Monday, May 31, 2010

Spare a thought

and pray for staff and students of St John's College, Auckland (the residential theological and ministry formation college for the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia).

They have now been officially informed of the decisions of General Synod (reported in Taonga here), and had the immediate consequences of those decisions spelled out to them.

This will be an 'in between' time for many there.

And the announcement of who the Commissary will be, has not yet been made.

Please pray for Te Kotahitanga (i.e. the Board of Governors) as they make that decision.

Rob Bell in Christchurch

Just learned that Rob Bell, current great Christian communicator, or, Nooma man extraordinaire will be in my fair city at the end of June. Dates, times, venue, content here and here . What a blast that will be. Not very Romans 8:28, however, as the dates coincide with the Hermeneutical Hui 3.1 for our church.

Less than helpful

This report, from the Weekend Observer (Nigeria), is less than helpful:

"THE Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, on Thursday called on Nigeria to quit the UN, over the latter’s support for homosexuality.

Okoh said that it was regrettable that the UN was currently using human rights bodies and non-governmental organisations to ensure the entrenchment of homosexuality globally.

The cleric made the call in Lagos at a reception held for him by the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos." (from here; H/T Thinking Anglicans)

Less than helpful to Archbishop Rowan Williams' leadership of the Communion, less than helpful to those Anglicans arguing for working together on the hermeneutics of human sexuality in respect of Holy Scripture while upholding human dignity and basic human rights.

When all the 'usual stuff' is said, about Anglican leaders in Nigeria playing to the gallery of political considerations where even the most conservative statements may have a pragmatic purpose in stemming the tide of even more extreme Islamic conservatism, this nevertheless seems to be less than helpful.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Excellent news

Jo Kelly-Moore will be the next Dean of Auckland. That is really excellent news. Liturgy happens to be the site on which I have found the news release. Why not check it out!

Danny Ocean at Lambeth Palace

It is easy to be lulled by the face of ++Rowan Williams into thinking that when he delivers a Pentecost letter to the Communion it is all about spiritual things, theological topics, and the like. I think it is the beard that does it. It combines monk, Eastern patriarch, English academic, and Welsh poet into one mind altering look which makes the reader think, "Theology. Not much practical use." But shave the beard and we have Danny Ocean at Lambeth Palace, mysteriously translocated to Las Vegas, playing high stake poker, with a weak hand but the advantage of having memorised his opponents cards and a freakish ability to outwit the house. We ought to be thinking about the Pentecost letter, "Politics. Could be useful."

At stake here is the future of the organisation known as the Anglican Communion. It is a high stake because the organisation could completely crumble, and it has been set up so that no one person, not even one committee can control its future. But, like all politics, it is not so much about the structure of the organisation and who may or may not be, legally, technically, or otherwise in charge, but about the hearts and minds of the people. The people always win in politics. (Something politicians nearly always forget!)

Notwithstanding all kinds of amazing deprecatory remarks about bishops and archbishops, about synods and conventions, the fact is that when such individuals or committees speak, they speak for the people over time, and not for themselves. In the Anglican Communion those voices, representing the people, have said that the majority viewpoint is expressed in Lambeth 1998 1.10, the Windsor Report, and in various statements made by the Primates. Any which way it is argued, TEC on matters to do with homosexuality (and to a slightly lesser extent ACofCanada), is in a minority within the Anglican Communion.

Consequently it has sought to argue (implicitly or explicitly, through formal statements or through public expressions of opinion such as the blogosphere) that (1) it should not be expelled from the Communion (2) its minority position will one day be the majority position of the Communion (3) Anglican diversity means the Communion should live with both the majority and the minority viewpoints on homosexuality. The Archbishop's Pentecost letter confirms what has never seriously been in doubt that (1) holds good. It makes no comment on the likelihood of (2). It is saying that TEC thus far has failed to make the case for (3): the majority view of the Communion, as discerned by ++Rowan, is that TEC's interpretation of Anglican diversity re minority+majority is itself a minority view.

Thus Danny Ocean has put his cards on the table. They may look low in value. But TEC's hand is not higher. It does not have the Ace which means the majority of the Communion is backing its position. It does not have the King which means it has control of key Communion committees/groups (though it is trying hard with one committee!). It thought it had the Queen of Diamonds (its funding of aspects of Communion life) but that turns out to now only be the Jack of Diamonds (less willingness now to be dependent on those funds). And that is the only picture card. A bit of support from the likes of Canada, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia are low cards in this particular game.

What might TEC do?

What is often forgotten in great howls of protest about "control" of TEC by the Communion is that this is all about an organisation called the Anglican Communion, not about TEC. If TEC wanted to go its own way so as to go its own way, no one is stopping it. No one is holding TEC at the Communion table of fellowship. But TEC wants to be at the Communion table, so the question is, what does it mean to be at that table. What does TEC-in-Communion mean for a Communion-at-odds-with-TEC?

The Pentecost letter means that a judgement has been delivered that TEC cannot be at that table on terms it sets. So TEC must now reckon with whether it can be at the Communion table on terms the Communion sets. A Communion of which TEC is a part and has contributed its voice as a member; but a voice which has not persuaded a majority to agree to it. To change metaphors from card games: the ball is now in TEC's court. It must now deliver the outcome of this judgement itself.

Readers to this point may be wondering why I have said nothing about the other member churches also judged by the letter to have ignored Communion moratoria. Well, their situation is pretty straightforward. They, like TEC, can decide to do something about living by the moratoria. But, unlike TEC, their decision, to stop incursional episcopal activity, is easy to make. TEC's inner politics, how it wishes to chart its own life as a church, have taken it to a point where it is now impossible to abide by the moratoria.

TEC's main hope, now, of resuming a full contribution to the life of the Communion is that other developments take place: for example, other churches peeling away from the table. That could happen.

Like Danny Ocean's movies, the plot has many twists and turns!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Change to Comments Policy

Dear Readers,

I appreciate the responses I get to this blog, both 'off blog', and by way of comments.

Until now I have persisted with permitting anonymous comments.

But recently an anonymous commenter has been pressing to have comments printed which I believe could be libellous (against another person, not myself).

Thank you anonymous for queering the pitch for the other anonymice.

No more anonymous comments folks and no more nicknames.

I will accept comments from a 'first name' only, provided they meet my criteria for good comments.

Certain kinds of comments require a first name and a surname. Have the courage of your convictions and name yourselves, please, if you want to make robust comments involving named or unnamed leaders of churches.

Best wishes to you all,

PS For the record, I myself always comment elsewhere on the internet as "Peter Carrell".

One effect of the ABC's letter

In his significant Pentecost letter, Archbishop Rowan Williams signals change in the Communion in the one area he can himself effect change: bodies to which he appoints people. The change being commensurate with his explanation that in ecumenical relationships via Anglican commissions and in work on Communion faith and order, it is no longer appropriate for the Communion to be represented by people who belong to churches which continue to defy the 'Windsor moratoria' (ordinations of partnered gay and lesbian people, same sex blessings, border crossings). Mark Harris of Preludium - thank you - has offered this analysis of who would be effected on the Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order:

"Here is a list of those on the Anglican Communion Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order. Those highlighted in red would be reduced to consultant status (whatever that means) under the moratoria rule the Archbishop speaks of in his letter.

"The Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of Burundi and Chair of Commission
The Rt Revd Dr Georges Titre Ande, Congo
The Ven. Professor Dapo Asaju, Nigeria
The Revd Canon Professor Paul Avis, England
The Rt Revd Philip D Baji, Tanzania
The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut, World Council of Churches
The Rt Revd Howard Gregory, West Indies
The Revd Dr Katherine Grieb, Episcopal Church (USA)
The Revd Canon Clement Janda, Sudan
The Revd Sarah Rowland Jones, Southern Africa
The Revd Dr Edison Muhindo Kalengyo, Uganda
The Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
The Revd Canon Dr Charlotte Methuen, England
The Revd Dr Simon Oliver, Wales/England
The Rt Revd Professor Stephen Pickard, Australia
Dr Andrew Pierce, Ireland
The Revd Canon Dr Michael Nai Chiu Poon, South East Asia
The Revd Dr Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang, Korea
The Rt Revd Tito Zavala, Bishop of Chile, Southern Cone
The Revd Joanna Udal, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs The Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director for Unity, Faith and Order
Mr Neil Vigers, of the Anglican Communion Office.

