Friday, December 21, 2012

O Happy Feast of the Holy One and a Blessed New Year (2013 years from the Birth)

[NOTE TO REGULAR READERS: Next post here is slated for after the Christmas/New Year/Kiwi Holiday Season, 14 January 2013.]

Oh dear. Taken aback as I am by the habit of a certain Primate not mentioning the name of Jesus - and it is a habit (see now a report of her trip to Jerusalem this Christmas)** - I am undelighted to note that one of our own Primates (we have three, with commendable analogy to The Three!!) has produced the Christmas message for our church which mentions 'Christ' precisely ONCE. As in the greeting, "My dear brothers and sisters in Christ," (full text here at Taonga).

Now there is an element of explanation in that ++Winston Halapua, our Suva based Primate is writing from Apia, Samoa, in the aftermath of the terrible storm which has blown through Samoa and Fiji wreaking havoc and devastation. Most of the message recounts the situation those islands face. Yet there is an ability in the message to pause and recall the feats of the Samoan rugby team, so maybe there could have be a pause to recall a little more of the reason for the season.

By contrast, I think ++Fred Hiltz of Canada gets it mostly right. Although a commenter here draws attention to his using the phrase 'the Christ child' and not the name of Jesus, I think in the context of such public statements 'Christ' or 'Jesus' is naming our Saviour. Even better, his message takes us to Jesus/the Christ child in the stable and lingers there with him in reflection and worship. Something the other primatial messages I am drawing attention to do not.

Anyway, this is my final post for 2012 and I am going to try very hard to have a decent blogging holiday and thus predict the next post will be around 14 January 2013. Memo to Anglican land: no crises for three+ weeks.

Thank you for reading here, for commenting here, and for being part of an endeavour to work out what it means to be the Anglican church in the world today.

The other day I heard a lovely definition of the church: an ongoing argument about how we should follow Jesus.*

That is what happens here: an ongoing argument about how Anglicans should follow Jesus!

As I write we have another wonderful summer's day here in Christchurch. If the sun shines before Christmas in NZ - it does not always do so - then we are in for a long, hot summer.

My very best wishes to you all as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and welcome in a new year, counted from the coming of Jesus into our world. May Jesus be the Name we adore!

*This is my colleague, Rev. Spanky (Joshua) Moore's pithy version of Healy, 'The church can be understood within a theodramatic horizon as the locus and embodiment of a set of ongoing argyments about how to best witness to Jesus Christ and to follow him in true discipleship', cited in Moynagh, Church for Every Context, SCM, 2012, p. 440. (original from Healy, Nicholas M., Church, World and Christian Life. Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 74).

**[UPDATED UPDATE] I gladly acknowledge, courtesy of a commenter below [two posts below this post], that the published sermon of ++Jefferts Schori (in Jerusalem, Christmas Eve, 2012) is a much, much better example of how one readily uses the name of Jesus, acknowledges the God we meet in Jesus Christ, and the work of God made manifest through the birth and life of Jesus. Must have been reading here ... :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas

The familiarity of the Christmas story has not smothered new insights bouncing off the pages of Scripture. This year my eye has been caught by a detail in the story of Simeon. Three times in a few verses Luke tells us about the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.

'The Holy Spirit rested on him' (2:25).

'It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit (2:26).

'Guided by the Spirit' (2:27).

Right from the beginning of his gospel Luke has told us that the Holy Spirit was vital to the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist will be 'filled with the Holy Spirit' from even before his birth (1:15), Elizabeth and Zechariah are filled with the Holy Spirit before giving prophetic utterance (1:41; 1:67), and, most importantly, Mary will become pregnant with the Messiah when 'the Holy Spirit will come upon you' (1:35).

But none of these leading figures in the story of Jesus attracts the threefold reference to the Holy Spirit's work like Simeon. Why does Luke offer this intense emphasis on the Holy Spirit?

It is always worth taking the long view of what Luke is up to, that is, taking up the whole of his writing in Luke and Acts, in order to understand a specific episode or individual saying. From that perspective, the Holy Spirit is God acting in the world to ensure his purpose is fulfilled. In Elizabeth, Mary, Zechariah and John the Holy Spirit acts to bring the Messiah into the world. Simeon stands for the world receiving the Messiah. There wouldn't be much point to the Messiah coming and nothing happening!

God the Holy Spirit works to bring the Messiah and to ensure reception of the Messiah. Nothing is left to chance, or to the fickleness of human response. Quietly, within the Christmas story, Simeon through Luke's telling of his story reminds us that God is at work in history to ensure his purpose is fulfilled. At year 's end, with more than its share of bleak tragedy - shootings in the US, devastating storm in the South Pacific - we are told that God is at work. At year's end, with much to be despondent about in the church, we are told that God is at work. Our future is not in our hands. The Holy Spirit has the future of the work begun at Bethlehem in hand.

May the Holy Spirit rest on us, reveal Jesus Christ to us, and guide us to him!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Prediction for the Next Presiding Bishop of TEC

[UPDATED UPDATE] I gladly acknowledge, courtesy of a commenter below, that the published sermon of ++Jefferts Schori (in Jerusalem, Christmas Eve, 2012) is a much, much better example of how one readily uses the name of Jesus, acknowledges the God we meet in Jesus Christ, and the work of God made manifest through the birth and life of Jesus. Must have been reading here ... :)

Thus a key word used in my original post, "bewildered" remains in force: why does one who can preach Jesus refer so little to Jesus in a public statement about Christmas? Answer: it puzzles me!

[UPDATED] This is my prediction: someone who can readily say the name of Jesus.

Even the most way out there to the left of Spong TECian is surely going to vote for a new Presiding Bishop (due 2015) who can say and write the name of our Lord Jesus Christ without seeming reluctance or reserve.

++Katharine Jefferts Schori has written both an Advent message and a Christmas message for 2012 in which the name of Jesus occurs once.

I note this not to excoriate her or her messages. I am too bewildered to do that! Especially by the lack of mention of the baby's name in the Christmas message.

She is who she is and she has written what she has written with (as I recall) a certain consistency with previous years. The soup maker who consistently serves up thin gruel is not likely to suddenly add meat on the bones and thick croutons to the fare.

But I do wonder if the average thinking Episcopalian does not raise an eyebrow while drinking in these messages and look ahead to the future with a quiet determination to elect someone who can say the name of Jesus more frequently to be their next Presiding Bishop.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Late contender for Most Inconsistent Blogger of 2012

I hope there is an award for being the Most Inconsistent Blogger of 2012. After all, it is only hard work which makes me the worst moderating, most unfair to conservatives blogger in Anglican Land. I deserve it! Thanks, Sarah! Post it now. My address is ... known only to me and my Nigerian banking friends.

ACANZP's Christmas Message to NZ: Was Jesus Gay?

Once again the effective message of the Anglican church in NZ to NZ is being led by St Matthew's in the City and its "Let's be cute, comic, and crass" billboard. With a press release here and a press release there we have the Anglican Christmas message for 2012, Was Jesus Gay?

I am not going to show the billboard here but if you haven't seen it already on the net or in your local paper, it is here.

