Friday, August 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: which party supports you?

The other day I heard about a site called "I side with" (NZ election version here).

It helps people like me who get too concerned about personalities (English, Ardern, Flavell, Fox, yay; Winston Peters, nay) to focus on policy. By answering the questions, the site (having predigested policy statements) lets you know which party fits your views best.

Now, the other day when I first took the quiz, it came up with one set of answers. On Saturday I revised my answers in a few cases and also found a whole lot of new questions (participants can suggest new questions). This was what was returned:

So, on the one hand, this is not terrifically helpful to me, because of the closeness of scores for the first five parties. Intriguingly I have the Greens and ACT scoring pretty closely, even though they are generally poles apart on policy!

On the other hand, given that my answers are unlikely to be significantly different from most Christians (a bit morally conservative, fiscally responsible, environmentally friendly, refugee and immigrant welcoming, etc) it is illuminating how many choices a Christian has in this election about which party is broadly supportive of Christian values in respect of politics.

I will keep thinking, evaluating, discerning. I am sure you will too. And I will take the I side with quiz again before 23 September 2017!

Monday, August 14, 2017

New Option for Synod re Christchurch Cathedral

Our Synod will be considering a third option. Stuff carries a report here. Taonga reports here.

Option A = reinstatement
Option B = new build
Option C = give the cathedral to the government (i.e. to the people of New Zealand).

I have pulled out of proposing the motion to the Synod because I do not support Option C and could not speak in favour of it. (I am quite happy with reinstatement or a new cathedral so could speak in favour of both as the motion originally proposed.)

This week we have three Area meetings in order to discuss this new development (along with some other late Synod business).

I may or may not post my reasons for opposing Option C subsequent to those meetings.

You may or may not wish to comment here on Options A or B or C (or propose D ...)

Dean of Christ Church in Christchurch

These past few days Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church, Oxford (college, cathedral) has been visiting Christchurch, NZ, with his wife Emma Percy.

I was lucky to hear Martyn speak four times - two lectures, Evensong sermon last evening and a seminar following. Across these talks, Martyn displayed scholarship, theological acumen, insight into cultural change, and a general flair for putting things in such a way that made us - certainly me - think.

We do not often have theologians of such calibre in our neck of the woods, so it has been a treat.

Martyn is a Tweeter and a story of his visit, via photographs and brief comments on Twitter can be found here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Down Under Views on Marriage, and more notes from England

From Auckland, and from what could be called the progressive wing of our church, Helen Jacobi, Vicar of St Matthews-in-the-City, offers her view on the working group proposal. SPOILER ALERT: Helen's view is polar opposite to "beautiful accommodation"! Please discuss her response on her site so she can directly engage with your comments. I will not accept comments here which directly engage with what she has written.

Belatedly, I have discovered that, from Christchurch, Bryden Black, regular commenter here, has posted a response to the proposal on the AFFIRM website, here. As it requires a Log In to make comments there, and because Bryden is a regular reader here, I am prepared to take comments which directly engage with his post. SPOILER ALERT: Bryden is uncertain whether it is a "beautiful accommodation" or not!

Then from England:

Thinking Anglicans notices what is going on here.

From the TA site I draw your attention to a Church Times article about what is being proposed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Two Down Under Views on Marriage, note from England

So, over in the West Island, things are reaching boiling point re whether there will or will not be a postal referendum, referendum, parliamentary bill, agreed to by senate or not, on, you know, that thing we in NZ actually managed to decide in a comparatively peaceful and orderly manner, same-sex marriage. But this is not time to boast. [That can wait till next Saturday night :).] Frankly, I am a bit confused. I think I understand one point: proponents of same-sex marriage are against a referendum on the matter, but not because a referendum (postal or otherwise) will go against change to the status quo, but because the accompanying debate will be full of homophobia.

Anyway, any Ozzie light shed on the matter of the politics of same-sex marriage, is welcome here, but what I do see in the public domain are two presentations on marriage, the existence of both views highlighting that Australian Christians are not agreed on what constitutes marriage.

One is by Jason Goroncy, a Baptist/Presbyterian theologian: A Christian theology of marriage.

The other is by Michael Jensen: I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I am not a bigot).

I am citing these articles here, partly for possible future reference, partly because they represent for me some fine, careful Christian thinking about marriage. Yet, in my view, neither is completely satisfactory! Briefly, Goroncy omits discussion of Genesis 1-2; Jensen does not recognise the possibility that there is a distinction between 'contractual' marriage and 'conjugal' marriage, which in turn means it is possible for parliaments to change the terms of the former (as it often does re any law concerning contracts) while leaving untouched the permanent terms of the latter. (See, e.g. this book).

Finally, a note from the Church of England, from the Church of England Evangelical Council in particular, via Thinking Anglicans, here. Clearly some positioning is going on with respect to how the future might work out, following the recent General Synod of the CofE, which somewhat meekly bent itself in a progressive direction without, seemingly, much resistance from conservatives.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: martyred by the media?

This election is becoming truly messy. Less than ten days ago we had key opposition leaders, Andrew and deputy Jacinda (Labour), and Metiria as one of the Greens' co-leaders. Now Jacinda and deputy Kelvin have replaced Andrew and Jacinda for Labour. Metiria is gone this afternoon from her Greens co-leadership role. Just this morning I listened to her give a very good interview on Morning Report, calmly telling the world she was going nowhere.

Now, no one is sorry for Andrew Little. Performing badly in the polls, he had to go. And Jacinda taking over is absolutely the right and correct thing because in the first poll since those bad polls, she has added some 10% to Labour's figures, putting them into the mid 30s for the first time, well, it seems for ever, and some 20% to her own personal figure as preferred PM, coming in a msidgeon under Bill English's figure.

But Metiria? Despite TV3 trumpeting otherwise tonight, that their poll drove her out, Radio NZ claims the credit, citing a disgruntled family member, aghast at Metiria's "fake news" about her personal situation some 25 years ago. Either way, a theme in Twitter tonight is that she is a martyr for the cause of poor beneficiaries in NZ, and the media have cruelly hounded her from parliament. Others are not at all sad. Seemingly ignoring the other lying, dissembling politicians around NZ and the world (Hi, Donald!), to say nothing of all those white, male, business fraudsters who seem to stay out of jail for amounts of other people's money far in excess of what Metiria would have defrauded the taxpayer, they see Metiria as getting what she deserves. Or will do when she is charged by the authorities for her self-admitted fraud.

It is easy to be aggressively against Metiria - her story has become complicated compared to its initial simplicity and heartstrings' appeal. And it seems to have involved less than full honesty in the present, whatever confession of dishonesty in the past it may have involved: was the 1990s situation for the Turei family actually one of desperation about feeding a child, or simply desperation for financial stability? But is that temptation to cast stones of condemnation and criticism something a Christian should resist? We are called to not judge, to not cast stones, to forgive. We are called to side with the poor, to work for justice and to challenge the rich lest they make their wealth a millstone around their necks.

I agree with Finlay Macdonald that some political foolishness on Metiria and her party bosses' part has occurred, but I admire Metiria for her courage in drawing attention to the hard time poor people have, both beneficiaries and those on low wages.

Temptations to cheat "the system" must be extraordinary when you are anxious about feeding your children. Temptations to take a loan from loan sharks to help one's children - perhaps with sports fees or new shoes or a treat on a birthday - must be difficult to resist. It is all very well saying that if the beneficiaries are not poor relative to workers then there will be no incentive to work, but does "the system" have to ask so many intrusive questions of people who, in many cases, have not made a career choice to become a beneficiary.

