Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pledge to implement the Covenant at ACC

Anglicans worldwide have voted unanimously to call on their churches to adopt and implement a Covenant protecting Anglican theology.
More than 80 members of the Anglican Consultative Council last night committed themselves to promoting the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all their national and regional churches.
Meeting in Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral, they passed a resolution calling on their churches “to adopt and implement the Covenant within the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and report to the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as to steps taken to adopt and implement the Covenant.”
Kiwi Peter Carrell, convener of the Communion’s Let's Get Cracking on the Covenant Network that proposed the resolution, said, “We are enormously pleased by the unanimous approval, but even adoption of the Covenant will not be effective unless it’s implemented."
Oh, wait. That is not true at all. The ACC unanimously approved another Covenant-like document. Read about it here
Apparently Anglicans do believe in a quasi-governing role for ACC and even in Covenant-like documents, so long as they apply to ideas that no one could possibly have any disagreement with at all. 
Is the ACC in danger of becoming absurd and irrelevant?

POSTSCRIPT: The ACC could avoid that danger by taking up the positive support for the Covenant which Bishop Victoria gives here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Despite what you may read, Julian Dobbs is a member of the Anglican Communion

My Christchurch colleague, Fr Ron Smith, draws attention to the refusal of Nigerian bishops, including Bishop Julian Dobbs (a dinkum Kiwi and former colleague of mine in the Diocese of Nelson) to take communion at the ACC opening eucharist. In doing so Ron asserts that CANA (i.e. the North American branch of the Nigerian Anglican church in which Bishop Julian ministers) is " NOT a member" of the Anglican Communion.

I think we need to let go of this canard (or CANArd!) once and for all: all Anglicans belonging to CANA churches belong through their episcopal oversight to the Church of Nigeria to the Anglican Communion, in the same way that any Anglicans resident in Nigeria belong to the Anglican Communion.

We may think this is irregular or illegal or immoral or all three, but that does not change the fact that, within the loose bounds of what "membership" of the Anglican Communion means, members of the Nigerian Anglican church are members of the Communion.

Irregularities abound in the Communion: our own three tikanga arrangements in ACANZP are viewed as irregular by some, but our membership is not imperilled.

The possible illegality of the CANA arrangements in America have never been tested in a court of ecclesiastical law ... not least because the Communion has no such court. Remember: we are (it appears) distancing ourselves from any notion of governance, common-and-binding canons across the Communion.

We could certainly charge that it is immoral of Anglicans in one country to refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the recognised Anglican church of that country, but many immoralities abound in Anglican life which do not imperil membership of the Communion. (Test question: is any immoral living clergyman in our church thereby expelled from the Anglican Communion? No. The person I have in mind has not even been expelled from membership of our church!)

So, there is no case for saying that members of CANA are not members of the Communion because there is no established ground upon which to make the statement stick. Nor is there any Communion court to refer the matter to for jurisdiction. (Preludium manages to bring critical comment to bear on the situation without resorting to the CANArd of CANA's non-membership of the Communion!)

Funnily enough, Fr Ron could make the case for the non-membership of CANA under the Covenant which he so steadfastly opposes!

Welcome +Julian to Communion life in the church which nurtured you!!

Disappointment does not begin to express it

Be worried. You should be. The Anglican Communion is in convulsions about sexuality. Its situation cries out for theology, the bringing of God's perspective into human dilemmas. Our convulsions are due to a lack of theology and a surfeit of anthropology. The Covenant was (is?) an attempt - a bold and courageous attempt - to balance the anthropology with theology. A slight catch up on Roman and Eastern Christianities would befit our notion that we too are one of the great branches of the Christian tree: they understand the importance of theology as the binding which holds their respective ecclesial communities together.

What better place to start the catch up than with a document on marriage. What better document on marriage than one produced by the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation (IALC). We Anglicans are the Christians who express our theology through our prayers, who set down right believing through rite practice. Is that a tremor of excitement I see as you learn that ACC Auckland is receiving an IALC document on marriage? It is called "Rites Relating to Marriage: A Statement and Resources from The International Anglican Liturgical Consultation" and it is accessible here, all 31 pages.

The beginning is always the tone setter for such documents, the substance is in the sentence which opens the argument. Here it is, from p. 5, under the heading "Theology of Marriage":

"1.1. The origins of marriage lie in instinctive patterns of human behaviour. Amongst those patterns is the tendency to partnership and pair bonding of women and men. Such pair bonding appears to be for a variety of reasons, including procreation, mutual support, creation of community, affective love between partners, and the cohesion of society. From this also issues the potential of stable family life supported by the two partners; such functional family life is itself the foundation of a healthy society. And there is reciprocity here: a healthy society will also nurture stable patterns of marriage and family life."
Nooooooooo! I will not go on, but point you to an excellent critical analysis of the whole document at Liturgy. The point of theology is to start with God not with instincts - start with instincts in a theology of work and everyone will be staying in bed in the mornings! Theology first then anthropology. Disappointment at the starting point for this (potentially) important document does not begin to express my response.

If you would like to restore your Anglican theological balance on marriage, an alternative could be to read a sermon on marriage by another colleague of mine, Fr Hugh Bowron. Here is an excerpt from a sermon on the recent gospel text Mark 10:2-16 which nails down that marriage is the creation of God not the invention of our instincts:
"What Jesus does, as so often, is to avoid the trap by going back to first principles, and reorienting the whole issue so as to look at it from a God’s eye point of view. Looking back to the Genesis text we started with this morning he asks, what did God intend in creation, why did he divide humankind in to two different genders, why did he create marriage between a man and a woman, what is human sexuality for in the Divine reckoning of things? 
This, in my opinion, is where we should start from in our consideration of all the controversial issues before us as they relate to human sexuality and Divinely sanctioned partnerships. The questions that matter are: what does God expect of us in this situation, what does God call us to be, what standards does God set for us in our sexual habits, and what does God intend for us for us in our intimacy lives? 
If that sounds like an obvious place to start then I am afraid to report that it is a perspective that is rarely ever heard. The New Zealand Anglican Church has bent over backwards to accommodate itself to its surrounding secular society. It has wanted to see itself in alliance with, and on the cusp of, progressive change in each of its unfolding stages. In wanting to distance itself from its anglophile origins, it has tried to make itself deeply at home in what it sees as a distinctively New Zealand culture. 
But the problem is that the more our Church has identified itself with its surrounding secular culture the more it has lost its cutting edge as a unique and distinct entity that is shaped by a Divine agenda. We are in the salvation business - that is what we do that nobody else can. But now we are suffering from a kind of mission drift in which we risk being seen as a faint echo of the last bright idea of progressive elites. 
As an example of what I am talking about I think back to a recent article in our national magazine Taonga, in which retired Bishop John Bluck argued that secular New Zealand society had easily and painlessly adapted to civil unions and same sex partnerships, and it was time for our Church to get with the programme. There was no hint of an argument from Scripture, or of a solidly argued theological case for doing this. The line of argument was - where secular New Zealand society goes we go. 
Even if you take this line of argument on its own terms, it ignores the reality that our secular New Zealand culture is changing in rapid and unpredictable ways that are not necessarily helpful to the way God intends human flourishing. The Labour Party is congratulating itself right now for being first off the blocks on same sex marriage, but it has also got a private members bill waiting in the wings promoting euthanasia, and of course one of its MPs was the promoter of the legalisation of prostitution. As a result some young women now think that this is a socially acceptable way to earn some extra money. 
I agree with the American Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson that divorce proceedings are now under way between the Church and its surrounding western culture. Western culture is less and less influenced by Christian values, and is in fact pursuing some re-paganising agendas, while under the illusion that it is doing this for the best of progressive reasons. The problem for the Church is not only that it now swims in a culture that has little understanding or sympathy for its message, but also that often its membership has their world view and essential values shaped by this de-Christianised culture. 
Which is why I don’t think our surrounding culture should set the norms or the agendas for our mating habits, or our intimacy lives. What pagans, secularists, and unbelievers get up to in that respect is their business. Things are different in the Church. Christianity is a counter cultural affair. God sets a higher standard for us. The Holy Spirit calls us to be holy, set apart, different, sanctified, trying to be in our own small way a little bit like God."