Memo to our Archbishops: don't bother with your Christmas message this year. It's too late!

A commenter on Taonga (where there is a great interview of ++Rowan Williams) makes a good point,

"Please if the Anglicans really do care about their church please let them do something about expelling Clay Nelson and Glynn Cardy (St Matthews Auckland) due to the blasphemy of our almighty Lord Jesus Christ."

Here's the thing. Do our bishops, do Anglicans through these islands care enough about our church and the message it gives to do anything about Glynn Cardy and Clay Nelson? Year after year we have these billboards which upset Christians, convey a false gospel message and generate a lack of confidence in the authority of our leadership.

And NOTHING happens.

So, what could be done to make this the last?

Incidentally, in the secular world there is decent competition for Glynn and Clay, should they need to ply their publicity trade elsewhere if the Taonga commenter's request is answered.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came at Christmas to be Saviour of all, not to be the object of quaint speculation about what his hormones were doing or to generate mirth about the possibility that God was a better lover than Joseph (a past billboard). Glynn and Clay's obligation as ministers of the gospel is not to get people chattering over their coffee cups about whether Jesus was gay and if he was, does it matter.

Their obligation is to present Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

Not one of their billboards has ever done that.

Jesus can take any questions about anything, including his sexuality (though he must get confused, one moment it's questions about how many children he and Mary Magdalene have had, nek minit it's about which team he bats for). Questions about Jesus being gay are quite old hat and well worked through. The point of opposition to the billboard is not about avoiding such questions (if people feel pressed to ask them).

The point is to oppose unelected, unappointed clergy being the effective spokespersons for our whole church with a message our church is not agreed is the key Christmas message we want to communicate as the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cracking Open This Sunday's Sermon 23 Dec '12


I am offering some thoughts each week on preaching from the next Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings. However I have decided to post these thoughts on another blog, Resourcing Preaching and Worship Down Under. So head there each Monday ...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dear Susan

Dear Susan,

In a comment you made yesterday you raised the following matter which I see as important because much is made of the imago Dei and it is possible that we might misunderstand what it means in relation to important issues in human dignity:

"Peter, I had not noticed the necessity of complementary genitalia as going to the heart of what was being referred to as a reflection of the image of God which is an imaging of the distinctive Persons who are also One being, diversity in unity. Please help me see how you move from the distinctiveness of three Persons, traditionally all referred to by the male pronoun, to this being only appropriately reflected in two humans with complementary genitalia."

(Here, if you like, is a presuppositional introduction: The first chapters of Genesis set the scene for the remainder of the Bible in respect of the progress of God's will for God's creation. They tell the story of creation, of the messing up of creation (the Fall) and of the beginnings of human history as a story told of frail and feckless humanity's distance from God and disturbance of one another (so, e.g. Genesis 4 tells of the first murder). This history is signalled in Genesis 3 as being a history that God will be involved in as God seeks to reverse the fall through healing (salvation). That history, as you know, leads to Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, and his story, in gospels and in epistles concludes the story begun in Genesis. Thus in the light of that story we re-read Genesis as Christians (fully aware that it was first written down as a story of ancient Israel) and we particularly read it in the light of our Christian understanding of God as Trinity. So when we zoom in on some of the details in Genesis we make some connections ...)

For humanity to be created as male and female in the image of God (1:27) suggests that the diversity of humanity (male and female) reflects or images the diversity of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the unity of the Godhead is imaged in the unity of diverse humanity which, in the flow of the Genesis story, is the coming together of husband and wife in 'one flesh' (Genesis 2:24). That is, God is imaged in humanity, in each and every human being, in the diversity of humanity consisting of male and female, and in the unity of humanity in the particular embodiment of diverse humanity into one which is marriage.

With kind regards,
Peter.

Dear Mark

Dear Mark,

Yesterday you raised so many matters I think I had better (attempt to) address them in a separate post. But one caveat: I am not promising to respond to every point you make. I will try to respond to the points which most catch my attention. Apart from the cut-and-thrust of debate being interesting in itself, I am motivated to respond because important issues are at stake about how we do theology and arrive at theological judgements. (Let me state at the outset and just once rather than wasting words on repeated apologies, my approach here is that if I have been misunderstood by you then I have been insufficiently clear!)

(1) On reading Scripture: Citing me and then giving your initial response [3.35 pm] we have,

"First, all language is expressed in a culture in which elements reflect orthodox theology and other elements do not. The language of the Bible and the language of the fourth and fifth century fathers is no more or less good as a language in which to express truth about God. Insight is possible in 'liberal democracies' which were denied to our forbears in the faith. 
We are better able to appreciate the mutuality of the Three Persons in their unity and their indwelling of one another than Scripture could, because the language of the Bible denied it insights possible in liberal democracies.
And a little further down you write, "WO supporters almost invariably articulate some kind of view of Scripture like the one you just put forward there – and I think it would be hard to have any kind of a classical view of the sufficiency of Scripture, or even of its infalliblity, and probably not even of its inspiration when you think that the culture of the Bible prevented it from having insights into the character and nature of God that we are able to have because of our culture."

The language of the Bible, of the Church Fathers and of ourselves, is what it is: culturally-bounded, endlessly optimistic that it expresses the truth, always open to clarification, correction and new consequential conclusions been drawn. In respect of Scripture I do not demur from the classical evangelical views of its sufficiency, infallibility, and inspiration, thus it constitutes a special case with respect to my previous sentence: it is always open to clarification but not to correction and from it new consequential conclusions may be drawn. Nevertheless its language remains culture-bounded because it was written by culturally-bounded people using the language they were familiar with - even Jesus' own words were translated into Greek and expressed through four gospel versions! I understand the first Trinitarians to be clarifying the message of Scripture about the nature of God and they did so in their language; I understand the history of Trinitarian theology since as further clarification (also using the language of the day); and I understand our exploration of Trinitarian theology as involving yet further clarification. As we use the language of our day we (who live in the West) may have a great appreciation of the mutuality of the Three Persons being circumscribed by liberal democracy. (We may not - we need to wait for the clarifications of the next generation!). What I did not mean to imply is that Scripture itself lacks insight into the character and nature of God, and certainly not because of the boundedness of the cultures into which it was written. But I am happy to press for the greatest possible clarity about how those insights were expressed. Some were expressed in the language of hierarchical imperialism and that, because of other insights expressed in Scripture, is not the whole story of Scripture's insight into the Godhead.

PS I find your approach to reading the Bible very interesting when you appeal to the notion of a classical evangelical reading/approach. If referring to sufficiency, infallibility and inspiration then, as noted above, I am reading similarly. But are you referring to a classical evangelical interpretation of Scripture? If so then I am not at all on the same page ... because there is no such thing or, at least, no such thing as an agreed interpretation among evangelicals. After all it is evangelicals who read Scripture differently re baptism, communion, spiritual gifts, eschatological matters, when it is right to divide the church and so forth. Further, evangelicals have been divided in sundry times and places through history on matters such as slavery, apartheid, the messianic significance of Hitler and the like.

