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.

Footnote:
*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

Bizzy

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.

Why?

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.