Monday, April 17, 2017

Rest [UPDATED]

I have now completed my self imposed Lenten task to blog everyday through Lent.

It has been more demanding than I bargained on, even though most posts pointed readers to other posts.

So I am going to have a rest from blogging for a week or so.

"Rest" has another meaning, however, this morning as I write. Over the weekend the Diocese of Christchurch learned that a treasured colleague, Andrew Starky, died suddenly on Holy Saturday.

Please pray for his wife Kathryn, their son Daniel and their extended family, as well as the Parish of St Michael's and All Angels who have lost their Vicar.

Andrew held other responsibilities in the Diocese and leaves an empty place at important decision making tables. We are all bereft.

His funeral is 11am Friday 21 April at St Michael's and All Angels.

See now this moving post by Fr Ron Smith.

UPDATE:

It was a moving, solemn service, now viewable on YouTube.

An obituary published in the Press on Saturday is here.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Paschal [Resurrection] Homily

By St John Chrysostom (from here) (H/T Andrei)

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you!
The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!
He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions".
It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and came upon God!
It took earth and encountered Ηeaven!
It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.
To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Kiwi iResurrection

Ok so its Holy Saturday and not yet the Day of Resurrection, but not only "needs must" - planning a blogging holiday next week, and a special guest blogger is working on tomorrow's post - but the fact is, a new Kiwi site for the Season of Resurrection has actually begun this week. It has resurrectional (is that a word?) reflection materials for every day of the week.

Go to resurrection.nz and work your way through, daily, this week and onto the Fifty Days following.

This is an initiative of the Diocese of Auckland!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Benedict-Dreher Versus Parris-Anglican

It is the great struggle of twenty-first century Christianity.

The Benedict-Dreher Option (enclave? ghetto? distinctive community? Christianity modelled on Orthodox Judaism?)

versus

The Parris-Anglican Option (enculturate? osmosis? blurred overlap church/culture? indecision?).

Of course Anglicans can and do opt for the former and steer away from the latter.

But both arguments have powerful points to make, do they not?

In a declining church, in a post-Christian era, when the last vestiges of Christendom in the West are being farewelled (if even noticed), do we Christians, following Rod Dreher and his increasingly well known "The Benedict Option", need to review, clarify and reassert those things that externally demonstrate what we are internally committed to believing? Do we need to make visible daily which community of believers we belong to?

Our identity as a community (tribe?) is at stake and some of us do not know how to present that identity to ourselves and to the world. Or, we know bits of a complete identity but not what the whole might look like (so we go to church but we are not sure what to wear to church, or we offer hospitality to others in our homes but we wonder if we should display a cross at our frontdoor).

Yet, rightly, as Matthew Parris astutely points out, there are distinctive communities of believers in the world, some of which are just plain weird, some of which are biologically dangerous to themselves, and many of which have no growth plan apart from, well, generational fruitfulness. Meanwhile the world changes at 100 kph and reasonable questions of adaptation of belief are asked and answered in communities (such as Anglican ones) which survive in their own peculiar way!

So, at the heart of Christianity's annual calendar, Holy Week, it is worth asking which option will take us forward as those who remember Jesus' death and proclaim it until his coming again?!

Answers in comments of a brief kind ... longer answers in your next book ... :)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Christchurch Stations of the Cross - public viewing this weekend

My sister-in-law, Elizabeth Minato, has created a beautiful series of mosaic Stations of the Cross.

They are on display at St John of God, Halswell, Christchurch this week and through the Easter weekend. All are welcome to view.


Viewing details are as follows:

St John of God, Halswell gardens:

Up to Maundy Thursday April 13th Sensory Gardens, St John of God by appointment

April 13th Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Sunday public access to the Stations as they are back in the public gardens at St John of God, adjacent to the carpark: 10:00—4:00pm.

To get to St John of God, I suggest Google Maps!

These are Elizabeth's reflections on the Stations:

Stations
The way of life
comments by the artist

I Jesus is condemned to death
We are all condemned by others for things we didn’t do. Sometimes people take their anger out on us, and vent their frustrations and abuse us.
Be true to yourself and live with integrity. Don’t argue with a fool
II Jesus carries his cross
We all have a burden of responsibility. We should accept our responsibilities willingly and carry our burdens big or small, without complaint

III Jesus falls the first time
We all have knocks in life. When things go wrong, have strength, get up, and continue your way. Keep fighting, and don’t give up.

IV Jesus meets his mother
Mary was a special woman who loves us all with the unconditional live of an ideal mother, more than our mothers. She is always there for us. He heart bled for Jesus and it bleeds for us when we are in pain.

V Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
It’s hard to accept help because we are all proud. At one time of another, we are all vulnerable and we may need to accept help from other as gracefully. Frailty is not weakness: it’s part of being human.

VI Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Love can remove the mask we hide behind. We all live behind a mask for our own security. Remove this mask and show that you are a loveable person, regardless of your imperfections. Have confidence in yourself.

VII Jesus falls the second time
Jesus was tired, as we all become tired in our lives. Get up and keep going. The path is long but don’t give up.

VIII Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Sometimes other people suffocate us with their own needs. We must be empowering to others so they can help themselves and stand proud. Don’t let people become depend upon you. Any of us could die at any time: life goes on

IX Jesus falls the third time
The pain and suffering in this world makes us humble. We can easily be overwhelmed by all the evil that surrounds us. Choose your path and keep going, you are only human

X Jesus is stripped naked
What really matters in life? When all our worldly possessions are gone, what is important to us? Take a good look in the mirror

XI Jesus is nailed to the cross
Accept the consequences of your actions. There is always pain. Maybe the memory of this pain will help you make better choices in the future

XII Jesus dies on the cross
This is the darkest time in Christianity. No-one understood what would happen next. We all have these dark moments when life is at its lowest point. What is there to live for? Is death the easiest/best path? The answer is no! No matter how dark your life becomes, there is always a ray of light, even if you can’t see it now. Never give up hope.

XIII the body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
Grief is a natural part of life. Be honest in your grief. Show sadness when you are sad and mourn loss, bury the dead.

XIV Jesus is laid in the tomb
Gather all your regrets, problems and grievances and place them in a box. Let go. If you truly bury your earthly grief and leave it, then it will be replacing by heavenly grace/ Wait three days, and your problems will disappear.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Was the wrath of God satisfied?

It is Holy Week. Time to bring out a fruitful theme in past times for provocative discussion?

A year or three back we had a good go at discussing the virtues or otherwise of the controversial line in the ubiquitous hymn, In Christ Alone, the line that goes:


"The wrath of God was satisfied"

One reason for continuing to discuss this line in this hymn is that, at least hereabouts, we are continuing to sing the hymn and that line in it. (And, as I recall, one part of previous discussion here was whether it is or isn't appropriate to change such a line if one does not like it. For slices of previous discussions on ADU, see here, here, and here.)