I am not sure of the status of SE Asia and Tanzania. I am sure this will be further corrected."

I would have thought it was a moot point whether Nigeria, Southern Cone and Uganda are continuing to 'border cross' if they leave episcopal work within North America to the many bishops of ACNA actually resident in ACNA. Especially if the Communion continues to deny representative status to those bishops. However I am unclear whether African and Southern Cone bishops are flying into the States these days for confirmations and ordinations.

ADDED: now note further comment in comments below from Mark Harris re infractional status of provinces re incursions.

Friday, May 28, 2010

First Reflections on the ABC's Pentecost Letter

On a quick read through, here are the 'money' sections of the letter:

(1) "we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.

It may be said – quite understandably, in one way – that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth."

Gloriously, almost innocently, ++Rowan lays out the deficiency in our life as a 'Communion which is not a church': "We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body." Exactly. But, bless him, he does not give up. There has to be, there should be a way forward, even in our diversity: "Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart."

(2) "And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard ... to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups."

Here is the careful explanation of where action needs to be taken and why. It is an explanation which understands the dynamics of organisational life. When the organisation is not listened to by a member or group of members, it is difficult for the organisation to invest full confidence in those members. The point, in a sense, is most important in the letter because we find it reinforced with this:

"In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican."

(3) "This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice."

Yes, yes, yes! There are limits to diversity. Thank you Rowan. If there is one premise this blog is based on it is that there are limits to Anglican diversity, otherwise we will dissolve if we do not disintegrate.

(4) Noticeable are some specific references to Communion Partners in TEC, and more than once to the recent Global South Encounter in Singapore. ++Rowan is reaching out to as many friends as possible.

Good one!

What The Letter Means (according to the ABC)

Notes to editors re the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter (see post below): [H/T to Thinking Anglicans]

Q. Practically, what does this letter mean for Provinces, national or regional churches who have broken any of the moratoria?

A. Representatives of those Provinces, national or regional churches whose decision-making bodies have gone against the agreed moratoria a) will be asked to step down from formal ecumenical dialogues such as those with Orthodox Churches or the Roman Catholic Church, and b) will no longer have any decision-making powers in the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order that handles questions of church doctrine and authority.

Q. What are the agreements that have been broken?

A. As far back as 2004, the Anglican Communion leadership agreed to three moratoria: 1) No authorisation of blessings services for same-sex unions; 2) No consecrations of bishops living in same-sex relationships; 3) No cross-border interventions (no bishop authorising any ministry within the diocese of another bishop without explicit permission). These have been affirmed repeatedly in subsequent years at the highest levels of the Communion.

Q. Is anyone being asked to leave the Communion?

A. No. By proposing these actions the Archbishop is working to safeguard the common life of the Communion. His proposals come after several churches broke the Communion’s agreed moratoria (their promises to the Communion). Nevertheless the churches concerned remain full members of the Anglican Communion.

Q. Why did the Archbishop decide to issue this letter now?

A. His comments are made at the season of Pentecost when Christians pray for a renewing of the Holy Spirit which is the Spirit of communion and of fellowship. The letter also comes shortly after the Episcopal Church broke one of the moratoria by appointing a bishop in a same-sex relationship.

The Letter

Renewal in the Spirit

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost Letter

to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion


‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak’ (Acts 2.4). At Pentecost, we celebrate the gift God gives us of being able to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various languages of the whole human world. The Gospel is not the property of any one group, any one culture or history, but is what God intends for the salvation of all who will listen and respond.

St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is also what God gives us so that we can call God ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8.15, Gal. 4.6). The Spirit is given not only so that we can speak to the world about God but so that we can speak to God in the words of his own beloved Son. The Good News we share is not just a story about Jesus but the possibility of living in and through the life of Jesus and praying his prayer to the Father.

And so the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of ‘communion’ or fellowship (II Cor. 13.13). The Spirit allows us to recognise each other as part of the Body of Christ because we can hear in each other the voice of Jesus praying to the Father. We know, in the Spirit, that we who are baptised into Jesus Christ share one life; so that all the diversity of gifting and service in the Church can be seen as the work of one Spirit (I Cor. 12.4). In the Holy Eucharist, this unity in and through the self-offering of Jesus is reaffirmed and renewed as we pray for the Spirit to transform both the bread and wine and ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies’.

When the Church is living by the Spirit, what the world will see is a community of people who joyfully and gratefully hear the prayer of Jesus being offered in each other’s words and lives, and are able to recognise the one Christ working through human diversity. And if the world sees this, the Church is a true sign of hope in a world of bitter conflict and rivalry.


From the very first, as the New Testament makes plain, the Church has experienced division and internal hostilities. From the very first, the Church has had to repent of its failure to live fully in the light and truth of the Spirit. Jesus tells us in St John’s gospel that the Spirit of truth will ‘prove the world wrong’ in respect of sin and righteousness and judgement (Jn 16.8). But if the Spirit is leading us all further into the truth, the Spirit will convict the Church too of its wrongness and lead it into repentance. And if the Church is a community where we serve each other in the name of Christ, it is a community where we can and should call each other to repentance in the name of Christ and his Spirit – not to make the other feel inferior (because we all need to be called to repentance) but to remind them of the glory of Christ’s gift and the promise that we lose sight of when we fail in our common life as a Church.

Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.

All are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church. The recent Global South encounter in Singapore articulated a strong and welcome plea for the priority of mission in the Communion; and in my own message to that meeting I prayed for a ‘new Pentecost’ for all of us. This is a good season of the year to pray earnestly for renewal in the Spirit, so that we may indeed do what God asks of us and let all people know that new and forgiven life in Christ is possible and that created men and women may by the Spirit’s power be given the amazing liberty to call God ‘Abba, Father!’

It is my own passionate hope that our discussion of the Anglican Covenant in its entirety will help us focus on that priority; the Covenant is nothing if not a tool for mission. I want to stress yet again that the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control. And this is perhaps a good place to clarify that the place given in the final text to the Standing Committee of the Communion introduces no novelty: the Committee is identical to the former Joint Standing Committee, fully answerable in all matters to the ACC and the Primates; nor is there any intention to prevent the Primates in the group from meeting separately. The reference to the Standing Committee reflected widespread unease about leaving certain processes only to the ACC or only to the Primates.

But we are constantly reminded that the priorities of mission are experienced differently in different places, and that trying to communicate the Gospel in the diverse tongues of human beings can itself lead to misunderstandings and failures of communication between Christians. The sobering truth is that often our attempts to share the Gospel effectively in our own setting can create problems for those in other settings.


We are at a point in our common life where broken communications and fragile relationships have created a very mistrustful climate. This is not news. But many have a sense that the current risks are greater than ever. Although attitudes to human sexuality have been the presenting cause, I want to underline the fact that what has precipitated the current problem is not simply this issue but the widespread bewilderment and often hurt in different quarters that we have no way of making decisions together so that we are not compromised or undermined by what others are doing. We have not, in other words, found a way of shaping our consciences and convictions as a worldwide body. We have not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission.

It may be said – quite understandably, in one way – that our societies and their assumptions are so diverse that we shall never be able to do this. Yet we are called to seek for mutual harmony and common purpose, and not to lose heart. If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth.

Yet at the moment we face a dilemma. To maintain outward unity at a formal level while we are convinced that the divisions are not only deep but damaging to our local mission is not a good thing. Neither is it a good thing to break away from each other so dramatically that we no longer see Christ in each other and risk trying to create a church of the ‘perfect’ – people like us. It is significant that there are still very many in The Episcopal Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who want to be aligned with the Communion’s general commitments and directions, such as those who identify as ‘Communion Partners’, who disagree strongly with recent decisions, yet want to remain in visible fellowship within TEC so far as they can. And, as has often been pointed out, there are things that Anglicans across the world need and want to do together for the care of God’s poor and vulnerable that can and do go on even when division over doctrine or discipline is sharp.