Monday, October 29, 2012

The ABC's humanity and a vision of God's love

The Archbishop of Canterbury has preached a sermon now published at the opening eucharist of ACC. You can read the sermon here. It is a radical penetration deep into the meaning of God's ceaseless, causeless love for us. Excellent. But here we have our own penetrating analysis of an oddity about the sermon. For those of us who preached or heard preached Mark 10:46-52 yesterday, we will have been struck by the fact that the text of this sermon is John 15:17-end. A quick excursion to the lectionary reveals that this means the reading was part of the set prescribed for the celebration of St Simon and St Jude. But of St Simon and St Jude you will not read a word in the sermon. Which raises for me a question about preaching and the lectionary: if we are choosing to move from the mainstream of the lectionary (i.e. following the gospel for the year) should we make connection between the alt.readings and the reason for choosing them? After all, if we simply preach from (say) John instead of (say) Mark without such connection, are we implying that any gospel reading on any given Sunday will do? If we are, then, why follow the lectionary and not some other schema (such as, "This year, hmm, I think we will work our way through Matthew").

As a matter of fact, Mark 10:46-52 would have made a great reading for the beginning of ACC. As a local parish in Christchurch had it, the theme here is "Only those who see can follow." Can ACC see what the situation is for global Anglicanism in relation to who Jesus is?

By the way, the ABC is obviously a very human person and is as susceptible as any of us to having his photo taken with famous celebrities:

Some readers here will recognise that at least one of these young celebrities is the daughter of a non-celebrity blogger! Whatever the Youth Stewards are up to at ACC (quite a lot of work helping out), someone is taking lots of photos and this one is sourced courtesy of Facebook.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Excited by ABC

I may not be excited by the ACC meeting in Auckland because, er, it is a meeting and such meetings are, mostly in my experience, not exciting. But that does not mean I cannot appreciate, even be excited by individuals who have come to the meeting. I am looking forward, for instance, to the visit of the ABC to Christchurch next weekend. Why? Because when all the critical things said about him over the years are gathered up and placed in a box to one side of the road, for later assessment and discussion, we are left with a great theologian who can put things into words which, well, do not come nearly so easily to me, as I try pitifully to respond to life's dilemmas. Thus in this Taonga report, regarding some aspects of the introductory gatherings as ACC begins, we find a few ABCic bon mots.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Not excited by ACC

I cannot get excited by the current ACC meeting in Auckland. While touted for us Kiwis as a once in a life time event (literally true: it has never previously happened here in my nearly 53 years and unlikely will happen again in the next 47 years, should the Lord tarry), the question we could ask is what kind of "event" is it?

Again, trying hard to be positive, it is an event in which people meet (cf. ++Tutu's definition of Anglicanism) and those meetings are important for those who meet. But who are those who meet? As best I can tell they are (1) the actual ACC members (2) a more or less equivalent number of jet setting Anglican functionaries, bureaucrats, network co-ordinators, commission chairs and what have you. In other words, a set of people who like leaving their own country to meet with people of other countries, and via the regularity of global Anglican meetings get to know each other well and thus look forward to the next meeting. In sum: everyone gathering for this meeting will have a great time (and, I can assure you, dear reader, that the hospitality shown them in Auckland will be extraordinary). No one will go away unhappy.

But our question in the hard-headed atmosphere of Anglicanland blogging is whether the event merits the excitement of observers such as you and me. Will it achieve anything through its decision-making? There is a question to ponder.

What is ACC's role in the life of the Communion? Does it, for instance, exercise some kind of decisive governmental role in our affairs? If it does, is that governmental role exercised as a representative body of Anglicans across the world? (See now, also, comment below from Bosco Peters).

These questions are just a little hard to answer with enthusiasm.

My particular beef with the ACC is that a most unfortunate myth surrounds it that it is the only "representative" body among the Instruments of Unity because it is the only one of those bodies which involves priests/deacons and laity (as well as bishops).

Strictly speaking this is true. But are the "reps" sent to the body "representative"?

From an ACANZP perspective I have little confidence that our "reps" have the ability to represent conservative clergy and laity in our church. They are fine individuals and quite transparent in the convictions they express in the synodical life of our church. But those convictions are not conservative. Yet conservatism in our church is about 40% of our life (I reckon).

Now sending three reps to ACC is what it is, a process where the diversity of our church attempts to  be captured by three people. It doesn't work. I suggest we need about six people to do that with some sense of adequacy. ACC polity doesn't allow us to send six so we have what we have. Incidentally, it happens that between the bishops choosing their rep, the clergy their rep and the laity their rep that we are represented by three men.

So I do not buy the myth of ACC's representativeness. Frankly, I think gathering the bishops at Lambeth does that much better. At least conservative dioceses with conservative bishops get to send their bishop to that event.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unctuous vacuity

Dreadful reporting here in an NZ Herald report about the forthcoming ACC in Auckland. (Don't be fooled by the "NZ" in the newspaper's title. It is an Auckland paper which is simply being true to the fact that up in Auckland they think they are NZ!).

Somewhat typically of the lowest quality of journalism hereabouts, the article starts with an interview of someone (a friend of mine, as it happens) who is not a member of the ACC and who cheerfully predicts what the ACC will decide. But if one can be bothered to read on to the end, you will find an actual functionary of the ACC, Kenneth Kearon, who knows the agenda backwards, draws the opposite conclusion!

I do understand that "Nothing much will be decided at ACC meeting" does not sell newspapers!

What some of us would like to see from journalists at ACC is a focused interview of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (TEC) and Bishop Douglas (Connecticutt). Here are the questions I would be asking:

(1) Are you going after every bishop of TEC dioceses which does not fully accede to the canons and constitution of TEC?

Should be an interesting answer since Connecticutt is deficient in this matter also!

(2) Given the amount of legal machinations going on against conservative bishops in TEC (not just South Carolina, also against these bishops), does "E" in "TEC" stand for "exclusive"?