Actually, to be fair to that line, we should quote the line before and after:


'Til on that cross as Jesus died 
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid

In other words, the question about whether satisfaction of the wrath of God is a worthy theology is a question of atonement theology. We are attempting to put into words what happened to God, to us, to our sin, when Jesus died.

The three lines of the song effectively follow a "scapegoat" form of atonement theology fused with a "paschal lamb" theology of voidance of wrath merged with a "sacrifice of atonement" theology in which the justice of God is satisfied:

- Jesus was a form of the scapegoat on whom sins were laid on the Jewish Day of Atonement

- our sins were laid on Jesus as he died on the cross*

- by taking "every sin" laid on Him, Jesus fulfils the paschal/scapegoat destiny spoken of him by John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

- the doing of this is a Passover Lamb sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7; see also timing, according to John's Gospel of the crucifixion of Jesus as the same time as the sacrifice of the Passover lambs) and

- that sacrifice of Jesus is simultaneously the "sacrifice of atonement" (Romans 3:25), a sacrifice which could fairly be described in terms of Romans 3-5 as a sacrifice which "satisfied" the justice of God;

- *at this point the scapegoat imagery ends, because the scapegoat takes the sins into the desert; and the paschal lamb imagery comes to the fore: Jesus died at Passover, that festival celebrated the killing of lambs in order that their blood would mark the lintels of the doorways of the Israelites so that the angel of death visiting households in Egypt would avoid killing the firstborn sons of those households.

If, dear readers, you follow me thus far, we are not quite at the point of squaring the line "the wrath of God was satisfied" with this theological fusion of scapegoat, Passover and atoning sacrifices.

Notably, the New Testament does not speak of God's wrath being satisfied. At least not directly, in so many words.

It does get close, however. In particular I note two ways in which talk of the wrath of God comes close to talk of that wrath being satisfied.

(1) Paul's discourse on God's wrath in Romans 1 spills over into Romans 2:5-6 where we read:

"But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one's deeds:"

It is reasonable to talk about the avoidance of God's wrath on that day comes through the "repay" being made on our behalf by Jesus, that is, on the shortfall in our "account" with God being satisfied by the "payment" Jesus makes through his death on the cross.

(2) Speaking of what God has done for us in Christ, Paul writing in Ephesians, says that we "were dead through the trespasses and sins which [we] once lived" ... "by nature children of wrath" ... "But God, who is rich in mercy ... made us alive together with Christ" (2:1-5). What makes us alive when we are dead is the same as that which changes our status as "children of wrath": the "blood of Christ" (2:13) or Christ's sacrifice on the cross becomes the "gift of God" which saves us. God's wrath towards us changes into God's acceptance of us. In some sense - but much less implied than in Romans - God's wrath is satisfied and thus no longer determinative of our status before God.

So, I am as uneasy as ever about the line "the wrath of God was satisfied"! It is not completely wrongheaded but it places emphasis on the wrath of God driving Jesus to the cross rather than the justice of God, let alone the love of God. The line is, I argue here, less accurate than a line such as "the justice of God was satisfied."

But that alternative is pretty unsingable if substituted [!!] within the hymn.

Other alternatives?

Theologically accurate, lyrically smooth and rhythmically balanced ...!

UPDATE: (H/T Jonathan commenting below) Keith Getty, song writer, himself comments on the hymn here.





Monday, April 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Persecution

I was going to post on something else today but that can wait.

Yesterday our brothers and sisters in the Coptic Church in Egypt were battered by yet another bomb attack, two in fact, in Tanta and in Alexandria. NZ Herald report here (with video).

Militant, violent, vicious forces working in the name of Islam - though thankfully not supported by the majority of Muslims - are intent on killing Christians.

These are dark days but not unknown days for Christians.

Damian Thompson sees the attack as part of a campaign to wipe Christians from the face of the earth.

I wonder if Sonny Bill Williams will visibly protest this murderous violence by his co-religionists when he next plays rugby?

UPDATE: Statement from Archbishop Mouneer Abbas.

Also worth reading is this from Mark Steyn.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Easter Bunny Better Than Jesus?

As we head towards Holy Week and the Paschal celebration, it is sobering to read this piece published by Fairfax Media yesterday. Entitled "Why I don't take my kids to church?", the view proposed here is that the Easter Bunny providing Easter eggs is a better bet as an explainable saviour-figure than Jesus himself.

It is always good to be reminded that what we Christians take for granted as "good news" is not so for many non-Christians and (in this case) post-Christians.

I sympathise with the writer to the degree that her life story involves major events in which God has seemed absent in her life. But I note with concern the "semiotics" of the article posted a week before Easter: the secular media goes not to a Christian to explain why Easter means so much to them but to a post-Christian to explain why she does not send her kids to church. Message received loud and clear, Fairfax!

Disclaimer: the church the opinion writer happens to pooh-pooh is the Catholic church. I am not linking to this column to join her negativity about Catholic Christianity. The central concern she raises could have been raised whether she had been brought up Pentecostal, Baptist or even Anglican!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Very Latest on ChristChurch Cathedral

As circulated last night to the Diocese and (re the Opinion Piece) published in the Press this morning:

Message from the Bishop

 
Dear Friends,

Last Saturday in The Press newspaper Mr Philip Burdon of the GCBT  had an opinion piece about Church Property Trustees and the Cathedral.  This Saturday the CPT are responding and I am sharing with you what will be in the paper over the name of Gavin Holley, the CPT General Manager.  CPT also has placed an ad in the Saturday Press (see below).

There are aspects of the history of the Cathedral conversations which probably need to be stated again just because six years is a long time and people forget what has happened when they have not been involved in the deliberations on a daily or weekly basis.  For example, five years ago the Synod passed a resolution in support of the building of an inspirational Cathedral on the site of the Cathedral building in the Square. Legal action followed.  When it became possible and desirable  to have a conversation with the Government we re-visited the decision about deconstruction and possible re-instatement of our Cathedral in the Square.  Hence in late December 2016, CPT was open to considering signing a document which signalled an intention to re-instate the Cathedral.  As you will read, the actual late 2016 offer leading to that possibility is now off the table and a new, somewhat more conservative offer from the Crown is being considered.  Hence CPT need in the near future to give an answer to the Crown about their present offer.  It is with the intent of making the best decision possible that CPT has ordered more community research and is also undertaking further due diligence.

I have to say that none of this is easy for the Church Property Trustees or our excellent CPT staff team.  I am immensely grateful for their work since February 2011.  They serve and operate at the highest level of their professions.

