Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oh boy

This is what we need when reading the Old Testament, struggling to make sense of which bits belong where and were written by whom, J, D, E, P, or Thee:

"Over the past decade, computer programmes have increasingly been assisting Bible scholars in searching and comparing texts, but the novelty of the new software seems to be in its ability to take criteria developed by scholars and apply them through a technological tool more powerful in many respects than the human mind, Segal said.

Before applying the software to the Pentateuch and other books of the Bible, the researchers first needed a more objective test to prove the algorithm could correctly distinguish one author from another.

So they randomly jumbled the Hebrew Bible's books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah into one text and ran the software. It sorted the mixed-up text into its component parts "almost perfectly," the researchers announced."
NZH's whole article is here.

Oh dear

No time to post this morning. Apologetic energies have been taken up drafting up a response to an opinion piece in this morning's Press (A13), arguing that our "Cathedral no longer has a place at centre of city". By one George Sweet, self-described as "a Christian atheist." It is true. I read it in the newspaper!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Style and Substance

I like this post. Being Anglican is not - in my and in this poster's view - about maintaining a preference or familiar custom, filling a niche in the religious marketplace, or fermenting a good fit between faith and fashion. It is about what is true and what is not, about what the Bible says and what it does not say, about what is the correct course of Christian tradition and what is not. It is about style and substance in the manner of being Christian.

To be Anglican is to be faithful to Jesus Christ. Or it is nothing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Elect your bishops democratically, Church of England!

The usual lather, if not blather is being worked up in the Church of England re the announcement of the formation of the AMiE ("Come, let us de-toxify our church"). Fulcrum, for instance, has published a formal response here, and discussion is beginning on this thread. But here is the thing we will see very little of in the blather: any loud, clear call to the Church of England to cease appointing its bishops through a committee and to begin instead to nominate bishops to the crown via diocesan elections.

In the present context there are two vital advantages to synodical election of bishops. First, each party within the church can put up its candidate for consideration, seek to persuade others of the merit of the candidate, and see how the wider body of Christ responds to that persuasion. If (say) conservative evangelicals or anglo-catholics are elected, then they have a voice in the episcopal corridors and the whole church is faced with the strength of grass-roots support for such bishops. Conversely, if such candidates are not elected, then their support parties are faced with numerical facts regarding what the grass-roots think. There is no chance of conspiracy theories arising about this or that cabal allegedly controlling the church from the top down.

Secondly, there is the great advantage in a situation in which a church is faced with the prospect of partnered gay bishops or women bishops, that those wanting or not wanting such bishops have an opportunity of voting accordingly (albeit via elected representatives from ministry units, representatives who have opportunity to discern the minds of their ministry units). Otherwise those not wanting such bishops have real fear that they will be imposed on them, and out of that fear will organise such things as AMiE. Meanwhile those wanting such bishops may have cause to criticise the hierarchy for being vacillating, prone to give into fears fuelled by the latest lobbying of a pressure group they have received, etc. Let democracy reign, and let respect for the power of the people begin.

Democracy in the C of E alone would not prevent movements such as AMiE arising. After all, that is what has happened in North America where bishops are elected through synodical elections. But at least in North America, churches there can say of a controversial bishop, "his or her people want this person to be their bishop." England cannot say that and it lacks the moral authority to respond to the formation of AMiE with a statement about how conservative evangelicals have the same opportunity to present candidates for bishoprics as any other group in the church.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Toxic and Exotic?

In the ongoing engagement with the future direction of global Anglicanism, some member churches of the Anglican Communion are of more interest to some engagers than others, one is TEC, another is the Church of England (CofE), with the result that attempts are being made, by various organisations, some old, some brand new, to influence if not alter radically, the general direction of that member church. The recent establishment of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is such an attempt. Its raison d'etre is:

"AMIE has been established as a society within the Church of England dedicated to the conversion of England and biblical church planting."

This sounds novel (but there are other societies dedicated to the conversion of England, including the hitherto much under-estimated "Church of England") and innocuous (but ask the question, "Will the church plants be authorised by the local C of E bishop?" and it is immediately unclear what the answer is). Some explanation is given by Charles Raven here, but his very celebration of the announcement begs a question or two, as Charles leads an Anglican church in England which is not of the Church of England. His Anglican church is one which has broken away from the formal structure of the Church of England. There are already Anglican churches in England which are plants and not breakaways. One example is Christchurch, Durham. It is linked to various Anglican organisations (e.g. Reform, the Proclamation Trust) but not to the Diocese of Durham.

Another intriguing element of AMiE is its talk of a 'panel of bishops' to oversee its work. I cannot find in the GAFCON statement linked to above whether those bishops are solely C of E bishops or a wider grouping, but Charles Raven's explanatory statement linked to above mentions that at the announcement meeting three Anglican clergy ordained out in Kenya by a Kenyan bishop were welcomed and commissioned for work in England. But to work in the Church of England (with a few exceptions*) requires the acceptance for and licensing of that work by a C of E bishop, thus raising the question that it is likely men who felt they would not be ordained in the C of E may have been ordained for Anglican work outside of the C of E. Then by turns it seems reasonable to suppose that the 'panel of bishops' will include bishops from outside of England.

Rachel Marszalek, whose blog is linked to here, has responded to the AMiE announcement via commentary on Richard Hooker. Her response is provoked by an analysis of the state of the Church of England which justifies the seemingly exotic origins of AMiE in terms of that state being 'toxic'.

My question, from a long way a way, is What the attitude of evangelicals in AMiE is to evangelicals not in AMiE or its associated organisations? If the attitude is, We will plant churches in your parishes if we deem you to be insufficiently evangelical, then I suggest AMiE take a very careful look at itself and reflect carefully on what is 'toxic' and what is not in the life of God's mission and ministry in England.

But AMiE may have no such attitude. It may be solely concerned to fight progessivism and liberalism where it deviates from orthodox Anglican theology as that is understood in the Church of England (cf. Canon A5 of that church). It may be aiming to spearhead a movement for renewal in the Church of England with a keen evangelistic edge which gathers up all parts of the C of E committed both to A5 and the conversion of England. It may be so compelling in its raison d'etre that it scoops up support of a great majority of C of E bishops, drawn to renew the vigour and enthusiasm with which they lead the church in its apostolic mission.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, I really like the approach of Cranmer's Curate, another English blog linked to here, whose latest post is both supportive of AMiE and critical with a twist, urging consideration of mission to the north of England. POSTSCRIPT: I see that Cranmer's Curate has CHANGED his original post to this. All reference to AMiE removed. Now why would that be?

Incidentally, I like CC's simplicity of description of the core of ministry:

"preaching Christ's Word and administering his Sacraments."

*In England there are a few "proprietary chapels" which are Anglican and yet can appoint whom they choose to be their minister, without reference to the local bishop (though if that minister wished to be a licensed Anglican clergyperson they would need a license of thir bishop). Or, so I understand these ecclesiastical anomalies.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How did that sermon go? Well, it was "interesting."