(3) Which word better describes these moves against conservative bishops in TEC, "purge" or "cleansing"?

Hopefully we would get straight answers and no unctuous vacuity.

It is just that the NZ Herald report doesn't fill me with hope that any reporter will show up ready to ask tough questions ...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting with the programme

Catch up here on the Diocese of South Carolina's response to frequently asked questions about its new situation as a diocese no longer associated with TEC.

Look up the PDF of the programme of ACC-15 formal opening events here.

We are now counting down the days in Christchurch until the Archbishop of Canterbury arrives to grace our fair city. From our diocesan e-news, we anticipate the following:
Public Events where the Archbishop of Canterbury will be present Saturday – Sunday, 3 – 4 November 2012  
Saturday evening, 3 November, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams will attend “The Concert” at the AMI Stadium in Addington, and is expected to address the crowd briefly at 8.30pm. 
 If you plan to attend the 9.00 Sunday morning Eucharist service on 4 November at Christ’s College, please bring your own chair. Preferential indoor seating will be given to Cathedral regulars. In addition to seating in the chapel, the public is invited to sit outdoors (BYO chair) at the College. There will be excellent sound channeled outside and the Archbishop will take communion to the people seated outside, but there are no spare chairs available.  
Sunday afternoon on 4 November Dr Williams will participate in a 2.00pm Service of the Word at St Christopher’s Church, Avonhead. He is expected to speak on the topic: “What does holiness look like? How do we seek holiness, given it is ultimately a gift?” There will be video screens and sound throughout the complex, and it is hoped there will sound outdoors, so it may be a good idea to bring a chair to this service if you are not arriving early. The only reserved seating will be for the ecumenical guests.  
At 3.00pm young people (ages 16–30) will be invited back into St Christopher’s Church to listen to the Archbishop and have a chance for him to answer a few questions. Afterwards he returns to Auckland.
Additionally, there will be a powhiri and meal organised by Pihopa John Gray of Te Wai Pounamou (i.e Maori Anglicans of the South Island, NZ), at Ferry Road, between ++Rowan's arrival late Saturday afternoon and his appearance at The Concert.

Finally, it is interesting to note here on ADU that a new theological education centre is to be opened in Auckland, New Zealand, with Dr Jane Williams featuring in the ceremony. From the first part of the Taonga report:

St Paul's Symonds St is launching a new theological centre in Auckland. 
St Paul's Theological Centre, Auckland, will be officially opened by Dr Jane Williams, the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Monday, 29 October. 
A theologian in her own right, Dr Williams will also give the opening lecture, from 7.30pm.The Auckland centre is one of a number of satellites of St Paul's Theological Centre, London. 
It enables ordinary people to learn more about the rich theology that is a part of the history and life of the church. It also allows people to listen to some of the best thinkers and communicators of Christian faith from New Zealand and around the world. 
The centre offers short courses in a large range of subjects, including how to understand the books of scripture, Christian doctrine, spiritual disciplines, and the theology and practice of worship.  
The Rev Dr Graham Tomlin, principal of St Paul's Theological Centre and Dean of St Mellitus College, London, says: "Our vision is to see good, high-quality theological teaching available in local churches. 
"SPTC Auckland will be an invaluable resource not just for St Paul's Church but for many other churches in Auckland and beyond." 
The director of the Auckland initiative, the Rev Mathew Newton, says many Christians long to understand their faith more deeply.
Yet another clergyperson whose beginnings in ordained ministry took place in the Nelson Diocese ...!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The narrowing of Anglican life. Thanks, TEC!

Walking the other day in a beautiful forest (Hanmer, for Cantabrian locals) I was reminded of the difficulty of seeing the wood for the trees. Over yonder, in TEC land, the same difficulty may be occurring. The trees are the technicalia of canons, constitutions (TEC, South Carolina) and conventions. Perhaps +Mark will be found by due canonical process to have infringed the rules and regulations of TEC. But the wood is the nature of Anglican life in the 21st century. How wide is this life to which some of the world's Christians have committed themselves? In the bigger scheme of things a pertinent question from this side of the Pacific is, has TEC (un)intentionally committed itself to a narrow vision of Anglican life by agreeing through its General Conventions to a series of rules which, sooner or later, were bound to 'catch' a +Mark Lawrence, and may yet catch other conservative bishops in a drive, a pogrom even, to purge itself of dissent?

In part, my defence of +Mark and the Diocese of South Carolina is a defence of conservative Anglicans right to presume that the evolution of Anglicanism as an ecclesial phenomenon marked by diversity more than by unity is an evolution which includes us as a species of Anglican rather than excludes us. Railing as some Episcopal commentators are doing about +Mark lying and so forth is focusing on the trees rather than the wood. A lot has changed since +Mark took office in a Diocese of such strong conservatism that it resolved not once but twice to have him as their bishop. But what has changed has not improved the welcome accorded those who conservatively disagree with the liberally evolving line of successive General Conventions. Accordingly, South Carolina has taken steps to carve its own wide space to breathe in when TEC has done nothing for it. Instead of berating +Mark, a little inspection of itself might do TEC a world of gospel good - speck meet log, log meet speck.

The question of width v. narrowness of Anglican life is well canvassed at Conciliar Anglican with a nice pic to go with it. Slow train crash coming, indeed!

That there should be some width to Anglican life is a point implicit in two posts on the sacraments. John Richardson at The Ugley Vicar offers a reflection on an evangelical understanding of the sacraments and catholicity and covenant takes John's post up and stretches it further with some astute criticism. The mystery of the sacraments, much explored but not yet exhausted, reminds us that Anglican width is based on recognition that on important matters the last word has not yet been said and space for continuing conversation should be provided.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Worship is Mission

The following is an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ACC, due to meet in Auckland from this coming weekend. It is penned by my friend and colleague, Bosco Peters, Liturgy, and I support it. It is now noted at Thinking Anglicans.

