Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers!

This blog is going on holiday until the 3rd or 4th January.

I will post comments (as able) but not interact with them.

Best wishes

Anglican Covenant (iv): Effects

Although the Covenant is not yet in effect (since no Anglican church has yet signed its agreement with it), a possible effect of the Covenant in place is signaled in this resolution of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion (published simultaneously with the final draft of the Covenant):

"Resolved that, in the light of:

The recent episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate

The decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings

Continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion

The Standing Committee strongly reaffirm Resolution 14.09 of ACC 14 supporting the three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report and the associated request for gracious restraint in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion."

With this resolution the Standing Committee indicates that the Covenant in place is likely to change nothing about the sense that a partnered gay or lesbian person elected to episcopal office in the Communion is 'incompatible with the Covenant' (see S4.2.6).

I will assume, for the purposes of this post, that for the foreseeable future this view, that a partnered gay or lesbian person elected to episcopal office in the Communion (or indeed, out of the Communion, in, say, a church seeking to become a member of the Communion) is incompatible with the Covenant. I will also assume for the purposes of this post that the Covenant is signed by member churches in such numbers that it is effective as a means of ordering the life of the Communion (my personal estimate of the numbers required is 90+% of current member churches).

(One further thing I ask readers to note is that I am a supporter of the Covenant because I think a number of ways in which life in the Communion has diversified or threatens to diversify need limits or constraints placed upon them, not because it will solve one major presenting issue. The 'gay issue' may have catalysed the process which has led to a Covenant, but it is not the only reason for having the Covenant. Here, however, space and time limit my focus to one or two implications of the Covenant for the 'gay issue'.)

A small bevy of questions immediately arises (though, for me, the one question which will not arise is whether TEC would draw back from electing partnered gay or lesbian people to episcopal office). Will TEC be able to sign the Covenant and confirm such elections? If TEC does not sign the Covenant what will that mean in respect of a range of matters from the considerable gifting of funds TEC makes to the life of the Communion? Would TEC (already an international network of churches) form an alternate Communion? Would TEC seek as far as possible to be an active, though unCovenanted member of the Communion?

On the one hand we can see that, even the most positive answers to questions above being given, one likely effect of the Covenant being adopted is that some division between TEC and the remainder of the Communion takes place. On the other hand we cannot see what the life of the remainder of the Communion as a Communion will look like. We should not assume that TEC would be ungenerous to the Communion in regard to funding. Conversely, if funding were withdrawn, we should not assume that meetings of the Communion could not take place. But we should accept now that the future could be very different. (Teasingly, we could observe that if one effect of the Covenant is that a member church is dis-invited to a meeting it does not amount to much if the meeting cannot take place for lack of funds!)

Some will have little or no regret about a division of some kind taking place between TEC and the Communion - some that is, who are tired of the Communion's constraints on TEC, and some who are tired of TEC's thorny presence in the life of the Communion. Others are very concerned that we could get to such a point. For some there is incomprehension that so insignificant a matter as a person's domestic life could be constructed into a matter over which division takes place. For some the incomprehension is that TEC could persist in thinking it could continue on a path it has been told is divisive while believing this would be without consequence to its relationship with the Communion. For others their concern is that the Communion seems unable to agree to disagree on an issue which concerns basic human dignity; and, one might add, on an issue which is compatible with the basic autonomy of member churches to order their own life according to their constitution.

To reflect in this way is to recognise that the presentation of the Covenant exposes a multiplicity of disagreements in our Communion over homosexuality. It is not just that we disagree about partnered relationships; we disagree about how that disagreement should be handled in our life as a Communion; and we disagree about whether it would be a good or bad thing if we finally divide over it.

From one perspective the Covenant is a shadow over our life: all these disagreements are in our midst. But from another perspective the Covenant is God's searchlight exposing our many weaknesses.

To know our weaknesses is to have a foundation for building new strengths. Can we do this? Will we do it?

[Later: have just discovered the internet existence of this from ACANZP.]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Earthquake Church is left behind as tectonic plates of faith shift

Pulling no punches, Ephraim Radner offers some knock-down arguments that TEC is out for the count on the canvas, and the future of the Anglican Communion, for those who Covenant to it, shines brighter than the stars TEC is seeing:

"The final text of the Anglican Covenant has now been sent out for adoption by the churches of the Communion. The slow process by which this text and its official dissemination for action has occurred has frustrated some, yet its persistent progress forward to this point at last puts the lie to the naysayers and early eulogists of the Covenant’s purpose. Joined to the restarting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic international dialogue, to be focused on substantive matters of ecclesiology and moral decision-making, what seemed merely slow now appears to be the visible sign of a tectonic shift in global Anglicanism and Christianity itself. It is one in which the Episcopal Church in the United States has placed itself on the far side of a widening channel separating the ballast of Christian witness, Catholic and Pentecostal, from marginal spin-offs of liberal Protestantism in decline."


"The Episcopal Church, as we have known it and given ourselves to its ministry, is over. But the Gospel is alive, and the Church that is Christ’s Body given, takes us to a new place."

I can imagine the scripted response from here. Episcopalians to the left crying foul blow below the belt. North American Anglicans to the right reacting to some left jabs Radner makes to their chins. But the essential point of what Ephraim is saying bears thinking about: Has TEC painted itself into a corner with its commitment to a non-traditional sexual ethic? Is it dying a slow death, measured by statistics its leadership will not own and lacking a remedy through gospel growth it can no longer provide because, to all intents and purposes, it preaches 'another gospel'?

One response, of course, is that most North American Christianity faces the same future as TEC, to one degree or another.

It is possible, however, that Radner is right, that there is a problem particular to TEC. If it will not change, it will die. Or at least keep withering on the vine.

But then, maybe Ephraim is wrong. What would be the evidence and the explanation which demonstrated that?

(H/T Titus One Nine)

Anglican Covenant (iii): Possibilities

Disarray is one way to describe the present state of the Anglican Communion in which there is uproar over gay bishops (one consecrated, one waiting confirmation), non-recognition of ministries (there are places in the Communion in which ordained women or men ordained by a woman bishop or men bishops who have ordained women are not welcome to exercise their ministry), varying relationships with the See of Canterbury (e.g. no longer part of the constitution of Nigeria's Anglican Church), turmoil within North American Episcopalianism/Anglicanism, controversial episcopal arrangements in my own church (in summary terms, we can have two or more jurisdictions over the same territory), and the lurking possibility that from Sydney the Communion will finally be confronted with the question of whether our tolerance stretches to include lay presidency at the eucharist as an expression of Anglican polity. Bosco Peters offers a sweeping overview of these difficulties in our common life and draws the conclusion that the Covenant will make no difference to the mixture of diversity and division which is an ongoing characteristic of our life as a messy church.

It is certainly difficult to see how the Covenant will make any difference to the Communion if it is adopted by some provinces and not by others. In my own estimation it requires in the region of 90+% adoption by the member churches of the Communion if it is to make any difference to the life of the Communion. I offer this figure because a Covenant between members of a large body, by definition, needs agreement if it is to bind the body in any manner. Conversely, I do not see that we need hold out for 100% agreement (nice though that would be) as requiring 100% offers the possibility of a tiny minority vetoing the large majority. Having said that, however, I note two matters to ponder: (a) should 90% be 90% of members churches, each member church being one signatory, or 90% of the (presumed) numerical membership of the Communion (so that, e.g., Western Anglican churches such as Australia, ACANZP, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Canada and TEC failing to sign up might not matter)? (b) could the Covenant get off the ground if Church of England, the church of the Archbishop of Canterbury itself did not sign?

This could all be put another way. If the Anglican Communion is in significant disarray (as Bosco effectively argues) and less than 90% sign up to the Covenant (my requirement for success, not his), then our disarray is underlined, indeed, set in concrete. But if the Communion signs up in near, or even total unity to the Covenant, this would be a sign that the Communion intends, albeit over time, to walk more closely together, to work on its common life, and thus, as an intended consequence, to minimise the divisions in our midst. There would be some changes required: Sydney might need to disavow further consideration of lay presidency; ACANZP might need to review and revise its episcopal arrangements; and so forth. But these changes, driven by a document called the Covenant, would not be about a stick used to beat us. They would be the result of committing ourselves to living by a common Anglican theology grounded in Scripture as received by us through our tradition and reason.

