Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Keeping Up (2)

Wesley Hill is an Episcopalian theologian, involved in TEC, a self-identifying celibate, gay man who does not agree with same-sex marriage (which TEC is rather keen on, recently deciding at its GC 2018 that rites for same-sex marriage must be available in all Dioceses where same-sex marriage is a civil right). Here he explains, in a manner at least agreeable to me, noting his focus on family and witness, why is is staying in TEC ... here.

Speaking of TEC and staying in it (or maybe not), the Communion Partner bishops have published a statement responding to changes for TEC as a result of decisions made at GC 2018, here.

Thinking about staying in the church and not leaving it, here is a fascinating article on ordinations under Delegate Oversight in the Diocese of London ... now they have a female Bishop of London. I post it here without comment - it may or may not be relevant to ACANZP's present situation. (In one way it is not relevant: each ordinand accepts the authority of the Bishop of London, whatever the gender of the Bishop of London.

Then, on a question of keen interest to some Christians - mostly "conservative" ones - Christians keen to conserve the power of Scripture and its authority in the church, sometimes we should think carefully about what doctrines underpin (explicitly or implicitly) our belief in the authority of Scripture. One such doctrine could be "the plenary verbal inspiration" of Scripture. Australian evangelical theologian Michael Bird critiques this doctrine here.

As previously noted in posts below, do not comment on the specific situation(s) the Diocese of Christchurch is working through at this time.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Keeping Up (1)

... with Pauline scholarship. Stephen Chester has written an important book which Michael Bird reviews here.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Future investment?

Two articles worth reading and reflecting on, with special reference to the future mission and ministry of ACANZP:

The Guardian first reports on the CofE spending 27m pounds on 100 new style churches, here.

Then, also in the Guardian, Christina Rees reflects on changes coming and needed for the new millennium, here.

This is the money quote for us Down Under to reflect on:

"But these initiatives need to be part of a bigger sea change in how the church approaches its work. The pattern of priests in single parishes may have served the church and the country well for hundreds of years, but society has changed.
This parish structure, with 16,000 churches, is failing because younger people are not joining churches. They do not have a pattern of going to services on a Sunday morning or evening. Rural areas recently have had some priests in charge of 12 or more parishes – with almost as many church buildings, many ancient and crumbling, all in need of heating and maintaining.
If the church wants to survive, and thrive, it will need to see itself in a new light – more responsive, and willing to embrace how people live today. Most people, especially young people, don’t want to have to step through the doorway of a church to engage with the big issues of life. They don’t want to sit in pews on Sunday mornings to listen to a sermon or a set, age-old liturgy. They want to know how to navigate the complexities of their lives and how to address their deepest longings, doubts and fears. And they want to feel safe.
So the whole church will have to become much more interactive and flexible. The pattern for the future may well look a lot more like the early church, with small groups meeting in each other’s homes."

And for someone in my role, as Director of Education in a Diocese, there is this challenge:

"A different way of working will demand different skills and talents, and therefore new ways of training clergy, who will need to learn to communicate without jargon and without any assumptions of a shared knowledge of the faith. They will need to be able to offer coherent Christian perspectives on contemporary issues and events, and expect lively debate."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Virtualism: key to 21st century Anglican eucharistic theology? [Updated]

UPDATE: Catholicity and Covenant has put a further post up, here. ALSO: Liturgy has a rejoinder here.

From it, and bearing on the matters mentioned below, I cite these wonderful words of Cranmer:

"His true body is truly present to them that truly receive him: but spiritually ... by whose passion we are filled at his table, and whose blood we receiving out of his holy side, do live for ever, being made the guests of Christ; having him dwelling in us through the grace of his true nature, and, through the virtue and efficacy of his whole passion, being no less assured and certified, that we are fed spiritually unto eternal life by Christ's flesh crucified, and by his blood shed, the true food of our minds, than that our bodies be fed with meat and drink in this life: and hereof this said mystical bread on the table of Christ, and the mystical wine, being administered and received after the institution of Christ, be to us a memorial, a pledge, a token, a sacrament, and a seal."

ORIGINAL POST: In a recent series of three posts Catholicity and Covenant introduces readers to an Anglican understanding of the eucharist called "virtualism." The three posts in chronological order are here, here and here. I confess to previous ignorance of the term "virtualism" but what virtualism is fits with what some of us Anglicans pretty much believe about the eucharist, even if we have never tried to pin down a definition.

Here is a definition which Catholicity and Covenant gives:

"*The site Anglican Eucharistic Doctrine provides a summary of virtualism via the 1938 report Doctrine in the Church of England:
Virtualism is described as being intermediate between real presence and receptionism. The virtualist "maintains that a spiritual change in the elements themselves is effected through consecration". The bread and the wine therefore do not become the body and blood of Christ in substance (as if they were being identified with the natural body and blood of Christ on the cross) but in spiritual power, virtue and effect.  This means that through consecration the bread and wine are endowed with spiritual power or virtue which make them the sacramental body and blood of Christ, but not the natural body and blood of Christ."

Another way of expressing this, given in another post, is a citation from Bishop Seabury of PECUSA (as it was then called):

"When we say that the Eucharist is a spiritual sacrifice, we still mean that the sacred symbols of Christ's body and blood are a sacrifice, and we call them a spiritual sacrifice, with reference to the effects which are wrought on them, and which they work in us by the power of the Holy Ghost. For after the bread and wine are set apart, to be the symbols of Christ's body and blood, and after we have solemnly offered them to God, we then proceed to invoke on them the descent of the Holy Ghost, to sanctify them, and to make them, not indeed in substance, but in power and efficacy, the body and blood of Christ. And it is in virtue of the spiritual power and efficacy thus imparted to the sacred elements, that they are called a spiritual sacrifice."

Catholicity and Covenant is arguing through the three posts that in an Anglicanism which is increasingly evangelical rather than Anglo-Catholic, there is real danger of (in my words) a low-grade appreciation of the eucharist and an impoverished eucharistic theology, but this need not be so. Evangelicals wary of a Catholic understanding of the eucharist need not go the way of Zwingli: it is only emblems and memories. Rather, we can retrieve a common heritage, when evangelicals and High Church Anglicans agreed, pretty much, on what the meaning of the eucharist is. This is captured in another citation Catholicity and Covenant offers:

"Prior to the rise of Tractarianism there was near consensus between Orthodox [i.e. Old High Church] and Evangelical churchmen regarding eucharistic doctrine.  This consensus survived the early phase of the Oxford Movement, but thereafter, the Tractarians diverged ...The two main interpretations of eucharistic doctrine shared by the Orthodox were virtualism and receptionism ... Virtualists maintained that the bread and win, once set apart by consecration, while not changed physically into the body and blood of Our Lord, became so in virtue, power and effect ... The Real Presence was taught, but that presence was not located in the elements of bread and wine ... In asserting a 'heavenly' Real Presence, the advocates of receptionism were at one with virtualists.  According to both views, the bread and wine were set apart for a new purpose by means of consecration while not altering in nature or substance.
Peter B. Nockles The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship1760-1857, p.235-238."

I like what I read through these posts and in particular through the cited passages I have also cited here. Virtualism, I suggest, but welcome your counter-suggestions, describes some familiar phrases from NZPB. Consider:

"Send your Holy Spirit
that these gifts of bread and wine which we receive
may be to us the body and blood of Christ,
and that we, filled with the Spirit's grace and power,
may be renewed for the service of your kingdom." (p. 423) 
"Almighty God, giver of all good things,
we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food
of the precious body and blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ." (p. 429) 
"As we eat this bread and drink this wine,
through the power of your Holy Spirit
feed us with your heavenly food,
renew us in your service ..." (p. 438).

