Thursday, September 30, 2010

Round Up

If Anglicans do not want a 'Pope' as in the current Roman model but are keen on some kind of (suitably different) 'primacy' at the head of the Communion, then we have some expectations about the leadership coming from the person in that office, which for the time being is the Archbishop of Canterbury. The current holder ++Rowan Williams just keeps on making some people unhappy. The unhappy ones vocalise their unhappiness. Does that mean there is a silent majority which is happy?

Recently ++RW gave an extensive interview, largely hidden behind the Times paywall. But BabyBlue offers a lengthy excerpt, and a generally sympathetic response to ++RW's words. By contrast Walking with Integrity is unhappy. So, but for different reasons is Cranmer's Curate.

Once again such views illustrate the ongoing divisions within the Anglican Communion: conservative versus liberal, and within the conservative part, more conservative versus less conservative, with the views of ++Rowan serving as a litmus test!

Within TEC the rumblings of division continue between the majority (which is both happy with the ways things are turning out and keen on continuing pressure on the Communion to follow rather than resist TEC's lead) and the minority (which is unhappy with the way things are turning out and is keen on measuring its Anglicanism with a Communion resistant to TEC's lead). The latest rumbling is Preludium challenging the direction of the Diocese of South Carolina as it tries to both remain within TEC and to canonically distinguish itself from TEC, and the ACI riding directly to South Carolina's rescue from this challenge. (See also Thinking Anglican's collection of links to the array of canonical issues and views for and against re SC's response).

Rather than try to solve the problems which better people do not seem able to solve, I raise this question, prompted by these statistics re the age profile of clergy in TEC:

What approach to these divisions, and to the issues dividing us will draw new generations into the life of global Anglicanism?

Perhaps it is a strange and irrational fear, but it is my fear: a progressive or liberal approach to these matters will lead to an increasingly older Anglican population in Western Anglican churches. We will die happy that we have been right but we will have no successors to inherit what we have achieved.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not the Vicar!?

A few posts below I raise the question whether the claim of the Roman papacy to be 'the Vicar of Christ' is well founded. This question needs to be asked because it is both an exceptional claim (if true we ought to order the life of the global church accordingly) and a controversial one (remember: it is not just Protestants who do not accept it; Eastern Orthodox reject it).

Let's begin by acknowledging what is unexceptional and non controversial about the office of the Bishop of Rome: among bishoprics it is ancient, eminent, and has a distinctive claim to have begun with the Apostle Peter himself. (It is controversial to move beyond 'distinctive claim' to 'historical fact'). Further, the global church organised in such a manner that the Bishop of Rome is the Pope of the largest church (here I mean the Western rite Catholic church) and the largest communion of churches (here I mean the Western rite Catholic church united with the Eastern rite churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome) is impressive. It lives according to a coherent theology, faithfully orthodox in very many respects accepted by other churches (here I am speaking as an Anglican, so our church is one of those churches; but viewed with Roman eyes we are an 'ecclesial community'). Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the papacy, to a Protestant, or for that matter to an Eastern Orthodox Christian, used to churches in dispute with other churches, is that it sits at the apex of this very large global church (or, if you will, church of churches) which manages, somehow, to be an exemplar of unity-in-diversity.

It is quite understandable that the impressive achievement of the Roman church over the centuries, indeed millenia has developed two unfortunate capacities concerning the papacy. One is to present the papacy as divinely special: this is the Vicar of Christ with plenipotentiary powers to speak the mind of God infallibly. Another is to continually avoid facing certain historical facts, namely the errors and immoralities of past popes which belies and undermines the claim to being divinely special. There is even, many would argue, a present fact which undermines such a claim: the slowness of the papacy to recognise and then resolutely deal with recent misdeeds of clerics. The tendency of the papal led hierarchy of the church to act slowly, if not to even cover up the abusive behaviour of priests is understandable (but inexcusable) as an expression of the fallibility of human nature. This tendency has occurred in other churches, though many of those churches woke up to their fallibility at least a decade before Rome has. What seems very difficult to explain - I suggest, I can just about imagine some comments which will be made! - is how any person claiming to hold the office of 'Vicar of Christ' could oversee the church of Christ with so many past and present mistakes.

Just to head off one set of imaginable comments in response: I quite understand that the 'infallibility' of the Pope is deemed to refer to a special set of circumstances in which the Pope (in reality after significant consultation, reflection, and maybe even centuries of prior theological discourse) pronounces on some matter and declares it to be infallible, in distinction from other matters on which the Pope speaks and does not declare it to be infallible. My point here is that this amounts to special pleading in respect of the role of 'the Vicar of Christ': it is reasonable to expect that every pronouncement of the Vicar of Christ is as though Christ himself were speaking, and Christ speaks infallibly! In sum, the Pope is not the Vicar of Christ. The history of the papacy does not support this theological claim.

In my view this does not make much difference to the strength of the constant claim from Rome that in any future configuration of churches into one unified, global church, the Bishop of Rome must have 'primacy.' Reasons for that insistence can be mounted on the basis of the ancientness of the bishopric, its status as the preeminent bishopric in the world, and the like. (Think about this: if all Christians voted in a world Christian parliament for this or that bishop to be the 'primate' of a world church, then, presuming Roman Christians did not feel any great persuasion in arguments in favour of (say) Canterbury or Moscow or Antioch, the voting would be overwhelmingly in favour of the Bishop of Rome being the primate!!)

Not that I expect Benedict XVI to agree with me any time soon (!!), but if he did, then what might be different is in Roman attitude to other churches and ecclesial communities. Recognition of the fallibility of the papacy could go hand in hand with a new appreciation of the fallibility of other churches and ecclesial communities, leading to a changed estimation of ecclesial communities, and of 'orders' of ministry currently not recognised. The ecumenical outlook could be as changed as Canterbury weather is when the wind swings from the south to the north-west (i.e. warmer).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Loving Haiti

On Sunday an appeal for funds for Haiti was launched, in the parishes of the Diocese of Christchurch which was hit by a similar magnitude of quake with vastly different results. Read about it on Taonga.

Get a life Cranmer!

We interrupt this series of posts on the Pope to comment in the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not the present incumbent, Rowan Williams, who once again is in trouble with the blogosphere, opinionsphere, and chattering classes, for saying nothing much at all, but somehow manages to make a hospital pass of a pretty standard question. ('Hospital pass' for non-rugby readers is a badly thrown pass which arrives at the same time as the opposition tacklers resulting in injury, mayhem, and worse, lost points!) Check out Thinking Anglicans etc.

No, here we comment on a previous incumbent, Cranmer, revived as an eminent blogger on religion and politics, who now declares himself shocked by revelations that New Zealand lamb sold in UK supermarkets has been killed according to the 'halal' method. He will no longer buy NZ lamb!

(1) This is not news Down Under.

(2) If Cranmer ("We do not presume to come ...") knows not what is means to be merciful then who does? First the earthquake, now the boycott, what is next?

(3) If the objection is to the method of killing lambs in order that we might have meat on the table, let's face the basic fact here: the lamb dies that we might live. One way or another the non-vegetarian eater needs to accept killing!!

(4) If the objection is to the In the Name of Allah invocation then what is the problem for the Christian? Some of us think Allah is God: no problem. Some of us think Allah is not God: in which case we are talking 'meat offered to idols'. Again, for the astute student of Paul: no problem.

(5) Cranmer has died once already and, apparently, lives to blog the tale: this meat cannot harm him!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is Benedict the Vicar or not?

Reflecting a little more on the 'stole gate' affair (see Bosco Peters' post and comments - ignore mine as now almost certainly proven wrong !), I think the following is credible:

Benedict wears Leo's stole.
The motivation is to underline both the fact and the unchangeability of the nullness and voidness of Anglican orders.
In the context of doing so in England this is either small-mindedness or a subtle display of a very long view of church life, i.e. the C of E is going down the tubes, in the long term it will be dwarfed by the Roman church, so there is no need to change our view that we are right, true and valid and you are wrong, false and invalid.

