
If things are not clear by now, then Title D spells out offences for which one may be disciplined. Most clergy I know manage successfully to avoid offences such as adultery, drug-taking and abusing our spouses and children. It is not clear to me however that we successfully manage to avoid tripping up here at D.1.C2.3.4:
"3.4 Refusal or neglect by an Ordained Minister to use either A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa or The Book of Common Prayer 1662 (as modified by the General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui under authority of the Constitution / te Pouhere) or any other services as are duly authorised by the Canons of this Church in the public services of this Church or to administer the sacraments in such order and form as are set forth in the said Books or other authorised services; or to use on any occasion in public Ministry except so far as shall be otherwise ordered by lawful authority the orders and forms of common prayer or such rites and ceremonies as are mentioned and set forth in the said Books or in other authorised services and therein directed to be used for such purpose on such occasion."

All of this liturgical discipline is set in train by the declarations we make when we receive our licences, the wording for which re liturgy is specified as:

"In public prayer and administration of the sacraments I will use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by lawful authority." (from Title A Canon 2).
That is, licensed clergypersons vow that they will use certain forms of service and not use other forms.* Given that these forms include two accessible prayer books (BCP, NZPB), various other services accessible from our church's website, and that within these services considerable flexibility is permitted, it would be quite a legal feat for anyone to successfully complain about a clergyperson failing to fulfil his or her vow in respect of liturgy to the point where a tribunal found against the clergyperson. Nevertheless some of us would prefer not to run the risk of a successful complaint, so seek to be liturgically law-abiding; and all of us want to honour and respect our bishops as a matter of personal integrity and our vows of canonical obedience are to them personally as our ecclesial superiors, as much as to General Synod as a somewhat impersonal corporate body.
But the observation above re two prayer books, many other forms of worship, and quite a lot of flexibility implies that we have allowed ourselves, via General Synod, to grow our collection of authorised forms of worship (to say nothing of forms which have been received, reported and even approved (should this be something different to "authorised") to a point where far from it being helpful to have lots of material available to us it is now unhelpful.

If I want to plan and perform liturgy faithfully, in accordance with the discipline of the church and in fulfilment of my vows, it is messing with my head to offer as many options as we currently have (and more are in the GS pipeline).

Further, if part of the point of Anglican liturgical life is that we pray in common as the continuing people of the Book of Common Prayer, then there is nothing 'common' about the worship of the church of a thousand options.

My final grizzle (for today). 'Common worship' in Anglican terms is the worship we have agreed across our diversity is common to us, accessible to both evangelical, broad and anglo-catholic contexts of our life. Our current processes of developing our liturgical life are geared to the commonality we share across three tikanga. That is good. But when it leads to 'authorised forms of worship', let alone material which is incorporated into our formularies (that is, the deepest level of embedding our written worship as expressing our doctrine), I think we need a different process to ensure that the breadth of Anglican theology is written into our liturgies. In my understanding we do not have that at this time.

General Synod: you mean well with all you set out to do liturgically, but I think you have agreed to too many things through the past couple of decades and are now messing with our liturgical heads.

My next post will offer the Czar's recipe for de-messification of the situation.

*What are those forms?

Recently a convenient listing was posted on our church's website (here) but also it can now be obtained @Liturgy (here or here). But Bosco Peters' has pointed out that this list for our guidance omits all reference to the Book of Common Prayer which is, as the citation above makes clear, an authorised prayer book (albeit with a few modifications) of our church. Further, this list has a major flaw when it gathers up into one section resources which have been "received by/approved by/reported to the General Synod". Our discipline is about authorised services and allowed by lawful authority services, not services which have been received or reported, and maybe not even "approved" services, though I have not time or energy right now to pursue the question whether "approved" in this context is a synonym for "authorised" or "allowed by lawful authority".

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Czar of ACANZP Liturgy

Over at Liturgy, Bosco Peters has taken up a cause dear to both our hearts, as well as the Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch, clarifying and improving the state of our church's liturgical life. The specific concern in the post I have linked to is whether we offer an easy to comprehend approach to finding out, within our own rules, what we may use, what we have to use, and what we may not use in the services of our church. That we do not offer such an approach is not, in the end, the fault of any one person or single decision of our General Synod, but it is the result of years of tinkering with our services, especially since 1989, and despite the amazing popularity of our 1989 prayer book (NZPB). Some tinkering I myself have been part of, and approve (I was part of General Synod's decision-making, 1996-2004). But that was mostly adjusting rubrics within the 1989 book. Since 2004 we have added eucharistic prayers and what have you, which is tinkering on a different scale.

There is one decision I supported but now regret, at least in part. That was the decision to authorise a raft of flexible possibilities in our services via a concept known as the Template. I do not regret trying to find a way to encourage flexibility in our services, but I regret doing that via the Template which quickly became a recipe for 'anything goes' - a fact admitted by General Synod when later it passed a clarifying resolution that variations used under the mandate of the Template must nevertheless conform in content with the theology of our prayer books. In my view the resolution effectively nullifies the Template and both should be excised from our canons ... that would be my first decision in my imaginary role as Czar of our church's liturgy.