Dear Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Anglican Consultative Council,
This open letter is a passionate request that you revise the Anglican five-fold mission statement and explicitly include worship/liturgy.
The five-fold mission statement is regularly used as a starting point for the life and mission of the church. It is good, but inadequate. I ardently advocate that our worship, our liturgy, be central, and be seen to be central, to the church’s mission. Its omission from the five-fold mission statement affects our church life and integrity.
The Anglican five-fold mission statement from the Anglican Consultative Council has:
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)
I propose that worship, liturgy, is not a means to further the mission of the church. It is not a means to further any or all of the dimensions in the five-fold mission statement. Worship, in and of itself, is an essential dimension of our mission and should find its place in our accepted mission statement.
Worship, liturgy, especially the Eucharist, is understood, by the majority of Christians, to be “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 11). St Ignatius Loyola understood “The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God” (The Principle and Foundation in his Spiritual Exercises).
Although worship is not a means, giving it centrality does lead to desirable effects. On the other hand, I would argue, the loss of the pivotal place of worship and liturgy leads to consequences, such as the loss of the unifying power of common prayer, of common worship.
I would suggest that as Anglicans unity has been a gift to us through common prayer which has been at the heart of Anglicanism. We neglect our shared spiritual disciplines, and our common unity in God through Christ in the Spirit, at a cost to our unity. Lex orandi, lex credendi, (“the law of prayer is the law of belief”); lex vivendi, in fact. Prayer shapes belief which shapes our life.
In this province, as just one example, during the last three decades we have seen the removal of the clergy’s requirement of Daily Prayer and a diminution of study, training, and formation in liturgy, worship, spirituality. Stressing the centrality of worship and liturgy in a revised Anglican mission statement I hope will be part of returning training formation and study of liturgy, worship, spirituality to be foundational to our life as church. I would love to see contemplation, spirituality, prayer, worship, liturgy as being foundational to formation of our clergy and our communities. Placing worship/liturgy as central to a revised, updated, mission statement will, I hope, aid renewal. The contemplative dimension provides a solid foundation in our new often-post-modern, often-post-Christian context, where many are unnecessarily disconcerted by change and also new conclusions in scientific, ethical, and even theological endeavours.
I understand that the Anglican Consultative Council has previously discussed having worship as a dimension of church mission, and this letter advocates that revising our five-fold mission statement, to place worship at the heart of church mission, be once again progressed.
Be assured that my prayers are with you as you gather for your meeting in Auckland
Rev. Bosco Peters
Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand

Monday, October 22, 2012

Carolingian Chicken and Egg?

Now that it is looking much clearer that Mitt Romney will win the big stoush in America, we can turn our attention to the smaller stoush going on in TEC between ++Katharine Jefferts Schori and +Mark Lawrence. And stoush it is. Mark Harris of Preludium says +Mark is a liar. A.S. Haley of Anglican Curmudgeon says that TEC's Board of Discipline is hopelessly compromised. I haven't time to go through all the blogs, but they are stoushing!

From far away it is difficult to know what is the chicken and what is the egg here. Possibly the egg is the Diocese and a plan to breakaway from TEC, possibly even begun before Mark Lawrence was consecrated +Mark, he being chosen to be the lion-hearted leader to assist with the breakaway. The chicken is then TEC wising up to the breakaway and acting, as it has now, to discipline the errant bishop. Flaw: the decision-making has been Diocesan rather than episcopal. Will TEC take 'the Diocese' to court?

Against this scenario is the implausibility of a Diocese promulgating action to leave a church of good standing in the gospel and in the grand tradition of Christian orthodoxy. So an alternative egg is TEC itself. Bit by bit pushing the limits of what passes for recognisable orthodoxy, leaving the Diocese of SC with no alternative but to become the chicken that walks away to a different future.

Which is which?

Courtesy of a correspondent, these links may help get the whole picture: here, here and here.

Friday, October 19, 2012


The Destruction of South Carolina?

 The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

It has happened. The South Carolingian quitclaims issued a while ago (i.e. enabling parishes to hold their property against Assyrian-like takeover) along with other actions have led to the Episcopal can(n)ons firing upon +Mark Lawrence and his Diocese in an action which has led to the Diocese of SC issuing a "quitclaim" in respect of TEC, i.e. "We quit you." Read here, here, here, here and here. +Mark's episcopal ministry is now restricted by ++Katharine.

Alongside this action there is a somewhat similar action (re the property side of things) unfolding in the Church of Scotland, as you can read here.

It strikes me that a lot of ink is going to be spilled on these kinds of matters without careful thought about where both sides are going wrong on these matters. (I acknowledge that the specific situation of South Carolina, where certain claims re South Carolina's existence prior to the formation of TEC and concerning South Carolina property law, is not straightforwardly akin to many disputes of the kind unfolding in Glasgow).

On one side is the matter of people obeying and respecting the laws of the church to which they belong (not least in the case of clergy, by virtue of vows made, declarations signed and what have you). For biblical, conservative Christians,  a simple respect for due and proper authority is required of us. I find it strange that evangelical brothers and sisters  who have come to the conclusion that they can no longer be part of a larger body which has lost its way, do not withdraw completely from that body, including leaving the building (at least until such time as in a lawful manner they might re-enter it legally, e.g. by purchasing the property or leasing it long-term from its rightful owners).

On the other side of the matter of the church seeking to be a living expression of the body of Christ on earth,  a simple respect for due and proper church life in parishes by higher ecclesial authorities is required by leaders who seek to live as those appointed to their roles by Christ. Having recourse to the law (including civil law) in order to deal with, even to deal to fellow Christians going about their gospel business of ministering the Word and Sacrament seems a deeply unChristian way to act, indeed has all the hallmarks of the ways of the Scribes and the Pharisees in the gospels as they sought to restrict the ministry of Jesus. I find it strange that church authorities around the world cannot find it in their institutional hearts to offer grace to those in disagreement with them. Why do buildings filled with active Christian worshippers have to be taken off them in order to be available to a much much smaller congregation, or locked up and mothballed, or sold to anyone but the existing congregation?

I encourage +Mark Lawrence to go about his normal business as a bishop.

If the actions of TEC against +Mark and the Diocese of South Carolina continue in such a way that attempts are made to wrest the the church properties in SC from the Diocese, I predict some very destructive consequences. One lesson from the Assyrian conquest of Israel is that the Assyrians and the northern kingdom both suffered future ignominy.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not business as usual

It is not business as usual at the moment.

Not for me. Theology House is in the process of shifting and settling into two new locations. Theology House itself is settling into a new house, at 31 Yaldhurst Road, Christchurch (part of a large area of land owned by the Parish of Upper Riccarton, thus placing us about 100 metres from our Anglican Centre). This week I have been involved in setting up my new office which will be located at Laidlaw College Christchurch. I am planning to work mornings in Theology House and afternoons in Laidlaw College. Tomorrow we shift some 3000 theological books from storage to Laidlaw College where they will be incorporated into the library there (on a medium term loan as a separate collection within their catalogue).

Not for the Diocese on (at least) two counts. As the copied in information below demonstrates, we are busy organising the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury in two weeks time. ++Rowan will spend approximately 24 hours in Christchurch in the middle of the Anglican Consultative Council's forthcoming meeting in Auckland. Also below is the announcement of the composition of the Structural Review Group which will work towards a draft plan to go to our next Synod in April.

"Public Events where the Archbishop of Canterbury will be present
Saturday – Sunday, 3 – 4 November 2012

Saturday evening the Most Reverend Rowan Williams will attend “The Concert” [see (3) below] at the AMI Stadium in Addington, and is expected to address the crowd briefly.

Sunday morning the Archbishop will celebrate the Eucharist at the 9.00am service at Christ’s College. Preferential indoor seating will be given to Cathedral regulars. In addition to seating in the chapel, the public is invited to sit outdoors (BYO chair) at the College, as good amplification of the service is planned.

Sunday afternoon Dr Williams will participate in a 2.00pm Service of the Word at St Christopher’s Church, Avonhead. He is expected to speak on the topic: “What does holiness look like? How do we seek holiness, given it is ultimately a gift?” Tea will be served in the parish halls following the service.