Mind you, a national conversation about whether we treat the poor in NZ well should also ask whether, just possibly, a rogue few beneficiaries rorting that system have contributed to ever increasing rules, regulations and restrictions on all beneficiaries?

But, my sense, prompted by Metiria Turei's brave but ultimately tragic step into the limelight, is that we taxpayers might ask whether we could more generously support our government loosening the purse strings and loosening the ropes of regulations in order to be a fairer society. Is there any particular reason why Christians should not be pushing that conversation along?

An irony of the messy situation our election season is experiencing, in my view, is that Metiria Turei asked questions which are the natural provenance of the Labour Party and they, in tonight's poll, are (bad pun) the beneficiaries of her work.

I wonder, conversely, whether the Greens will question themselves over what has become a debacle for them. Their natural provenance is care for the environment. The Lord of creation knows we need a huge kick up the behind on that score. (Anyone in Canterbury travelled up to Hanmer recently, and observed the preparations for dairying on Ngai Tahu land just north of the Hurunui River? Where are all those nitrates going to run to? Hint: it will be downhill towards the river and not uphill towards the mountains).

The Greens are our conscience on that matter, and very good at it too. And, in my view, they should be available to be that environmental conscience for any left or right government. Their combination of Marxism and ecology has kept them in opposition every year they have had members in parliament. Time for a divorce? Marx won't mind remarrying Labour. Developing businesses in a clean environment is a tough, complex problem ($15 cabbages, anyone?). It would be good for NZ if the Greens focused solely on that.

Finally, in really great news, New Zealand First dropped in the poll tonight.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Confession is good for the soul [UPDATED]

An internet joy is finding posts which illuminate the human condition or shed light on what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ.

Two read by me recently are by Ron Hay (superb Kiwi writer) and ++Rowan Williams (not a Kiwi, but we won't hold that against him). Both are somewhat confessional pieces.

A Special Spiritual Memoir

A marriage of war and peace

The first, by Ron Hay, but drawing on Lewis Smedes, challenges any simple adherence to the beautifully coherent but quite wrong theology of Calvin. Smedes offers a beautiful confession of his faith.

The second, by ++Rowan Williams, reviewing a volume of published letters by Lev and Sonya Tolstoy, challenges any simple adherence to an otherwise greatly gifted human being, no matter what spiritual illumination they offer. Williams offers a confession that saintly figures in the church are not actually saintly (if by that we mean closer to perfection than we are).

Why not also mention this lovely story of our latest female bishop, Ellie Sanderson's conversion!

This lovely interview and obituary by Peter Fitzsimons, my favourite atheist sports journalist and general opinionist. Yeah, I know he is an Aussie! But here he writes about one of the great Aussie sportswomen.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Which Peter is muddled in his moderate thinking?

What do you think?

Archbishop Peter Jensen has written a stirring, well argued, impeccably logical article entitled "The Mythical Middle."

It is completely obvious that he has another Peter in his sights. :)

Especially with his concluding sentence:

"Be careful of the Mythical Middle – it is in fact a Misleading Muddle!"

But I am wondering if ++Peter is as muddled as that other Peter.

I say that because ++Peter seems to think that a church cannot entertain lots of moderates in a middling if not muddling position. It is bound to end in disaster, seems to be the implication of what he writes.

But when he writes these words below, I feel he is an accurate, sympathetic historian of a certain church I know well, which has lasted with its over population of muddled moderates for centuries!

"In this way, you can avoid being ‘an extremist’. Of course, ‘extremist’ is such an ugly word that no one wishes to accept the label.  We much prefer to have the good judgement that enables us to be in the middle of any dispute, seeing the good on both sides but not turning the argument into a matter of mutually exclusive choice between two options.
Notice how the strategy of creating a false middle occurs. It appeals to the natural human desire to be supposedly rational in thought, calm, and fair. There is a belief that the truth in any matter is not at either ‘extreme’, but inevitably in the middle and if we occupy the middle ground we cannot go too far wrong.People with a product to sell often play off this instinct.  They don’t offer us two sizes of coffee cup – they offer three, knowing that most of us will choose the middle and pride ourselves on being moderate. What they do not tell us is that the middle choice suits them commercially as this is where the best profit margin will be.But it is not just in buying and selling. How many times are we told even in Christian communications that we have a choice between the over-emphasis of one side and the over-emphasis of another and that if we stick to the convenient middle, all will be well? Think. What if the truth is actually on the boundary and not in the middle?  What if there is no middle, but the choice is binary, and the middle is a mythical middle?For example, imagine a denomination in which some ministers teach that Jesus was a merely good man and others teach that he is both true God and true man. Where is the moderate, middle view here? Would it be to say that Jesus is divine but not fully God? We can hear all the arguments in favour of this moderate position – but we know that it is actually heretical.By using the word ‘extremist’ for those who hold a strong point of view, who make a stand, we excuse ourselves from the need to think, to make a decision, to act. Or we give ourselves permission to bless what God calls sin because it is not the most extreme form of such an activity. Or we acquiesce without protest in the activities of others doing this, in our name."
Incidentally, after I drafted the above, I came across notice of this extraordinary John McArthur recipe for responding to a gay child. Is this the logical extension of ++Peter's non-muddled approach to sexuality?

ADDED LATER: The implication of ++Peter's GAFCON piece is that churches of like pure mindedness should stick together. But, here's the thing, no Anglican church is perfectly pure. Here is a disturbing report of a GAFCON province, the Anglican Church of Kenya, being found to have sacked priests without evidence for the canonical crime for which they were assumed guilty.

Friday, August 4, 2017

You have been warned

Understanding the state of things where people are involved is a very tricky business. That is an eternal truth and a global truth!

For Christians there is the added challenge of understanding who we are as Christian people, who we are in the midst of the society in which God has planted us, and what, if any, is the role we might play in the transformation of that society, or, indeed, ourselves as God's people.(An alternative being that we apathetically leave all change in the hands of God, or, only engage with the possibility of change via a strict life of active prayer and non-engagement with any other activism).

Into such musing we might read Ross Douthat (H/T Bowman Walton) who is a remarkable NYT columnist, never not worth reading!

This column focuses on American Catholicism and the Vatican's understanding of it. But it is not rocket science to make a translation into the Australian and New Zealand Down Under contexts. Especially in this week of the remarkable phenomenon of religion creeping into our Kiwi politics ... I refer to the various scapegoats roundabouts and to the extraordinary exercise in hagiography which our media embarked on when the Labour Party elected a new leader on Tuesday!

Thus Ross Douthat warns us to sharpen our thinking, to accurately discern the signs of the times and to do our research so that we can speak truthfully about the state of things where people are involved.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Update on Beautiful Anglican Accommodation Post

1. I discovered this morning some comments that had not been published (to various recent posts, including the "beautiful" Anglican accommodation post, 11 July 2017) ... now published.

2. That accommodation post is now "below the fold" and it may help you to get there by posting the link here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: what a difference a day makes! [UPDATED]

Wow. That old saying, A Week Is A Long Time In Politics, re-truthed this week as a couple of bad polls confirm that our Labour Party has been polling badly, and Andrew Little - bless him, decent man that he is - fell on his sword, stepped down as leader and nominated the obvious successor, Jacinda Ardern, to succeed him. Bang. Labour has a relatively inexperienced leader but a photogenic one (don't minimise the importance of that in our televisual age) and, much more importantly, a brilliant performer in the media. Jacinda is an eloquent, thinking quickly on her feet star and it is right and proper that she now leads the only serious alternative party of governance in our land. If Labour do not lead the government on 24 September 2017, they will do after the election in 2020. You can pretty much bet your house on that.