Take just one case, one I am reasonably familiar with: the way ACANZP has ordered its life through three tikanga arrangements which has led to more than one bishop having jurisdiction over the same territory. This is not, ultimately, a satisfactory expression of our unity together in Christ which, in an episcopal church, should be represented by one bishop per territory: our arrangements, I believe, are vital for the situation we find ourselves in as we work out the effects of colonization on Aotearoa New Zealand, but, measured against the gospel, they are provisional and should not be deemed permanent. Our church will have some within it, including, obviously, many Maori Anglicans, who fear the Covenant and its effects. But this is an unfortunate way to frame the role of the Covenant which is a calling back to our theological roots grounded in the vision for the church set out in Scripture. For Christians committed to Christ as the Lord of the church and resolved to live a common life in Christ, there is nothing to fear in the Covenant which should be welcomed, as should anything and everything which renews our life in Christ, even though the path of renewal is costly.

Thus the first revised paragraph of Section Four (remember the first three sections of the Covenant are now largely without demur on the part of member churches) proposes a vision for membership of the Communion that can only be disputed at risk to the foundations of ecclesiology itself:

"(4.1.1) Each Church adopting this Covenant affirms that it enters into the Covenant as a commitment to relationship in submission to God. Each Church freely offers this commitment to other Churches in order to live more fully into the ecclesial communion and interdependence which is foundational to the Churches of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is a fellowship, within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, of national or regional Churches, in which each recognises in the others the bonds of a common loyalty to Christ expressed through a common faith and order, a shared inheritance in worship, life and mission, and a readiness to live in an interdependent life."

I have italicised the words above which draw us to consider what our life in Christ means as Anglican together in the mission of God in the world. Do we have 'bonds of common loyalty to Christ' or not? If we do, are these to be 'expressed through a common faith and order'? If they are, my argument through these posts, contra other commentators, is that the proposed Covenant is the means to enable that expression to take place. Naturally if questions about our common faith and order never arose we would not require a Covenant, so we expect the Covenant would say something about how we respond to such questions. Thus there is now an all new section 4.2.1:

"The Covenant operates to express the common commitments and mutual accountability which hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another. Recognition of, and fidelity to, this Covenant, enable mutual recognition and communion. Participation in the Covenant implies a recognition by each Church of those elements which must be maintained in its own life and for which it is accountable to the Churches with which it is in Communion in order to sustain the relationship expressed in this Covenant."

In other words, if Communion means we have things in common in a relationship of mutual accountability then those things must remain in common for our fellowship as a Communion to be sustained. But what if some things do not remain in common between us? Here the revised Section 4 sets out a procedure which I quote in full:

"(4.2.3) When questions arise relating to the meaning of the Covenant, or about the compatibility of an action by a covenanting Church with the Covenant, it is the duty of each covenanting Church to seek to live out the commitments of Section 3.2. Such questions may be raised by a Church itself, another covenanting Church or the Instruments of Communion.

(4.2.4) Where a shared mind has not been reached the matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee shall make every effort to facilitate agreement, and may take advice from such bodies as it deems appropriate to determine a view on the nature of the matter at question and those relational consequences which may result. Where appropriate, the Standing Committee shall refer the question to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting for advice.

(4.2.5) The Standing Committee may request a Church to defer a controversial action. If a Church declines to defer such action, the Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which may specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”.

(4.2.7) On the basis of the advice received, the Standing Committee shall make recommendations as to relational consequences which flow from an action incompatible with the Covenant. These recommendations may be addressed to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion and address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion, and the practical consequences of such impairment or limitation. Each Church or each Instrument shall determine whether or not to accept such recommendations.

(4.2.8) Participation in the decision making of the Standing Committee or of the Instruments of Communion in respect to section 4.2 shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.

(4.2.9) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant."

Some would see the bite in these teeth of the Covenant as affecting relationships in respect of meetings in the life of the Communion which (as Bosco Peters reminds us) are non-binding. In other words, not much bite.

However I suggest the bite is at its sharpest at another point, in the section whose words I have italicised above, which I repeat here:

"(4.2.6) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Standing Committee may make a declaration that an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”."

If the Covenant is that which expresses our common life together as an Anglican Communion then it is a statement of what being Anglican means in this day and age. This determines that what being Anglican means will not be set by facts on the ground laid out by individual Anglicans (e.g. through publication of heterodox theology or well publicised provocative actions such as we have seen in recent days in Auckland, NZ) or individual member churches (e.g. through deciding to permit lay presidency at the eucharist). Rather it will be set through a process in which members of the Covenanted Communion may draw attention to actions or proposed actions and seek consideration of those actions as to whether they are or are not compatible with the Covenant, that is, with our resolve to be what we are as a Communion, that is, to live a common life together in Christ. At the least this will mean that of some things labeled 'Anglican', we will be able to say , "No, that is not so. They are not part of our common life together, no matter what the newspapers say".

Perhaps, I feel emboldened to ask critics of the Covenant, we do not wish to live a common life together in Christ as global Anglicans?

There is much more to say about the Covenant in respect of matters such as who may sign up to the Covenant, what signing up would mean in terms of the constitution and canons of member churches and so on. But others are saying those things. This is what I want to say for now. Tomorrow I hope to post on a practical aspect of Covenant thinking as expressed in a recent decision of the (newly named) Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in respect of the election of Mary Glasspool.

Notes on the Anglican Covenant

Here are some links to keep abreast of responses to the Anglican Covenant.

Bosco Peters offers a robust, reasoned case against the Covenant here. His verdict is, "The proposed “covenant” is not “fit for the purpose” and will not do what so many of its advocates are convinced it is meant to do."

Incidentally, h/t to Bosco, another form of comparison between the former and present versions of Section 4 can be found here thanks to the work of Lionel Diemel.

The Living Church offers several posts on the Covenant:

Catholic Voices: Four Responses to the Covenant (Kings, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Clavier, Kew).

The Covenant Arrives on Schedule.

Essential Aspects by Christopher Wells highlights important changes in Section 4.

To Arrive Where We Started is an editorial by Christopher Wells. He concludes with these words (written, note, from within TEC itself):

"What will the Episcopal Church do? Of course, many if not most in our church, as well as in the Communion, presume that our church will decline to adopt the Covenant, and that may be true. There is, however, freedom in Christ, and Episcopalians can decide for ourselves whether to accept this mission. The Living Church considers these the minimal criteria of Christian responsibility for discerning God’s will in this matter:

1. Take up the Covenant and read it, carefully and prayerfully.

2. Discuss it in your parish and diocese and decide if you can commit yourself to it and endorse it, as the Covenant Working Group has encouraged.

3. Decide if you will support its adoption on the provincial level."

Finally, it is always good to hear what Ephraim Radner, one of the architects of the Covenant, has to say as the wording evolves. His comments are reported in an article by Douglas LeBlanc. Dr Radner offers these observations about TEC's place in the global Communion:

"Because changes to the fourth section did not reflect what Episcopal Church leaders were seeking, Dr. Radner said, the document helps change that province’s standing. He described it as being part of a pattern, along with the ecumenical dialogues of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission and the recent meeting of the Archbishop of Canterbury with Pope Benedict XVI.

“You take this, with the restarting of the ARCIC dialogue and what Rowan was engaged in at Rome, and there is a shift going on, and that shift is leaving the Episcopal Church behind,” he said. “There’s nothing the Episcopal Church can do about it at this point.”

While acknowledging the archbishop’s explanation that the Covenant is “not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply,” Dr. Radner said of Episcopal Church leaders: “They’re not going to be able to claim any moral high ground. They’ve been sidelined.”

Those leaders are not being shown the exit, he said, but “they’re on a path that’s going around the side of the building.”

He highlighted Section 4.1.6, which says simply, “This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.”

Conservative provinces in the Global South “ought to be able to go ahead with it,” he said about adoption of the Covenant, “whatever problems there are with this or that detail.”"

Also just noticed, a post by the Anglican Communion Institute.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Anglican Covenant (ii): Hopes

Opposition to the Anglican Covenant, or simply indifference to it, seems to proceed from four bases. Base One is the belief that, when all hand-wringing explanations are made, the Covenant is simply a fig-leaf covering naked homophobic aggression against those parts of the Communion with the temerity to publicly affirm through ordination and blessing the sanctity of same-sex partnerships. In four words: its purpose is punishment.

