Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bright future?

I have been pleasantly distracted since the last post, taken advantage of a holiday weekend to ensure our hardworking student-home-for-the-summer had at least a brief holiday before returning to university. (For overseas readers, the weekend celebrated the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, between Maori chiefs and the (British) Crown).

Unexpectedly the few days took on a water theme as I had a chance at kayaking, paddle-boarding (first time ever) and biscuiting, all in waters warm enough for it to be pleasant when my lack of balance (yes, I know readers here will be surprised by that :) ) or insufficient tenacity in gripping the sea biscuit threw me into the depths. One casualty was loss of treasured sunglasses (and no end of ribbing from my family for wearing them at sea!)

But while away I did go to church, and last night I was at the joint cathedrals Ash Wednesday service here in Christchurch. I nearly always (over-)analyse what I think is going on when I am at church, not only in terms of local dynamics but also implications for the bigger picture of themes and trends in the NZ Pakeha churches if not the Western church. This week has been no different.

We have present challenges but I think our future is bright. But, turn your face away Donald Trump, that future is down to immigration. What my eyes tell me as I worship in different churches is that the future of NZ Christianity is going to be dominated by people whose parents immigrated here in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as well, of course, by even more recent immigrants than that. (What the daily news tells us is that more and more Christians are migrating from troubled parts of the world to less troubled parts, and that will include NZ).

There will be a religious studies/sociology/theology Ph.D or three in around 2040 on why, two hundred years after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed with missionaries integral to the proceedings, a resistance to the gospel built up through succeeding generations of Pakeha and Maori descended from their Treaty signing ancestors and the settlers who arrived in the decades immediately afterwards.

Actually, I have one explanation for that resistance, and it relates to the marvellous weekend I experienced. In NZ we have a great life: mild climate, scenery to die for, beaches and bush offering accessible and inexpensive recreation, outstanding health services and abounding opportunities for material advancement. As a wise bishop once observed to me, people don't need God when already living in paradise.

Yet elsewhere in the world there is immense suffering and tribulation that is fuelling people movements which, ironically, will keep bringing people to our churches. Our NZ church future is bright, but there is a dark story behind that claim.

And there is a challenge for all Kiwis who love fellow Kiwis: how to overcome paradisal resistance to the gospel?


Father Ron Smith said...

" As a wise bishop once observed to me, people don't need God when already living in paradise." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Perhaps, Peter, that's why people in the Global South countries flock to Church. There, they do not enjoy our levels of social justice and freedom from entrenched governmental corruption.

Why, in countries like Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, you can even be thrown into prison just for being intrinsically Gay. Not only you, but your friends and parents who support you. No wonder people are looking for justice and freedom - not realising that they might not find it in the Church!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You make a good point but I would like to point out in return that my post was singularly devoid of reference to current issues and questions about homosexuality in the Anglican Communion precisely because I do not want this blog to be a "one issue" blog!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I have a cherished but unsubstantiated hypothesis that the natural poles of the multipolar Church of the future will be smallish places where several diaspora communities touch at close quarters, thus facilitating the recombination, testing, and diffusion of ideas. Strong-willed monocultures can dish it out but can't take it back. Cosmopolitan centres are big enough that diaspora communities spread out and connect mainly to their own. But New Zealand seems just right.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter. I take your point - that we in Aotearoa/New Zealand have a relatively free and open society in which to enjoy all the gifts of God's creation. However, while enjoying our precious environment, we can never forget that other people in the world do not have the comfortable perspective on religious faith in a loving, compassionate God as we are privileged to enjoy.

I thank God I am living in this country, where we are free to express the fruits of our experience of a relatively classless and free society, in which lives are not threatened by acts of a malevolent and death-dealing culture of governance. I also pray daily for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Bryden Black said...

I have a simpler raison d’etre Peter for the state of affairs of things Christian in our fair Isles.

As Kenneth Scott Latourette depicts and explains in his monumental A History of the Expansion of Christianity, it is simply our turn for the tide to ebb, while it flows elsewhere. Now; there might be also concomitant ‘causes’, like the rise of secularism, as well as our perception of El Paradiso, to aid and abet these tides. There is certainly our staggering cultural sense of autonomy and self-emancipation, both of which echo both Gen 3 and Israel’s determination to “forget”. All of which will determine the direction of the tides.

As for your hypothetical PhD student in 2040: I trust there’ll be funding still available for such topics given the present trend for reductionist education!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Where two or three are gathered together in my name - there am I in the midst" - Jesus -

It is this parameter - of smallness, salt, light and yeast - that Jesus commends as being at the heart of the Gospel.

This is where a daily Celebration of the Eucharist is so important. Each day an opportunity to come together, confess our human frailty, and gather strength from Christ himself to become His Body in and for the world for which Christ died.

Where this paradigm is followed, we need not fear for the future.