But what does all this mean for Christians contemplating who to vote for in this year's election? I suggest it means very little(bad pun!). While it matters that we have competent leadership, what matters more is what ideology drives the government of the day and thus what we theologically make of that ideology. Policy substance is more important for Christians electing a government than personality.

Sure, Jacinda may now make a play for some policy change that she wants to emphasise and to sell with her own cheerful ("relentlessly positive"), pleasing manner. But we should determine whether we will vote for the Labour Party on its policy first and on its leadership secondly. Ditto other parties.

I have my own views on what Labour Party policy would mean for our country if elected. Ditto other parties. My choice and yours is not much different today than yesterday. But it might be a little bit different in this way: if we reckon each party's policies are a mix of good, bad and indifferent, and if we reckon they are all (pluses and minuses added up) equally good or bad or simply indifferent, then it would be right and proper to think about the style of leadership of our future government. The "Jacinda-effect" might then kick in. So might, and especially for Christians, the Bill English effect (that he is a committed Christian and public with it).

On one matter of leadership I am prepared to be very public in my views about leadership: there are no circumstances in which I think Winston Peters would be a good Prime Minister for Aotearoa New Zealand (as some are calculating might happen). Of all the things a country might appreciate in its human leader, maverick tendencies are not one. Need I point you in a certain north-eastern direction to remind what a disaster having a maverick for a leader is?

UPDATE: I find my blogging colleague, Michael Reddell, at Croaking Cassandra makes a lot of sense here as he gives Jacinda Ardern and her party advice which could help elect them AND more importantly, help a huge number of Kiwis!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Beautiful Anglican proposal's shortcomings critically exposed

I actually find it quite amusing to have described the proposal before our church as "beautiful" and to find less the number of fingers on one hand of supporters for doing so.

A very sharp, thoughtful criticism of the proposal and of my response to it is made by eminent CofE theologian Martin Davie here.

I have a comment or two percolating in my mind, but you may have comments to make immediately!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Robed Anglican mission? (1)

Cricketers are not quite cricketers in my view when they dress in clothes not coloured white (with cream sweater permissible). However the T20 and 50 over games are still cricket so I tolerate the coloured "pyjamas" worn for such occasions.

Of course fine games of cricket are played with no uniform at all - beach cricket, backyard cricket, church picnic cricket, street cricket, school playground cricket. And all cricket is good! (I don't understand why Genesis did not tell us about its creation on the eighth day.)

The question of appropriate robes and proper "to robe or not to robe" church has been batted around a bit recently. Ian Paul urged mitres tossed overboard, Catholicity and Covenanted responded, as did Liturgy, then the CofE GS changed rules re robing, to which Liturgy responded (and related previous posts are here and here).

Here I do not want to engage directly with any of those posts/news and thus I may risk repeating fine points already made. But before going further I am delighted to share the following, apposite quote and wonder if you can guess about what period in modern Anglican life it was written [answer at bottom of post]:

""...Anglican clergy were spending more time and energy debating what robes they should wear than addressing the great issues of the day and their effect upon the church's ability to fulfill the Great Commission. This was largely due to the disturbing effects of the Oxford Movement, and the increasing defensiveness among evangelicals of all denominations, in the face of the new thinking that was threatening traditional interpretations of the Bible and the inerrancy of Scripture. Evangelicals generally retreated into an obdurate and non-academic literalism that was plainly indefensible and was a set-back to evangelism among the more educated classes.""

That is, any post about robes and Anglican life should not be about robes alone but about how we fulfill the Great Commission (and what role robes might play in that fulfillment).

A first observation then is that the Anglican church may involve robes but it is not constituted by them. We are constituted by the Great Commission - by Jesus gathering the disciples together who worshipped him and received instruction to convey his teaching into the world, baptising those who responded and wished to become disciples.

Of course this commission constitutes 'the church' and all churches which are part of the one church of Christ. Our specific distinction or charism as Anglicans is that we are a church of Word and Sacrament, expressed through liturgies which themselves are faithful words expressing the gospel of gracious salvation. Our liturgies, we implicitly if not explicitly claim, protect and safeguard the gospel which we preach. In particular they safeguard the gospel from the vagaries of individual interpretation.

When our liturgies are unfaithful to the gospel of grace, or, indeed, we ditch liturgies, we are less than Anglican. The role of Synods in setting liturgies is not to maintain some "fine Anglican liturgical" tradition (beautiful and wonderful though that may be) but to ensure that our liturgies express the good news of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of the Great Commission this includes liturgies which are accessible to as many people as possible.

In sum, from this first observation: as Anglicans we are committed to liturgical worship as part of our constitution in respect of the Great Commission.

The question of robes, then, is a question of whether robes are necessitated by our liturgical worship or not. (Here I raise the question in a general way. The rubrics of the agreed, common liturgy of ACANZP are clear: priests at eucharists are to be robed. In this canonical sense, a particular answer is given: robes are necessitated in some instances by our liturgical worship).

First, we can give a descriptive answer to the question - descriptive of actual Anglican practice. In my personal experience of Anglican liturgical worship, including eucharistic worship, in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the Church of England, robes are not necessary to liturgical worship. Across such churches we have robed leadership of worship accessed by many, including young people and we have unrobed leadership of worship accessed by many, including young people. (Though in the church I know best, here in these islands, my observation is that more under 40s attend non-robed led services than robed led services). Put another way, faithful, proper Anglican church life does not require robes when viewed from the most primary foundation for church life, more primary than the 39A, the Great Commission. They are bene esse not esse of the church (beneficial but not essential).

Secondly, we can give a theological answer to the question: robes are not required by any instruction of our Lord, or by his apostles, or by any implicit requirement from the essence of great liturgy (which is to offer words for worship which are faithful to the gospel).

I want to underline the point above by noting carefully that some aspects of robing seem to draw scriptural motivation from (say) Leviticus and the wonderful robing worn by priests and attendants in the ancient tabernacle and temple. But this has nothing to do with scriptural requirement. Read Hebrews, please, and recall the once and for all, final and complete sacrifice of Christ our Great High Priest. Nothing about our worship as people of the New Covenant requires any continuation of requirements of the Old Covenant.

What we can usefully ask is whether robing is beneficial and the answer to that is a resounding Yes.
But I am out of time and I shall try to find a moment of time to elaborate that answer.

The citation above is taken from the book by Clifford Hill - The Wilberforce Connection. It was emailed to me by a friend and I do not know which page number it is taken from.

Friday, July 21, 2017

2018 Holy Land (and Greece) Pilgrimage

I happily (and freely) advertise a new pilgrimage to the Holy Land tour led by Dean Mike and Patsy Hawke (with extra trip to Greece) in May 2018.

Details are here and here.

A promotional video is here.

Mike is one of our best known clergy in ACANZP (having recently concluded a travelling role with our Missions Board) and is currently Dean of Nelson Cathedral.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Public Theology this Sunday at the Transitional Cathedral

Next in our Theologians at the Cathedral series is Professor David Tombs, Professor of Public Theology at the University of Otago.

All are welcome to participate in Evensong at 5 pm during which David will preach. Then after light refreshments, David will lead a seminar on his topic until 7.30 pm conclusion.

A notice re topic etc and suitable for church bulletins this week is this:

"‘Theologians in the Cathedral’ seminar

This Sunday 23 July at 5pm, the ‘Theologians in the Cathedral’ seminar by Prof David Tombs is being held at the Transitional Cathedral:

‘The Abused Body of Christ: Why does naming Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse matter for Public Theology?’

All welcome."