What else would I do? I think there is already good flexibility in our eucharistic services (within the 1989 book) because so much of what we do is governed by the word 'may' rather than 'must', but I would want to offer a more flexible non-eucharistic worship service than currently in our book. The current service owes a lot to the Mattins and Evensong tradition of the BCP, but current practice in many of our churches is geared to a different set of 'canticles' than provided for in NZPB. A slightly revised order of service, with a few more 'mays' would cover the tendency in some churches to sing more Brooke Fraser than Mary mother of Jesus. Pause for recoil by some traditionalists reading this paragraph :)

I would get rid of all the eucharistic prayers we have recently approved. I do not think they add anything to our church's life. If anything they diminish it because of a noticeable tendency in this set of prayers to downplay the connection between sin and our Lord's sacrificial death. But I would want to propose a eucharistic prayer useful for family services: slightly shorter than anything we currently have, yet with great theological depth, and some better turns of phrase than the currently approved 'children's' eucharistic prayer.

Finally, I would take out a canonical broom and sweep up all our rules, scattered as they are through our canons and resolutions, and bundle them into one canon. In that canon would be a clear statement about what we may, must and may not use in the liturgical life of our church.

I am happy to do this work for no monetary reward. My reward would be in the satisfying experiences of liturgy which would be unleashed in all parishes :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The mystery of marriage

Rumbling around the world, well, to be precise the Western world, is a debate about marriage, with special reference to 'same sex' or 'gay' marriage. Part of me would like to post at some length and with some detail my own thoughts on this debate. But right now, and for a few weeks to come, I have no time to engage in depth. Another part of me wants to have as little to do with the debate as possible. It seems to be a debate with a lot of potential for ad hominem remarks, for more heat than light. "What? You don't support gay marriage? Are you homophobic or what?" "You do support gay marriage? How can you call yourself a biblical Christian? The sooner the church separates itself off from heretics like you the better!"

For now I simply want to note a variety of posts currently being read around the traps, directly or indirectly related to the larger debate about marriage.

Here is Peter Collier (a local colleague in Christchurch) arguing a position on consistent following of the Old Testament laws by New Testament Christians in "What about shellfish?"

Actually, local colleagues feature prominently today. Fr Ron Smith takes us on his blog to an article about reported remarks by a German Archbishop which equate heterosexual relationships to same sex relationships (but note comment to post). Could the Roman view on such matters be Obama-like 'evolving'?

Bosco Peters posts a witty chart about biblical marriage.

David Ould (local in Down Under terms, as he resides in Sydney rather than Christchurch) keeps us up to date with the logic of the Bishop of Gippsland. Troubling brewing across the ditch between New South Wales and Victoria ... but, hey, what's new news about that :)

Finally, someone I have never met nor corresponded with, a well-known Kiwi media personality, Alison Mau tells folk to chill out re same-sex relationships. I note her views here because of her use of the word 'normal' in respect both of same sex relationships and families where children are being raised by same sex parents. What is 'normal' in respect of marriage and families? Who gets to decide what is 'normal'? These two questions sit within that larger debate about marriage which is rumbling round the Western world.

My questions flowing out of these posts? How do we understand the Bible on marriage and human sexuality? Can we find a univocal voice there? How do we treat people with respect and dignity as they make choices in life which might not be the choices we ourselves would make? What is collegiality and fellowship in God's church today?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Beyond imagining

I am as guilty as most clergy I know of conniving with the trend of recent decades to downgrade the celebration of Ascension Day to the Sunday following. (Cue many clergy I know to comment here that they do not so connive!) Yesterday's Ascension readings got me thinking and some thoughts made it into the sermon's final cut.

Why has Ascension Day been downgraded in importance? Is it because we have focused on the event of Ascension Day, Jesus' final words prior to lift off, and determined that event is not so significant to warrant a mid-week celebration? If, by contrast, we focus on the significance of the Ascension of Jesus, we have something to celebrate of greater, if not infinite magnitude. That significance includes the turning of eras, from the era of the visible Jesus to the era of the invisible Jesus (save for a few visions from time to time) in which followers everywhere all the time participate in fellowship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and from the era of Jesus' earthly kingship to the era of Jesus' heavenly kingship 'seated at the right hand of God' (Ephesians 1:15-23).

What is heaven or (in terms of Ephesians) the heavenly realms like? I cannot speak for overseas jurisdictions but in NZ it is rare in my experience for a funeral not to include a clear and definite statement about heaven and what it is being experienced as by the deceased. While I appreciate that in the course of a funeral such thoughts have a comforting element, I think that away from funerals we ought to do some reflecting on what heaven is like according to the Bible's disclosure so we have accurate beliefs. The first and most obvious thing to say about heaven according to the Bible is that it offers no visions or insights which accord with popular Kiwi culture which sees heaven as something akin to a school reunion ('Bill is with all his old mates having a beer right now') or even a family reunion (though in some cases that may not be a comforting thought!).