(2) On liberal democracy (within the same 3.35 pm comment, elsewhere and other comments, e.g. by Shawn): As you observe, there are limits to the characters employable in a comment so I didn't, but could or should have, bound my admiration for the positive features of liberal democracy with the usual caveats of its imperfections, idolatries and general inadequacies measured against Paradise Lost and (one day) Regained. There is a great debate over where in the world of societies and political regimes the kingdom of God is to be found and in a few remarks here I would not presume to resolve that once and for all (not least because one of the greatest variations between the Reformers was over the role of God's rule in the human rule of society). What I am, however, trying to do is to take immensely seriously, even literally, those parables in which Jesus likens the kingdom to a seed growing into a tree and yeast permeating the rising loaf. If Jesus spoke truly (surely we agree on that) then we would expect to see signs of the growth of the kingdom in the world today. I see those signs in the development of health, wealth, education, human rights, freedom (especially freedom from fear of tyrannical rule) which mean that our world is a far better place to live in than in 1912, 1812, 1012 or 12 AD. In short we flourish better as human beings today than yesterday but we are wildly short of anything that could yet be called the complete fulfilment of God's purpose for life or the establishment of his kingdom in every corner of the globe. The greatest human flourishing in the world today is in liberal democracies. The simple sign of that is the desperate human desire of peoples to move from tyrannies to liberal democracies. Incidentally this great motivation in people movement gives the lie to your claims that freedom etc is a privilege of the educated classes in liberal democracies: the poorest of the poor, the most illiterate clamber into boats and make their way to Australia!!

(3) On submission and authority (5.17 pm) where among other things you write,

"The existence of submission and authority in human existence no more need a justification than love does. To paraphrase your statement: 
Why should one part of the one humanity love another part if we are one humanity? 
In all three cases (love, authority, submission) one member of the one humanity acts towards another member and the other member is acted upon, in a way that has some similarities to the Godhead.".

I think you are letting yourself down here with an absurd comparison. One part of humanity can love another part of humanity and the other part of humanity can love the first part back. The love deepens our oneness and is consistent with that oneness. By contrast in a world divided into masters and slaves only one part gets to express authority and only one part gets to express submission: that world is divided into two non-mutual classes.

A further point, it has not been part of what I have said to argue that submission and authority are not part and parcel of human existence. Leaders need to be followed; employees need an employer and so forth. My point has been whether the oneness of humanity makes sense when one group must always be the authority and another group must always be the submissives, without opportunity to interchange roles. Where does the justification for women always being the submissives and men being the authorities come from? If it comes from God it is a mystery as (you yourself having noted) the Son's eternal submission to the Father has no bearing on the matter.

(4) On choice as an element of full humanity (your comments in 7.36, 7.38 and 7.53 pm): surely you accept that their are two (or more) senses of 'full humanity'? The tiny foetal baby in a mother's womb is fully human, as fully human as you and me, and as deserving of being treated with dignity as a king or a queen. But no one is satisfied with the foetal baby remaining a foetal baby: there is more to humanity than that! We feed and nurture the mother so the baby grows within her, once born we offer food, water, shelter, nappy changes and later potty training encouragement to walk, education, opportunities to participate in activities such as sport and music, and then later in work and learning for a career, along with possibilities for meeting people of the opposite sex in order to enter into marriage (or not). Why? Because we are not fully human if we remain at one stage of humanity. We despair when we find that a child has been locked in a basement for ten years or when cancer strikes a teenager just entering into that particular fullness we call 'adulthood'. I suggest that being able to engage in choice is to engage in being human (for our ability to choose is part of what sets us apart from other animals), it is not confined to some special class of liberal democrats, and it represents a movement into a fuller experience of humanity. When I was a child I had little choice, now I am an adult I have some choice. I am glad I do not remain a child!

I agree that the New Testament teaches embracing our given situation by making a choice, and so, if in 54 AD I am a slave reading Paul's epistles, I have a new sense of dignity as a slave by embracing the possibility that I can choose what kind of slave I will be: one choosing to submit or one grumbling about submission. But does the New Testament teach the eternal division of humanity into masters and slaves?

I conclude with a question to you: on the basis of your approach to fullness of humanity, liberal democracy, choice as an aspiration for humanity, on what grounds would you have fought for the abolition of slavery if you were on Wilberforce's or Lincoln's team?

With kind regards,
Peter

Friday, December 14, 2012

My submitted clarifications may not be equal to your critiques

Some comments have come in the last few days, with such nuances and subtleties that a quick sound bite from me in response would only have been commensurate with my busyness and/or lack of connection to the internet and not with the importance of the critiques. So I am going to pull the "I get to post" here card and offer a post in which I reply to the critiques I think deserving of a reply, or, at least to the portion of the critiques which I am most engaged with. (Other critiques may be important but if I don't respond then I am letting them stand as they are. In inferiority of commenter implied by unequal treatment of comment!!). In no particular order of importance or urgency ...


From Mark (13/13/12, 6.13 pm, re WO): "If the Son’s equality is compatible with his subordination (not my preferred term, but seeing you’ve chosen it) to the Father, then a case has to be made to show why the two are incompatible for human beings.  
The argument from the Godhead does not establish women’s subordination to men - which would be a direct application from the Son to women and from the Father to men. 
Rather, it works indirectly. It counters the heart of the WO case – that women (or any other class of human being) are not fully equal if they are in any sense subordinate to somebody else. That liberal democratic assumption is not biblical or Christian but cultural, and the compatibility of equality and subordination in the Godhead demonstrates its unbiblical provenance. 
That doesn't prove that women are subordinate to men, or that any other class of human beings are subordinate to any other class. What it does do is cut off this highly damaging argument that if people are subordinate then they are not really human beings, and if people have authority then they are some kind of super-person - an argument that makes authority and submission highly problematic for loving relationships between free equals and offers us only friendships or servility as our models of human relationships, but never the free submission of an equal, or the loving authority of someone whose authority is ordered to the end of the other's good and not their own."


Reply:I am happy to accept that in my contributions here I have been less clear than I would ideally like to be. I shall try again! Two observations (only, many more could be made):

(1) The argument I am attempting to make (insofar as it attends to equality v subordination, Trinitarian relations v male/female relations) is not that if human beings are subordinate then they are not real human beings. That would be absurd. If I am a slave, or an employee, or even a licensed clergyperson beholden by canonical law to submit to the authority of General Synod and of my bishop I am a subordinate human being who is no less equal to my master or employer or bishop in regard to our humanity. The argument I am attempting to make is that if we regard one group of human beings (e.g. women) as always subordinate to another group (e.g. men) then we raise questions about the possibility of experiencing elements of our humanity fully.

In your comment above you rightly speak about the importance of 'free submission of an equal.'

If I am a slave and you are the master, we are both human beings. But if you always have opportunity to exercise a freedom to choose how to be a master while I have no freedom except to submit to your authority (whether or not it is exercised lovingly) then our experience of being human is differentiated and you have an unequal opportunity to exercise choice compared to me. I cannot be, in short, as fully human, as you can be. (I suggest, in passing, that it is this inequality which Christianity exposed, and thus (to pick up something below) a cultural time bomb was planted by the gospel which eventually exploded and led to the banishment of slavery).

