Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Is the world spinning faster than usual on its tilted axis?

Difficult to keep up these days with events.

In NZ we have had a No to increasing our refugee quote followed by a Yes to a limited period but sizeable in numbers increase. The churches are promising to assist.

Of course in Europe there are tens of thousands streaming in, quota or no quota, somehow they are going to be housed in Germany ... France ... Britain ... Austria (the dots representing the momentary pause as countries chime in with promises to take amazing numbers of refugees. And even, I see on the news, Iceland. Dare we ask how many of the young men pouring across Europe from Syria wish to end up in Iceland? (That is nothing against Iceland per se, but it is an island and Down Under we live in islands and sometimes they are a little isolated ...!)

But my eyes were taken a day or so ago by another story in which the world seems to spin faster than we are used to, H/T to KiwiAnglo. According to one of the articles linked to by Ron Smith, Pope Francis has been up to his new but increasingly familiar trick of doing the unexpected. He has met with Bishop Jacques Gaillot, once out of favour as a more or less exiled, wandering bishop now possibly drawn in from the cold to the warm fires of Francis' compassionate heart for humanity.

In this article, Gaillot gets to talk with Francis at length and the matters they traverse are more, shall we say, on the Samaritan side of things than on the priest and the Levite side.

"Now, in yet another remarkable turn of events under the current pontificate, Pope Francis on Tuesday (Sept. 1) met privately with Gaillot at his Vatican residence.“I don’t want to ask anything of you, I told the pope, but a whole people of the poor are happy that you are receiving me, and feel acknowledged too,” Gaillot told the news service Agence France-Presse.“I spoke to him about … the sick, the divorced, gay people. These people are counting on you,” Gaillot told AFP.Gaillot, who at 79 is just a year older than the pope, said he told Francis how he had recently blessed a divorced couple as well as a homosexual couple.”I am in civil cloth(ing) and I just bless them. This is not a marriage, it is a blessing,” Gaillot said he told the pope, according to another French media report (translated by New Ways, a ministry of LGBT Catholics). “We have the right to give the blessing of God, after all we also bless houses!”“The pope listened,” Gaillot said, “he seemed open to all that. At that particular moment, he specifically said that to bless people also involves to speak well of God to those people.”Gaillot said Francis told him to “continue, what you do (for the downtrodden) is good.”Francis certainly seemed to understand the import of this meeting."

Of course the Vatican can say that it was (a) a private meeting, and (b) what is being reported is Gaillot's version of the conversation. Indeed if we read Gaillot carefully in this extract, he mostly reports what he said to the Pope and not what the Pope said. When he quotes the Pope on blessing of same sex couples the Pope says that to bless people also involves to speak well of God to them. But that is not quite the same thing as the Pope saying what Gaillot is doing is all OK by the Catechism and Canon Law. It is a theological truism that when we bless then we also speak well about God to those whom we bless.

Nevertheless this is a remarkable conversation because it happened. No Pope needs to speak to out of favour clerics. They can remain in their home country. Rome is expensive to travel to, etc. And it doesn't sound as though the Pope protested when Gaillot told him about whom he was blessing.

As we Down Under, in the Anglican stable, tune in to these conversations, there is food for thought, n'est ce pas?

Can we distinguish blessing of any couple seeking to live faithfully, to each other and to God, from marriage between a man and a woman? Will we be a church which offers discretion to clerics to bless as Gaillot has done?

As I reflect on our debate on Motion 30 at our synod a couple of days ago, posted on here, I discern (more intuitively than anything because there were not many speeches made) that we might be a church which in large part would settle for the ability for clergy to have that discretion.

But would those who are opposed to blessings (let alone same sex marriage) see their way to being part of a church which grants permission to exercise such discretion while retaining (as Motion 30 already says) the traditional doctrine of marriage?

That is the question of our day (I suggest, as I ruminate, but don't ask me next week as I may be intuiting differently).

I am not talking about compromise so much as making space for differently held views. A space which already exists on other matters on which we disagree. My sense after the synod is that many want that space to be available on this matter even if there are not many who take up any opportunity to exercise discretion.

The thing about Francis is that he seems to be pushing out the 'space' in the Roman sphere. Making more room for more people, including the divorced (noting the major conference on the family coming up very soon) and, it seems, subtly enlarging space for those identifying as gay.

As the world spins faster, it can also seem that its axis is tilting more than usual!

