Friday, May 30, 2014

If I were arguing for women preachers, would I start in Sydney?

John Dickson on Twitter, perhaps a little tongue in cheek, suggests that a Sydney Anglican pastor, Michael Paget, St Barnabas Broadway has broken ranks on the issue of women preaching. The post he refers to is here. (Also see a previous post here).

Well, maybe, maybe not. As best I understand the article, St Barnabas has had women preaching there for years (as is the case with other Sydney parishes). What may constitute 'breaking ranks' is publishing an argument for women preaching to men and to women. John Dickson himself has done that (publishing) in a recent book Hearing Her Voice but I get the impression he didn't break ranks by doing so. Sydneysiders might like to put me right on the 'ranks, breaking' question!

But what is intriguing is the kind of Sydney Anglican way in which Paget makes his argument. I'll summarise it as, "ultimate human authority in the church is male; but women under this authority may preach to men."

Now let's review the world we live in this week:

We still have 200 Nigerian girls held by Boko Haram.

We have two girls in India who hung themselves after being gang raped.

We have women fearing that their daughters will be genitally mutilated.

We have the Pakistani husband of a women killed in an "honour killing" admitting that he strangled his first wife in order to marry the wife who has now been killed.

Here in NZ, a 27 year old man has been charged with the murder of Blessie Gotingco, an employee of Tower Insurance, innocently making her way home from work via public transport.

The world we live in has a dangerous tendency to treat women as less worthy of respect, of decent and fair treatment than men. Indeed, the tendency is such that the world is a dangerous place for women. With very rare exceptions, the dangers for women are in the hands of men.

We men have abused our natural sense of superiority to women for too long. It needs to stop.

I suggest the least we can do in the church is to ask urgently whether arguments for (or against) women preaching in church should remain part of our life which rely on or are associated with arguments for authority in the church being the sole prerogative of men.

Surely the church should be the place where the true equality of men and women as created in the image of God and saved by the blood of Jesus is upheld. That equality is not and cannot be experienced as long as we say that one set of human beings, solely by reason of accident of birth may exercise an authority over another set which the latter set can never, ever share in.

Our witness as Christians must be to the equality and therefore the mutual submission of men and women, one to the other. Otherwise we are complicit in the honour killings, the kidnappings because girls dare to be educated, the gang rapes and so forth which flow from a world which accepts that men and women are not equal because men have authority over women and not ever the other way round.

It is not enough to say, as complementarians around the Christian world continue to say, that women are equal to men but they may not have authority over men.

Without a share in power, women are always unequal to men.

Yet major churches of the world continue to deny women a share in the power of the church as a human institution.

And the world continues a dangerous place for women.

Can any Christian, including me, say that we are not complicit in the war on* very difficult situation faced by women?

ADDITION: Sad stats herein.

*In light of comments below, I have changed the original wording of the sentence.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

As all Trade Unionists know, Solidarity is vital

A lovely clergy conference at Pudding Hill had a tiny dark cloud about the size of a man's hand when a colleague told me that news already circulating about a vicar stepping down from a parish as a result of  General Synod's motion 30 was now News in the NZ Herald. The story is here.

I will come right out and say it. I think leaving one's post at this time is doing conservative Anglicans no favours. Let's remember what General Synod did. When it was charging for the line to score a try called "blessings of same sex relationships" it pulled up short when it realised that our church would split if that happened. In the pause it gave itself it worked out that there might just be a way forward in which those who agreed with blessings  and those who did not might be able to stay in the one church. Let's call that a favour to conservatives.

If conservatives now start to peel away from the church it would be utterly reasonable for those who only reluctantly agreed to the favour to wonder why they bothered.

But to any such regretful members of General Synod I say, one swallow does not a summer make.

Let the reader understand: we had a most enjoyable conference down here in Christchurch. Our diversity of viewpoints did not stop us laughing or praying together. We also broke bread together and shared the common cup.

To hold conservatives and liberals together is the genius of Anglicanism. To all those Moderates in the middle, I say, Yes, you are the glue that binds!

To my fellow conservatives I want to remind you of what Trade Unionists always preach: Solidarity!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

When England was heaven

Internet connection this week may be patchy. I need to attend to what this bloke is saying at a conference. No, I am not going to England to hear him! In the meantime readers might like to reflect on and discuss - I will post comments as able - the following topic:

"The English Reformers were essentially a bunch of miserable spoilsports who took a happy England, full of wholesome religion, cheerfully supported in every village and upon each verdant pasture green, and attacked it with all the glee of people who hate maypoles and English country dancing, all in the name of the greatest misrepresentation of true Christianity since Saul's Damascene experience."

Your starting point for discussion might be to read this catalyst for the topic.

Protestant spin machine indeed! There were no washing machines in those days ...

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Politics of Jesus (26 May 2014)

Let's talk tax. All politics of the parliamentary kind is a discussion about tax.

Tax interests me around some maths. It is fascinating to think that some advantage sought via lowering or raising the current rates may not be achieved. Changes to tax rates can have unintended consequences! Then there is the question of what are 'fair' rates of tax. For the life of me I cannot see how taxing the higher parts of incomes at higher rates is 'fair.'

A fair tax rate would be the same rate paid by each taxpayer. (For this paragraph's discussion, let's assume that salaried taxpayers cannot rearrange their income to pay less tax than designated by inland revenue). At 20%, say, a person on $50k pays $10k tax and a person on $2m pays $400k. At the same rate one pays 8x the tax of the other. On a regressive system on which, say, the latter pays ever higher rates beyond certain levels of income, even more tax will be paid, which no doubt benefits the Treasury. But is it fair to assume that the rich (which on a standard rate always pay more than the poor) must pay an even greater share simply because they are rich? Implicitly, moving beyond the same tax rate for all carries an assumption that the rich should have their income distributed across society in a way which makes them less rich. That is socialism via taxation more than it is a system of fair taxation!

Yet, lurking in this debate are various presuppositions which could do with theological examination.