More and more, Anglicans are aware of living through a time of substantial transition, a time when the structures that have served us need reviewing and refreshing, perhaps radical changing, when the voice and witness in the Communion of Christians from the developing world is more articulate and creative than ever, and when the rapidity of social change in ‘developed’ nations leaves even some of the most faithful and traditional Christian communities uncertain where to draw the boundaries in controversial matters – not only sexuality but issues of bioethics, for example, or the complexities of morality in the financial world.

A time of transition, by definition, does not allow quick solutions to such questions, and it is a time when, ideally, we need more than ever to stay in conversation. As I have said many times before, whatever happens to our structures, we still need to preserve both working relationships and places for exchange and discussion. New vehicles for conversations across these boundaries are being developed with much energy.

But some decisions cannot be avoided. We began by thinking about Pentecost and the diverse peoples of the earth finding a common voice, recognising that each was speaking a truth recognised by all. However, when some part of that fellowship speaks in ways that others find hard to recognise, and that point in a significantly different direction from what others are saying, we cannot pretend there is no problem.

And when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole. This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice. It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007. Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

I am aware that other bodies have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee. The latter two are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by any one person’s decision alone, and there will have to be further consultation as to how they are affected. I shall be inviting the views of all members of the Primates’ Meeting on the handling of these matters with a view to the agenda of the next scheduled meeting in January 2011.


In our dealings with other Christian communions, we do not seek to deny our diversity; but there is an obvious problem in putting forward representatives of the Communion who are consciously at odds with what the Communion has formally requested or stipulated. This does not seem fair to them or to our partners. In our dealings with each other, we need to be clear that conscientious decisions may be taken in good faith, even for what are held to be good theological or missional reasons, and yet have a cost when they move away from what is recognisable and acceptable within the Communion. Thus – to take a very different kind of example – there have been and there are Anglicans who have a strong conscientious objection to infant baptism. Their views deserve attention, respect and careful study, they should be engaged in serious dialogue – but it would be eccentric to place such people in a position where their view was implicitly acknowledged as one of a range of equally acceptable convictions, all of which could be taken as representatively Anglican.

Yet no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions and everyone should be reflecting on how to rebuild relations and to move towards a more coherent Anglican identity (which does not mean an Anglican identity with no diversity, a point once again well made by the statement from the Singapore meeting). Some complain that we are condemned to endless meetings that achieve nothing. I believe that in fact we have too few meetings that allow proper mutual exploration. It may well be that such encounters need to take place in a completely different atmosphere from the official meetings of the Communion’s representative bodies, and this needs some imaginative thought and planning. Much work is already going into making this more possible.

But if we do conclude that some public marks of ‘distance’, as the Windsor Continuation Group put it, are unavoidable if our Communion bodies are not to be stripped of credibility and effectiveness, the least Christian thing we can do is to think that this absolves us from prayer and care for each other, or continuing efforts to make sense of each other.

We are praying for a new Pentecost for our Communion. That means above all a vast deepening of our capacity to receive the gift of being adopted sons and daughters of the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It means a deepened capacity to speak of Jesus Christ in the language of our context so that we are heard and the Gospel is made compelling and credible. And it also means a deepened capacity to love and nourish each other within Christ’s Body – especially to love and nourish, as well as to challenge, those whom Christ has given us as neighbours with whom we are in deep and painful dispute.

One remarkable symbol of promise for our Communion is the generous gift received by the Diocese of Jerusalem from His Majesty the King of Jordan, who has provided a site on the banks of the Jordan River, at the traditional site of Our Lord’s Baptism, for the construction of an Anglican church. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of blessing the foundation stone of this church and viewing the plans for its design. It will be a worthy witness at this historic site to the Anglican tradition, a sign of real hope for the long-suffering Christians of the region, and something around which the Communion should gather as a focus of common commitment in Christ and his Spirit. I hope that many in the Communion will give generous support to the project.

‘We have the mind of Christ’ says St Paul (I Cor. 2.16); and, as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has recently written, this means that we must have a ‘kenotic’, a self-emptying approach to each other in the Church. May the Spirit create this in us daily and lead us into that wholeness of truth which is only to be found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.

I wish you all God’s richest blessing at this season.

Lambeth Palace
Pentecost 2010

More unedifying spectacle

Mark Harris at Preludium, taking on Anglican Curmudgeon (who has just published an amazing photograph ...), includes in his riposte a list which constitutes 'more unedifying spectacle' on the conservative side of Communion life (with a caveat from me below). For links to the news items backing up these items, head to Mark's post.

"Progressives, who regularly get beat-up by Global South Anglican folk, could also remark on the hypocritical situation regarding purity and stability of life of a remarkably large number of bishops in the Global South who are under investigation, indictment, or in court for various immoral behaviors. George Conger writes about a number of these:

There is open warfare in Zimbabwe between the forces of deposed Bishop Kunonga and the forces of the current Bishop of Harare, Dr. Chad Gandiya. It is a royal mess.
Then we are informed that "Drink-driving bishop resigns" Melanesia Bishop Koete was forced into resignation for drinking on the job.

Not to be outdone, there is then this report from the Church of South India "Bishop Dorai arrested." Bishop Dorai was accused of menacing a priest. But that is only the surface to what promises to be a long and difficult legal matter.

Then there is a related CSI matter: Corruption charges brought against the Moderator of the CSI." The charges are taking big money out of Church hands.

The bishop of Jerusalem and the former bishop of same are suing the pants off each other.This in a Province that decries the legal wrangling in the US.

The Archbishop of Uganda suspended and then deposed a bishop whose "notable crime" was advocating for gay and lesbian persons in Uganda. The rules of deposition look remarkably like those of The Episcopal Church which is accused of being unfeeling and unChristian in its deposition policies.

Its quite a roster bishop leaders exercising less than fully virtuous lives."

My one caveat about this list is that the offences (as summarily described) would not be a subject of disagreement within conservative Anglicans: drink driving is an offence; corruption is wrong; the situation re the Jerusalem bishops is disgraceful; etc. But the point that "our house" should be in order before we call other "houses" to order is well made. Will it be well taken?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Unedifying spectacle

Unfortunately the separation of AMiA from ACNA is not an edifying spectacle. As Texanglican says, "Spin it any way you like, but this is a blow to the Anglican Church in North America." It is a dream come true for critics of ACNA: united by nothing more than homophobia or hatred for TEC, it will soon disintegrate. Well, if ACNA is not going to disintegrate it needs to act fast. Find an olive tree, cut down a branch, pray, and wave it madly in AMiA's direction.

Amazingly on the link above are comments posted by either Nara Dewar Duncan, wife of Archbishop Bob Duncan, or someone impersonating her. No holds barred there. Admirable loyalty for her husband and frustration at the course of events (largely dictated, incidentally, by Rwanda, but seemingly with contributory personality factors kicking in). But loyalty of this kind is not necessarily the oil which smooths troubled waters or the strong rope that binds brothers and sisters together in Christ.

Dear reader, I have moved in conservative Anglican circles all my life; I have also moved in conservative evangelical circles of an ecumenical character for significant portions of time. Disunity is our weakness. A theology of living with disagreement in the one church of God often seems beyond our grasp. Resolve our disagreements or start a new church or movement? No brainer for conservatives on many occasions. And the preferred option is the latter not the former. Some part of our brains is built to house our egos not to suppress them.

Not to be misunderstood: many conservatives have fellowship with those they disagree with, and often do so with joy and great good humour. Many conservative Anglicans never even think about leaving our church, let alone starting a new version of a local evangelical Anglican fellowship. But we know those in our midst who do think such thoughts. We can name those who have walked away. It's our little problem. But over in the USA right now, it appears to be a big problem.

No one would notice if I stopped writing

With H/T to Titus One Nine here is an excerpt from an anti-theology rave by Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society (UK): my italics ...

"Theology is an excuse for grown men to spend their lives trying to convince themselves, and others, that ridiculous fairy tales are true. Some of them get paid for it. On my Sky Box there are dozens of channels under the heading "Religion". If you choose one of these channels at random you will either find someone wanting your credit card details or someone strolling around a stage carrying a large Bible before him. He will be explaining to his attentive audience the meaning of some of the more ambiguous verses in the good book.