At 3.00pm young people (ages 16–30) will be invited back into St Christopher’s Church to listen to the Archbishop and have a chance for him to answer a few questions. He may stay briefly for refreshments afterwards before returning to Auckland.

2.       Appointments to the Structural Review Group 

As announced at Synod, a group to review the shape of the Diocese is being formed and will begin work shortly.  Regular reports will be forwarded through e-Life.

Thank you to all nominees for their willingness to serve the Diocese in this group, and to those who forwarded suitable nominations.  Thanks to that willingness, Standing Committee members were able to review a pleasing number of suitable nominees, consider the requirements and balance of the group, and have resolved to appoint the following:

Chair               Bishop Victoria (or her deputy)
Members         The Rev’d Lynette Lightfoot
                        The Rev’d Andrew Allan-Johns
                        Mrs Juliet Wensley
                        Mr Philip Mackenzie
                        Mr John-Luke Day

These appointees bring a range of skills and perspectives and we all wish them well.

For your information the Terms of Reference for the group are on the Diocesan website .  The Vision is for members to prayerfully consider, review, and recommend the future shape of the Diocese of Christchurch, giving glory to God and a sure foundation for the future. 

The primary objective and purpose is to provide Synod and the Standing Committee of the Diocese with a draft proposal to re-structure Diocesan Ministry Units, in accordance with the Strategic Plan (Growing Forward), into a new Diocesan map. 

That draft proposal will be considered by Synod on 12-13 April 2013, so there is much work to be done over the next few months. Your prayers and good wishes would be appreciated as they begin this important work.

3.       “The Concert”
Saturday, 3 November 2012, 2.00pm–10.00pm, AMI Stadium, Addington

Thanks to Skinny Mobile, “The Concert” is the biggest music event to hit Canterbury in 2012. Featuring Katchafire, Scribe, PNC, Pieter T, Savage, Dj-Sir-Vere, Che-Fu & the Kratez, Avalanche City, Hollie Smith, Goodshirt, Dane Rumble, J. Williams, K.One, Tyson Tyler & DJ CXL, Illegal Banditz feat. Brooke, Kidz in Space, Annah Mac, House of Mountain, Hera, The Eastern, Dukes, Autozamm, Late Nyte Hype, Massad, with special guest appearances from Titanium, Christchurch Pops Choir, and the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Tickets available from Its free, well, almost  free. If you have done 4 or more hours of any sort of volunteering, whether through an organization or volunteer to work with an elderly person in your community or on a committee, you qualify for a ticket. The volunteering must have taken place in 2012, but may have been at any point.

Throughout the diocese many church groups will have large lists of people who would qualify for tickets given their continual community service. The easiest way for these people to be processed is for the church, or youth group, to simply email us a spreadsheet with their names and emails. We can then upload their information into the website and email them e-tickets. The only condition is that it is an R15 event.  Please send any such lists to "

I won't be going to the Concert. Anything U15s cannot hear might be offensive to my ears!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jesus of history or Christ of faith – Jesus of history and of faith and Christ of history and of faith?

As part of a class tomorrow on Luke's Gospel, which also involves looking at the question of the Jesus of history versus the Christ of faith, I have jotted these thoughts down:

Gospel study raises important questions about history and about theology.

What can we know about Jesus as a historical person?  Are the gospels reliable guides to this knowledge? We ask these questions in the same way that we might ask them about Julius Caesar and about the writings attributed to him, or about Winston Churchill about whom much is written and who wrote much himself (indeed won a Nobel Prize for Literature).

What can we know about the theological significance of Jesus of Nazareth? For instance, what makes Jesus the Messiah (Christ)? On what basis do we understand that the human Jesus is the divine Son of God? If we propose that certain miracles, especially the miracle of the resurrection prove  the theological significance of Jesus, how do we know these miracles occurred (a re-litigating of the historical question above) and how do we know that miracles connect the historical Jesus to the theological Christ of our faith?

Questions of these kinds can be put in other ways. Does the history of Jesus make any difference to the Christ in whom we believe? If it turned out that (say) Jesus only fed 4999 men, is our faith worthless? (Answer: probably not). If it turned out that Jesus performed no feeding miracle, is our faith in vain? (Answer: probably, because miracles perform a role in the grounding of our faith in God’s activity in reality, compared with ideas about what God is like in a different ‘beyond reality’ existence). There is a connection between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, even if it is difficult to define that connection.  (To be slightly absurd, between 4999 men being fed and no men fed, what number would matter in respect of when faith faltered at the faultiness of the history taught to us?)

This connection was obvious to the church of the New Testament which readily identified the historical person Jesus of Nazareth with the anticipated Christ sent from God and renamed this person Jesus Christ.

In part our faith is the handing on of that faith which from the beginning recognised Jesus as the Christ (that is, refused to recognise Jesus as other than the Christ, and recognised no one else as the Christ).

In part our faith is the conviction, through reading the gospels in conjunction with the whole of Scripture that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God – that is, we read the gospels as living documents bearing witness – in a remarkable way, considering the ancientness of the gospels – to the real Jesus, the Jesus who was both the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, so that we read them as history and theology, biography and creed concerning Jesus Christ.

For some there may be another part: in some experience within our lives we have met the risen Jesus Christ (e.g. through vision or auditory experience) and then realised that the one we have met is the one we meet when we read the gospels.

What do you think?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gospel seeds

It was wonderful last night to be present at one of our parishes' evening service, cafe style with lots of couches (which I eschewed, in late middle age one can never be too careful about falling asleep in public). The focal point of the service was a baptism of a young person. I am pleased to report that cafe style and the full words of the baptismal service in our NZPB (prayer book) were combined with due ceremony, superb music and an excellent sermon. In two weeks' time a confirmation service will take place in the parish, with yet more young people being confirmed by Bishop Victoria. Gospel seeds have been sewn on good soil!

These months are a rich period of gospel study in my own life. I have been deep into Luke's Gospel as I teach a course at Laidlaw College Christchurch. These last two Sundays I have been preaching and that has led me to learn yet more new things from Mark's Gospel. The former study has got me thinking again, and writing about a puzzle I have followed these last twelve years or so, what were the sources of Luke's Gospel? I think I may have cracked the puzzle and worked out why we can have confidence that Luke used Matthew's Gospel (and thus the Q document hypothesized by scholars for centuries can now be buried, never to be exhumed again). Then there is a commission to jointly compose with our Acting Dean, Lynda Patterson, some Lenten studies for use in ministry units in the Diocese next year. We have decided to follow Luke's Gospel (it is Year C) and are working on six passages relating to prayer - thus taking up one aspect of Bishop Victoria's call to the Diocese to make this next twelve months a year of prayer and study.

What  have I been learning which is new (to me, at any rate) from Mark's Gospel? For some time now I have been alert to the socio-political dimensions of Mark's Gospel, principally through the commentary on the gospel called Binding the Strong Man by Ched Myers . I haven't actually been able to access this commentary for the past few weeks of sermon preparation, so what I am about to write may or may not concur with his insights.