Of course that is not all our NZPB has to offer: other phrases (e.g. pp. 467, 487) readily fit with an Anglo-Catholic understanding (whether that is Consubstantiation or Transubstantiation). Some phrases I find hard to pin any historic theology of the eucharist to such as:

"Bread and wine; the gifts of God
for the people of God.
May we who share these giftsbe found in Christ and Christ in us." (p. 472)

Back to Catholicity and Covenant. The following paragraphs summarise and express the argument he is making through these posts.

"What - if any - contemporary significance is there this series of posts on the Old High Church eucharistic doctrine of virtualism?  Readers might be forgiven for thinking that this is little more than ecclesiastical antiquarianism.
It's not.  It is, rather, to suggest that that the eucharistic doctrine of the Old High Church tradition - virtualism - offers a means of sacramental renewal for a contemporary Anglicanism that is becoming increasingly evangelical, in which Anglo-Catholicism is much less influential, and in which sacramental theology in notably weaker than a century ago.  In the words of Stephen Foster, the evangelical Anglican - now on the staff of HTB - who wrote the foreword to Andrew Davison's Why Sacraments?:
It is sometimes forgotten (not least by evangelicals) that the reformers saw both word and sacrament as the key marks of the true Church ... The contemporary amnesia of a theology of the sacraments within some parts of the Church must then be a matter of concern.
The eucharistic piety, practice and theological discourse of Anglo-Catholicism is highly unlikely to offer to evangelical Anglicans an acceptable means of renewing their own eucharistic thought and practice.  The virtualism of the Old High Church tradition, however, might do so.  It has its origins in the rich eucharistic teaching of Calvin.  It significantly shaped the Anglican Formularies and coheres with them.  It is flows from the historic Reformed critique of aspects of Roman Catholic eucharistic teaching and practice, while its emphasis on reception by faith - in the words of ARCIC I - is not "incompatible with eucharistic faith"."

As an evangelical Anglican, I see these posts as an inspiring challenge rather than as a challenging criticism: I love eucharistic worship, I am committed to a genuine ministry of Word and Sacrament, I want to see the eucharist led (or "performed") in such a manner that our love for Jesus, our thanksgiving for grace, our appreciation of the gospel of the cross is deepened and intensified.

But I am also keen to understand the eucharist - what did Jesus intend? what do we think happens when we participate in the eucharist? what are our reasonable expectations of the transformative power (virtue!) of eucharist?

The virtue of Virtualism is that it goes a long way towards answering such questions, without committing Anglicans to the dodginess of Aristotelian metaphysics or the barrenness of Zwinglianism.

I am not sure, however, that "Virtualism" is the best term in the 21st century for an understanding of the eucharist which evangelical Anglicans could embrace.

#suggestionsonapostcard ... or in the comments here :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

More on GAFCON 2018

Fulcrum has posted this week a balanced, comprehensive statement following, and responding to GAFCON 2018. It covers all my own appreciations, concerns and questions.

I am happy to post comments about this statement and/or about GAFCON 2018. I will not post comments which mention, even slightly, our local, unfolding situation in the Diocese of Christchurch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Personalism v individualism ... euthanasia

Reading this - as usual - brilliant paper by Rowan Williams, "What is a Person? Reclaiming Relationality in an Uncooperative Age," is a timely link to a unique experience on Monday ... I was part of a presentation, led by Dean Lawrence Kimberley, to the Justice Select Committee on the Right To Choose euthanasia bill which is being considered by our Parliament. "Unique" means I have never been in front of a Select Committee before.

Anyway, the Committee was kind and heard our Diocese's voice, which was centred around the content of the speech Dean Lawrence made to our recent Synod when we agreed to a motion which asked our then Bishop, Victoria Matthews, to write to parliament stating our position and our concerns. (Some news reports about the role of our Diocese and Bishop in speaking against the proposed bill are here and here.)

But a news agency, Newsroom has spotted that our bishops are divided on the matter of whether people should be assisted to die or not. This is not unexpected  - we do not have a specific doctrinal position on euthanasia which binds the bishops to a common teaching - and there are, of course, sentiments worth considering when considering how best to assist people towards imminent death in the midst of great pain. I support best possible palliative care but that does not mean I dismiss those who think there are some circumstance in which it is reasonable to move beyond assisting people towards inevitable death by actually assisting them to die.

Nevertheless, I am against assisting people to die. Two reasons are particularly significant for me.

First, once we breach the principle of respect for life, for extraordinary reasons (e.g. great pain), and become used to making decisions to assist people to die and then actually being part of the ending of life (killing?), it will be very easy to continue the breach for ordinary reasons (there are too many elderly people, this treatment for depression just isn't working, health resources are limited, if Grandma died we could pay off the mortgage with the inheritance). We will become a society with a cap on the length of life and guilt for living a long life will drive people to an early end.

Secondly, what ++Rowan says. If we believe we are persons and not individuals then we will take account of our families and friends before asserting the right to choose as an individual to do what we want with our lives. Their loss of us, their distress at our going should be important. They have a right, if we use the language of rights, to have a say in our choice. But these personalist considerations, I fear, for a bill being driven by the party leader of the party most insistent on the sovereignty of the individual, could be lost.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Disaffiliation in the Diocese of Christchurch

On Wednesday a meeting was held in our Diocese, involving senior Diocesan staff, Archdeacons, and vicars and wardens of four parishes in which votes have been hold and overwhelming majorities for disaffiliation from ACANZP have been secured. These votes have been prompted by GSTHW 2018's decision re permission for blessing of same-sex partnerships to take place.

Following that meeting we have been able as a Diocese to communicate the fact of these votes and the outline of what will now happen. That communication can be found here.

I was a part of that meeting as one of the Archdeacons. Two of the four parishes are in my archdeaconry.

I cite the opening and penultimate paragraphs from the communication for your convenience:

"On Wednesday 27 June Archbishop Philip, with senior leadership of the Diocese, met with representatives and clergy from four parishes within the Christchurch Diocese. The meeting was to discuss how members of the four congregations could disaffiliate from the Diocese in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open.

Archbishop Philip opened the meeting recognizing the time, energy and cooperation from both sides in seeking to find a way forward together up until this point, and hoping that this spirit will continue now that members of four congregations had voted to disaffiliate. “This is a broken and painful place to be. But we need to find a way to walk through this uncharted land that is gracious, hospitable and realistic.” The meeting finished with an agreement to seek to work together on the way forward and in a time of prayer."

"The four groups were led by the Reverends Jay Behan from St Stephen’s Shirley; James De Costobadie from St John’s Latimer Square; Dave Clancey and Chris Spark from St Saviour’s and St Nicholas’, South Christchurch; and Steve McNabb from St John’s Woolston.

It was discussed that a resignation or exit process allowing three months for logistics to be sensitively managed was appropriate and that these three months will be used cooperatively to ensure the disaffiliation happens in good faith. 

It was agreed by all present the way forward needed to be respectful, orderly and should allow people time to make appropriate decisions. In some cases it was acknowledged that although the majority of the people attending these churches intended to leave, some might remain. And the Diocese is committed to care for those remaining as well as enabling as smooth as possible exit for those choosing to leave.
It was agreed that clergy and lay representatives who are disaffiliating would voluntarily not take part in the upcoming Electoral College. Furthermore, it was agreed in principle that there was a desire from both parties to part on good terms and to communicate with and about each other respectfully."