The second thought about heaven is that it is a new world opened up by the resurrection of Jesus Christ which is beyond our imagination. Here I was helped by some things Dr Stephen May said in his two lectures on Theology and Literature last week (mentioned in previous post). (In my words) the resurrection of Jesus is part of the great rupture of history by God in which Christ enters life as a gift from God to rescue and redeem us from slavery to sin and the devil in order that we might become a new creation. In the resurrection we do not merely have an amazing miracle (dead man alive again) but the beginning of a new world. When we read through 1 Corinthians 15 we move from the resurrection as an event in history (... died, buried, raised ...) to the resurrection as a new world in which we will have 'spiritual' bodies which compare to our present 'physical' bodies as a seed compares to a beautiful flower or an acorn to a might oak tree. Just as someone who has never seen a flower or a mighty tree cannot imagine what the seed or acorn will become, neither can we imagine what heaven will be like, including the bodies we will have.

So, for the most part, we simply do not know what heaven is like and what our experience of it will be. There are, however, three things we can be sure of.

Jesus is there. He has gone before us as forerunner and firsfruits to prepare a place for us. Unless he ascended first to the Father we could not follow him there.

Jesus is exalted. He sits at the right hand of the Father (though this is our language to help us get a fix on his exaltation; there is other language in the New Testament, e.g. Revelation 3.21, which accords with the Father and the Son being one Being, one object of our worship). We will worship him in heaven and our present worship on earth joins with the worship of all creatures in the heavenly realms. (One difference between the two Lukan versions of the Ascension, Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11, is that in the former the disciples worship Jesus prior to his ascending, and they immediately return to the Temple to continue their praise).

Jesus is seated. Here on earth we run round in a panic, fuss over things, and shoot first, ask questions later. Jesus is seated: at peace, calm, and in charge of all that is going on, with everything having been placed under his feet (Ephesians 1:15-23).

There was a bit more said but that will do for now and many earthly tasks need my fussing over for today lest I start panicing tomorrow!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I think I blame the lightning

About 5.30 pm on Wednesday an Air New Zealand plane travelling to Wellington from Auckland got caught in an electrical storm and turned back to Auckland. So a plane from Christchurch to Auckland was diverted to Wellington to pick up Auckland bound passengers. No doubt a few other planes were affected by this, but the upshot for our household was that our son, due in at 10.05 pm that night didn't land till after midnight. What with one conversation and another after that, it was after 1 am when my wife and I turned the light out, wide awake as you are after visiting the bright lights of the airport at midnight. Anyway life has been just one thing after another since then, including coping with great tiredness. But one of the things not possible has been blogging.

Our son came home for the funeral of a schoolmate, killed in a tragic accident the week before. The solemn grief of Thursday's service was not the only emotion I was experiencing. I was quite angry that the day before our local once great now turning into something else (tabloid?) paper The Press printed an advertisement from a local character knowm to all and sundry as the Wizard. This piece purported to be satire as it  cried out for the 'deconstruction' of the Bishop of Christchurch. Certain phrases in it could pass, just, as whimsy, but the piece as a whole was destructive and vindictive, including a defamatory and untrue statement that our Bishop "hates and despises" the people of Christchurch. (I won't paste in here the horrible advertisement, but some quotes are lifted from it in this report). Without giving a blow by blow account of various exchanges of correspondence, I have spent a bit of the last three days working through the best way to respond to this outrage. To give one example of the advertisement's effects, I talked to one vicar who felt physically sick when reading it.

The late trip to the airport Wednesday was my second trip there for the day. The first occasion was to pick up the Rev Dr Stephen May, a much loved former lecturer at St John's College, presently in NZ as a visiting lecturer at Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson. He came down to deliver two lectures (Thursday and Friday evenings) under the general heading of Theology and Literature. Apart from the fact that I never went to St John's College, even if I had my time would have been well before Stephen's years there. So the two lectures, and a couple of other conversations were exhilarating opportunities to learn from a great mind. Thank you, Stephen!

Enough. A sermon needs to be written. An paper needs writing. A rugby match needs to be watched. May lightning have no effect on any of these. Meantime, as far as my momentary glances into Anglicanland go, I cannot see much happening.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I don't know how to love him

Wow! Last night I went to a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar jointly staged by two local schools (Christ's College and Rangi Ruru). It was excellent and sustained a uniformly high standard of singing, acting and dancing all the way through to a standing ovation at the end. The lighting and sound were excellent too. The storyline of Superstar is mostly familiar (of course!) but also different in various ways to the gospels. Personally I found the performance emotionally moving, not least in presenting the raw humanity of Jesus. It is just about impossible for orthodox Christians to engage fully with the ordinary humanity of Jesus, but Superstar offers a doorway through which the audience can go to meet the human Jesus.