Please be aware that this recent media engagement about the Cathedral building should not distract us from what is truly important as we enter into Holy Week and prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Holy Week blessings,

.
 



Opinion Piece for The Press   

For the ChristChurch Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, Church Property Trustees (CPT) and the wider community, the damage to the ChristChurch Cathedral from the Canterbury earthquakes is heart breaking. The ChristChurch Cathedral was a place of enormous spiritual significance and heritage for the Anglican Diocese. Having to make decisions on the future of the Cathedral is one of the hardest challenges CPT has ever had to face. Since February 2011, the Diocese has suffered total loss or damage to 248 of its 280 parish and commercial properties.

CPT holds and administers the property and funds of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, which stretches from Hanmer Springs in the north to Waimate, Twizel and Haast in the south, and its parishes. Membership of CPT comprises the Bishop Victoria Matthews and eight trustees, who are members of the Church elected by the Synod. Synod is the governing body of the Christchurch Diocese where reports are received to allow representatives to debate and vote on key Diocesan issues.

Church Property Trustees make decisions by vote and while the Bishop chairs the meetings, she neither has veto nor does she usually cast a vote. It is usual to have unanimity in the voting. This means no one person can decide on the fate of the Cathedral nor can Bishop Victoria Mathews exercise any “personal agenda”, as she has been accused of, to stop the reinstatement of the Cathedral.

For six years CPT has been striving tirelessly to find a workable solution on the future of the Cathedral and has always said that it is committed to a cathedral in the Square. It shares the frustration many feel over the lack of progress.

There has been recent commentary that the Church and CPT have somehow frustrated recent negotiations with the Government. In an opinion piece published by The Press last week, Philip Burdon, representing the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT), went so far as to say: “We have all been victims of sham negotiations and that the private ambition of the relevant Church leadership has always been to oppose restoration of the Cathedral.” Mr Burdon is not correct.  The Trustees were fully committed to good faith engagement with the Government and rescinded CPT’s standing resolution to deconstruct the Cathedral.

This earlier key decision made a commitment to building a contemporary cathedral in the Square. The decision had been based on numerous engineering, costing, risk and other professional evaluations for which CPT sought advice for different options. All key reports were made public.

The decision to build a contemporary cathedral in the Square was challenged in the courts by GCBT and led to three years of CPT defending its decision. During this time, in May 2013, CPT asked the public which design options for ChristChurch Cathedral it would prefer. More than 800 people attended public forums, the website had more than 14,000 unique visitors, and more than 3,800 votes and comments were received. A contemporary design for the future cathedral was favoured by respondents.

In June 2014, the High Court lifted the stay it issued in November 2012 on deconstruction of the Cathedral. This meant CPT could continue with its plan to progress the idea of building a contemporary cathedral in the Square. Although there would be significant consenting issues, a beautiful and highly functional inspirational and contemporary cathedral, incorporating features and materials from the old cathedral, could be built within the $40 million of cathedral insurance funds then available.

However, in May 2015 CPT’s decision to build a contemporary cathedral was paused following a request from the GCBT to further discuss engineering and costs of a rebuild. At that meeting, GCBT’s experts agreed with CPT’s advice that the approximate cost of a rebuild would be approximately $100 million (not $67 million as GCBT had been publicly claiming), that base isolation is preferable, and the rebuild project would take approximately seven years.

CPT approached the government and suggested it might like to become involved. The Crown decided to appoint Miriam Dean QC to assess the situation. In a previous conversation with Minister Brownlee, the Bishop and the Trustees present explained very clearly that they believed CPT might do well to move towards a compromise – a build of old and new materials despite the Diocese and CPT stating it had a preference for a contemporary build. The Trustees were open to reinstatement as long as when completed the project did not leave the Diocese or CPT in debt. In particular, it was highlighted that CPT could only commit $30 million as it needed significant endowments to pay for the maintenance of such an expensive building and also to cover the cost of full replacement insurance, which is estimated at up to $360k a year.

In January 2016, CPT’s decision to build a contemporary cathedral was again paused, following an approach from the Government to review the feasibility of reinstatement. As mentioned, CPT committed to good faith engagement and rescinded its standing resolution to deconstruct the Cathedral. The Government announced a Cathedral Working Group, however its appointment and the agreement to the Terms of Reference was delayed for several months due to the Minister’s heavy schedule. CPT was then concerned about the delay in the timing as it had committed to making an announcement about a way forward by the end of April 2016; in fact that was when the working group was confirmed  by the Crown.  The Cathedral Working Group’s report confirmed CPT’s advice that the cost of reinstatement (rebuild) was approximately $104 million (plus $4 million fundraising costs), base isolation is preferable, and reinstatement would take approximately seven years.

CPT then agreed to a Government request to negotiate a funding and delivery model to reinstate the Cathedral. In late December 2016, CPT believed that an agreement was in place and were ready to sign.  However in November we had the Kaikoura 7.8 earthquake and the following month the Prime Minister resigned.  These and other developments that occurred may have led those representing the Crown to re-assess their offer. Hence on 21 December 2016, the offer on the table was changed to an entirely different document – a Statement of Principles.

This brings us to the present, with an offer of a grant from the Crown of $10 million and a loan of $15 million towards potential reinstatement. CPT has clearly said that to leave a Bishop and Diocese with a $15 million loan is unacceptable.

More importantly there is the need to fundraise as much as a further $56 million in order to complete the project of reinstatement. The policy being followed for all of the buildings in Trust with CPT is that the money must be in hand before the repair or build begins.  Fund-raising efforts by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust report $15 million intentions, but no pledges have been presented or seen. In the meantime, CPT continues to assess the Government’s offer.

Some people have argued that CPT has the means to fund the shortfall and fund the insurance and running costs of the reinstated Cathedral. But, CPT simply cannot do this as it holds no assets in its own right. It holds the assets in trust for the Diocesan and parish mission and ministry – and must ensure that any potential reinstatement does not weaken the wider mission of the church.

GCBT claims that opinion polls consistently supported reinstatement. This is not the case as proven in the consultation undertaken in 2013. However, to give us up-to-date information, CPT has engaged an independent research firm to complete a community survey to determine Christchurch residents’ opinion on reinstatement and their appetite to contribute to fundraising. Once the survey results are known they will be made public.

CPT anticipates soon being able to give the government an answer to its offer.

Gavin Holley is the General Manager of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch’s Church Property Trustees. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Don't put me down for Euthanasia

Title from a  quip made by one of my siblings!

We had a good crowd of participants at the Transitional Cathedral on Saturday for the seminar on Euthanasia advertised previously here.