I also recognise that if the ground on which your ministry as a pope rests is that your office is laid down by Christ, to continue Christ's work in the world as his Vicar, then there can be no cessation of the desire to draw all other churches (e.g. Eastern Orthodox churches) and ecclesial communities (such as the Church of England, as viewed with Roman eyes) into communion with the church led by yourself.  Conversely there is unlikely to be much thought given to either entering into full communion with other churches on their terms (i.e. dropping to claims to Vicarship), or to reviewing the status of ecclesial communities. Better to welcome them into the Catholic church than to change their definition. (NB This paragraph and the next have been modified from its initial posting). Concomitantly there is unlikely to be much motivation to review the grounds on which the alleged "orders" of the Anglican ecclesial community have been declared "null and void." (There are grounds for such a review, but they have been argued by Anglicans!). (NB This paragraph and the next have been modified from its initial posting).

But much depends here on the claim that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ is securely founded. What if they are not? If the Pope continues to maintain a number of claims which rest on this great claim then those questions raised by the Reformers, as to whether the true church of God on earth is organised according to the principle of Petrine supremacy, continue to be pertinent. 'Stole gate' seems to mean that, when all is said and done, a number of theological problems raised during the Reformation (but not only then, the Eastern challenge to Petrine supremacy is older than the Reformation) remain very far from being resolved.

Benedict XVI is a luminous intelligence (we all recognise that). So is Archbishop Rowan Williams (and we all recognise that). But ++Rowan excites quite a bit of opposition, and many think he is dreadfully wrong on some matters. There is no intrinsic reason why Benedict should be correct in everything. What if he is wrong on the basic point of being the Vicar of Christ? (!!)

My next post will develop this question and relate it to the one thing which even the Roman church knows it has gotten wrong.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stolen thunder?

On the stole worn by Benedict, originating with N & V Leo ("Null and Void"), see now Cranmer's post on 24th September 2010!

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Anglican view of Christian Unity?

I realise that a certain fervour in persisting with optimistic hope for true, global Christian unity can, at times, present as minimising difficulties or as a wistful love for the forms of Christianity with which Anglicans are not yet in unity ... thus, perhaps, begging the question why I have not swum across the Tiber or the Bosphorus!

Also, following various debates here and there sparked by the Pope's recent visit to Britain, I do realise that the word 'optimistic' in the sentence above should be underlined in triplicate because the unshakeable conviction of the one Roman who matters on questions of  unity, the holder of the papal office, is that he is the Vicar of Christ and Successor of Peter, so unity in Christ (upon which all Christians agree as desirable) must be unity with Christ as represented on earth in his Vicar (upon which many Christians disagree).

In reality, the logic of the situation is that my hopes for global Christian unity this side of eternity are necessarily hopes that Rome might change its mind. Cue images of ice creams on an equatorial beach at midday remaining frozen!

Nevertheless I am willing to persist with my hope! I cannot do much about Rome's mind at this stage. But can I (and many others, including those with greater luminosity of theological intelligence and ecclesial wisdom) continue to work for the truth on which unity is always based? Can this work be such that, this side of the Tiber and the Bosphorus, we can come together in the truth of the gospel? Therein lies a great question for Protestants to consider. Divided as we are we have no corporate strength to our witness that Rome is in error on key matters concerning unity (e.g. on their understanding of the character of the papal office as 'Vicar of Christ').

In the end questions of whether we who claim to be 'in Christ' are members of one body of Christ go well beyond which stole the Pope wore. They go to the heart of what it means to be those who have protested against Roman teaching and found ourselves also protesting each other's teaching!

ADDENDUM: reminder to commenters. No Anonymous comments!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For all those who think stoles are unnecessary ecclesial accessories

Bosco Peters, prompted by a commenter, David (who also comments here) posts on a tiny but significant detail from B16's stealth bombing raid on the CofE.

Here is the thing. B16 is an elderly bomber, enjoying a late run when he could as easily have been consigned to the aviation museum. Soon he will be replaced. If he is replaced by a 'Leo' rather than a 'John or Paul' then we presume the clock is being wound back to 1870 and V2 shot out of the sky along the way. If so would even the most ecumenically minded Anglican with a scintilla of Protestantism in his bones wish to pursue further ARCIC rounds?

But could B16 be a rogue pope, to be viewed by historians of the future as aberrant with respect to the trajectory through V2? Might his successor be more in keeping with John XXIII and Paul VI in respect of building bridges across the ecumenical chasm?

ADDENDUM (revised, thanks to further clarification from Bosco Peters in comments below): in the comments to Bosco Peters' post linked above, an alternative explanation of the wearing of Leo's stole is given. I.e. B16 wore it in connection with John Newman's beatification because it is the stole Leo wore when he ordained Newman. (But, in fact, as clarified by Bosco, Leo did not ordain Newman!!!).

It's my party and I'll be there if I want to

Dublin. January. Jefferts Schori. Williams. Anyone else? Oh, Hiltz and Aspinall. Probably one of our three - no idea which one. A few others. This is the way the Communion ends. With a whimper not a bang. With white men back in majority rule.

But then I could be wrong. They might all show up. It will be in Ireland, anything could happen.

Should our General Synod be Meeting in Fiji in 2012?

This year ACANZP's General Synod decided to respond affirmatively to an invitation to hold the next General Synod, in 2012, in Fiji. The last time GS was held in Fiji was in 1990.

Some things have changed since 1990 and one of those is military rule in Fiji which increasingly functions with familiar characteristics of dictatorships the world over, including control of media.

I suggest that our GS should NOT be meeting in Fiji in 2012 unless the following conditions can be satisfied, in writing, by Commodore Frank Bainimara:

1. There will be no interference in the affairs of the General Synod by the miliary government.
2. There will be no military observers at the meetings of the General Synod.
3. The General Synod will have complete freedom to make any resolutions it chooses, including any which commented on the state of affairs which the churches of Fiji currently endure (which includes government interference).

What do members of my church reading this post think?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Which Anglican future are we heading for?

"We" here could be us in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, and it could be us in the Anglican Communion.


A future in which the Pope exercises a universal primacy on behalf of us all (some pointers here).

A future in which no conservative is welcome unless they compromise convictions tuned to Scripture and tradition in favour of post-modern liberalism (some pointers here in an amazing beginning to a campaign to not confirm the election of Dan Martins as Bishop of Spingfield ... can anyone wonder any longer why formerly faithful Episcopalians have left to form new Anglican churches in the States?).

A future in which Anglicans are unenthusiastic, doubtful, and divided as to whether any statement can be shared among us as a statement of what we believe and how we deal with dissent ... let alone 'welcomed'? (Some pointers here from across the Ditch).

I wonder if the Great Anglican Bust Up is coming very soon, rather than the Extraordinary Acceptance of Petrine Primacy. American rejection of Scripture and tradition in favour of reason and experience, Australian (and others) lukewarmness to the Covenant, and African distaste for Communion governance by manipulation is not a recipe for unity at the same table.

The Bust Up could happen as soon as the Primates' Meeting in January. It might be a whimper, not a bang: if half do not turn up it's over rover. Right now the Communion seems more akin to wild cats which no one can herd than a coherent fellowship of believers confident of what they hold together in common, journeying together into a shared future.

What's going on? The Lord knows. Maybe we are in a necessary process in order to cleanse us and to refine us. Perhaps beyond my lifetime something will emerge which makes the current bonfire of vanities worthwhile!

Monday, September 20, 2010

More Stirring Words

Bishop Kelvin Wright has an extraordinary challenge as Bishop of Dunedin, a diocese "down on its luck" in various ways, financially, numerically, and in terms of fissive issues. They have just held their first Synod under his presidency. He writes about it at Available Light. Below is an excerpt from the written version of his Charge (in his post he notes that he actually spoke freely, and frankly, moving beyond the confines of the officially printed words). It is wonderful to read of signs of hope, details of a strategic plan for change emerging, and generally a strong sense of faith that the best is not only yet to be, but coming soon.

"We are a church: we are not a political party or a social welfare institution; we are not a club or a philosophical society. While faith in the Gospel leads inevitably to social action, the care of others, a supportive community and to profound thinking on the nature of life, the universe and everything, these are not our primary reason for existing. We are here to worship Almighty God. It is only when we are fed with the life of God that we can be fired with God's love, confronted by God's justice and made one in the Body of Christ with all who share God's gifts of love.  We have a part in the mission of God not because we chose it but because God chose us, and in choosing us, God did not leave us to get on with the job unaided. God has sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen and to guide, to warn and to revive the church."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stirring Words

"Finally, I would like to say a word to you, my dear young Catholics of Scotland. I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and of yourselves. There are many temptations placed before you every day – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol – which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.