Don't worry. You will not have to put up with preacher navel gazing here at ADU week by week. But occasionally I shall indulge myself. My sermon this morning on the readings discussed in yesterday's post went across quite well. Some comments were kind. But one person as they left the service thanked me for my "interesting sermon."

On reflection I realise that "interesting" in such a context is full of possibilities (most of which are not encouraging for the preacher). You can probably think of more possible meanings. Here are the ones I have thought of:

"I completely disagreed with what you said but am too polite to say so."

"What a pot-pouri of a sermon. So many things to think about. I have no idea what main message you were trying to get across."

"I have been a Christian for many years and thought I understood our orthodox faith very well, but I have never heard any Christian teaching like what you put forward. You're probably a heretic, but I had better check with the vicar before I write to the bishop."

"I do not normally go to church and have no idea what the purpose of sermons is, but what you said was as interesting as any talk I hear at Rotary these days."

"Basically all the sermons I have heard lately have been extremely boring, so it was quite a surprise this morning to find that I actually listened to some of what you said."

"I had not realised the full depths of obscure details in the Bible but I have had my eyes opened, thanks to you!"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tomorrow's Interesting Readings

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Straight up confession to fellow Kiwis. I cannot get too excited about the possibility of speaking about Te Pouhere - the Constitution (of our church) this Sunday 26th June, which day to celebrate Te Pouhere it is on our local ecclesial calendar. But if I were to choose that, what a dog's breakfast for a prospective Pouhere preacher lies in our lectionary - multiple gospel readings. What's with that? Why not one this year, another next and work on a four year cycle? Our constitution is a good thing, but I suggest there are better ways to attend to it than in a sermon. (Were I a vicar I might write an insert for the parish newsheet).

So the standard, non-dog's breakfast readings it is. An interesting set (here the Related readings rather than the Continuous) so Jeremiah (False Prophecy) and Matthew (one theme is 'prophets') are related, though perhaps here more like cousins than siblings, let alone parent and child. Romans then sticks out a bit like a sore hitch-hiker's thumb, pointing in a seemingly different direction: sin/righteousness, law/grace, death/life.

I quite like the challenge of interesting sets of readings such as this. One of my principles in preaching is to have 'one message' - whatever is said coheres around a single theme so that hearers leave the service with one and only one message to recall. What is the single theme in this set? Is there one?

Incidentally, I think is an honourable strategy to opt to choose one reading and major the sermon on that, but I encourage some reference, even just a sentence, to the other readings. But back to our set. Is there a single theme?

Re-reading Matthew 10:40-42 we find:

"10:40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

 10:41 Whoever receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. Whoever receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.

 10:42 And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, I tell you the truth, he will never lose his reward.” "

Hmm. Plenty of potential to get sidetracked into details. What is a "prophet's reward"? What does "in the name of a disciple" mean? (The NET here follows the Greek very closely. Interestingly the ESV interprets this phrase with "because he is a disciple"). But what, if anything, is a potential theme connecting the readings together? What in one sentence is a message we can read out of these readings (not read into them)?

Any thoughts from you are most welcome!

I am posting this c. 6.30 am NZ time ... my own thoughts are coming together, so will offer a postscript later today ... a couple of meetings and other stuff to get through first!

POSTSCRIPT: c. 6.45 pm "The message and messengers of the gospel matter" is what I am working on.
Jeremiah tells us that it matters whether the message we preach is true or false. Jesus tells us that the messengers matter. Paul tells us that the message of the gospel is a matter of life and death.

Just the question of relating all that to the earthquake ...

Friday, June 24, 2011


With some ups and downs through these past months my immediate family, like most families in Christchurch, have survived the earthquakes in a reasonable state: jobs, houses, schools intact. But among my extended family and circle of friends and colleagues, there are some who have fared badly: in particular with damaged houses on damaged land worsening with each major quake. Left to their own resources, their future had a certain bleakness. Likely negative equity and all that. But yesterday their future received the certainty and hope they have looked for. Our government will buy 5100 homes in the worst affected areas of Christchurch. (It may yet buy more, but that requires more investigations before coming to a decision). I am relieved for those I know. They have quite a journey to go on yet - securing a section, building a home, settling into a new area - but in the long run they will not be destitute. I imagine the relief and joy they feel will be tempered by the challenges that journey will bring.

Since the announcement at 1.30 pm yesterday, that feeling of relief has been a great reminder that good news is possible in the midst of a bad time such as we have been having. From outside of the immediate context, a generous intervention has come which makes and will make a material change to life. The good news here is not words of kindness and support but material kindness and physical support which lifts people (literally) out of the mud. When the just desserts of life suggests that one has to take what life throws up, whether triumph or disaster, here is an act of sheer generosity, of undeserved kindness.*

What is the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of disaster? A few posts earlier I pointed to the good news that God is in charge of the world or "Jesus is Lord". Here can be emphasized the good news is that God is generous, offering us riches in Christ beyond our dessert, forgiving our wrongdoing and giving us right status before him, and blessing us materially (not, I hasten to add, in the sense that prosperity is our kingdom inheritance (cf. 'the prosperity gospel'), but in the sense that when Jesus comes into our lives, as we read in the gospel, people are healed and fed as a sign that God is in charge and God is generous).

I think it is important to welcome yesterday's news for what it is: good news. But it is important to acknowledge that yesterday's news also brought other news: many homeowners living in 'orange zones' who have to await an announcement whether they will be bought out or have to undertake repairs themselves. Then there are those in 'munted' houses who are renting them and face uncertainty about where they can move to, lacking the financial power unleashed yesterday to make decisions to buy a new property.

From a diocesan perspective it is difficult to assess at first glance the full impact on our parishes of the announcement. No single parish will lose all its houses; some parishes in the 'red zones' will lose more homes than others. The new housing areas to which people will move are spread around other parishes so (again, at first glance) it is not immediately clear that a whole new parish will need to be planted. Over time I imagine that ministry resources will be redistributed and redeployed across our city.

We have a long way to go in the full recovery of our city and region. In other news yesterday I detect our geological scientists more overtly acknowledging that we may be in the midst of an unprecedented geological event within recorded human history.

*Two notes: (1) For Kiwi readers tempted to think our government has to do what it had done, let's remember the people over the years whose homes have been flooded away or have fallen off a cliff who have not been helped in this manner. (2) I believe the NZ government, whether Labour-led or National-led, would do what it has done, so my eulogising this decision is not - repeat 'not' for my left-leaning readers :) - a promotion of the National Party.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kingdom of Grace Coming to Christchurch?

12,000 houses in Christchurch need to be demolished according to an estimate. A significant proportion of those are on land on which no further houses should be built. Ever. In the normal course of events, once insurance and Earthquake Commission (EQC) payouts are made, those who have to walk from the land will be out of pocket. For some that loss could be more than the price of the land so that while some might be able to start again the process of securing their own home, where people are out of work or in senior life there would be little or no hope of owning a new home again. One can then multiply the bleak outlook by estimating the number of people looking to rent homes versus how few homes for rental will be available. Every which way, the outlook, if it unfolded strictly according to the obligations represented in the paperwork of insurance and mortgage contracts is very bleak for thousands of people.

