Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A centre line running through the middle ground?

Roger Harper, UK, has alerted me to a site he has developed called Gay Marriage Maybe: Robust Middle Ground in Christian Debate

What do you think? Is there a centre line running through the middle ground which we can walk on this matter?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Jesus weeps

"Of the $38 million left for the church’s operating budget, some $4 million was spent on communications, $3 million on philanthropic grant spending and $2.5 million on the church’s music program, church officials said. Nearly $6 million went to maintain Trinity’s historic properties, including the main church building, which was built in 1846; St. Paul’s Chapel; and several cemeteries, where luminaries including Alexander Hamilton and Edward I. Koch are buried. The remainder went into the church’s equity investment portfolio."

The whole report on Trinity Wall Street's mega-investments is here. Makes for interesting reading on how to make as little information as possible to the people who matter.

Let us do some arithmetic.

From Trinity Wall Street's property investments $38 million is surplus after costs.

$4 million is spent on communications. Wow!

$2.5 million is spent on the church's music programme. Hey, choirs cost!

$6 million maintains the church's historic properties. Fair enough. Anglicans know that stone church cost their weight in gold.

So now we are down to 38-4-2.5-6= $25.5 million dollars to spend with a certain freedom and flexibility, what with no worries mate about the choir, organ and buildings.

Let me see, what would Jesus do?

(1) That would be what Trinity does: $3 million on philanthropy and $22.5 million into "the church's equity investment portfolio" ($160 million in 2011). Always sound investment strategy to grow the equity base!

(2) That would be to give all the surplus away: $25.5 million. I can think of a cathedral project or two which would be greatly helped!

(3) That would be to ... what do you think?

It is difficult, as an Anglican (these trust funds are all over the Communion) knows.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Light fantastic

Continuing on the Christ Church cathedral journey to new design, note a Press article pointing to background of Design 3 in Christ the Light cathedral, Oakland, Cal.

I do not ask for these emails

but somehow they come. Anyway, this one looks interesting for hymnic musicologists and musical hymnologists. Or even simple versifiers.

New Hymn Competition Announced
As part of the ongoing Together in Song project of The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd, an International Hymn Competition is announced. The terms and conditions of the Competition are included in the Guidelines below.
Entries close 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time 31 July 2013.
Please distribute this announcement far and wide to any people and networks you think may be interested.

The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd is delighted to announce its first international hymn competition as part of its work of gathering the finest congregational songs for its growing Together in Song collection. The competition has two entry levels, either of which may be selected by an individual competitor: General and Specific.
Level 1: General
The General Level competition is seeking texts that re-imagine Pauline theological emphases / allusions / metaphors / images, expressing them as song texts that are accessible to, and understood by, twenty-first century worshippers.
 [As an historical model, note how in his hymn ‘And can it be’ (#209 in Together in Song) Wesley employed the following emphases / allusions in meaningful ways for congregations of his time: Verse 1: Col 1.19-21, Eph 1.7; Verse 2: 1 Peter 1.6-12; Verse 3: Phil 2.6-8; Verse 4: Acts 12.6-11; Verse 5: Rom 8, Phil 2.9 and 3.9, Heb 4.16, and 1 Cor 9.25]
Level 2: Specific Pauline Text(s) Focus
This competition level is planned to focus on Pauline texts, which deal with Paul's notion that believers must experience a ‘crucifixion’ or ‘death’ of their old selves, before they can be fully reconciled with God.
The aim of this part of the competition is to elicit faith-based responses to one or other of the quoted texts. Each response will form a ‘story’.
The ‘story’ should (a) ‘unpack’ the meaning of the text and (b) convey a sense of why the text is important to the author.
Texts for Consideration:
* 1 Corinthians 2.2 *Galatians 6.14 *Romans 6.6 *Colossians 3.3
[As an historical model, Charles Wesley re-imagined Colossians 3.3 in the text of his hymn "Thou Shepherd of Israel, and mine". The Appendix includes the Text.]

1. Content
Level 1: Open to any Pauline theological content of the applicants’ own choosing (see above explanation)
Level 2: Hymn to focus on one of the ‘Texts for Consideration’ (see above)
2. Form
Entries will be in the form of a congregational song, either Hymn or Contemporary Song style.
3. Categories
Submission may be one of two categories, reflect Pauline content as outlined above and have a minimum of three (3) stanzas in English.
Category #1: New Text and Tune
- Original melody and text
- Melody in metric balance with the text
- Style either:
(i) traditional 4-part harmony with SATB, or
(ii) contemporary single-line melody for unison congregational singing, with basic keyboard accompaniment for solo line,and guitar chords.
Category #2: New Hymn Text for an Existing Tune
- Original text that is in metric balance with chosen tune

To be eligible, submission(s) must meet all the requirements for the respective category. (NB New tunes for the winning entry may be sought in the future).

4. New Work
Hymns previously published or currently entered in other contests should not be submitted. It is permissible, however, to have a local congregation or other group sample your hymn before submitting it.
5. Contemporary Application
Entries are to avoid archaic language, such as "Which wert, and art, and evermore shall be", and non-inclusive language, such as "O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother".
6. Copyright
Copyright of the winning hymn text/s and music will become the property of The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd.
7. Use of Entries
The entries may be used:
(a) at celebratory Hymn Competition Services or Conference
(b) on the Together in Song World Wide Web site with copyright approval for prescribed usage
(c) in future Together in Song publications
(d) on accompaniment discs
8. Submission Information
Entry is open to all who are neither employees nor their relatives of The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd, nor competition judges nor their relatives.
Entrants should specify whether they are entering Level 1 or Level 2 of the Competition. They should either (a) provide four copies of each hymn, which should not include the entrant’s name; or (b) submit scanned hymn by email.
Entrants have the option of submitting a CD/mp3 track with vocal lines.
All entrants should provide a cover letter with their full name, postal address, e-mail address, telephone number, and the title of the entry or entries. All entries will be acknowledged within two weeks of receipt.
9. Closing date and address for submission
All entries must be submitted by 5pm on 31 July 2013 to:
The Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd
International Hymn Competition
PO Box 128

10. Judging
The judges will arrive at their decision by 30 September 2013, and their decision is final. The winning entries will be announced after the winners have been notified. Only one winning entry is anticipated in each level, but the judges may decide to split the prize among several co-winners. The judges also reserve the right not to select any entry as a winner. Each entrant will receive notification of the contest winners and a copy of the winning entries.
11. Prize(s)
Winning prizes at each of the two levels will be AUD 1,200.