A full report is being worked on by the Editor of our Diocesan magazine and when that is available I will alert readers to that.

What follows here is not a "report" but some of the key comments, phrases, questions I picked up as the presentations were made. I am not attributing them as they are from my notes and to attribute them might lead to readers thinking that X said something they did not actually say. I am giving my impressions rather than my accurate citations. They are my highlighted remarks and are not a guide to the thesis of any one speaker.

How does E affect the overall well-being of society?

Wouldn't legalised E make it "a duty to die"?

Vulnerable people ARE at risk.

Doctors will be pressed to offer E as an option as a means of cutting health care costs.

One can be against people being euthanased (A puts B to death) while being for assisted suicide (B wants to die and A assists that happening).

Unbearable pain is a matter for each individual. I cannot tell you that your immense pain is bearable.

A formula (e.g. undergirding a clear, precise law change) could be terminal illness + sound mind + choice + assurance of no duress = receive assistance to die.

Danger without such a law of an unregulated sub-culture of advice re suicide. (I couldn't help thinking of analogies re justification for legal abortion, prostitution, gambling, marijuana use!)

Euthanasia alters the relationship between patient and doctor (from relationship in which doctor is present to preserve, prolong and save life to one in which doctor may enhance life or may hasten death).

Euthanasia may start well in a society but there is evidence from countries in which it is legal of it ending badly - concern for unintended consequences - voluntary euthanasia becomes involuntary euthanasia.

Does E normalise (all) suicide?

Contrasting approach: confidence that all legal safeguards around E will work.

Release of death sometimes more important than a miserable existence of unbearable suffering.

E is about the right to choose when and where to die with medical assistance.

My own closing remarks at the end of the event included these observations:

Across our panel of speakers there were real differences of views, of statistical date and of the interpretations of that data.

Every speaker presented a view which was based on care for people and each speaker respected the dignity of human persons but there were differences over what dignifies people in certain traumatic circumstances at or towards the end of life.

Talk of autonomy, of my right to choose to authorise my death is in tension with concern that society might take over my autonomy. But there is also the question of God's autonomy: what rights does God have over us? Related to this question is the question of whether we are authorised by God to ever take life or assist in taking another person's life.

Speaking only for myself, appreciative as I am of the cut and thrust of differing views well articulated, I come away from the day unconvinced that we have the right to take the life of another person outside of contexts of criminality (i.e. capital punishment) and war (i.e. in combat, according to rules of engagement). I accept that there is a grey area theologically when we talk about assisted suicide (aiding someone to take their own life as release from unbearable pain). That is, Christian arguments can be brought to this matter for consideration.

I am also appreciative of the concern about unintended consequences. Interestingly, just this morning I read about that great Western democracy (or "democracy") France moving to ban certain pro-life websites, dismissing people (according to another article I cannot now locate) who run such sites as "alt-rights and Catholics." If we permit euthanasia, 20 years from now will it be illegal to publicly voice opposition to it?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

You have been warned

I have been alerted to a dangerous cult I had never previously heard of before.

The NZ Herald has the details here.

Keep safe. Stay MSM*!

*Mainstream Sensible Moderate Christian

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

On abortion

As we steer away from the You Know What issue, we encounter plenty of other matters which provoke reflection, analysis and careful consideration on matters of human choice in God's world.

One is abortion, nudging its way back into Kiwi consciousness these days as some calls grow louder for abortion law reform (and that direction is not the direction of the article I wish to point you to).

That article is here.

What do you think?

PS We had a great day at the Euthanasia seminar on Saturday. Our local Diocesan magazine editor is working on a report and I am hoping to pen a few words here before the end of the week. But, life is ...

Sunday, April 2, 2017

On miracles

Some Lenten readings take us down the pathway of miracles (e.g. last Sundays John 9:1-41, also today's John 11:1-45). Such readings, combined with some scriptural perambulations through other parts of the Bible, keep pointing out to me that miracles have played a major part in people coming to faith.

Is this a missing dimension in today's missional context? We strive in all sorts of ways to proclaim the gospel in word and deed (i.e. our actions, our ministries, our loving efforts to serve others) but in some periods of the church, there has been no need to strive, just a need to marvel at what God has done to impress the reality of God on unbelievers.

To be sure, stories such as John 9:1-41, sharply remind us that miracles do not impress sceptics!

But do we as church in today's world of decline, drift and (ironically) pressure from other religions, need to strive less and pray more?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Livestreaming today's seminar on Euthanasia

At fairly late notice we are able to confirm that today's event, a seminar on Euthanasia organised by Theology House and the Transitional Cathedral, is able to be livestreamed.

The link is here.

We begin at 9.30 am and conclude at 2.30 pm. (or maybe a little earlier).

Friday, March 31, 2017

On Scripture

Sola Scriptura?

Read this post (and comment following) then answer the question!

It strikes me that proponents of Sola Scriptura may too readily overlook all the ways in which even the most Scriptural of Christians do not actually live by "Scripture alone" (using commentaries, approaching Scripture with the guide and guardianship of the creeds, endorsing preaching as means of bringing understanding of the bare text to the congregation).

But just before we strike Sola Scriptura down, let's acknowledge the Reformers were no fools. There was a reason for their holding up Scripture as the ultimate determinant of the message of salvation. Something had gone terribly wrong in the reading of Scripture in and by the church towards the end of what we now see as the medieval age. A church promoting indulgences as a means of raising finances to build an edifice is not a church reading Scripture with the grain of Scripture. Nor is it a church understanding, let alone fulfilling its responsibility as guardian of Scripture.

Part of the point of the post linked to above, as I reflect on it, is that just as there are different ways to understand Sola Scriptura so there are different ways to understand "not Sola Scriptura."

One of those ways, in Western Christianity at least, goes something like this (at least in the minds of Protestants!): Scripture and Tradition inform the Christian mind; with Tradition being the accumulated knowledge of the church as it has discerned the mind of Christ through many centuries; so "not Sola Scriptura" means Scripture PLUS Tradition, two streams of knowledge and revelation from God, the key to holding both together being the church. Cue arguments for a formal Magisterium or an informal magisterium via theological faculties; for acknowledging "tradition" but not "Tradition"; for Sola Scripturists being extremely dubious about Tradition (if not tradition) because the former has permitted strange (= unscriptural) doctrines like the Assumption of Mary.

But another way, heralded in the post, is that Scripture is a text in which there are treasures of spiritual knowledge, indeed, better, one treasure of knowledge, Jesus Christ, and the shortfall to "Sola Scriptura" is that it offers a limited understanding of that treasure whereas the church's gift and task is to corporately read Scripture (i.e. gathering all readings together, past as well as present) so that the full knowledge of Jesus Christ, from every page of Scripture is brought forth into the light.