This announcement means we now enter a period of careful and respectful conversations about these disaffiliations, as planning and arrangements take place over the next several months.

Consequently, and in the spirit of a request within the meeting for care in use of social media, I am going to do the following:

(1) Accept NO comments in response to this post. (By all means send me a comment to tell me what you think. But I am not going to post it.)

(2) Publish no posts for the time being which relate in some close degree to our local situation.

(3) Reserve the right to post on the international Anglican situation, providing it relates to our local situation only in some distant degree (or not at all).

Friday, June 29, 2018

Momentum towards reinstatement

News just out re the Christ Church Cathedral steps towards reinstatement, here.

I am delighted that Justin Murray will be chair of the joint venture - I have had the privilege of working with him in governance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dark days for ACANZP ... a new denomination is being birthed?

[Rewritten from original posting]

Yesterday I was sent a link to an article (i.e. "statement") on the FCANZ website, here. Since then the linked article has been withdrawn and the link now takes you to an "About" page for the FCANZ site. I am keeping my post below as it was written, including citations from the article I saw, on the basis that what I read, even if now not an official FCANZ webpage, nevertheless reflects sentiments swirling about our church through these days. Nothing cited below is out of keeping with things being said or written in some of our parishes at this time in respect of this being a difficult period, there is deep disagreement with the decision of GSTHW 2018 re permission for same-sex blessings to take place and there are moves afoot to form a new network of churches.

[Remainder of original post]

This period is described as "dark days" and ACANZP is spoken of in these terms,

"our General Synod has abandoned the authority of Scripture and distorted the saving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I commend the statement for one piece of illumination: that a new denomination is going to be formed.

"Our goal is to ensure Bible-believing Anglicans work together, as part of a new denomination, wholeheartedly committed to reaching our nation for Christ."

It is helpful that this is out in the open.

Funnily enough, this is very close to what I myself think, slightly plagiarising:

My goal is to ensure Bible-believing Anglicans work together, with all denominations, wholeheartedly committed to reaching our nation for Christ.

Who are Bible-believing Anglicans? All of us Anglicans - I have never met an Anglican who doesn't believe the Bible, who does not read and hear the Bible Sunday by Sunday. We are (to pick up a phrase elsewhere in the statement) a "Bible-based Anglican church" (noting this post today).

I would like to remind readers that General Synod's decision means that every Anglican contemplating leaving ACANZP could stay, continue to believe, teach and practice what they have always believed, taught and practiced, including teaching that the authority of the Bible means this and not that.

The only reason for departure is not that ACANZP has abandoned the authority of Scripture etc but that it has dared to permit faithful Anglicans, on one matter, to teach, believe and (if their local bishop authorises) practice differently. This exercise of conscience, of interpreting Scripture differently is beyond FCANZ's pale.

Anglicans do not have to stay together and if the exercise of conscience and of interpreting Scripture differently is too much, if it means "dark days" have come, then there is not much to be done except to generously converse with each other about the process of separation.

I will do my best to contribute to that generous conversation but it is not easy when things are said about ACANZP which ... well, what can I say?!

LATER: Wise words from George Sumner about the global Anglican situation post GAFCON with specific reference to ACNA/TEC/ACCan.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

GAFCON and (or "versus"?) LAMBETH reflections

The GAFCON III Conference is over and below I give a link to the Final Communique and make some comments.

But before getting to that, a couple of posts on the question of whether the Anglican Communion/conferences is about GAFCON or Lambeth [which is bishops only] or is there room for both?

On the Lambeth Conference, whether it was or is or could be a "synod", or otherwise lead?
Also Archbishop Moon Hing - a man I have met and admire tremendously - speaks up on the value of the Lambeth Conference.

And Kenyan Archbishop Sapit makes some subtle but important distinctions and commitments. I like what he says!

On GAFCON and the Anglican Communion New Service: fake news? fun and (stealth) games? (Though I note that ACNS has not yet linked to the Final Communique, 2 pm Saturday 23 June, as I write.)

GAFCON III Final Communique: Letter to the Churches.

Eternity (Australia) has a news report here.

Via Twitter I made the following three comments last night:

We who were not at GAFCON must reflect deeply on what it means to be in mission as Anglicans, to evangelise as Anglicans, to envision a renewed Anglican Communion. How might we work with GAFCON, in what ways has GAFCON made working with GAFCON difficult, if not impossible (e.g. for TEC, SEC, even ACANZP)? Surely no one reading here thinks belonging to some kind of remnant Communion is a good thing? How do we form and inform ourselves with mainstream Anglicanism in the 21st century?

Nevertheless, a caveat: what does GAFCON working within the Communion ("we are not leaving") and against the Communion (disinvite these provinces, welcome ACNA, exclusion not inclusion, either/or rather than both/and) mean? Are we at a late 18th century moment when one form of Anglicanism (= Methodism) and another form (established Church of England) parted ways? Or are we at a Catholic renewal moment when (say) the Franciscans work mightily for renewal within the Catholic church?

It is all very well for GAFCON to say it is not leaving the Communion and that it is working for its renewal but that staying effectively asks others to leave unless they repent. What if they want to stay also? There is no sense from GAFCON of an inclusive Anglicanism, of a willingness to live with profound disagreement, of an openness to the actual state of global Anglicanism which is that more than one view of homosexuality exists among us. GAFCON is absolutely assured that there is only the GAFCON view, that that is the genuine Anglican view, and there is no place for dissent from this view. There is an unfortunate totalitarianism in this approach to difference which seeks to exclude those holding different views. (I use the word "totalitarian" advisedly. As I have followed GAFCON this past week I have been struck by the strength of the party line on homosexuality and the lack of any sense of critique and debate about it. It is quite extraordinary in this day and age of theological enquiry that no sign has emerged from GAFCON of a responsible critical consideration of matters here, including an ecclesiology which seeks to exclude on the basis of difference of view).

Following on from the comment above, the Communique offers no sense of how same sex couples might exist in the renewed Communion unless repentance occurs and I can only assume this means the break up of such relationships. Nor is there any sense that "pastoral care" for homosexuals means listening to their experience. The sense rather is that homsexuals will be told what is good for them. Perhaps that is right and proper but that is out of step with what many Anglicans around the world, not only in the West, think and feel about these matters.

In the end, where will this all end? I am not sure. I am not going to make a prediction. I am hopeful! I am glad about staying and not leaving: that creates shared space for conversation, that keeps alive possible futures which are not as divisive as the present, that offers time to reflect.

In the meantime, the organisers of Lambeth 2020 will have their work cut out: to ensure maximal attendance possible and to ensure that the event does not become a pale shadow of the colourful, energetic reality of GAFCON III. (Spoiler alert: ACNA bishops, don't bother packing your bags on the basis that TEC and SEC will not be invited).

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 22, 2018

What does it mean for Christians to be in the world but not of the world?

On the theme of living within the culture of our world but also not being subsumed by that culture, two posts of recent days are worth a read:

Tim Keller, speaking to British parliamentarians, here. Tim's major point is that post-Christian culture is much, much more Christian than most post-Christians realise. In explaining the difference Christians made to ancient Rome/Greek "shame-honour" culture, he offers insight into how we might make a difference today.