In other news, I note, sadly, the death of Walter Wink, a renowned theologian and biblical exegete, who offered another way to engage with the human Jesus - the Jesus of non-violent resistance to the powers of darkness.

A correspondent has alerted me to two staff redundancies at Ridley College Melbourne, but reading the announcement about this, I notice another item of news, the name of the new principal of Ridley who will succeed the recently retired and long-serving principal, Peter Adams. Brian Rosner will take over in July. He is a widely published NT scholar, currently teaching at Moore College. ADDITIONALLY: John Woodhouse is retiring as Principal of Moore College in early 2013 after ten years in the role.

I may (or may not) post later on the interesting motion on sexuality which the General Synod of the Church of Ireland agreed to at the weekend. Interesting because it represents a church acting both catholically and creatively on a testing matter which concerns the pastoral life as well as the unity of the church. Thinking Anglicans has a full report on what happened here. Catholicity and Covenant has good commentary on the significance of the motion here.

How do we love Jesus as best we know how with all our human limitations? We can keep pressing into know him ... dig deep into the gospels and live them ... support great training and education for ministry in Jesus' name ... and work hard to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church under Christ's lordship.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What are the limits to our imagination?

In Christchurch we have some vacant plots of ecclesial land eager for new churches to be built or placed on them. At least one such plot already has a plan approved to receive a wooden chapel from another site. This chapel will need to be cut up into smaller pieces for transportation purposes and then reassembled.

In Nelson there is a large wooden church for sale. Do I need to join up the dots for you?

In fact, to my eyes, the photo in the article suggests a building of cathedral like proportions :)

The price, as the old song says, is all right.

If you are transporting it down to Christchurch, please remember the tunnels on the coastal route and take the inland road through the mountains instead.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Love one another and sit light to buildings

Last night I visited Campus Church, an independent evangelical student church (albeit with strong links and leanings towards the Anglican church). It meets in the Ilam School Hall next door to the Unviersity of Canterbury. I gather it might like to begin a morning congregation, but if it does so it won't be in that building as Ilam Baptist meets there on Sunday mornings. Two churches without investment in buildings as capital assets while sharing the same rented property is an interesting model in a city where churches, perhaps especially my own Anglican Diocese, are getting desperate for permanent (or 'permanent' as can be) solutions to difficult problems re buildings.

Generally churches are facing blockages to insurance payouts, massive increases (e.g. 530%) to premiums, dilemmas re rebuild/restore versus demolish and walk away or start again, and necessity of fund-raising (e.g. even with insurance payout, the repairs need to be to a higher standard of strength than the church building had before the quakes so costs will exceed payouts).

Yesterday's gospel reading, John 15:9-17, has something to say to us at this time. I cite just the last words,

"These things I command you so that you will love one another."
God is love and we are to love God, our neighbour, our enemies and one another. That is all!

A question I raised in my sermon was this: might God be less interested in whether we restore our current damaged cathedral or build a brand new one and more interested in whether we love one another? Similarly in respect of arguments in each parish about the future of our buildings: how we treat each other in the course of the arguments might matter more to God than whether we rebuild or new build, indeed whether we have a building or not.

My visit last night was a reminder that a church does not need to own a building in order to meet together. We can love one another without buildings being owned by ourselves.

We can perhaps go a little further on this line of reflection. The whole gospel passage, John 15:9-17, is of a piece with the great theme of John's Gospel, eternal life is given by God to those who by faith are drawn into the union of Father Son and Holy Spirit in an expanding communion of love. Does the church exist primarily for worship or for mission is a question we sometimes ask ourselves (and sometimes answer with the word 'Both!'). But John 15:9-17 points in a different direction: the church exists in love and for love.  God's love calls the church into existence; the church exists through love. Where members of the body of Christ do not love one another the church effectively ceases to exist. Where members love one another there is true communion or fellowship.

So, what is the purpose of a church building? To be a place of worship? To be a base for mission? We can answer affirmatively to both questions, but John's Gospel pushes us hard to think more deeply. The purpose of a church building is not only worship (love God) and mission (love our neighbour and enemies) but also communion (love one another). We think, rightly, that our communion services (i.e. eucharists, masses, celebrations of the Lord's Supper) are acts of worship in which we are empowered for mission. But they are also acts of love in which those whom God loves share that love with one another, bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ as signs of the sacrificial love of God in Christ which commits us to love one another in Christ ('love one another as I have loved you', 15:12).