Base Two is the belief that the Anglican way is what it is without need for further definition or description; indeed, the idea of a Covenant is "unAnglican". In four words: it will not do!

Base Three is not entirely dissimilar to Base Two because it also sees no need for a Covenant, but does so for a different reason. When all is said and done, the Anglican Communion is caput. Over. Working on a Covenant is, from this perspective, a waste of time. In four words: it will achieve nothing.

Base Four, to which I was alerted by a correspondent yesterday, again, has similarity to Base Two, and to Base Three, but with an important difference. The Covenant is a waste of time, but not because it will achieve nothing. It might in fact achieve something inasmuch as it enables the world Anglican church as an institution to totter along for a few more decades. But the Covenant is a waste of time, on this view, because God is doing something else within the context of the Anglican Communion (and beyond it). That is, God is building a new form of church (a New Reformation so to speak) with a new generation of people, freed of (say) the shibboleths of the Baby Boomers, who are zealous to obey God and indifferent to some of the concerns of their elders. Thus to focus on the Covenant is to miss where the divine action in the church and world is today. In five words: God is not in it.

So, what I am about to write is in the face of the possibilities that the Anglican Covenant is wrong-headed because its purpose is punishment, it will not do, it will achieve nothing, and God is not in it!

With the Archbishop of Canterbury, however, I share some hopes for the Covenant. In his recent introduction to the final version of the Covenant he says this,

"In other words, what we need is something that will help us know where we stand together, and help us also intensify our fellowship and our trust.

"The covenant text sets out the basis on which the Anglican family works and prays and lives and hopes. The bulk of the text identifies what we hold in common, the ground on which we stand as Anglicans. It's about the gift we've been given as a Church and the gift we've been given specifically as the Anglican Communion. All those things we give thanks for, we affirm together, and we resolve together to safeguard and to honour."

In other words, if being Anglican in the world means presenting ourselves as a global body united in Christ, then some definition of the basis of our unity as Anglicans is worth spelling out via the Covenant. In Rowan-speak a key word in the above citation is "intensify". The hopes for the Covenant are not like the hopes for Copenhagen, that somehow some form of words might be agreed to by nations otherwise resolved not to like each other. Rather they are hopes that the member churches of the Communion might not only agree to the Covenant, but on the basis of it deepen our common life together, "presenting to the world a face of mutual understanding, patience, charity and gratitude for one another", and thus becoming "a truly effective tool for witness and mission in our world".

This is a great vision for our life in Christ facing outwards to the world!

(Unfortunately the whole text of the Archbishop' introduction is littered with statements about what the Covenant is "not", and with a sense that the hopes for the Covenant lack the solidity of the hope of which the New Testament speaks. I wish the Archbishop were not so pessimistic!)

Tomorrow the revised text of the Covenant itself ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Anglican Covenant (i): Why?

The Anglican Communion as a working communion of Anglican churches committed to work together to the glory of God is bruised, battered, and, if not broken in pieces, certainly has a broken limb or two. What is to be done? "Nothing" is a possible answer. The Communion might recover to one degree or another as some illnesses are healed through the passage of time. Or, the Communion might simply evolve without further intervention into a new set of bodies (say, a (much diminished) Communion, a Conference, and a network or two, including one which lies within the jurisdiction of Rome). Or, the Communion may remain a communion in name only, its effective status that of a federation, an entity, that is, consisting of independent churches that share a few things in common, but do not share any willingness to be accountable to one another.

Another answer is that "something" ought to be done to enhance and to develop the life of the Anglican Communion. The "ought" being driven by a theology of unity, fellowship, body, love, and christology: the church under Christ is both an organically growing body of believers and a communion of believers united in Christ. A divided Anglican Communion (whether formally into several Anglican groupings, or effectively by virtue of being a federation) represents a failure to attempt to live up to the vision of the church in the New Testament. An Anglican Communion which made this attempt would, consistent with the underlying theology, be a Communion of churches intent on seeking an even greater unity with all churches, beginning first with those it has most in common (e.g. Methodist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox). An Anglican Communion which gave up making the attempt would be contributing to the disunity of the church. Thus, something ought to be done!

For some Anglicans, what ought to be done is simply renewing our commitment to doing things the way they have been done. Whether we follow Desmond Tutu's simple but profound description of the Anglican Communion, "We meet", or the more detailed description in terms of the Instruments of Unity, this presumes that "bonds of affection" flowing in and through these Instruments are sufficient to bind us together. Renewal might work. One difficulty, however, is that this way has not worked to this point. Under this 'business as usual' model we have become a Communion out of sorts: divided as to whether or not we should have bishops in same-sex partnerships, stretched by a diversity of theology which means we keep waking to headlines about priests and bishops who do not believe this core doctrine of the church, and strained to breaking point by an increasing lack of any commonality in our liturgical worship.

I suggest the Anglican Communion needs a Covenant in order to define itself in a manner agreed by all. Otherwise the Communion is defined, and will keep being defined according to media headlines, and/or local assertions of what 'Anglican' means. The bonds of affection which have held us together now require the bounds of covenanting lest ‘Anglican’ mean everything to everyone and therefore nothing to anyone. Constant harping against the Covenant is either nostalgia or an effective call for the Communion to become a federation. If people wish to express sorrow that things have come to this pass they should look back in anger at the consistent attempts on the part of a series of bishops, clergy and academics to define ‘Anglican’ in a manner which was always liable to lead to a broken Communion.

The billboard blunder in Auckland last week is a powerful reminder that the media can take up the antics of the few and present to the world a version of what being Anglican means which has not been determined by the majority of Anglicans. The Covenant, in principle at least, is an opportunity for the Communion to define itself. Some fear it will be used to punish Anglicans. I suggest it could be used as a means of self-discipline, which would lead to less headlines about distracting controversies, and better coordinated, coherent mission on the ground.

Monday Round Up

Taonga - at last - publishes something on the billboard fiasco. It is an apologia from Glynn Cardy:

"Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City, has outlined his purpose in erecting a controversial billboard depicting Mary and Joseph in bed. He cites five aims:

1. To invite people to think about the virgin birth and the nature of God.

2. To say that there was more than one Christian way to think about the virgin birth and God. Indeed there are many.

3. To promote the Progressive view of Jesus having 2 human parents and God being the power of love in his life i.e. 'virgin' and 'son' are understood metaphorically.

4. To ridicule the very literalistic view that God is a male and literally sired Jesus.

5. To invite people outside of the church to see a type of Christianity here at St Matthew’s that they might be able to relate to.

Point one has hugely successful. Whether people agreed with our theology or not, conversations broke out all around the world in work places, homes, and schools.

Point two was not as successful. Many thought we were ridiculing every Christian view save our own. Yet, partly due to live interviews on radio and TV, this was corrected as we went along.

Point three again was only partially successful. Initially most media seemed more interested in those expressing outrage than reporting our reasons for doing it. Again as time progressed and overseas media in the UK and Australia picked up on the story this Progressive view got more coverage.

Point four was very successful. People knew we were criticizing the male god and the crude image of being Jesus’ literal parent.

Point five was the most pleasing of all. We have had lots of wonderful response from people on the edge or beyond the edge of Church for whom this billboard gave them reason to hope that maybe there was ‘room in the inn’ of Christianity from them. Or at least with us out the back."

Oh, so no apology for ridiculing God then?

[Later: I applaud Glynn Cardy/St Matthew's for not pressing charges against the woman arrested for slashing the billboard. Her action is inexcusable. But St Matthew's pressing charges would be a bit rich given the breaking of church law which has (arguably) occurred in this episode. For aficionados of our canons try these for fit: Canon 1 Title D C2 S3.6 (re authority of bishop), 1 D A5 (re Preaching Teaching Evangelism); 1 D A11.6 (re doctrine))].

Diarmid McCulloch offers some advice and encouragement to ++Rowan Williams. Naturally some of us will agree with Diarmid's description of ourselves:

"At the moment the English church is afflicted by humourless, tidy-minded souls who want everyone in it to think just like them, and who frequently use the Bible to achieve their aim in the manner of a blunt instrument in an Agatha Christie mystery. Resist them, firm in the faith! Remember what Neil Kinnock achieved against the entryism of Militant in the Labour party of the 1980s."