Five minutes after tuning in to such a session, you will begin to wonder whether you've had one of those strokes that make your native language incomprehensible to you. You recognise individual words as English, but they have no meaning. Despite the shouting and the emphasis put on them by the speaker, you have no idea what he is talking about. And yet the people in the audience are nodding sagely, making notes and generally seem to understand what is being said. This is theology.

I look at it this way. If science disappeared from human memory, we would soon be living in caves again. If theology disappeared from human memory, no one would notice. Theology is a completely and utterly useless pursuit. It is self-indulgence of the first order. It grieves me that public money is spent on theological colleges while real education struggles to gain the funds it needs to maintain itself."

This is an odd rave. Not unexpected, of course, from the President of the National Secular Society. But still odd. He makes it sound like theology is the only form of learning which is 'self-indulgence of the first order', but secular society tolerates many such indulgences: quite a bit of mathematics, philosophy, poetry, music, cosmological research about the edges of the universe that changes nothing about human life, etc.

Then there is a very odd description of theologians as 'grown men' (what about the women theologians?) spending 'their lives trying to convince themselves, and others, that ridiculous fairy tales are true'. Mostly theologians do not do that! Convinced that certain things are true, they spend their lives probing ever more deeply the meaning of these things.

Still best not to get defensive about these things! There is a very intriguing challenge here: 'If theology disappeared from human memory, no one would notice.' Is that true?

Among several responses one could make, it may be worth saying, 'Yes, that is true in respect of quite a chunk of theology which is badly written, easily forgettable, and, in any case, locked up in libraries few people bother to access'. But the whole of theology? Including the theology unlocked in the pulpit week by week, and in the reflections of Christians day by day as we read Scripture and pray to God? Rather than overplay one's hand here, in a society such as ours or the British, in which few people participate in church in such a manner that deprivation of theology from human memory would be noticed at large, I suggest a couple of questions worth pondering.

If theology disappeared from human memory would the future of society be religious or secular? If religious, what kind of (non-theological) religion would be present? (For instance, actual fairy tale religion? An anti-science religion?).

If the future of society was utterly secular, would the value of human life, and the motivation to love one another increase or decrease over time?

Still what would I know. Being a grown man believing in fairy tales he is not yet convinced about is no kind of grounds for saying anything useful and rewarding about theology. Let alone believable. Disregard all the above. Get on with life and enjoy yourself. And do not think there is any being greater than yourself to thank for that enjoyment!?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bleak House

Ephraim Radner, post Global South Singapore (of which he makes a very interesting observation, italicised by me), post AMiA pulling apart from ACNA, post Glasspool consecration amidst curiously syncretistic service, offers what we might call a Dickensian pessimism about the state of global Anglican life. The whole article is published at Anglican Communion Institute. Here is an excerpt:

"The Lambeth Conference, of course, needed only one meeting in 2008 to demonstrate its marginalization in leadership: talking without decision, boycotted by a quarter of its most dissatisfied members, the great gathering of Anglican episcopal leaders became an inward looking and reflexive publicity opportunity for program coordinators. It was astonishing to see how thoroughly and quickly one of the most august meetings in the Christian Church had lost its way.

And the Anglican Consultative Council? A May, 2009 self-combustion over simple voting procedures left this “most representative” gathering of the Communion without credibility as anything but an arena for political posturing and finagling. The national church model that, primarily, lies behind the provincial ordering of the ACC, has instead poisoned the search for shared hope and mutual subjection among the council’s members, a subversion led by the most nationalistically aggressive of the all the provinces, the Episcopal Church. Current attempts by TEC to manipulate its position on the ACC’s Standing Committee, seemingly abetted by the Anglican Communion Office, only underscores this sorry state of affairs.

Why mince words here? For some years now – since even before the Virginia Report of the late 1990’s — it has been stated formally over and over again that the structures of the Anglican Communion needed redefinition and rebuilding, so as to be able to function fruitfully. Key efforts were made to give direction to such reconstruction. A decade of failure, however, has simply borne out an already established and publicly stated fear.

But trying to set up alternative structures has not fared much better. If the recent Singapore meeting exposed a ten-year lapse in credibility for existing Communion structures, it also put the lie to any attractive claim for alternative structures that, in the past 10 years, some portions of the Communion have so assiduously been at work to erect: new provinces in North America; special “primatial councils” for common confessors; extra-jurisdictional missionary fiefdoms; episcopal netwoks of alternative oversight. Instead, the gathering proved to be what every other Anglican gathering has been in the past decade: in addition to faithful witness and counsel, also a time for political maneuver, secretive changing of agendas at the last moment, North Americans coming in and grabbing the microphones and running meetings, disagreements over this and that strategy and doctrine. That a common communiqué emerged at all was cause for surprise by the end; that it expressed little tangible except a shared dislike for Communion structures and for TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada was probably the most one could have predicted, which isn’t very much, let alone particularly edifying."

NB Please read Tim Harris' comments below concerning the italicised words. Tim was at the Singapore event; whereas Ephraim Radner was not.

Leaving on the front-foot

Bishop Tom Wright, soon to assume his alter ego as N. T. Wright, academic at large, has a few things to say in his final presidential address to his Durham Synod. Please read the whole address - vintage Wright! Here are a few paragraphs that particularly caught my attention (with some pertinent words italicised by me):

"Despite the usual sneer that England got a new Church because Henry VIII wanted a new wife, the indigenous reform movement in these islands predated the rise of Ann Boleyn by several years. And those early English reformers had already figured out that to succeed they would need – dare we say? – a coalition, in which the various English followers of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the rest would agree to differ on some things – notably the mode of the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist – in order to advance their main agenda. They thus introduced back into western Christianity the principle of adiaphora which had I think been lost sight of in earlier generations. Differences on the theology of Eucharistic presence, they said, don’t make a difference. But other things did: justification by faith, the Bible in the vernacular, the uniqueness of the death of Jesus. For these they were prepared to die, and did, often horribly.

The principle of adiaphora was itself, in fact, a matter of life and death. The doctrine that some things are adipahora, and some aren’t, is not itself adiaphora. The decision as to which things make a difference and which do not is itself a decision which makes a huge difference. Some of the early English Reformers claimed explicitly that they were dying precisely for the principle of adiaphora itself, for the right to disagree on certain points (not on everything). That for which you will give your life is hardly something which doesn’t make a difference. ...


All this means that this question, which differences make a difference and which don’t, cannot itself be decided locally. This is where the principle of adiaphora meets the principle of ‘subsidiarity’, which proposes that matters should be decided at the most local level possible. Changing the time of Evensong from 6 to 6.30 on Sundays in summer may seem an earth-shattering move for those involved, but actually it’s up to the local parish to decide; you don’t call in the Area Dean, let alone the Archdeacon or the Bishop, and you certainly don’t put it on the agenda for the Lambeth Conference. But if you want to stop reading the Bible in public worship, and instead to read the lessons from the Koran or the Bahagavad-Gita, you are not at liberty to claim, locally, that this is adiaphora and you can get on with it.

All this applies rather obviously to two major issues we currently face: that of women bishops in our own Church of England, and that of the actions of the American Episcopal Church in relation to the worldwide Anglican Communion. But before we get to those questions we need to address another point in more general terms. I have heard it said recently that we have to distinguish between first-order issues and second-order issues, and that the first are things we must all agree on while the second are things on which we can agree to differ. That is fine as far as it goes, and sounds very like what I’ve been saying. But it is sometimes applied further as follows: the first-order issues are the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the Spirit, and so on – the basic facts of our faith. Then the second-order issues have to do with the way we live it out. We can, it is said, insist on the first but be flexible on the second.