The last three readings in Mark's Gospel have taken us through the stories of conversations about demon deliverance, divorce, and wealth. There are many points to ponder from these passages. Among them are these insights about the radical vision Jesus had for the kingdom of God. It was inclusive, just and egalitarian.

Inclusive: in Mark 9:38-40 Jesus rebukes the disciples for trying to restrict the kingdom to the followers of Jesus they knew about. The kingdom is inclusive of all who call on the name of the Lord.

Just: in Mark 10:1-16 Jesus denies that men have all the rights in a marriage (or at least the dominant right to determine the course of a marriage). In the kingdom men and women have equal rights. But the passage does not end there in respect of just relations, by blessing the children, Jesus teaches that children are people also, entitled to justice as their parents are.

Egalitarian: in Mark 10:17-31 Jesus may not be calling every wealthy follower to sell all they have and to give the proceeds to the poor, but he is calling all followers to sit very light to possessions, to give up their claims to such things and to ensure that the poor are taken care of. An implication of the passage as a whole is that the rule of God over people's lives leads inescapably to the conclusion that disparity between rich and poor is inimical to kingdom life - the application of this was seen in the earliest days of the church according to Acts.

To return to the first passage, and the power of Jesus through the name of Jesus to deliver people from demons, I am reminded of an old story about the church prelate reflecting on the story in Acts 3 about Peter and John healing a disabled beggar with the words 'Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee, Rise up and walk.' The prelate says, 'No longer can the church say "Silver and gold have I none".' To which his companion wryly observes, 'And neither can it say, "Rise up and walk".'

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why it is right and timely for St John's to seek a principal

Over on Facebook (Hinota Whanui page for those accessing it) there is a lively discussion about the shift in paradigm at St John's College, Auckland involved in committing to finding a principal to lead the College forward. The shift, for those unaware of the recent history of the College, is a shift from (effectively) a triumverate of deans, one for each tikanga (cultural stream), leading the College, to a principal leading the College in association with the three deans. The starting point for the discussion is the question of whether this shift spells the end of the Three Tikanga Church or not.

I think the question worth asking but the answer does not depend on the model of leadership at St John's College. The end of the Three Tikanga Church comes as we neglect what the 'Church' part of the phrase means: one body in Christ. If our exploration and working out of the Three Tikanga model for church has no point or points of unity, then the model is doomed. If we recognise that our diversity is bound together by common accord (one gospel, one faith, one baptism, one Lord ... one constitution, one set of canons, one General Synod) then the model always has room for one leader (e.g. Primate, Chair of a three tikanga committee, Principal of our main theological college). The role of the single leader is to draw the strands of tikanga life together, to work with the three tikanga on common goals and common life, to cast a vision for the future of the church in which we grow into the one Bride of Christ.

I have been a visitor, observer and listener concerning life at St John's College for some seventeen years now. I was a Tikanga Pakeha rep on a review group about eight years ago (which led to the establishment of the Anglican Studies programme) and last year I was part of the Tikanga Pakeha appointing group which appointed the current dean of pakeha life at the College. From that mostly outside perspective I am convinced that the model for leadership which has no single principal (a) never worked well, (note 1) and (b) has come to an end (note 2). Structurally, the lack of a single principal meant there was a model in which power struggles were inevitable. At best there could be a call on the Board of Governors to exercise leadership, to 'referee' in debates over which tikanga way should prevail and so forth. Such calls were difficult. Even the 'Board of Governors' role changed significantly over the seventeen years (from delegated responsibility to the former Board of Oversight to the abolition of that Board and a resumption of governance by Te Kotahitanga (i.e. the canonical Board of Governors), but that governance had to take place amidst a multitude of other responsibilities of Te Kotahitanga concerning theological education and ministry formation in our church.

Over that period the College has professed a rhetoric of three tikanga life and all too frequently from the lips of luminaries in our church phrases such as the 'jewel in the crown' have been heard. The reality has been somewhat different: each tikanga has sought from the College what it believes it has needed for the development of its ministry and mission. Quite different agenda have pulled the College this way and that. In the process the College has moved in focus from being exclusively (and therefore intensively) focused on theological education and ministry formation in a cohesive community to be a series of communities, both tikanga communities, and communities with different learning outcomes (so some students at the College have utilised the provision of College accommodation in order to train for vocations other than the ordained ministry). The only value judgement I make here about the way in which life has developed at the College since it became a three tikanga college is that it has not represented diversity-in-unity as one church of three tikanga. Instead it has been a place where three tikanga have tried their best to pursue three differing visions for the future of their tikanga lives.

In theory such development of the College could be a good thing (i.e. I am wrongly evaluating the direction it has taken), but in practice it has led to a crisis of confidence in the College. Tikanga which seek from the College what fits that Tikanga's hopes and dreams are liable to go elsewhere when the College is perceived no longer to be so fitted. In the particular case of both Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Pakeha, we have seen over these last seventeen years  developments in ministry training and formation away from the College. Cutting a long analysis of the situation short, I suggest that Te Kotahitanga is working to refocus the College on its 'core business' (theological education and ministry formation) and to sharpen its leadership structure (one principal should be able to steer the College more quickly in the directions the Tikanga discern to be the future of the church).

Without this change to a single principal, would we have a College to fight over? Critics of the current move, I suggest, may not be aware of how perilous the future of the College is (I am not talking about next year but about five to ten years hence). It has lost its mojo as the College everyone wants to go to and become the College that people consider going to among other options. It needs to regain its mojo and a single principal is needed (along with some other changes) to achieve that.

All this can and will lead to enhancement of our life together as a Three Tikanga Church. The appointment of a single principal at SJC does not spell the end of that life.

Note 1: I am speaking about the "model." I am not saying that there have not been good things that have happened at the College or that there have not been significant things achieved during the life of the model. But there have been too many stories through the time of the model, of life at the College, stories marked by unhappiness, complaints, grizzles, and, in some cases suppression in public discussion of deep concerns about matters, for some sanguine view of the model to prevail. A single principal of the College would and could have stopped many of these stories before they were written into the book of the life of the College.

Note 2: Thus I do not credit those who wish to undo the ending of the model, which effectively took place over two years ago at GS 2010.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Situations Vacant

(1) The parish I am currently and temporarily PinC of:

16.     The Parish of Bryndwr (Christchurch) seeks a full-time Vicar
Closing date for applications: Saturday, 10 November 2012


St Aidan’s Bryndwr is an evangelical, family-orientated Anglican church
in the Diocese of Christchurch, seeking a Vicar who will:
• be evangelical
• demonstrate a pastoral heart
• make children and youth an intrinsic part of church
• have proven skills in facilitation and delegation
• be well organised

We are committed to:
• bible-based, practical preaching
• fellowship
• children, youth, and young-adult ministries
• local community outreach

For more information visit our website:
To obtain a parish profile and receive an application form, please contact:
Bishop Victoria Matthews,
Anglican Diocese of Christchurch,
Anglican Centre,
PO Box 4438,
Christchurch, New Zealand 8140
email:  or ring  03-348-6960.