Then the diplomats among us might carefully refrain from saying whether we agree or disagree with this insight into the presence of women clergy in the church (I am particularly noticing the "fond of a box of chocolates or two" phrase):

"Consider, Archbishop Rowan, that one of the most positive images of the Anglican parish priest in the English media is the now evergreen Vicar of Dibley. There's what the Great English Public think of their women clergy: a bit daft, fond of a box of chocolates or two, but, underneath it all, a source of love and common sense for a community that always has the potential to behave badly. When you think of some of the other stereotypes of priests around at the moment in these islands or beyond, just thank your lucky stars for the folksy silliness of the vicar of Dibley."

Diarmid, as some reading his recent and monumental History of Christianity realise, is not perfectly objective in his interpretation of history. Thus we find him characterizing the situation in TEC with:

"The Episcopal Church of the United States of America has been subjected to continuous abuse and carping from fellow Anglicans, attempted poaching of its churches by dissidents and demands that it curb its understanding of love and sexuality to fit in with the sexual mores of an entirely different society."

That "entirely different society" would be the non-liberal half of American society, I suppose! And the "dissidents" would be those who hold to the historic Anglican faith and wish to be in communion with the ABC and Anglicans around the world!

I imagine that if Glynn and Diarmid got together for a coffee they would find a lot to talk about.

Then Simple Massing Priest suggests a new Anglican Stalinism has arrived with the latest version of the Covenant. Yes, that's the way to deal with any new idea. Give it a label such as 'Stalinism' or 'Nazi'. It's kind of the academic equivalent of Stalin's henchmen's speciality: a bullet in the back of the head to dispose of what you oppose.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Heagleton on Ditchkins

For a stylistic treat on the substantive matter of rebutting Ditchkins (Dawkins' and Hitchens' versions of New Atheism) read this Leander Harding review of Heagleton (Eagleton's and Hart's rebuttals).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Bonds of affection" Anglicans need to wake up

Out today is a series of things to read, mark, inwardly digest and then act upon concerning the Covenant and related things. I intend to post on them in the days before Christmas, the feast of the turning from the old covenant to the new!

First is the text of the final draft of the Covenant; second is a helpful comparative text for the previous Section Four and the new Section Four (plus a commentary on revised S4 here); third is an intro to this new stage in the journey towards a Covenant by none other than ++Rowan himself, text or video; and fourth is the urging of gracious constraint re the election of Mary Glasspool by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

For an edgy commentary on the situation, try Christopher Johnson, and for a longer, reflective commentary try Anglican Curmudgeon.

Here is an initial thought from me: Glynn Cardy making the worldwide news for being provocative - offending other Christians and pushing a theological position which feels closer to atheism than to theism, is bad news for those Anglicans who constantly tell us the Covenant is a bad idea and the "bonds of affection" will hold us together just fine. Those "bonds of affection" Anglicans need to wake up fast and tell us why theistic Anglicans and a-theistic or quasi-atheistic Anglicans should commune at the same table. If they cannot do this satisfactorily then they need to tell us how "bonds of affection" will bring about greater theological coherence in the Communion.

While they think about how they do that they might think about these features of Anglicanism represented in the Cardy debacle: lack of concern for Christians of other denominations; defiance of the local diocesan bishop; willingness to bring diocese and province into disrepute; denial of basic doctrines and practices of the church. If this is 'acceptable Anglicanism' some Anglicans (including me) need some kind of explanation as to why this is a 'good thing'! If it is not acceptable Anglicanism then we still need an explanation how "bonds of affection" works for the good of the Communion because today, here in NZ, it looks like it is not working.

Right now the case for the Covenant as a means of limiting (not, note carefully, suppressing) our diversity is looking pretty good. Thanks, Glynn!

Remember the point of the Anglican church is that we stay together: we are a Communion. That we have stayed together with considerable diversity in our midst is not a laurel we can rest on. Push the diversity envelope too far and we might blow apart. The ultimate act of anti-Anglicanism is to push that envelope too far!

Archdeacon to Bishop: Take a Hike

'A defiant Archdeacon Cardy told the Herald: "I know what the bishop said. But at this stage we have no plans to take it down".'

(But the billboard has come down after it was slashed by "an elderly woman". By the way, what is it with Glynn and divine sperm? He just will not let go of the idea. The Herald goes on to report to us that Glynn said, '"We're not out just to deliberately stir the pot. We're out to critique the idea of a male god impregnating Mary and the literalism of the virgin birth. The topic is ... something the church has talked about for centuries, but what is new is that we have the audacity to laugh at something quite so ridiculous as a male god sending sperm down to impregnate Mary".' Let's recall what St. Matthew wrote, "she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit" (1.18). Glynn Cardy is just wrong that Christians, let alone secular Aucklanders go round thinking about 'the idea of a male god impregnating Mary'. He is critiquing a non-idea ... while simultaneously pouring scorn on the millions of Christians who are in awe of the mystery of the virgin birth. 'We're not out just to deliberately stir the pot' could be true, but something got knife wielding Grandma worked up!)

In my mind this question is floating around: what now is the state of the relationship between Glynn Cardy as archdeacon and his bishop, John Paterson? Anglicanism is fairly tolerant of a priest or two in its midst pushing the envelope. But archdeacons function to uphold the good order of dioceses, and thus are direct servants of the administration and leadership of diocesan bishops. To publicly defy the advice of one's bishop as an archdeacon ... well, it would be interesting to find out what Auckland clergy are thinking about that!

Through all the twists and turns of this unfortunate event, however, I am unchanged from my initial view that the most egregious offence here is to diminish the glory and honour of God as God. Lampooning anthropomorphic tendencies in other Christians is not a licence to diminish the Godness of God, which is what the billboard does.

Cranmer to Cardy: Hold the Tripe

Cranmer's global perspective as a wise old Archbishop is brought to bear on the burlesque of the billboard:

"Well, they’ve hit fool's gold with this tripe. It is so far ‘outside the box’ that they have lost sight of the divine mission cuboid."

Knowing something about being under fire himself, Cranmer is just warming to his theme. He neatly skewers the inclusiveness of St. Matthew's (recall that I myself am a 'communion for the baptized' man):

"The advertisement has been condemned as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘disrespectful’. But St Matthew-in-the-City is ‘an inclusive church’, which means, they say ‘that all are welcome to attend, and that all are welcome to receive communion no matter what church or faith (if any) they are from.’

Excellent. A church which gives the body and blood of Christ to the unrepentant degenerate and the idolatrous unregenerate. This is part of their ‘progressive Christianity’, which explains the provenance of the advertisement."

Like a number of other commenters, Cranmer notices something I have noticed,

"Who, pray, believes that God ‘sent down sperm’?"

Indeed! But the climax is still coming in Cranmer's post,

"Archdeacon Glynn Cardy and St Matthew-in-the-City have got their much-longed-for debate. But it is not about the miracle of the Christ-child and the wonder that God became man: it is not edifying and does not in any sense bring glory to God. It is a tawdry, crude and gratuitously offensive ejaculation which resonates with a sex-obsessed age and lacks only used condoms strewn over the duvet in a Tracey Emin fashion.

And Cranmer can hardly wait for a billboard showing Mohammed in bed with the nine-year-old Aisha..."

You will be waiting a long time Archbishop. Of one thing you can be sure about progressive Christianity: it cheerfully offends Christians, never non-Christians, and least of all Muslims.

Bishop to Archdeacon: Your Bad

Media Release
Anglican Diocese of Auckland
December 18 2009

The Bishop of Auckland, the Right Reverend John Paterson says there are a multitude of issues for a city and the wider church that he would rather focus on in the season of Christmas than a billboard.

The Bishop is disappointed that St Matthew- in- the-City has decided to continue with the display of a billboard on its church grounds with a replacement billboard.

“Discussion of theological perspectives and diversity is encouraged in a respectful way, but this approach is insensitive to communities across the Anglican Church as well as other denominations,” says Bishop Paterson.

“The season and story of Christmas is one that celebrates the life that is brought by Christ and that is the spirit of Christmas that I seek for the Diocese and the city of Auckland,” says Bishop Paterson.


(H/T 21st Century Renaissance. Media release also here.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

No room at the inn

Interesting keeping a skimming eye on the comments on St Matthew's-in-the-city's own posting of Glynn Cardy's sermon. Commenters are either for the poster - think its humourous, unproblematic, time for the antis to get a life - or against the poster - think Glynn and co are destined for defrocking, hell or worse. Seems there is no room in that particular inn for a reasoned, diplomatic response to the billboard! See how these Christians love one another and prepare themselves for an eternity with their brothers and sisters, not!