Here is Jamie Whyte, leader of the ACT Party (for overseas readers, a party dedicated to reducing tax and therefore government intervention in society):

"Guyon Espiner interviewed me on Radio New Zealand a few days later. He claimed that by cutting the top rate of tax from 33% to 24% I was making a gift to people who earn over $70,000. This language is used all the time but it is bizarre. Of course, the government could tax all the money you earn. But it does not follow that your post-tax income is a gift from the government. You might as well argue that your TV is a gift from your local burglar because he has chosen not to steal it.      
These journalists are not biased. They have simply internalized the prevailing economic ideas in New Zealand. During that debate on The Nation it became clear that all my opponents, with the possible exception of Peter Dunn, did not believe in private property.
On the topic of Auckland house prices, Winston Peter’s claimed that “we are selling our houses to foreigners”. When I pointed out that houses are not collectively owned and that individual New Zealanders were selling their houses to whomever they chose, he insisted that I was wrong about this. And, as you can imagine, Russell Norman and John Minto agreed that the government should decide who you may sell your house to – or, in other words, they agreed that it is not really your house.
Russell Norman’s enthusiasm for the State is so great that he believes not only that all property is the creature of the state but that all children are too. When I suggested that paid parental leave should be abolished, he claimed that this would mean no more children being born in New Zealand."

Now I am inclined to agree with Jamie Whyte that it is utterly extraordinary to have reached a situation re taxation where otherwise sane and sensible people such as Guyon Espiner (however unwittingly it may have been that he did so) can speak as though every dollar I earn is really the government's and every dollar they do not take from me is an act of mercy and grace!

Nevertheless is the strict opposite true, every dollar I earn is mine and thus every dollar taken from me in tax is a kind of act of legalised theft?

Whether we draw on a theology grounded in creation or redemption (or both) for our understanding of the individual in relation to society, it is very difficult to see where Christians could develop a strict individualistic, "there's no such thing as society" view of money and property. Nothing material is utterly our own since everything belongs to God. God created humanity for companionship, we are our brother's keepers, we belong to one another. To be human is to take on obligations of care and share for the well-being of all.

Further, money is complicated when we analyse it. In order to engage the services of a competent CEO, the labour market may determine that the company needs to offer a salary of $2m per annum. But the last thing which is going on at that point is that the CEO 'deserves' that amount of salary. A true sense of desert such as the CEO deserves the pay rate of the best paid worker in the company topped up by a premium for responsibility with a bit extra to respect previous experience might yield, say, $500k as a 'deserved' salary. $1.5m is a bonus, an undeserved grace served up by the nature of capitalist markets. Does it 'belong' to the CEO or is it at the mercy of the government and (noting various ways in which society makes a play for donations from the wealthy) able to be called upon by charities concerned with welfare or promotion of the arts?

More importantly, the $2m p.a. comes from somewhere. Mostly workers within the business who are paid a lot less generate the income for the business which pays the $2m. (A very recent protest in the USA concerned MacDonalds' workers paid less than $10 an hour protesting the (?)$9m annual salary of the CEO). Our hypothetical $2m salary in at least one sense belongs to the workers who generate it and one consideration re taxation is that its distributive effects across society reconnect the generative capacity of poor workers with the fruits of their labours.

Counter-balancing this kind of analysis, nevertheless, is a properly theological recognition of the role an individual plays in society by making various choices in order to reach certain goals. A bright young person could choose to avoid university and launch straight into earning money, albeit in a job which may never lead to high levels of income. Another person of similar intellectual aptitude might choose to achieve more highly by making early sacrifices. Many years later, deep in debt with a student loan, offering the benefits of sacrificial study as a doctor, it is arguably entirely reasonable to expect to be paid well, not only in recognition of a choice made, but also in terms of responsibilities before society to serve it with work which only a well trained few are able to accomplish.

I think all this brings us back to choices we make as a society through elections. They are mandates for governments to act in certain directions rather than in other directions. Effectively a general election result is a renewal of contract between society and government in respect of taxation. One of the reasons why the ACT Party has never been elected to lead a government in Aotearoa New Zealand is that insufficient numbers agree with the general direction of ACT re tax.

By contrast, sufficient numbers agree with a Labour or National led government which, typically, offer a taxation contract in which we will be taxed to a significant degree with redistributive benefits across society, the difference between their offerings being a few percentage points re tax taken and a relatively few dollars re benefits received by individuals across society.

At certain points one party may offer a incentive re their economic proposals by promising to borrow more money than the other party to fund government initiatives but the general suspicion of the voting public for over twenty years now has been that borrowing is a recipe for long-term disaster and only tolerable by voters for short-term periods (of which 2008 till now has been one).

Generally, in the run up to this election, we are going to see a battle over which party can offer the biggest redistributive bangs for their/our(!!) tax bucks while each avoids giving the impression that they will take more from us through tax increases. Our appetite in these "contractual negotiations" is for the government to be more efficient in the use of their/our tax dollars than for them to take more of what is theirs/ours.

But, interestingly, in a post-Christian society, their remains a deep Christian commitment in these negotiations to understand society in a theologically responsible manner, because the one thing not being negotiated is giving away commitment to others in favour of strict individualism.

- - - - - -

Incidentally, for a few thoughts on the virtues of socialism (i.e. arguing there are none) watch Daniel Hannen:

If you disagree with Hannen's analysis, what are the virtues of socialism?

Friday, May 23, 2014

I can now reveal

In a world exclusive Anglican Down Under can breathlessly rush to its keyboard after last night's reportback from GS/HW meeting in Christchurch to reveal that ... Motion 30 means what it says.

In the light of many comments here in recent days (and elsewhere on some blogs I have been making comments on) which amount to "No matter what ACANZP thinks is going to happen, it will turn out like North America" it was good to hear some things being said by our Christchurch team which refute that claim.

What was underlined was a small and easily overlooked phrase in Motion 30, "process and structure." For refreshment, here is the context,

"(a)  A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary  to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;  
(b)  A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law  may perform a yet to be developed  liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships  in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law"

What was both useful and helpful to hear last night was that the phrase "process and structure" carries with it the singular, determined intention of the Synod to find a way by which two opposing views re blessings are held in a 'structured' manner under the same ecclesiastical roof. It is not appropriate at this stage in the 'process' to start second-guessing what 'structure' will be commended to our church by the working group, but enough was said last night to indicate three things:

a. an openness on the part of GS/HW to radical creativity to arrive at a 'structure' in which two opposing views are held together;
b. a dogged determination to ensure that adherents of opposing views are 'safeguarded' by the new 'structure.'
c. an ambition to not end up in places that the North American churches have ended in, accompanied by a belief that we can avoid the pathways they have taken.