Methodist Hymn Book #457

Thou Shepherd of Israel and mine,
Thou joy and desire of my heart;
For closer communion I pine,
I long to reside where thou art.
The pasture I languish to find
Where all, who their Shepherd obey,
Are fed, on the bosom reclined,
And screened from the heat of the day.

John 10.14

Jesu, meine Freude

John 13.23-25
Ah, show me that happiest place,
The place of thy peoples abode;
Where saints in an ecstasy gaze,
And hang on a crucified God.
Thy love for a sinner declare,
Thy passion and death on a tree;
My spirit to Calvary bear
To suffer and triumph with thee.

2 Corinthians 5.2

Philippians 3.12-14

Ephesians 3.18-19
Galatians 2.20
2 Timothy 2.11
Philippians 1.29

Tis there with the lambs of thy flock,
There only I covet to rest;
To lie at the foot of the rock,
Or rise to be hid in thy breast.
Tis there I would always abide,
And never a moment depart;
Concealed in the cleft of thy side,
Eternally held in thy heart.
Let me hide myself in thee.

Ephesians 1.4-6

Jesu, meine Freude

Rock of ages, cleft for me

Friday, April 26, 2013

If unity seems impossible

I have always been intrigued to meet a fellow minister whose pastoral work seems to major in responding to marriage crises. My own pastoral experience has been quite different. Comparatively few people have ever sought my counsel with marriage difficulties. But among those few I have observed that their difficulties, in a proportion of approximately 9 out of 10 cases, have been such that my instinctive reaction has been ‘Leave your spouse now!’ The presenting difficulties have involved physical violence and it is widely agreed that the general mandate of Scripture, that we stick with our marriages, is trumped by the matter of simple physical safety, especially where children are involved. Incidentally, in about 2 out of 9 cases, the physical threat has stemmed from the wife and not the husband.

Analogously with church unity, there are instances where the difficulties in church life are such that ‘Leave your church now!’ is warranted. Without elucidating the reasons for saying so, I accept that the circumstances of the Western church in the 16th century were such that departure from the rule of Rome was necessary for the sake of the gospel. I can accept that if we then run over the history of Protestantism since then, we could come up with further justifiable instances of schism. A plausible instance, I believe, is the transformation of Methodism from movement within the C of E to church outside of it. The intransigence of the English bishops of the day was an unwarranted quenching of the Spirit. But I do not accept that each and every instance of schism in Protestantism is justifiable as we have become a many splintered set of ecclesial communities: in too many cases, to our shame, personal egos, deficient understanding of the true breadth of the gospel, and a simple failure to be patient have contributed to the splintering. ‘For the sake of the gospel’, at least in historical hindsight, appears to have been ‘for the sake of my/our understanding of the gospel.’

In our day and in our contexts, local and global Anglicanism in the 21st century, just as we might urge ourselves to maintain the unity of the Spirit, we should pause to ask what happens if the unity cannot be maintained and what circumstances might count as a justified constraint on maintenance of unity. A commenter here this morning (on yesterday’s post) raises such questions in respect of the searching judgement of our Lord on the excessively tolerant church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29).
Intriguingly, there are matching concerns about ‘tolerance’ from both ends of ACANZP and of the Communion. Some in our church, for instance, seem aghast that we should continue to tolerate a conservative approach to marriage which holds back the blessing of same-sex relationships; and vice versa. Within the Communion there are those who call for the expulsion of TEC, and there are those sympathetic to TEC who long for the day when (say) the GAFCON churches formally secede from the Communion. I also observe that similar theological dynamic concerning ‘for the sake of the gospel’ drives this aghastliness: from both ends of the theological spectrum there is a passionate conviction that the gospel means X and so anti-X (or non-X) should not be tolerated. Cue a certain bewilderment for those at the centre of Anglicanism!

What to do? No doubt there are many things to say, and there is always the possibility of drawing up a “unity” checklist with tick boxes and a formula for determining when a certain number of check boxes are not ticked then schism should take place. For today  I simply share one idea which has been percolating in my mind. In a church where varied understandings of the gospel intermingle a decisive question could be this: may I continue to witness to the understanding of the gospel I believe with all my heart and mind to be the true understanding?

If I can continue to witness to that understanding of the gospel then it always remains an open question whether, over time, my witness may lead to a new allegiance to that understanding in the future.
Evangelicals in the C of E and in ACANZP (to just cite two instances) can look back on past times and see their respective churches in quite different places to what they are today in respect of evangelical allegiance. In both cases what was once viewed by the majority as a tiny and somewhat weird minority is now a stronger, no longer tiny influence (possibly in the C of E, even now a majority), and (with exceptions) not viewed as weird. That change of fortunes has come about because 

(1) evangelicals in the past stayed within their Anglican churches, sometimes with a polite turning down of invitations to join other churches; 

(2) evangelicals remained faithful in their witness to an evangelical understanding of the gospel; and 

(3) the possibility of that witness being given was not suppressed (though sometimes it nearly was).

Is one question before Anglicans in the 21st century the question of whether (3) will remain a feature of Anglican life?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Unity and unity

I admit I am a somewhat naïve person in respect of Christian unity. I think there should be more of it. I think we should strive harder to achieve it in this world since even a bit of achievement here would be both a witness to Christ now and make life easier for Christians in the new heaven and earth.

One of my starting points is Jesus’ own prayer, ut unim sint. But another starting point for my naive motivation is the simple truth that in the life to come there will be one and only one church. No denominational sections will exist in heaven. But then neither will there be popes, bishops, moderators, superintendents, synods, assemblies or councils!