Update: read about Francis' motu proprio on speedier annulments in a Damian Thompson column here. Why do the psychologically immature get a free pass here?




21 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

You already know my thoughts on this matter, Peter. Thanks for making a link to kiwianglo on this very subject.

I would add that, if the Church were only willing to recognise (by blessing) monogamous, faithful same-sex relationship of Church members, I might cease to try to bring pressure on the need for Same-Sex Marriage. After all, as you say, the Church has learned to live with disagreements on other matters of sexual behaviour that impinge on our theology; what is so different about this that raises such antipathy in a majority heterosexual community?

Anonymous said...

Peter,

Things are moving quickly. Apparently, the pope will issue two motu propio on annulment tomorrow. The Catholic Herald has some scant detail.

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Ron and Nick for comments.
Yes, things are moving fast.
We might even be able to say that about the Anglican church!

Father Ron Smith said...

One of your links in this post Peter, reveals the like pastoral mentality of the rebel bishop and Pope Francis, in this comment:

"Gaillot also said: “I’m not here to convince the convinced or take care of the well. I’m here to support the ill and offer a hand to the lost. Does a bishop remain in his cathedral or does he go into the street?”

Likewise, Francis has written: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security … More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, ‘Give them something to eat.'” -

This seems, to me at least, to be at the heart of what Jesus proclaimed in the Gospels.

Of course, the Vatican has not officially promoted news of the Pope's meeting with the Bishop. But then, why would they want to be seen to accept his openness to the world - in ways of which they may not approve?

Jean said...

Hi Peter

I am glad the NZ churches have decided to respond with offering assistance to the humanitarian crisis of people leaving Syria. While we may feel for western Europe it is Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and Greece, with nought resources to look after anyone who are in dire straights. In war-torn Lebanon one out of every five people is now a refugee from Syria.

It is important I believe to maintain or raise our existing quota while adding our intake for this crisis. 11 Million internally displaced people on top of the people leaving the country is extreme even in ongoing conflict areas like the DRC and the Sudan so one must do what one can.

As for Iceland, well it sounds a little chilly for those from Middle Eastern countries but not too isolated and quite wealthy! (3hrs flight to London, 5 hours to US). For a population of 300 000 I think it was amazing 10 000 people came forward offering to host families after their government agreed to take in only 50 families. As for downunder, one must keep in mind our distance but there are many I am thinking inside Syria and in neighbouring countries who will not be looking to return.

Blessings
Jean

Chris Spark said...

Hi Peter, for what it's worth on one of my passing visits, on two things:

a) on the refugees, I am delighted we are letting a few more in, but think we could still let a lot more and more quickly. As my wife said to me, they need help now (I know refugee movement takes time and all, but still). But ups to the government for at least some movement in a great direction. Barnabas fund have what looks to me like a great thing going for the 'especially' of Gal 6:10 too - Operation Safe Havens.

b) re the blessings thing - careful distinction is needed to my mind. For me, blessing people is one thing. Blessing an activity (or sexual relationship) is another - and that is what is at issue I think, it is certainly the direction of motion 30. I am happy to see us bless everyone as people, just not every action/sexual relationship (or business practice etc for that matter). In this case, as I'm sure has been said clearly so many times, the issue is blessing of particular sexual relationships that the Scriptures, after much hard work and looking for contrary possibilities, still seem to be saying is sin. Blessing of such would be like blessing a divorce itself, which again I could never do (I note from Richard Hays that Spong had a blessing of a divorce written up - that would be as problematic for me). The question over blessing of a remarriage is a good one, but it does seem to me still at this stage that there is, across Scripture, possibilities of remarriage as acceptable and therefore indeed blessed (I hope to take some time away at some point to look into this a bit deeper having been prompted by Bosco and others, but my initial harder look at texts and contexts has gotten me to there so far). Marriage is an issue, but not the whole issue - it is not marriage that we are talking about in either Rom 1 or 1 Cor 6, though they can only be rightly understood within a positive biblical theology of marriage (and singleness!).
Of course not being able to bless a relationship doesn't mean we can't bless the people or love them or care for them - just as when I started coming to church and was in a sexual relationship that I now don't think is able to be blessed (living with my girlfriend) I was still loved and welcomed, and slowly but surely encouraged to be reshaped by the precious (and costly) grace of God.

For what it's worth!
God bless

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments, Nick, Ron, Jean and Chris.