Frankly I am not sure what the topic entails so I am eagerly looking forward to enlightenment!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flourishing through Bible Study

Recently Ian Paul through his blog Psephizo has generated a storm or two of controversy (e.g. #mitregate) and he has a stirring reflection/report on the recent CofE General Synod which seemed to be dominated by, er, one or two related issues.

I might yet come back to mitres and other clergy vestments (noting that the same General Synod resolved to permit greater freedom of clergy dress). But today I simply note to you a lovely guest post on Psephizo, by Richard Peers, a recent and well-received visitor in this country when he spoke at the Anglican Schools conference. Richard is Director of Education in the Diocese of Liverpool.

The post is on the value of participating in depth, academic Bible study conferences - a matter dear to my own heart - and its loveliness for me personally is that the conference he went to was at Tyndale House, Cambridge, a study centre and library it has been my privilege to visit on a number of occasions.

The last two paragraphs of the report make an important point in an era when we talk about the church "flourishing" and doing so precisely because we work on this flourishing occurring when we are acutely aware that our differences might inhibit it.

"I gained a great deal from the conference and would love to go again next year although I might be more comfortable with Biblical Theology than the very detailed work of New Testament. Tyndale is, of course, not my natural milieu but, as always, I was struck by the way in which orthodox Christian belief provides a deep fellowship. I met many people with whom I enjoyed talking and getting to know. It is probably just a personality thing—but I especially loved the lack of apparently clever cynicism that all too often pervades Anglican gatherings; there was no attempt at pretending other than that we were a group of people who love to talk about Scripture. There was no embarrassment, over meals or walking between sessions, at talking about this endlessly fascinating subject.

There is much talk in the Church of England about mutual flourishing. I spend a considerable amount of my time and energy trying to ensure that it is a reality. I am convinced that if it is to be real it must mean not that groups each flourish separately but that the ‘mutual’ means that we flourish because we gain from each other. I gained much from this conference and am grateful that I have had this enriching experience."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: the other "marriage" debate

There is a sea change going on in world politics, even amongst those nations full of climate change deniers! Previously unquestioned matters are now being changed without questions asked.

One such change is the (bad pun) coming up, that other "marriage" debate, the marijuana debate, about marijuana being made legal here and there. Actually, I am noticing that there is little debate. Articles in NZ media are mostly of the "look it does no harm and, better, when taken for medicinal purposes relieves pain and suffering." Despite my personal observation that marijuana advocates at promotional stalls seem to speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, there is little I can see in the media about the ill-effects of the drug.

Anyway, lest I give the impression I speak as some kind of expert, at this link is a considered piece with respect to the matter as it is being addressed in NZ these days.

Would you vote this election for a party which advocates for marijuana law reform?

Does it make a difference whether the policy is solely focused on medicinal use of marijuana?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lost (?) comments just published

Have discovered quite a few comments which had not been conveyed to me in the usual way by email so have published them now (relating a number of recent posts).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Confecting a Valid Eucharist


Recently the Vatican has been in the news for (according to headlines) banning the use of gluten-free bread at the Mass. Natch the reality is a bit more subtle than that. What the Vatican has done is clarify rules surrounding the bread to be used, in my words (1) not just any old bread from the supermarket (2) low-gluten may be used, where "low" equals some semblance of truth can be given to the description that it is bread made of wheat. Citing from the Cardinal Sarah letter:

"“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.  Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread”"

Now, whether this works for coeliac disease sufferers is something I am not qualified to comment on. Nor do I find sufficient details in this Stuff article about the current Catholic regulations in NZ re "gluten-free" wafers to work out whether or not those regulations are the same as what I have cited above or different.

Intriguingly, for me as an Anglican who is comfortable with grape juice being offered as an alternative to wine (for children, for alcoholics), the letter also speaks about the offering of grape juice instead of wine. But it is not the grape juice we Anglicans typically use when we use grape juice:

"“Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist”"

But mustum is "thick" grape juice, the result of the initial pressing of the grapes: juice, skin, seeds, stems crushed into a thick liquid with 7-23% solid matter. In other words, this is grape juice on the way to becoming wine, without fermentation, and not filtrated to get the watery juice we call grape juice. (Note to parishes which use blackcurrant juice rather than grape juice: you really, really ought not to do that!)

Juridical approach to Validity

What most interests me as an Anglican, however, about this letter, is the manner in which it represents one aspect of Roman thinking which, mostly, is very different to Anglican thinking. That is, a juridical approach to minute matters of pastoral care and theology. Coeliacs may like or lump the proscription of completely gluten-free bread. Valid bread is defined by law and not by description. The validity of the eucharist, on this thinking, is valid according to following Roman canon law and involves not only a validly ordained priest following a validly authorised liturgy but also validly acceptable bread and wine (or, in certain permitted-by-the-bishop circumstances, low gluten bread and/or mustum).

For Anglicans, I suggest we are happy to use any bread which is described as bread (gluten free, rye, from the supermarket, made by prayerfully commissioned wafer makers, etc). And we do this, not because we do not believe in rules (we have some pertaining to communion, e.g. must be presided over by a priest or bishop)* nor because we are casual or careless (though sometimes we are, but that is a post for another day), but because we cannot see Jesus himself making a fuss over this (imagining there might have been some gluten free bread at the Last Supper, we think he would have happily broken and distributed that).

Also, we think that some rules are made to be broken. A eucharist in a Japanese POW camp, using rice grains and water is a valid eucharist because, under the circumstances, that is the best that can be done to obey the greater rule, Do this in remembrance of me. And, pertaining to coeliacs, we would happily break the rule re wheat-based bread in order to include coeliacs in communion than exclude them. If gluten-free rather than low-gluten bread is the best that can be done to obey the greater rule, then so be it. (See argument made here).

Now, my point here is not to argue the superiority of Anglican thinking over Roman thinking but to note that, when so much of our ways of Christian life, including emphasis on the eucharist, are bound by common traditions, values and attitudes, nevertheless there are some real differences in approach, which, from time to time, are highlighted in global, public pronouncements from our respective HQs.

*On the specific matter of bread and wine for communion, NZPB, p. 515 specifies:
"The bread for the Eucharist should be a good quality bread (either loaf or wafer) and the wine for the Eucharist should be good quality wine."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beautiful Anglican Accommodation - Down Under's Way Forward

NB: I see that now we have reached 200 comments, that 201 and beyond are on a new thread, which you can reach by clicking on "newest", near to the 200th comment. (Alternatively, if you go straight to the 201st comment you may need to click on something appropriate to get back to the first 200 comments.

Original Post:

At last and in plenty of time for our diocesan synods in a month or two's time, we have the interim report and recommendations from the GS Working Group.

Read the Taonga article here, follow the links, and, obviously, read the full PDF document here. (There is a shorter version here but the details in the appendices are what count).

My verdict: a beautiful Anglican accommodation.


It gives (many) conservatives and (many) liberals what they have asked for, and makes few demands on the middle of our church.

I do not want to have to submit to the authority of General Synod (because it has approved something I am not happy with)?
I will not have to do that because the declarations will change.

I wish the blessing of a same sex partnership to be able to take place in an Anglican church?
In most, but likely not all, dioceses/hui amorangi permission will be given for priests to conduct such blessings provided the local vestry is agreeable to that happening.

I feel I would have to leave the church if it approved a blessing formulary (because that would mean our church had formally changed its doctrine on marriage). There will not be such a change. Services of blessing will be approved at a more local level - the diocese.

I am worried that I will be disciplined by the church if I conduct a blessing or if I refuse to conduct a blessing. That will be ruled out, both ways.