There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!"

Interesting question to ponder: is there any Anglican Primate, outside of Africa and Asia, who would be likely to say something similar to young people in a public address?

Pope Benedict, who said these words the other day in Scotland, believes a number of things which are disagreeable to those who are not Catholics. But here he says something which I think is most agreeable to Jesus Christ and to Scripture's witness to Jesus. I salute him for saying it.

Incidentally I am not alone as a conservative Anglican in appreciating this point of common accord with a leader of many Christians. On the strength of it I am prepared to grant the Pope an indulgence to cover the possibility of a less than honourable ecumenical gesture by shifting the date of the feast of beatified Newman. :)

Depart and leave the silver, or keep the silver and leave the church?

If I understand David Ould's post about the forthcoming Australian General Synod and a particular concern of Primate Aspinall about a legal enquiry made by Sydney Diocese, then that much loved refrain by some TEC supporters viz a viz ACNA departers, 'when you depart leave the silver and the property behind' could have a Down Under variation, 'the silver and property is not departing, so that could mean we might be leaving'! Here is an excerpt from an ABC post which David cites:

"What Sydney proposes is to ask the NSW Government to amend the Anglican Church Property Trust Act, so that any financial measure proposed by the national body would have no effect until it is also passed by the local NSW body. This would be much the same as the governments of any of the states of Australia, having a right of veto over Commonwealth levies in their state. In law they may remain part of the whole but in practice, they have divorced.

The Anglican Primate, Philip Aspinall, states, '…this proposal is one tantamount to altering or circumventing… the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia without following the specified processes of the Church', and that, 'The church as a whole has had no notice of the proposal, and has therefore lacked any opportunity to consider the implications of such a change'."
Besides which ++Aspinall has offended Sydney by inviting a woman to lead the GS Bible Studies and not backed down from the invite: from David Ould's post,
"As business progresses, guests will be welcomed. Again, here is a small issue of controversy. The Primate has invited Clare Amos, director of theological studies at the Anglican Communion Office, to give the morning Bible Study talks. Naturally, when the invitation was announced a number of people objected - from Sydney and elsewhere. Their contention was that the Primate had made their participation in the Bible Studies impossible since, on theological grounds, they could not accept the teaching ministry of a woman in a mixed congregation. Unsurprisingly, the Primate didn't change his mind."
I am surprised that this narrow line of interpretation is being given Clare Amos' studies. If they were viewed as a series of notices and greetings from the ACO, there would, I understand, be no problem in Sydney-speak terms.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Road to Emmaus: who will lead the Bible study?

The first part of the heading seems appropriate given the announcement of the venue for the next Primates' Meeting. The second part is my question, which seems appropriate because if there is not some serious Bible study by the primates, led by Christ himself, it would seem unlikely that their hearts will "burn" with love and bonhomie!

Is the Pope an Ecumenicist?

It looks like Benedict XVI is an ecumenicist when we read this paragraph from his address to Scottish Catholics:

"Much has happened in Scotland and in the Church in this country since that historic visit. I note with great satisfaction how Pope John Paul’s call to you to walk hand in hand with your fellow Christians has led to greater trust and friendship with the members of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and others. Let me encourage you to continue to pray and work with them in building a brighter future for Scotland based upon our common Christian heritage. In today’s first reading we heard Saint Paul appeal to the Romans to acknowledge that, as members of Christ’s body, we belong to each other (cf. Rom 12:5) and to live in respect and mutual love. In that spirit I greet the ecumenical representatives who honour us by their presence. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Reformation Parliament, but also the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, which is widely acknowledged to mark the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. Let us give thanks to God for the promise which ecumenical understanding and cooperation represents for a united witness to the saving truth of God’s word in today’s rapidly changing society. Among the differing gifts which Saint Paul lists for the building up of the Church is that of teaching (cf. Rom 12:7)."

His whole address is here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thanks to the Church Society you can travel back in time to the 16th century

Here is the Press Release from the Church Society concerning the imminent visit of the Pope to Great Britain:

"State Visit of Pope - a betrayal

In the United Kingdom, our Protestant Constitution has served us well and continues to do so. It acknowledges the authority and standards of the Bible as God's true and inspired Word for the good of our nation.

The Church of England, as our established, national church, is founded on what is taught in the Bible and as loyal members of the Church of England who rejoice in that teaching; we oppose the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI and the status being accorded to him.

We recognise that on various moral issues, the Pope has not capitulated to the pressures of humanism and secularism. However, the historic doctrinal and other conflicts between the Church of England and the Church of Rome have created divisions which remain as deep and as unbridgeable as ever.

For instance, the Pope claims complete authority over all churches and governments. There is no justification for such claims since they are contrary to the Bible. The Church of England long ago repudiated these claims in its Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, which, under English law, constitute its doctrinal basis. In particular, Article XXXVII states “the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England”. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the infallible head of the universal Christian church, not the Pope. All governments are ultimately accountable to Him alone, not to the Pope.

Our nation decisively rejected the Papacy's claims to authority in the Sixteenth Century and has resisted them ever since. It should not endorse those claims now by welcoming Pope Benedict XVI, either as a head of state asserting authority over all other states, or as supreme head of the universal church.

A further ongoing conflict between the Church of Rome and the Church of England relates to the nature of eternal salvation from sin. It is the established teaching of the Church of England, in accordance with the Bible, that all men and women are sinners in God's eyes and can only be reconciled to God by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. As a result, neither the Pope nor any other priest, can procure salvation or act as mediator between God and mankind. However, the Church of Rome continues to reject the Church of England's historic biblical position and since the Council of Trent, has declared anyone subscribing to it to be anathema. In its ongoing rejection of the biblical gospel of salvation, the Church of Rome wrongly continues to lead men and women into placing their trust in the works and sacraments of the church, or in their own works or merits. Salvation from sin is not to be found that way; rather, it is to be found when men and women place their trust in the finished saving work of Christ alone, who bore the punishment for sin in his death on the Cross, substituting Himself for sinners and securing the salvation of all who put their trust in Him.

Welcoming Pope Benedict XVI on a state visit is therefore a betrayal of our Protestant Constitution and of the true and good news of salvation in Christ alone, as revealed in the Bible. He, not the Pope, is Lord of lords, King of kings and the one true Saviour."

Now the good thing about this approach is that not only can we all live in the 16th century (again), we can find ourselves in perfect agreement with Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, who also oppose the visit:

"We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:
Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.

The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties ("concordats") with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.
Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor Susan Blackmore, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Ed Byrne, Baroness Blackstone, Ken Follett, Professor AC Grayling, Stewart Lee, Baroness Massey, Claire Rayner, Adele Anderson, John Austin MP, Lord Avebury, Sian Berry, Professor Simon Blackburn, Sir David Blatherwick, Sir Tom Blundell, Dr Helena Cronin, Dylan Evans, Hermione Eyre, Lord Foulkes, Professor Chris French, Natalie Haynes, Johann Hari, Jon Holmes, Lord Hughes, Robin Ince, Dr Michael Irwin, Professor Steve Jones, Sir Harold Kroto, Professor John Lee, Zoe Margolis, Jonathan Meades, Sir Jonathan Miller, Diane Munday, Maryam Namazie, David Nobbs, Professor Richard Norman, Lord O'Neill, Simon Price, Paul Rose, Martin Rowson, Michael Rubenstein, Joan Smith, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Professor Raymond Tallis, Lord Taverne, Peter Tatchell, Baroness Turner, Professor Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA, Ann Marie Waters, Professor Wolpert, Jane Wynne Willson"

Here is a thought: evangelical Anglicans could welcome the Pope with appreciation for the ways in which Roman theological exploration has developed and matured through the centuries, acknowledging that explanations for Roman doctrinal understandings have moved on from the mediaeval underpinnings which sorely strained the Reformers, and giving a tactful reminder of the differences which nevertheless remain. Further, evangelical Anglicans could affirm all that binds Romans and Anglicans together as followers of Jesus Christ, in distinction from the atheist secularists who vigorously push for the marginalization of the church and of Christian influence on public thinking and the development of society. We could even thank Pope Benedict for his courage in articulating a Christian vision for the future of humanity at the price of considerable vitriol (while reserving judgement on whether his contribution to the long saga of dilatory responsiveness to priestly abuse of children has been at least just and at best erring on the side of mercy to children).