But today the NZ Government will announce that it will buy thousands of damaged properties at the valuation of those properties prior to the first earthquake in September, 2010. With plenty of flat, safe(ish) land available in other parts of Christchurch, the affected homeowners will be able to resume their home ownership elsewhere with more or less similar equity to what they had last year. If this announcement comes to pass as predicted most if not all Kiwis will applaud it as a fair and proper response of the government to a difficult situation wrought by nature's forces and not by human folly.

I have been thinking that, perhaps too easily, we do not think about how extraordinary this response of the government will be. In a parallel activity a similar extraordinary action is taking place in Europe as Greece is rescued. Arguably that action is more extraordinary as Greece's financial problems are not the result of nature wreaking havoc.

Governments do not have to do anything other than govern. It is nice when they play by the (just) laws they have inherited from the past or which they have made in the present. But they have the power to do pretty much as they please. They can shoot their citizens, raze towns to the ground, place their poor in camps and forget about them, all such things occurring in recent and present times around the world. Though we might expect our democratic government not to shoot us, we cannot expect it to help some citizens with what amount to huge financial gifts while refraining from helping all citizens with the same largesse.

Here in NZ and over there in Europe, governments are doing what they are not required to do. They are reaching out with generosity, going the extra mile and giving without expectation of return. In short, they are acting out grace not justice, mercy not deserts.

Is this the outworking of the gospel buried deep in the psyche of Western culture, despite its outward profession of loss of faith in the God of Jesus Christ? Is the Kingdom of Grace coming to Christchurch via a government led by a self-acclaimed agnostic?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who is in charge?

One aspect of the gospel for this time in Christchurch rumbling in my mind is that the gospel is the announcement of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. N. T. Wright (as I understand him) in recent times has been pushing this understanding. The sermons in Acts often say little about what (say) evangelicals have emphasised in the last few centuries, the gospel is about grace and forgiveness, but do a lot of announcing: God said through the prophets that his anointed would come, he has come, Jesus is the Christ, this Christ is - contrary to Roman ideology - Lord. Essentially this is what Romans is about: Jesus is Lord and the gospel is announcing that with power in order to bring Gentiles into obedience alongside the Jews (the ones who are also obedient). Or so I understand Wright.

That there is something very important to reckon with here about the gospel is obvious, not because of Wright's scholarly brilliance, but because of the preaching of Jesus himself. What was the preaching of the kingdom of God but an announcement that God reigns - despite signs otherwise, God really is in charge of the world. As time went by the power of Jesus to produce signs of that reign, culminating in the sign of the resurrection itself, disclosed to his followers that Jesus was identified with God in reigning. Thus, "Jesus is Lord" was the great confession of the church whether responding to Paul's or another expression of the gospel.

For Christchurch, in the midst of death, destruction, and (increasingly these days) despair, it is good news that God is in charge, Jesus is Lord. A tad difficult to believe, but an important gospel fact nevertheless. The earthquakes are not in charge of us and our future: God in Jesus Christ is boss.

Last night was a challenge to faith in this God, incidentally: a hefty 5.3 at 10.34 pm, just prior to going to bed, and then a whole series through the night, including a 4.4 at 3.28 am which woke us up. A cheeky friend texted me at 11.03 pm asking if I still had an office. I shall check soon. Not to worry if I don't. Neither did the Son of Man who has graciously called me to follow him without pack, blanket or jacket.

Who is in charge? is also a good Anglican question. I notice a brilliant post on Catholicity and Covenant which explores Anglicanism's original sin.

(Reformulated from original post). That 'original sin' (i.e. original to the 16th century re-forming of the Church of England) was its joining the right to make a local decision about divorce the marital status of its then Sovereign to the re-establishment of a national church (through releasing itself from its international commitment to a Roman-led West European church). This re-establishment (like a series of aftershocks) rumbles through the Communion to this day in the form of the right to autonomy being invoked on matters which undermine the catholicity the Reformers retained, 'catholicity' here meaning our common doctrine, specifically in our day concerning our doctrine on marriage and holiness of life for the ordained. This 'catholicity' has been under threat for some decades, including on the matter of marriage as Western churches have grappled with the issue of divorce and remarriage. The last decade, arguably, has been a salutary reminder that catholicity is the essential principle of attempting to be a communion and not an association. The more we have asserted the right to autonomy to include the right to self-determine doctrine the more fragmented we have become, and thus the less appropriate it has been to retain the term 'Communion' in our global self-description.

That is, our Communion troubles are related to our Canterbury (NZ) challenges: what is the gospel? If the gospel is "Jesus is Lord" then we might expect the Communion to be more rather than less united under its single leader.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Filling the Empties: 21st C Gospel Transformation

When driving about the South Island it is easy to know when you are crossing from one diocese to another. The Conway River is the boundary between Christchurch and Nelson dioceses, the Waitaki River divides the Dunedin diocese from Christchurch. OK, it is slightly more complicated discerning the boundaries on the West Coast, but not so many of us drive there. The Bishop of South of the Waitaki, of the mighty rugby provinces of Otago and Southland, of awesome Fiordland, and the mysterious Stewart Island, is +Kelvin Wright. It is a long time since ADU has referred to his Available Light blog on which writing and photography are presented at a standard this writer can only aspire to. In his most recent post +Kelvin reflects on empty or ex church buildings with a point which continues reflection through recent posts here on the gospel. Here is the money quote:

"These empty worship shells scattered around the countryside are the signs of the death of a particular religious infrastructure. ... A particular way of meeting the spiritual needs of our society is disappearing because it no longer meets the needs of our society, ...

The role of the church is to introduce people to the Living God and open them to the transforming power of the presence of God. Gradually we have forgotten to do this. We have forgotten how to do this. We have forgotten, even, that we are supposed to do this. And quite naturally, and quite rightly, the infrastructure we have created precisely to help us to do this crumbles and dies.

The old churches tell me one thing and they tell it to me clearly and loudly: The church must facilitate personal transformation or it must cease to exist. It is time to forget the infrastructure except to the extent that it facilitates the one essential task of the Church. As my Lord tells me, "seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the rest will be added to you as well." "

I think +Kelvin and St. Paul the writer of Romans would get on very well together if Paul happened in his apostolic wanderings to cross south over the Waitaki River.

I want to return soon to the question I posed yesterday about the gospel and Christchurch. But here we have something to think about as we engage with questions of rebuilding our 'particular religious infrastructure.'