Food for thought!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I think the Pope has probably pleased the majority of Catholics with his motu proprio. Conservatives will be happy that the Sovereign Roman Pontiff has amended canon law on advice from his canon lawyers ( which he is entitled to do as the successor of Peter) and liberals will be happy that Frank won't make people wait five years for an anullment decision albeit not necessarily a favourable one. No-one would expect any other big decision any time soon, so the family synod can now ignore first world distractions. The developing world has the stage. I'm impressed.

Nick

Liturgy said...

I’m pleased I stumbled upon this reference to me in a comment.

Here, Chris (and others) is the NZ Anglican Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage . It has been used in our church for clergy and laity of every type since 1992. I have yet, Chris, to see anyone object to this “blessing of a divorce”.

In that 1992 collection of worship resources, provided by and for our church, are

Liturgy of Healing from Abuse for Women
Liturgy for Recognising the End of a Marriage
A Liturgical Resource for Addressing Experiences of Abuse in the Church
New Beginnings

And

Liturgy for the Blessing of a Relationship

I was very surprised, at our diocesan synod, to hear speaker after speaker, in the many discussions about joining parishes together using, without any hesitation, the paradigm of living-together-before-marriage in a positive way, as an assumed step before marriage. This was from people and parishes who (correct me, Chris) would feel uncomfortable about homosexuals doing so. Let’s not even press the metaphor with the realisation that parishes personified are surely of the same gender!

How consistent are parishes (and clergy) in baptising children of heterosexual couples living together without benefit of matrimony? Clearly this is not seen, by them, as something to be renounced? And, in accordance with our agreed rite, such couples are publicly blessed. Not even going to our agreed rite for blessing of such a couple’s bedroom…

Yes, it does seem to me that very many people in our church have one assumed standard for heterosexuals, and quite a different one for homosexuals. I am presuming that Chris is referring to this in his comment.

Blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

Bosco's comment on the inconsistency of certain attitudes towards 'sinners' in the Church needs to be recognised and repented of. It would seem that the 'sins' of heterosexual people are in some way less 'sinful' than the 'sins' of homosexuals - in certain parts of the Church. Fortunately, is would seem that God is not quite so discriminating. Despite the fact that ALL have sinned; Christ has already redeemed ALL from the consequences of those sins - regardless of who has committed them. In Christ, there is no difference between male and female, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight!!!

Brendan McNeill said...

Peter

In our rush to compassion we must also reflect on the fact that immigration must work for all parties, including the citizens of the host country.

There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. For example.

1) Will bringing in more Muslims add to Rebecca Kitteridge's list of 40+ Muslims who are hot for jihad, and are supporters of ISIS in New Zealand. If not, why not?

2) Who does one call in Syria to perform background checks on Abdul Mohammad who is in a UN refugee camp? Just asking the question reveals the absurdity.

3) If our immigration officials are so good at screening immigrants, where did the Rebecca's top 40 come from? How do you screen for second generation Muslim jihadists like the 7/7 London bombers?

4) Australia allowed in thousands of Lebanese refugees in during their civil war. Today 21 people are behind bars in Australia for terrorism related offences. They are all Muslim, 9 are Lebanese.

5) The Australian government has this year granted $1.0M to assist the Jewish community in Melbourne build a bomb proof wall for their community centre, and a Jewish school in Bondi to do the same. Last week Victoria's largest Jewish school hired armed security guards to protect the children at its three campus's.

Is this what we want for our Jewish community in New Zealand? Won't happen here? Why not?

6) France, has approximately 10% of it's population Muslim and has deployed 7,000 troops permanently on the streets to protect synagogues, churches and tourist attractions from local jihadists. Is this what we want for New Zealand?

These are difficult questions that no one seems prepared to ask, caught up as we are with the emotion of helping others, but sooner or later these questions will be answered whether we ask them or not. Best we ask first don't you think?

I'm speaking here as someone whose family has personally resettled Muslim refugees in our city, and I have hired other Muslims in my business. Most are peaceful, thank God, but we need to have our eyes wide open.

Blessings
Brendan

Brendan McNeill said...

Peter

In our rush to compassion we must also reflect on the fact that immigration must work for all parties, including the citizens of the host country.

There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. For example.

1) Will bringing in more Muslims add to Rebecca Kitteridge's list of 40+ Muslims who are hot for jihad, and are supporters of ISIS in New Zealand. If not, why not?