But in the meantime some of us are a bit confused about whether we will be in heaven with the Church Society and Benedict, or in hell with Benedict and Dawkins :)

Highly sought after green sticker awarded!

One of the most impressive things about the post-earthquake situation in Christchurch has been the efficiency with which the Council and Civil Defence have handled the impact of the earthquake: restoring water connections, organising demolition of dangerous buildings, etc. Teams of people have gone forth into the highways and byways to assess buildings. In a post-modern age it is fascinating to see the absoluteness of the judgements passed, and the lack of range on a continuum of possibilities. Just three judgements: red (do not enter), yellow (enter only if you are an officer of the organisation, for essentials and at own risk), and green (all systems go).

St Mary's Hall, in which Theology House resides, has had a yellow sticker since the day after the quake. Work done a few days ago (mentioned and illustrated a few posts below) has now been assessed and the Hall has a 'green sticker' and thus Theology House can open again (delayed till tomorrow to give us time to catch our breathe and complete tidying up).

Feels good. Without that green sticker we could have been in a very complex situation, starting with 'what do we do now?' Instead life is simpler for us. (It will be more complicated for our landlord, the Parish of Merivale. They will have months of work ahead overseeing repair and restoration.)

Messy Church in Messy City

This weekend a conference will be held at St John's Woolston, Christchurch, on the subject which is rapidly gaining a number of Christian leaders' attention, Messy Church. Some further info about Messy Church is here. Quite a few visitors are coming from around NZ. If they arrive at the airport then the first five kilometres or so of their drive through Christchurch will demonstrate very few clues that we have had a major earthquake. But Woolston is on the east side of our city, so as they complete the journey there will be plenty of broken buildings and vacant spaces where buildings once stood to see. And depending on the route taken, some roads may not be level.

Thankfully, St John's Woolston itself is as solid as a rock, so the conference can go ahead safely.

It would be nice, however, if the after shocks stopped. There were some more in the night.

Rock 'n' roll!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ecclesiological Faultlines

Tim Harris, writing at Hikanos, offers a reflection on earthquakes in the Anglican landscape:

"Yet an earthquake has struck the Anglican Communion, with its epicentre in a relative backwater region of New Hampshire in 2003. But the actual quake was much deeper, and the rolling series of aftershocks continue to be experienced. We are now well on the other side of the crisis event, but the enduring damage and realignment of the landscape is still with us."

His whole post is here.

David Virtue reports on an address given by an Orthodox metropolitan in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Included in the reported remarks of Metropolitan Hilarion are these:

""All current versions of Christianity can be very conditionally divided into two major groups - traditional and liberal. The abyss that exists today divides not so much the Orthodox from the Catholics or the Catholics from the Protestants as it does the 'traditionalists' from the 'liberals'.

"Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately 'inclusive' to recognize alternative behavioral standards and give them official blessing. Some try to persuade us that human life is no longer an absolute value; that it can be terminated in a mother's womb or that one can terminate one's life at will. Christian 'traditionalists' are being asked to reconsider their views under the slogan of keeping abreast with modernity.

"Among the vivid indications of disagreement within the Anglican Community (I am reluctant to say 'schism') is the fact that almost 200 Anglican bishops refused to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference. I was there as an observer from the Russian Orthodox Church and could see various manifestations of deep and painful differences among the Anglicans."

Heresy absent

"Today the notion of heresy, while present in church vocabulary, is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology - a theology that prefers to refer to "pluralism" and to speak of admissible and legitimate differences," he opined.

"Indeed, St Paul himself wrote that 'there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval' (1 Cor. 11:19). But what kind of differences was he referring to? Certainly not those which concerned the essence of faith, church order or Christian morals. For, in these matters, there is only one truth and any deviation from it is none other than heresy." "

In other words, on analogy with earthquakes and fautlines, historic faultlines (Orthodox, Roman, Protestant) mingle with modern faultlines (traditionalist, liberal) and a post-modern view that there are no faultlines as such ('the notion of heresy ... is manifestly absent from the vocabulary of contemporary politically-correct theology'). Earthquakes may erupt at faultlines at any time, and as Tim Harris rightly observes, 2003 was such an occasion. Its rippling effects spread to fautlines between Anglican and Roman, and Anglican and Orthodox churches.

There is something else I notice here in the Metropolitan's reported remarks. I suggest he is touching on some other faultlines when he says,

"Some Christian leaders, for example, tell us that marriage between a man and a woman is no longer the only way of building a Christian family: there are other models and the Church should become appropriately 'inclusive' to recognize alternative behavioral standards and give them official blessing."

It is comparatively easy, at least within Anglican circles, to focus attention on 2003 in a binary manner: either you are for or against affirmation of gay Anglicans. One unfortunate consequence of this approach is the constant invoking of the term 'homophobia' to characterise those perceived to be 'against' affirmation of gay Anglicans. But the Metropolitan's remarks remind us that several faultlines are present in respect of human sexuality issues in our Communion.

I suggest these faultlines:

(i) The manner of welcome, inclusion and incorporation of Anglicans self-identifying as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual.

(ii) The character of Anglican understanding of marriage and family: what might be fixed elements (e.g. the desirability that a family consists of a father and mother and children) and what might be flexible elements in that understanding, and, may that understanding be counted as 'doctrine' to be universally adhered to by Anglicans?

(iii) The ordering of our orders of ministry: should the traditional understanding that ordained ministers of the church are either celibate or married remain in place in every part of the Anglican world, notwithstanding significant societal differences in respect of singleness, marriage, and other 'marriage-like' partnerships?

Would it be helpful to observe these faultlines and then to see what bridges might be built across them, rather than to assume the faultline is of a different character?

It would be my hope that we could be united in overcoming the faultline around (i). I acknowledge that the divisions among us around (ii) and (iii) are of considerable width. The Metropolitan is correct when he implies that around (ii) and (iii) some Anglicans are closer to Romans and the Orthodox than to fellow Anglicans.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can we fix it? Yes, we can!

Have crane, skip, hammer and chisel? Do not worry, these guys do, and today they rolled up to St Mary's Church Hall, where Theology House resides. Here is one photo of the action, getting rid of unsafe loose bricks, preparatory to fixing some temporary covering to keep the rain out.

Getting our theology right about natural disasters

It has been observed quite frequently in our papers since the 7.1 earthquake in Christchurch on Saturday 4th September that a similar magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on 12th January this year, but in our quake no one has directly lost their life due to the quake, whereas reportedly 230,000 people died following the Haiti quake. This comparison is sobering.

On the one hand it gives, or should give impetus to urgent work on 'engineering solutions' to earthquakes: tough building codes, designed to ensure that buildings can withstand large quakes, can save lives. That has been our experience in Christchurch where, notwithstanding some pictures to the contrary, most buildings are still standing, and most roads are still working.

On the other hand it raises some intriguing theological questions. To what extent, if any, for example, has God been at work here so that the quake occurred at the perfect time to minimise potential casualties: 4.36 am, after inner city party goers were home in bed, and before daytime workers were up and about. The word 'miracle' has been used in connection with our lack of loss of life. Given the range of meanings of 'miracle' in today's world, I do not disagree with it's use. At the very least, for example, it is amazing and astounding and improbable that we have come through as we have.

But what if some are using 'miracle' in the sense of 'God intervened to ensure that no one died, and the barest minimum have been injured'? Would that be stretching our understanding of God's power to intervene in human and planetary life? If we blot Haiti's earthquake from our minds, the answer could be 'no', but with the Haiti disaster carefully remembered, I suggest the answer is 'yes'. It is very difficult to fathom why Christchurch should be singled out for intervention relative to Haiti: we have plenty of godless people, and we shamelessly tolerate abominable things such as prostitution on our streets, to say nothing of exploitation of people in other ways such as through shady property development (some of which appears to lie behind the savage effects of the quake on some houses), so there is nothing particularly worthy about our fair city deserving divine intervention. Actually, even if we had no comparison to make with Haiti, any sense that God has intervened here is a troubling notion because comparisons exist within our city: some parts are wrecked, others are not. "What is the story, O Lord?" would be a fair cry from those in anguish over losing their homes, knowing that many have not.