Here at ADU I am especially concerned that we do not fracture further whatever unity we currently enjoy, with a special eye on my own church, ACANZP, but also a keen eye on the Anglican Communion. But reflecting on these situations, and building on some pertinent points made in comments here in recent days, I recognise that there are varying aspects to either maintaining unity or building unity out of previous difference or even pretending unity exists or moves are being made towards unity when this is not actually so. We could perhaps say that some forms of Christian unity are worth more than other forms!

Compromise for unity

One line from ARCIC in recent years has been that unity between Anglicans and Romans would involve recognition of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. As I recall the relevant document, the language used was as agreeable to Anglicans as could be reasonably hoped but the bottom line was recognition of that specific primacy. Here then, were it ever to happen, would be a compromise, a position not entirely satisfactory to one side of the joining together for the sake of the joining together. Given that a whole lot of other things would be satisfactory (e.g. creedal agreement, continuation of bishops), such a compromise could be worthwhile making. (For simplicities sake here I am not listing many other compromises which would also have to be made!)

By contrast, we could think about potential unity between Anglicans and (non-episcopal) Methodists which always seems to get stuck on the matter of episcopacy because, one way or another, one side would make a compromise which so far as it seems is not able to be made in a manner worthwhile to the one making the compromise. (In particular, from the Anglican side of things, to give up the episcopacy would be to also give up all thought of unity with Rome).

Lowest common denominator unity

This was mentioned in a comment the other day. The specific example advanced was the Uniting Church of Australia. I make no comment about that as I do not know anything much about the history of that joining together. But what can be said here is that to a degree much Anglican unity works in this way: we are united by what we agree on and … that appears to be not much. In respect of the Covenant, for example, a renewal of Communion unity is offered via a high common denominator (i.e. agreement on each and every detail of the Covenant). But the outcome on current prognosis is rejection of the Covenant which de facto is a settling for Anglican unity on as few essentials as possible.

In my own church it is highly arguable that we agree on very little (we ought to have bishops,we have  a constitution which provides for significant cultural delineation in our practical arrangements, and we have a prayer book and lectionary perfectly suited to ‘the Church of Or.’) 

Even more cynically, it is sometimes voiced in our church that we are only held together as three tikanga because we have the St John’s College Trust Board treasure chest of funds for which access has to come through a church united under one General Synod. 

(I myself would wish to be less cynical than that and say that our unity is a binding together of many friends and families in one small set of islands in which we recognise needs for inter-dependency, and the discussions over money keep us talking together and getting to know one another’s situations more deeply than ever before.)

Paper unity

It is also observable in our ecclesiastical arrangements that some proclamations of unity are scarcely worth the writing on the paper that underlines them. A few years ago to a bit of hoopla and what have you, there was proclamation of a covenant between NZ Methodists and NZ Anglicans. I can detect not one whit of difference that has been made by that Covenant. Methodists do not have bishops and we have not abolished them. Friendly relations with Methodists were ever friendly before the Covenant and just as friendly afterwards. I imagine that if the Methodists asked for financial assistance from us they would receive no more or less favourable hearing than before there was a covenant.
Although we will never have a Covenant for the Communion I think it a reasonable thought that if we did have, it would (as time went by) prove to be the harbinger of nothing more than paper unity.

Real unity among Christians is measured by deeds and not by words.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Containing the uncontainable?

One reason for working on a united church is that it holds us together while we are far apart in the present and allows for a natural coming together at a point in the future when we are closer together.

We often comment on how close Methodists are to Anglicans which begs the question why the bishops of the 18th century C of E allowed Wesleyanism to spin off into a separate church.

We note the closeness of Vatican 2 Catholicism to 20th century Anglicanism (i.e. an Anglicanism that in various ways has refound some Catholic dimensions) and wonder what might have been if the Bishop of Rome in the 16th century had been kinder to the socio-political realities of England.

One question before us today, both globally as a communion and locally in (say) the CofE and ACANZP, is whether our differences should be contained by whatever means it takes because an historically informed prophetic eye can see the future point when we will not be so stretched in our diversity.

On the one hand there is a sociological insight that as our respective societies become used to change we will conflict less over change. Here in NZ we might note that we once used to have a law which criminalized sodomy and today we have no one within the Anglican church pressing for its reinstitution. Arguably, however we understand the dynamics of theological difference in our church today, at a future point the dynamics will be different, likely with less angst and more agreement.

On the other hand there is a history-of-theology insight that as our churches engage with contemporary currents in thinking various radicals proposals to depart from traditional orthodoxy capture headlines, even whole seminaries, but eventually we come to our senses and re-assert that (say) God is Trinity, Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and Mary was a virgin when she conceived her son Jesus.

My prediction is that 100 years from now the dust from the present storm will be well settled and any break in our church would be much regretted. How the dust settles will be of interest to future bloggers. I also predict that it will settle in ways that both liberals and conservatives alive today might find unsettling!

Monday, April 22, 2013

We already have alternative episcopal arrangements in our church

In the just published Easter print edition of Taonga I write these words in respect of how conservatives might respond to changes which may take place in our church re same sex relationships:

"I think we remain a church where, depending on decisions made in the future, we could see some conservatives leave, some remain providing there are new episcopal arrangements, and some remain whatever happens." [p. 15]

These words along with some similar sentiments from Bishop Richard Ellena (Nelson) re alternative episcopal arrangements reported on p. 11 have been noted in a comment made on ADU earlier today.

Certain thoughts spring to my mind in consequence.

(1) Christ calls the church to unity, ut unim sint (John 17).
(2) Responding to this call is difficult, and always had been (Acts 6, 10-11 etc).
(3) Many questions arise: what is the basis of our unity? What happens if that basis fractures?
(4) Generally the Christian experience of unity is the experience of unity-in-diversity, so what is the nature of our diversity, are there limits to it, and so forth?
(5) Various pragmatic moves have been made through the centuries in order to secure unity (or as much unity as possible under the circumstances): here an agreement to a creed, there an agreement to a canon of sacred writings, over there a commitment to a particular bishop (Rome?) or to no single bishop (Eastern Orthodoxy) or to the congregation etc.
(6) Our church, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia has found ways to forge a form of unity in the fires of diversity, most especially in securing a novel form of episcopacy in which a single geographic territory can be double or even multiple episcopal territory, so we have two bishops based in Christchurch.