And at this point I have to demur. We cannot be flexible on the commands to be kind, patient, generous, gentle and forgiving. We cannot be flexible on the prohibitions on murder, theft and adultery. These do not seem to me to be in the same rank as the Trinity and the Resurrection, but that doesn’t mean they are open for negotiation. Some things at least, it seems, may not be absolutely first-order but are nevertheless not flexible.
Perhaps, at the risk of increasing complexity – but then all human life is complex – we need to think in terms of first, second and third order matters, or possibly fourth and fifth as well. And again the point is this: we cannot assume that this or that issue belongs at the ‘flexible’ end of the scale, so that by appealing to the existence of such a scale we can thereby locate a particular issue at one point on it. As I said before, the proposal that something hitherto mandatory is now optional, or that something hitherto prohibited is now permitted, or that something previously important is now trivial, is not itself trivial. Just because Christians have agreed to differ on one matter – say, on the mode of Eucharistic presence, or on whether Christians can fight in the army – that doesn’t mean we can agree to differ on any other topic that happens to come up. Each case has to be argued on its merits."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Integrities

I have been following fairly loosely the saga of the Church of England attempting to find a way out of the maze it is in because it failed in 1992 to commit itself to a single measure in which women would be permitted to be ordained priest and bishop. I do understand the politics of the situation at the time drove the church to tackle one step rather than two. But now it is seeking to take the second step and the church faces questions of integrity or integrities. The former referring to whether or not the way the decisions were made in the early 90s committed the church to always providing for two integrities around the ordination of women; the latter referring to the possibility that, whatever those decisions might now mean, nevertheless the church might live with two integrities about bishops. One would be unconcerned about the gender of its bishops; the other would be concerned, and that concern would itself have two groupings!

If my understanding is correct, in one of those groupings there might be no particular concern about the hands of a women bishop (ordination being a mere administration action) but great concern about her voice (it would not be permitted in the pulpit to teach); in the other grouping the concerns would be the opposite!

Can the Church of England live with two integrities? Should it live with two integrities? We await answers, most likely to be confirmed at its next session of General Synod in July this year.

Of course questions of two integrities arise in other ways for other Anglican churches in the Communion. Today, taking stock of all kinds of signs and signals (including ongoing debates on my Hermeneutics and Human Dignity blog), my assessment is that little is shifting between two integrities on homosexuality. One integrity is that a man or a woman in a faithful, permanent, stable, loving same sex partnership is living a holy life (at least in respect of the expression of their sexuality) and thus nothing about such a relationship is an impediment to leadership in the church. The other integrity is that a person in such a relationship is not living a holy life and thus there is an impediment to leadership in the church.

Is there a way forward in which two integrities exist within one church (or one diocese or one parish)?

I am no more rushing into print with an answer to that question re homosexuality than I am hastening to give the C of E advice!

PS One reason why I remain conservative about homosexuality and the questions for which different answers are sought from the church than have been traditionally given is the difficult, shifty nature of justifying arguments brought forward in defence of different answers. Thus I draw your attention to Kendall Harmon's thoughtful spotlight being cast on an attempt to redefine 'chaste' in relation to TEC's recent consecration.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Champion Bishop

Ha! Got to this story before Taonga ...

Bishop Derek Eaton (Diocesan, Nelson, 1990-2006; Assistant, Egypt; 2007-2009) is not letting the grass grow beneath his feet in retirement. Mainly because he is living on the water, committing himself to a serious swimming challenge. Peter Gibbs of the Nelson Mail takes up the story:

"I first met Derek in January last year, when he wandered up to one of the Port Nelson sea swims, wondering if he could have a shot.

I recognised him from his days as bishop, and never imagined that this mild 67-year-old was about to start giving me severe swimming lessons.

It eventuated that one of his earlier missons had been in the swimming pool, where he was a national champion in butterfly and medley between 1950 and 1959. ...

"On returning from Cairo, my eldest son Simeon, a consultant at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, immediately took me to a sports shop, had me buy a wetsuit, and insisted on my entering the national Sovereign Ocean Swims with him."

From the start of last summer's Port Nelson series, Derek was unstoppable – unbeaten in the 60-69 age group despite my best efforts and those of the redoubtable Stuart Hebberd, the top swimmer in the age group the previous season.

With typical determination, he also set his sights last summer on improving his results in the Sovereign series. With six races in various locations from Paihia to Christchurch, Derek swam his way to the top of the 60-69 age group."

The whole feature article may be found here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Game, set, and match?

Following up a post a few days ago about a battle royale for a vacant (or not?) seat on the ACC, and AC Standing Committee, Anglican Curmudgeon has something of a salvo into the situation.

Next counter-argument, please!

Friday, May 21, 2010

What is ++Rowan up to

The usual suspects suspect ++Rowan is going to do nothing about a response to +Mary Glasspool's consecration.

I think the contrary.

++Rowan knows that the Primates Meeting early next year is likely to have a welter of "Got headache. Sorry cannot come." RSVPs if TEC's Primate is not disinvited, or similar.

I think he is getting the wording right on a crucial announcement. One that he need not hurry as there are plenty of months to go.

Whether the announcement is that ++KJS is actually disinvited; or that all the others are invited to a pre-Primates Meeting, it will be significant. And it will signal that ++Rowan gets it that the Communion has, perhaps, one chance left of a semblance of its former life and strength continuing into the future.


Recombobulating Roman history

Love it. Writing like this. Great word pictures and picturesque phrases. Diarmid McCulloch, of course, prince of present historians. Writing about a recent speech of our brother in Christ Benedict XVI:

"It's difficult from this to know what the pope might count as "the best" of modernity's requirements, but apparently even those can be transcended, and plenty of errors and dead ends just get avoided – a bit like a sacralised version of Lara Croft dodging through the nasties. You could hardly get a more defensive vision of the council than this. It sounds for all the world like that most unfortunate and embarrassing of Pope Pius IX's public statements, the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, which famously culminated in the proposition that it was wrong to believe that the pope "can and ought to reconcile himself with progress, liberalism and modern civilisation".

What it does mean is that the pope has put himself at the head of the small-earthquake-in-Chile-not-many-dead view of Vatican II?"

Check the whole here.

Recombobulating Anglican churches

My previous post about a significant change to ACNA, a discombobulation which possibly heralds its disintegration, could be connected to some ongoing reflection on my part about the significance of last week's ACANZP General Synod in Gisborne via the word 'accommodation'. That word, I think I have previously written, was memorably offered to me as a one word description of the Anglican church over thirty years ago when I was a young student by a senior mentor.

Whether we think of the church in England drawing together its Celtic and Roman strands at the Synod of Whitby, or weaving its ways through 1549 and 1552 reformed liturgies towards its grand finale in 1662, or remaining intact in the 19th century as distinctive evangelical and anglo-catholic parties emerged, a hallmark of being Anglican has been 'accommodation'. A question in the twenty-first century is whether accommodation will continue to be a hallmark or not; and, if so, how large will be the accommodation?

There are Anglicans who are open and honest about wishing to forge an Anglicanism which is either not accommodationist, or is barely accommodationist. Thus we can circle the globe in a trend spotting satellite and observe some Anglicans intent on completing the Reformation in a Puritan direction (seemingly unaware that the Presbyterians got there before them!), others on undoing the Reformation with a revived English Catholicism which seems more Roman than the Pope himself (always puzzling evangelicals such as myself as to why they do not simply cross the Tiber), and then still others who seem to understand being Anglican as an uncompromising embrace of secular wisdom and pluralist spiritualities (seemingly unaware of the indistinguishability of what they believe from the manifestos of modern social democratic political parties). The same satellite will spot many Anglicans in groupings and networks in which a significant degree of accommodation does occur, in most of those instances involving happy campers, comfortable in the accommodation they have built.

From a distance the trouble with ACNA seems to involve a drawing together of Anglican groups/networks which do not understand being Anglican to be accommodating. Thus their version of Anglican accommodation will be a troubled house unless, fairly quickly, they can discover the virtues and advantages of accommodation.

What about my church, and the significant developments at our General Synod?

For some ten years now we have tried a somewhat novel formal experiment in accommodation: being a church of three tikanga, governed by a constitution which spells out clearly that we are such a church. When, at this most recent Synod, we (a) began a new conversation about resource sharing, underpinned by sobering statistics of a weakening congregational life in Tikanga Maori, and (b) accepted that three tikanga leadership (three heads of three constituent colleges attempting to lead one college) has come to an end for the institution, St John's College, which has been the flagship of "three tikanga life happening in reality on a daily basis", we effectively moved from one phase of this particular accommodation to another phase.