Some thinking along these lines was in the background to my preaching yesterday. To my mind came the following passage in Luke 13:4-5 where Jesus says:

"Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Here Jesus seems singularly uninterested in questions about God's predestinary purposes, or understanding causes of suffering, or offering understanding of good purposes to explain suffering ('It makes you a better person, ... not!'). His interest is simple and stark: disaster is a loud shouted warning, 'Repent.' Concomitantly Jesus is also saying that disasters are not a punishment for sin. Implicitly this means that surviving disasters is not a reward for holiness.

We might wish that Jesus, of all people, gave us a deeper and wider theological explanation of disaster as an element in the larger subject of human suffering. But he does not. His message is basic, simple, and stark: "Be prepared for death now!"

Incidentally, to those slightly nutty Christians who interpret disasters of this kind as judgement on the church, or at least on the heretical or wicked parts of the church, this disaster has been an equally-distributed-in-its-effects disaster: Protestant and Roman Catholic, Western orthodox and Eastern orthodox, liberal and conservative, evangelical and anglo-catholic churches have all suffered damage!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

After the Quake - Sunday: Still Shaking

Yesterday was comparatively shake free, but today the shakes have been more frequent, and fairly strong too, including one a minute ago which I estimate to be about 4.3!*

I think I can do no better re something to say than to point you to what others are saying, including this report in Taonga on an open air service held in Cathedral Square this morning, and the sermon preached at it by Lynda Patterson. A report of the service on is here.

Then this Pastoral Letter by Bishop Victoria Matthews which I cite in full, read in parishes througout the diocese today:

"Dear Friends,
A week ago we were awakened in the middle of the night by a violent earthquake that has continued to disrupt our lives. Further aftershock activity is expected. Several areas were devastated and I am deeply grateful to the people in the parishes of places such as Kaiapoi, Linwood and Shirley who have reached out and been present to the people most affected in terms of loss of homes and businesses. Many other parishes have reacted swiftly to be present to the psychological and spiritual trauma of those who have live in fear and uncertainty.
I am deeply grateful to those who have taken people into their homes or who have made themselves available to listen, talk and pray with those in the larger community. All of us are deeply thankful for the civic leaders and those in the emergency response teams who have worked night and day to make our communities safe, and who have restored services to our homes. My heart goes out to those who have lost church, hall or vicarage. We are here to help you rebuild and renew your presence in the community.

However this is only the beginning. This past week was only the start of a long term, multi-pronged response to what has changed our lives significantly. We must not forget those who have lost their homes, businesses and work due to the earthquake. Even if our own lives have some elements of what passes for normal, we must continue to be deeply aware of those who are still in desperate circumstances. Please form a group to organize ongoing response to the quake. Parish and ecumenical responses should include prayer and practical assistance. Even after one week many of the key people are exhausted and in need of relief and support. It should be possible for every parish and or community group to ease the burden of those who are working at the coal-face.

Elderly and young people who were evacuated from their homes will not make an easy stress free transition to new accommodation. Those who chose to leave town to stay with friends and family will experience trauma when they return home and witness what has happened to their neighbourhood in terms of demolition and further damage. We must not underestimate the emotional and psychological stress. Once again a non-anxious presence and a strong faith will communicate calm and confidence in such upheaval and distress. As you are aware in 1 Kings 19, God neither speaks nor is present in the earthquake, hurricane or fire but only in the still small voice.

Above all let us proclaim a message of gratitude and hope in the midst of the disorientation and dismay. I say gratitude because we have witnessed a miracle in Canterbury. The miracle is that in the midst of huge devastation, there is no loss of human life. Praise God.
I say hope because this crisis holds within it the potential for an even better community in which all are truly cared for, and all share a faith in God’s love and mercy. This hope becomes our reality when we listen to God’s continual invitation to form community. Central to our lives as Christians are the Gospel teachings that God became one of us in the person of Jesus; and that the three-fold personhood of God: Father, Son and Spirit, shows that God’s Divine Being speaks of community. Therefore let our response to this present disaster be the building of caring and compassionate communities in which no one is forgotten or excluded.
To the whole Diocese, thank you for your ministry of being Christ’s hands and feet, heart and voice; and through which God’s love is experienced.
Let us go forward in gratitude and hope.

“Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”

In Christ,

Bishop of Christchurch"

*Actually 4.5 ...

This photo is of the steeple of the Chinese Methodist Church (formerly Rugby Street Methodist Church) being lifted off its tower because of destabilization at the top of the tower. This is just a couple of blocks from where I live and one block from Theology House where I work:

Sourced from here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

After the Quake - Saturday: the Long Haul

As the initial stages of a disaster wear off, at least two things emerge, one of which may be overlooked, at least in the stratosphere of media interest. One of those things is the plight of the worst off: child X has lost all family - parents and siblings - to the disaster, and now is a homeless orphan with a terrible future (many such stories in places of recent disaster such as Haiti and Pakistan). Here in Christchurch, where we are all thankful that no one has been killed, the 'worst off' are emerging as those who one day had a house and the next have lost it, damaged beyond repair by the quake. In all sorts of ways their lives have been shattered, and although our country has special funds for assisting victims of earthquakes,  many such people face a great deal of uncertainty about how those funds will assist them, and just what future housing they will have.

Another thing which emerges is the plight of the medium term affected, but in the long run probably okay. Even that clumsy wording points to the reason why this emerging situation is likely to get little continuing treatment from the media. Here, I suggest, this plight is the situation some find themselves in where their homes are essentially okay (but repairs will be necessary) but damage to infrastructure is such that it is going to take months to restore something as basic as sewerage, which in some of our streets has been broken by the quake but in such a way that locating the break is going to take time. Thus, effectively, the homes of some will be unliveable in for the medium term. Insurance policies may kindly provide an alternative, such as 'up to six months accommodation in a motel'. But who wants to live in a motel for six months?

In short, as many lives here get back to normal, some lives are not getting back to normal, and will not for some time. Media attention to the plight of one group may help things move along (thus already we are seeing some insurance companies improve their responses through media spotlighting of their inadequacies), but another group may have no such assistance! The challenge for parishes and church social agencies, as per usual, will be to persist in providing care over the long-term. But in this case, for some parishes, looming over their determination to care, are some tricky questions relating to buildings. These questions cannot be swept aside, and in some cases will be made more complex by pressure from 'heritage' lobby groups, determined that rebuilding is to the way a building once was, rather than to the way a parish would like to minister in the 21st century.

Friday, September 10, 2010

After the Quake - Friday: adrenalin wearing off, tiredness kicking in

Harder to detect the aftershocks, I think. Statistically there are less of them, and we have not had a repeat of Wednesday morning's shake which shook nerves as much as more bricks out of buildings. Yesterday I saw one of our more badly damaged churches, St Matthew's St Albans. This hasn't featured on the news, partly because the damage is harder to get on camera: nothing has fallen off the exterior, but extensive cracks in structural pillars and beams show a building in trouble, partly because it is not one of our famously beautiful old stone churches. Engineers were busy surveying, assessing whether one corner of the hall is stable or continuing to sink. Liquefaction is the cause there, signified by pools of sand around the building.

Reports coming in tell of amazing work being done by parish clergy and lay people, visiting people, distributing food, and, in some cases, arranging alternative accommodation for those made homeless. But it also sounds like people are getting tired. Please continue your prayers for the people of Canterbury and for all those working to give care and assistance to those in need.

Continue to visit Anglican Taonga for reports and pics. A recent report there tells that our Cathedral is 'off limits' for the time being. It has come through well, but it would be unfortunate if a further shock dislodged anything weighty from a great height. Also important as a sit for information and news from an Anglican perspective is Bosco Peter's Liturgy blog's rolling report.

Revised service times for churches in the Diocese can be found here. Please keep checking it as I can spot at least two parishes where (informally) I understand that the revised times have been revised!

UPDATE: Blogger assertion (see first sentence above) exposed as untrue!!!! A few minutes after I published the post:

"Reference Number: 3369683

NZST: Fri, Sep 10 2010 7:10 am

Magnitude: 4.6

Depth: 15 km

Details: 20 km west of Christchurch

Reference Number: 3369682

NZST: Fri, Sep 10 2010 7:10 am

Magnitude: 4.5

Depth: 6 km

Details: 20 km south-east of Darfield"
Not one but two at the same time - they shook the house :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is it too late for anything, Covenant, Magisterium, goodwill to hold Communion together?