If our diversity over sexuality is to be held together in one church, how is that to be so?

I would prefer it to not lead to new episcopal arrangements. But there is no significant reason I can think of why it should not lead to new arrangements.

A. We have already allowed to ourselves the possibility that significant diversity (cultural) should lead to such arrangements. Why not significant theological diversity leading in a similar direction?

B. If it is charged that it is 'novel' to head down this route, why would that be a problem? After all, the blessing of same sex relationships after a manner formally approved by General Synod would be a novel thing. I know of no one who is not conservative who is saying that we should not do that novel thing because it is novel! If one novel thing, why not two?

But, to reiterate, my fervent prayer and wish for our church is that we find a way forward which does not involve new episcopal arrangements, which maintains our unity, which honours Christ's wish that we be united and is prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain the unity we claim each week in the eucharist that we are committed to maintaining!

Friday, April 19, 2013

When in a hot climate, drink coconut milk

I am not long back from an experience I will always treasure, my first visit to Tonga. Our church is a church of 'three tikanga' including Tikanga Pasefika or the Diocese of Polynesia which consists for the most part of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. There are six parishes on Tonga and a secondary school, St Andrew's College.

You do not necessarily want to read a diary of my many experiences and insights, packed into 48 hours on the island. But I do want to tell you that it was very hot, which was a nice change from our cool autumn. One way to combat the heat in such a place is to drink coconut milk, preferably with the coconut having been chilled before opening.

Naturally you want to know why I went to Tonga. The reason involves some reflection on the nature of being church, and being our church in particular.

Church is the people called by God to belong to Christ. People come in many shapes and sizes out of tribes, cultures and nations. Church in the widest sense is this great diversity of people. In a narrower sense, church = my local church can mean a largely non-diversified group, with, for instance 90%+ being drawn from one race or tribe or culture. Our Anglican church in these islands consists of many non-diversified local churches, but as a whole it is very diverse.

Our governing groups and management committees seek to represent this diversity. One such governing group is our bishops and in my role as Chair of Te Kotahitanga Scholarships Committee (i.e. a management committee of our church) I was invited to speak to them about the scholarships' process for ACANZP.

In order to recognise the loci of diversity some of our groups meet in different parts of our church (e.g. the bishops, General Synod Standing Committee, very occasionally General Synod itself) but most groups meet in Auckland or Wellington. Well my invite coincided with the bishops meeting in Tonga, to be precise on a rather pleasant island, Pangaimotu, about 10 minutes ride from Nuku'alofa, capital city of Tonga. (See also Bishop Kelvin Wright's account). My accommodation was in Nuku'alofa itself and that enabled me to walk about the city a bit in the early mornings and drink in some of the atmosphere of Tonga, including the amazing churchiness of this nation.

I have never seen so many churches per square feet of earth (for this purpose I include many Mormon churches). To be awoken by bells calling Catholics to daily 6 am mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary reminded me of living in an Islamic city with its early call of the minaret. I was assured this morning by the wife of a local Nuku'alofa vicar that at their church they have daily Matins at 5.30 am!

Incidentally the cathedral is a wonderful building beginning with its welcoming entrance (and other ends of the cruciform) styled after a fale. I warmly commend a visit it to it before the design of our cathedral is settled on.

To be physically present in Tonga was to see a nation on NZ's doorsteps which is much, much poorer than we are, and a church with far, far fewer material resources than we enjoy. As Chair of the Scholarships Committee it was good to be reminded of the difference our distribution of funds can make to people we may only ever know via an application form.

Diversity, as we know on this site, takes many forms. It is not all about differences in culture and the like. It is also about differences in theology. While I was away in Tonga, our parliament made a final decision re marriage in this country which is going to challenge us theologically. To raise just one question, What (responsible, pastoral) language will we use to describe people married in the eyes of the state who are not married in the eyes of the church? As far as I can tell, that is a new question for Anglicans in Aotearoa NZ. (By contrast, it is not a new question for Roman Catholics).

Incidentally, it is not a question at all for members of our church living in the sovereign states of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Durham man appointed to Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

Actually, the Rev Dr Michael Lloyd has degrees from the Trifecta, Cambridge, Durham and Oxford! Anyway, longtime readers here and of other blogs and theological news media will know that Wycliffe Hall has had an interesting time - diplomatically speaking - since around 2007 when its previous Principal, Richard Turnbull was appointed. Dr Lloyd's appointment is announced here.

In hindsight, Turnbull's appointment was a 'category' mistake. To make some change to the College (one category) it brought in a man capable of making change, but found that the change was towards a conservatism which sat ill with the general tenor of an evangelical college which had had an open stance to matters such as the ordination of women (with the ill winds of change expressed through some very painful exists for long serving staff). Effectively the College was led into a new conservative paradigm (another category) which it would now appear to be repenting of, with the appointment of a man with a history of teaching both at St Stephen's Oxford and St Mellitus London.

I am glad about this. Likeable as Richard Turnbull was as a person (I had the privilege of meeting him at Wycliffe in 2007), his willingness to divide the evangelical seminaries of the C of E into "5 plus 1" or 5 bad and 1 good colleges was not a helpful starting point for attempting to deepen the engagement of evangelicalism with the ever-changing realities of both the Church of England and of England/Britain. The intention to shift 5 plus 1 to 4 plus 2 would now appear to be at an end.

Evangelicalism is better when united and likely to self-destruct when divided. I assume Dr Lloyd is an appointee who understands this.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It is marriage, Jim, but not as we know it

Blogging is essentially a compulsive obsessional disorder. It is compulsory to write about what is obsessing the blogger, so at risk of disorder to one's diary, I post, therefore I am. One difficulty with obsessions is that one may rule over another, in which case the secondary obsession is somewhat deflated since a secondary obsession is not a real obsession.