(2) Our major residential Anglican theological college in ACANZP:

The College of St John the Evangelist has a vision of loving service, unity and reconciliation in Christ such that:
  • We are entrusted with the theological educational task of preparing students to be sent out from the college, confidently equipped to be as sacrificial, transformative, just, healing and reconciling agents, as servants of God revealed in Christ
  • We are able to give full expression to the diversity, gifts and treasures of the three Tikanga by our unity in Christ
  • We live our lives in loving service to God’s people and God’s world. Our life and our formation at St John’s College and beyond always strives towards this purpose
  • We seek to fulfil this vision as a Christian community that takes seriously our reconciliation in Christ
  • We acknowledge that we undertake this journey in deep thanksgiving for the legacy of Selwyn and all our faithful forebears.


The College of St John the Evangelist, in response to the saving act of Christ, and in recognition of the five marks of mission, exists to provide excellence in bicultural, three Tikanga, theological education for the mission and ministry of the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, Polynesia and the world.
Te Kotahitanga (the Board of Governors of the College) wishes to appoint a person as Principal/Manukura of the College of St John the Evangelist. The position requires excellence in executive management skills, and a proven ability to provide leadership in a theological academic world, with a minimum of a preferred PhD or Doctorate in Ministry in areas relevant to the theology and management of a theological college.
The person will be expected to provide leadership, relationship management and strategic support and direction in the provision of quality academic programmes within the College of St John the Evangelist. This role is charged with driving the mission of St John’s by providing inspirational managerial and operational leadership, clear academic direction and skilful implementation of the strategic requirements of Te Kotahitanga. The position has a mandate for change with full delegated authority from Te Kotahitanga to develop and implement policy, make rules and regulations and facilitate the development and implementation of the academic curriculum. The role requires committed leadership, within the context of bicultural, three Tikanga relationships, and is responsible for management of the day to day operations of the College, pastoral and spiritual care of students through the  Deans  and staff and close liaison and consultation with Te Kotahitanga and other important stakeholders.
The level of appointment will depend on qualifications and experience.
You must be eligible to work in NZ to be considered for this position.
For a copy of the Job Description please contact the Te Kotahitanga Executive Officer, Ms Paula Jakeman
(09) 528 7086 or
Closing Date: 2 November, 2012, 5.00 pm
Applications to be forwarded to the Te Kotahitanga Executive Officer – Ms Paula Jakeman
PO Box 87-188 Meadowbank, Auckland 1742

A colleague has pointed out to me that the advertisement crucially misses the role of forming candidates for ordination! But the article linked to below catches this aspect.

See also Taonga article.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Implicit justice

Something which struck me as I prepared to speak on Sunday on Mark 10:2-16 was the blow Jesus struck for justice with his words about divorce and marriage. The contemporary situation in which a man had all the rights in marriage, including the right to issue a certificate of divorce, had to stop. In the creation of humanity, men and women were created equal in the sight of God as the image of God. Neither husband nor wife should have dominance within marriage, Jesus is implying with his cessation of the Mosaic approach to ending marriage. We might add, from the same passage, that Jesus also struck a blow for justice in respect of children: by blessing them, he affirmed their full personhood. By citing children as models for how the kingdom of God is to be received, Jesus drew all his teaching into the practice of life in the kingdom of God.

Children accept authority - the rule of adults over their lives. To enter the kingdom of God which is the rule of God over our lives, we also need to accept God's authority and live under it. Family life included!

How this approach to justice works itself out in day to day living involves more than a simple equity in relationships. Disciples are called to live sacrificially, go the extra mile, love enemies, forgive others, and trust God for everything. Above all, in the kingdom of God, God matters most. Not us.

So getting our theology right, whether the theology of marriage or of economics or of ecology, will involve more than imbibing the latest thoughts of our culture or our media pundits. Yet when those voices speak about justice, we should listen, if only to keep discerning where justice is at work in the teaching of Jesus, and of the whole Bible.


An American commenter, Mark Harris, takes me to task for my post yesterday, about the American election. I think the great issue at stake in America today, its debt, is too important not to comment. Get that issue wrong and the world will be a very poor place indeed.

Cranmer's Curate makes an apt point about marriage here. Christians should be clear and united that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Justice for gay people involves responses the churches of the globe have not done well, often slow to catch up with secular movements on, but that does not mean we need to revise the fundamental core of marriage, that it involves a man and a woman.

Although it is a long post - I read recently that all internet posts should only be 1 page in length - Jason Goroncy offers a superb and deep reflection on the recent Presbyterian Assembly here in NZ. Repays reading slowly!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

There is just one issue at stake

Why not continue with politico-economic themes for this week? To be Anglican is simply to be Christian. To be Christian is to follow Christ in this world.  (There are no Christians in heaven ... think about it!). The future of this world is something Christians should care about, as stewards of God's gift of creation and as neighbours of, well, everyone, for no one is excluded from the scope of God's care and concern. So the current global crisis is, or should be of vital interest to each and every Christian.

If then we turn our attention to the looming American election, then our special interest in that as citizens of the world will be on the crisis that election represents for the global economy. The fate of America is not neutral for the rest of the world, and especially not for NZ, a nation whose fortunes rest directly on those of its trading partners. (Ditto, by the way, for China, for Europe, for Australia). In this perspective there is only one issue at stake in the American election, despite blather about immigration laws, gay marriage, Obamacare, foreign policy, etc. That issue is the size of the American deficit, now running into trillions. The more it grows, the more funds are required to pay interest on it, let alone repay the principal. The more funds sucked up in repayments, the less available to purchase goods and services. The future of, say, Obamacare, or foreign policy as something able to be enforced through military power, are at stake. Spiralling debt equals minimal Obamacare and shrinking military budgets. The desperation of people for jobs in the USA is best met by control of the debt.

So, what is on offer in the election? My distillation of a lot of reading is this. Obama offers very little by way of controlling the growth of the debt, and that little is a long way off. Romney offers a little more than Obama by way of controlling the growth of the debt, and that little bit of control kicks in earlier than Obama's approach. Neither offers anything like a robust programme for stemming the incoming tide of debt which threatens to overwhelm the USA and thus the rest of us.

No doubt when America voters go into the polling booths various reasons will drive the decisions they make. But they should focus on the one issue as vastly more important than other issues, and vote for the person they believe will do more to solve the problem. By a sliver Romney should be voted for.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dear God, please not!

There was a time in the life of our nation when Social Credit was something of a joke political philosophy which garnered a regular small band of support with an occasional surge in voting when people were disaffected with both main political parties. Contrary to the impression that Social Credit is long gone as a political movement, it does still exist. But you have to look hard to find it.

Now it also exists in the minds of our Green and Labour politicians who want NZ to engage in the sophisticated 21st century version of Social Credit sweeping the world called "quantitative easing." By any other name this is pretending there is a fairy money tree at the bottom of the garden and its fruit can be picked at will without consequence.

My simple responsive prayer to this possibility is, "Dear God, please not."