Obviously a commenter, especially one based in the heart of North American turmoil can say, in Kiwispeak, "Yeah, right!" (Translation: No). But our church has just a slightly good record in doing things differently ... for the historical record we might note Selwyn's determination, despite no English precedent, for a synodical governance which included a house of laity with right of veto, and then conjuring up a three tikanga church - three 'structures' which exist under one ecclesiastical roof.

What the working group needs to come up with is something a little different again, something for which (it would appear) no specific Anglican precedent currently exists, not even within our own church's history or present structuring.

Can I suggest two further things in the light of last night's meeting?

1. Keep praying: our reps are united in seeing the power of prayer at work in the 'process' the GS/HW went through to get to Motion 30 being passed unanimously. Let's keep praying for God to continue that good work among us.

2. Do not resign, hand in your licence, leave your parish church, walk out on your church family. Until we learn the actual recommendations of the working group about 'process and structure' - about a year from now - we do not know what our church is going to become in terms of being a 'safe' place for whatever views we hold on these matters. To make a decisive change now, whether as a licensed office-holder or parishioner, is to prejudge what the working group will propose (let alone whether we will synodically agree with the proposal).

Given the breadth of representation of all points of view at the Synod and their arriving together at a unanimous proposal at this stage in our history, it is simple trust in our brothers and sisters in Christ, and straightforward courtesy to wait patiently for the working group's report.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Through Jesus we meet God, through us the world meets Jesus

Is there a more profound reading experience than reading John's Gospel and recognising a new depth of understanding?

Last Sunday and this coming Sunday the RCL takes us through John 14. The first few verses have become too familiar for me having taken a few funerals with verses 1-6 as the reading. But somehow this year my eyes have been drawn to new recognitions of what Jesus is saying in this last testament. Here is just one recognition from the two Sundays, from verse 20:

"In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

In these words 'a' if not 'the' central theme of John's Gospel is presented.

As the Son is to the Father, so are the disciples to the Son:
- as the Son is in the Father, so are the disciples in the Son;
- as the Father has sent the Son into the world, so the Son sends the disciples;
- as the Son reveals who the Father is, so his disciples are to reveal who the Son is.

In a twist about the very authorship of this unique gospel presentation of Jesus, the Son lies close to the heart of the Father (1:18) and the disciple who reveals this lies close to the heart of Jesus (13:23).

The verse cited above is in Jesus' speech about the way to the Father, which is the way to the Father in this life and the life beyond. The purpose of life is to live in the Son and the Son in us, which means union with the Father through the Son. As other verses in the chapter and subsequent chapters disclose this union involves the Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son. The purpose of life is union with God Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Our responsibility as Christians is enormous. John's revelation is that through Jesus we meet God and through us the world meets Jesus.

But which Jesus does the world meet when it meets me, or you, or all of us together as 'the church'?

If the world meets the wrong Jesus, some pale imitation perhaps, or some vague almost indiscernible figure, what on earth will it understand about God?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Responses to Motion 30 (2): Don Mathieson

A second response to Motion 30 is provided by Don Mathieson who made a contribution here prior to General Synod/te Hinota Whanui meeting. This response pulls no punches. I welcome any (especially any actually present at General Synod/te Hinota Whanui) who wish to write a counterpoint in favour of the resolution passed. (I won't give my email here to avoid scammers picking it up, but you can find it via the Contact page on the Theology House website).

Don Mathieson writes:

In my view the General Synod resolution on same sex matters is a disaster. The resolution will lead, in all probability, to the solemnisation of same sex marriages in a few years time. It will in all probability split the church. It will in a comparatively short time lead to the death of overseas mission.

I know that to write succinctly and directly runs the risk of appearing dogmatic,prejudiced and homophobic. I shall have to take the risk. I believe I am none of those things. In particular, I am proud of the part I took as a Vice-President of the Homosexual Law Reform Society in the campaign, ultimately successful after years of struggle, to decriminalise homosexual acts.Throughout that struggle, however, which brought me into fruitful contact with many homosexual, ie gay, men, I carefully maintained the distinction between what is sinful and immoral on the one hand and what is criminal on the other.

Motion 30 deals with the very important question of what is authoritative for our church by dodging it. The scriptures quoted are irrelevant to the question: is sexual activity between people of the same sex sinful and disapproved by God or not sinful and therefore to be approved through blessing ceremonies performed by the church? To say that a blessing would not constitute,and be seen to constitute, approval would be to engage in unrealistic nonsense. Motion 30 fudges the approval question.

It  is all very well to say, rightly of course, that Christ as our Good Shepherd "seeks to bring home to the fold every person" but that is irrelevant. There is no question but that we must welcome  gay and lesbian people into our fellowship, offer them the sacraments and generally love them in every way. The key issue remains: are we additionally to approve the relationship that a person is in and has expressed a desire to maintain if that relationship involves behaviour which God has made it plain is disobedient and sinful? With the scriptures and the Christian church for nearly two thousand years I say we must not. Motion 30 says we may and should. Hence the disaster. The distinction between a person, and the  relationship that that person is in should be easy and obvious.

Motion 30 says that, if they obtain two permissions, clergy, if they so wish, are"permitted to recognise in public worship a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community." The word "recognise" is undefined,and what this means is thus left obscure, probably deliberately.

Such recognitions may occur immediately.What would a "recognition" convey to the congregation in likely practice? To answer that, assume that the clergyperson is keen on the concept of same-sex blessings. The only restriction that he or she faces is that such recognition "cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing". No one knows exactly what is, and is not, a "blessing". Is it not a blessing simply because the words "bless" or "blessing" are absent? What exactly will happen, will depend on the type of worship service that it is, and the composition of the congregation. It  will be permissible for our enthusiastic clergy person to bring the couple forward, speak encouragingly to them and invite the congregation to pray for them. What will any combination of these "recognising" acts say to the people? Answer: the Church approves their relationship and the sexual activities expected to go along with it.\

The  distinction between this and a "blessing" is wafer thin. While the words are  different, the substance -this relationship is approved- is the same. Consequently, when same sex blessing rears its head again at the General Synod of 2016  it will be easy to portray the existence of recognitions in various parishes as blessings of a kind, and so why the fuss? Concentrate, it will be said, on the details of the "process and structure" that the working group has come up with. Same sex blessings are thus the inevitable successors of same-sex "recognitions".