Ian Paul, writing about women speaking/being silent in church, here, makes a great point about a so-called "historic" reading of Scripture (in this case 1 Timothy 2). It may not be an historic reading. It may, in fact, be a modern, innovative reading, driven by a cultural bias in the way we think Christians ought to live today. If we do not actually want to read 1 Timothy 2 in an "historic"manner (and Ian gives some citations from that reading which, surely, no reader here would want to subscribe to), in what manner will we read it so that we are "in the world but not of the world"?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Engagement key to remarriage?

Previously I have noted an important survey of NZ attitudes to faith and today the NZ Herald makes a report, here.

I see no need to extensively comment on the report - it has engaged some key NZ thinkers and shakers on these matters and I commend their comments to you. You may wish to comment further here. In a time of crisis, all ideas welcome!

Two comments from me:

1. We were once a society in which, metaphorically, church and society were married, joined together. Through evangelism Maori became extensively Christian in the 19th century. Through intentional settlement in the mid 19th century Otago was a Presbyterian settlement and Canterbury an Anglican settlement. Churches old (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Baptist) and new (Brethren, Associated Churches of Christ, and, in the 20th century, Pentecostal) were planted through our islands, in city and in rural areas. Census stats showed a highly Christianised country. Now we are moving through phases of separation, even into divorce (cf. news this week re a court challenge to the teaching of Bible in Schools). Within the article Chris Clarke talks about the need to "re-engage" with society, but in different ways to former times. Others cited effectively say "Amen" to new engagement. That engagement is the key to any possibility of remarriage.

2. In a week when a significant number of lay and clerical Kiwi Anglicans have travelled to Jerusalem for GAFCON 2018, a conference which deep down is driven, among other things, by opposition to Anglican acceptance of same-sex couples, we are reminded again in the article of  sobering statistics:

"Most New Zealanders positively connect Jesus with love. Perceptions towards Jesus are often quite positive; non-Christians suggest he is relatable, approachable and gracious.But there are major hurdles.Church "teaching on homosexuality" is the biggest blocker to engaging with Christianity, cited by 47 per cent. Almost as many are influenced by the idea that a loving God would allow people to go to hell (45 per cent)."

That is, internally, we Anglicans are engaged in a debate about the theology of homosexuality (what does the Bible say, how do we understand it, what does the constitution of our church permit, etc) but externally, should we not be debating, How do we engage Kiwis with the gospel of God's love, forgiveness and welcome? And, How do we Kiwis find the language (not only words but ideas, images, actions) which communicate the Gospel over the hurdle of the 47% who will not listen because of "teaching on homosexuality"?

Among conservative Protestants, including among fellow conservative Anglicans, could we find words which at least say what Cardinal John Dew says? These are his words, relevant to the external challenge (my bold):

"Cardinal John Dew, the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington and vice-president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC), said the Catholic Church and its counterparts were mindful of the challenge posed by declining attendance."However, the study also points to opportunities for faith communities, with recognition among both non-Christians and Christians that the Church is involved in areas of social good and that faith too has a role in contributing to the wellbeing of our society."Dew said the members of the NZCBC, which co-ordinates the national activities and ministries of the Catholic Church, "humbly acknowledge our shortcomings, especially with regards to particular groups in society, such as the LGBT community who have felt a very real sense of rejection through the Church, or perhaps in falling short in fully meeting the needs of our recent migrant communities"."We hear, too, the call of those who want to see our actions speak louder than our words, by living out the values that Jesus represents."The findings from this survey speak to Pope Francis' latest exhortation, in which he says 'we are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves'.""

[I won't publish comments which re-run our churches' "internal" debates and arguments. I am happy to publish comments which reflect on the external challenge we face as churches re the society we live in, the nature of the gospel and how we communicate it to 47% who are unwilling to listen.]

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lest it be said

... that ADU makes no mention of GAFCON 2018, let's mention it!

David Ould muses on his blog whether the Anglican Communion News Service will get around to acknowledging that the largest Anglican gathering for 50 years is taking place this week in Jerusalem.

I cannot speak for the ACNS but I can speak on this blog. GAFCON is happening. And ACNS should recognise that it is happening. GAFCON is the major global movement of Anglicans today. I cannot imagine any other part of the Communion announcing a conference and getting 2000 people to gather from the four corners of the earth. (Later: ACNS has a story!)

And I am doing my bit - leading services in a parish while its priest is at GAFCON!

GAFCON news can be followed on Twitter (@gafconference ); also via the Twitter hashtag #gafcon2018

For a feel for what GAFCON generally and GAFCON 2018 is about, read Archbishop Glenn Davies here.

Quite rightly ++Glenn states what is the sole driving force for GAFCON's existence as a separated set of Anglicans who, nevertheless, wish to remain at the heart of the Anglican Communion. It is all to do with this, the first sentence in his article:

"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the momentous resolution concerning human sexuality adopted by the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops from around the Anglican Communion."

It is difficult to imagine that GAFCON would exist without the motivating force of difference in the Communion over sexuality.

Nevertheless ++Glenn argues otherwise when he writes near the end of his article,

"They [the 1100 who met at the first GAFCON Conference in 2008] believed the gospel had been compromised by the renunciation of the doctrine of Christ, and specifically Resolution I.10, plainly seen in the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first bishop living openly in a same-sex relationship.  

Yet the movement did not form solely for this reason. It is mission focused."

I agree that GAFCON is mission focused; that once it had come into being as a movement, it has readily embraced a mission focus rather than a sexuality focus. Though the sexuality issue is not far away: not agreeing with change in Western Anglican churches is becoming a significant identity marker for many Anglicans, both in the West and not in the West; and energy for a different form of Anglicanism - it seems to me - is being derived from the conflict over sexuality.

I suggest that if, generally, an Anglican conference on "mission" was announced, and if there were no conflicts among us, then there would not be 2000 Anglicans motivated to travel across the world to conference over mission.

So GAFCON represents Anglican rumblings, it is a sign of godly discontent about the state of the Anglican church around the globe, or perhaps it is only discontent about the state of the Western church.

That at least is one reason why ACNS should be reporting on GAFCON 2018: the conference represents not just a very large number of Anglicans, it also represents a future direction for global Anglicanism. That this direction is not (so to speak) under the control of the ABC, the ACC, or the Primates makes it more newsworthy rather than less!

From an historic perspective this direction is fascinating. We know that early Reformational and post-Reformational Anglicanism involved tension between Puritan tendencies, (in the language of the day) Papist tendencies, and the Hookerian vision of a Church of England which was neither. Largely the Hookerian approach has driven Anglicanism so many Anglican provinces have successfully incorporated, in more recent terminology, evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism, to say nothing of moderate as well as progressive Anglicanism.

GAFCON, it strikes me, noting the drivers of both sexuality and mission, is a fusion of both Puritan and evangelical tendencies, as well as a strongly missional Anglo-Catholicism, with the latter closer to Roman conservatism on sexuality than its modern counterpart, liberal Anglo-Catholicism.

To the extent that the Anglican Communion remains committed to a Hookerian vision of Anglicanism as a grand coalition, it has its work cut out (e.g. in the run up to Lambeth 2020) to gather all members of the coalition in one place.

Conversely, it is reasonably clear that GAFCON is not committed to that Hookerian vision. GAFCON has willingly fostered and supported Anglicans breaking away from (so to speak) Hookerian-vision Anglican provinces. Thus GAFCON represents an evolution or development in what it means to be Anglican.