Lately I have been obsessed by diocesan matters. Only in passing have I been able to observe that the deflated obsession here - marriage etc - could be re-inflated. Various correspondents have alerted me (thank you) to a series of articles re marriage and gay marriage. Looking them up has alerted me to an avalanche of reaction to one publication in particular, a C of E Report men and women in marriage which can be found here.

I do not have time this week, even this month, to read this, but perhaps you do and would care to comment here.

Some reactions are here (a conservative concise critique), here (a liberal critique with variant here), and a Thatcher-like Church Times No, No, No here. Bishop Alan Wilson possibly condemns Belgium while condemning the report! Charlotte Methuen is obviously a fan of the 'open society' as she helped write the condemned-on-all-sides-report and then effectively condemns it herself here. At this point I hand you over to Thinking Anglicans and the many links made there in recent days to comment.

Across the Atlantic, the ever thoughtful Albert Mohler makes astute observations about the course of debate over gay marriage in the States.

Even here in NZ we have a form of public discourse, exemplified recently by Rex Ahdar as he writes here and then is soundly fisked by Lynne Jamneck here.

As best I can make out, what is happening in the UK, USA and here is that

(1)  some not very good arguments in favour of the status quo of marriage being between one man and one woman are being trampled over by some arguments which excellently dispatch the not very good arguments;

(2) a zeitgeist is blowing through our respective societies which cannot be resisted by yesterday's arguments and might not be turned back by better arguments produced today;

(3) the key mistake Christian 'resistance' to societal change to marriage is making, is failure to grasp that the full extent of secularization is being utilized, that is, politicians are organizing society without reference to God; a secondary mistake is to think that there is anything instrinsic to marriage in a world without God - in  that world, marriage is whatever we wish to make of it.

(4) conservative (i.e. preservationists of the status quo to date) Christians on marriage are being challenged to work out what the grounds are on which they are founding their arguments, with a relentless work ethic on the part of liberal (i.e. intent on disturbing the status quo) Christians who are intent on mercilessly exposing bad foundations.

Thus, to give but one example, it is now quite dodgy to argue that the 'majority' view on marriage is the status quo, because the 'majority' view is rapidly becoming marriage is between any two people. The status quo is evolving.

To my mind, a Christian needs to work out what God has revealed to us about marriage. And not depend on what nature teaches or culture supports as a way of explaining or justifying what God has revealed to us. The way of discipleship is mostly counter-natural and counter-cultural. But more needs to be said, and time is up. Marking, preparation, a meeting of Bishops to attend, a discernment weekend ... posting might be light for the remainder of the week.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Contemporary wins hands down

ADDENDUM: Good article on Taonga here and here. Liturgy has an excellent summary and survey of the synod debates and discussions.

Just a quick update after a long day at our Synod. Well, long two days since I posted last.

(1) I didn't eat a sausage roll, but there were some very fine mince pies, a lovely meal tonight and some cream puffs I would like to pay compliments to except that they have disappeared.

(2) The Structural Review Group report or 'draft proposals' was received and we are committed to going forward with the proposals, working on them further and coming back to a future session of Synod with definite proposals to adopt.

(3) After the cathedral presentation, some questions and comments, we had a straw poll on which option we prefer as a Synod: old restored, traditional, contemporary. Only a straw poll as the Church Property Trustees make the actual decision. Possibly no one stuck their hand up for restoration. A few voted for traditional. The overwhelming majority, say 95%, signaled we favoured the contemporary option! That is a hands down win.

(4) I did make a small speech re the cathedral and the contemporary options drawbacks. A 21st century cathedral for a 21st century church was my plea. A response was made (shape of cathedral tied by actual land available to build on; design as currently conceived seeks to tell a theological story to a missional audience of many visitors). I won't carry the argument on here with my response. Rather I would like to observe that my colleagues, Bosco Peter's and Andrew Allan-Johns' "Option 3B" - yesterday's post - was well presented and received a hearing. Let's see where this goes and whether any changes are made. 

So here we are, now in the media. If Mr Belton is reading here: (a) we are not deceived; (b) no matter how many or little millions are required to restore the cathedral we do not think it would be a safe building we want to be in.

Friday, April 12, 2013

We must get it right

A further conviction in my mind about our new/restored cathedral is that 'we must get it right.'

In the particular case of the option of building a new cathedral from scratch we have a rare opportunity to build the right church for the right era for the right people for the right purposes. We cannot and must not fail at this juncture in the life of the Diocese, of the church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, and of the city of Christchurch and province of Canterbury.

Thus if we determine that we are heading in the direction of the option of a new cathedral then we have a very special responsibility to determine that a new cathedral is built for the church of today and tomorrow. Simultaneously we must determine that we are building a 'mother church' for the whole diocese and not a church which preserves a narrow slice of Anglican style centred on choral worship.

Thus I generally applaud the exterior concept of the proposed design for a new cathedral ("Option 3") and I have severe and serious questions about the interior concept of this design. It may 'only' be a concept, but if it is, why is it a concept anchored around robed clergy, a choir, a pulpit six feet above contradiction, aeroplane seating? Note that I have omitted mention in this critical list of urgent questions, the question of a 'place-holding' giant depiction of the Madonna and Child as part of the 'It's only a concept, Peter'! I have listened ... it is only a place-holder!

Readers here will be aware that I have been pointing them to Bosco Peters' (updating) posts on the cathedral designs, where he has produced a draft alternative  for the interior of Option 3. That draft is now improved and in colour and reproduced above for inspection, critique and further improvement. Thank you Bosco and Andrew.

We must get it right if we go for Option 3. A new cathedral must be the mother church for the whole diocese. It must express the advances in liturgy and ecclesiology we have experienced since the 19th century cathedral was built. It must express the life of our bicultural society.