In turn, same gender blessings will quickly turn into same sex marriages. I prophesy a maximum time lag of three years. Why so? Because the conceptual distinction between the two ceremonies will be seen as too thin to be bothered with.Only a few extra words need be inserted into the rite. 

Bear in mind that of those (probably only a small percentage) of couples seeking a ''mere blessing", many will have recently been civilly married by a Registrar under the 2013 amendment of the marriage laws. Your ordinary kiwi will not make any sense of a distinction between blessing a civilly married couple and marrying that couple. Your average  person will simply ask whether the church approves or disapproves of a particular kind of covenanted relationship.

The  General  Synod has committed itself to continued dialogue which "respects and protects diversity with the option of change". This is ambiguous.

Does it refer to the possibility of a change of direction away from the whole idea of same sex blessings? Or to discussions aimed at changing our liturgies and teaching within the  new liberal scheme of things? The "option of change" sounds generous and humbly tentative. In  truth the "way forward" is intended by the framers of the motion to be a decisive advance towards the great goals of more equality and less discrimination. I would not think the proponents have the slightest desire to allow surrender of their first and fateful step.

The motion is a classic piece of cultural accommodationism. Gerald Bray, in a recent editorial in The Churchman asks: "Are we supposed to conform our way of thinking to what the Scriptures teach, or are we free to relegate them to a historic shelf in the library and move on into a brave new world where non-churchgoers set the agenda? Is keeping articulate unbelievers quiet what we are meant to be doing?"

In  the communion-wide struggle for what might be called the "soul of the Anglican church" a crucial battle has been lost in our own country, and at a time when our numbers are dwindling and the demographics look bad. I doubt if there will be an Anglican church vigorously involved in the mission of God in fifteen years time. The General Synod in my view has no power under the Constitution to introduce same-sex blessings. The Ma Whea? Commission simply and unhelpfully referred to "different interpretations" of the Constitution.

I register my grief and acute disappointment. The pass has not been held; it has been dropped.

Peter Carrell writes:

Questions raised here include:

1. Does this do justice to a Two Integrities approach to same sex relationship blessings, that is, to an approach which explicitly sets out to provide space for two equal and opposite beliefs?

2. Is a Two Integrities approach - in the long run - sustainable?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Responses to Motion 30 (1): Bryden Black

As the dust settles on our recent General Synod, both here and elsewhere people are critically evaluating what we have agreed to, via, let us remember, the unanimous vote of the elected representatives of every episcopal unit of ACANZP.

I would like to post here critical contributions from readers who wish to post them to me.* I am looking for contributions which in one way or another advance consideration of the resolution. Just a few pages would be good, not a tome.

The first contribution is from Rev Dr Bryden Black - I recently posted before GS/HW his preview thoughts. Now we have his review. Most pertinently, in terms of advancing the debate, is his question about how our church can evaluate a Two Integrities approach since by definition that approach seems to rule out appeal to a higher authority to determine which integrity, in the long run, reflects the will of God.

The meeting referred to at the beginning of the writing is the first of two opportunities for the Diocese of Christchurch to hear from our Bishop and GS/HW representatives. I was not at that meeting but plan to be at the next one, this Thursday evening.

Read on ...

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Politics of Jesus (19 May 2014)

Two more John Campbell profiles of our political leaders, thanks Caleb!:

Russell Norman and David Cunliffe. I don't think I am doing anyone a disservice if I point out (as others have done) that the star of the second video is Karen Price, David's wife.

One of the odd things about politics, as these profiles are making plain, is that the best interests of ordinary New Zealanders are served by having extraordinary New Zealanders in charge of the country. No one is going to be Prime Minister these days who has merely average abilities. Key has a fortune, Cunliffe has several degrees, Norman has a doctorate, Harawira has prophetic vision. (I suppose we will get to Winston Peters one day - he has extraordinary abilities in wiliness but will never be Prime Minister). Thus, in a funny way, our leaders have to pretend to understand our needs while not experiencing those needs themselves (except perhaps some years back in a different time and era when they may have been poor or at least much poorer than they are today).

One of the points David Cunliffe makes in the video interview, as he acknowledges that he has done well in life, is that the state helped him get there, especially in terms of education.

On the whole NZ likes its government to provide a helping hand in life. Much of our politics is an argument about how much the hand should help. Last week's budget - Bill English's sixth budget - is a fascinating example of an ostensibly 'right-wing' government revealing its true 'centre-right' colours with some offerings that steal ideas from the 'centre-left': financially astute and politically adept. Once you extend paid parental leave, for example, by a number of weeks but less weeks than what the centre-left is proposing, the argument is about details and not about the concept itself. When, to give another example, a government finds funds to extend the age for which free visits to the doctor for children apply, there is no doubt that a subscription is being paid to the idea that governments in NZ exist to give a helping hand.

Interestingly there is always a price to pay for the hand to help, whether through rising taxes, borrowing, diminishing investment in things which generate less inspiring headlines but a re good for the country in the long run, or all the above. Unsurprisingly, Rod Oram points out some hard truths about this year's budget here.

So, what about the politics of Jesus and our situation in Aotearoa New Zealand? Would Jesus be happy with this year's budget as a kind of 'best we can do, given the situation re global economy, local tax take, needs of people, all balanced with not borrowing to the nth degree' budget?

I suggest Jesus would be pretty happy as an ordinary citizen of the land. After all, there are signs in the gospel that he made no particular criticism of the overall programme of Roman rule in so far as it imposed taxes and provided law and order. Further, I think Jesus was a realist: he would know that this year's budget is a budget of the people for the people since it is the budget - more or less - any government of any stripe would propose in order to express their will in anticipation of its expression in the polling booth.