2) Who does one call in Syria to perform background checks on Abdul Mohammad who is in a UN refugee camp? Just asking the question reveals the absurdity.

3) If our immigration officials are so good at screening immigrants, where did the Rebecca's top 40 come from? How do you screen for second generation Muslim jihadists like the 7/7 London bombers?

4) Australia allowed in thousands of Lebanese refugees in during their civil war. Today 21 people are behind bars in Australia for terrorism related offences. They are all Muslim, 9 are Lebanese.

5) The Australian government has this year granted $1.0M to assist the Jewish community in Melbourne build a bomb proof wall for their community centre, and a Jewish school in Bondi to do the same. Last week Victoria's largest Jewish school hired armed security guards to protect the children at its three campus's.

Is this what we want for our Jewish community in New Zealand? Won't happen here? Why not?

6) France, has approximately 10% of it's population Muslim and has deployed 7,000 troops permanently on the streets to protect synagogues, churches and tourist attractions from local jihadists. Is this what we want for New Zealand?

These are difficult questions that no one seems prepared to ask, caught up as we are with the emotion of helping others, but sooner or later these questions will be answered whether we ask them or not. Best we ask first don't you think?

I'm speaking here as someone whose family has personally resettled Muslim refugees in our city, and I have hired other Muslims in my business. Most are peaceful, thank God, but we need to have our eyes wide open.

Blessings
Brendan

Jean said...

Hi Brendan

Your comments re taking in refugees or more specifically Muslim's are pertinent and perhaps why there is such resistance from countries such as France to taking in refugees. There are other factors to consider to.

In the case of the Syrian refugees 40% are Christian's and 50% under 18.

Should fear or the possibilty of what might happen over-ride the commandment to love my neighbour as myself?

How many of those who practise Islam and cause trouble in different countries fall into the categories of economic immigrant, born in that country or refugee?

I have personally known immigrants into NZ who have supported terrorist groups in their own countries, although not taken violent action here in NZ. Some other friends of the same ethnic group did not, or were actively in opposition to any violence. I don't know if anyone can screen such things.

What to do? What would Jesus do?

Cheers
Jean

Peter Carrell said...

To be wickedly provocative, Jean, in answer to the question What would Jesus do, some scholars argue that Jesus harboured one or even two terrorists among the Twelve.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Jean

Good questions. Lord Carey, the former Arch Bishop of Canterbury recently wrote an article regarding the persecuted Christians in Syria:

"According to the Barnabas Fund, a charity which recently resettled some 50 Syrian Christian families in Poland, Mr Cameron’s policy inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them. They are seeking refuge in private homes, church buildings and with neighbours and family."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11846651/Lord-Carey-Britain-has-a-duty-to-rescue-Syrias-Christians.html

Our own Prime Minister has stated:

'Mr Key said New Zealand would not be favouring Christian Syrians in its intake.

"There are billions of good, peaceful, decent Muslims around the world."
New Zealand would reserve its right to vet refugees for security issues but not for religion.'

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11510441

What to do? Two things we should do is get out of the business of war in the Middle East, and second provide humanitarian financial, medial and physical support for all refugees regardless of their faith or ethnicity.

As to Peter’s provocative post, I’m less convinced that Jesus ‘harboured’ one or two terrorists amongst the Twelve disciples. There is no Biblical evidence (of which I’m aware) that would support that claim.

If as John Key suggests, our refugee resettlement program is going to be blind to religion and culture, then our destiny is going to be the same as Australia and other nations who host larger more restive Muslim populations, with all of the negative social outcomes that brings.

What would Jesus do? I’m not sure to be honest, but I don’t think we help Syrians by making New Zealand more like Syria and less like New Zealand as a result of a utopian immigration policy.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
The question is whether Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot came from backgrounds (represented respectively by Zealot and Iscariot) which were akin to what today we call terrorist movements, at least in the sense of being willing to use force to dislodge unwanted governments. The presence of such folk among the disciples would go someway to explaining why the disciples had such difficulty accepting that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah the Zealots etc wanted to have lead their uprising.

Brendan McNeill said...

It’s a possibility for sure.

However, do you think Jesus would invite a couple of guys to ‘follow him’ for up to three years, knowing they carried a completely misguided view of his mission without addressing the question with them at some point along the way?

Or to look at it another way – would you follow someone whom you hoped would lead a violent revolution for up to three years, when nothing in their teaching or example gave you cause for hope?