(There are some honourable exceptions including one by a friend of mine who is one of a very few identifying himself with first and second names).

It's my fault

The St Matthew's controversy has been set in motion by me ... according to this comment:

"I’d be interested to hear the response to this from conservative protestant religious leaders who do not hold to the ever-virginity of the Theotokos. It is that theology, after all, that lays the groundwork for such things."

Always good to know these theological connections for which, naturally, I take full responsibility. Glynn, you are off the hook on this one!

Defacing the gospel with the brown paint of progressive Christianity

Yesterday's controversial billboard of Joseph and Mary in bed became a multi-layered news generator after an as yet unidentified man stood on top of his car and painted brown paint onto the billboard in full view of a TV One news camera. Much as I personally like Glynn Cardy and admire his commitment to exploring the edges of gospel and mission in a secular society, I remain troubled by what he says in explanation of his approach to understanding the gospel. Let me cite these words again,

"To make the news at Christmas it seems a priest just needs to question the literalness of a virgin giving birth. Many in society mistakenly think that to challenge literalism is to challenge the norms of Christianity. What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival.

Christian fundamentalism believes a supernatural male God who lived above sent his sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary."

We can hardly disagree that making the news at Christmas is possible by questioning the literalness of a virgin giving birth. I think, however, there is a debate to be had about whether many do think the norms of Christianity are challenged by challenging literalism, and what it is that Christian fundamentalism actually believes re the supernatural character of God (I have never ever heard or read of any fundamentalist, Protestant or Roman Catholic, who thinks that Mary's egg was fertilized by God's "sperm". The crude anthropomorphism alleged by Glynn Cardy at this point may be a projection in his mind which does not accord with reality). The deep question raised by the citation above lies in this sentence,

"What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival."

Here's a problem with this statement which progressive Christianity continually overlooks: the source of the deeper spiritual truth of Christmas is the same source which provides what is here described as 'supernatural obfuscation'. Thus to divide the 'supernatural obfuscation' from the 'deeper spiritual truth' within the source (i.e. Scripture) involves an implicit claim that progressive Christians know more about Jesus and his significance than the gospel writers themselves. Also implicit as well is the claim that the 'supernatural obfuscation' is not necessary for the truth of that significance.

In blunt summary terms, progressive Christianity always proclaims hope for the world on the basis of a God without power to effect actual change, for God did not make Mary pregnant, did not raise Jesus from the dead in a concrete manner (so that, for example, the tomb was emptied of his physical body), and did not impact the world between Jesus' birth and death with miraculous signs of his transformative power at work in the world.

Progressive Christianity spiritualises Jesus and his message while urging his followers to make that message concrete in the world with good deeds to change the world in revolutionary ways. The transformative power of the gospel is its ethical imperative, according to progressive Christianity, not the power of God to make change to the world. Orthodox Christianity is quite different from progressive Christianity at this point because orthodox Christianity accepts the power of God at work in the world: that God makes a virgin pregnant with the body of God's Son growing within her contributes as much to the belief that Jesus Christ is God's Son as the evidence of the deep spiritual unity between Jesus and God as his Abba. Fundamentalism may misconstrue the significance of God's power when it leads to statements such as 'Jesus is God's Son because he had no human father', but it is in fact closer to the spirit of orthodox Christianity than progressive Christianity declaring that belief that Jesus had no human father is 'supernatural obfuscation'.

Progressive Christianity offers a superficial attraction to a world in which many like nothing better than to think that the future of the world lies in our hands: "What can I do to make the world a better place?" receives a ready answer from progressive Christianity. Orthodox Christianity by contrast witnesses to a harder message to accept: "God has done a great work in the world by acting concretely through Jesus Christ to change the world. Entrust your life to God in Christ and allow the same transformative power at work in the Incarnation and the Resurrection to work in your life ... and the world will be changed."

In the end, when all is said and done, progressive Christianity defaces the gospel of Christ with the brown paint of its denial of the historicity of God's supernatural action in and through Christ. According to the NZ Herald St Matthew's-in-the-City is willing to press charges against the man who defaced its billboard, should he be identified. But are not the clerical leaders of St Matthew's themselves in a place where charges of defacement may be pressed against them?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catholics protest against billboard

From the NZ Herald re the billboard depicted in the previous post:

'The vicar of St Matthew's, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said: "Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view, it is also interested in engaging with those who differ.

"Its vision is one of robust engagement," he said.

But the Auckland Catholic Diocese has called the image inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive to Christians.

Spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said that for a church to put up a poster which implied the Virgin Mary and Joseph had just had sex was disrespectful to the church.

"Our Christian tradition of 2000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph," she said. "Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful."

Mrs Freer said the idea that the poster was made to provoke conversation amongst non-Christians was not a defence, but completely offensive.'

Read the whole report here.

As I have thought about the billboard during the past few hours since first noticing the beginnings of the news and comment trail about it, I am against the billboard. Not, of course, because it implies Mary was not a perpetual virgin (for which there is no case in the Bible, and indeed the plain sense of the Bible, that Mary had other children, is against the idea). Rather, I do not think the billboard honours and glorifies God because it diminishes God to a kind of superman.

Christopher Johnson aka MidWest Conservative Journal thinks Glynn Cardy "may have written and spoken the single most offensive Christmas message that I’ve ever read."
For his genteel criticism of Cardy, the sermon, and the billboard, tighten your stomach muscles and read on.

(Later) But does the billboard exist anymore?

The Lord will provide

Daily posting on this blog is my aim, but sometimes time, and occasionally sheer lack of 'caught my eye' or 'I have been thinking' material eludes me. But there are times when I think another day will have to go by without a post only to find that, indeed, 'the Lord will provide'. Today, via his servant Glynn Cardy that provision has been made. Glynn is the Vicar of St Matthew's-in-the-City, Auckland. He is great company socially, stimulating conversation partner theologically (i.e. he and I do not always agree!!), and may or may not deliberately court controversy. He and his church are offering the following billboard for viewing this Christmas:

A news report is here which compares the advertisement to the proposed atheist bus adverts (posted about below). Which ad will be the greater conversation starter?

I suppose Protestants and Catholics might have different responses to the implications of the billboard!

(Later) Peter, you are slow off the mark! Way over in New York state, Matt Kennedy is on patrol, probing deeper into this story with a video link to Glynn Cardy. Read what Matt says at Stand Firm, but here is the video close at hand:

Now, here is a very deep and profound response to the video:

Why is Glynn, a priest for many years, wearing his stole as though he is a deacon?

Glynn, the foundations of theology are at stake, not only with what you say, but with what you wear!

There is much to challenge here in what Glynn says. Just two things:

(1) "To make the news at Christmas it seems a priest just needs to question the literalness of a virgin giving birth. Many in society mistakenly think that to challenge literalism is to challenge the norms of Christianity. What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival.

Christian fundamentalism believes a supernatural male God who lived above sent his sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary."

Umm, are people who believe in the Virgin Birth incapable of also delving 'into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival'? Do Christian fundamentalists believe that God sent his 'sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary'? This fundamentalist (or 'fundamentalist') simply believes God was able to effect the fertilization of an egg in Mary's womb. How God did this is a mystery not requiring the banal anthropomorphism of talking about God's sperm.

(2) "No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders a few of them will serve up this fundamentalist thesis wrapped in a nice story."

Perhaps that happens up in Auckland. The standard fare in the Christchurch Press is wheeling out a progressive Christian leader to make comment about the deeper meaning of Christmas.

On the other hand I am at one with Glynn on other points, for example, critiquing that theology which makes the Incarnation a mere hors d'oeuvre to the main course of Jesus' Death-and-Resurrection.

But when all is said and done about these kind of theological matters, I am troubled by the unexplained mystery of the reason why Glynn wears his stole diagonally. I look forward to enlightenment ...

Finally, back to Matt Kennedy's post:

One of the comments on Stand Firm has significant bite to it: (in my words) what is the difference between a Muslim and a progressive Christian who denies the divinity of Jesus?

There are other comments drawing attention to the theology of Jesus being God among the poor in contrast to the wealth of St Matthews-in-the-City ... those North Americans are well informed, methinks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How does this level of logic make it past the Telegraph editors?