A special challenge, then, for Canterbury churches at this time is that we love one another. Our rebuilds and new builds will not serve the purpose of communion if along the way we fall out with one another rather than love one another. The foundations of our churches do not consist only of piles and slabs. Love must also be woven into the foundations.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Obama's Marriage of Culture and Politics

Off the newswire this week one of the big stories is President Obama's announcement that his thinking on same sex marriage has evolved to the point where he supports what he previously did not. 'Evolved' is such a nice term for a change of mind, I wonder whether it ever gets applied to Republicans? I seem to recall that they are always described as 'flip-flopping' when they change their minds. But I digress. In our lifetimes we are unlikely to see any social change as fast as we have been experiencing on homosexuality. Obama's announcement, while not quite the same as a federal government law binding on all American states, is a high water mark in the marriage between popular culture and political calculation. If Obama loses the election in November we will never know whether his evolution will have contributed to that loss. If he wins the election we can be confident the announcement did his prospects - currently not that great - no harm. Incidentally, in a postscript to the Obama announcement, our own Prime Minister John Key has made a similar statement which means most leaders of political parties in NZ support the prospect of gay marriage (i.e. rather than the current possibility of a 'civil union')

From a Christian perspective, what are we to make of this kind of progress in Western culture? We could celebrate it as American Episcopalian priest Susan Russell does, we could be critical (e.g. here on Stand Firm, follow links), and we could be wondering about future implications (e.g. here on Stand Firm, follow links). We could already be experiencing pressure to conform to the brave new world of 'marriage' in which, just possibly (even probably) our public discourse will be constrained not to distinguish gender within marriage, nor to refer to marriage as between a man and a woman (as Cranmer is finding in respect of an extraordinary response to his advertising the campaign against gay marriage, in the slightly different context of Prime Minister David Cameron's United Kingdom).

I suggest that there is a simple and a complicated aspect to these developments. The simple aspect is that we have a clear affirmative or negative response: Yes I agree with Obama, Key and Cameron on gay marriage or No I do not agree with them. The complicated aspect is that the arrival of civil unions, civil partnerships and, should it come to pass in the jurisdiction where you live, gay marriage stitches into the fabric of society ways of living which challenge the church and its mission to all people. The relationships between church and society, gospel and culture have raised some difficult questions through the millennia. Polygamy, for instance, is stitched into the fabric of some societies. The difficult question for the church has not been whether or not the New Testament teaches monogamy but whether becoming a Christian in such a society means changing a polygamous family. Does a converted husband divorce all but one wife (and thus, perhaps, consign the divorced wives to penury)? Does a converted wife leave her husband and fellow wives because that is the necessary consequence of becoming a Christian? I am happy to be corrected but I understand that a widely followed response to polygamy is that polygamous Christians in such societies are not asked to leave their marriages; but they are unlikely to be ordained to leadership roles.

I do not see that the evolution happening before our eyes as Obama, Key and Cameron make their pronouncements is going to make much difference to the convictions Christians already hold about gay marriage. But is it going to make a difference eventually to the conduct of our mission in sharing the gospel with all people around us, to the kinds of guidance we will give new Christians? I recognise that some commenters here may wish to respond that the matter remains simple and straightforward: a person in a happily permanent same sex relationship, even one guarded by law through the contraction of a legal marriage, on becoming a Christian will need to leave that relationship (or, at least, become celibate within it). But is that going to be so in ten or fifty years time?

There are other complications ahead of us, I think. Cranmer's present predicament highlights the possibility that in the particular context of Western societies such as North America, the UK and Ireland, Europe and Australasia, societies that is with a propensity to zealously guard as many claimed human rights as possible while seeking a pure non-discriminatory society, certain present claims about Christian freedom will come unstuck. Those claims are that if gay marriage is made possible through law, no Christian minister will be compelled to perform such marriages and no church will be compelled to host such wedding services. On Susan Russell's site there are statements (e.g. on right hand side of page) which have a soothing effect so that we are reminded of the discrimination currently possible in the USA such as Roman Catholic priests refusing to marry divorced people and thus assured that no one will have to perform the marriage of a same sex couple. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Cranmer's predicament also highlights the possibility that unintended consequences will flow from legalising gay marriage. (Yes, I am not forgetting that he lives in Britain which does not have the First Amendment which Susan Russell, writing in America, refers to). Will one be able to advertise a church's availability for weddings if such availability is not for gay weddings? Dare one arrange without fair of prosecution, say, a public celebration of marriage service which talks exclusively of marriages between men and women, of the obligations of husbands to wives and vice versa? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Perhaps not in Britain but no problems in America? How about in New Zealand?

Whatever calculations have been involved in President Obama's announcement, he has married culture and politics to a certain degree. The marriage might come unstuck in November, or it might evolve further into a maturer, richer, stronger stitching together. The children of this marriage could bring trouble to the churches who do not share the same embrace of culture as the President.

What do you think? I welcome comments here which engage with the issues I am raising about the implication of the evolution of Obama, i.e. the question whether an evolution in Western society is occurring with unknown outcomes for the churches of the West.

I will moderate strongly, likely rejecting, without explanation, comments which (1) debate back and forth the basic biblical arguments re homosexuality (happened here many times, no need for it to happen again re this post) (2) castigate conservatives for their lack of enlightenment (not an issue I am raising here) (3) speak disparagingly of Obama, Key or Cameron, or those who comment here, or Susan Russell, or Stand Firm and its writers, or Cranmer (that would be 'ad hominem' and that is verboten here).