What fellow Anglicans must eschew is any talk of "unAnglicanism" in respect of this development. Hooker's writings as the Elizabethan settlement settled during the late 16th century were themselves a development of the stringency of the Edwardian Reformation. Laudianism was another development. Anglicanism is a history of such developments and only history determines which developments survive (e.g. by becoming, as evangelicalism, Anglo-Catholicism, and liberalism have done, embedded in the mainstream of Anglican life).

GAFCONism and (so to speak) non-GAFCONism will jostle along through the next decades. The future of Anglicanism may not be a new Hookerian holding together of the two directions. The future of Anglicanism may be what might have happened in the 16th and 17th centuries: the Puritans and the Papists dividing and heading in quite different directions.

UPDATE: important reflection on GAFCON in the Communion here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

I agree

A recent letter to Latimer Fellowship members (available here) raises some intriguing questions about ecclesiology as the (unnamed) author proposes that while the decision of the GS re blessings is a first order issue (and thus one might depart ACANZP because of that magnitude) it is a second order issue whether one chooses to stay or go.

"While the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and the need for repentance for sexual sin is a matter of first importance (for salvation depends on us repenting of our sin), I would argue that the decision of if and how to leave or stay, is a secondary matter."

Ecclesiologically, this statement begs questions about who decides what is of first and of secondary importance, as well as who decides what sexual sin is. After all, the letter is premised on disputing a decision of the General Synod, so a question of relevant authority is involved here!

On the matter of first and secondary importance I suggest the argument here is an argument we Protestants are happy to make but a Roman Catholic would not necessarily be so sanguine about a first order matter having a discretionary second order response.

There is also a soteriological question to consider along the way: is salvation dependent on our repenting of our sin? And that is a genuine question: we can marshall, say the example of Zacchaeus into discussion, we can consider whether "repentance" becomes a Pelagian style "work" when expressed as a sufficient condition for losing salvation and we can ask whether repentance is something we do in order that we might be saved or whether repentance is something we do as we are being saved.

But back to ecclesiology. The author of the letter writes this re the life of the church and working through secondary importance differences:

"These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways."

I agree.

I would extend the scope of the sentence to include the decision of GS itself. It is precisely a decision about brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to the Bible and yet are able to respond in different ways.

The greatest grief in my heart right now is that decisions are being made about congregations departing ACANZP which are unnecessary.

And they are unnecessary precisely because of the brilliant statement in the letter being overlooked in congregational deliberations:

"These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways."

It is Anglicanism 101 that we believe this, practice it and live together in the one tent.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Did Jesus speak Greek?

The article linked to below is fascinating around a number of questions which biblical scholars are interested in: including

- did Jesus a Galilean Jew, speak Greek?

- was Josephus an accurate historian of his contemporary world?

- what was life like for Jews under Roman rule in first century Palestine?

The article is here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Questions and Answers re ACANZP after Motion 7 (29) at GSTHW, May 2018

The following is a document I have written in response to some questions which a colleague has raised with me. The responses are personal (I am writing as one priest, as one member of General Synod, not on behalf of, e.g. the Diocese of Christchurch). I may be wrong. I am biased, in favour of making what we decided work. I am keen to see parishes engage with Christian Communities (CC) rather than contemplate departure.

A question of protection for individuals and individual parishes when there is disagreement with the bishop

In principle, a willingness to live within this church, under its 2018 constitution and canons, and, for licensed ministers, under the authority of the local bishop, will first mean a willingness to live with disagreement generally and secondly be the grounds on which disagreement with the local bishop is worked out.

Prior to Christian Communities being formed, and even if a licensed minister did not join a Christian Community after formation, every minister has “protection” because no minister can be disciplined (let alone have their licence taken away) for continuing to believe and to teach what has been consistent with the Doctrine of Christ expressed through the formularies. A disagreement with the local bishop is a disagreement but it is not grounds for the bishop to change his or her attitude or approach to any licensed minister under their authority.

Adequate protections under CCs now and in the future?

Such a question begs another question, what is meant by “protections”? Given the general thrust of what has been decided is to protect (e.g. from discipline) those who teach against (or for) same sex blessings, the question of protection is likely to be about future ministry rather than present ministry. Can a parish be guaranteed succession in ministry so its next vicar or priest-in-charge shares its values and theological commitments? Where that parish is part of a Christian Community which itself has such values and theological commitments, that guarantee can be given. Will a new candidate for ordination from a parish in a Christian Community be accepted for ordination (all things re call/gifts/experience being equal)? The legislation does not insist a bishop accept any candidate for ordination. But we could ask, why would a bishop (or the bishops generally) starve Christian Communities of ordained ministers? Any such policy would be self-defeating for the bishops who usually like to see parish vacancies filled rather remain annoyingly vacant.

How will individuals and parishes be treated if they decide they are unable to remain part of ACANZP?

If Anglicans, including licensed ministers are no longer able to be part of ACANZP, there is general goodwill for the process of departure to be handled with practical love, grace and generosity. Those departing, conversely, should understand that the responsibilities of ACANZP continue to include provision of ministry in ministry unit territories from which Anglicans are departing, even when departure involves formation of a new local church.

Is theological work yet to be done which might address questions such as whether a service of blessing of a same sex civil marriage is scripturally supported? (Thus, might we move from such services being excluded canonically from being consistent with the constitution?)

Yes. Currently there is no specific plan for this work to be done. But such work would build on a series of hermeneutical hui and theological hui held in ACANZP within the past 10-12 years. It would likely require a willingness on the part of the church to acknowledge that such work should be done and would be welcomed with an in principle willingness to agree to its outcomes. The current situation of not requiring services of blessing to conform to the constitution is a recognition of division within our church about the scriptural basis on which such services might be welcomed.

On the specific question of whether GSTHW 2018 has contradicted Article 20, the answer requires a determination – if one was formally sought – by the appropriate doctrinal and legal bodies of our church.

I’m confused over the comments “no one was happy with motion 29” – yet you also say that “many clergy and laity believe that blessing same sex relationships accord with Scripture

OK, so “no one” might be an exaggeration (since I am pretty comfortable with it!). The point made at GS along those lines was that we were not pretending that Motion 7 (29) was a motion which in all its parts a reasonable number of people were happy with. Few if any are happy with it as a whole and many are unhappy about specific proposals BUT, also the point made at General Synod, it is a proposal that a majority were likely to vote for; and we did.

Yes, at the core of the motion, is an acceptance that many clergy and laity believe that blessing same sex relationships accords with Scripture, and thus GS is confident that a majority vote for the principle at the core of the motion, that permission might be given for blessings, is a majority representative of our church as a whole.

The failure in leadership in allowing this informal teaching (i.e. through past years that loving, faithful, permanent same sex partnerships might be blessed) and practice (i.e. that in previous times, such partnerships have been blessed) to continue informally for such a long period of time.

I do not see a failure of leadership because leadership is an expression of the body of Christ as a whole. It has been clear for a long time – in my estimation, at least since around 2004, probably earlier, to the reaction in 1998 against Lambeth 1.10 – that informally in ACANZP Two Views on same sex partnerships has existed, in some parishes one view being advanced and in other parishes the other view being advanced. For bishops to have sought to suppress one view in favour of the other (except in, say, the Dioceses of Nelson and Polynesia) would have been to invoke a theological civil war and, as a consequence, even more synodical time being taken up with discussion of these matters and the appointment of even more working groups to consider them.