I am concerned that my parish, when it comes time to choose a new vicar, will be bullied by the Nomination Board into accepting a priest who will reverse my parish's policy on blessing of same sex partnerships. That can be prevented because parishes and individuals will be able to form communities of common accord with other like-minded parishes. Bishops must respect the ethos of those communities in making their appointment, indeed the appointee must come from within the community to which the parish belongs.

I do not particularly care one way or another whether my vicar does or does not conduct blessings of same sex partnerships. Nothing needs to be done. Keep cool and carry on as you are!

I want to be part of a parish which not only teaches celibacy outside of (heterosexual) marriage but which supports those who choose to be celibate and look for the support of their community of faith in being obedient to God in this way. That is not only possible, it is specifically provided for by the proposal: like-minded parishes including common commitment to teaching and discipline may group together in structured communities of faith, supported by a bishop.

Thus in a number of ways this is a beautiful, comprehensive Anglican  accommodation of the wide range of views on human sexuality held within ACANZP.

To be very clear: a beautiful Anglican accommodation does not mean that everyone is going to be, let alone has to be happy about what is proposed. There will be disappointment for some.

My argument here is that in a tricky, challenging situation in which we are not agreed, we have a proposal which has a quality of elegance to it, which demonstrates deep listening to speeches at the last General Synod and to submissions made to the Working Group, and, critically, a will to make some significant changes to the way we do things.

And all with a view to holding us together.

I hope this means no one leaves.

But if some do, I believe the losses will be few rather than many.

- for the geeks among readers, this is what I posted re the submission I made to the working group. You will see that a number of things I was keen to see are included in the report/recommendations. (That, incidentally, is not a claim that I had some great influence on the report. Once we failed to secure agreement at GS 2016 there was a logical path to where we needed to go as a church in disagreement, which influenced my submission and, I am sure, directly influenced the working group.)
- Also, Bosco Peters has a considered response here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: the alt-world?

What do you make of Stanley Hauerwas in this article?

Not hard to agree with him that Trump is a challenge for America and an opportunity for the church.

And he is very perceptive in his insight that "Trump wants you to be in his reality show."

But is our task as Christians to witness to an alternative reality?

Yes and no, I reckon.

Yes, we witness to the way of love in a world of hate, to the ambition to put others first in a world of avarice and greed. Yes, we witness to the kingdom that is not of this world, which is both in this world and is coming to this world.

No, while we witness to an alternative reality, which, as far as it is in our power, we live out, we yet live in the world. In that world we might have to fight a war (whereas Hauerwas is a pacifist) or even lead a country. On the latter Hauerwas says,

"Can you be a faithful Christian and a president? Hauerwas said no, though he said some can come close.
'Good Christians get to run for office once. If they do the right thing they won't be re-elected.'"

I wonder if  Bush, Obama, Thatcher, Blair, and more locally, Lange, Bolger and now English got that memo?

This matter relates to discussion of my post below, about our cathedral in Christchurch, in which some have argued that the Diocese should eschew all government/council support, while I am arguing back that there is a case for thinking that the Diocese of Christchurch in the "world" of Christchurch (peculiar though it may be, given its peculiar Anglican history) may properly work with government/council on reinstating the cathedral (that is, it would not be theologically heretical for the Synod in September to make that decision, if it so chooses).

Back to Hauerwas and Trump. American Christians are in a huge dilemma. If a Christian supports Trump in all his Trumpiness (i.e. not just on the occasional occasion when he is actually correct), are they truly Christian? If  a Christian does not support Trump in all his Trumpiness, how do they support Trump as their duly elected President?. Romans 13 and all that

Back to our NZ election. Thankfully we have no Trumpian equivalent. Not even Winston Peters is in the same league as Trump in respect of his sheer maniacal goofiness (demonstrated at the recent G20 meeting). But we still have choices to make in terms of what our parties propose to shape the world in which we live.

Not all proposals in a country toying with euthanasia, beating a drum for marijuana law reform, hesitant about solving searing social problems and keen on intensifying cows per millilitre of river and spring water are equally Christian!

Good grief, in this morning's Press a reader may contemplate the possibility that "salvation" lies for regional economies in growing marijuana, a Green Party which calls NZ First racist yet is willing to be in government with this racist party, and courtesy of Jane Bowron's regular column, the latest moral dilemma in sexuality ... robotic sex dolls.

This pot pouri which makes up Western civilization in our Down Under corner of the world almost makes me consider what I ruled out in comments to last Monday's post ... not bothering to vote at all!!

Grounds for non-voting could be:
(a) It's just too hard to make a decision
(b) It won't make a difference to the largest issue facing the electorate: we are going to the dogs and no government is stopping our descent into corporate madness.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Game changer?

So, here's the thing. Until a couple of days ago the future of Christ Church Cathedral here in Christchurch seemed like an assessment of the merits of reinstatement with a large tens of millions (30-50m) fund shortfall to raise versus the merits of a new build cathedral, priced at under our $42m insurance proceeds (with a sum within the $42m allowed for future repairs, maintenance and insurance).

Then we had the announcement of a firmed up government offer ($10m plus $15m suspensory loan) plus a City Council offer ($10m, to be confirmed via public consultation), along with a clarified commitment from the GCBT fund-raisers ($13.7m). Fingers and thumbs, that is, $90.7m.

But is the total we need to reach $104m or $127m? The NZ Herald points us in the latter direction. Either way, the government would set up with CPT an independent fund-raising trust to get on with the job of raising funds. And the government would pass enabling legislation to fast track consenting requirements for the work to press ahead.

Incidentally, we could call the government offer a parliamentary offer because it has cross-party support: that is, no member of parliament is going to side with those who wish to see a new cathedral built. Our political masters, local and national, are batting for the one and the same side, singing from the same hymn sheet.

The question for our 7-9 September Synod, as we begin our pre-Synod meetings this week, is whether we now have a "game changer" influencing our deliberations.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Is this mid June 1914 for the Anglican Communion?

What to make of the this, that and the other of this Church Times report?

Is the Anglican Communion in the midst of the seemingly ad hoc, disconnected protests, skirmishes and sabre rattling which turn out to be the prelude to a "Great War"?

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Politics of Jesus: dilemmas

For some Christians I know, who happen to be Labour Party candidates in this year's election, I imagine the discernment of the "politics of Jesus" in relation to the politics of Aotearoa NZ is straightforward. To follow Jesus politically speaking is to vote Labour! Ditto for those Christians standing for National, the Maori Party, the Greens etc.

It does not seem so easy for me, a mere voter.

I find myself weighing up and worrying about (in no particular order of anxiety):
- National's obfuscatory handling of the Todd Barclay matter;
- National's reluctance to act decisively on house prices in our most populated city: is their membership over-subscribed with property speculators and landlords?
- Labour's inept handling of their overseas volunteers' call centre campaign (if they run the country like that ...);
- Labour's recently announced industrial relations policy which seems to me like a return to some very bad days for our economy;
- United Future as a party with way too much importance in decision-making relative to their virtually zero nationwide support;
- NZ First's bewildering array of positions on a variety of matters, most of which are clever clickbaits but not much else;
- every party's position on immigration (I appreciate this is a complex issue and every party is trying to get "the balance" on this matter right, but I find myself responding to the latest policy proposal with a "yeah, I think that misses a key point or two";
- several parties' critique of "neo-liberalism" (i.e. the general theoretical underpinning of our current economy) without offering an alternative which looks like it would actually work better than what it would replace.
- even worse, some of what I hear from some parties amounts to "loads more things in life should be free of charge" with an occasional follow up that the "rich should pay more tax." Spoiler alert: the better off among us already shoulder most of the tax burden.