I remain somewhat Protestant about the first kind of "not Sola Scriptura" and I am drawn to the Orthodox direction by the second kind of "not Sola Scriptura."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Duty to Live? This Saturday 1 April at the TC

If you are in Christchurch and have nothing planned for Saturday, why not come to this event ...



Yes, we have had feedback about the sub-title, "A Duty To Die?" and how it sounds like the event is pre-loaded in one direction. Well, the event isn't so. And, well, sub-titles which provoke reaction have done their job well!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On spirituality

Once again, looking at Psephizo, there is something to ponder. This time on spirituality and evangelicals.

Of particular interest, inter alia, is this observation from Alister McGrath:

"They [evangelicals] seem to assume that reading the Bible is unproblematic, and is in itself an adequate approach to spirituality."

So, reading the Bible: is that all there is to spirituality? (Assuming, of course, some prayer as well).

And, is reading the Bible unproblematic?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On ordination

Last Saturday Bishop Victoria Matthews ordained four deacons as priests. Four very fine people with whom it is my privilege to have involvement through my role as Director of Education for the Diocese.

It is over thirty years since I was ordained a deacon and later this year it will be thirty years since I was ordained priest. Looking back to those years I am very grateful for a strong sense of the call of God, catalysed by an evening with a friend and colleague in a parish in Timaru, en route to my final year at Knox Theological Hall in 1986. (That friend was at the ordination on Saturday!) I am also grateful for my two ordination retreats, the first conducted by the late Robin Smith and the second by Hugh Paterson. Through those retreats a sense of the width of the Anglican church into which I was being ordained was engendered. Also, a sense of the adventure of being a clergyperson made it all seem exciting. (Am I allowed to say that?)

Funnily enough, my curacy, in the Parish of Shirley, was very exciting. (Yes, I know. I got married during that time, and that was exciting, but I am thinking of a series of amazing pastoral encounters). Not today, but another day, perhaps in an autobiography, I will write more. Suffice to say here that I had a series of pastoral encounters which I thought indicated what all parish pastoral work was like. Actually, I later discovered, not every parish is the same, and no parish since has been quite as exciting and interesting as Shirley was in those years.

Something which had nothing to do with the Parish of Shirley per se, but in which the character of that parish played a part, was an ongoing debate in the then Diocesan Ministry Committee to which I was appointed as a younger clergyperson. In essence the debate concerned whether ordination was functional or ontological.  Had I been ordained to fulfil a function in the life of the church? If so then I had been admitted to a particular order of ministry, certain functions to fulfil.

Or, was I a different kind of person in the church? Through ordination had God changed me? Not simply a change of status, Peter the layperson to Peter the clergyperson, but a change in some other way. I cannot now remember whether the ontologists among the committee defined that change but I suppose it was in the sense of being a person through whom God worked in certain ways, not least to effect change in the elements of bread and wine brought to the priest for consecration to become the body and blood of Christ. But I also recall some sense in which the ontological change was about Peter the person becoming Peter the pastor, especially equipped by God to bring God to people.

At the time I was a vigorous supported of functionality. Apart from my general evangelical commitments leaning that way, the Parish of Shirley was a low church, evangelical parish (still is!) and together in that parish we held that all were ministers of the gospel, all were filled and equipped by the Spirit and, frankly, why couldn't laypersons preside at the eucharist? (Recall, older members of the Diocese of Christchurch reading here, that the 1980s was a period when the Diocese seriously commissioned research into lay presidency).

Well, life has moved on. Perhaps I do not get out enough, but I do not hear people hereabouts talking about ontological v functional priesthood, nor do I hear calls for a new consideration of lay presidency. Nevertheless even if the question of ontology or functionality is not being discussed I do not think the question has gone away. I am sure, for instance, that it sat with us on Saturday as catholic, evangelical and moderate congregations of the Diocese came together.

What about my own views?

I think I would be less vigorously in favour of pure functionality against arguments for ontology. But not so much because I have become a partial let alone complete ontologist regarding ordination. More because I recognise the mysteries of God's workings. God is up to something in (all) people's lives, and some specific somethings are being worked out in those who are ordained, somethings which contribute to the life of the body of Christ.

Actually, I think what I am confident of is this: all ontological change in an ordained person is like salvific change in every believer. God graciously initiates his work in us, but we keep facing pivotal moments when we choose to "work out our salvation/ordination". The work of the Spirit in ordination can be quenched ... or allowed to flow into every part of our being.

Monday, March 27, 2017

One of the great theological mysteries

It is pretty uncontroversial to say something like this: the greatest theological mystery is the Trinity. But on the basis of this book review, I wonder if equal or close equal in mystery is the question of salvation.

Recently here I raised some questions about the Epistle to the Romans and what its central concern is. A good debate ensued. Critical to all debates on Romans (and Galatians) is the question of God's grace, our salvation, becoming right with God and continuing to live in a right relationship with God. In those posts I touched on the debate engendered by the so-called New Perspective on Paul (NPP).

As that debate rages on in scholarship (and also in approaches preachers are taking to preaching Pauline epistles), it is obvious that the opportunity is ripe for some kind of bridging between the NPP and the "old perspective". John Barclay's recent book Paul and the Gift is the best candidate I know of to be that bridge.

Accordingly, I encourage you to read the review by Tim Foster (who teaches Down Under at Ridley College, Melbourne).

Not only does he question whether this book is "that bridge", he also lays out beautifully and simply the complex thesis which Barclay advances.

And as he does so, Foster sets out the great theological dilemma of understanding salvation by grace. What does grace expect of us after we are saved (or, if you like, as we are being saved)?

Fascinatingly, the answer involves compliments to Calvinism ...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Where do we meet God? Special Aotearoa reflection

Recently Ian Paul, blogger at Psephizo, visited our fair shores. I knew this from a Tweeted photo sent by Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley who met with Ian and his wife in Hamilton a week or two back.

In his latest post Ian reflects on the question of whether God meets us in special places, beginning with a reflection on encountering special/sacred sites for Maori.

Please comment on his reflections at his post (here).

But more general comments regarding sacred spaces are welcome here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

It is all happening

To be honest, I have little to say today. What is worth thinking about are some comments I have just posted to the previous post, comments which illuminate the possibilities when we think theologically with theo-logic rather than theologically with today's-thinking-logic.

But, if it interests you, today has possibilities to reflect on tomorrow: a training day followed by an ordination of four deacons who will be priested.

There is a cricket test starting.

A quick glimpse of a headline suggests Trump cannot get the new health care bill over the line.

