Friday, May 21, 2010

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.


Rev. Z said...

Hi Peter,
thanks for your observations.The issue of Accomodation always has and always is going to be a tricky one for us to work through. I am pleased that the Three Tikanga sturcture is being revised, however indirectly.

Our present "partnership" does not work well on the ground. I say this because I feel keenly the division between the tikanga. We have become territorial and in some cases suspicious of one another. I almost fell off my chair when it was suggested to our Prime Minister as the potential way forward for governing New Zealand recently!

My desire is for an Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia which is a unified Body of Christ, worshipping together as equal partners, sharing the same resources, worshipping in the same buildings in different styles and languages. If only the Special meeting of the General Synod in 1925 had more foresight, and less european ethnocentricity we might very well have a more unified ACANZP today, with a Maori Bishop presiding over one of the "original" seven dioceses. As we strive for unity perhaps we need to re-consider what partnership in Christ really looks like, and as pakeha be willing to engage in a spirit of reciprocity.

Big issues, not easily solved, but I think I am encouraged....

Anonymous said...

"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."

Peter, I am grateful for your speaking honestly. ACANZP is hampered by a simple and rather ridiculous fact: the failure to collect and publish statistics that any literate church with computers can do. ASA, numbers of fulltime clergy, and monthly giving should be available at any given moment. Has the moa been hiding its head in the sand?
Had these details been available years ago, the true state of tikanga Maori would have been known.
A lot of Maori, and rather more Pacific Islanders, are in church, but rarely in Anglican ones. Why is this? Was the whole three tikanga thing not misconceived?

Anonymous said...

Outis is right, except for one point. You don't need computers to add up statistics.

Hogsters said...

Hi Peter,

Looking back as things currently stand with the three tikanga I am reminded of my original hunches and feelings.
a) The right of people groups to be autonomous and work in a culturally appropriate way as they seek to live and spread the Gospel in the context of their particular culture.
b) A slight unease that it feels a little apartheid.
c) A slight hunch that it might just fall apart, or if not fall apart, have to be reshaped by totally different philosophical, dare I say spiritual underpinnings.

I remember conversations I had, and teaching I was taught, while at St John’s College. They seemed to revolve around who was really responsible for the ills and behaviours of the people of the land. Not forgetting of course that there were people of the land here before the current people of the land arrived.

That aside, from the things I have heard and the things I was taught two things strike me as I ponder the debate and difficulties as being discussed in the recent GS context.

Firstly, in the blue corner there is guilt. And secondly, in the red corner there is naivety.
(No deep meaning to be read into the choice of colours. They are just the ones that came to mind. Pink and yellow could be equally problematic if one wanted to read something into them, as could orange and green. Life is complicated. No wonder we get ourselves tied up in knots).

To get back on track. I have hope that in our great Anglican Church the Gospel will have its way. That means grace and truth must prevail. Jesus must prevail.

Jesus must prevail, to make a gross generalisation, above the materialistic, individualised mindset and worldview of those in one corner. And the seemingly, to make another gross generalisation, cultural imperatives and or priorities of those in the other corner.

May Christ will the battle. Then we all win.

Anonymous said...

"Outis is right, except for one point. You don't need computers to add up statistics."

Yes, an abacus works fine for me. & a flock of carrier pigeons for disseminating the results. I call them my Homer Page.
Does the NZ church willfully keep itself in the dark about such basic things?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Outis,
imagine if the NZ church did get out its abacus
and add up numbers.
It would really let the cat amongst your pigeons
if everyone realized
that they are not even the size of an English diocese.
They have a primate, it’s now been revealed here, who is first amongst equal of 5 bishops
who oversee three full-time clergy – not each, no, in total!
Carrier pigeons occasionally do let people know some of the scandals in the province
Two well-known scandals finally came home to roost recently,
others are still well-known.
Peter couldn’t reveal these two – only hinting about them.
He keeps repeating that others should start blogs to reveal all.
The question is about the tight dynamics that prevent such things being discussed publicly without permission.
Outis is right, the NZ church appears to wilfully keep people in the dark about things – and blogs and websites online collude.
Is it that in such a very tiny church, employment is tightly controlled – step out of place, reveal a family secret, and your future finances are endangered? Lose your job and there’s no NZ ACNA to which you can turn.

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Anonymous Who Knows A Lot About My Church!

For the record: (1) some scandals are not actually well known, so I am not quite sure how one can be a whistleblower for those scandals one does not know about! (2) some scandals are widely whispered, but on closer examination, it is less clear who knows the actual facts: thus my challenge to you (or whomever has been muttering about such things): if you know the facts, are confident you will not be sued, publish. Since I am not in that position, I am not publishing (ditto, taking a church leader to a church tribunal). I do not really care what you think about that in respect of me personally. (3) some scandals, it is true, involve people that one works closely with, or who have some kind of power or influence over one's future, and, naturally one takes care how one responds to such scandals: it is possible that some in such positions have been too careful; but it is also possible that some have been wise in being constrained.

Speaking generally about some instances in my life in the church where I have rushed to judgement: most times I have discovered I have been hasty and have had some embarrassment in backing down!!

On one point I heartily agree with you: most scandals, if they indeed be scandals, come out in the end. That will be the case for the scandals you think are yet to be dealt with.

Anonymous said...

I'm not interested in 'scandals', any more than I would care for the mistakes I've made in my life to be published abroad. We should not willingly assist the devil in his work. The concern is with transparency in statistics - which is uncomfortable, I know, in a time of decline, but essential for planning.