What is a follower of Jesus to do in the voting booth on 23rd September?

I ask this question with particular reference to our "party vote." (With our local vote for an MP to represent our electorate there might be other considerations than those addressed in this post. We might, for instance, because we feel we know our local candidates better, wish to vote for a candidate because they are a Christian, or because they played rugby for our club, etc).

I would be interested in your views!

The following options strike me with respect to our party vote as theologically plausible (on the unquestioned-by-me presupposition that a Christian should vote):

Option A: choose one issue of great (theological) significance and vote for the party promising to do the right thing on that matter (and "hold your nose" re all other matters on which that party, if governing, might to the wrong thing). The Single Issue option.

Option B: survey many if not all issues of significance, perform a political calculation as to which party on balance is better than the others, and vote accordingly. The Pragmatic option.

Option C: pay little or no attention to what the issues are at this election but focus instead on each party's track record in terms of handling of matters, responding to issues of the day, etc. Then vote for the party that is likely to do the most good for the country/the poor/the worker/the sick/ business/environment. I assume, for example, that the Christians I know who are Labour Party candidates this year would not think each and every policy of the Labour Party was in accord with Christian values, but that they are committed to the Labour Party as the party which, on balance, will do the most good according to Christian values (fight for the underdog, tackle poverty, improve access to health, etc). I assume that Christians standing for National believe that in the long run everyone is better off if a strong economy is maintained and if people are encouraged to stand on their own two feet rather than depend on the state. The Arc of History option.

There is, as the intelligent and learned political scientists know, a fourth option, often favoured by Kiwis, at least at regular intervals ...

Option D: Give the Other Lot A Go.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What does it mean to be Anglican? A Translated Kiwi View

Being Anglican means ... at least what Sophia says here.

Some readers here will know Sophia from her time here in NZ, and her life in Christchurch in particular, and in one of our notable local parishes.

But she is now lost to the West Island!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Compromise: the Anglican Way Forward in All Things

We are but a few days out from our latest Way Forward report/recommendations (I am going to the TAB on a 4 July release). Compromise is in the air, obviously. But what kind? Does the devil lie in the details? Patience!

Meanwhile, as an appetizer and a reminder of the subtle art of Anglican compromise, we could consider a proposal coming out of the CofE which I am sure ACANZP will be interested in. This one concerns Methodist/Anglican recognition of mutually interchangeable ministries.

A bit like cold fusion, ecumaniacal AngMeth-ecclesiologists have been working on this for ages without success. Until now. Is this the moment?

I hope so. Our journey on earth to the kingdom of heaven becoming the kingdom on earth involves (among many things) finding Christian unity. As I now often say, there are not separate sections in heaven for different kinds of Christians, so why not begin now to live the unity we will live in for eternity!

Not that it is easy, this search for elusive unity, but then Jesus never promised the way forward would be without challenges.

Back to our challenging life in ACANZP where differences abound on a range of topics: blessings, (NZ) Methodists (with whom we have a covenant), and a certain cathedral.

My thoughts lately have been about the importance of recognising that as Christians we are always in a coalition - a group of people with striking differences yet making compromises to be in coalition rather than in opposition to one another. At its broadest our coalition is simply that we are Christians (and not atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, etc). Like it or lump it, we cannot within this coalition dismiss Christians we disagree with. We are Christians in disagreement and with differences in this coalition. And even if we are tempted to dismiss Christians we disagree with, we find that outside the coalition, the world (whether atheists or Islamists) does not side with "us" or "them": it simply sees us as Christians who do not get on very well with each other.

For a few centuries Anglicans and Methodists have coped with differences between them by being a coalition of Christians rather than (say) a coalition of (diverse) Anglicans or a coalition of (diverse) Methodists. Now, at least in England, the possibility is that Anglicans and Methodists are moving into a "coalition of Anglicans-and-Methodists".

What will the impact of the forthcoming Way Forward report and recommendations be on ACANZP as we receive, digest (our local synods) and approve or not (General Synod, May 2018)? Will we remain the coalition we currently find ourselves in, of Tikanga, of churchpersonships, of theological differences - a coalition under one Anglican name for these islands?

Or some other kind of coalition?

But, make no mistake, whatever the future holds, we will be a coalition of one kind or another.

Personally I am voting to remain in coalition under the one Anglican name.

As far as I can tell, that is what Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania is working on re the Anglican Communion as a whole!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Politics of Jesus (1917/2017)

In 1917 the Russian Revolution began and in 2017 a Russian Question rumbles through American politics while a Russian Presence permeates Middle Eastern politics centred on Syria.

Also in 1917 T.E. Lawrence helped to lead the Arab Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire (6 July is centenary of Battle of Aqaba) and in 2017 the results of that rebellion continue to play out in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics in which Saudi Arabia stirs the pot in Qatar and other places. Turkey, of course, is a key player in what is going on these days, including, today, I notice, defending the interests of Qatar against the meddling of Saudi Arabia.

Here in NZ, 1917 might be best remembered for 850 soldiers killed at Passchendaele on 20 October, the greatest loss of life in a single day in NZ's military history. Back home, in 1917 there was a Reform Party government, led by William Massey. In 2017 we have a National Party government led by Bill English - National is a successor party to the Reform Party.

We might also, to keep comparisons going, compare 1917 and the British government being in a bit of a muddle about how to bring the war in Europe to an end with 2017 and the British government being in a significant muddle about how to extricate itself from its current "war" in/with Europe.

The above paragraphs represent one way of doing history, focusing attention on the big picture, key events, and named leaders. From that perspective it is fascinating, possibly depressing to think how much 2017 looks like a rerun of 1917.

Another way of doing history is to consider ordinary people and the way their lives are lived - social history. From that perspective a number of things are wonderfully changed and life today does not look at all like it did in 2017. (The following apply to the Western world, but also in much of the rest of the world) think healthcare, standard of housing (for most, but not all), ease of producing meals, laundering clothes, moving from one place to another, communication, entertainment, access to consumer goods. Even with wars still occurring, the chances of 850 Kiwi soldiers being killed in a single day this year is almost zero. (Only "almost" because there are rogue states with worrying policies around missiles, nuclear weaponry, etc).

But the point of politics is not to proudly remind people how wonderful life is compared to 100 years ago. The point of politics is to organise society today towards better outcomes tomorrow than were experienced yesterday. From that perspective, our lot could be better. Here in NZ we are concerned about improvements which many other countries also wish for: to housing, to health, to education, and to economic well-being (both lifting individuals out of poverty and improving general circumstances of whole countries).

Our General Election on Saturday 23 September 2017 focuses our minds on whether we should change the government to secure wished for improvements or retain the current government because it is promising to fulfil those wishes.

I hope to keep a Monday series of posts on the theme of "The Politics of Jesus" going until the election, exploring the question of what Jesus' politics mean for us as a democratic people with the ability to apply Jesus' politics to our situation and our wish to see improvements.

But today I note simply that where there are politics there are politicians. And, unfortunately, a desire to see improvements to politics involves, necessarily, improvements to politicians and their ability to deliver better outcomes for people.

On that score the last week has been salutary. We have seen our media hold our key politicians to account and they have been found somewhat wanting. I salute our media (they have done their duty) and I despair of our politicians (at best they have reminded us that politicians have a remarkable ability to tell lies and lots of them).

Should any politician being reading this column, I offer these verses from yesterday's Gospel reading, and ask that you recite them to yourself everyday you are a politician:

"26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."

Tell the truth, dear leaders, it is the best way to avoid one lie leading to another lie.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Can we put to death the Euthanasia Bill?