On the matter of “practice”, since the events of 2003 (the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop and reaction in the Communion to that event), there has been a moratorium in ACANZP on blessing of partnerships and ordination of persons in a same sex partnership. (No doubt some exceptions can be brought up, but generally this moratorium has held. Partly, in my view, out of respect for the feeling of the Communion and partly out of recognition of the need for this church to do work on these matters (which it has done through hermeneutical hui, theological hui, Ma Whaea Commission and two working groups).

Why is it is okay for ACANZP to defy Lambeth?

There is nothing to defy. Lambeth is not an authoritative body which promulgates rules for Anglican provinces to follow. A more accurate question would be to ask why ACANZP is now ignoring the guidance and recommendation of Lambeth resolution 1.10 having hitherto, more or less, followed it. I don’t think it is for me as one individual to attempt a definitive answer, since I assume there are multiple aspects to the answer, but here are my suggestions:

-          Over 20 years questions about general recognition of same sex partnerships in the life of our church have become stronger; and certainly have not abated;
-          We are now, in Aotearoa New Zealand, a nation which has first advanced in civil legislation, civil unions and then civil marriage for same sex couples, and thus the particular question of what formal, liturgical response we might make to civil unions/marriages is alive in a way which was not the case in 1998.
-          We see that across the Communion a variety of approaches are being taken to changes in civil society and in civil legislation and that in response the Communion is developing ways of advancing Anglican relationships which are robust in outlook but which are not about a straightforward division of the Communion into fragments: this seems to mean that we can navigate our way through choppy external Anglican waters as we proceed with our internal agenda re same sex blessings.

The matter of GSTHW contravening our constitution (if you don’t think it has in law, then morally/ethically or in spirit?)

I hesitate to say that GSTHW has NOT contravened our constitution in law because someone might take up a legal case about this and prove me wrong! What I am happy to say is that constitutional matters are not only about words in writing, they are also about the will of the people bound by the constitution. (For instance, the wording of the American constitution offers no literal justification for the proliferation of firearms currently seen across American society but the will of the people on this right to bear arms even when not being part of a militia is so strong that regular massacres do not empower politicians to make much needed legal changes re gun ownership and gun use.) The will of the people of ACANZP, as represented at GSTHW, is for some accommodation to be made between the strict wording of the constitution, the meaning of the Formularies as documents expressing the Doctrine of Christ and the desire to offer permission for public blessing of same sex partners committed to a lifetime of covenanted love for one another.

Has, thereby, the constitution been contravened in moral/ethical or spiritual terms? That seems to be very much a matter of whether one thinks blessings are harmonious with the lifegiving nature of the gospel or not; and that brings us back to Two Views. For myself, I am somewhat agnostic!

If GSTHW has allowed two opposite views to be held, where one individual practices the blessings of same gender relationships whilst another doesn’t because it is leading others in sin, how are we to understand Jesus in terms of Mt 18:6 (i.e. the warning not to place stumbling blocks before disciples)?

I suggest we understand Jesus in Matthew 18:6 as asking searching questions of us all in our public words about same sex partnerships. Are our words creating, for instance, an environment in which young people feel the church is hostile towards them? Are our words leading young people into sin? Into responsible, ordered relationships? Are our words confusing others, inside or outside the church or both? Are our words creating stumbling blocks to hearing the gospel as good news for all people or (in perception) only for heterosexuals?

Questions about the new assent (i.e. declarations required of licensed ministers and office-holders)

There are limited options for changing the nature of assent in a church. If (as conservatives argued in submissions to the working group) it is no longer acceptable to submit to the authority of General Synod then there remains a need to assent to the constitution and canons of the church (otherwise one would be saying the rules of the church do not apply) and to the lawful authority of the diocesan bishop (otherwise there would be no one able to insist on the keeping of the rules). In short, the new assent is a minimum requirement for the good order of the church.

Perhaps there are two related questions here, concerning whether the canons can all be obeyed and whether the bishop has authority when we disagree with him or her.

Canons: no canonical change decided by the General Synod requires any licensed minister or office-holder to change their practice or their teaching and thus no assent to the canons of our church implies possible disobedience later on; providing, of course, that it is accepted that changes to the canons offer the possibility of permission for others to do things differently to previously.

Bishop: a bishop, even one we disagree with, cannot require anything other than lawful obedience to the constitution and canons of this church. A bishop can ask us to use the prayer book and expect us to obey that instruction. A bishop has no power to ask us to desist from using the prayer book and any bishop doing so would be issuing an unlawful instruction. On the specific matter of the blessing of same sex civil marriages or civil unions, no bishop can ask a priest to conduct such a blessing nor ask a priest to desist from teaching against blessings. (By contrast, a bishop can insist that no blessings will be conducted in her or his diocese. The “bias” of the changes are in favour of a conservative approach by the bishops.)

Comments: you are welcome to make comments; and to ask questions of clarity; but I am going to be out of time this coming week re offering responses to points you wish to argue ... but someone else among the commenters may take up the challenge!

Monday, June 4, 2018

On the brink? schism among Anglicans Down Under in 2018

Here in Christchurch, possibly in a couple of other dioceses, we are on the brink of schism as several parishes meet aroundabout now to make decisions whether to stay or to leave ACANZP.


1. I speak loosely re timing of decisions as it is not an intention of this post to discuss specific parishes and their decision-making processes; and do not mention any in the comments because such comments will not be published.
2. I also acknowledge that "leaving" is viewed differently from different sides of the matter: some think ACANZP in its majority has left, because of changes made last month at GSTHW 2018; some think the minority of parishes voting to "leave" are the ones who are leaving, even though they can claim to be remaining in terms of the constitution and canons of the church on 1 May 2018. Thus:
3. I will speak of parishes contemplating leaving in this sense of "leaving": leaving the polity of ACANZP as it is governed through June 2018 onwards by decisions made at the May 2018 session of GSTHW.

Is it too late to pull back from the brink? Four questions

As usual I am trying in my own mind - bear of little brain - to make sense of what the thinking is and also wondering, perhaps against hope at this late hour, whether the thinking can be changed. In particular, with the ease of hindsight, I wonder if various conversations and discussions, formal and informal, in recent years have failed to robustly address various matters. Such as:

A. Does God necessarily condemn partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union?

B. Is it "false teaching" to consider that the question above has a negative answer?

C. Is the Bible on marriage so clear on the ideal of marriage (one man, one woman, bound together for life, sex only acceptable within marriage and never, ever outside of marriage) that no pragmatic variations can be considered in the life of the church?

D. Must separation occur when false teaching is admitted into the life of the church?

As I seek to understand the thinking which is driving forward parishes towards decisions to leave the polity of ACANZP (June 2018 version) I sense that the answers to the four questions are Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.

My own answers and, by implication, the answers of the majority of GSTHW members are: No, No, No, and No.

Four answers, or reasons for staying in ACANZP (June 2018 version)

A. Does God necessarily condemn partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union?

No. I suggest (strongly!) that we simply do not have enough Scriptural evidence to determine that in the light of our modern knowledge of homosexuality (e.g. that it is unchosen and that it rarely changes as a lifelong orientation) we can be sure that God necessarily condemns partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union. For a specific consideration of 1 Corinthians on the matter, see now my post at Hermeneutics and Human Dignity.

B. Is it "false teaching" to consider that the question above has a negative answer?

No. With respect to human sexuality, the New Testament is clear that there are two kinds of false teaching, one is that sex/marriage is bad (e.g. 1 Timothy 4:3) and, two, that sexual indulgence/licentiousness is okay (e.g. Galatians 5:19-21). 