(This paragraph needs heavy prefacing with "in my view"!) General Synod may not have been aware of the fact that it signalled the end of that phase. But that is what happened. In the words of another person at GS, we are now going to be one church working in three tikanga, rather than a three tikanga church in which each of the tikanga has appeared to work in separate ways. The brutal fact, not quite spelled out at our GS, is that we do not have the people resources to sustain three tikanga operating separately as well as successfully. We have been asking, for instance, that two thirds of every whole church committee and commission be supplied from Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Polynesia, each of which, in "numbers on the ground", is less than a half of the size of our smallest pakeha diocese. My observation at this GS (having participated previously in GS 1996-2004) is that leadership replenishment is not occurring within Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Polynesia in a manner commensurate with the needs of Anglican mission among our peoples and islands in the twenty-first century. An urgent question is what development of mission and ministry is required to broaden the base from which future leadership will be drawn.

But all is not lost. Not by any means. But the means will be a three tikanga life different to the years 1990-2010. Just how this works out in detail is yet to be seen (though I have one or two suggestions to make), but the significant changes will begin at St John's College, and in the resource sharing commission GS has set up.

We need to recombobulate our own accommodation as Anglicans here. There will be pain. There need to be changes. They must be made. Otherwise the experiment we have been so proud of - perhaps too proud - will be judged a failure.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Discombobulating ACNA

I have been a hearty supporter of the Anglican Church of North America, a coalition of Anglican churches disaffected if not disenfranchised from TEC and the progressive direction in which it has been marching, if not running from the centre ground of Anglican Communion life. From a distance it has seemed a reasonable ordering of North American Anglican/Episcopalian affairs if there were essentially three Anglican entities: the long-standing churches, the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church of the USA, and the new (with elements of older groups) Anglican Church of North America. Two broadly speaking liberal/progressive, and one, broadly speaking, conservative. While acknowledging that a rift driven apart by various bad speakings to each other, along with "see you in court" property litigations, would need some patching (if not greater healing), I have argued that the Anglican Communion should recognise all three Anglican churches in North America.

But now the landscape has shifted a little. The AMiA, one of the larger parts of ACNA, is moving to a partner rather than member status of ACNA, formally removing a significant chunk of parishes and attendance statistics from the ACNA resume. Following both reports and comments on Stand Firm and Texanglican, it appears that there always were going to be structural difficulties about the relationship (AMiA's connection with Rwanda is more Roman in episcopal structuration than Anglican; other ACNA entities' connections to their parent provinces is Anglican, not Roman).

I am going to be the last person to rush to judgement and say this weakens ACNA's case for inclusion in the Communion. But it is not rushing to judgement to say that this development does not strengthen the case!

What does interest me right now is how this development underlines the wisdom of the choice of the 'Communion Partner' dioceses and bishops to remain within TEC and fight for what they believe in, and for their right to continuing internal critique of the direction TEC is heading in, measured against deep desire to walk closely with Canterbury and the majority of the Communion's provinces. I presume that they have been realists: any show in town calling itself "church" is open to dissent, division, and disturbances, therefore, they seem to have concluded, better to remain with the church in which these characteristics are known, than to leave for the promise of unknown possibilities for improvement which nevertheless carry with them probability of a different set of emerging, if not predictable differences.

The challenge here, right now, is for Anglican conservatives in "mixed economy" provinces to reflect more deeply, and perhaps more intelligently (because of the lessons being taught us by others), on the best and most fruitful pathway to be faithful to what we believe and to bear witness to the truth of the gospel as we have received it through our Anglican heritage. Stay or go? Fight or flight? Old wineskins or new? Reject or renew? On any answer to such questions, and to any other questions pertaining to the situation, our calling is sure: contend for the faith, and be faithful to the Lord of the church.

No paywall here - get your Anglican debates free

The axe is falling, slowly, on free access to the iTimes. It likely will fall even on their blogs, including the most famous of them all in the Anglican Communion, Ruth Gledhill's. Here she offers a transcript of a discussion on BBC about the new Times pay-per-view policy and how it might affect her blog:

"It was a bit discombobulating, frankly, to find this blog, which generally manages to stay out of media politics, suddenly 'outed' in this way. But perhaps it is worthy of debate, so here is a transcript of what was said.

JW: 'Our belief is over time people will be prepared to pay small amounts for high-quality content and you won't get that high-quality content in the medium term from other sites.'

AR: 'But I think this is a crucial thing about the changing nature of journalism. The Times has a - again, much as I hate to - no I don't hate to do it because this is the way the new eco-system works - but I am about to link metaphorically to The Times. Ruth Gledhill on The Times is the fantastic religious affairs correspondent. She's a pioneer in blogging. She knows that The Times has a limited appetite for religious affairs stories so she's just gone and, she's created her own site, and she's redefining how you do that kind of journalism. So sometimes she tweets, sometimes she blogs, she links back to pieces in The Times and she then hosts a conversation on her site. Now the moment you put a paywall around your content all that linking mechanism breaks down. Because as you say people suddenly get to The Times site and they find they are going to have to pay 80p and the experience is that only a tiny percentage of people will do that. So by that act of putting up that paywall you take Ruth Gledhill out of that ecosystem of what was a really interesting experiment in journalism. So that's why I think these are fundamental decisions for the way that all journalism is going to be...

JW: 'I'm not sure [the paywall] would take her out. People will buy The Times on a daily basis for a pound. Why wouldn't they pay that to be part of the debate with Ruth Gledhill? If they are that interested I am sure they will.'

AR: 'They never have. That's.....'

The debate then moved on to the New York Times experiment.A paywall was tried there and abandoned after commentators apparently complained they had indeed been taken out of the debate. But next year it is to be tried again.

What do I think? I don't know what to think, except to keep the faith. We'll all know more after we've tried it out for a bit.

There is one thing though.

I've just this past week celebrated 23 years at The Times and in all my time here, I've not known my boss make a mistake."

Much as I have enjoyed Ruth's blog for several years now, I won't be paying a cent or a penny to read it. It's not so much the cost but the fiddly nature of making the payment. There are plenty of other free blogs to view ... and we can probably rely on Simon Sarmiento at Thinking Anglicans to tell us anything important on Ruth's blog!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Row brewing nicely

I quite like a good row - a brouhaha, a storm in a teacup, or just a perfect organisational storm. Especially when it is in the legal detail of things, and not taxing re theological issues, personalities and the like.

Just such a row is brewing nicely in the Communion. OK, a little more accurately, brewing in the Anglican blogosphere. But the debaters are heavy-hitters. It concerns a vacant seat on the Anglican Communion "Standing Committee". I have put the name of the committee in scare marks because even the existence and/or name of this particular committee, along with its role and imputed power is part of the storm.

A sequence of posts goes like this:

Serve: ACI

Return: Preludium

Volley: ACI

Return: see Preludium above, because that post includes a revision.

Confused? If not, please write now to ++Rowan (aka "the umpire") with the resolution!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Not the bestest of news for NZ Anglicans

From Vision Network NZ

"Dr Peter Lineham, Associate Professor of History and Head of the School of Social and Cultural Studies at Massey University, spoke at a recent Auckland Church Leaders meeting on "Stock-taking: Where the Church is at in 2010 in Auckland." He said not all new Christians are evangelical or Pentecostal, but this grouping is now a significant one in the wider Church.

Some of the important points made from his, and others', research included:

The constant rise of unbelief by Aucklanders in the past 40+ years is shown in a number of surveys. Asian and Pacific Island immigrants have swelled the numbers in many churches, especially the historic churches like Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist, and this has further served to mask the true level of unbelief by so many Pakeha.

The Catholic Church has coped reasonably well, whereas others, such as the Anglican Church, have markedly declined. Catholics have significantly benefited by their school system and huge immigrant support.

Evangelical/Pentecostal churches have increased across Auckland. Not all new Christians are evangelical or Pentecostal but this grouping is now a significant one in the wider Church.

Many churches are aging, e.g., mean ages and the proportion who are female in Anglican Churches is 61.4 years (67.8% female), Baptist 49.5 years (56.7% female), Catholic 54 years (58.7% female), Presbyterian 62.7 years (64.1% female) and Union/Co-operating parishes 63.7 years (66% female). (The average adult age in New Zealand is about 46 years.)

About 50 per cent of the youth of Auckland are Pacific Island or Asian. This has huge evangelism implications.