Monday, June 20, 2011

Earth shattering gospel for earthquaked people

The gospel broke the world open, shattering a cosy cosmopolitanism in which religions competed side by side for influence, none daring to assume dominance unless backed by imperial sword wielders. Combining  recent reflection here on Romans, God as Trinity and Communion politics, what the gospel is, how we understand the message of Jesus comprehensively, that is both comprehending the words of Jesus as well as grasping their whole significance - their implications, applications and ramifications - is key to life. The possibility that life has meaning, that suffering and death do not reign over life, that God's judgment results in mercy not wrath, that human society may be organised around fellowship or communion rather than divisions and inqualities, that good will triumph over evil is opened up by the good news that Jesus is the Christ, Lord and Saviour of the world.

Theological battles, whether fought in the pages of Romans against re-assertion of legalism and national exclusivism, or in ecumenical councils against the diminishment of Christ as God, or even in that rather small set of churches known as the Anglican Communion against ... well, what is the key issue from a gospel perspective? Against, I suggest, ideas that the gospel is multiple in content (as compared with expressions of the gospel), that diversity more than unity represents an intended outcome of the gospel, that 'communion' is distinguishable from 'church' (when both are properly understood in theological terms). At the heart of such great theological battles is the simple but difficult question, What is the gospel?

This past week in Christchurch has been dispiriting. There is an 'exhaustion of spirit' as Bishop Victoria has aptly summed up (see Taonga and links  re Christchurch's peril). When hope drains away, when tiredness wells up, when patience is necessary but seems impossible, what is the gospel? How are Christians to proclaim the gospel here in word and in deed? Prior to September, 2010 any answer likely would have talked about the spirit of the city, the forces at work within it, culturally, spiritually, and economically. Now we have to reckon with the dispirit of the city, and the new forces at work within it, forces for despair and desperation. Further, these forces are at work within the whole population, Christian and non-Christian. Many Christians, I suggest, including myself, need to hear the gospel for the first time in our new situation before we attempt to share the gospel with others.

What is the good news of Jesus Christ when life is wrecked?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Real Unclear Politics and the Anglican Communion

Time for a little confession. I am a keen follower of politics. I have toyed with the idea of adding to the sidebar of ADU the links I regularly click in order to feed my keenness. Problem: some of these sites are somewhat more robust (shall I say) in the language they use to describe people, not all of whom are miscreant politicians. One site I have no problems linking to, and it is already here on ADU's sidebar, is Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal. This is a model blog written by a genius of both economics and English. I read it to learn economics and to be forced to think about what economic strategy really ought to lead the world forward out of this Great Recession. If Krugman is wrong (and mostly I think he is but I cannot match his 'wonkish' analysis) then the economist(s) showing us the right way forward will be very clever.

Another site which is invaluable for feeding a political habit, also US orientated, is Real Clear Politics. Two or three times a day, seven days a week, it provides a dozen or so links to articles written by the best of political writers from the best of newspapers and journals. I do not read them all, but enjoy the pleasure of clicking on one or two which catch my eye. As far as I can tell this is a balanced site addressing a highly partisan scene.

If I have learned one thing from my reading of US politics, it is that it is far from clear. What is really going on within US society? Why is it so partisan? How come the Republicans have moved so far to the right? Or have they? Is that agitprop misinformation from leftist elements in the punditocracy? What is this thing with Sarah Palin? Is she the vacuous, ill-informed person widely portrayed in the media? If she is, how come she warrants all the attention she effortlessly secures? Surely if she has an actual chance of gaining hold of real levers of power the attention should be on US voters? Last time I looked US elections could only be 'bought' via publicity, some of which can be secured for advertising dollars. Are the media in Palin's pay? They seem to be giving her a lot of free publicity!

As an Anglican trying to keep abreast of Anglican Communion politics, I cannot avoid paying attention to what is happening in the North American Anglican/Episcopalian world, in particular what is happening in TEC and its mirror Anglican images, ACNA, AMiA, CANA, etc. Sometimes the mirroring of those politics and US politics seems uncanny, especially when measured with a gauge called 'partisanship'. Again, I am often left feeling quite unclear about what is really going on.

That means I also feel unclear quite often about what is going on in the Anglican Communion. Are dark and devious forces at work in (choose from) the mind of the ABC//the AC office//the ACC//the PB and her officers in 815? Are those forces working to bind us together under an Anglican pope replete with Anglican curia to enforce his or her rule, or divide us in two (or more parts), one of which will be an enlarged TEC with the "C" standing for "Communion"?

Interestingly, some of what is going on (if, indeed, there is anything at all) will likely come to a head at the next ACC meeting, set down for Auckland, November, 2012. How do I obtain press accreditation? :)

You will understand then that I do not quite know what to make of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. I find some people talking about her in exalted terms, reserved for modern and post-modern saints (Mother Teresa, ++Tutu, Dalai Lama). She has her critics, not least in the area of theology, since among her few pronouncements with analysable theological content are some statements which, at best, are subtle-but-ambiguous explorations of great doctrines. At worst, these statements lie on a continuum with statements of liberal or progressive Anglican bishops since Charles Gore was a lad.

Now an old observation pertaining to her election is receiving a new examination in some blogs (one example here), also noticed in a Church of England Newspaper article. This too seems to be part of the unclearness of TEC if not also Communion politics. Was ++KJS elected with forward propulsion from a supporting resume which evidenced an exuberant confidence about skills and experiences? Or was a vetting process costing $200,000 curiously disinterested in checking the most basic of facts, facts which recently have been wiki-tidied up? Were the  forces which elected her expressive of a concerted political effort to secure a political outcome as much as the election of a specific person? Are those forces still at work in the backrooms of TEC and the Communion?

Yet Conger's article reminds me of a very curous fact about ++KJS' election: among those forces were some of the extreme conservative bishops of TEC, intent (it would appear) on a form of political wrecking.

Generally I subscribe to the 'cock up' theory of politics rather than the 'conspiracy' theory, at least in states and organisations where free votes take place. Outcomes come about through accidents and failures as much as through planning and procedure. Conspiring to change the course of history in democracies is a kind of indulgent fantasy always liable to be frustrated by the good sense of voters. So, unclear as I am about these matters, I wonder if anyone in the Communion really knows what is going on, least of all what the ending might look like.

Were the first Christians unorthodox on the Trinity?

In the course of reading an article the other day I came across this intriguing citation of something Dom Gregory Dix once wrote which seems apt to reprint here on Trinity Sunday. The citation is made by Eduard Schweizer who does not use scare marks, so I am not exactly sure where Dix ends and Schweizer continues:

the church of Jerusalem in the year 35 would certainly have sided with Arius, not with Athanasius, since she would have been unable even to understand the concern of Athanasius and his whole problem. Nonetheless it was Athanasius and not Arius who confessed in the fourth century the faith of the church of Jerusalem, because he maintained this uniqueness of Christ, with the church of Jerusalem, even though he expressed it in a different pattern of thinking.