Good news and strange news

Good news recently has been the announcement that our Diocesan Youth Worker, Phil Trotter, has been appointed to be Youth Advisor for the NZ Dioceses (i.e. Tikanga Pakeha). Taonga now has the story here. OK, so from a selfish diocesan viewpoint it's not good news as we are going to lose a very fine staff member (though not completely as Phil will do some part-time work for us), but for Phil, and for the wider church, this is good news.

Strange news continues to emanate re the cathedral. This morning's Press carries news (A2) that the British-based businessman who offered $4 million for the rebuilding of the cathedral is standing by that offer. Is this "timely" reminder part of the campaign for saving the present cathedral, or just coincidence that a Press reporter wrote this item up? However the offer is not conditional on the present cathedral being restored.

Today also in the Press is a new version of the letter being signed by the good and the great seeking retention of the cathedral (C10). Many more signatures have been added and I can't help feeling that the organising team are assiduous readers of ADU as we now have the signatures grouped into "England" and "New Zealand". I would like to point out to the organisers that it is very bad form when organising a petition or petitionary letter to repeat names. There are a number of repeated names in this new version ...

Incidentally, a video of damage to the cathedral incurred after the 23 December 2011 quake is posted on YouTube here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Welsh grip on Canterbury?

The present ABC was the Archbishop of Wales prior to taking up office. The next ABC will be chosen by the current Archbishop of Wales, with help from a committee :)

We all know instances where appointing committees, disappointed with the quality of applicants in front of them, turn to one of their members and ask whether they could do the job ...

Still, it is only the ABC they are trying to sort out with Welsh help. Imagine if they were choosing a rugby team to beat the All Blacks.*

For those with impoverished lives, the last time Wales beat the All Blacks was in 1953.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Psalm 139:13-15

There are some amazing videos accessible on the internet. Then there is this film of Psalm 139:13-15.

(H/T A correspondent).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Say after me, Money doesn't grow on trees

Looking on the right hand side of this blog you will note that one of the blogs around the world which I follow is Paul "world famous Novel Prize winning economist" Krugman's blog on economics. Along with that I read widely each day on the political travails and turmoils of the world. Even if you do not read widely on these matters, you probably know that at the weekend both France and Greece held elections which has resulted in voters choosing new economic directions for their respective countries, less clearcut as to implication, voters in Britain in local council elections may have signalled their displeasure at the current coalition government's economic direction, and over in the States the endless electioneering for the next president will almost certainly turn in November on economics. Ignore headlines about Romney's Mormonism being a factor in the election.

In all such countries, as well as in my own, the big picture economic problem is the relentless expectation most citizens share that the government and its funds will support us when we need it, paying for schooling, hospitals, unemployment and sickness benefits, pensions, as well as a military force to defend us, and, possibly, an airline, bus service and railway to transport us on networks created with government money. From country to country the list of such services varies a little, but the situation is essentially the same: most of us have expectations about financial support through the whole of life that assume money grows on trees in a hidden government orchard. In my experience those expectations presuppose 'government' means some kind of endless supply of money rather than defining 'government' as we the people as wealth creators who pay tax. A fixation on the latter conception of government would assist in drawing the conclusion that there is no endless supply of money, just a finite source of funds belonging to us all, which need careful governance lest they run out.

One of the difficulties I have with Paul Krugman's approach to the global economy and its many problems is that, when all is said and done about the complexities of high finance (often superbly graphed and simply explained by him), including certain kinds of magic tricks which economists can play so that "spend now, pay later" is slightly different for governments compared to individaul citizens (e.g. governments can "quantitatively ease" new money into the world, but you and I cannot do that to pay for our credit card bills), the idea that government funds might run out does not occur to him.

Locally, I applaud our NZ government for its prudence in seeking to govern our economy as though we have a finite supply of money rather than an infinite supply. My heart sinks when I hear some of the naff criticisms of the opposition parties (e.g. to a recent proposal to pay for long-term contraception to reduce the years a parent might spend on the benefit) which presuppose the hidden orchard of money trees. But no one is perfect and I loath our government's cosying up to Sky City re a deal to build a national convention centre out of the profiteering from the human misery which is gambling.

Our world, then, may be in a precarious state which we cannot fully comprehend because of the fog our expectations and misconceived understanding of government have created. Around the corner could be the most dire of depressions, a new rise of fascism (Neo Nazis were elected in Greece!) and Stalinist communism (he still has his admirers in Russia!). The first half of the twentieth century was dominated by wars which erupted out of economic convulsions. There are no guarantees that we will not repeat the disasters of the twentieth century.

A question for Anglicans in the West could be this: are we theologically, missionally, and politically ready for the onslaught to come in the twenty-first century?

I do not ask this question of Anglicans in Africa and Asia: they face day to day crises we in the West know nothing of.

The first part of answering the question I suggest is very simple. Say after me, Money doesn't grow on trees.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Here and there

Various correspondents have alerted me to some wonderful things written or spoken by others elsewhere.