It can be done!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shaping a conviction or two

It was good to go to the first public forum last night on the cathedral designs. The Press reports here with a photograph that manages to keep ADU's feckless correspondent completely anonymous! I thought the presentations were well made and most questions reasonable.Some questions were unreasonable, at least in the sense that they were little more than statements-of-position tweaked with the addition of a question mark at the end. The general thrust of questions, and the sentiment betrayed by enthusiastic applause was 'restorationist', i.e. support for Option 1. But what did I make of the evening as I try to keep an open mind on the strengths and weaknesses of each design, as well as a listening ear to the voice of the Canterbury people, both Anglican and non-Anglican.

I found as the evening settled into domestic bliss on returning home that a couple of convictions formed in my mind. (I stress that I am talking about my inner convictions, formed goodness knows how in my subconscious, I am not trying to present arguments for these convictions).

(1) We, the Diocese, need to talk carefully about costs of building and settle on the cheapest (according to a special formula) option.

Tens even hundreds of millions of dollars are being mentioned in relation to the three proposals. At a certain point it is required of disciples of Christ that we take into account all our Lord's teaching on wealth and weigh the possibility of doing something expensive and beautiful for him (cf. anointing him with costly perfume) with the possibility of doing something generous and transformative for the poor of our community and the world.

I suggest that means we go for the cheapest option with this twist that came out last night. Costs should take into account ease and speed of fund-raising. The Diocese, we were told, cannot or at least should not take out a mortgage in order to build the cathedral (e.g. because it would be imprudent for trustees to do so - I tend to agree).Thus we need to fund raise and then build. The longer the fund raising period the more building costs will rise. The more building costs rise the more expensive the final cost will be. Here things get interesting.

Last night the 'restorationists' argued that the greatest support of benefactors will be for restoration (Option or Design 1) so fund-raising will be (so to speak) easy and quick, quicker than raising funds (even lesser totals) for the other options. Diocesan officials are doubtful, factoring in a long period to raise a large sum of money (up to $30m more than Option 3). I do not know who is right (but let the generous supporters for D1 send their offers in writing in now!).

But I now understand, as a result of last night, that the 'true costs' of each design is (in my words) a special formula which I attempt to express in this way:

True Costs = Predicted Costs of Building ^ Factoring in Length of Time to Build ^ Factoring in Length of Time to Fundraise ^ Predicted Disposition to Generously Support Specific Design.

This means it is very complicated, and (short of indications being given in writing that generous cheques will be written out) very subjective to determine which option is 'cheapest.' Our Trustees and Chapter need the wisdom of Solomon ... (or maybe not, I seem to recall that Solomon went for a particularly expensive cathedral option in his day :) ).

(2) If costs were set aside as a factor, my feeling today is that I would vote for the new (hoping if not assuming that a number of questions about it lead to modifications of the concept).

Nothing in particular was said last night to lead me in this direction. Indeed some things were said last night which raised important questions. For example, I learned that the projected exterior surface of the Design 3 new cathedral is copper. Potentially good, potentially lasting re colour (it won't necessarily go green in Chch), potentially stealable! Views on copper, in the comments, please :)

Nevertheless, thinking about a range of things, including safety in future earthquakes, re-usability of the cathedral after another earthquake, dreaming of a more 21st-century-user-friendly design, today I am firmly in the D3 camp. With my questions.

Here is a question I have about the language we are using. Are the three proposed options 'designs' or 'concepts'? I have found that raising some questions conversationally about Option 3 I have been told 'Peter, it's a concept not a design'. 'Concepts' being changeable drafts towards a 'design,' I get the distinction. I wonder, however, if questions are not raised, how readily a concept would become the design!

If (1) and (2) seem somewhat contradictory I simply plea that I am giving you the state of my convictions, not setting out a coherent rationale for how we might proceed!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Open Society and the right to be cruel in public discourse

Outside of the realm of saints and Scriptural heroes, one of the people I admire most is Karl Popper, giant philosopher of the 20th century who, as it happens, taught right here in Christchurch for a few years, safe from the reach of Hitler. I believe that it was while here that he wrote The Open Society and its Enemies. My own introduction to Popperian thought came when an undergraduate studying the Philosophy of Science. Popper's distinctive contribution to the Philosophy of Science (in The Logic of Scientific Discovery) was coherent with his contribution to political philosphy: knowledge advances through criticism

In the realm of society, life flourishes where freedom to advance ideas, debate, critique and thus improve them is unconstrained. Whether the enemy of such an 'open society' is Plato or Marx or Hitler matters little. The enemy needs dispatching in order that the quest for truth is unimpeded.

In the realm of science, research flourishes when it is recognised that we advance towards the truth by subjecting all theories and hypotheses to testing. The strongest theories are those which are the consequence of their predecessors having been falsified. Where we cannot (yet) falsify a  theory we cannot assert we have arrived at the truth but we can be confident we are closer to it. Allied with this approach is the fruitful idea (even in theology and biblical studies) that if we have a proposed theory for which no one can suggest a test which might lead to its falsification, then it is of dubious value. (In respect of Easter, to give a theological instance, the 'theory' that it doesn't matter whether the body of Jesus remains in the tomb or not, may sound comforting, but it offers no advance towards truth, because it can never be falsified. A singular advantage of the 'theory' that the resurrection means the tomb is empty is that it is potentially testable: locate the remains of Jesus in the tomb and the resurrection of Jesus is falsified.) 'Open science' like 'open society' encourages testing of ideas.

Thus one reason I like blogging and going to Synods (!) is that both are forums which encourage 'open society' in the church. The life of the church flourishes where people are free to think, to debate, to advance ideas in order for them to be subject to critique so that they are improved. As a Popperian I have no problem here, or in Synod, with being told I am wrong. GOOD! My ideas then have an opportunity for improvement as they are revised in the light of their being found wanting.

But the commitment to an 'open society' does mean that people are free to say objectionable things, even cruel things. Today, one example of this, is a quite nasty assertion being made by one of the leaders of the campaign to restore our cathedral. Mark Belton, according to our Press, is claiming our Church Property Trustees acted arrogantly and recklessly in committing insurance funds for the permanent cathedral to the building of the temporary cathedral. I find this an 'arrogant and reckless' charge: arrogance is the presumption that we know all there is to know about a situation; reckless is proceeding without care for the damage that might be caused. Our Trustees are good people, considerate, careful and wise. Whether they made the right decision or not, there is no basis for saying they acted arrogantly and recklessly: but Mark Belton implies he knows otherwise and has the right to assert false charges which impugn their character. He does himself, and his cause a disservice. We will make progress on the journey to a new or renewed cathedral through debate which tests ideas in order to improve them, not through cruel, ungrounded assertions about the character of decision-makers.