Immigrants appear to be more open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than long-term New Zealanders.

It seems clear that the increase in ‘no religion' in the censuses have come mostly from the periphery of the churches, and committed core people still have a clear sense of denominational identity. This is leading to a renewed theological awareness in many churches."

Peter Lineham is an Anglican member of the Auckland Diocesan Synod, among several roles within the NZ Christian community.

What can we learn from this analysis?

So when I had a great time in worship last evening, with a superb band powering up the singing of God's praises, I was in good Kiwi company in the wider scheme of things! It was an Anglican church, by the way. And my presence upwardly distorted the average age of the congregation.

PS For a lively, younger church event in the Western world, truck over to Bishop Alan Wilson's and Bishop Nick Baines' blogs on Kirchentag, and the presence of Moltmann and Kung there!

Missing the point?

My memory may be playing tricks, but a few years ago I thought I was reading Ruth Gledhill's "line" in her posts on Communion developments as broadly sympathetic to conservative Anglicans' concerns to be faithful to Scripture and tradition.

Well, maybe my aging mind is playing tricks, or maybe the "line" has changed. This is something Ruth has written in the past couple of days (H/T to Preludium drawing attention to it. Italics are mine):

"Some years ago, at the Greenbelt Christian rock festival that takes place every August Bank Holiday near Cheltenham, someone close to the Archbishop of Canterbury told me that a person’s view on homosexuality was now what defined them on the Christian spectrum. What this person of considerable authority and intellect was saying was that it was no longer possible to be both pro-gay and evangelical.

In other words, the infighting over homosexuality means that for the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, more important than the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Birth and the Trinity is what one person does in bed with another.

The lines of Christian belief, in the Anglican world at least, have been redrawn around a battle over gay rights that, in the secular world, ended years ago.

Sexuality figures nowhere in the creeds. It is not mentioned in the church’s liturgies. When godparents bear witness to a baby’s baptism they do not swear to help to raise the infant as straight.

Many of the thousands of young people who never go to church in the UK but who are nominally baptised Anglicans cannot remember a time when sodomy was a criminal offence.

These are the people that Church leaders should be trying to attract. In a world facing the well-documented consequences of consumer and materialist greed the Church’s spiritual message is potentially of benefit to millions. If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good."

Appreciatively many Anglicans can and will agree with some sentiments here. Probably a majority of Western Anglicans would agree that it is absurd that "a person’s view on homosexuality was now what defined them on the Christian spectrum." Surely all would agree that the world we live in today is a world in which we are trying to share the gospel of Christ with young people (say, post 1990) shaped by a world very, very different to the world I grew up in (post 1960) which in various ways has been closer to the world my parents grew up in than the world my children are growing up in. Nothing much had changed, for example, about "gay rights" in NZ between my parents growing up years and my own; but it has been all change since the mid-1980s here.

But some things expressed in Ruth's post bear closer scrutiny than others. This claim, for instance:

"Sexuality figures nowhere in the creeds. It is not mentioned in the church’s liturgies. When godparents bear witness to a baby’s baptism they do not swear to help to raise the infant as straight."

This is misleading in various ways. Something not mentioned in the creeds is likely something which was not being controverted at the time the creeds were formulated rather than something not important. The church's liturgies actually include liturgies for marriage! Moreover the church's liturgies include "appointed readings" from Scripture which teaches ... things which do not always fall into line with modern secular agenda! Godparents at a baby's baptism are offering support in bringing up the child in the way of Christ - the way which Scripture teaches ... does not always fall in line with modern secular agenda.

But particularly egregious I suggest are the words I italicised!

"the infighting over homosexuality means that for the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, more important than the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Birth and the Trinity is what one person does in bed with another"

Unfortunately, it has to be acknowledged, sometimes some Anglican leaders have framed the matter in a way which lends itself to this particular characterization. But these words are offered as a statement covering all ways of framing the matter.

Here is another way.

It has been important for Anglicans that their leaders live in accordance with God's revealed will, including God's will for sexual relationships. This has meant that our leaders have been married or single. It has meant that "what one person does in bed with another" has been important: adultery, being blunt, has been a sackable offence. Moreover, so important has "what one person does in bed with another" been, that notwithstanding huge social changes in Western society, in the particular instance of adultery, I can think of no Anglican church, even in the West, which has lessened its expectations enshrined in things such as canons or codes of ethics of what is important in this aspect of living. I can think of no other profession/vocation/job in which adultery is a sackable offence. God's revealed will trumps changing social mores and social distinctions between "public" and "private" behaviour.

In short, it is important to Anglicans what God's revealed will is. From that revealed will has flowed out beliefs in Resurrection, Crucifixion (significance thereof), Virgin Birth, and the Trinity. Concerning that revealed will, there is now a huge question about whether we understand it correctly in respect of human relationships. The answer to that question is not inconsequential, as Ruth's statement implies. We are not solely talking about whether the church may take up a tolerant attitude in general terms to "what one person does in bed with another" (compared, say, to becoming some kind of intrusive moral watchdog for society). We are talking about whether a traditional, long-standing expectation that bishops and clergy (at least) should be married or single, or otherwise. That is an important matter. I think the matter deserves more credence than Ruth gives it here.

There. I have said my piece about what disappoints me in that post!

Let me conclude on a more positive note: if we might give proper credence to both 'liberal' and 'conservative' approaches to the matter at hand, approaches, that is, that are respectful of both people and the church's teaching, then I agree with Ruth Gledhill's broad aspiration when she writes:

"If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good."

We need "new leadership". Our differences are now too entrenched (IMHO) to think that we are going to finding a point in dialogue when one side will wake up and realise the other side has been right all along. It would be good to find a way to "put their differences behind them".

I am not sure, myself, how this might be done. And I am unclear that the word "surely" applies in the phrase "surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass".

In fact a voice in my head reminds me that resorting to the word "surely" in an argument is a sign that the opposite applies. The presumed state of affairs is in fact "unsure"!

PS In thoughtful juxtaposition, you might care to read Walter Russell Mead's latest.

PPS None other than Albert Mohler joins the fray and flays Ruth's argument. But Ruth is sticking to her guns according to this Tweet: "The eminently respectable Albert Mohler admonishes me. I stand by what I wrote."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What is required of church leaders?

Our Prime Minister, John Key, a self-professed non-believer, offers a good definition of what we need in church leaders these days: "to articulate a vision for where the [church] is heading, why we want to get there, and how".

These words come in a longer answer to one of fifty questions put to him and published today:

"47. Selwyn Pellett, businessman: In business a CEO is hired who knows his craft, understands his chosen market and knows how to extract value from it in the interests of all his shareholders. The corporate goals are almost always achieved with a clear inspiring vision that all stakeholders buy into it. If this is the prescribed business wisdom for success (strong, strategic and inspiring leadership) and you are the head of our business party, do you think that New Zealanders should also demand this of our prime minister?

Running a business is one thing, running a country is another. There are obviously some similarities but it is the job of a prime minister to articulate a vision for where the country is heading, why we want to get there, and how. Voters demand that of political leaders, and that is what I am focusing on."

This is my favourite question and answer:

"40. Valerie Vili, sportswoman: Can I be your bodyguard for a day in exchange for teaching you how to throw the shot put?

Val, I would love it if you were my bodyguard but I reckon my usual guys would worry you'd show them up. I'd be happy to take a shot-putting lesson any time but I don't think I've got quite the throwing arm you have."

Silence does not always mean consent

It might mean that words are a waste of time. It might mean that the potential speakers have left the building for another event. It might mean that people are too busy working on greater priorities. It might mean just about anything other than 'consent'.

Thus I just do not buy the emerging line I am reading on the internet that the quietness being observed over the consecration of a partnered lesbian to the TEC episcopal bench is a sign that the Communion is now accepting of the previously unacceptable, or that the "liberals" have "won".

I think it means that the cracks in the Communion are cracks in the Communion and no (potential) protester thinks that talking across the cracks is going to undo them any time soon.

It's not as though any pulpit or altar currently denied to +Gene these last seven years is going to be opened to +Mary.

Nor that the seepage of conservatives away from TEC is going to be reversed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Renewed focus on building great congregations in Tikanga Maori?