Sombre, sober, sharp, sword-in-the-heart analysis of schism in the Communion at VirtueOnline as David Virtue recounts the ways in which the Global North and Global South are moving apart from one another (an ironic opposite to my experience this week of tectonic plates grinding together). Is it too late for anything to prevent the informal break up of the Communion becoming a formal break up, a divorce to end what some think began with another divorce? Stop smirking Reginald Pole and Thomas More in your graves!

Mark Harris at Preludium picks up on my posts on an Anglican Magisterium: while disagreeing with the idea, he recognises that the Communion is not in the place many of us want it to be: holding together rather than falling apart. Please read his argument for dispersed authority rather than centralised authority.

This is my comment in response to his post:

"Hi Mark,

I sense that we would both like to be in the same place, an Anglican Communion which holds together rather than fragments, but see different routes to that place. I wonder if a very slight advantage to my route is that I think I can argue that Anglicans have not really and truly tried it yet (i.e. it might succeed despite naysayers) whereas your route (I would argue) has been tried and, well, look where it has taken us!"
Back to Virtue: all ideas for holding the Communion together as currently constitutionally formed may be too little, too late. But remember, please, dear readers, as you might contemplate a future in which 'your' part of the Communion is freed from the dragweight of the other part, unless your part resolves questions of authority in relation to difference and diversity over doctrine, further schism will unfold, as night follows day. To fellow conservatives I simply say, if we think adhering to the 'Jerusalem Declaration' will hold us altogether, we are whistling in the wind: it is flawed, and it has made absolutely no difference at all to the propensity of one important part of conservative Anglicanism to push ahead with unAnglican decisions about order in ministry.
Forward then to mundane matters ... fixing broken church buildings and caring for traumatised people in our Diocese!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Towards an Anglican Magisterium?

Last Friday I posted on the possibility of an Anglican Magisterium, and have been thinking about some comments coming in, for which I am grateful because they are thoughtful and therefore helpful re keeping my thinking on this matter sharp. Well, as sharp as possible for a bear with little brain!

Some responses to those comments:

(1) I continue to think that an 'informal magisterium' operates in Anglican churches, through its bishops, synods and general synods. On the matter of recognition of orders, for instance, a General Synod working on which churches around the world it recognises as being in communion with, is determining that a number of matters are acceptable in respect of theology. Thus other Anglican churches are recognised, as might also be, for instance, an Old Catholic church, but not the Salvation Army, nor for that matter - even though they have bishops - the Mormon church. There is both a general judgment being made that churches X and Y are orthodox Christian churches (however broad that definition of 'orthodox' might be), as well as a particular Anglican judgement being made about the history and nature of the ordering of church Z. The former excludes, say, Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses; the latter excludes, say, Presbyterians and Salvation Army while including, say, Old Catholics. Why do we not declare that we, for our part, are in communion with Rome? I presume it is because we continue to disagree with some of Rome's teaching.

(2) My thinking is about an Anglican Magisterium, so I ask that we think about what this might mean in order for it to be an Anglican Magisterium and not a copycat of Rome's Magisterium. It could well be, for instance, that a 'properly' organised and recognised-as-authoritative Lambeth Conference and Primates' Meetings in between Lambeth Conferences becomes our magisterium.

(3) I acknowledge that an important part of the Reformation was a recognition of the importance of the Bible being accessible to individuals (by being translated into their indigenous language, and freely available through unrestricted publication and distribution) and of the right of individuals to form private judgement about the meaning of Scripture. But I do not see that this right is an absolute right in the context of communal life in reformed church. Every reformed church that I am aware of either composed a doctrinal statement or subscribed to such statement composed by others, including the Church of England composing the Thirty Nine Articles. I further understand each of these statements, with respect to the communal life of these churches, places some restriction on the role private judgement might make on corporate decision making. Today, in Anglican churches around the world, the Thirty Nine Articles is rarely if at all the only 'benchmark' for doctrine, being replaced by a larger 'constitution' which may or may not accord some kind of role to the Thirty Nine Articles in expressing the doctrine of that church. But either way, no Anglican church gives free reign to individual understanding of Scripture being supreme when it comes to certain matters of doctrine and practice. An Anglican Magisterium's role would not be to determine every correct thought an Anglican should have [ :) ], but to assist the world Anglican Communion in understanding what its common understanding of doctrine and practice consists of, and, in respect of novel proposals, or departures from existing agreed doctrine and practice, what it does not consist of!

(4) Let me try to turn the tables, so to speak, on my thoughtful critics! What is your proposal for building the common life of the Anglican Communion in respect of doctrine and practice? When agreement cannot be reached through informal means of communication and when that lack of agreement threatens our unity as a Communion, what is your proposal for resolution of that disagreement?

(5) I do understand that around the Communion a number of people, for various reasons, feel strongly that a body with authority to declare what is our common doctrine and practice and what is not, is a bad thing. I simply find it inescapable that continuing lack of this body means we will continue to fragment and divide as a Communion. I think that is a bad thing too!

After the Quake - Wednesday: Secret Storage?

Tremors still continue, but not as disturbing last night as the night before. Something which intrigues me, but is also amazing and pleasing, is that after a disaster like this, some things work very well. So around the city one can see workers on roofs taking down chimneys brick by brick, there are cranes turning up to help that process on the two-storied houses, then there are diggers and loaders wherever needed to demolish buildings, scoop up sand deposited by liquefaction. Then there are engineers, seemingly available within a day or so, here, there and everywhere to certify buildings as safe or not safe.

Where are these people and equipment in normal life? Are they kept in a secret storage depot ready to be brought out when extreme need for them presents itself? :) Somewhere in the centre of our city an excellently co-ordinated operation involving civil defence, the council, police, army and other organisations is taking place with superb efficiency. Well done!

On my immediate watch, the future of Theology House, some progress was made yesterday as engineers came to inspect the building. They pointed out that mostly it was safe, and if some work is done on removing loose bricks, we should be up and operational. Oh, and some decently fixed tarpaulins would be required to keep the rain out of the gaps in the walls until proper repairs can take place. Now, can we find some kind of lifting device to get a brick loosener and a tarpaulin fastener up high ... and we will probably need a crane to get someone up to take down an old, disused chimney off the roof.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

After the Quake - Tuesday: When will they stop?

Last night was not an easy night for sleeping. Here is a report of earthquakes felt during the prime 'falling asleep' hours:
"Reference Number: 3367749
NZST: Mon, Sep 6 2010 11:40 pm
Magnitude: 5.4
Depth: 9 km
Details: 20 km south-west of Darfield
Reference Number: 3367748

NZST: Mon, Sep 6 2010 11:38 pm
Magnitude: 4.0
Depth: 15 km
Details: 20 km west of Christchurch
Reference Number: 3367742
NZST: Mon, Sep 6 2010 11:24 pm
Magnitude: 5.2
Depth: 9 km
Details: 20 km south-east of Darfield"

Other tremors happened, but some were below 4 on the scale and, in our house at least, they may not be felt. But those over 4 rattle the house, and those over 5 seem to go on for a long time (though not as long as Saturday morning's 7.1 quake).

Reports of damaged churches continue to be published. Here is a report on some South Canterbury churches, including damage to 'iconic' Holy Innocents at Peel Forest.

The novelty has well and truly gone from this experience. It would be good to know the quakes have stopped.

Relating to a post below, this is probably the starkest image of damage to a church in the region: St John's Hororata:

Monday, September 6, 2010

After the Quake - Message from Bishop Victoria, Update on churches

Please popover to the Diocese of Christchurch's website for a message from Bishop Victoria, some news and photos of churches which have been damaged by the earthquake.

After the Quake - Monday

I hope readers might indulge this blog a little if posts for the next few days focus on the thing most immediately on my and many Anglicans minds hereabouts: the earthquake, damage to churches, and general pastoral needs following the quake in which all are upset as far as personal equilibrium is concerned, and some are facing serious challenges re living without water, power, sewerage, and others face major questions around future housing. I will return to the question I introduced recently of an 'Anglican Magisterium', but here is some of the news as I glean it from here and there.