Incidentally, the Press itself is somewhat reckless. Its headline is 'Call for Trustees to Pay Back Cathedral Funds.' Now, maybe I am not reading carefully enough, but (to be fair as I can be to Mark Belton) that call is not being made by Mark Belton.

But all is not unwell within the Press. There is an excellent opinion piece within it, by David Killick, not yet linkable. He astutely puts his finger on concerns I (and, it would appear to me, others) have about the designs, especially Design 3 (the new, fresh design).

I am still pondering my questions about this design. In the meantime, as part of an open society pursuing truth through making claims and subjecting them to examination, may I send you back to Bosco Peters' post on the designs, which he updated yesterday with his own variation on D3. An update which offers greater flexibility, intimacy, scope for hospitality, and centrality of font. I like it. As a Popperian  I ask, as we test it out, can we improve on it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Devastating cathedral news

In Cairo, Christians are under attack in and around the Coptic cathedral.

In Christchurch, we awake to a different kind of devastating news, the court has ruled that cathedral insurance money should not have been used to build the transitional cathedral.

The greatest woman of the twentieth century

If we measure greatness by the amount of change a person makes or leads, if we measure greatness by ability to both get to the top of an important hierarchy and remain there, if we measure greatness by the depth of motivation to serve people for the greater good (and not for fame, wealth or popularity), and if we measure greatness by the years into the future during which a person will be remembered while lesser achievers and attainers will be forgotten, then only two women in the twentieth century merit the possibility of  the title 'the greatest'. Mother Teresa and Margaret Thatcher, who has died overnight.

I was in Britain in 1990 when she was toppled from her role as Prime Minister. It was an eye-opener for me as a Kiwi (used to the news only being viewed at 6 pm) to find the TV cameras planted and rolling outside 10 Downing St for days on end. There is no doubt in my mind that Margaret Thatcher made a huge mistake or two which precipitated rebellion in her own ranks, particularly her unyielding promotion of the 'poll tax'. Her assertion that there is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families, will not go down as her finest hour, for she was plain wrong on that. But no political leader has been unerring in their judgement of what the right thing to do is. Margaret Thatcher's greatness is not an assessment of her perfection but a tribute to what she did get right. She did indeed get some things right because she was elected or re-elected to power in three general elections and held the office of Prime Minister longer than anyone else in the twentieth century.

Of course for many years many have affected to despise and to dismiss her, using the name 'Thatcher' or the epithet 'Thatcherism' as a term of contempt. (Let's remember that as the hankies come out over the next few days). But do the despisers remember what Britain was like in the 1970s? It went from one crisis to another and seemed perpetually on the brink of a permanent general strike as the 'sick man' of Europe. Margaret Thatcher stopped the rot and turned Britain around. Her party (we should remember) won the election after she was toppled, and the Labour governments under Blair and Brown which succeeded her successor, John Major, continued many of her policies. Indeed to this day, as one instance, still Britain has not joined the single European currency.

Christians should remember Margaret Thatcher as a Christian politician who served the people she loved with a deeply Christian motivation. (See Cranmer). I do not think that even the severest critics of her could say that she sought high office for fame or fortune, and, as far as I can tell, she has not after 1990 made the kind of money on the speaking circuit or publishing lark that some of her contemporaries have been so adroit at doing.

Yes, her critics will remind us of all the people hurt by the change she introduced. Where I lived in the north-east of England traditional industries such as mining had been dealt to. But the same changes introduced possibilities and opportunities for new industries in keeping with the late twentieth century, even in the north-east, where car manufacturing offered one lead out of the mire.

Her chief contribution as a Christian politician, I suggest, was her affirmation of individuals, her support for  human flourishing through opportunity for choice, and her commitment to enable wealth for all by ensuring that wealth was created which could then be shared, in contrast to the Britain she inherited in which diminishing wealth was being redistributed via ever thinner slices of the cake. As she once brilliantly said,

“The trouble with socialists is that they always run out of other people’s money.”

Here, via Damian Thatcher (go there for other links), is footage of one of her finest occasions in the British parliament. In her last appearance as Prime Minister, when she knew the knives were out and her back was not covered, she confidently and cheerfully takes on all that the Opposition can throw at her. Absolutely fascinating are the insights she shares about the situation of Britain in respect of Europe. Enduring insights. The world, especially Europe could do with her 21st century equivalent right now.

To this day she remains the only woman to have led either of the great political parties of Great Britain and it is difficult to see that claim being trumped anytime soon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ruminations ex cathedra

My cycling tour last week through God's cathedral in the skies involved excursions through the southern part of the McKenzie country (i.e. inner central South Island) which, since I last visited it, has developed from brown wilderness into a green and pleasant land. That is, through irrigation farmers have grown green grass to feed large herds of dairy cows. Cows ruminate as they chew the cud. Probably they do not think about cathedrals as they do. Here are some cathedral ruminations, in some cases picking up points made in comments here over the weekend, in other cases picking up points made in conversations I experienced over the weekend:

(1) Why restore the current cathedral? (= Design 1) I suggest there are some poor reasons for doing so but there is at least one good reason for doing so. (For present purposes I exclude consideration of cost - projected costs of restoration relative to other designs provide a large number of reasons, each valued at $1, for not proceeding in this direction!).

Poor reasons include the familiarity of the present cathedral, nostalgia for past experiences in the building, homage to Gilbert Scott as a 'great architect'.