A little while ago I made a two part post on a decision made in one of the hui amorangi within Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa. Within those posts I was raising the question of the place building congregational life has within a strategic vision for ministry and mission. There were some interesting comments in response ...

Fast forward to this past week. I was very encouraged by what I heard at General Synod, both formally and informally. A debate towards some resolution on 'resource sharing' seemed to me to include an urgent desire to build congregational life. From the Taonga report:

" “We come to rejoice in 30 years of ministry,” he added, before inviting the Ven Hirini Kaa to recap on the story of that ministry.

Archdeacon Kaa then elaborated on the Maori church’s history, stretching from the 1880s to the present. There’s plenty to celebrate, he said, but precious few resources.

Today the Maori church has 38 rohe (ministry units) but only five stipendiary clergy, with three fulltime. Each rohe has on average four worship centres.

“We’re heavily reliant on volunteers,” Archdeacon Kaa said. “We’re structured as a rural church, but living in an urban context…

“We’re asking for 12 stipendiary positions. Under-capitalised and under-resourced, we’re still the spiritual backbone of Maoridom.”"

Some attendance figures were given by Archdeacon Kaa, with some concern that figures are falling rather than rising. One aspect of the situation is neatly captured in his words, "“We’re structured as a rural church, but living in an urban context…" Thus most Maori church buildings are in country areas rather than in cities (where worship may take place on the marae, in community centres, in shared pakeha church buildings). In Te Wai Pounamou (South Island) for example, there is currently no Maori church building in any city, but there are church buildings in rural towns and villages such as Motueka, Tuahiwi, Arowhenua). I think the three full-time stipendiary positions are in Rotorua, Mangere (south Auckland) and central Auckland.

Twelve stipendiary positions, strategically spread through the islands will make a significant difference to congregational life.

It is not as though there are no Maori congregations in our land - it is just that typically they are found in Pentecostal rather than Anglican contexts, with the former predominantly found in urban areas. "Under-capitalised and under-resourced, we’re still the spiritual backbone of Maoridom" means there is significant potential for Maori to 'come home' to lively Anglican congregational life. To say nothing, of course, of the potential for evangelism bringing people home to Christ. We are Te Haahi Mihinare (the Missionary Church)!

It is my hope that ways and means can be found to support the appointment of twelve fully stipended clergy. New Maori church plants are definitely achievable - I heard a lovely story of a recent plant that is growing well.

In a brief speech to a Tikanga Pakeha caucus on resource sharing I offered one idea which I outline here: knowing that actual financial resource sharing is difficult for many dioceses because funds are committed to this, that and the other, I think we need to not only consider present funds but also future ones. We could have an agreed policy across all the pakeha dioceses that future funds derived from untagged, general bequests and endowments, as well as from unexpected surpluses in diocesan annual accounts (they do occur from time to time!!) would be shared with Tikanga Maori.

This suggestion is not intended to avoid consideration of present sharing possibilities. But it could be fruitful. I know of a diocese which a few years ago received a general bequest for a million or so dollars. It has used the money very productively. But not a dollar has gone towards Maori work within its boundaries. Even a tithe of that bequest would have been $100K towards the work of te Rongopai (the gospel) ... and 50% would have been ...

Of course to think in this way is to think more consciously of being one church working in three tikanga (cultural streams) rather than being a three tikanga church (i.e. three churches who occasionally get together for meetings). A point made in the speech which followed mine!

Ehara taku korero i tenei, kia mama ai etahi, a, ko koutou kia taimaha, engari kia taurite; ko nga mea a koutou i hira i tenei wa hei mea mo to ratou hapa, a, ko nga mea a ratou e hira hei mea ma koutou ina hapa; kia rite ai. Kia pera me te mea i tuhituhia, "Ko te tangata i nui tana whakaemi kahore he tuhene; ko te tangata i nohinohi tana kihai i hapa." (2 Koriniti 8:13-15)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ireland balances the listing ship

If the ACANZP GS Covenant debate lurched one way, then, thankfully the Church of Ireland has lurched the other! With H/T to Thinking Anglicans, here is an interesting paragraph from here.


Having considered Section 4 of the Draft Anglican Covenant very carefully, and bearing in mind a full range of points of view, we believe that the text of Section 4 as it stands commends itself in the current circumstances. The term ‘Joint Standing Committee’ clearly needs to be updated following its re-styling at ACC-14. We appreciate the work of the former Covenant Design Group, not least in taking into account the Church of Ireland’s views, and encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury and his new group under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Dublin as they seek to conclude the work on the text of the Covenant."

This Appendix is in a CofI Standing Committee report which was debated at its recent General Synod.

NZ General Synod Gets a Bit of Stick

Intriguing. People actually read what we publish in Aotearoa New Zealand!!

Thus the Anglican Communion Institute takes up a Taonga report of the proceedings of our GS on the Covenant.

And is neither happy nor satisfied with what we decided.

Read here.

What a mess the Covenant, and the group/committee/body which needs to be constituted properly to implement it, is turning out to be.

Or are the concerns misplaced?

Two Elephants Dispatched or Diminished?

Fairly early in the week of General Synod a blogger noted the presence of elephants in the room of General Synod. There may be other members of the herd I am not aware of, but the two principal elephants in my view were the present inadequacy off the governance and management structure of St John's College, and the difficulties (including financial difficulty) faced by the Te Aute College Trust Board. I think these may fairly be called 'elephants' because the issues openly talked about this week have been present for a few years or more, and thus have either been avoided or ignored in recent meetings of General Synods. (Clue for future reference: read reports and boldly ask more questions!!!)

In both cases the institutions are deemed to be taonga or treasures. The first of our church, the second of both our church and all Maoridom. In the case of St John's College the inadequate structure has meant an inefficient functioning of decision making processes, but not a breakdown of them. Thus a number of very good things have happened and are happening in the life of the College, including the implementation of the new Anglican Studies Programme.*

But some things have been impeded by the inefficient functioning of decision making, including the development of strategic direction, a business plan, and (here I offer a personal, outsider view) the recruitment of new first class inspiring teachers to replace recently retiring long-standing members of staff.** To be blunt, forming an institution in which key decisions rest on three different cultural values and visions harmonising has a rather large potential for inefficient functioning of decision making. It is not impossible (thus, my report above, some excellent decisions have been made over the years of the College being a 'three tikanga college'), but it is intrinsically likely that some necessary decisions will not be reached because the required agreement will be elusive.

In making the decision to suspend the Board of Oversight and to appoint a Commissary to act as CEO of the College the question now is whether this will prove to mean the elephant has been dispatched or only diminished. In my personal view a great and decisive move has been made towards a better functioning future for the governance and management of the College.

I was aware, many in our church have been aware of the SJC elephant. I was not aware, and many others would not have been aware of the Te Aute Trust Board elephant. We must pray for those who will work on this situation. To change metaphors, they are climbers tackling an Everest. They will need good support, and plenty of oxygen.

*Declaration of interest: I was once part of a development project group for St John's. Among the recommendations made was one which has been, so to speak, the parent of the Anglican Studies Programme.

** Fuller explanation: in recent years lecturers in the subjects of Pastoralia, Old Testament, Church History, and Systematic Theology have retired or moved away and not been replaced. It is true that simple replacement would not have been straightforward, because of the complicated relationship around who teaches what subjects in the university degrees accessed by SJC students through Auckland and Otago universities. Nevertheless the following reasoning lies behind my call for new first class inspiring teachers to be recruited to join current staff at the College: (1) this church needs a great theological college and it is difficult to say it has one if it does not have teachers in the classic theological subjects (2) the Anglican Studies Programme, while ministry focused is able to receive input from experts in the classic theological subjects (3) in response to a possible counter argument that there are insufficient theological students at the College I counter-counter with this: (i) our church should make a decision that SJC will be a theological (and ministry formation) college and not a dormitory for students studying in other disciplines [needs in this area could be funded in other ways by the SJC Trust Board] (ii) this would lead to more places available for theological and ministry formation students, ergo larger classes for teachers to teach (iii) a fantastic "full complement" staff has unbounded potential to draw more and more students rather than a status quo number of students.