Recently a private member's bill re euthanasia was drawn from the parliamentary ballot and so we are a nation facing the possibility that our parliament will do what it is has not done before and legalise the assisted taking of one's own life.

I am instinctively against such a bill because the "key" it offers, choice about the time of one's own death, opens the door to later social compulsion to die at the time of one's family's choosing. Even, when rationing of resources kicks in, at the time of one's government's choosing.

For details about the bill and the objections of the Inter Church BioEthics Council (ICBC) to it, read here.

I agree with the ICBC. This bill should be euthanased at this time so that the current select committee process runs its course.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Make Christians? Build church buildings!!

Fascinating article here about some surprisingly high UK stats re young people becoming Christian converts because they have visited a church building (esp. cathedrals). The underlying research is here (H/T Bosco Peters).

I leave it to you, dear reader, to make what you will of the stats but if there is something in them then we should revise our cliched formulae about "church is people, not buildings."

Just maybe, perhaps and possibly church buildings contribute to making church people.

For myself I am confident that buildings are not just bricks and mortar when they are churches. Church buildings point people to God, they symbolise the gospel, they witness to the existence of God, they offer spaces in which people experience special encounters ("sacred space") and they assert the presence of Christian people in the surrounding community.

Yes, the church is people in the sense that church does not stop because (say) church buildings are demolished (as we have experienced in Christchurch).

Yes, the church is people in the sense that if you are down to your last $100k and have to choose between paying the vicar and the youth worker or repairing the church building, then invest in people and not bricks and mortar.

No, the church is not only people because the people of the church are the church when they gather together. And gatherings in many climates need a roof, walls, windows, doors and seats. Rarely is the crunch church building or people. Normally it is both, with reasonable arguments about what size church building and what quality of building.

Of course that brings me to our Anglican cathedral here in Christchurch and our forthcoming debate in our Synod, 7-9 September.

I am committed to having a cathedral in the Square which is the heart of our city. Our forefathers envisioned a city built in ways reminiscent of Oxford. *That vision led to a predilection for stone buildings in the Neo-Gothic style. While not original to that vision, the early settlers settled on having a cathedral at the heart of the city. Doing so underlined the "Christ" and "church" in "Christchurch."* Whatever kind of cathedral (reinstated, brand new) it should be there and not somewhere else.

Imagine if we let go of the site and a mosque was built on it instead ...

Postscript: Brian Law, former director of the Cathedral Choir, argues cogently in this morning's Press about the deficiencies in the cathedral that was while pressing the claims of Miles' Warren's proposal that the cathedral be rebuilt according to the original George Gilbert Scott design.

*The original post read, between the asterisks, "Our forefathers envisioned a city built around a cathedral and it was a great vision." This is not accurate as the original vision was for an Oxbridge type college at the heart of the city (i.e. what is today Christ's College).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Benedict Option Wrong for Down Under?

In a week where days fly past and major issues in Kiwiland remain untouched herein, notably further developments re the Christchurch Cathedral and the imminent question of legalisation of euthanasia, the least I can do is point you to a superb and, for me, persuasive, argument from Michael Bird (Ridley College, Melbourne).

Against a background in Australia of increasing hostility towards Christianity, Michael Bird argues in a North American magazine, Christianity Today, that the Benedict Option being debated there - concerning engagement between Christianity and secular society - is not apt for the Down Under context.

NZ is not Australia. They are not as good as us at rugby (for instance!). So I am interested in readers' comments about the Benedict Option versus the Thessalonian Option for consideration in our Kiwi situation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


A few verses from Job 9 in the daily office this morning help explain infrequent blogging of late ...

"25“My days are swifter than a runner;
they fly away without a glimpse of joy.
26They skim past like boats of papyrus,
like eagles swooping down on their prey."

(Except the "without a glimpse of joy" bit ... I am a happy camper in the midst of terrific bizziness.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dunedin's Successful Global Search for New Bishop

He will come from London to be the next Bishop of Dunedin - but Steve Benford is no stranger to the city.

Archbishops Winston Halapua and Philip Richardson have announced the election of the Rev Dr Steven Benford as the next Bishop of Dunedin.

Bishop-elect Steven, who is 56, currently serves as vicar of St Joseph the Worker, Northolt, in the Diocese of London, where he is also a Bishops’ Advisor for Ministry, a new incumbents’ ministry mentor and spiritual director.

The archbishops today confirmed Steven Benford’s election, which has been ratified by General Synod, after he was nominated by the Diocese of Dunedin’s Electoral College held from May 26-27.

It is an appointment which signals a return to New Zealand for the qualified doctor who worked in Otago in the early 1990s. His wife Lorraine was born in Dunedin.

Making the announcement, Archbishop Philip Richardson welcomed Steven’s appointment.
“I look forward to welcoming Steven back to Aotearoa New Zealand.”

“His experience of living a vocation in the service of others will be invaluable as he leads the clergy and people of Southland and Otago to develop creative ways of serving their communities in the Spirit of Christ.”

Archbishop Philip recently met with Bishop-elect Steven in London. The new bishop describes himself as a ‘people person’.

“Steven is a very warm and engaging priest with a heart for mission,” said Archbishop Philip.

“He will be sadly missed in Northolt, whose people speak highly of his leadership, hard work and creativity.”

Steven Benford’s career has been shaped by a dual vocation to ministry and medicine.

For 29 years he served as a medical doctor, specialising in anaesthetics since 1990.
Steven’s medical career initially took him to Leicester, Leeds and Gibraltar. Then in the early 1990s, he and Lorraine – who grew up in Gore – brought their young family to live in southern New Zealand.

From 1991-95 Steven worked as a GP in Oamaru, where he also established a free clinic. Over those years, he kept his hand in hospital-based medicine, working one day a week at Dunedin Hospital. In the family’s last six months in New Zealand, Steven served in the emergency department at Tokoroa Hospital.

Despite his love of medicine, Steven felt God’s insistent call to the ordained ministry from a young age. In 1996, he entered the ministry discernment process in the Diocese of York and was ordained there in 2000. In his first four years as a priest he served as a curate in a three-church rural cluster, while remaining a full-time specialist at Friarage Hospital, Northallerton in Yorkshire.

(This is the Official Media Release, also at Taonga, where the suggested headline in the media release is followed, "Dunedin Elects New Bishop".)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yeah, right, Oz Equip!

(In the light of a fair comment below, what follows is a revision of the original, unkind post.)

Each year in Sydney there is a conference for women called Equip.

The most recent one had a dose of restlessness, as you can read here.

About short hair.

And extending submissiveness to men in the workplace.

Intriguingly on the Equip website, I see women involved with the running of the conference with short hair!

The age old intra evangelical debate re relationships between men and women, in marriage and in the church, complementarianism / egalitarianism, continues around the globe.

But is this latest call, as reported above, a step further than warranted even by a complementarian reading of Scripture?

I have my own thoughts on the matter. What about yours?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Western civilization undermined by gospel memes!?

Excellent post here, well worth reading.


Krish Kandiah takes us through six hope-filled ways in which the recent post Manchester bombing charity concert led by Ariana Grande was permeated with Christian themes.

Now, let's get real. Ariana Grande and (e.g.) Miley Cyrus sing songs (I won't link to lyrics) which represent the nadir of our sex-obsessed, personality-driven, ego-maniacal post-Christian Western civilization. They are not quasi-saints. Nor some of the other characters on stage with them. But bless Krish, he has found the ways in which Christ's gospel cannot be driven out, either by secularization or by Islamification.

Incidentally, I realised with this beautiful Crowded House song below - go Kiwi music! - that Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus do have voices to die for ...