Under the heading "I'm not surprised Evangelical Christianity is on the rise" by one Ed West writing for the Daily Telegraph, we can read this:

"The happy clappy thing is not my scene – I’d need at least four Stellas before I could get up and dance in a church without dying of a cringe-related stroke – but it’s easy to see why Evangelical Christianity is rapidly spreading in the UK. The median age of this church was about 20; in most Catholic parishes in London you’re considered an energetic young go-getter if you’re under 75; the Evangelicals have many working-class members, while very, very few [sic: this paragraph does not end]

The Evangelicals also aggressively court people of other faiths, including Muslims – while the Catholics would rather meet other religious leaders at (preferably tax-payer funded) interfaith meetings where they can spout platitudes about faith communities, as if religious identity is fixed, not a choice.

And in three decades of living in London I have also never seen so many people of different racial backgrounds united in a feeling of brotherhood – Londoners generally tolerate each other, and muddle on, but whether it’s the NHS surgery or the Notting Hill Carnival, the theme is begrudging tolerance, not affection. A small church can do far more for race relations than all the state-subsidised quangos and anti-racism campaigners in Christendom.

Many Catholic and Anglican churches are packed on Sunday mornings with young parents trying to get their kids into the best schools, and it shows – the air is thick with hypocrisy. In contrast the Evangelicals, whether anyone likes it or not, believe, and it shows. Doubt and scepticism are fine things but a religious community that does not believe in its own message will wither and die, and be replaced by others. I’m not remotely surprised Evangelical Christianity is on the march in England."

For your benefit I have highlighted the contradiction which caught my eye. We are told that "Ed West is a journalist and social commentator who specialises in politics, religion and low culture." The "low culture" bit is right!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Time to review how we elect our bishops

Two recent elections of bishops in our church, Kelvin Wright for Dunedin and Ross Bay for Auckland, are now out of the way, and no further elections are planned for a month or three. The next, I believe, is to elect a successor for Archbishop Jabez Bryce, Bishop of Polynesia, sometime in 2010. This is a good time to think about how we elect our bishops.

Below I append some canons which govern the conduct of the electoral college formed in each electing diocese. You will observe by reading them through that no canon governs what happens before the meeting of the electoral college, save for how representatives, commissary,and secretary are to be appointed for the college.

Without prescription for what happens before the college meets we have had the following variations in recent processes (that I have some awareness of):

Nelson (2006) and Christchurch (2008): both followed a similar pattern of calling for names to be declared beforehand by a certain date, with papers then sent to the persons and their referees, papers collected, copied and distributed to college members; then video interviews were conducted for presentation in the college itself. At no point were the names of the persons being considered by the respective colleges published to the world at large. Generally confidentiality was enjoined upon members of the college between the closing date for names to be submitted and the college itself.

Auckland and Dunedin (both 2009): both departed from the pattern above! Auckland published the names submitted for consideration on its Diocesan website, and encouraged members of the college to discuss the people concerned (but to keep information made available in written material submitted to them confidential). This may have been the first time that a Diocese has published the names to be considered. (On some occasions in the past newspapers have published the names to be considered). Dunedin promoted a fairly high level of silence about the names being considered, did not distribute the written material before the Synod, but made it available for reading at designated places(s) within each archdeaconry; and did not require of its candidates that they each participate in a video interview, while, nevertheless, permitting promoters of the names to show video material of their candidate if they so chose.

You can begin to see possibilities for questions arising about consistency of processes. If we go back to the Nelson and Christchurch elections we can also note some questions which have emerged about the overlap between the organising committee for the proceedings and those presenting candidates (i.e. should presenters be able to also be on the organising committee or not?) and also the question of whether meetings of college members at which candidates were present should or should not be able to be organised, and, if so, before or after the closing date for candidates names to be submitted.

If, further, we note that there are simply no canons which specify anything at all about names of candidates being submitted before the college actually meets, paperwork being requested from them, closing dates for candidates' names to be declared, video interviews or not, etc, then we see that there just might possibly be a case, quite a strong case in fact, for our church through its General Synod to review the prior conduct of processes before the electoral college takes place in order to ensure some kind of canonical mandate for a process to take place which is consistently followed across the dioceses.

To head off some possible responses: I am well aware that there is another set of questions which arises about what happens inside an electoral college and whether our canons offer sufficient guidance about that. That is a discussion for another day, or for your own blog posting. At this time I will not discuss that, nor publish comments about that issue. My concern here is with what happens between the declaration that an electoral college will meet to elect a new bishop and the meeting of the college. All thoughts on that are welcome.

Our canons currently say this in respect of electing a bishop for the pakeha dioceses of New Zealand, further canons govern the procedure for electing a bishop within Aotearoa and within Polynesia, with canons also specifying how sanction of nominations from the electoral takes place:

§ 2. Appointment of Bishops for and within Dioceses in New Zealand

2.1 An electoral college sitting for the purpose of nominating a
bishop to exercise jurisdiction over a diocese in New Zealand
shall consist of any Bishop licensed for and exercising Episcopal
ministry within that diocese and those persons entitled to clerical
votes and to lay votes in the synod of the diocese concerned.

Composition of electoral college 2006
CANON I TITLE A - A. - 2 - 2004
In the case of the nomination of the first bishop in a new diocese the electoral college shall consist of the clergy licensed to any parish or any other ecclesiastical office within the boundaries of such new diocese, and not less than one lay representative for each parish or ministry or mission unit within the same boundaries to be elected in such manner as the Primate / te Pïhopa Mätämua or the commissary appointed by the Primate shall direct.

Electoral college for a new diocese.

2.2 An electoral college sitting for the purpose of nominating a bishop to exercise an episcopal ministry within a diocese other than as Diocesan Bishop shall consist of the Diocesan Bishop and any other persons licensed for and exercising episcopal
ministry within that diocese and the clerical and lay members of the standing committee of that diocese (by whatever name that standing committee be called) and such other persons being members of the diocesan synod as that synod may have previously chosen or determined from time to time.

Electoral college for bishops other than Diocesan.

2.3 The failure of any one or more parishes or ministry or mission
units to elect any representative shall not prevent an electoral
college from proceeding to the despatch of business.

Failure to elect representatives.

2.4 The Diocesan Secretary, or in the case of a new diocese a person named by the Primate / te Pïhopa Mätämua or by the appointed Commissary, shall be electoral college secretary, and shall attend the electoral college but shall not vote unless otherwise qualified so to do and if not qualified to vote shall speak only at the request of the person presiding over the electoral college.

Electoral college secretary.

2.5 The Primate / te Pïhopa Mätämua or the commissary appointed by the Primate / te Pïhopa Mätämua shall convene and preside over any electoral college. PROVIDED THAT any person so presiding shall have no voice or vote in the nomination unless otherwise entitled to a voice and vote as a member of the electoral college, in which case that person shall speak and vote as a member of that person's own order.

For any electoral college for the purpose of nominating a bishop within a diocese other than the Diocesan Bishop, the Primate / te Pïhopa Mätämua shall appoint the Diocesan Bishop or the nominee of the Diocesan Bishop as the commissary to preside
over such electoral college unless the See be vacant.

Convening and presiding.

2.6 When an electoral college shall have met and been constituted for the purpose of nominating a person to be a bishop, the name of a person to be nominated may be proposed by a person of any order who is present and qualified to vote, and shall be
seconded by a person of another order who is present and qualified to vote.

Nomination procedure.

CANON I TITLE A - A. 3 - 2006

2.7 Whether the names of one or more persons be proposed no person shall be validly nominated by the electoral college unless that person shall have received a majority of the votes of each order represented in the electoral college.

Majority of votes required.

2.8 An electoral college may otherwise determine its own procedures and processes of consultation, decision making and nomination, PROVIDED THAT the votes of each order in the electoral college in the final ballot shall be taken by secret ballot and the electoral college secretary shall count the same (being assisted by such scrutineers as the college shall appoint) and shall report the result to the person presiding over the electoral college.

Determination of other procedures.

Secret ballot.
2.9 No bishop who has resigned or has given notice of resignation from office shall preside over or participate in any electoral college for the purpose of choosing a successor to that bishop in that episcopal office and ministry.

Exclusion of resigning bishop.
2.10 Any electoral college may by a majority of votes in each order of that electoral college, delegate the right of nomination to any person or persons whom it may appoint either absolutely or subject to such conditions as it may think fit to impose. Such delegation and the name(s) of the delegate(s) so appointed shall be notified to the Primate / te Pïhopa Mätämua forthwith by the person presiding over the electoral college.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How an atheist refocused my thinking in Advent

I had never heard of Alain Badiou before last week's Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies conference in Dunedin. But thanks to Professor John Barclay giving a paper on this atheist French philosopher and his book Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism I am now intrigued by this fellow. So much so that I have ordered the book.