But what the politics of Jesus proposes is a new way for people to be people (and thus for governments to be different as the people change). In the upside down kingdom of God, attitudes to material achievement in life is or should be different to the values outside the kingdom. How this might change a budget in Aotearoa New Zealand is an interesting speculation to make. It has never been tried here before.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Apparently we shouldn't be proud of our fudge (updated)

UPDATE: Stuff (NZ media site) offers an article on reactions to a Catholic video being endorsed here by the local hierarchy. Observe the pressure points: Catholics want to teach (perhaps a little more publicly than everyday pastoral encounters) what Catholic teaching prescribes; the gay community at large and Catholic gays protest at the unreasonableness of the teaching and the potential, circulation of the video has, for making a difficult experience (relative to the majority straight world) more painful. One point about our Anglican fudge, despite the critics and mockers from around the world, is that it gives expression to two strong but opposing convictions held within our own community. One observation to make about those critics and mockers who think we should hold out for teaching more or less in tune with Catholic teaching is that it does extremely little to foster communication and relationship with one whole community in our society. Is it 'gospel' living to be a church which can converse with all other sectors of society except one?

ORIGINAL: Around the Anglican world, not all Anglicans are happy with us folks Down Under. Why, even some of the folks Down Under are not happy.

Thus, Thinking Anglicans

Then, Titus One Nine

With, David Ould

Also, Joshua Bovis

ADDED: Some interesting comments emerging on Taonga.

ADDED: For someone so keen to expose 'Apostles of Hate' there are some words in this post which do not invoke the description 'Blogger of Love'. Put this post together with comments on Taonga (to date) and you see why we are a church of Two Integrities!

Not forgetting our blogging bishops Kelvin Wright and Jim White (actually, no comments there at the time of linking ... perhaps you could comment, but Jim's comment is worth reading).

Last but not least ('cos it is NZ's number one religious blog and regularly 6th/7th-ish most popular of all our blogs), Bosco Peters.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dear AC, We are proud of our fudge. Would you like the recipe?

Well, that didn't take long. Fiery epistles (here, here) being written in Australia about what a dim-witted decision we have made! Talking down the 'natives' comments from North America. The word 'fudge' has been used - somewhat deprecatingly? - in one of the Australian epistles. Well, let's use that word - I love fudge, especially made by my Mum, not too sweet, with a bit of crunch - and let's turn the tables a bit: has ACANZP a recipe to offer the rest of the Anglican Communion?

Dear Anglican Communion,

Yesterday our General Synod/te Hinota Whanui came to a resolution about same-sex relationships. It is quite long so I will send you to a link rather than reproduce it here. It should be read alongside a letter from our three Archbishops. Also helpful will be this report on Taonga.

What has been resolved has been described as 'fudge'. I guess that is because it is an amalgam of opposing views, a familiar and classic Anglican solution to differences among us.

Across the Communion, however, we are well aware that any such fudge on this matter is a bit different to other fudges. Divisions have occurred in some places (i.e. instead of fudge there has been a brittle biscuit/cookie) and in other places it seems like no one is prepared to enter the kitchen, let alone get the ingredients out to make fudge.

While only time will tell whether our fudge is a good fudge, I want to suggest some reasons for hope (from a conservative perspective) that it is good fudge.

1. Our Synod engaged in a remarkable process of listening at all possible levels (by tikanga, by house, by diocese) so all could contribute, not just those comfortable speaking in plenary session. The process seems to have been slow and deliberate, and carefully worked out as 'in committee' so that people were free to engage frankly and freely without fear of creating unhelpful headlines.

2. Out of that discussion a nine person working party was set up. I do not know the full membership of the group but the members I do see in photos on the Taonga website assures me that it was a group of clear and convictional thinkers from all parts of the spectrum of views.

3. The resulting resolution, UNANIMOUSLY agreed, is framed in its preamble with a sure theological explanation of the church in relation to the grace of God revealed in the gospel. That is a great sign that we are a church which wishes to think before we act and to act according to our thinking - the general Kiwi tendency is to make pragmatic decisions and to think up the reasons afterwards!

4. We are upholding the doctrine of marriage as we have received it:

"In the midst of the articulation of many theologies and cultural influences, our unity in Christ was never-the-less evident even when we disagreed.  The Church has received and articulated an understanding of intimate human relationships which it expresses through her doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman, and is life-long and monogamous.We uphold this traditional doctrine of marriage." [from the preamble to the resolution]

5. We are acknowledging that life today is different to yesterday, without making stupid and superficial claims that the revelation of the Spirit changes to fit with today, while also acknowledging what we have known for a long time as Anglicans, that we are not agreed on doctrine:

"We recognise a diversity of voices about what constitutes a right ordered intimate relationship between two persons regardless of gender.  At this time it is the will of the General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui to respond to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Although we are far from unanimous in seeing the way forward, there is a broad recognition of the dynamic nature of doctrine, and the call of the prophetic word to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit.  There is no questioning the depth of love and commitment in some gay and lesbian relationships and their commitment to serve the wider community and to be disciples of Jesus Christ." [from the preamble to the resolution]

6. We have drawn a 'line in the sand' about the place of those whose understanding of marriage and blessings of other relationships is 'conservative' - making the following statement the first part of our resolution:

"A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary  to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;"

7. We have accepted formally that we are a church with 'two integrities' on these matters by also resolving:

"A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law  may perform a yet to be developed  liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships  in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law; including(i)  A proposal for a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships;
(ii)  A process and legislation (whether church or parliamentary) by which a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships may be adopted;"

In other words, we have not asked people to change their views, nor to compromise their views, but we are asking ourselves to stay together with our different views.

8. We are asking for people to be patient and gracious, noting the unhurried nature of governance in our church. The following will satisfy only those seeking change who are willing to be patient and gracious:

"Clergy who so wish are permitted to recognise in public worship a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community:(a)  with the permission of their licensing Bishop; and
(b)  with the permission of their Vestry or equivalent leadership body.
Such recognition cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.
We recognise that this may cause even further distress.  Noting the commitment of the Church demonstrated in clauses 1 to 4 above, we ask the LGBT community to recognise that any process of change within our Church takes time."

We may wish to raise all the criticism in the world about when a prayer is a prayer and not a blessing and vice versa but that would be to miss the point. We are organising ourselves as a church to get to a certain point about blessings and in the meantime the above compromise is offered as a way forward because there is a need to allow our church to digest points 1 to 7 above.

Woven through those eight observations if a recipe for a way forward for those with ears to hear it. It has been bathed in prayer and suffused with goodwill on all sides of the Synod. It is offered free of charge to the Anglican Communion.