Do you think at some point they may have asked ‘are you the one, or do we look for another?’

Are zealots that patient? ☺

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

First, I was wrong; some trad Catholics are not happy with the motu proprio. See Rorate Caeli website. Some Trads forget that papal supremacy (which they ardently uphold) rather consigns their discontent to moaning, but there we are.

Secondly, Lord Carey (who recently approved of the just defeated UK assisted dying bill) is probably no evangelical pin up boy at the moment. In fact, I dare say he's a pain in the neck for the ABC. Although I agree with Brendan on substance, there are better supporters of his view. I agree with his frustration that politicians illiterate in any faith like John Key cannot spot a future terror cell. It isn't the immigrants, who are the problem, but their kids whom we will all ignore. There again, Jean might be right. The commandment to love is greater than risk management and we should make a point of befriending those whom Jesus loves. We should pray for the Prime Minister though. If it isn't on a balance sheet, he won't get it.

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick and Brendan
I want to particularly underline the next generation point Nick makes.
The first generation want to be in another country and get stuck in to find and make a new life.
Their children, however, may integrate well or they may react to this Western society in which they feel they do not quite fit and the reaction may (but does not have to) take them back to the (perceived) core of the society they have come from. Plus, looking at Western society with its celebrityised, sexualised, veneration of wealth, they have plenty of reason to ask whether there is another way and thus be open to a more radical message than their parents have brought them up to.
But if my analysis is correct, we could welcome refugees from Syria and improve on the decadence in our own society!

Jean said...

Hi Brendan

Thanks for your reply. Yes, I can see the potential difficulty with the fact that our system of gaining refugees for asylum is through the UN and at present it is difficult for Syrian Christian's to reside in such camps. Albeit the priorities given to those seeking asylum is that they are the most endagered and persecuted which in the case of Syria would most certainly include Christians and other minorities.

It is a sad situation given for so many years Syria was one of the few safe havens for Christian's in the Middle East, as it was for Sunni Muslim's escaping the Taliban, with what was for years pretty much a secular Arab government, with the first leader of that government being a Christian. Yet now with ISIS attacking them from the border near Iraq, and other Sunni Muslim's suspecting them of colluding with the Shia Government they have been placed in a difficult position.

I do not think NZ taking in 600 refugee's over two years will create too many tensions here, however, yes we risk there may be the odd insurgent in the mix. The question is should this stop us? In all honesty my first gut reaction was let's focus our assistance on Christians. Then I was convicted of my own hypocrisy, remembering the story of the good samaritian and God's mandate to care for foreigners for we were all ones once.

As for Zealots, ahh... I got Judas but forgot about Simon. In my understanding the Zealots were indeed a rebel force who fought, so in modern terms they could be categorised as terrorists in their time. That Jesus would take in one is not so surprising. He has also reached out to many a violent man, as he did to Paul himself on the road to Damascus the very area under discussion now. As Mosab Yousef a former terrorist now a Christian who speaks out against Islam says, he is fighting a different war now, it is a war against ideas, false beliefs not people. What would have been his end if a Christian hadn't been brave enough to approach him at the gates of Jerusalem and asked if he would like to attend a bible study? Isn't our whole message is that there is another way but to show it is costly, as it was for Jesus because we have to love our enemies real or perceived.

Blessings
Jean

Jean said...

Hi All

Yes the next generation point is an interesting one, I think perhaps it depends upon two things. The acceptance of the people in the host country to their presence and their own efforts to mix with the local population.

Interestingly in my experience of second generation immigrants from a civil war nation is that the children were less hostile than the parents. The prejudices being diluted by exposure to other information and experiences. Acutally in many cases the children from both sides became good friends yet all remained fond of their homeland while not really fitting in either there or here. Once when walking on an Auckland street with some of these friends I experienced the hostility of people on the street, and a comment out of a car window, 'go home'. There was also the embarassment of passing through customs once very quickly while my friend, due to the country on their passport, was questioned for some time. I can see how such things fuel resentment.

The difficulty with Islam lies in the fact that at the core there is a part of the belief system (which is not always known/taught/followed by all Muslims, and blindly accepted by others) is the goal of all countries/people becoming followers of Allah and Mohammad, by force as required. It is this that ISIS and many other terrorist groups exploit alongside targeting those Arabs/Muslims of differents sects who have been targets of violence or discrimination and harnessing their anger for evil ends.

Cheers
Jean