The gist of Badiou's thinking on St Paul is that the resurrection is singular event which turns both Paul's thinking upside down and provides a rare moment in the history of philosophy when a genuinely new, undeveloped idea breaks into human consciousness. To get a feel for 'singular event' one could use a phrase such as 'uniquely unique' (at least, that's how my mind received the idea)!

As an atheist Badiou does not believe the resurrection actually took place, but as a philosopher he can appreciate the impact the resurrection made on St Paul.

It would be unfair to John Barclay to attempt to summarise a brilliant paper without offering a link to its published form, save that one note I carry away with me and will mention here is this: if Badiou is right, then the 'New Perspective on Paul' receives a severe criticism. That perspective emphasises the Jewishness of Paul's theology of salvation to the point where the only 'new' idea within it is the inclusion of the Gentiles. But Badiou is arguing that it is Paul's perspective which is new, surprising even himself. The Damascus Road encounter is a nuclear explosion of a revelation (scorching what had existed, radiating new energy into the future) rather than an 'aha' moment of insight on the developmental pathway of Paul the Jewish theologue.

But my main point in this Advent season is the renewing in my mind of the core truth of Christian faith: Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, the light that enlightens every person. As Christians we may be sidelined, ignored, even persecuted, but our defence should never be that we deserve a place in the secular sun alongside other faiths, or that we have a special claim in the Western hemisphere because we are its traditional faith. Our faith is unique in its global vision for Jesus Christ inaugurating the new world through his resurrection. The old has passed away; the new is come. It is a totalizing vision so it will be resisted. But the result should not be a relativizing of it from within the fold.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The future shape of the Communion, 1.0, or 2.0, or fractions?

Correspondence below on my posts, Stand By Your Man and A whirlpool about Glasspool, can be read alongside Andrew Carey's take on recent events-with-comments, published by Anglican Mainstream with the title, Liberals are playing dirty. His assessment of the Anglican Communion's future is this:

"So where does the Anglican Communion go from here? The Archbishop of Canterbury’s relatively mild reaction to Mary Glasspool’s election is a recognition that this appointment could still be halted if the bishops and dioceses of The Episcopal Church fail to confirm her election. However, it remains a highly unlikely prospect.

"The problem that the Archbishop of Canterbury faces is that the Anglican Communion will continue to fragment. The Covenant which he believes is a centre of unity around which the vast majority of provinces can coalesce is not even yet in its final form. Such is the polarisation of the Church of England, as a result of the Anglican Communion crisis, that there is now no guarantee that it can pass in the General Synod let alone in other more liberal western provinces.

"It seems likely that any Anglican future worth having will be radically different from the current shape of things. The so-called instruments and international meetings will become largely a thing of the past, replaced by networks, regional conferences and some tangential relationships to the Canterbury primate. It is a fragmented and difficult future, but one preferable to a constant state of hysteria and schism."

Communion 1.0 is being played out. Communion 2.0 could come into play upon the Covenant being agreed to. But TEC (as Kurt Hill points out in a comment) is unlikely to agree to the Covenant, and in that non-agreement it is likely to be joined by several other provinces. Arguments against the Covenant include those proceeding from belief that Communion 1.0 is not yet played out and could continue, though probably at the expense of those provinces for whom +Robinson and, most likely, +Glasspool, are a separating issue. Communion 1.0, in summary, is a communion holding together, however tenuously, and rent by division, through 'bonds of affection'. Communion 2.0 would be a communion held together by the Covenant.

But Andrew Carey, as I interpret his remarks, suggests a somewhat subtle future which is (1) more fractionated than either Communion 1.0 or 2.0 (the scenario for each in the future is that it would be a remainder of the past Communion, now divided into two parts), but (2) paradoxically perhaps still the Anglican Communion in name, but with its bishops never all meeting in the same room, and those bishops and other officers meeting together in the guise of an 'Instrument' having less and less authority and influence on the Communion. We could call this version of the Communion, "Communion (x+y+z+...)/1"!!

Regretfully, I think there is a lot in what Andrew Carey is saying. For many provinces it would be difficult to make a decision to formally cut ties with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even cutting formal ties with (say) TEC might be difficult as long as Communion Partner bishops remain at work within TEC. But it would be comparatively easy to say 'No thanks' to invitations to some meetings (as many bishops did last year re Lambeth), and 'Yes, let's' to invitations to other meetings (GAFCON, Global South, regional networking meetings).

With regards to my own church, ACANZP, I cannot see any possibility of our General Synod agreeing to either cutting ties with TEC or with the Archbishop of Canterbury. We might just agree to the Covenant, but we would want to know that it's purpose was to hold the Communion together, not to divide it. We would always want to be in relationship with Australia, Papua-New Guinea and Melanesia; we have strong connections into south-east Asia; important connections with African provinces (especially Egypt and North Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa); and strong links with North America (TEC, ACCan and ACNA).

Free bus ad campaign for Christianity in NZ

Thanks to some remarkably generous atheists, Christianity (and other faiths) are getting a free ad campaign in NZ. The initial target of $10000 has been easily met and a new target of $20000 set. The slogan will be that used in Britain recently:

"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Sadly the campaign will not be running in our most Presbyterian city (Dunedin) and will only occur on four buses in our most Anglican city (Christchurch). Clearly those Wellingtonians and Aucklanders need a boost in their interest in God! Christians seem very happy to see this campaign take off. Thanks atheists!

Let's pray that atheists stop worrying about the possibility that God exists and enjoy their lives.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A slight improvement

According to reports, h/t Titus One Nine, Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays and lesbians infringing Uganda's proposed new law. Bloomberg has a report here.

Funnily enough, notwithstanding significant criticism of Ugandan religious leaders for not speaking more audibly against the bill, the report includes this paragraph :

"The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala."

I presume the support sought is from Ugandan religious leaders since I also suppose that many religious leaders outside of Uganda (and hopefully many inside Uganda) remain opposed to any law which increases discrimination and persecution of gay and lesbian people.

The world is full of irony

When a Nobel Peace Prize winner commits more troops to a war.

When presidents, flunkies, and protestors jet into a climate change conference (video conferencing anybody?).

When NZ's leading anti-gay church (Destiny Church) includes the following in its recently much publicized covenant between its leader and 700 male congregants:

"(b) Jonathan left the allegiance and legacy of his natural father (King Saul) to covenant with David in order to preserve and set up a blessing for his offspring and future generations:

1 Samuel 18:1-4

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul ... The Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul ...


At our 2009 Labour Weekend Conference Destiny's men will be consummating our covenant together (the brotherhood), and towards our man of God. ..."

I gather that some commentator here in NZ has said that this would have been NZ's largest civil union ceremony to date!

The irony of this statement was highlighted for me at the recent biblical studies conference in Dunedin by the juxtaposition of a paper on Destiny Church and the character of its episcopacy compared with the development of monarchical episcopacy in the time of Ignatius of Antioch and a paper on the invoking of 'David and Jonathan' in the Victorian era and afterwards in the writings of (e.g.) Wilde and E.M. Forster as a evocative code for the 'love that dare not speak its name'.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If we believe that the Anglican Communion is worth fighting for ...

... then we might take a moment to read Anglican Curmudgeon's supportive analysis of the role Archbishop Rowan Williams fulfils as Archbishop of Canterbury. It concludes with this paragraph:

"We have thus the best of Archbishops, and the worst of Presiding Bishops. It is the best of times, and the worst of times. This blog is all about "the trials and tribulations of being in the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Communion at the same time." I shall continue to root for ++Rowan's power of not acting, as the best means of absorbing the blows and outlasting the wounds inflicted by the contumacy of ++Katharine. I am not an apologist for him; both ++Rowan and I know that "help is in the name of the Lord." The more that ++Katharine leads ECUSA down its path of isolation and irrelevancy, the less difficulty there is in seeing the path that is left for ++Rowan: the one that keeps as many together as long as possible, until those who are driving the Communion apart have finally achieved the fulfillment of their self-chosen destiny. For ++Rowan to attempt to impose that destiny on them before they themselves have irrevocably chosen it would be to undermine the very essence of his part in the drama, as the first among equals."