Yours sincerely,
A clerical pundit from the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Breaking News: A Way Forward is Paved with Good Intentions

Here is the text of the motion just agreed at General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui.

It is quite long and much needs careful studying but my immediate reaction at 5.31 pm Wednesday 14 May 2014 is that this is liveable and preserves broadly the boundaries I have argued for: that the doctrine of marriage is not changed but blessings are possible. Updated: Dave Clancey is right in his comment below: the resolution does not make blessings 'possible' though they are clearly envisaged at a later date. I therefore change 'blessings are possible' to 'blessings are under consideration.'

GOOD INTENTIONS: A commenter has noticed this phrase in my title and rightly wondered why it is used because it is commonly associated with 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.' I suggest that the road to heaven is also paved with good intentions. In our case it remains possible that where we end up, in four or more years time is "hell", or "heaven" or somewhere in between. The good intentions include, the intention to secure and maintain a place for conservatives in our church, the intention to offer a way of blessing same-sex partnerships, the intention to hold our church together across geographic jurisdictions as well as across episcopal jurisdictions, and the intention to move forward in a reasonable time frame.

That is quite a few 'good intentions'!

Change is coming to our church

Despite the bulk of the conversation at General Synod/te Hinota Whanui re the Ma Whea? Commission and its options being in committee, ADU can bring you news that change is coming to our church.

Don't worry, any GS/HW media minders reading here, no member has spilled the beans to me. But we can interpret the Taonga report (here) which tells us in broad terms about the discussions to date:

"General Synod continues wrestling with the questions about same-sex ordination and blessing. 
But there are signs that the debate is drawing to a conclusion. 
A nine-person working party is working on a draft proposal, which will be brought before the whole synod to consider tomorrow, with a vote to follow. 
Synod again spent this morning’s second session chewing over the options raised by the Ma Whea? Commission, and it returned to them again before afternoon tea.
Much of the time devoted to the issues today was spent caucusing in houses, which met in closed committee.
Shortly before afternoon tea synod reconvened in plenary session to ask a nine-person working group – comprising three members from the houses of bishops, clergy and laity – to finetune a proposal. Because that draft proposal has been considered by synod ‘in committee’ it cannot, at this stage, be reported."

Here is the deduced news from this item:

- Option A (status quo) is not going to happen. GS/HW would not appoint a nine member working party to draft legislation to make no change.
- In the midst of proceedings such a substantial working party would not be appointed if there was not an emerging 'mind of synod' that a particular direction or set of directions would be agreeable when finally put to the vote. As the report says, this body is fine tuning a proposal emerging from the body of the Synod. It is not inventing a new idea.
- Thus change is coming (but we don't know when - the legislation might propose something that goes back to the dioceses and hui amorangi for further consideration).
- There will be safeguards for those who disagree with the change(s). Again, a nine member working party (almost certainly three from each tikanga) is of a size to ensure that conservative voices are included among those shaping the legislation. Besides which, an emerging direction for GS/HW at this juncture in our life, given the respectful conversations occurring, is very, very unlikely to include some kind of 'nuclear' or church splitting option or options.

What we cannot deduce however is how wide-reaching the proposals might be.

In other news from General Synod/te Hinota Whanui - there is quite a lot now on the Taonga site - it seems that sensible people meeting in a sensible way can reach common sense conclusions. Thus it is a joy to read that the motions concerning reduction of our three tikanga life to two tikanga have been withdrawn. It is very sensible to read that future GS/HWs are likely to include pre-synod meetings between Maori and Pakeha.

Back to the Ma Whea? deliberations: I am very impressed by the extent of meetings within the meeting of GS/HW: to meet by tikanga, by houses, by dioceses is as deep and wide a consultative discussion can go at GS/HW. At the very least this allows every member of the Synod to speak, not just those with the gumption to speak to the plenary sessions. We should presume that the legislation which emerges represents some kind of middle way through all the voices being heard in all those meetings.

That does not mean we will all be happy with the result but it should mean that when we finally learn the actual news of what has been agreed, we will have a decision which we can respectfully engage with and not one we can dismiss as some kind of whim borne along by goodness knows what spirit of fervour for change.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

No rush

GS/HW moves along at a deliberative pace. As planned, no decision was forthcoming from yesterday's presentation and discussions. Indeed most of what was said was 'in committee', so this Taonga report keeps us in the loop but sheds no light on where the process is heading.

+Kelvin's blogpost is in similar vein but yields the nugget of an all night prayer vigil. Excellent.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Not Politics of Jesus today but Prayer to Jesus

Big day travelling today and tomorrow, so no politics of Jesus post.

In any case, can I ask you to pray to Jesus for our General Synod/Te Hinotia Whanui. Today is the 'big day' re the Ma Whea? commission presentation. Lots to pray about but at its simplest we are praying Lord, may your will be done and your kingdom come.

Incidentally, while you are keeping an eye out for news and views of the day, e.g. On the Taonga site, it is my understanding that today is not necessarily the day on which to have expectations of decisions being made. That might take the rest of the week ...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What logic of inclusivism might prevail at our General Synod/te Hinota Whanui?

Preamble: on reflection, several of the more interesting motions at GS/HW re homosexuality, interchangeability of Methodist orders and moving to a two-tikanga church, share a striking set of issues around Anglican understanding of the(im)mutability of tradition in respect of how we order our life and ministry.

It looks like Helen Jacobi, Vicar of St Matthew's in the City will be preaching this Sunday on an inclusive equality for our church:

But will our church at this General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui offer a consistent sign of inclusive welcome to all "behind the altar"?

There are two areas of challenge for our church concerning inclusivism which are on the GS/HW agenda. One area, much canvassed here, concerns homosexuality. GS/HW will consider the possibility of paving the way for a partnered gay person to be considered canonically chaste and thus able, after priestly ordination to be "equally behind the altar" with those already agree to be chaste canonically (e.g. those who are celibate and those who are married heterosexually).

Another area concerns Methodist ministers and the possibility of making a move forward towards mutual recognition of their ministries with ours which, effectively, would mean we were open to welcoming non-episcopally ordained ministers "behind the altar." (Readers at this point should distinguish Methodist ministers acting as Methodist ministers in co-operating Anglican-Methodist churches (= current situation) from the possibility of Methodist ministers (who are ordained but not by a bishop) being recognised in solely Anglican contexts as though they are episcopally ordained Anglican priests.)