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Pentecost Conspiracy

Two lovely sermons yesterday, heard by me.

One introduced an idea I had not heard previously. That Pentecost is God's conspiracy with us. To conspire is to breath with, and in the Holy Spirit, God is breathing with us, our breathe one with God's breathe. This is good conspiracy. Of course most uses of the word "conspiracy" today have a negative connotation: people plotting to overthrow the established order of things.

Speaking of which, overnight we have another act of terrorism in the UK. Thoughtful words on this come from John Schindler who argues that what Britain is facing is not terrorism but "a protracted insurgency."

And we need thoughtfulness as Christians. When Pentecost marked the end of the "Thy Kingdom Come" period of intensive praying from Ascension to Pentecost, where is God when the advance of another kingdom is made visible in the rivers of blood flowing on the streets of London?

What is God saying to us in such times about the advance of the kingdom? Such advance is both a matter of praying as though everything depends on God and acting (love, justice, peace-making) as though everything depends on us. Are we being challenged to act differently than we have been?

What is the breathe of God breathing into us in our crazy world today?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saving an iconic church

No, this time I am not talking about Christchurch Cathedral. Travellers through NZ may have noticed (frequent travellers on SH1 between Blenheim and Kaikoura will have noticed) St. Oswalds, Wharanui.

A small, picturesque stone church - a memorial to a member of the Murray family who have farmed in the district for generations - on the side of the highway, offering, I have often felt when driving by, a witness to Christ to travellers.

But it was badly damaged in the November 2016 earthquakes. My friends Leicester and Laura Murray are spearheading a Murray family campaign to raise funds for its restoration.

A couple of news items are here and here.

Facebook page is here.

And, Givealittle page is here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ecumenical Support for Bishop Victoria Matthews

The Press reports on a letter published in the Press letters' page today, signed by eight church leaders of ministries here in Christchurch/Canterbury.

"Presbyterian moderator David Coster wrote the letter as he felt the media and politicians unfairly criticised Matthews. .

"The bishop is being blamed in a way that all the Christian denominations felt was unfair. We have remained silent until now," he said.
Coster said the letter was written independently.
"The bishop has had nothing to do with this whatsoever," he said.
"We wanted to say publicly to the bishop and the community we serve that we are concerned about how she has been treated."

The letter states church buildings are primarily places of worship.
"The costs – spiritually, emotionally and financially – of all our buildings are borne by those for whom these places of worship are their spiritual home," the letter states.
"First and foremost the Cathedral in the Square, like all Christian church buildings, is a place of worship to the God we know in Jesus Christ and a reminder to the wider community of God's presence. The reason why all churches exist is to make Jesus Christ known and to enable people to gather in community and worship. The church is not primarily a landlord tasked with caring for stone or wooden edifices."
It was signed by Coster, Methodist district superintendent Kathryn Walters, Catholic diocese administrator Rick Loughnan, Grace Vineyard Church senior pastor David MacGregor, Elim Church lead pastor Nu Telea, Salvation Army divisional commander Ivan Bezzant, King's Church senior pastor Ken Shelley and Baptist regional mission leader Maurice Atkinson."

My bold

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Islamism found to be surprisingly contextual and challenging [UPDATED]

Brilliant, careful, challenging (but long) reflective article on Islamism here, by Colin Chapman.

Colin is a Christian scholar of Islam with first-hand experience of living in the ME.

UPDATE: my friend Steve Bell weighs in on the question whether Islam is "the problem"?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Islamism found to be surprisingly religious

Understandably and properly politicians take great care not to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry when faced with yet another terrorist event. The vast majority of Muslims are as aghast and horrified by the recent Manchester bombing as non-Muslims are.

But politicians have been criticised for underplaying the role of Islam as a religion in terrorist events. The gist of what many have said is terrorists are not driven by their religion but by their ideological convictions. The form is Islam, the latter is Islamism and the relationship between the two is tenuous at best.

The truth we need to face, however, is that Islamism that drives Manchester-type terrorism (technically most accurately described as Salafism) is deeply Islamic. Here is the chilling, terrifying ISIS media release re Manchester:

Here the West is "the Crusaders" or militant Christians, down to every last teenage fan of Ariana Grande. All soldiers in this centuries old religious war. The bombing is "revenge for Allah's religion." The concert arena is "shameless" meaning it transgresses Islamic values of purity and holiness. The next event will be worse, "more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies." Everything happens within an Islamic religious worldview, "by Allah's permission."

The Islamism of terrorism is not an ideology it is a religion. A terrifying, rogue strand of Islam. And, seemingly, ultimately well funded by Saudi Arabian money (to which you and I have contributed with "donations" at petrol pumps). Saudi Arabia, not to forget, being the country in which Mecca is found.

This religion has one particular religious enemy: Christians. So, in the past couple of days, we learn again of another atrocity against Coptic Christians in Egypt. Ruthlessly gunned down for their imperialist foreign policy.

Let's be clear about two matters these events highlight.

(1) We cannot in the West feign innocence about our contributions to Islamic terrorism. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are correct to identify that Western actions have exacerbated the threat to Western countries from Islamic terrorism. However well intentioned we have been about military actions in places such as Libya and Iraq, the resulting chaos has been fertile for terrorist recruitment. Not one Western country (and certainly not NZ) has ever taken a decisive stand against Saudi Arabia and its shadowy role in these matters. Trump's fawning visit to Saudi Arabia recently underlines the importance we Westerners place on this country. The West is not responsible for Islamic terrorism but it has contributed to the conditions in which it has been conceived, birthed and nurtured.

(2) Even if we overcome our feigned innocence, put matters to right in Libya and Iraq and deal to Saudi Arabia, Islamism will still be at war with Christians. Coptic Christians have no foreign policy to fault. They were not European Crusaders sweeping down on the Middle East. They are a minority people in a majority Muslim nation. But they worship the Cross. That is enough to warrant death. For Islamism there is only one way. Until we submit to that way, or are killed, Islamism will never give up. Allah requires the submission of every last person on the planet.

Islam, dear politicians, is surprisingly religious in its convictions.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More, a cathedral way forward? UPDATED

Cathedral pros, cons and inbetweens continue unabated. Here are some links:

- a Q and A in the Press which may help catch some up with the issues and questions in the matter

- a TV One News item (though it mixes recent written text with a much older interview with Gerry Brownlie)

- a sympathetic response to the church's dilemma, prompted by an execrable Martin Van Beynen column in yesterday's Press (and other Fairfax papers), written by Michael Reddell at Croaking Cassandra

UPDATE: Winston Peter's gets that old time religion!

MONDAY UPDATE: Bishop Victoria herself being interviewed by John Campbell on Checkpoint.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A way forward?

No, not back to "the" way forward our church at large seeks on Another Issue but is there a way forward for our cathedral in the Square?

On the one hand, Bishop Victoria has written an op-ed for the Christchurch Press, online here (and, presumably, to be published tomorrow in the print edition). She has also been interviewed tonight on Seven Sharp (here).

On the other hand, tonight a cross-party political group of local MPs has announced it is united and determined to "break the deadlock over the Christ Church Cathedral."

That doesn't sound like a group of democratically elected MPs intent on respecting the parliamentary democracy of the church!


In the Press this morning:

This frontpage article

This assessment of power and influence (which inaccurately describes her power within Synod as "She has a third of the vote at the synod." A bishop of a diocese does not have a third of the vote but has the power to veto a decision sought by the other two houses - the same power which each of those houses has. In practice, at least on matters not doctrinal, bishops rarely if ever use such a veto. The critical vote at Synod will be the majority not the vote of anyone individual.)