See you soon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

More on the Sheffield Debacle

Excellent points made here at Episcopal Cafe re the recent controversy over the appointment of Philip North to be Bishop of Sheffield (subsequently withdrawn from by Philip North himself).

We can be all things to all Anglicans - sort of - but, actually, there are "limits to diversity", toleration within certain degrees only. As English Baptists and Dissenters once found out.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wellington Episcopal Movements

Announced yesterday, Ellie Sanderson will be the new Assistant Bishop of Wellington (consecration, 2 June 2017).

But note in the article mention of another "episcopal movement" in the Diocese, the move of Diocesan Bishop Justin Duckworth to Whanganui (northern part of the Diocese). (Ellie Sanderson will be based in Wellington city).

This represents a striking initiative on the part of a Diocesan Bishop, possibly unknown in the 20th and 21st centuries in our church, to move residence from the cathedral city to another location in order to advance the mission of the church.

We keep saying if we do things the same as we have always done before we will get the same results.

While I am not entirely convinced of the truth of that statement (because faithfulness over time can lead to eventual fruitfulness, cf another mantra, vicars need to stay in their parishes at least seven years to see numerical growth  ...), I suggest + Justin is to be applauded for initiating a new direction in his episcopal leadership of the Diocese.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I thank God for Thomas Cranmer

Yesterday was the day we Protestants remembered one of our favoured saints. No, wait, that doesn't read quite right.

Yesterday was the day we Catholic [Anglicans] remembered one of our favourite Protestant saints. Also, no, wait, that doesn't read quite right.

Let's try again. The middle way. Yesterday was the anniversary of Thomas Cranmer's death.

I thank God for Thomas Cranmer.

There are many things we can name about TC with thankfulness: his example, his humility, his ability, his survivability (until that fateful day).

But perhaps one thing stands out with Thomas Cranmer: he had a way with words. Wordsmith. Poet. Liturgist. He did things with words which few have done. Namely, written words which have been used, said, cited, repeated, and, still, in the face of updates and revisions, used, said, cited, and repeated for nearly 500 years.

Here is C. S. Lewis on Cranmer:

First he notes:
"Thomas Cranmer's great achievements as a translator are sunk in the corporate anonymity of the Book of Common Prayer." 
Secondly he observes his deficiency, apart from the Prayer Book achievement:
"the finished product, except in the Prayer Book, is so severely utilitarian that we might not have suspected any conscious concern for style in the author." 
Thirdly he highlights his clarity:
[Writing about his Homilies] "They aim neither at subtlety nor eloquence. Cranmer's only concern is to state an agreed doctrine with the least possibility of misunderstanding ... there is hardly a single sentence that leaves us in doubt of its meaning."
[pp. 194-95, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (OUP, 1954)]

So Cranmer gave expression to the newly reformed faith of the Church in England as it became the Church of England. Expression through liturgy. Exposition through doctrine. Memorable words, clear sentences.

What is our faith as Christians if not a matter of words, words which tell the truth, words which proclaim good news. Words which tell us both how we might live and what we might die for, without regret or being in vain.

Cranmer gave us Anglicans the words we needed to express our distinctive faith even as that faith was continuous with the faith received through Scripture and the ancient fathers.

I thank God for Thomas Cranmer!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (C)

With two posts below in view, what is the greatest question Lambeth 2020 could address?

No. It is not whether Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump. It is not even whether Trump is like the Worst Ever Thing To Happen To The Western World.

It concerns God's Will In The Long Run

In the long run, however we interpret the long narrative arcing through Scripture, from Eden to Paradise, earth then heaven or heaven on earth (lookin' at you Tom Wright), this is God's will:

that God is in communion with God's people and that people is a single body of humanity.

There are no separate areas in heaven for Catholics and Protestants, for men and women, for the former masters and the former slaves. One people. One. That's the meaning of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5), ut unim sint (John 17), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), the communistic vision of the early church (Acts 2, 4) and the glorious vision of many tribes and languages gathered as one humanity in God's presence (Revelation 7).

Whether we focus on the prayer at the heart of the Lord's Prayer, Your Kingdom Come (OK, especially for some readers and for the CofE, Thy Kingdom Come) or on the kernel of the theology of Ephesians ("a plan ... to unite all things in [Christ]") there is one will of God in the long run: one communion, one people, one God.

That's why Trump is so dangerous: he is a divider not a uniter. That's why we are right to be wary of Putin: nationalism has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. That's why ISIS is simply evil: it maims and kills "the other."

So the greatest question Lambeth 2020 as our Anglican Vatican 2 for the 21st century could ask is this:

How can the Anglican Communion bear witness to the will of God for all humanity?

There are many supplementary questions but this overarching question is vital. The church does not exist for itself but for God and for God's will. And God's will is greater than the church, it is a will for all humanity. Our task in bearing witness to this will includes calling people to God, calling people to repent of all sin (for that distorts and disrupts God's plan), calling people to forgive and to be forgiven

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (B)

What if Anglicans had a conference the equivalent of the one Pope John XXIII called, known now as Vatican 2, which discussed a range of topics?

The topics, except That Topic, which involve our Anglican Communion response to the post-modern world.

Topics whose discussion involve strengthening the Anglican Communion.

That conference could be Lambeth 2018 2020, which ++Welby is in the process of designing/calling into being. Yes, yes, I know, we all want a laity/clergy/bishops conference of Anglicans. But can we not trust our bishops? You know, the ones we elected because we thought they were trustworthy!

What might we usefully discuss? Here be some thoughts. Some not original but sourced from commenter here (see beginning of yesterday's post). You make yours in the comments ... we might yet get a (C) post.

Caveat: I know that most if not all of what follows is "Western" in outlook whereas the Communion is "Western," "African," "Asian," "Oceania," etc.

Some pretty big picture stuff

What shifts in the tectonic plates of culture are taking place? What responses are appropriate for Christians, for churches, for Anglican churches? What responses are sustainable? Are we entering an epoch like the Dark Ages for which the "Benedict Option" us required?

Do we concentrate on making the church truly Christian in a post-Christian age, and worry less about evangelization/Christianization?

(Do we understand the tidal wave of hostile post-Christianity which is bearing down on the West? See, for instance, this article about the "Benedict Option" and the trickle down effects of post-Christianity in our academies. H/T B. Black.)

What is the gospel? What is "good news" for the world today?

Is its core point of connection with this post-Christian world "justification by faith"? (What was going on in 1517 which made that pertinent and is 2017 the same kind of era?)

Or is it John's Gospel's cri de coeur that abundant life is available through Christ?

Luke's emphasis, is that the better connection to our hurting world, that God loves the last, least and lost?