We could put some of the matters which figure in these issues in a couple of tables. The first is my interpretation of what a Consistently Open to Change representative might be thinking, the second is my interpretation of what an Inconsistently Open to Change representative might be thinking:

Consistently Open to Change
Same Sex BlessingsAccept Methodists at our altars
Arguments rage but nothing in end said against
Jesus said nothing about ordination
Need not stand in the way
Need not stand in the way
Would be inclusive to make change
Could upset many people
Would be welcomed by many
Affect progress on unity with Rome
Probably (but not an issue)
Definitely (but not an issue)
Could have unintended consequences
Yes but worth proceeding anyway
Let’s press ahead

Inconsistently Open to Change
Same Sex Blessings
Accept Methodists at our altars
Arguments rage but nothing in end said against
Jesus started apostolic succession/episcopacy and Methodists opted out re episcopacy
Need not stand in the way
Must not be changed
Would be inclusive to make change
Yes but that doesn’t outweigh the reasons not to do it
Could upset many people
Would be welcomed by many
Affect progress on unity with Rome
Probably (but can live with it)
Definitely (and that's a consideration)
Could have unintended consequences
Yes but worth proceeding anyway
Yes and that’s why we shouldn’t go there
Let’s press ahead

So, to any GS/HW representative reading here, or for that matter anyone preaching this Sunday on inclusivity and equality in our church, it would be very interesting to see a response to the question I am posing here, of the width of 'inclusivism' of our church.

How wide is our inclusivism at this time?

If it extends to ordaining and licensing partnered gay ministers, will it extend to welcoming non-episcopally ordained Methodist ministers?

Our church has a history of progressive thinking on social and moral issues which kind of dries up when we start to think about other kinds of issues such as ordination and presidency of the eucharist. Yet ordination and blessings are matters of intense theological interest in respect of Anglican understanding of sacramental ministry. There is a theological integrity to opening up questions about marriage and ordination simultaneously! (Though I am sure it is a human accident that both issues happen to before GS/HW at this time - whether this is a divine 'accident' is another matter).

And, what do you think? Will our church be consistent in making changes in respect of Scripture and tradition?

One way of summing up our General Synod's business is to say that the most important question facing it is whether or not it will commit to moving forward on mutual recognition of Methodist ministers!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Where can I find news about General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui 2014?

Our reps are gathering in Waitangi for General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui 2014 though the actual beginning is not until Sunday (each Tikanga has opportunity to meet separately beforehand, between now and then).

To follow events, news, views and what have you, the following links may help:

The official church account of each day in traditional reporting form: Taonga.

The official church Facebook page: here.

The official church Twitter hashtag: #Synod 2014.

But what about the real oil, the unexpurgated mood and inside views of the 'feel' of the Synod?

I suggest first, go to the Facebook link because the control of the church will not be exercised over individuals posting comments there.

Then, this is the Twitter hashtag to follow: #GSTHW14.

(Unfortunately the official church hashtag above takes you to a stream which includes a number of other synods around the world. Confusing!)

I am 150% commending Bishop Kelvin Wright's blog, Available Light, on which he has already begun posting from Waitangi.

More derivative ('cause not actually there) will be Liturgy on which Bosco has already published a useful page with specific Twitter accounts you may like to 'follow': here.

Also derivative will be anything I publish, because I am not actually there. And I may not publish much for a while as my daily schedule Monday to Wednesday next week involves some long days with little opportunity to blog.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is this a first for New Zealand Anglicans?

I can't recall a Kiwi episcopal election where the names of the candidates and their profiles have been published. (I think we did have an election where the names were published ... help me readers ...).

So it is good to see a new if not newish direction in the forthcoming Waiapu election with this list of candidates and then the possibility of clicking on their names to look at their profiles.

In the nature of our smallness as a church I know all of the five candidates even though I live a long way from Waiapu (roughly, for overseas readers, the north-eastern corner of the North Island lying to the east of the northern-and-western leaning prong which is the Auckland diocese).

Note: I am going to feel my way as a moderator re any discussion which might take place here. My inclination is to accept discussion of any material published in their profiles but to reject any comments which are about their perceived viability as candidates. You can email friends in the electoral college with those kinds of comments!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If we love Polynesia, we will not dismember them

The motions which I find are making more blood boil in the run up to General Synod have nothing to do with sexuality. They are the motions being moved by Selwyn Parata and seconded by Te Hope Hakaraia. At least one effect of the motions would be to dismember the Diocese of Polynesia (i.e. Tikanga Pasefika) from the church in Aotearoa New Zealand. For the 'textual background' to what I am about to say, head to the bottom of the post.

We are a Christian church bound together by the love of God and moved by that love to love one another as members of the body of Christ. The gospel is the overriding text which shapes and influences our relationships with one another in the one (Anglican) body of Christ in these islands.

These islands are the islands of Aotearoa New Zealand and the islands of the South Pacific including Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. As long as we are the church of these islands it is right and proper within the bonds of godly love for one another that we are three tikanga, recognising the people realities of Aotearoa New Zealand (the two peoples, Maori and Pakeha, determined by the Treaty of Waitangi) and the people who live separately from us in the islands to the north of us.

Any attempt to reduce the tikanga of this church from three to two is an attempt to dismember this church, to break off one of the tikanga. That one tikanga being broken off might then be given some kind of refuge in the arms of another tikanga (e.g. Polynesia becomes a part of Tikanga Pakeha) does not alter the fact that a dismemberment will have taken place. Within the body of Christ any dismemberment, other than a voluntary and freely chosen one, is an act inconsistent with the godly love which binds us together as one body.

I hope that General Synod gives short shrift to these motions AND - please read on carefully - finds another pathway to deal with two matters, one of which is an opportunity and the other of which is a problem.

The opportunity

Our church has the opportunity to grow and to develop its life. But I wonder if we have a vision for the future? In particular I recommend a vision for a future in which we are one church in all ways, not just where our tikanga intersect at General Synod, various committees and commissions, and at St John's College. This vision is God's own vision expressed in (above all) John 17 and Ephesians 1-3. I have no problem with being what we are for the time-being as our separation into three tikanga enables certain things to be achieved in respect of working through our historical anomalies and injustices. But we should never let go of God's vision for the church and one day we must align ourselves again with it.