The good reason, perhaps the only good reason, IMHO, is that the architectural character of Christchurch flows out from a set of distinctive inner city neo-Gothic stone buildings - the Arts Centre (former university), Christ's College, Museum, Provincial Chambers and Christ Church cathedral. The first three have either been or are in process of being restored. I think the fourth will be restored. The set would be completed by restoring the cathedral. In doing so it could look like we were being nostalgic, clinging to the past and such like. I suggest, however, that to do so could be about the present and the future: to restore would be to continue a feature of what makes Christchurch Christchurch. It would be to take forward into our future the distinctive heritage of our past so that our identity in 2013 and in 2113 is that of a city which understands who it is and where it has come from. An alternative way of expressing this is that the soul of a city is shaped by its architecture (and a soulless city is one with a random collection of utilitarian buildings): to restore the cathedral would be to restore/heal the wounded soul of Christchurch.

This 'good reason' is quite arguable. A new cathedral, for example, would develop the soul of Christchurch in a new direction. Restoring the cathedral, on my line of thought above, depends on the other parts of the set being restored also. The argument is weakened if it turns out that the Provincial Chambers is not going to be restored.

Incidentally, I think there are good reasons not to proceed with restoration (continuing, for present purposes, to exclude costs). The strongest of which (IMHO) is that in 2013 we are a church (a) with a different approach to liturgy, an approach ill-served by the present Scott design; (b) with a liturgical future which, whatever new directions it takes will not go back to a liturgical style best suited by the Scott design.

(2) What of the possibility of a new cathedral? (= Design 3) Here things are interesting as I listen to others, and myself. First, anecdotally, I sense my own general positive reception to the design - love the curves! - is well shared by Christchurch people sympathetic to the first priority of  a cathedral to be a place of worship. Secondly, questions spring to my mind. Shared it would seem, not only anecdotally as I listen to others, but also in a thoughtful post by my colleague and friend, Bosco Peters. It might not be helpful if I post every question which springs to mind, and I remind readers that comments are invited on the cathedral design website: feedback here.

That's enough for today. I will keep thinking about my questions!

ADDENDUM: I have just noticed this news re the building of a largish church complex in Christchurch. Majestic Church (should that be New Life Church?) has bought the Cranmer Courts site (well-known to locals here, as on a major one way cross city route, and, until recently, inhabited by a splendid stone building, a former old school converted into flats). They plan to be up and running by 2016 ...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Travesty, lightweight and gauche

The Christchurch Press has been slammed today by a little known Anglican cleric for running a frontpage article on the just released design alternatives for the new ChristChurch cathedral which he who blogs at ADU describes as a "travesty, lightweight and gauche."

"It is a travesty," ADU writes, "because the designs being proposed deserve serious engagement through considered public debate, including with local architects. Instead the Press has sought comments from overseas architects, taken their words and made a headline, burying the well-considered comments of local architects at the end of the article."

Further, ADU notes that it is "lightweight to line up a series of English architectural critics, culturally prone to worship the past, and wheel out their comments endorsing the most expensive option, restoration. A true heavyweight article would have lined up a series of wealthy donors willing to back the critics with their chequebooks. Any old critic can talk up an expensive proposal which they will not be contributing a dollar (or pound or euro) to."

Finally, it is simply "gauche," admonishes ADU, "to throw words such as 'slate', 'slam', 'rubbish', 'vulgar', and 'bizarre' into an article as though this constitutes rational debate of carefully made proposals by a reputable architectural firm. The gutter level of the language used by the Press is highlighted by the careful and considered language used by local architects, that is, by actual residents of Christchurch who will live with whatever design of cathedral is built."

Indeed the whole article reeks of colonialist adventurism. How dare local Kiwi architects seek to foot it on a world stage. Let's consult our British architectural masters to put these colonials in their place. Yes, the Christchurch Press is the voice of 21st century imperialism!

Still, close inspection shows that the journalist concerned is Charlie Gates, well-known foe of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch. ADU congratulates Charlie on having skills such as making long-distance phone calls to London.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cathedral of the skies

I never know whether to say on the blog that I am going away or not. Anyway I have been away and in a most worthwhile way. Neither a conference nor a committee but on a cycle tour! A family reunion of 68 Carrells, Easter Sunday and Monday, led to six of us - me, two brothers, two English husbands of cousins, and my 74 year old uncle, who is fitter than me :) - embarking on the Alps to Ocean cycle journey, Mt Cook to Oamaru. I am back in Christchurch before the trip is completed today as I have a training obligation.

Apart from a little rain, the weather has been brilliant, showcasing the magnificence of the territory we covered through the McKenzie country, its hydro power schemes and increasingly irrigated farms, down, yesterday, through the Waitaki valley power stations and their lakes. In perfect conditions yesterday morning one the world's most inspiring scenes looked like this:

Mt. Cook at the head of Lake Pukaki - on our first day the mountain was shrouded in cloud so this was a quick reversal of our route at 9 am to take advantage of perfect weather.

Not being very fit, I didn't cycle as much as others, there being convenient car ferrying duties to do, and also some time required one morning for a repair to my bike (how it came to be damaged is another story - what happens on tour, stays on tour!). But yesterday I was determined to bike over Benmore and Aviemore dams. The former required a hill climb so steep to get to it that I had to walk part way. But the view was magnificent:

A photo or two doesn't capture the 'feeling' of riding across the top of a dam with a lake on one side and the outflow on the other, all showcased in brilliant sunshine, surrounded by solemn hills and accompanied by the sounds of silence. From that 'height' the trip moved to a beautiful ride around the hydro lake behind the next dam, Aviemore. In effect, as the day moved from Mt Cook, through lakes, dams, and imposing hills, we were riding in God's cathedral of the skies. In that perfect place of worship, controversy had no cause to form and grow.

Meanwhile, back in Christchurch and through the secular and ecclesial media, three proposals for designs for our new Anglican cathedral were being showcased. Taonga has the story here, with some insightful pictures of exterior and interior designs.

There is much to ponder here, and only a few short weeks in which to absorb the details and to make comment before the decision is made from 2 May onwards by our Church Property Trustees. Hopefully the consultation process leads to a lowering of the temperature of the controversy which has attended our cathedral. There is now something constructive to consider, talk through and decide on to the glory of God.