(E. Schweizer, "Two New Testament Creeds Compared" in W. Klassen and G.F. Snyder (eds.) Current Issues in New Testament Interpretation (1962), p. 173, with footnote reference to G. Dix, Jew and Greek (1953), 80f.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

All Christian theology is Roman, even Anglicans should acknowledge that

In the course of the past few posts, which have been about how our church engages with an important issue without tearing itself apart, at least not unnecessarily, I have argued for the importance of our engagement being genuine theological discourse, not a recourse or threat of recourse to courts of law. Several important points have been made by commenters (thank you). One I want to tease out here, albeit very slightly relative to its great importance, concerns the seminal importance of Romans 12:1-2 which is a leitmotif of Bryden Black's:

"12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect." (NET Bible)

What is Romans 'all about'? Sin, judgment, gospel, the Jews, grace, freedom, God, election, justification, inclusion (of Gentiles in the people of God): there are many candidates. But yesterday's office reading from Romans 2:17-end is suggestive of another word to answer the question of what Romans is all about. This passage, you may recall, as part of a pivotal (and often overlooked) stage in Paul's great argument teases out the character of true Jewishness. Towards the end he writes,

"2:28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, 2:29 but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person’s praise is not from people but from God." (NET)

Here Paul sets out some of the great themes in Romans: the inward state of the person, reality more important than symbol, the limitations of the law or 'written code', and the supreme importance of the judgement of God. But here two, these themes are constrained towards the one great theme of Romans. I suggest that theme, captured in Romans 12:1-2, is Transformation.

Paul's gospel, explicitly described as such when he writes 'my gospel' (2:16), boils down from the brilliant subtleties of fifteen chapters of sustained argument to a gospel of transformation. God changes lives. Gentiles (effectively) become (true) Jews. Unjustified are justified. Condemned people are no longer under condemnation. Those who do what they do not want to do, do what God wants them to do. The diseased vine of Israel is reinvigorated. How then are the transformed to live?

Romans 12-15 sets out Paul's answer (with Romans 16 being a pot pouri of greetings to transformed people in a transformational church). 12:1-2 is the perfect beginning and summary of the ethical essay of chapters 12-15. The big picture Paul urges us to grasp, the primary step we take as transformed people wanting to live rightly is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, to be and to go on being transformed by the renewing of our minds (which implicitly in Romans is an invocation of the Spirit: see both 2:29 above, and more generally, Romans 8). All with the purpose of discerning the will of God.

Paul then says something about the will of God which both encourages and challenges us. The will of God is that which is 'good and well-pleasing and perfect.' The encouragement is that we need not fear God's will. It is good. The challenge is that we look for that which is good, well-pleasing and perfect when we seek God's will. There is a sense here that harsh debate, political machinations, and generally getting lost in the details - features of current hermeneutical life - is being challenged. God's will is not wrested triumphantly from the maul of mental combat, like a ball emerging from a rugby ruck, all sorts of skulduggery hidden from the referee's gaze as the ruck ensued!

Transformation is the gospel. Not just Paul's gospel, but 'the gospel', the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ whether according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Paul. Romans is not another gospel, nor is it one way of expressing the gospel. It is a deep exploration of the one gospel, probing the universal implications and applications of the one action of God in Christ crucified, sweeping aside all barriers to fellowship between God and humanity, and in the process shattering all barriers between people. Christian theology is Romans for in Romans we find the gospel for all people clarified. It is transformation, for everyone, and for the whole person of each one.

This, if you like, is the true Roman theology. Even Anglicans should acknowledge that, and rejoice. The Pope's name is Paul, we could say, not Peter! (Pope here in the sense of 'Father' and Paul is the Father of theology).

Returning to our situations today, whether we are globally engaged in the future of the Communion, or regionally focused, say, in the life of ACANZP, or locally challenged to work out the gospel in mission to distraught people in a broken city and fragile society, as we are here in Christchurch, the theology which guides us should be a gospel theology, focused through the light of Romans, a Roman theology for the whole church.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

St. Matt's, the Wider Church and Scripture

On the face of it, by challenging their bishop, +Ross Bay, along with our other bishops, to proceed full steam ahead to ordain gay persons who live in same sex partnerships, St Matt's is riding a white charger whose name is Right and Righteous Cause. How can the bishops of our church, including their direct target, +Ross Bay, withstand the thundering hooves and steaming nostrils of this valiant steed?

One rebuttal, a horse whisper that might calm the strident gallop of the charger, is to ask what St Matt's commitment to our church consists of. Is it a commitment to provoke, prod, and push us to change, whether we agree to it or not? Or is it a commitment to love us through the changing scenes of life?

If there is one thing I am sure of, it is that our bishops love their dioceses, and love this church. They can appreciate the prophetic mode St Matt's takes up and pushes towards them, but they know that their dioceses and this church are sums of many diverse parts. We have different theologies, ecclesiologies, missiologies and pneumatologies in our midst. We also have a range of challenges, not least of which is the fragile state of many parishes (literally as well as spiritually in Christchurch!). How do the bishops love their churches through these days, with a love which binds us together? Not, I suggest, by going with the agenda of one parish with a singular track record in annoying other Christians. Not, I suggest, by leading the church according to rhetoric around 'violation of human rights' rather than good Scriptural theology. And not, I suggest, by relying on challenges to polity via Title D machinations.

Our bishops are better than that.

They know, for instance, that if we Anglicans play out our future wrongly we will slowly but surely be ground into statistical dust. One possible future is being played out before our eyes in the shape of the ever declining, constantly selling off churches NZ Methodist Church. Booming along, thank you very much, are Pentecostal, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Not one of which is contemplating moving away from traditional Christian sexual ethics. If we Anglicans disappear off the landscape, Christianity in Aotearoa NZ and Polynesia will be just fine. Do we want to be a footnote in future church histories written by Baptist or Apostolic scholars?

Perhaps we do. Perhaps that is the price we should pay according to our 'Matthean gospel' to avoid 'violations of human rights.' But could we please have a discussion about this before anyone goes to court to change us?

There is another error St Matthew's is making in its protest and in its confrontation with +Philip Richardson's wisdom on a way forward. They are acting as though the wrestling with Scripture on homosexuality is done and dusted. Nothing to see there, nothing to learn there. Sexual ethics for today is ours to determine without recourse to ancient spiritual truths. Only reckoning by the compass of 'human rights' matters.

Scripture is not done and dusted on homosexuality. At the heart of conservative responses to homosexuality, whether it is the caution of someone such as myself, or the outright opposition of others to change to the status quo, lies a simple anxiety about salvation. When St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that neither malakoi nor arsenokoites will inherit the kingdom of God, what do those two words mean? I understand that scholars debate the meaning of these words, and also debate whether these words, even if they mean what most English translations say they equate to in English, apply to faithful, monogamous, same sex partnerships. The key word in that sentence is debate. Nothing is settled. No bishop of our church can confidently say that same sex sexual activity is beyond the scope of these verses to speak to it. Whether we can ever settle that debate in our lifetimes, whether we can ever come to some agreeable compromise on how we might live in or with the debate and nevertheless bless same sex partnerships, I do not know. But I do know it is a huge presumption to speak and act as though that debate is over, as though 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is easily set aside. The kingdom of God, let's face it, lies at the heart of the gospel on any understanding of what the gospel is, for it is unmistakeably central to Jesus' own teaching. It would be irresponsible of a gospel church to advocate for styles of living which exclude people from the kingdom of God.