My further recommendation is that we develop a vision for the Diocese of Polynesia to become the Province of Polynesia. That would be a huge step and might take 100 years. But we will not get to it if we do not articulate the vision now and begin the steps which might make it happen. From our Aotearoa New Zealand side of things, we could begin now the steps, including legal changes, which would enable us one day in the future to generously and lovingly gift resources (taonga, yes, taonga) to our brothers and sisters across the sea. The development of this vision should not be an imposition from the Aotearoa New Zealand branches of the family to the South Pacific branch but a vision jointly shared and developed under God.

The problem

I assume, from some past hui I have been involved in and from my own experiences in three tikanga meetings, that a driver for the motions noted below is the manner of access to and authority over the major resources of this church, notably the immense funds of the St John's College Trust Board. 'The manner of' in the preceding sentence refers to the fact that currently no one accesses those funds except by a 'three tikanga process', that is, by way of meetings and conversations between the three tikanga partners. Such mutual submission is a gospel value but it runs against (my understanding of) tino rangatiratanga (i.e. control).

I am wondering whether the fact that some applications for funds in recent years by Tikanga Maori have been constrained, if not revised and even reversed as a result of the meetings of the three partners may be a driving motivation behind the motions below.

From a Maori perspective there seems to be a problem when it comes to accessing that which is understood as taonga which belongs to Maori. The access is fettered. One obvious solution would be to unfetter it.

Now I am not sure if, in one or more ways, the two motions below are in conflict, as the first motion acknowledges the appropriateness, under the Treaty of Waitangi, of Maori and Pakeha meeting together to decide things about the life of this church. But the second motion seems to imply a strong desire that even in a two-Tikanga church, Maori would have tino rangatiratanga over the resources which it believes belongs to it.

How might we solve this problem?

I suggest we Pakeha do a bit of thinking about what we have tino rangatiratanga over! Each of the NZ dioceses has its own trust funds which are spent on the ministry needs of the dioceses without recourse to conversation with Tikanga partners. It should not be a big deal* to carve up the St John's College Trust funds so that some of those funds belonged as firmly to either Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa and/or the five Maori hui amorangi as current diocesan trust funds belong to the dioceses. (*Just the odd Act of Parliament would be required!)

To make such a disbursement would be to empower Tikanga Maori as a whole or via its five hui amorangi in ways in which the NZ dioceses are already empowered. (We might also empower the Diocese of Polynesia at the same time!)

But the way to this radical change is not via the motions below.

FROM TAONGA (print version)

On page 10 of the latest print Taonga (accessible here) we read,

"But there are two motions on the General Synod agenda that do actually have the potential to finish the 3Tikanga church. 
The first proposes a constitutional amendment that the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia become "a two-Tikanga Church for Maori and Pakeha ...". 
And the second proposes that the constitution acknowledge the right of Maori "to exercise tino rangatiratanga" - absolute sovereignty - over taonga, as guaranteed in Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi. (It links with a restatement of the Anglican mark of mission about unjust structures.)."

In a footnote on p. 13 the text of the motions are given:

(the first referred to above). "That the constitution ... be amended to provide for:
a. a two-Tikanga Church for Maori and Pakeha (being all other citizens in Aotearoa New Zealand) within which there are no impediments to the exercise of tino rangatiratanga by Maori over taonga, and
b. appropriate relationships between Maori and Pakeha on the one hand and Pasefika on the other. 
(the second referred to above includes these words) That Te Hinota Whanui/the General Synod:
a. acknowledge in its constitution the right of whanau, hapu, iwi and Maori to exercise tino rangatiratanga over taonga as guaranteed in Article 2 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, and
b. undertakes to confront unjust structures that impeded the exercise of these rights.

To which we say ...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Slavery in the 21st century

It seems unbelievable that in a global world where everywhere is the village next to ours we have a force claiming in the name of religion that education for girls is sinful and thus has the right to kidnap educated girls and sell them as slaves.

Boko Haram is one of the contemporary faces of pernicious evil.

I see now - e.g. on Twitter - a rising crescendo of people willing to pray and protest about the lack of action of the Nigerian government in response to this evil. Let's join the movement.

UPDATE: Good to read this report of expanding action in Nigeria itself.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Politics of Jesus (5 May 2014)

There is a book doing the rounds at the moment which few will read but many will pretend to know well. It is Thomas Piketty's best selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Here to save you (and me) the bother of reading it are ten handy phrases for bluffing on the book.

(Here, by the way, are some interesting criticisms of the book. Here, by contrast, is a lead into an article berating US Democrats for being insufficiently vigorous in their pursuit of the overturning of capitalist inequality. Which leads me to note, as a bit of an aside, that the US Communist Party is alive though may be not very well).

As I understand the thrust of the Piketty tome, it is that the relatively few people who control capital around the globe are getting richer and richer so that inequality is growing which in turn carries a warning: the peasants always, in the end, revolt. So, the few need to watch out!

For a careful discussion of the book, head to Psephizo.

Poverty is a complicated subject for the First World in which I and (it would appear) many readers live in. A recent New York headline sums up one aspect of the dilemma well:

"Changed Life of the Poor: Better Off But Far Behind"

If we measure poverty by having access to a phone (once, even in my lifetime, he lack of which was a distinguishing mark of the poor) then today everyone in NZ is better off because it is just about impossible to find someone who does not have a mobile phone (themselves, when first available in the 1980s, a very distinctive sign of the rich!). But the measure has changed. If we asked a different question, such as how many mobile phone owners have a realistic shot at studying electronic engineering or computer app software development at university, then we realise how many people are 'better off (have phone) but far behind (cannot afford to go to uni).'

Theologians sometimes talk about God's bias to the poor, something I myself agree with as I read both the prophets, the gospels, James and Revelation. Should this mean that as a voter in this year's election I should vote for the party which offers to do most for the poor?

Time today means I cannot pursue that question further, but there are many more Mondays to go this year!

However as one small contribution to answering the question, undoubtedly the Mana Party is explicitly identified with assisting the impoverished in our society. Another John Campbell TV profile is now available (thanks Caleb!), of the leader of the Mana Party, Hone Harawira and you can view it here.

Quote of the Day from the interviews:

It is part of the journey for us to change the world.