In respect to ordination women and men are unequal in respect of experiencing their humanity fully. A (gifted, called, equipped) man may choose to be ordained or not, and once ordained may choose to freely submit as an equal to his bishop or not. No bounds, re ordering, are placed on their engaging with the full expression of their humanity in the exercise of that ordered ministry. By contrast a woman has no choice in a church without WO: they can only submit to the authority of men, whether they freely choose to or not. Further, a gifted, called, equipped woman who might in a specific ministry situation be better gifted and equipped than a man (or even than a non-existent man, i.e. a lack of men applying for the situation) is denied service in God's church solely on the grounds of being a woman. I am suggesting that in such ways, women are denied the possibility of experiencing elements of their humanity fully, such as experiencing the joy of serving a congregation through the utilisation of their God-given gifts.

All this, on my part, re seeking that women (equal with men in status) might be equal with men in opportunity to serve God's people is founded on our being one humanity in Christ, and, secondly, does not ask of any of us that we be not submitted or subordinate, as we should be, to one another, to God, and, in Anglican settings, to our ecclesial authorities.

(2) I want to challenge you (and other commenters recently here) who invoke 'liberal democracy' as a kind of bad thing, a cultural construction which distorts our view of God and the Trinitarian relations within the Godhead. First, all language is expressed in a culture in which elements reflect orthodox theology and other elements do not. The language of the Bible and the language of the fourth and fifth century fathers is no more or less good as a language in which to express truth about God. Insight is possible in 'liberal democracies' which were denied to our forbears in the faith. In particular, I suggest, within liberal democracies we are better able to appreciate the mutuality of the Three Persons in their unity and their indwelling of one another than in cultures marked by imperialism and hierarchy.

Secondly, I think we should ask whether liberal democracies mark a certain stage in the growth of the kingdom of God - a kingdom which Christ said would grow and flourish like a tiny seed becoming a big tree. Where is the kingdom of God today? Is it in Assad's Syria or Mugabe's Zimbabwe? Or is it in countries to which the oppressed of those countries flee? Countries where a fuller expression of humanity is possible, because in liberal democracies people can more fully enter into the human experience of making choices, utilising God-given gifts and so forth. To relate this to women: is a woman entering into the fullness of humanity when bound to cover her face and thus not to engage in face to face social intercourse with fellow human beings? I suggest not. And I thank God for liberal democracies. As our forbears rightly decided, liberal democracies were worth fighting for in 1939-45.

In other words, or another perspective: the submission of Son to Father models the submission of humanity to God. The question WO raises, within the context of being one humanity in Christ (and that itself incurs our submission with Christ as Son to the Father) why one part of humanity is then asked to submit to the other part. If we are one humanity, why should that be so?


From Susan (13/12/12, 8.38 am, re WO in relation to SSM): "Peter, I was looking for a translation of Bryden not Malcolm. I had thought Rosemary was also. 
"The second half shows an ignorance of the recent revival of the doctrine of the Trinity these past 50 years. Take for example Karl Rahner (although it was that other Karl, Barth, who humanly speaking kicked off the revival). As he wisely sought to pay close attention to the actual shape and content of the economy of salvation as enacted by the triune God, he gives this summary among others: “Grace gives rise to not-appropriated relations of divine persons to man [sic].” (The Trinity, p.25) What this is implying is this.
Each of the divine ‘persons’ has their own specific identity, each their own proprium in the Latin scheme, their idiot─ôs in the Greek. That is, they are uniquely differentiated, one from the other, so that, in Athanasius’ language (for example), the Father is the Father of the Son and the Son is the Son of the Father. These non-interchangeable relations are what distinguishes them as their very identities, marking them off from one another. In addition, it is this that then enables us to categorically say: the Son is ever the Incarnate One; and the Spirit specifically the One who, in a “quasi-formal” as opposed to “efficient” way, causes humans to participate in the very life of God. Or again, noting a key feature of the entire NT, the Holy Spirit is the eschatological gift of the Messianic Age.
The upshot is crucial when we NB human being in the Image of this God. As Rowan Williams once remarked, the Christian Gospel has planted cultural time bombs in our midst, and the doctrine of the Trinity and its corollary, Imago Dei, is just such a thing: that Ultimate Reality is personal and relational (or, Beyond Personality, as CS Lewis once put it, referencing explicitly the Trinity), and human being is uniquely endowed with the quality of personhood are gifts of the Christian faith to the world. One fruit of which is the sense, not at all obvious from other perspectives, of human rights. 
A tragic irony however occurs when we try to extrapolate from all of this and conclude - try to conclude - “same-sex marriage” and all the rest is a good idea and most to be desired. For the reality is same gender relations indeed parody the genuine image of God; there is quite simply not the mirror of adequate differentiation when we compare this to traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Rather, the premise here is classically modern and postmodern, where human being is now viewed to be a self-positing autonomous personal subject. Here ethics have become a function of self-creating subjectivity, a veritable social construction. 
The tragedy is highlighted when such a view tries to counter the likes of a Mahathir, who claims “civil rights are but a western social construct”. For what criteria are we to use to discern between such a western social construction and an Asian one?! Move away from the sheer ontological depth of the created order, Susan, derived from the Bible’s Grand Narrative and the Christian Tradition, and we are literally doomed - in the long run.""


Reply: I understand the above citation to mean, the distinctive Persons of the Trinity, the significance of which we grow in our appreciation of through time, generates an understanding of humanity (of each human being) as personal and relational beings who are most fully human when acting and being in the image of God (who is Trinity, three distinctive Persons in One being). The personhood ascribed in this way to our understanding of humanity on the one hand undergirds human rights (e.g. to be treated with dignity and equality) as integral to being human (and not something which a society might or might not construct); and on the other hand places limits on what is ethical behaviour. In respect of the former, we can genuinely protest at (say) Assad's treatment of civilians in Syria - to do so is not merely to act out a construction of Western culture and society. In respect of the latter, we can geuninely disagree with same-sex 'marriage' as a matter deemed to be good, or even a human right, because the ascribing of 'marriage' to a relationship between two same gendered human beings falls short of a proper reflection of the image of God which is an imaging of the distinctive Persons who are also One being, diversity in unity.


From Mark (13/12/12, 11.36 am re Sydney's synodical grace) "I suppose the stronger analogy to the motion would be you supporting a motion along the lines of: 
Noting that it is the anniversary of deacons officiating at Communion and giving thanks for the ministry of deacons in all areas of the church's life.
You personally might well support that motion, but lots of Anglicans throughout the world would not, I think, for the way it implies some support of the practice being noted. Sydney Synod's practice of not supporting motions that could be read as giving thanks for a practice they think is wrong is hardly unique here."