Again, perhaps I speak as a lone-ish voice in this cautionary way, perhaps I am missing something about where our church is at. If so, I look forward to the bishops collectively telling me to remain in my corner of the wilderness, out of earshot! But I do not think I am missing anything. Our church is not at all in a settled place.

Our bishops know that. They are not fools. St. Matt's might take account of that. I hope they do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is St Matt's-in-City discriminating against Classes of People?

Whether you go here on ADU or there on Liturgy you can find some interesting and intelligent commenting responding to +Philip Richardson responding to St Matthew's in the City's provocative protest that our bishops should front foot the question of ordaining gay or lesbian candidates for ministry who are living in partnerships.

If nothing else, both Bosco Peters and I know that some prominent people within our church are following this particular development closely, so closely that they are looking at our sites.

In the latest move by St Matt's, a letter following a parish meeting has been written which includes this (my italics):

"It [the discrimination agreed to between our Pakeha New Zealand bishops that refuses to admit into the discernment process for ordination anyone who is gay or lesbian and in a committed relationship] is discrimination against an entire class of people. Such discrimination by any institution or state would be worthy of our condemnation, but it is also a source of deep embarrassment that our church is perpetrating it. Your acceptance of this discrimination initiated by colleagues in the House of Bishops represents all of us to our shame.

As neither our Diocesan Synod nor the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui have sanctioned the “discrimination,” you are under no obligation to continue this practice a minute longer. As our bishop we beseech you to end our communal participation in this violation of human rights, this offence to the Gospel, and an embarrassment to the Church." (From an Open Letter to Bishop Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland, here).
On the face of it, St Matt's is riding a white charger whose name is Right and Righteous Cause. How can the bishops of our church, including their direct target, +Ross Bay, withstand the thundering hooves and steaming nostrils of this valiant steed?

In several ways. Today I give one of them.

St. Matthew's-in-the-City themselves are guilty of discrimination against 'classes of people.' When we ask what classes of people constitute the society to which we are called to preach the gospel of Christ, classes which do not live exactly by the traditional Christian standard of marriage or singleness, to say nothing of classes which may have a view on the church's missional image being out of touch, then we have a very large class of people living together who do not wish to marry, a class of people who think committing adultery is ok, and, though perhaps tiny, nevertheless able to be classified, swingers, polyamorists, and polygamists.

You will find nothing in the St. Matt's protest taking up the cause of these classes. Is their protest discriminatory against these classes?

If it is not discriminatory because they intend to take up their causes soon, our church, I think, would be quite interested to know this.

If they have justified cause for being so discriminatory, we need to hear their justification. Remember, in the particular case of St. Matt's-in-the-City, it cannot be for reasons of Scripture or Christian tradition for they make a public lifestyle out of their billboards which question Scripture and tradition, nor can it be for reason for unwillingness to offend fellow Christians - see also track record on billboards.

There is a response they could make which does not involve them reaching out to (say) polyamorists. They could drop talk about 'discrimination.' They could apologise to Bishop Ross Bay for implying that he has acted in ways which are embarrassing to the church. They could acknowledge that between 'the doctrine of Christ' (which includes, for example, the unity of the church) and the canons of the church (which, for example, do not permit ordination to various orders below the age of 23, or, for bishops, 30), our General Synod does sanction discernment (a better word, I suggest, than the inflammatory, 'discrimination.').

In short, St. Matt's in the City have right and reason to pursue change in our church re gay candidates for ministry. But they should do it through constructing a theology and persuading the whole of our church of the truth of this theology. Protesting in a manner which is disrespectful to our bishops and to our General Synod is momentarily exciting but scarcely a winning strategy in the long-term.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ouch. Another set of quakes in Christchurch.

Walking home at lunch time. The earth moved slightly under my feet. Hmm. Then it really moved. 5.5. Quick walk back to Theology House - mostly okay - a filing cabinet to pick up. Then home via  a closed local supermarket. A little while later, while at home, boom. 6.0. That was scary. Quick check on neighbours. Some things to pick up and broken glass, china to dispose of. On the bike - traffic building up - to check on Theology House. Found out staff were safe but badly shaken. Building closed, so won't be going back in soon. Quick look at St Mary's Church. North wall caved in in two places. Back home. Texts flying. Family and friends are safe. Heard on the radio that the west wall of the cathedral has fallen in. Power off for a while but back on now ...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kiwi solution to Communion mess?

The Communion mess over blessing of same sex relationships and ordinations of gay and lesbian persons as bishops could have a Kiwi solution. Bishop Philip Richardson, one of the Bishops of Waikato and Taranaki, offers a strong rebuttal of the accusation made by St Matthew's-in-the-City, Auckland, that our bishops are engaged in 'white collar crime' by continuing to not accept gay or lesbian persons in same sex partnerships for ordination. A report on Taonga of the rebuttal is here. The full rebuttal made by +Philip is here. I urge all Kiwi Anglicans to read these documents. You can comment on Taonga or you can comment here. Obviously I prefer you comment on one rather than the other, but my lips are sealed as to which one.

What might the wider Communion consider from these remarks? Here I excerpt a portion which notes three interlocking matters:

"I believe that General Synod needs to reach an agreed position on these three inter-related issues, in the following order:
First , whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity. This in itself requires the process of collective biblical exegesis, prayer and discussion and debate which we are engaged in.

Depending on our collective answer to the first question, the church might then be in a position to move to the development of a formulary for the blessing of committed, life-long, monogamous, relationships other than marriage.

Thirdly, the church could agree that such relationships so blessed and formally recognised by the church meet the standards of holiness of life that is the call on every Christian life, and is required to be reflected in the lives of those called by God and affirmed by the church to holy orders."

It would be interesting to have comments from readers whether any member church of the Communion has actually engaged in all three steps. (I am not aware of any such church myself).

For whatever reasons the Communion has gotten into a mess over homosexuality, it is in a mess, and I wonder if a Communion-wide exercise such as this would help get us out of the mess. Guided by the Covenant, we could get there. Can we do it? If we so will it to be so, we can do it.

POSTSCRIPT: one can almost predict who will speak up in response to +Philip :) Here is Edward Prebble.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trinity and 'the issue'

Writing almost anything these days as a Christian about homosexuality is a fraught exercise. Each 'side' is looking for the 'right' thing to be said. And it can be 'woe betide' the one who does not say the right thing. To state the obvious, there is a divisiveness around Christian talk about homosexuality these days which is salutary. Sometimes there seems to be a lack of appreciation for all that is good in what 'the other' (i.e. counterpoint to 'me' or 'us') is saying. There is palpable evidence, for instance, that in a secular world in which church-going and open identification as a Christian are not compulsory, gay Christians are engaging seriously with what it means to be gay and to be Christian. The least appreciative analysis of their discipleship is to render it null and void on the grounds that they do not share a conservative interpretation of the Bible. More appreciative would be acknowledgement that they are our Christian brothers and sisters in human frailty and Christian faith. The evidence, however, is also palpable, that the Christian tradition has steadfastly affirmed marriage or singleness as blessed life situations for disciples of Christ, beginning from the earliest days when the apostles to the Greeks refused to sympathise with contemporary homosexuality (read Plato's Symposium before you tell me 'homosexuality' as a modern word has no bearing on those ancient days). Sometimes this tradition and commitment to it seems under-appreciated when progressive Christians comment on the internet.