With a refilled cup of coffee we could carefully digest the report on the recent meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order. Here is an excerpt, notable for its quiet confidence that the Anglican Covenant is going ahead, and for its concern about the Glasspool election:

"The Commission devoted this first meeting to developing a vision that gives expression to its mandate. It sees its role as being a communicative and connection-making body which models and promotes communication and connection-making in the Anglican Communion, within a confident and vibrant expression of our shared faith and life, participating by God's grace in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

In addition to outlining areas of longer-term work, the Commission committed itself to five immediate tasks:

to undertake a reflection on the Instruments of Communion and relationships among them;

to make a study of the definition and recognition of 'Anglican Churches' and develop guidelines for bishops in the Communion;

to provide supporting material to assist in promoting the Anglican Covenant;

to draft proposals for guided processes of ‘reception’ (how developments and agreements are evaluated, and how appropriate insights are brought into the life of the churches);

to consider the question of ‘transitivity’ (how ecumenical agreements in one region or Province may apply in others).

These tasks, which will be taken forward by working groups consulting electronically between meetings, aim to strengthen the unity, faith and order of the Communion.
An Episcopal election in Los Angeles, which remains to be confirmed or rejected by The Episcopal Church, took place during the meeting and was discussed by the Commission. It noted the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury that ‘the bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold’. The Commission expressed the fervent hope that ‘gracious restraint’ would be exercised by The Episcopal Church in this instance.

Members of the Commission were enriched by sharing accounts of the life of the Anglican Church in each of their own contexts. The Commission also greatly valued an afternoon spent with the Archbishop of Canterbury, during which he shared his own vision for the work of the Commission and his hope that it might act creatively in addressing vital issues for the Church and the world."

But do not worry should the Archbishop or the Commission fail in their work to sustain the life of the Communion. Nor that the Communion might continue to lose Anglicans for other churches, or even to no church, because of those in our midst who continue to make ministerial offices a matter which turns on "discrimination" more than "walking together": such losses are "the cost of discipleship" according to Susan Russell. I shall just go offline and check that out in one of the four manuals of discipleship provided for us by the Holy Spirit!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ruth Gledhill's Interesting Assessment

Ruth Gledhill, as reported by herself, offers this assessment in the post-Glasspool election prognostications:

"My own view is that in terms of the leadership of the Church of England, the dreams of liberals, and the oppressed minorities they speak out in support of, are almost dead."

Her larger commentary can be found here. I do not have time to unpick her commentary which I think bears careful critique. But on the observation offered above I think she is on to something, something which is likely to be proven true in ACANZP. Putting it bluntly, in a declining church participation situation in the Western world, there are fewer and fewer liberals proportionately to vote in liberal leadership, offer and support liberal candidates for ministry, and to vote for liberal measures in synods. There are exceptions, TEC being the most obvious one (though even there it is worth looking carefully at how robust the liberal groupings are, though their proportionate strength increases with every conservative who leaves).

Or, am I quite wrong?

Kendall Harmon live Down Under

Now back from my lovely trip to Dunedin (an excellent academic conference, a performance of the Messiah, what's not to like ... ok, maybe the rain) to find that Kendall Harmon has been interviewed on Radio New Zealand. Sorry I missed the interview, Kendall!

The Titus One Nine link is here, and the MP3 recording can be found here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stand by your man

++Rowan Williams is getting stick via comments in response to reports of his published statement about Mary Douglas Glasspool's election to be a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Read them at the bottom of Ruth Gledhill's and Thinking Anglican's posts. Not much more positive in reception is to be found at Stand Firm. What did he say?

"Archbishop of Canterbury’s Statement on Los Angeles Episcopal Elections

Sunday 06 December 2009

The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."

A common theme in the comments on the first two sites mentioned above is 'The Archbishop has said nothing publicly against Uganda's death-to-gays legislation, but now he has the gall to rush to print the moment a lesbian is elected bishop in the USA.'

In this instance I want to stand by and with the Archbishop. With respect to Uganda we are told that he is working behind the scenes. Uganda is, after all, not under the Archbishop's jurisdiction; a foreign country; and a place with its own nuances about the best and most effective way to influence its political processes. Who is to say that the way of the Archbishop here is wrong? With respect to the affairs of the Anglican Communion, and the effects on those affairs of actions by member provinces, well, last time I looked, that is within the Archbishop's jurisdiction, at least to make comment.

All that can be said without examining what he actually says, which is pretty much a statement of facts: the election does raise serious questions around the Communion (for some Anglicans and perhaps some parishes it will be a 'last straw' with respect to remaining within the Communion), its confirmation will have serious implications (since, to give but one example, it will nail to the mast the true and effective interpretation of those resolutions passed at the GC 2009), and, if the bonds of affection are to hold, restraint is required. Stand firm on this matter, ++Rowan, and be not swayed by your critics!

Incidentally, to all those critics of the Covenant 'on the left', do the bonds of affection matter or not? We are constantly told that we do not need a Covenant, should not have a Covenant, etc; all because 'the bonds of affection' are enough to hold us together. This is not obviously true!

Shalom. Must away to a plane to a biblical studies conference in the land of Kiwi Scottishness (i.e. Dunedin).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A whirlpool about Glasspool

Mary Douglas Glasspool has just been nominated as suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles. There will be a whirlpool about this nomination, both now, during the process of confirmation, and later, since, whether confirmed or not there will be controversy! Why? Mary is a same sex partnered woman. A report is

Kendall Harmon has commented:

"This decision represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching. It will add further to the Episcopal Church's incoherent witness and chaotic common life, and it will continue to do damage to the Anglican Communion and her relationship with our ecumenical partners."

There are in fact some good things about this decision (assuming, for a moment, that confirmation will be granted). One good thing is that it gives a definitive interpretation on the mind of TEC as expressed at its recent General Convention: this church is not for turning from its resolve to admit no discrimination on any grounds between people inclined heterosexually and people inclined homosexually. Another good thing is that it invites the Communion to carefully consider that Gene Robinson's role as Bishop of New Hampshire within TEC is neither an aberration nor a temporary phenomenon (as in, with enough pressure he could be forced out). Partnered gay and lesbian bishops are here to stay.

The quick response (I guess) is: "Excommunicate TEC. Yesterday. Act quickly, ++Rowan." But there is another response; to think more slowly about whether we might be a Communion in which we have differing standards around clergy and singleness or marriage. This is a scary path because it means attempting to be a Communion united in a determination not to let difference over human dignity divide us. Why might we do this? Here are two reasons.

One, the people we are tempted to divide over are human beings. We may disagree furiously with their choices (e.g. to be in partnership, to offer for episcopacy). We may be aghast at the failure to secure agreement within the Communion on these matters. But that is part of being human: to not agree on all things. Do we walk away or keep talking, respecting who we are in the Lord?

Two, a formal schism in the Anglican Communion changes absolutely nothing about the fact that a bunch of people in the world's eyes call themselves Anglicans (or Episcopalians) and have a significant disagreement. It cuts no ice in mission to say, "We are the Anglicans without error. They are the Anglicans with error."

But this is not to imply that I think Los Angeles has been helpful to the Anglican Communion. It has not, for it is has placed local interest ahead of the global health of the Communion, as More than a Via Media points out. The goodness I see here is the goodness of clarity, not the goodness of shared conviction. The situation is not without possibility for remedial work on how we cope with it; but that is harder work than the situation where we walk together at the pace of the slowest members of the walking group.

Well, nothing said here will stop the whirlpool!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let's sort the Lectionary now before it gets out of hand

Bosco Peters has a brilliant post on the deficiency of the lectionary published for our church whereby it offers way too much choice. There are two points to a lectionary. One is that it is a guide to reading the Bible: presenting multiple choice is not a guide to reading the Bible, it is the presentation of an array of possible readings. Two is that the lectionary, especially in an Anglican context, should enhance the idea of 'common prayer'. Choice simply does not do that.

Bosco also draws attention to the disturbing trend of our lectionary to propose multiple colour alternatives for various days of the year. This should stop. The role of the lectionary at this point is to tell us what to do. We might choose to do something different, but if we choose to follow the lectionary (and be canonically obedient at the same time!) then we choose to be guided, and, incidentally, choose to walk in step with other parishes throughout the land and the world. Except that is not going to happen, except by luck, if we may use colour A, B, or C ... or even D!

Anyone else to join the campaign for lectionary reform?