Reply: Hi Mark, the question of grace here includes the question of gracious participation in the body of Christ, not just grace about an 'issue.' The Diocese of Sydney has not seceded from the Anglican Church of Australia: it remains involved with and committed to that greater body, even as it is also in severe disagreement with the larger church on some matters. The motion put to the Synod of Sydney asked it to note an important anniversary in the larger church while also giving thanks for all ministry of women. The refusal to countenance even a 'note' of that anniversary was an ungracious acknowledgement of the life of the wider church to which Sydney belongs and remains thoroughly involved with. I still find it extraordinarily ungracious, despite your and other protestations here. I think for example of my friends and colleagues in my own NZ church who disagree with WO: I cannot imagine for a moment that they would share in a similar lack of grace towards the ordained women they work with, support and cherish. (Just to be clear, by 'similar' I mean in relation to the motion and its treatment, I am not making here any implied imputations about any Sydney Anglicans re their general attitude to ordained Anglican women in ACA).

On the matter of your analogy re deacons presiding (which, indeed, I heartily disagree with), you have failed to offer a strict analogy because you continue not to acknowledge the matter involves the fellowship of the diocese with the larger church. The strict analogy would be if ACANZP authorised deacons presiding at the eucharist (say, twenty years ago) and the diocese I were in maintained a steadfast opposition to that authorisation, refusing to permit it to be so in my diocese, even as it permitted deacons to minister in other ways traditionally associated with diaconal ministry. In that context I would not blink in voting for a motion along the lines brought to the Sydney synod recently.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Round up and around

I was away yesterday at a conference. As usual, plenty of stimulation. I have brought back with me, as a return to the TH library from a borrowing friend, Rupert Shortt's biography of ++Rowan. A very nice book to read on the plane home. Including this passage which better expresses something I have been trying to say here, recently. In Shortt's words, ++Rowan, when he changed his own mind on the ordination of women, came to this argument (p. 94):

"All Christian priesthood has its ground in the priestly work of Jesus. The function of ministerial priesthood is given to some by God's call, so that the dignity belonging to all may be received. To infer that women cannot be priests entails two assumptions incompatible with the New Testament model of priesthood: that the ordained priest's relation to the priesthood of Christ is different in kind from that of the baptised person; and that a baptised woman's relation to Christ's priesthood is substantially different from a baptised's mans. For those who reject these assumptions, it follow that the ordinaton of women is perfectly compatible with Catholic orthodoxy."

Further stimulation came with the thought that unbeknown to myself I have made a personal submission to the Ma Whaea Commission [our church's commission on ordination/blessings re same sex partnerships]. A member of the Commission at the conference told me that they had seen a DVD in which I dialogue with another person re these matters. Here was me feeling slightly guilty for not having (yet) made the effort to make a submission! (The DVD was made for the Auckland Diocese late last year. If you want a copy please contact their office, not mine. I am not even sure where my copy is, and haven't yet watched it.)

Coming back home and catching up on internet news I find that Mark Harris has published a rubbishing of the CofE's recent statement about marriage in relation to the UK government's proposals about same sex marriage. I have disagreed with him in a comment on his site.

This morning on Thinking Anglicans there is an interesting statement by the UK government as it tackles with the horny matter of religious bodies and their response to their proposals about same sex 'marriage': they are proposing that religious bodies will be exempt from any requirement to bless such 'marriages' and from any consequences re anti-discrimination legislation, with the further step that religious bodies would need to opt in to such blessings (rather than opt out). I will be blunt: if it was just the Cof E they were up against, I do not think they would be so kind, believing the CofE can be kicked around. But they are also up against all mosques, some synagogues and all Roman Catholic churches. This direction from the UK could be helpful for our own parliament when it soon considers these matters ...

Indeed, I wonder if the UK government is offering a way forward for our church as it grapples internally with these issues. Suppose we do pass certain legislation in 2014 which is controversial: what if it offered "opt in" for dioceses and/or parishes and/or clergy, rather than "opt out"?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cracking Open This Sunday's Sermon, 16 Dec '12

As a little experiment in a direction a friend has been pressing me, towards the possibility that Mondays on ADU might present material on the coming Sunday's readings, I am going to see if world-shaking Anglican news stays away from Mondays, opening up the possibility of a regular Monday forecast for the sermon ahead.

Here is what I have put together on the planning sheet for my local parish for this Sunday:

"16 December (Advent 3) – Peter Carrell (8am) // Christmas Plays (10 am)
Theme                  True fruit in God’s kingdom        
Sentence             p. 552 [A New Zealand Prayer Book]
Collect                  p. 552 God for whom we wait and watch             
Readings                                             
Philippians 4:4-7
                      Luke 3:7-18"

Sadly, in the light of the past week on ADU, Euodia and Syntyche are missed out in the Philippians reading! But they are worth a glance as they represent an unhappy situation in the church at Philippi, thus the command to 'Rejoice', underlined by repetition, v.4, has an edge: let nothing, nobody and no situation dissuade you from rejoicing, Paul says, as he moves to the conclusion of his letter. In keeping with all his letters, his last comments are about Christian character. Having articulated who Christ is and what Christ has done for the Philippians, Paul urges them to rejoice, be gentle, worry about nothing and let God's peace guard their hearts. With helpful practicality he makes the point that the antidote to anxiety is not earnest effort to pretend not to be anxious, but fervant prayer. Sometimes in modern life we say, "Don't worry; be happy!" Not so, Paul. His motto is, "Don't worry; pray about what worries you!"

All this means Christians, whether in Philippi or our city today, as citizens of God's kingdom are to be known by the fruit we bear as the seed of the gospel takes root in our lives.

That fruit-bearing is pressed on us as a kingdom priority in our gospel reading from a different perspective when John the Baptists cries to the crowds which flock to him, Bear fruits worthy of repentance!

They must have been a very keen congregation, those crowds, because it is hard to think of any congregation today which would stick around for long if the preacher's first words to them  were, "You brood of vipers!" No introductory joke when John was preaching. No flattery. No trick of speech-making to establish rapport with his hearers. Just a straightforward suspicion as to what their real motives were in coming to his church! "You snakes!!"

His fiery language through verses 7-9 set the scene for the mission of Jesus. Israel is resting on its laurels. It is taking for granted that it is in the right place before God. But it is not. Radical treatment is needed: a tree that does not bear fruit is not pruned, but chopped down at the roots. A new tree is being planted by God through the coming Messiah, one which grows fruitfully from its Abrahamic roots.

The crowd were a great congregation. Not only did they not get up and leave when John denounced them as a brood of vipers, they took on his message of severe repentance. "What then should we do?"

Three times, in fact, Luke tells us of this response: "What then should we do?" - generally from the crowds, and specifically from the tax collectors (the bad men of Israel) and from the soldiers (the oppressors of Israel).

Do we want to be fruit-bearers in God's kingdom? We need not only development of Christian character a la Philippians, we also need outward actions which show we are part of the new and radical kingdom of God. The thrust of John's prescription for kingdom life is just dealings with one another. 'Social justice' perhaps trips off our lips too easily. Perhaps too we think of 'social justice', as something a specialist in the church will take care of. John's personalises social justice. If you have more possessions than you need, downsize. If you charge people for a professional service, do not overcharge. If you are powerful do not use that power for unjust gain. Be content with your wages.

At that point John the Baptist could be Paul speaking at the end of Philippians, "I have learned to be content with whatever I have" (4:11).

The great question of Advent is Are we ready for the second coming of Christ in judgement? In the past two weeks we have heard Paul press the matter of being 'blameless' on that great day.