Perhaps Matthew comes into play: the blessed life lies inside God's kingdom, secured through recognition of our poverty of spirit and sustained through obedience to Jesus' ethics of the kingdom?

Wow, imagine an Anglican version of Vatican 2 which aggiornamentoed (updated) our understanding of the gospel, precisely by engaging with the aggiornamento of the NT documents themselves as they translated the gospel of Jesus for the new worlds into which the first Christians migrated!

Useful stuff

A strength of the Anglican way is the ways within its ways: evangelical, catholic, liberal, (in our case) Maori, Pasefika pathways. Woven together these strands make us stronger.

But what does it mean to be (say) a catholic Anglican in the 21st century (cue discussion of rites, lace, divides between "modern" and traditional catholics, etc)? How can catholic Anglicanism be the best catholic Anglicanism? What specific charisms does it offer the Communion?

I have a specific, tribal concern for Anglican evangelicalism. 1517/2017 Reformational celebrations highlight that concern for me which I put like this here: how can we evangelicals look forwards as much as we look backwards as we promote gospel, Scripture, doctrine and liturgy? An alternative way of saying this is this: if Luther and Cranmer (respectively)  catalysed the transformation of German and English medieval churches (weighted towards works rather than grace, guilt rather than peace, transubstantiation rather than transformation, Latin Scripture/liturgy), notably ending with churches speaking their own indigenous languages, who are our Luthers and Cranmers today? What is the work they need to do to translate the gospel into the language of post-Christianity?

To give a specific example: when both Luther and Cranmer highlighted the importance of justification by faith and not by works, their renewed understanding of the gospel scratched the itch of medieval Christianity which weighted achievement of salvation towards our works and away from Christ's work. That itch no longer exists in the world around us. (It can exist within the church!) What itch is it that 21st century Luthers and Cranmers need to discern in order for their new scratch to relate to it?

There are various "dittos" in this section so that we could do with a Vatican 2-style Anglican Lambeth Conference which looks at science, at social ethics and social justice.

A pretty big picture issue 

Then, surely, such a conference needs to re-look at what it means to be "Anglican Communion." Great idea in theory - the best idea. Interdependency. What is not to like about such ecclesiology? But why is it not proving a great idea in practice? What might we do to ensure that we are what we say we are? That the label on the tin matches the contents within?

Yes, that could mean renewed discussion of "the Covenant." But it could also mean looking at the current Instruments? Are they fit for purpose? Do we need an ABC who has less responsibilities within the CofE?

All of this is worth doing because of the biggest picture of them all ...

God's will in the long run

Let's leave that to tomorrow. Today's time remaining is pressing against today's To Do List!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (A)

Let's join two notes together.

One is this report of the Lambeth Design Group meeting to plan Lambeth 2018 2020 [H/T R Smith]. The other is a suggestion from a commenter here.

The combo goes like this: what if Anglicans had a conference the equivalent of the one Pope John XXIII called, known now as Vatican 2, which discussed a range of topics?

(Except the You Know What topic which is consuming energy, time and affectionate bonds. Also out of bounds here during Lent 2017.)

Yes, even better could be a Pan Protestant Conference which offers a Protestant aggiornamento (you may need to look that word up! But it is a vital word for gospel minded people today.)

What topics, you ask?

The topics, except That Topic, which involve our Anglican Communion response to the post-modern world.

Topics whose discussion involve strengthening the Anglican Communion.

The Communion, let us never forget, which many Anglicans prior to our current woes thought the ace means of representing the best of "church" in the world: an interdependent communion of churches, not tied to a hierarchy like Rome, better bound together than the Eastern Orthodox churches, faithful to God's Being in Communion. A potent model for fissiparous Protestant churches to consider following. Worth strengthening!

I will develop thoughts on these topics further tomorrow. But suffice for today to say that I continue to be overwhelmed by the state of the world and underwhelmed by many (sincere, intentional, hard working) efforts to relate the gospel of Christ to that state.

Need, meet solution? Itch, meet scratch?

More tomorrow ...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Troubling reading

This Atlantic article entitled "America's Empty Church Problem" and "Breaking Faith" is sobering, highlighting both a turn in the fortunes of the West's Christian "powerhouse" in terms of Christianity's popularity within a great nation as well as consequences for "identity" and Trumpian politics.

It is quite a long read, but, hey, its Saturday ...

Friday, March 17, 2017

Death and Lent

In a sense death stalks Lent. We joke about giving up chocolate for Lent but Lent is a season precisely because Jesus gave up his life. At the end of Lent Jesus dies. And giving up chocolate is merely symbolic of the deeper giving up of our own lives to follow Christ. Only in giving up our lives now, the gospel says, in taking up our cross daily, are we ready for our own dying, whenever that may be.

I want to welcome Ron Hay's blog Castle Hill Musings to my ADU sidebar. Ron is an actively retired priest in our Diocese who lives at Castle Hill (when not actively helping out parishes elsewhere), as beautiful a part of Canterbury as you can find anywhere else in our fair province.

But his latest post is poignant, recounting the lives of two friends who have died. Many people in Christchurch/Canterbury knew Jeremy Clark and Tim Pidsley. I wasn't able to get to the memorial service for Jeremy but I am told over 300 people were present - remarkable for someone who has lived in england for a long time!

Praise God death does not have the last word over life! Ron's post ends with our Christian hope, the hope that comes because Lent gives way to Easter:

"With the loss of Jeremy and Tim, the world seems a poorer place. Yet the quality of their lives and the reality of their faith were such that I am convinced that death does not have the last word over them.  At Jeremy’s service, his father read the well-known passage from John 11 in which Jesus comes to Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus has died and says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). I’m a Christian because I believe that Christ, not death, has the final word over human destiny."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And then there is this controversy

Let's move right away from particularly Anglican concerns for a day ...

One of the greatest stories told about Jesus is one we can be least clear and sure about whether it actually rests on historical fact, that Jesus had such a particular encounter with a woman, the so-called Pericopae Adulterae or Woman Caught in Adultery, most frequently published these days at John 7:53-8:11.

This post is NOT about sexual ethics (let's have a continuing Lenten Fast on those matters) but about the fascination of the quest to find out - if possible - just when and how the scribes of the NT manuscripts came upon and then included the Pericopae Adulterae in their scriptural activities.

On the one hand this quest is a quest of textual critical detectives, working from a limited range of manuscripts in which the PA occurs (and, for that matter, another range of manuscripts in which the PA is not found) and a certain amount of confusion as to who copied from whom and when that took place.

On the other hand, it is a matter of controversy at present as many modern publications of the Bible do, the PA in the same typeface as passages either side, with only a footnote to indicate that just maybe the PA is not original to any early copy of John's Gospel or for that matter any other manuscript of NT writings.