A couple of excellent responses to Justin Duckworth being elected the next Bishop of Wellington, including an audio comment by Kevin Milne and a Herald feature.

However one famous New Zealander, by implication, is not impressed by the next episcopal head of Wellington's Anglicans.

Here is a stirring charge to the TEC General Convention members. (As always I note things here going on in American Episcopalianism because its implicit claim to the Communion it has brought so much trouble upon is, 'Here is the way, walk ye in it.' )

While in North America read a thoughtful Agenda for Recovering Christianity in America.

As always Anglican Down Under is fair (but that may not mean much: in an email Ron Smith mentions in the comments, so also does our Christchurch Press claim to be!!), so here is the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katharine Jefferts Schori on (so to speak) her agenda for recovering Episcopalianism in America.

Within our own Diocese and from its website, Bishop Victoria's charge to our recent synod is available online.

In the ongoing controversy about our cathedral I note that one open letter re the transitional cathedral and a specific controversy about its operating budget is published here. This letter is part of our Diocese's media response to poor coverage of the cathedral issues by the Christchurch Press. Yesterday we received an email bulletin rebutting various points made in a recent editorial. When that is posted online I will link to that. Various links to Press and other media items are on Taonga here.

Positively, looking ahead to the new cathedral, your opportunity to write down ideas about the shape, size and style of the cathedral and its mission is at this site.

Finally, if you have nothing better to do, an article on the resurrection may interest you, go to the latest issue of a (resurrected) Stimulus and click on the first article link to read the PDF.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why I am a Paulinist and believe I shall remain so

Being Anglican is not important in itself. To be Anglican is to be a Christian in a manner which accords with the truest understanding of the gospel we can achieve within the limitations of our humanity which even with the renewed mind of Romans 12:1-2 is prone to error. Thus the lurking question at all times as this blog progresses is "What is the gospel?" That question lies behind any claim to a true understanding of the gospel, let alone being a Christian in a manner which accords with that understanding.

In the odd moments when my mind draws aside from anxiety about our present questions and issues in the Diocese of Christchurch, sets aside reflections on the Crusaders or for that matter the abysmal loss of vision of NZ Cricket, I sometimes turn over certain themes or questions about understanding the gospel. Here are two macro or big picture matters.

First, the key to a true understanding of the gospel as a message from God for the whole world is Paul's Epistle to the Romans. For what it is worth, I do not see anything of significance in Paul's understanding of the gospel which is not in Romans. Yet any understanding of the gospel must incorporate the documents known as 'the gospels', i.e. The Gospel according to Matthew or Mark or Luke or John. So, a true understanding of the gospel comes from the reconciliation of Romans with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

In one way the history of New Testament scholarship is the debate between those who divorce Romans from the gospels or Paul from Jesus and those who do not. A paradox in the debate is that without Romans we would not be having the debate because a Jesus movement with only the four gospels, having only had a Jerusalem based mission through Peter and James the brother of Jesus without Paul, would have led to either obliteration or a sect within the future development of Judaism(s). Romans is vital to the gospel being a message for the whole world, one I may embrace as a Gentile in the South Pacific as much as if I were a Jew in Tel Aviv.

Secondly, when we read the gospels carefully and slowly, we cannot but be struck by the differences between the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and John's Gospel. They are difficult to reconcile. John's Jesus seems very different from Matthew's Jesus to name the most difficult instance of reconciliation. Yet in John's Gospel we see through John's eyes dimensions to the life of Jesus and implications of his teaching and actions hidden by the Synoptic Gospels. Only by resolutely holding together the diversity of the four gospels may we have confidence in this life to see Jesus Christ and grasp in that seeing the fullness of the God who is revealed in him. The gospel is a message which is an invitation to the fullness of life in God. The only way to receive that life is through Jesus Christ and the best picture we have of the God who blesses us with life is Jesus Christ. Anything less than the four gospels in Holy Scripture is a diminished vision of God and the blessing he makes available to us.

If we Anglicans take seriously our peculiar history then we have a particular heritage in Pauline Christianity. The Epistle to the Romans, along with Paul's other writings, is the foundation of the European Reformation in general, as well as the English Reformation in particular. Cranmer's liturgies are suffused with a Pauline theology of grace. The Anglican Communion today, albeit through some accidents of British colonial imperialism as well as some intentional missional strategy, is Paulinist: an outcome of the gospel being a message to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. But its Paulinism is under threat. Individual member churches, for instance, asserting independent understandings of the gospel is contrary to Paul's universalist gospel, both as the one gospel to all and as the gospel whose outcome is the one body of Christ. In some cases we are seeing the assertion of a gospel in which the fullness of life is not exclusively centred on God's revelation to us in Jesus Christ. (One of those cases occurs in my own church which does not always proclaim the singularity of God in the face of other claimant gods and which sometimes pairs the Treaty of Waitangi with the gospel in such a manner that questions arise about the uniqueness of the gospel of Christ. For another, read here).