It can be quite confusing, incidentally, to be told by 'catholic' Christians that the ancient ways are best and should be followed, except when it comes to sex! The conservative approach to homosexuality is actually quite catholic (respecting tradition) and quite evangelical (respecting Scripture). There is a theological strength to conservative Anglicanism which is better dealt with by corresponding theological strength in progressive counter-argument, but which all too often is dismissed with epithets of 'bigot' and explanations of 'but science says.'

Conversely, even as the Anglican slow train wreck of a schism is unfolding through these years, Western societies are making rapid changes, with civil legislation and social mores running well ahead of the church on committed same sex partnerships. Whether we agree with those changes or not, whether to accept them would be a cultural cave in or not, our societies are challenging us in ways that we seem poor in responding to: to threaten schism over sex (for instance) looks for all the world like an obsession taking over the church prior to dismembering it. In my view, we who identify ourselves as conservatives have as much responsibility as anyone for the perception that the church is weird on sex.

Does a Trinitarian hermeneutic help us as a Communion on the issue of homosexuality? In thinking about this I am inclined to conclude, 'only a little.' A Trinitarian hermeneutic seems to have an application in thinking about men and women relating together because in creation men and women are created in the image of God, in redemption we are one in Christ, and in marriage there is an intriguing analogy of diversity-in-unity with the Trinity as diversity-in-unity. I fail to see such a strong application to a same sex partnership. What has struck me more in my posts of late is that the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, the dance between revelation and reason, is a reminder of the importance of all theological work doing the same: what has God disclosed to us, how do we understand that, what deeper insights are available to us as we use reason to think about what God has revealed?

In respect of homosexuality and the Communion can we say we have yet done all the work there is to be done on understanding Scripture as the vehicle for God's revelation to us?

To give an example of a question which I suggest is under-examined: suppose (for the sake of argument) that the homosexuality of today's world is a new phenomenon, unknown to Moses and Paul, thus rendering their (God's!) laws and ethics irrelevant. What does that mean, then? Are we theologically emboldened (as some seem to be) to move to acceptance of this new phenomenon when expressed in a monogamous partnership? Or should we stay a little while with the possibility (on the basis of the supposition above) that we do not know what God's will is for this new phenomenon? As a matter of fact, unless the Spirit of God reveals God's will for such a new phenomenon, we are ignorant. To the obvious rejoinder that the Spirit has so led us, it is right and proper that we pause and ask, How do we know, beyond individual conviction of mind, that the Spirit has led us to this truth? It is a basic recognition of the body of Christ to ask that question because so many in the body (actually, the vast majority of Christians in the world) have not heard what the Spirit, apparently, is saying to the church. There is also the question of whether the supposition made above for the sake of exploring the argument, in fact, holds good.

In a very recent comment on another post, Fr. Ron Smith gives as eloquent an expression of the case for accepting this new phenomenon as you could find anywhere. It may be interesting for readers to comment on whether this case is persuasive or not, and if not, why not. My own question would be where would we stop if we accepted experience as the key determinant for blessing a relationship. I imagine similar eloquence supporting the case for polygamy (the case is kind of there when Big Love screens!), or for men and women living together without life-long commitment. Would the church consider blessing such relationships also? Logically, on Ron's argument, we should. If we should not (but should bless same sex partnerships) what would be the theologically reasoning for distinguishing one relationship from another? (Please note that I am not wishing to argue 'thin end of the wedge' here, but, like for like, plausible dignified human relationships for plausible dignified human relationships, why stop with one in a series of possibilities?)

If I were the last Christian on earth resisting the acceptance of the blessing of same sex partnerships, the questions I am raising here might seem to be time-wasting before the inevitable falling in line ... but I am not the last conservative standing. Is it possible that the many Christians whether resisting such change or simply doing nothing to change the status quo - still the majority as far as I can tell in the church to which Ron and I belong - have a theological unease (e.g along the lines of the above paragraph) rather than corporate bigotry or phobia at the base of their continuing commitment to the status quo?

Can we Anglicans engage in theology, real theological discourse in these ways? That would be consistent with what made orthodoxy orthodoxy: a theology of revelation and reason which led to Chalcedonian Trinitarianism. Unfortunately, if the Primus of Scotland is any kind of benchmark of Anglican discourse (see post below) we will have our work cut out to get anywhere, given that, apparently contradictions contribute to our richness!

POSTSCRIPT: Here is one diocese broadening out its 'series' of blessable relationships. (H/T Christopher Johnson).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Scottish Wisdom or Episcopal Babble?

Interrupting this series of sober posts on Trinitarian orthodoxy for a taste of episcopal wisdom, Scottish style. Hold onto your hats:

"I believe that either adopting or not adopting [the Covenant], can be seen as enriching for the Anglican Communion, that we all internally have been enriched by our own diversity."

Anyone care to explain how this is a true statement? Like, being a bit old-fashioned and having studied philosophy at university in the dark ages, 1978-80, I thought X and not-X cannot both be true. Either adopting or not adopting can be seen as enriching. Hmm. I wonder what David Hume, the Scottish philosopher would have made of this statement? But like everything written in this blog, I could be wrong, there could be higher truth and new revelations for me to learn.

It shouldn't make any difference to our estimation of the validity of such a statement, but, if it helps your evaluation, it was said by a bishop, by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend David Chillingworth.

Actually that is quite a good description of of 21st century Western Anglicanism, isn't it, a kind of summary creedal statement for the 2010s:

"We all internally have been enriched by our own diversity."

I am afraid that those Anglicans who believe in limits to diversity, like yours truly, are depriving other Anglicans of enrichment. No, wait. Either depriving or not depriving Anglicans can be seen as enriching for the Anglican Communion ... see, you too, like me, can get the hang of this newfangled logic.

Trinity and Hermeneutics

A Friday footnote in this sequence of posts which may (or may not) lead to an interesting post about the 'other' great issue in Anglican Communion life at the moment.

At great risk of oversimplifying the long and complex story of how the church seeking the mind of Christ came to the conclusion that the God of Jesus Christ is the Trinity, the church reasoned its way through reflection on revelation in Scripture to determine that all christological references in the Old and New Testaments yielded the conclusion, God is Trinity. In turn this meant that the church henceforth reading Scripture would understand individual texts in the light of this conclusion. Texts implying Jesus was God's adopted Son, for instance, are relativised in the light of this conclusion: they only appear to mean Jesus was adopted, they do not determine an adoptionist sonship.