But, also with respect to human sexuality, the New Testament also clearly demonstrates that certain matters may be discussed and the result of the discussion does not necessarily entail those concluding the discussion differently to others are therefore "false teachers." Thus remarriage after divorce has intriguing variations across Matthew, Mark, Luke (and, also intriguingly, no concern in John) and then 1 Corinthians 7 demonstrates the early church tackling a question which had not been thought of when Jesus was being pressed for an answer. Also in 1 Corinthians, Paul can discuss restraint within marriage without raising the question of "false teaching" while also advancing the merits of celibacy without making marriage into a poor choice in comparison. There is no intrinsic reason, surveying all that the New Testament says about sex, marriage, sexual desire,  decisions made by civil authorities, mercy, love and judgment to presume that either Jesus or Paul or any apostle would consider that a church responding to changes in society, changes in understanding the human condition and formulating a proposal that lifelong commitment to the good of another person could be blessed is thereby entertaining "false teaching."

C. Is the Bible on marriage so clear on the ideal of marriage (one man, one woman, bound together for life, sex only acceptable within marriage and never, ever outside of marriage) that no pragmatic variations can be considered in the life of the church?

No. In part, an answer is above in the response to question B. But the Old Testament is a living reminder that even though the God of the whole Bible is, so to speak, a monogamist re marriage, there is pragmatic acceptance through much of the Old Testament, that polygamy is part and parcel of life in certain cultures, through specific periods of human history (part and parcel of "changes in society, changes in understanding the human condition and formulating a proposal that lifelong commitment to the good of another person could be blessed"). In John 4, Jesus, somewhat unaccountably, gives no specific direction to the Samaritan woman at the well to sort out her complicated marital/sexual life. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 acknowledges the power of sexual desire is more than strong enough to upend his commendation of celibacy as the desired state of life.

Further, this being written the day after Mark 2:23-3:6 is the gospel reading for the 9th Ordinary Sunday, the New Testament opens up important questions about the nature of rules and humanity: is humanity made in order to obey rules or are rules made to serve humanity, to enable us to flourish? When we move from certain NT statements to make those statements rules, are we moving in the direction Jesus moves or in the direction the scribes and the Pharisees moved in?

D. Must separation occur when false teaching is admitted into the life of the church?

No. Some of the severest challenges false teaching makes to church life come in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. At no point does the command of Jesus to the faithful require them to leave their churches. In fact, is there any point in the New Testament where false teaching is to be met by departure rather than by continued adherence to true teaching?

In conclusion

There is only one body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

We are already a set of separated "bodies" (human versions of the desired "one body"). It is tempting to think that one more separation doesn't matter. It does. The plan of God is for one body. There is ultimately only one body. We are all going to be with the Lord as one body, notwithstanding our differences and disagreements. We witness to that one body when we remain together. We increase the (admittedly slight) chance of unifying the churches when we cease our separations. I do not see in the differences before us the need to separate.

We are on the brink but it is not too late to step back.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Dear Commenters, There seems to be a problem ...

Dear Commenters,
Google has changed some things on Blogger (driven by some requirements of the EU?) and since then it seems that I am not getting any notifications re comments and thus have to manually go into the comments section "under the hood" and publish them from there.
(I have just published 8 comments).
We have a holiday weekend coming up so I hope I might see what the problem is and, more importantly, whether I can solve it :)
Also, the comments just posted look interesting so I will read them ... eventually ... time is super precious these days!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Do we want to cross the Jordan?

It looks like I might be down to once a week blogging for a while. There is a lot happening and that is to be expected when the Diocese of Christchurch is without a full-time, residential bishop. So, best to focus on the immediate and one day (blogging) life will get better.

Last week, Monday to Thursday, we had our annual Clergy Conference at Living Springs, a lovely site high up on the hills at the end of Lyttelton Harbour. The view from the not unreasonably named Harbour View Lounge is to die for: straight down the harbour and out through the heads to Chile. OK, so you can't quite see Chile except on a very, very clear sky day.

In various ways the conference was helpful: there were stimulating workshops and plenary sessions with good teaching and horizon stretching ideas and data re the changing world and our place in it. Worship sessions were opportunities to pray and to praise God. Meals and breaks contributed to fellowship and friendship. Here I share two specific ideas which challenged and stretched me.

First, Rebecca Burgess, of Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson led us from 2 Timothy through other passages, especially from the Psalms, to both teach us and challenge us about the gospel. Her specific line was that the gospel is the good news that "our God reigns" (alternatively, "Jesus is Lord"), with reference to Psalm 110 and its huge impact on the first Christian reflections about Jesus.

I won't run you through all my notes (and the multiple Scripture references). Suffice to say that thinking about the gospel in these terms inspires faith and invites us to look around to see what God is doing in the world. And, of course, as Rebecca emphasised the gospel in terms of God's reign leads us to reconcile law (the king's instructions) and grace(the king's bounty and largesse).

Secondly, Chris Clarke, until recently CEO of World Vision NZ, led us through several sessions on what it means to be the church in a changing world, with special reference to our Diocese being at a point of change with a change of bishops. There were many important things said and what we heard was against the backdrop of the recently published survey on religious life in NZ (see post below). Translation: theoretical processing of the issues and questions of the day is urgent. We may not have an Anglican church in these islands in 15 years' time!

Chris also used the OT to bring his challenge home, riffing off the theme of Joshua and the Promised Land. Whether or not the next stage of the life of the Diocese is "the Promised Land" we are at a moment of transition, we stand on the verge of the Jordan River. Will we cross over? How many will cross? Who, like a few ancient tribes, wants to stay behind? What battles do we have to fight and what do we not need to waste our time on? I liked his closing address which proposed that where we are heading is to the Promising Land.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Could ++Michael Curry turn the tide for Christianity against secularism?

Last night (NZ time) Teresa and I tuned into the Royal Wedding telecast and, as usual, it was all colour and pageantry such as, arguably, only the Brits can do. While I do not want to buy into obsession with celebrity culture and all that, I am happy to view a liturgy to see how it is done and review what is good and what might be learned, so why not watch the service.

You may have done so and like me, been reasonably lacking in any experience of the preaching style of ++Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of TEC. Not only did he impress me with his enthusiasm and panache in delivery, he impressed heaps of people on Twitter. And I do not mean just clergy/preachers.

Here is Ed Miliband, British politician and non-Christian:

++Curry's content was pretty good to and packed a lot in, from Song of Songs to 1 John, from Martin Luther King through Jesus Christ to Teilhard de Chardin and back to MLK, all on the theme of the power of redemptive love. (Full sermon here and here).

There was a lovely one liner or two:

Sure, there was some Tweeted criticism, re length and, well, too much enthusiasm for Brits, as well as some humour:



But enough of the humour. Curry's sermon was as powerful reminder of the potential of preaching to connect with people, to display the gospel in a gripping and attractive manner, and to use the medium of television to communicate to a large number of people (albeit viewing for reasons other than watching a preacher). What is there not to like and not to learn?

Which is an appropriate moment to draw attention to this sobering survey of secularism versus Christianity/church life in Kiwiland: here.


(This will be my only post this week.
I am engaged in our annual Clergy Conference.
I will try to post any comments but am unlikely to engage with any comments after today, Sunday.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Cardinal Dew

This is a busy time for many churches. Here Down Under it is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (disunitedly observed in January by the Northern Hemisphere!!). It is also the period, between Ascension and Pentecost of #ThyKingdomCome, a burgeoning movement of prayer and missional action for God's Kingdom to ... Come!