Today's readings press the question again. Repentance is life being lived in the direction of God, having turned around from moving away from God. Actions speak louder than words and words are cheap.

Between epistle and gospel, God is looking for true fruit of the kingdom in our lives, measured by real change in our character and behaviour.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Truth is stranger than fiction

Let's see if we can keep up with the story of the Diocese of South Carolina. It may be difficult as truth is often stranger than fiction. I will give it my best shot.

The Diocese of South Carolina as a legal, corporate, spiritual and ecclesial entity has through its legal, corporate, spiritual and ecclesial decision-making determined that it is out of sorts with The Episcopal Church, a body it preceded chronologically but to which it has given assent, prior to withdrawing its assent. In the process the Bishop of South Carolina has declared he is also out of sorts with The Episcopal Church but without formally declaring that he has renounced (in the TEC canonical technical sense of "renounced") his bishopness.

In response there was an initial play by the canons (albeit with canonical questions arising as to whether the correct canons were being invoked) to discipline +Lawrence - the canons not providing for disciplining a whole diocese. But events have moved on with ++Jefferts Schori declaring that she has accepted +Lawrence's renunciation of his bishopness. Here truth gets a little strange as the renunciation wasn't given but it has been declared to have been given by virtue of public utterances being deemed to be equivalent to formal, written renunciation.

Now events have moved a bit further: a renunciated bishop means a vacant bishopric, so a convention of the Diocese of South Carolina has been called by ++Jefferts Schori, even though it is not her canonical prerogative to do so, that being the privilege of the Standing Committee of the Diocese, which still exists. Naturally, fiction prevailing here, the Standing Committee is deemed not to exist because the entity which is the Diocese of South Carolina is deemed to have disappeared in a haze of smoke created by its decision to distance itself from TEC.

That convention, which might consist of reps of the few parishes which wish to remain loyal to TEC, will attempt to elect a bishop to be the 'real' bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Read here at Anglican Ink to get the latest low down. And here for the DSC (the real one, in law) responding to the "renunciation."

Here is my question: who is paying for all this, and who is paying for the new bishop?

Supplementary question: isn't the obvious thing to do, to conjoin the few parishes the PB is concerned for into a neighbouring diocese under an existing and indisputably real bishop? Much cheaper!

Incidentally, the PB needs to watch her back. It is not only conservatives in the States who are upset with her.

Combo readings

Very interesting juxtaposition of Philippians 1:3-11 with Luke 3:1-6 this morning. There is a difference between "Paul" and "Jesus" and I can understand why some scholars have suggested that Jesus founded a movement and Paul founded Christianity. The useful thing about preaching the Revised Common Lectionary is that "Paul" and "Jesus" get to speak in stereo, as was the case this morning.

I found that Paul speaking through Philippians very much speaks to the individuals and to the church which together they make. He impresses on them God's commitment to continue the good work begun in each of them until completion on the day of Christ's return.

Jesus does not speak per se in Luke 3:1-6, but these verses are part of an introduction to Jesus' preaching ministry. A prequel to that preaching occurs in John's preaching ministry. The message is heard by individuals who flock to him but the message is also about the whole world and God's plan for it. Christianity is not reducible to Paul, nor for that matter to Jesus as we experience him through the four gospels. The whole message of Christianity, the gospel, is a message of change for both the world and for individuals. On balance, taking gospels and epistles together, the world is changed by God through changing individuals. Certainly Luke's Gospel paves the way for Paul's gospel preaching with its intense interest in a cast of individuals who seek salvation through Jesus.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The church fathers were biased against women

One of the little problems I have with putting too much weight on the 'tradition' of the church is that it is  mixed bag. If, to take an instance relevant to this week here on ADU, we ask whether the church fathers who did not agree that a woman could be a priest or bishop were biased for or against women, or even just plain neutral, then the evidence mounts up that their bias was against women:

From Wikipedia:"

Woman as the root of all evil

Tertullian's views on women went further: "The curse God pronounced on your sex still weighs on the world. …You are the devil's gateway…. You are the first that deserted the divine laws. All too easily you destroyed the image of God, Adam. Because you deserved death, it was the son of God who had to die".[5]
St Jerome, the well known Biblical scholar and translator of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate) had a simple view of women. To him "woman is the root of all evil." [6] Like all the early Christian theologians, Jerome glorified virginity and looked down on marriage. He reasoning, was also rooted in Genesis: "Eve in paradise was a virgin ... understand that virginity is natural and that marriage comes after the Fall." [7]
Firmilian tells of a woman who went into an ecstasy and came out a prophetess. "That woman who first through marvels or deceptions of the demons did many things to deceive the faithful, among other things... she dared to do this, namely that by an impressive invocation she feigned she was sanctifying bread, and offering a sacrifice to the Lord." [8]

[edit]Women as the weaker sex

John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople at the beginning of the 5th century, said of biblical women that they "were great characters, great women and admirable…. Yet did they in no case outstrip the men, but occupied the second rank" (Epistle to the Ephesians, Homily 13). Commenting on 1 Timothy 2:11-15,
Chrysostom said that "the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority…. He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way." Of women he said that "The woman taught once, and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach. But what is it to other women, that she suffered this? It certainly concerns them; for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively." (1 Timothy, Homily 9).
Augustine elevated the contempt of women and sex to a level unsurpassed before. To him, women's inferiority to men was so obvious [9] that he felt that he had to ask the question: "Why was woman created at all".[6] He concluded that woman was created purely for procreation and for nothing else.[10] The expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, according to him, was purely the fault of Eve.[11]

[edit]Women as creatures of lust

Gregory of Nazianzus, the Bishop of Constantinople had this to say about women, "Fierce is the dragon and cunning the asp; But women have the malice of both."
According to the theologian Origen, women are worse than animals because they are continuously full of lust.[12] Origen does not approve of the sexual act even in marriage and taught that although widowers can remarry, they are by no means crowned for this.[6] He also argued in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that female prophets never spoke publicly in the assembly.[4]
St. Clement of Alexandria had such a contempt for women that he believed such a feeling must be universal. He wrote, in his book Paedagogus that in women, "the consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame". He also suggested that women should also fetch from the pantry things that we need.[13]
Gregory of Nyssa taught that the sexual act was an outcome of the fall and that marriage is the outcome of sin.[6]"

Even the great John Chrysostom was clear, women occupy "the second rank." There is no way to women being ordained presbyters and bishops from a point of view that women occupy the second rank of humanity. It is beholden, I suggest, or, the burden of proof falls on those who still will not admit women to the priesthood and episcopacy, to distance themselves from any thinking that women "occupy the second rank." Conversely, it is worth asking if the church fathers had had a view of women as of the same rank as men, whether they would have admitted women to the orders of the church as they were clarified in that era.

(If you don't like Wiki; try here).