One tiny aspect of this quest is the focus of this Evangelical Textual Criticism post: how the PA became part of the Syriac NT.

Included in the post is this delightful picture:

The writing within the red line enclosure is described as: "Marginal note in CCM 64, f. 79r, (17th cent.) explaining the origin of the Pericope Adulterae."

I often think that the power of the PA as a story lies in the fact that whether it is original or not to the stories of Jesus told after his death and resurrection it makes us readers sure that this is what Jesus would have said if he had been confronted with such a challenge. It is a convincing story about Jesus and that, presumably, is why it has been incorporated into NT manuscripts over the centuries and continues to be published, even within the main body of the gospel of John and not (as some have done) as an appendix.

But is it a genuinel, original, historical part of the biography of Jesus?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can the Body of Christ flourish on the table of controversy?

Whatever we make of the Philip North controversy in the CofE, it is spawning some deep reflections about the nature of the church and of the Anglican church in particular.

Here are two quite different reflections ...

That the deeper difficulty with Philip North's ministry is that he really believes what he believes and it is not particularly modernist!

That human flourishing in the church means we long for each other's theology to change and the question is whether the Anglican church to which we belong permits the conversation with each other to continue.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New bishops for our church

Unusually on Saturday, perhaps even a first ever for our church, we both consecrated a new bishop and nominated a person to become a new bishop.*

The consecration was of Don Tamihere and there is an excellent story with great photos here.

At the same time in Wellington their synod met to nominate a person to be an assistant bishop for Wellington. Assuming our bishops have agreed the confirm the nomination, the name now circulates among members of General Synod for their approval. We should know the nominee has become the elected assistant bishop sometime in the next few weeks.

*Clearly it is desirable if possible to have consecrations when all bishops can gather for the occasion so it is, presumably, one of those difficult to co-ordinate diary things that meant the Bishop of Wellington was tied to his synod when other bishops were consecrating in the East Cape!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Good disagreement or good discrimination? [Updated]

There is a row going on in the dear old CofE.

I have yet to read anywhere that this row is due to the dear old CofE's continued and persistent refusal to permit a modicum of democracy in their oligarchical CNC appointment process for bishops. Why can the CofE not have diocesan elections for bishops like the rest of the provinces they once colonised? Is democracy too new for the CofE to get its head around? Actually, despite the fact the democracy is quite ancient - thnx Greeks - anyone also watching the blathering and blithering of the Blairs, Majors and what have yous about resisting the referendum will of the people to Brexit, can quite understand that English-culturally the CofE is unable to accept democracy into its midst!!

For those not following the current life of the CofE a week or two back the row has been thus:

(1) Philip North, a suffragan bishop was announced as the next Bishop of Sheffield
(2) People objected strenuously, led by Martyn Percy (see below for example of a Tweet from him - examine his Twitter feed etc), because Philip North has public views about the nature of priesthood.
Summarised his views are: women can't be priests or bishops, they just can't.
In case you ask, there is a capacity within the CofE to have suffragan bishops who believe North believes because suffragan bishops are not quite the focus of unity that a diocesan bishop is.
(3) Some people, including women bishops plaintively reminded everyone that the CofE had agreed a few years back to Five Principles in order that everyone, for and against the ordination of women as priests and bishops, could mutually flourish.
(4) In administrative speak, Philip North's appointment was just an implementation of the policy.
(5) In Sheffield it was not seen that way, least of all by women priests there, not feeling particularly keen - understandably - to have a bishop who did not think they were priests.
(6) Everyone, natch (naturally), said that Philip North is a top bloke, fine priest, real concern for the poor and downtrodden, will be great in every way except re ordaining women, etc.
(7) Unfortunately a legitimate questioning of whether such an appointment really, really could lead to mutual flourishing, to say nothing of unity in a diocese, got overlain with personal abuse of Philip North.
(8) Late last week Philip North announced that he would stand aside from the appointment.
(9) Natch everyone said they were praying for Philip North and sending him nice cards.
(10) Also natch every pundit expressed their views (see Thinking Anglicans here and there and over there).
(11) I am a pundit so here is my ...

Actually, first up, three views from three English pundits, one of whom takes one of the others to task: Elaine Storkey, Jeremy Pemberton and Savi Hensman. These give a flavour of the post-stepping aside debate which is more or less about "What is the CofE becoming?"

In a pithy phrase or two, Martyn Percy offers the core of his concern: the CofE can be a church with good disagreement in its midst but it cannot be a church with good discrimination [against women].




There is also an astute question about the actuality of the CofE implied in an observation in this post by Janet Morley:

"If traditionalists and the rest of the church are now equivalent groups, then the Church of England has effectively agreed that it simultaneously does and does not recognise the validity of the ordination of women as priests and bishops and the sacraments they celebrate. This is either a total incoherence or we are now not a single Church at all but an ecumenical partnership."

Probably we need to say "partnerships" plural! We certainly have a few of those, formally and informally, in ACANZP ...

UPDATE: Here is a slice of Philip North's own views of how things might have worked out when he addressed clergy in the Sheffield Diocese before he made the decision to withdraw.

Here are my views. If you want to comment on the first three, please do so. DO NOT COMMENT on (4) - post Lent we can come back to that and expand upon it.

(1) I am amazed as a Down Under Anglican that I have yet to find a word written about the CofE's appointment process which denies full synodical involvement of dioceses in the appointment of their diocesan bishops. Would it not make a difference if the Diocese of Z, in full democratic, electoral synodical mode had elected Philip North, knowing his views etc, but definitively determining as a whole body that he should be their bishop?

(2) I am on the side of those in this particular CofE debate who see mutual flourishing as possible in many spheres of its life but not in the appointment of diocesan bishops who do not recognise women as priests or bishops. A diocesan bishop is a focus of unity. When a diocese has women priests how can they and those who believe they are priests unify around their diocesan when he does not believe they are priests? In theory it is possible for unity but the question is begged by such appointment, and also by Philip North's own remarks, linked to above, What if the clergy and laity of the Diocese are not united in receiving such appointment? (Cue my remarks about the importance of elections over appointments).

(3) Thus I am forced by logic to ask whether ++Sentamu and ++Welby have made a mistake in permitting this appointment to be announced? Did they not think - thinking men that they are - that this would inevitably lead to a lack of unifying reception?

FOR LATER POST-LENT DISCUSSION

(4) Even a lowly technician within the rocket science industry can see implications from this debate for the You Know What future ... here I simply acknowledge that. Post later in April or May about that. Do not comment, do not imply in your comment ... "DELETE" is the moderator's option!