According to a report, churches damaged include:

"Churches such as the Oxford Tce Baptist Church, St Cuthbert's (1862) in Governors Bay and the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Lyttelton (1860), and St John's Church in Hororata suffered major structural damage, with parts of walls dropping out and parapets falling.
Dean Peter Beck said Christ Church Cathedral had fared remarkably well.
"My thanks go to the council for all that earthquake-strengthening work," he said.
"Without that, we would have had major damage." "

But I am also aware of damage to:

St Mary's Merivale (and Hall and Vicarage), St Luke's Manchester Street, St John's Latimer Square, St Barnabas' Fendalton, St Matthew's St Albans, Holy Trinity Avonside, and Rugby Street Methodist Church and Hall, and St Mary's Timaru (at least one photo on shows the loosened tip of its spire being lifted off by crane). In some cases this damage could be structural as well as superficial.

Further footage of St John's Hororata, with an interview of its vicar, Jenni Carter, is here (courtesy of NZ Herald).

In response to two reader queries: Rugby Street Methodist Hall is extensively damaged, and there is a significant structural problem for the church, visible to the naked eye, as bricks have been loosened at the foot of the spire on its tower. (Some of this has been featured in the news with the pastor being interviewed). Yesterday driving past the main (brick) building of the (Anglican) Community of the Sacred Name, I noticed some pieces of the top of the building had fallen off, but the building as a whole looked okay.

At this time our Anglican Centre, in the heart of Christchurch's central business district (CBD), is closed, waiting (a) a building check, (b) general opening of the CBD to people and vehicles.

Some further reporting, pics, and links to pics are on Liturgy here.

My own main place of work, Theology House, which leases rooms in the Hall at St Mary's Merivale is currently shut, Civil Defence having closed the building down pending inspection by engineers. (Prior to the closure I was able to inspect our rooms and fortunately they are relatively undamaged). Below is a picture of the Hall. Apart from the obvious visible damage in the centre of the photo, above the entrance way is a set of windows (my office) and above that, scarcely visible in this photo, the bricks in the apex of the wall are caving inwards slightly.

I believe that at least two other notable church buildings are significantly damaged but will await confirmation before naming them.

Thank you for your prayers. Please keep praying. Considerable wisdom is needed, as decisions of all kinds will need to be made in the days, weeks and months ahead. Some more than others among us will need considerable patience as we wait for relevant authorities and experts to make decisions about safety of buildings, as well as their future viability. And one can imagine some interesting conversations will be taking place with insurers ...

Incidentally, after shocks are continuing, including one about an hour ago as I write. It is as though a railway line has been built beside our house. Is that another train coming ...

See also Anglican Taonga for news and pictures.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just one of our Diocese's damaged churches

To my mind one of the most beautiful churches in New Zealand is St John's, Hororata, about 45 minutes drive from Christchurch. A church I was privileged to worship in as a young child. On occasional return visits its beauty, both as a building, and in its extraordinary setting in a field surrounded by trees and graves, takes my breathe away. But in this footage, about 28 seconds in, you can see the damage to the church as part of its tower has fallen away. Please pray for the Parish of Hororata and its vicar, the Reverend Jenni Carter, as they absorb this news, along with, no doubt, much other damage to homes and farm buildings. Hororata is close to the epicentre of the quake.

Meanwhile some churches are having no services today due to concerns about safety. Others will meet in alternative venues.

LATER: interesting to be in church, held in a hall 'cause the church has cracks in it, and during the service experience two further tremors ... but what is now concerning is the emerging picture that roughly half of Christchurch is fine-ish (the west has water, power, minimal damage to houses) and roughly half (plus a northerly satellite town, Kaiapoi) is not so fine (some houses in the east have no water, nor power, and some houses are significantly damaged, some even write-offs). So a challenge is to co-ordinate the blessings of the western half and share them with the eastern half. Then there are those in the country, especially around the epicentre near the small country town of Darfield, who have losts lots ...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Whole lotta shakin going on

Thank you to readers, including commenters who have actually commented about this, for your prayers and support for people in Christchurch and surrounds following a massive earthquake here this morning at 4.40 am. It was the biggest earthquake I have ever experienced, and I have never experienced repetitive aftershocks such as we have felt throughout today. The day has seemed surreal in various ways: damage here there and everywhere, yet the sun has been shining pleasantly; I thought I was going to be locked into our annual Synod from 7.30 am - 9 pm, but instead have had a kind of unexpected holiday as we have postponed the Synod; seeing many buildings undamaged (What disaster?) and then coming upon devastation (Wow!). If there is one theme to emerge from the day re the devastation it has been "old brick buildings, including chimneys and walls". All built before our building regulations toughened up re earthquakes. Modern brick constructions seem to have been fine.

Unfortunately one building to suffer is the church hall of St Mary's Merivale, where Theology House's offices, classroom and library are located. While our rooms are fine - just a few books on the floor and cracks in the ceilings, the building itself has lost lots of ... you guessed it, bricks. Not sure what the engineers will say about that.

Some of our vicars and vestries will have more on their plate going forward than others. One such will be in the Parish of St John's Latimer Square. Picture below. Other pictures of devastation round Christchurch are here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Anglican order requires an Anglican magisterium

That title is something I am thinking about, but have little time at the moment to develop. Here is a sentence or two in the meantime: the one thing which Anglicans around the Communion seem to value as being in common and not different is the validity of our orders; if a Bishop of Member Church X in Good Standing ordains Y and Y moves to Member Church Z in Good Standing then Y is an ordained minister acceptable without question in both places (other things being equal around being 'safe to receive' because Y has not run off with the offering or the parish secretary). But why is it 'without question'? I think the answer is that there are a series of presumptions involved about the character of Member Church X: it is faithful to the doctrine of Christ, it is an Anglican church on at least some kind of broad definition of Anglican and that definition is agreeable to X and to Z, it follows common order re the orders of ministry (e.g. the 'bishop' is a bishop and not, say, a 'lay president for ordination'). These presumptions, in fact, constitute an informal magisterium. My question, whenever I can return to it, is this: can the informal magisterium of the Anglican Communion  continue ad infinitum? Does it need to become a formal (and therefore transparent) magisterium?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Signs of Hope

Good read on Taonga about the Theological Hui just completed at St John's College. Sounds like the hui went very well. I wasn't there. Perhaps that's why it was a success!

My Open Letter to St John's College

On Anglican Taonga today an 'open letter' to Gail Thomson, the Commissioner of St John's College, Auckland, is due to be posted. It has some suggestions about the future of St John's. One or two I agree with. A number I do not, mainly because the starting point for the suggestions is insufficiently grounded in commitment to the basics of theological learning which is laying a foundation of doctine on a base of thorough knowledge of Scripture. But also because I think the letter inadequately accounts for the good things already in place at St John's College. From last month I reprise my own suggestions here. You might like to write your own open letter ... Later: I understand that possible publication of this open letter is on hold ...


All education is an exercise in seeking light - knowledge, insight, enlightenment - and theological education and ministry training is no different an exercise. The future of education is always a moving from the relative darkness of the present to the light of the future. In certain ways our church's oldest and best endowed residential theological college, St John's College, is in a shadowy place, having been deemed by our General Synod to be inadequately functioning in governance and management. But its future is 'ad lucem' with new governance and management structures being put in place. Today I believe is the day when the new Commissioner of our residential theological college, Gail Thompson, begins her duties. Were she to talk to me, what would I say to her? Here are five things.

(1) The single most important decision any college of education can make is the appointment of a principal. Gail Thompson knows this already as she has a strong and distinguished background in secondary school principalship (including, most recently, running schools which have fallen on hard times). But I would underline the importance of General Synod's decision in May to bring to an end the dysfunctionality of trying to run our college with three principals and I would press upon her, should it not already be clear, that the single priority of her time between now and General Synod in 2012 is to model with excellence a single principalship of the College. We need our church to be united in agreeing to move from a Commissioner leading the College to appointing a single principal to lead the College beyond 2012.

(2) Notwithstanding any messages our church may have given the College over preceding years about what it wants from the College, what the College most needs to achieve is outstanding graduates who have been well-educated for Anglican ministry and mission. Useful though it has been for St John's College in certain individuals' lives to be a dormitory so they can pursue studies or training in other professions, the one thing which distinguishes St John's College from the multitude of educational institutions which dot our landscape is the opportunity it provides for an outstanding and well-supported education for Anglican ministry and mission. There should not be one residential scholarship at St John's College which is not focused on gaining education and training for ministry and mission.
(3) In relation to (2) the question needs to be asked with vigour and frankness, What will it take for St John's College to be recognised throughout our church as the premium college for ministry and mission education? Or, put in a different way, What will it take for bishops in our church to be beating on the Commissioner's door demanding that the College take their prospective students, only to be told that there is a waiting list for places? The building blocks are already being put in place for a positive answer to these questions, but more needs to be done. Hence (4) and (5).