The inferiority of women in the minds of some Christians is still being played out today in the Western world. Recently the Bristol University Christian Union has made the news for a partial ban on women speaking at their events. In keeping with the thinking of some here, the ban didn't apply if women were accompanied by their husbands. Following uproar the partial ban has been lifted. See here, here, and here. The Times also has reported, as conveyed in our Press today (but no links, as behind paywall). In the Press re-carried article a letter to the Bristol Uni student newspaper is cited, written by 'A True Christian':

"Women shouldn't have the opportunity to speak at meetings due to their inferior relationship with God. Eve was the first sinner and so all women are born with original sin. Therefore they should not try and tarnish the men with this sin and should not be able to teach at meetings." [B4, The Press, 8/12/2012].

Those thoughts are straight from the Church Fathers!!

I am very glad the BUCU has changed its mind and do not agree with 'A True Christian'.

I am very sad that some people in the church today have drawn up a rule (from the historical report of Priscilla and Aquila working together) that women may teach if their husbands are present. There is no such rule in Scripture and we should lay that canard to rest. The BUCU would not have gotten into the messy situation it has been in if it had not accepted this false rule in the first place. (Incidentally, headship means that Priscilla the teacher is as much under the headship of her husband if he is two metres from her when she teaches as when she is two hundred miles from him teaching at a conference: his husbandliness and her wifeliness have nothing to do with geography!)

I put it again, and I feel now I will not cease from doing so: when we interpret Scripture to yield rules which constrain the ministry of women but not of men, even worse when we invoke the Fathers in support, we implicitly subscribe to notions that women ARE inferior to men, because we are accepting that they are a 'class' of humanity that should be constrained when men should not.

This class distinction within humanity should stop: in Sydney, in Rome, in REFORM and in Forward in Faith. To so interpret Scripture is a betrayal of the fundamental truth of the gospel that we men and women are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and it is a fundamental misunderstanding that this basic creed only about our baptised life in Christ in general. This basic creed drives a gospel understanding of our life together in Christ in all its dimensions, including ministry and mission.

There is neither inferiority in women as teachers nor inferiority in women as representatives of the God who made them and the Christ who created them nor inferiority in women as sinners compared to men. There are no roles in the life of the church laid down in Scripture for women or men which only one sex may have, save from the biological roles of mother and father.  

If it is not obvious that the application of the creed 'equal but different' (which has no actual underlying text in Scripture) results in a plethora of rules for modern church life which are both an incoherent mix and a construction of a 'new Law' for gospel people, then I accept that the creed and its resultant rules will govern large sections of Christianity for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless I put it to all readers here who sincerely and respectfully read Scripture as teaching 'equal but different' that this reading of Scripture has had its day. For those who also see it as a reading commended by Tradition, a massive rethink is needed given the bias of the Church Fathers against women. It is a reading which is bringing the gospel into disrepute. Let us give it a decent burial.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Too fast moving for me

In one sense not much happens in our NZ church. So the last 36 hours have been a belter for interesting developments. Our pakeha Archbishop David Moxon is moving to Rome, but as an Anglican not to become a Roman. This morning I awake to news that the Bishop of Waiapu, +David Rice (an American by birth and upbringing) is a candidate for an episcopal election in TEC (H/T Ron Smith). For Waiapu that will be interesting news to digest as the "NZ way" is generally for no one to know anything about a change of position until the change is announced.

One or two have asked if I am going to speculate here about who our new archbishop will be as I did with the ABC position. The answer is No. NZ is just too small, and there are too few candidates for the role (i.e. it will be one of eight bishops ... actually, one of seven bishops) for public discussion to be undertaken about respective merits etc. [NB I will not publish speculative comments here, just delete them; start your own blog etc if you wish to speculate].

But I do wonder if +David Rice has pretty much ruled himself out of consideration when he makes this statement in his election papers, "Tracy and I are convinced it is the right time for us to return
home after living in N.Z. for eighteen years."

Hence it seems likely that our effective candidates are the respective bishops of Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington, Waikato and Taranaki (which has one bishop in place after ++David leaves), and Auckland (x2).

I do hope that +David can work out his episcopacy well in Waiapu if he is unsuccessful after having publicly entered the very different-to-our-own process towards the possibility of becoming a bishop in TEC - in our process everything is secret re public news and public re circulating whispers!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

God is not biased against women

It is all too tempting to get involved in the details of debate over the ordination of women. The details have importance because, in the end, Scripture is made up of sentences, verses, chapters, 66 books. But part of being Christian is to hold the big picture in tension with the details and to resist the details driving the big picture askew: when Jesus took on the scribal culture of the Pharisees and Sadducees he was challenging them to find God among the details instead of making a god of the details.

Out of the God-centred, details-flung-to the margins mission of Jesus as told to us in the quadriscopic (? what's the fourfold word for stereoscopic) vision of the gospels we meet the God of Jesus Christ who is biased towards the people on the margins and against the power-brokers and people controllers of an allegedly God-centred society. The details had pushed people to the margins, so Jesus got rid of the details!

A problem with arguments against the ordination of women is that they make much of the details (1 Timothy 2:12, twelve male apostles or Apostles, among the few ordinations recounted in the NT none included women, the second century church knew not a female episcopacy or presbyterate) as though the most important thing is to find reasons not to ordain women. Is not the most important thing to find God and the gospel? And what is the gospel but a message of freedom in Christ from details, openness to the life of the Spirit, and restoration of the image of God in humanity, an image experienced in being male and female.

The gospel message is biased towards inclusion of people in the kingdom of God, not towards exclusion of people. A recurring theme of stories of Jesus is the breaking down of barriers which excluded people from living under God's rule. Healing on the Sabbath is forbidden? Let's bypass that rule. Gentiles are not part of Christ's mission? Let's make them a part. A serially polyandrous Samaritan women worshipping at the wrong temple? We'll send her to be an apostle to the Samaritans.

In episcopal churches which ordain deacons, presbyters and bishops, there are two groups, the ordained and the non-ordained. How inclusive and exclusive should the ordained group be? It should be exclusive of the unfit, the immature in Christ, the uncalled and inadequately gifted or discipled. As a group of Christ-followers, it should be inclusive as far as possible. Exclusion purely on the grounds of gender does not fit with the flow of the spirit of the Jesus we meet in the gospels, nor, for that matter with the history of the continuing mission of Jesus told through the remainder of the New Testament.

In an age when we are aware, perhaps as never before in the history of humanity, that women and men together make up humanity and thus should not be divided in privilege and participation (e.g. to vote, to receive education, to engage in work and family life, to make decisions about property), nor for that matter in responsibility (e.g. to pay taxes, to attend school), the question of ordination asks why women should be included among the ordained not why women should be excluded.

I challenge those here who argue that women should not be ordained to ask yourselves why you press for reasons not to ordain women rather than to find reasons to ordain women.

When you want to find reasons to include rather than exclude women, you will find within the pages of Scripture plenty of reasons to press for that inclusion.

A further challenge is whether the pressing to find reasons not to ordain women is more in keeping with the spirit of Jesus who included people or with the scribal culture of the Pharisees and Sadducees which excluded people from full participation in the kingdom of God.

At all times, let's remember, God is not biased against women.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NZ Archbishop Going Over To Rome

But no swimming of the Tiber is involved! Our Archbishop David Moxon is going to be "the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome." Hmm, some study leave is on the horizon ... I might have a word :) Read more here, here and here. ++David will be missed, much.