The remedy always lies in these crises in going back to Scripture. The proper content of sola Scripture  or Scripture alone is that only through Scripture do we find the gospel as God's way of salvation. For me that especially means finding my way back to the Epistle to the Romans, holding it together with the four gospels, as well as holding the four gospels together as one gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I am an Anglican and believe I shall remain so

Courtesy Thinking Anglicans I have been led to a prize-winning essay by Natacha-Ingrid Tinteroff which is available to download as a PDF here. It is definitely worth a read this afternoon if you are not doing anything important like doing some firsthand research into the Crusaders and their impact on medieval history world rugby.

Tinteroff's essay is first-class and a mine of useful citations about the virtues of Anglicanism as a true expression of the catholic church.

Postscript: A scrappy game in which the score see-sawed 5-0 to the Reds, then 3-5, 6-5, 8-6, 8-9, 11-9, 11-12, and finally 11-15 for a Crusaders win, without any great tension rising in the game, lots of dropped balls and missed opportunities. Whoops that sounds like the Anglican Communion :(

Saturday, May 5, 2012


During the Bible studies at Clergy Conference, which included stories of Elijah, I came upon this wonderful passage, 1 Kings 18:17-19:

'When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him,

"Is it you, you troubler of Israel?"

And he answered,

"I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father's house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. ...".'
It struck me that this forecasts one of our current Communion debates, the debate as to who is the causer of trouble in the Communion. Is it Elijah? Or is it the one who says that Elijah is the troubler?

Who on earth could be Elijah today? Who is the contemporary Ahab? Let me think about that one for a moment ...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Christchurch Suffers Neo Colonialist Oppression

I have been developing a bad joke which goes like this. "It's worth aiming to be the next Pope because if you fail you might pick up the Archbishopric of Canterbury as a consolation prize." Of course my kind and lovely friends delight to point out that in my case there a number of impediments to being the Pope. I am not infallible. I am married. It is difficult having friends with such short-sightedness, but I try to be gracious. However I was stumped when a friend pointed out that for the consolation job I lack the necessary bushy eyebrows. Even I have to admit that is true and I have no idea what to do about it. Speaking of those bushy eyebrows, I do not normally reveal private conversations online, but I am going to bend my own rules slightly by mentioning that in conversation with one of our clergy who was at the recent GAFCON/FCA event in London, he expressed his amazement at meeting the Archbishop of ACNA. Until then he had no idea that anyone could have bushier eyebrows than the current ABC!

It is really London and its tentacles snaking down to the South Pacific that I want to write about this morning. Sequestered at our annual clergy conference, I only saw one newspaper, Tuesday's Press, and had no idea until returning that the stormy waters around our cathedral and its deconstruction were not abating. The new squall this time is a letter urging retention of the cathedral, signed by 82 prominent Cantabrians (accurately: 82 people, some of whom are resident Cantabrians, some non-residential Cantabrians, and some never having resided here Canterbury-philes).

On closer inspection the names are revealing. There are a swag of people all with the same surname. There are some people of immense wealth but the letter does not reveal the specific six or seven figure they are contributing to the $100 million required for their letter to have actual transformative effect. There is the name of a former chaplain at the school I attended. At last count this individual resides in England, as do a number of other individuals signing the letter. I think it fair to wonder if they know what they are talking about when urging reversal of the deconstruction of a badly damaged and unsafe building.

I also think it fair to wonder what is going on when a group of people call on a group of people in England to support them in an attempt to force the Diocese of Christchurch to reverse its decision. In other circles, e.g. if this was a group of powerful Englishmen telling Maori Anglicans what to do (say, via a Covenant!), this would be called colonialism or neo-colonialism. The proper response in academic-speak is to deconstruct the narrative they are attempting to impose upon us and to speak truth to their power.

Another version, in the vernacular, is "Butt out."

If the Diocese is to use this time of pausing in the taking down of the cathedral to safe levels to reconsider its decision, it needs a conversation among the people of Canterbury experiencing the pain and difficulty of fellow Cantabrians firsthand, not communications from people faraway. What would London know of the context for making decisions here when people do not have working toilets and are sleeping in cars? What kind of church serving the poor of our city makes decisions with reference to the voices of people sleeping comfortably in England?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Available +Kelvin

Not long back from our Diocesan Clergy Conference (plus attendance at a funeral for mother of a friend en route, dropping off the bags of another friend who motorbiked to the conference, and then a board meeting through the tea hour). Bishop Kelvin Wright of Available Light and the Diocese of Dunedin was our guest contributor. He was excellent as he opened up the Bible in respect of the wilderness: David, Elijah, Moses, and Jesus (his own post now here). Lots of good vibes about the election of Justin Duckworth to be the next Bishop of Wellington. Some great food, lovely fellowship, lousy weather, and no blogging.

Very good experience, all things considered. Am really grateful that +Kelvin's Light was Available to us.