Today I want to concentrate on praying for Christian Unity, a prayer our Lord himself prayed (John 17). The other day I came across this lovely encouragement from Cardinal John Dew of the Catholic Church in NZ and Archbishop of Wellington.


Message for parish bulletins for Ascension Sunday

Dear friends

As we gather in our parish each weekend for Mass other Christians are gathering in churches in our area for their Sunday worship. They are our neighbours, friends, people we meet in the supermarket, perhaps even our relatives.

We gather separately because of events that happened centuries ago. We have moved on from wars among Christians, hostility and bitterness, to respecting one another and being able to honestly acknowledge the many things we have in common – at the heart of which is our shared belief in Jesus Christ.

We have also found many practical ways to work together for the common good of our community.

The feast of the Ascension this weekend marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which extends until Pentecost Sunday next weekend.

It is a time to reflect upon how we each might do some small thing for Christian unity, prayer, reaching out to someone from another Christian church, contributing to food banks supported jointly by churches, taking part in an ecumenical service.

Nothing is too small in the work of promoting Christian unity. We are restoring that fractured unity piece by piece, and each of us has one or more of the pieces to put in place.

John A Cardinal Dew
Archbishop of Wellington
Catholic Bishops Committee for Ecumenism"

Monday, May 14, 2018

Decision 2018: Q and A (1)

Among recent comments to the post below, a few questions were asked of me and I am posting responses here in a new post, along with a few further thoughts/reflections from me.

First, the further thoughts:

As the days unfold after General Synod in New Plymouth, I am aware of rumblings if not ructions in various parishes up and down these islands. I offer two personal hopes to any readers in any such parishes.

(1) that discussions in parishes are based on accurate information about what General Synod has done, on fair and reasonable expectations of trust and goodwill among Anglicans as we work these things out, including trust that our bishops are open to working out how conservative parishes are supported through this new era.

(2) that parishes do not try to work out difficult questions in (say) parish meetings without calling on outside assistance such as an archdeacon to be an external voice in proceedings. Archdeacons are busy people and may not love me for expressing this hope, but I do worry about parishes working on these matters within the framework of limited viewpoints.

Tomorrow I hope to tackle a couple of questions raised with me "off-blog" but for now, two questions raised the other day here on ADU

Sarah's question: "My question is not in regards to the SS issue but rather your thoughts on other examples of permanent/de facto relationships. Forgive me if this has been addressed before, I am a sporadic reader.

Question: if a heterosexual couple came into the church, having been in a de-facto relationship for a number of years and, let us say, have children in tow, and whom had a genuine desire to know the God's teaching on family order, what would your response be? 

Where in Scripture (and I would like the answer to be Scripturally based, please) would you point this young couple? 
I am genuinely interested as I have read your thoughts on the SS aspect of such a scenario, and wonder - if the basis is a committed relationship (and how more committed can a couple be by having children!) - where your line is drawn for gentle and loving rebuke? "

My response: The hypothetical couple you refer to are married, theologically speaking. There is no Scriptural text I am aware of which demands that a de facto married couple become a de jure married couple. There is no text that prescribes what form the beginning of a marriage should take but 1 Corinthians 5 teaches that every act of sexual intercourse forms a marriage, even sex with a prostitute does that, and such brief marriages are injurious. But the point is that consummation of a relationship is critical to the beginning of a marriage and historically non-consummation has been grounds for annulment of a(n apparent) marriage.

However in most churches in the Western world we like to know that couples in our midst are in a de jure marriage rather than a de facto marriage. This is probably because we doubt that a de facto married couple are quite as properly married as a de jure married couple, since the former lacks the public declaration of lifelong commitment and fidelity which the latter requires. But, to repeat, Scripture does not require a wedding as we generally understand weddings. It would be fine if your couple said to your vicar: "we are not married legally and have no intention of being so,* but we do want to be married theologically and we want the congregation to know that, so could we next Sunday together say to the congregation that we love each other, that we promise to be faithful to the other and to remain married till one of us dies." [*there are good arguments for the church having nothing to do with state registration of marriages.] 

It is actually hard to find one simple Scripture to cite which fulfills your request for Scriptural reasoning for asking your hypothetical couple to make their marriage either de jure or in some way more "proper". I think I would say to your couple that the general discipline of the church through the ages, based on numerous Scriptural texts about the importance of marriage, is that couples in a sexual relationship should be married and the clearest sign of a couple embracing this challenge is to become legally married

I myself would not think of offering a rebuke to such a couple as you cite. Many and varied are the reasons why some couples are in a de facto marriage and not in a de jure marriage and as a pastor I would want to listen to those reasons before speaking.

At least twice in my pastoral ministry I have found the right words to say which have led to couples formalising their de facto marriages. I do not recall those words being a "rebuke".

Sam's question: "you wrote, "There is another image that fits here too, it is called whanau or extended family. ACANZP is that family"

To which family do you consider yourself primarily attached, the parish, the denomination, or the universal church? To which of these do you think Christ calls us to show greatest fidelity? Even at the expense of the others?"

My response: "To which (church) family am I loyal? I have this feeling, Sam, that my answer will not satisfy you! But why not give it a go. I am loyal (human frailty acknowledged) to Jesus Christ and to his followers and thus to God's family in the widest sense of all those who also confess loyalty to Jesus. But in a narrower sense, the Anglican part of that family, I am loyal to Anglicans ahead of (say) Presbyterians (even though my initial theological education was with them) or Catholics (even though I am married into that great family) or Protestants generally (even though I share many matters of theology with those unconvinced by all the claims of Rome). 

In an even narrower sense I am loyal to the church - ACANZP - into which you and I have been ordained and have taken vows of obedience to the authority of our (respective diocesan) bishops, our constitution and canons, including the liturgies authorised for use by common agreement through General Synod which express our doctrine. That loyalty is congenial to me because of my upbringing as a cradle Anglican, my conviction as a thinking adult Anglican and by my many wonderful friendships across theological divides and cultural diversity in our Three Tikanga church (underlined again this most recent General Synod).

In this church of ours I appreciate fellowship with Anglicans loyal to Jesus who include two brothers and a sister who resigned this past week from General Synod and gay Anglicans who did not. Our current and future situation would appear to ask whether I will be loyal to one group rather than another. If that is your underlying question then I can only say that I will love all Anglicans in these islands, both those who stay in ACANZP and those who may yet choose to depart. 

You also ask to which of the forms of church, parish, denomination, universal church does Jesus Christ ask us to show the greatest fidelity? The answer is "all" because we have obligations to the local church to which we belong (and may, as licensed ministers, have made specific commitment to), to the denomination to which that local church belongs (and without which the local church would not be the local church), and to the universal church of which the denomination belongs, for the universal church is Christ's body on earth and we cannot opt out of that!

I do not see where 1 Corinthians 12 or Romans 12 implies that our love for fellow Christians is ever asked to be "at the expense of others." 1 John implies a situation in which some Christians have departed the fellowship to which the letter is addressed, and calls for ever deeper love for those that remain, but it is not clear exactly what has led to the departure, though it may be over the highest form of dispute possible between Christians, the nature and character of Jesus himself. From that perspective I would not say that (e.g.) I am obligated to have as much faithful love for Mormons, Muslims, Christadelphians, etc as for fellow Christians.