(4) There is an urgent need for a communications strategy for St John's College. Ad lucem, remember! Too many Anglicans outside of Auckland (perhaps inside as well!) are in the dark about what is happening at the College and, worse, think they know what is happening at the College. Except what they think is happening, and cheerfully tell others is happening is, actually, what was happening two, five or ten years ago. But to be fair to them, when there is no regular newsletter from the College to its alumni, when there is no particular effort made to promote the College or to disseminate news about the College (had you heard about the Commissioner's appointment before reading it here?), then how would anyone know accurately what is happening at the College? Good things are happening at the College, great things are around the corner ... but our church needs to know this.

(5) Stay focused on offering an excellent theological education (via B. Theol. studies available right now at SJC) and an outstanding ministry and mission training programme (via the Anglican Studies programme available right now at SJC). But ask what it will take to draw a long line of applicants to want to enrol for these opportunities (in line with (3) above). Explore how staffing might be developed which excites and inspires future student enrolments: there have been significant retirements in recent years so the College has potential to appoint staff in areas of biblical studies, Christian thought and history, and aspects of ministry training. Speaking of the last of those, some think preaching in our church is pretty dire. What if the College were to appoint a 'Director of Preaching' of such calibre and stature that we in the dioceses without fail sent our budding preachers to learn from this person? And, while I am at it, I suggest thinking creatively about possible appointments. Perhaps (because of the way various things are structured about B. Theol. education), there is no great room for appointing a teaching member of staff in (say, because lack thereof is often lamented) systematic theology, but why not appoint a researching member of staff. One day the Archbishop of Canterbury will retire. A change of scene as Research Professor of Theology at St John's College might do him, and us, good. I can guarantee some keen doctoral students lining him up for supervision!!

So, one final point, communicate well with the St John's College Trust Board. They finance the College to a certain budgeted point each year. But that point can be broken. It has often been said that the Board will fund worthwhile, well-justified theological education and ministry training at the College. Now may be the time to explore the openness of the Board to funding a new vision for St. John's.

Sinners across the Tiber are no worse than on this side

There are all sorts of reasons why I am unlikely to 'cross the Tiber', ranging from customs of my life through to lack of conviction on certain things such as Marian theology. (Reasons why I might cross include some things Romans 'get' about great liturgical worship!) One reason would certainly not be that, what with being a continuous church built on the Petrine rock, and having better inbuilt safeguards against heresy (the magisterium, something I think the Communion could do with), there is, so to speak, a better quality sinner on the other side of the Tiber. Sinners, say, who know the truth, stick to the truth, and commend the truth of God by what they say as well as what they do on a good day. No, across on that side are sinners thinking thoughts such as this:

"•Politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it".

•On Hans Kung, the theologian and notorious dissenter from Catholic teaching on abortion, euthanasia, contraception and much else: "My Oxford friend, Pete Thomson, always sung the praises, rightly, of the inestimable Hans Kung … a distinguished scholar and author [of] great works."

•repeated references to his support for the homosexual agenda*, such as: "Just before Christmas [2005] the Civil Partnership Act came into force … I was really proud of that."

•On illicit affairs by politicians: "I tended to look upon such things with a fairly worldly eye"."
Just the thoughts of well-known Roman, Tony Blair ... cited from a citation on Anglican Mainstream. I would love to known what Benedict makes of this ... It escapes me what distinction exists between Roman Catholics and Anglicans when this kind of thinking is going on in the citadel of truth. OK. I know. One criticism of Tony Blair is that he really is still an Anglican. Leopards, spots, that sort of thing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Will Sydney drive TEC's wedge into the Communion wood.

LATER: I now realise that my original post here worked on a mistake - that some resurrected posts from 2008 by Stand Firm were actually new posts reflecting new news. But Sydney's next synod is not till October, 2010 ... so a few changes below!

EVEN LATER: I see that Matt Kennedy has made a current post on the matter, at Stand Firm, firing a shot across Sydney's bows. I feel an imminent post coming on about why I agree with priestly (and episcopal) presidency as an evangelical!

If there is any point to this blog's existence in respect of global Anglican matters it is to work for Anglican unity, to find the things on which we are united and underline them, to discern the things which divide us and argue against them, and to plea in the spirit of the epistolic Paul for being one church in one Spirit (and that a prelude to an ecumenical unity of God's universal church).

If there is any point of despair for me, and others, it is finding Anglicans continuously and stubbornly resistant to unity, one measure of which is the persistence with which innovation is adhered to in the face of an overwhelming majority of Anglicans voicing their lack of reception for it. Thus TEC is often in the spotlight of this blog, and of many commentators around the Anglican globe. But not out of view has been the Diocese of Sydney on the specific matter of deviation from customary Anglican (and the vast majority of Christians, Roman and Eastern) presidency of the eucharist via the orders of priest and bishops. In 2008 it decided in its Synod that it approved diaconal and lay presidency at the eucharist. A decision only partially implemented by Archbishop Peter Jensen who has not authorised lay presidency, recently challenged and rebuked by a Tribunal of the Australian Anglican church, but now, in a month or so, in the latest annual synod of the Diocese, the question arises whether the 2008 decision will be confirmed. We are reminded of this by Stand Firm re-posting in the past few days some pertinent posts from 2008.

In my view this is not an Anglican innovation supported in any way by Anglican custom, tradition, theology, great figure from the past such as Cranmer or Hooker, let alone any significant theologian, diocese, or movement in the present, other than Sydney itself (though I acknowledge some talk on the internet that diaconal presidency may be occurring in one or two African churches). It is as much an innovation as the blessing of same sex relationships and the ordaining of bishops in same sex relationships. Will the Sydney Diocese be found to be as stubborn in its innovation as TEC is in its novelty? Or will it be 'suitably chastened' by the Tribunal decision? If one drove a wedge into the Anglican log, the other has potential to finish the job and split it!

What to say? A plague on both your houses? That is a tempting thing to say! Certainly in my mind an operational Anglican Covenant would have as much to say about this innovation as any other innovation under the microscope at this time. It also strikes me that a pared down Anglican Communion, without TEC or Sydney, would find unity much simpler since not only would it not be trying to square the circle being spun around innovations, it would not be dealing with stubborn Anglicans bent on determining that 'Anglican' is broad enough to cover their unusual vision of Anglican breadth.

In the meantime, of course, that paring down is not an option, and Anglicans keen on a global, united Anglican Communion are exposed in the sight of ecumenical partners without even a figleaf of unity on basic matters such as marriage and ministry orders.

Quite what God thinks of Anglican pretence to discern the will of God through listening together to the Spirit, I do not know, but I wonder if God is chuckling as we play the role of fool in the court of heaven.

Here is Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm, as recently reposted from 2008, on this decision.

In the comments to Matt's post is this comment which captures precisely one of my own objections to lay presidency:

"Several years ago, I asked a Sydney Bishop how exactly lay presidents for the Eucharist would be chosen? Would they be identified by the congregation and diocese in advance? Would they receive some sort of training to prepare them to do this? Would they be set apart and commissioned as those who were licensed to preside at the Eucharist? He answered yes to all three questions. So, I asked, then what is ordination? And how (apart from the length and depth of the training) does it differ from what you have just said you are going to do with “lay presidents”? He couldn’t answer.
The plain and simple fact is that this whole mess in Sydney stems from an anti-clericalism and a reaction against the idea of the ordained presbyterate (priesthood) that has grown to become an obsession.

At this time in the Anglican Communion, when the unity of orthodox Anglicans should be a paramount concern, Sydney’s pressing forward with this aberration in ecclesiology is inexcusable.

Although some of us who are conservatives will not draw a parallel, liberals in other provinces in Anglicanism will seize on this as being an even greater departure than their own aberrations in Anglican faith and order.
What a tragedy!
Robert S. Munday
Nashotah House "

To be fair to Sydney, we can mention a defence of the move  by David Ould (though even this defence admits that it is a devisive move). Notice by the way the similarity to TEC inasmuch as the defence includes the notion that the innovators here understand true Anglicanism as opposed to its many dim-sighted supporters.

Which way will the Sydney Synod head? Deeper into the log?