There is an added reason for praying this prayer in NZ: we are so small we are deluding ourselves twice over if we think we can play safely with our currency exchange rates by throwing a couple of billion into the game.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A rose by any other name

I cannot but feel considerable sympathy for Hans Kung as he seeks to stir up revolution from within the Roman Catholic church, making the important point that the hierarchy is bound to follow the lead of the pope because only those willing to follow that lead without publicly questioning it get to be part of the hierarchy. Power in the church has a habit of corrupting in subtle ways, not least because we have developed language around 'service' and 'servant leadership' which covers up a multitude of authoritarian sins.

Nevertheless, what Kung seeks already exists. It is called the Anglican Communion.

For directions to get there: swim backstroke across the Tiber! The grass on our bank is particularly green.

ON THE OTHER HAND Edward Norman, yes, that Edward Norman, famous Anglican writer, theologian, apologist, is swimming the Tiber towards Roman shores, via a channel called Anglican Ordinariate, as reported by Damian Thompson:

"Norman the conqueror
Dr Edward Norman, former Reith lecturer and Canon of York Minster, will be received into the Pope’s Personal Ordinariate for ex-Anglicans tomorrow. It’s a coup. The Ordinariate has had to put up with Anglican sneers and appalling condescension from liberal RCs. But now it can number among its members the sharpest apologist for Christianity in the country.
Sharp in every sense. Here’s Dr Norman in this week’s Catholic Herald: “The Church of England provides a masterclass in equivocation; it also, however, is the residence of very many good and faithful Christian people who deserve respect – for their perseverance in so many incoherent spiritual adventures.”
No doubt some Anglicans won’t be sorry to see him go. But orthodox Catholics will be delighted to welcome someone who cuts through throat-clearing ecumenical waffle. Edward Norman isn’t afraid of causing offence; that makes him a rare beast indeed in today’s Church."

Friday, October 5, 2012

A good thing?

As the court case re the cathedral here in Christchurch flows on and works on the rights or not to deconstruct the cathedral, an interesting turn of media focus has been the revelation in this morning's Press of several designs made by the architects, Warren and Mahoney. The general report on the case is here, and the design PDF is here. The designs are sketches, and they focus on what a future cathedral might look like if a decision was made to preserve a significant amount of the current cathedral. The sketches, in other words, are not intended to imply anything about what a whole new cathedral might look like, if, in the end, complete deconstruction takes place.

Postscript: further communications this morning, including a letter from +Victoria to the diocese, suggest that these sketches have no particular status in current considerations by the Cathedral Project Group. While it is a good thing that the Canterbury public have opportunity to discuss designs, these are not the designs to discuss.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A biblical view of marriage

Recently I was commissioned (in the non-monetary sense of the word) to write an article for the Wellington Institute of Theology's September Newsletter (which is somewhere on the web, I believe, but am not sure where, though I did try to locate it). I have uploaded my contribution, 'A biblical view of marriage', to Scribd so you can locate it there.

Postscript: thanks to a friend, the newsletter in toto is here and the WIT site is here.

In local news

Another chapter of the drama about our cathedral is being written through the second half of this week, as a group opposed to the deconstruction of the cathedral goes to court to argue that the authorities over the cathedral are not legally empowered to make the decision to deconstruct (at least, that's how I read the situation via our Press reports).

In today's Press it is fascinating to read this report of minutes of a cathedral chapter meeting in May 2011:

"Minutes from a May 2011 cathedral chapter meeting read to the court yesterday revealed the building was to be scrapped five months before the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) deemed it unsafe. Minutes recorded revealed:The old cathedral "glorified God in the old tradition" and a new cathedral could glorify God in the New Zealand tradition.
Reluctance to go back to "how things were" and "huge opportunities" existed for a new building.
The cathedral was "more than just a building", it was the "heart and soul of the city".
The old cathedral was "important to many people who actually took nothing from it". A new one should "give more" to them."

I wonder what it means to "glorify God in the New Zealand tradition"? This tradition surely includes glorifying God within old buildings heavily influenced by English and European tradition, even as it expands to incorporate glorifying God in a Maori, Polynesian, globalised 21st century culture (cafe church, fresh expressions, etc) and other ways. But to say that scarcely touches the surface of what makes our tradition "New Zealand" when "New Zealand" includes a world of fourth and fifth generation Kiwis, recent immigrants from many countries, songs from around the world, constant movement of people and their ideas between Australia and NZ, clergy arriving from other countries but predominently from "old" Christian regions such as Britain, Ireland, and North America, theological interaction via conference speakers, the internet and reading books (again, often with keen engagement with ideas coming from "old" Christian regions), habits and customs which are distinctive to us (but sometimes in ways we could critique more than we do: are we over-casual and super-informal?). And so forth ... we might also mention a propensity in our NZ church to utilise the liturgical resources of other churches around the globe. I was once part of a parish which regularly used a "Kenyan eucharistic prayer." But then more and more Africans are migrating to NZ and finding their way into Anglican churches.  Tis a complicated thing, this "New Zealand" tradition! It would be wonderful to learn sometime how our architects are exploring the "New Zealand tradition" alongside their recent tour of North American and European cathedrals.

Rather than talking about 'tradition', I suspect a more accurate way of expressing the situation in respect of glorifying God would be to talk about the design of our older NZ cathedrals constraining worship towards a style we are moving away from (but not letting go of completely) so the opportunity for a new cathedral in the 21st century opens up possibilities for worshipping God free of such constraint. A well designed cathedral today should permit worship according to old and new prayer books, according to ancient cathedral tradition and according to new expressions of liturgy (e.g. liturgical dance, dramatic action, rock band-on-a-stage). The merits of Holy Trinity cathedral in Auckland, for instance, can be much debated in respect of its fusion of 'old' and 'new' (it has to be seen in person to be believed that something so [fill in word to express your reaction] could be commissioned). While reactions to this hybrid vary, there is no doubt that it permits a variety of worship styles to be explored.

In further local news, the guidelines for the very important Structural Review Group  are published on our diocesan website, here.

Here is the key section:

"Vision: To prayerfully consider, review and recommend the future shape of the Diocese of Christchurch giving glory to God and a sure foundation for the future.
Primary Objective & Purpose: the purpose of the Structural Review Group is to provide to the Synod and Standing Committee of the Diocese a draft proposal to re-structure Diocesan Ministry units, in accordance with the Strategic Plan, into a new Diocesan map.
Function: To report its findings and recommendations and provide a draft proposal to the April 2013 Synod by:
1 carrying out a review of work done to date by the Strategic Working Group
2 evaluating work done to date by archdeaconries and ministry units throughout the diocese
3 working with the re-structuring / change management consultant appointed by the Diocese
4 working and consulting with archdeacons and mission and ministry units both clergy and laity
5 consulting with senior staff of the Diocese and Church Property Trustees as required
6 considering all the parameters and scope of the work including finances, faithful stewardship, buildings and property, effective mission, opportunities for outreach in new subdivisions
7 reporting monthly to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Christchurch on progress
8 providing objective, practical, pastorally sensitive and mission centred consideration to work undertaken throughout the Diocese."