What precisely is the reason for not ordaining women?

Amidst stimulating discussions here about the ordination of women I find myself continuing to be surprised by comments made here or on other sites I am reading.

In broad terms when a man offers for ordination all is well. A simple act of seeking the ordering of church in service of Christ. But when a woman offers all is bad. Let me count the ways.

- it is an act of seeking power or of being valued through ordination

- it is demeaning to women who do not seek ordination and implies that the only valued ministry is ordained ministry

- it is an act of disobedience to God whose will is clear that men and women have different roles in life

- it is theologically and christologically unsound since it has been revealed that Christ's eternal functional subordination is a model for the functional subordination of women to men*

- while there is no intrinsic problem with women running anything which involves authority or teaching over men (schools, hospitals, governments, etc), there is an intrinsic problem with a woman - no matter whether of sounder mind, education, grasp of doctrine, leadership skills - taking a leader role over men in the church

- we probably shouldn't be ordaining anyone, now we think about it, because there is no such thing as 'priests' separate from the priesthood of all believers

I continue to remain a man of simple amazement that the ordination of women is such a hornet's nest of problems and difficulties. It would be good to have a simple and straightforward reason for not ordaining women.

If you are tempted to supply one, please do not waste my time by suggesting it has anything to do with power, ambition, being valued, diminution of other women in ministry, clarity of roles for men and women (there simply is no such clear teaching in Scripture), an analogy to Christ's functional subordination whether that is eternal or otherwise (where in Scripture is the analogy impressed upon us?), or to some intrinsic problem with women so that while capable of running a government they are incapable of running the church. And let's not waste time on the priest/priesthood of all believers: no Anglican church is currently considering abolishing priests. These things are smokescreens, not least because they are not applied to men.

What precisely is the reason for not ordaining women in a church which ordains men?

PS It seems that my question here amidst a largely "Protestant" discussion is well-mirrored in this article about a Catholic conversation
---
*Believe it or not, I have even read (thankfully not here), that women will continue to be functionally subordinate to men in heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Multiple designs for new (old?) cathedral to be considered

Excellent news on Taonga about the future timeline for decision-making about our cathedral in Christchurch.

"Church Property Trustees hope to make a final decision on the future of Christchurch’s damaged cathedral by the end of February.
This decision will follow “continuing engagement” with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), the City Council, the Historic Places Trust and the general public.
CPT today committed itself to this process in a memorandum to the High Court.
The memorandum – in response to an interim judgement by Justice Lester Chisholm last month – states that different design concepts will be prepared and a selection then made for "further development and engagement."
This selection will reflect the following options:
a.   maximum retention and a replica rebuild;
b.   partial deconstruction and a mix of 'old and new' based around the current footprint; and
c.   more extensive deconstruction and a building with more elements of the new.
The first step is for CPT to provide a copy of the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) building retention proposal to CERA for review. 
CPT's own engineers will also look further at options for deconstruction.  
Tentative timetable
CPT has set down the following timetable, depending on how matters progress:
• 6 December  – CPT will meet to consider and provide direction on design work to the Cathedral Project Group.
• December  – The Cathedral Project Group will advance the design brief with the architects.
• Early January 2013  – CPT hopes to receive feedback from CERA and its own engineering review of deconstruction options as well as feedback from the Cathedral Project Group.
• Late January 2013  – CPT will provide direction for cathedral design concept(s)… based on consideration of financial implications as well as heritage, safety and engineering matters, including options for deconstruction. CPT hopes at this point to release a concept for public feedback.
 End of February 2013  – CPT hopes to make a final decision on the future of the cathedral building."

We need a cathedral for Christchurch and Canterbury and we need Canterbury and Christchurch to (re)build the cathedral, whether - in the end - it is new, old, or new-old. I think it is good see all the options (a/b/c) above being considered. It seems like a real chance we will have a cathedral design that the people can be inspired by and inspired to give towards.

In other building news a fantastic campaign to improve the quality of rental housing via cardboard boxes is being waged. The campaign uses cardboard boxes which play no actual role in improving housing! In part that campaign is being directed from an office in Theology House. TH is proud to be associated with these efforts to raise the standard of living for people: theology in action! Read the story in today's Press here.

Look Sydney, here is a model of grace

"We need to say very clearly, that we understand, and deeply regret, the pain, hurt and anger felt on the part of many women clergy and their supporters; that we value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of the Church of England; and that we recognise the gifts which God has given in and through their ministries."

Thus writes the Bishop of Ebbsfleet who will not ordain women. But the Diocese of Sydney, asked merely to note twenty years of the ordination of women could not bring itself to do so, let alone to 'value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of [the Anglican Church of Australia].'

I thank God for the grace of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. I remain amazed that the Sydney synod could resolve in the way it did to effectively deny that women are ordained in the life of the wider national church to which the synod belongs.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Sad if it is true

I guess we cannot be guaranteed that everything we read in the newspapers is true, so I am prepared to give Archbishop Peter Jensen and the synod of the Diocese of Synod some benefit of the doubt re the following:


"A few weeks ago in Sydney synod, Professor Bernard Stewart and Reverend Philip Bradford put this simple motion up: 

''Synod notes the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia and gives thanks for the ministry of women in all areas of the church's life.'' 
Incendiary! Dr Claire Smith instantly moved to amend it by deleting all words after ''synod'' and adding ''gives thanks to Almighty God for the ministry of women in the church's life.'' The amendment was upheld, and the synod members were reminded not to mention the horrible idea of women priests again. 
This is what passes for debate about women in Sydney today. Archbishop Peter Jensen has achieved a goal he reportedly spoke of privately at the beginning of his tenure: he would stamp out support for women preaching and leading in the diocese. Twenty years ago, not allowing women to preach in front of men was a minority position. Today, it is widespread. 
This is documented in a new book out on the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW), Preachers, Prophets and Heretics: Anglican Women's Ministry, edited by Elaine Lindsay and Janet Scarfe. In it, Stuart Piggin, director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Thought and Experience at Macquarie University, details a meeting between MOW and Archbishop Jensen on April 10, 2002. One woman pointed out to the archbishop that in the last vote on women priests, clergy solidly opposed it but the laity split down the middle. He answered: ''I agree but I am going to work very hard to change that." 
Since then, most ministers in favour of women's ordination have left, been sidelined or given up. The silencing of women in Sydney has been almost complete. Many have walked. The last serious debate in synod was in 1996; there are few left who are able to speak out."

Read the whole article by Julia Baird here.


Really, Sydney and ++Sydney: what is it about women and their ministry "under orders" which is so threatening that their silence is sought through suppression of debate? Is this the way to honour women that a synod cannot even "note" an anniversary as a fact in the life of the wider church? What is it with ++Peter - if this report be true - that he has been intent on changing the minds of his laity?

A final point from Julia Baird:

"You can only wonder how girls are meant to reconcile the fact that they are taught to speak their minds at school, and to be silent in church. 
Two thousand years ago, the Christian church was radical in a culture of patriarchy. Now, in Sydney, it is a reactionary in a culture of equality."

Indeed, Julia, I wonder.