In this process, theology and exegesis engage in a hermeneutical dance choreographed by the Spirit. Theology does not go beyond Scripture in its reflections; Scripture is read in the light of theology's reflections. Further, revelation and reason also dance together. Reason enhances revelation by assisting in understanding the full (or deep, or, somewhat favoured in today's theologyspeak, thick) import of what has been disclosed. Revelation controls reason, restraining it from speculation that represents a move beyond what can be claimed as divine knowledge.

In respect of some Anglican talk about 'Scripture, tradition and reason' which, for some of us, all too readily and loosely claims some kind of foundational basis for positing three authorities of equal status or for promoting three distinct methods of theological investigation, the dance of reason and revelation together is confrontational. If we allow the manner of the church's engagement in theology in the first five centuries to be paradigmatic, then we Anglicans should take care about how we work with Scripture, tradition and reason. On matters of controversy today, our quest should be for what revelation and reason yield as a sure basis for hearing what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Reflecting Trinity in the Body of Christ

Like nearly every peer couple I know, my wife and I work out before God the decisions of family life in a spirit of mutual sharing of responsibilities as husband and wife, seeking to arrive at decisions we are equally committed to and will thenceforth take equal responsibility for. In doing this we and our peers are enjoying the fruits of development in human life which flow from the influence of Christianity on the world, an influence which has inspired science, education, politics, and health. That is, we have an extraordinary freedom compared to our forbears to be fully engaged in mutual society as men and women who are equals in human dignity and responsibility in this Christianity-influenced society. Whether we measure this freedom to enjoy true mutuality as men and women together by Genesis 1:27 or by Galatians 3:28, we live in a day which exemplifies the growth of the kingdom of God, a growth Christians should expect to find through the course of history, given what Jesus taught about the kingdom's presence in the world.

We could also measure these developments, along with related ones in the body of Christ itself, in respect of the understanding of God as Trinity, a communion of love in which the three persons mutually, interpenetratively indwell each other in unity. The flowering of mutuality in human societies, whether in marriages, families, or the church, is a perfecting of the image of God in humanity, for which we were created and then restored through redemption.

Unfortunately, as noted by me in previous posts on Arianism, the background to the first four great ecumenical councils, was one in which christology developed in the engagement between Jewish Christianity and Hellenistic culture, finding fruitfulness in emphasis on Logos/Son christology but also an accruing baggage around a subordinationist christology. The baggage accrued to the point where the subordinate Logos or Son, in the hands of Arian, broke the Son away from God so that there was a time when the Son was not. Notwithstanding this happening, subordinationism remained within the thinking of the orthodox Nicaeo-Chalcedon church. Thus, fast forwarding to the present day, we can find a North American Anglican bishop, John Rodgers of the Rwanda-aligned AMiA, offering "A Serious Argument Against the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood and Episcopate." I leave you to judge whether it is 'serious' or 'seriously flawed' but in the course of his overall argument he offers a trinitarian underpinning:

"We can ask, "Why did God order things so?" Such a universal, sustained practice requires a profound and divine reason. The Bible tells us what this reason is. Male headship in the priesthood and eldership of God's chosen people roots in the male headship in the family, which is part of God's good ordering of the creation. And God's ordering of the relations of male and female in the family ultimately reflects and rests upon God's own Triune nature. Human life, made in the image and likeness of God, mirrors the mystery of God's own Triune life.

This involves our understanding of God as Triune. God is One; God is Threefold. He is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: three inter-penetrating persons of equal dignity and divinity united in a single life of love and mutual indwelling. He is one God in one nature eternally existing in three Persons. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we can expect to find (and do find) analogies of God's Triune nature in creation and above all in our human nature. [My italics].

In the Triune life of God, as Scripture teaches and the Eastern Orthodox tradition often reminds us, there is a hierarchy among equals. An eternal headship and an eternal submission are lived out in the divine life of love. God the Father is by nature Father in His Triune life. He is the eternal loving fountainhead of the Trinity. He is eternally the Father of the Son and the primary source of the being of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son is ever delighted to do the Father's will. In a biblical view, submitting to one's father is what a good son does, whether it be human sons of human fathers or the divine Son of the divine Father. The Spirit is always the Spirit of the Father and the Son and submissive to both.

The main point we want to note is that loving headship and submission are eternal in the life of God. They are therefore of the eternal order of things. This has consequences for God's act of creation. God's own nature and his attributes provide the pattern for his act of creation and particularly for the order and life of those made in his image and likeness-men and women. We can expect to find headship and submission in the way we have been created in relation to one another. At the same time, the Father's act of creation is an authoritative act, a command. He speaks and it is done (through the Son, by the Spirit). He reigns over the creation that he has made. Here we have the significance of God's revealing himself to us in male terms as "the Father," "the Son," and "the Spirit". The male name of "the Father" points to his being distinct from the creation that he has made, ordered, and sustained, and it points also to his Lordship over it. Creation is not birthed from God's own being as the religions of the world tend to teach.

Does God not have a more feminine aspect? Yes. God has attributes that are more fully exhibited by women than by men, but they are always "his" attributes. He is never called "her." Even the more feminine attributes are his attributes, attributes of the one who with loving, divine initiative and authority called the world into being, not from his own nature but from nothing, ex nihilo, from beyond the world."
Rodgers' argument joins together two understandings of the Trinity, one captured in the italicised paragraph and one captured in the following paragraph. I suggest they cannot be joined together in this way. Either God is mutually indwelling love lived in the true equality of interpenetrating divine persons or God is hierarchy with headship and subordination.

What do you think about the either/or?

POSTSCRIPT: a rejoinder to the Rodgers article is here. Worth a look!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Revelation enhanced by reason

Loving ++Rowan Williams on Arius: Heresy and Tradition. Shockingly Rowan the professor writing a standard academic tome is clear and concise with his sentences. What happened once he left the fourth century? An impression is forming in my mind that Rowan the Arian expert is feeling as Archbishop that he has seen the last decade before. It was pretty messy back in the fourth century with people in and out of favour with higher authorities, councils decreeing things via written agreements and prelates subsequently undermining them. Even the most orthodox of them all, Athanasius, suffered detraction and imprecation, slander and libel. The Anglican Covenant as an expression of orthodoxy is Nicean in flavour - it certainly has its anti-Nicene party counterpart at work in the blogosphere and elsewhere.

Arius pressed the point that the Son was not only subordinate to the Father (a prevalent notion in the Logos/Son christologies of the second and third centuries), he was also separate from the Father: there was a time when the Son was not. Nicea, the Council, pressed back, the Son was consubstantial with the Father, homoousios: there was not a time when the Son was not. The journey onwards, from Nicea 325 A.D. to Chalcedon 451 A.D., took longer than any one lifetime, but it reached a Trinitarian destination which defined orthodox Christianity for the remainder of time. There was not a time when the Trinity was not, but there was a time when the Trinity was not catholic - not understood and received by all as gospel truth.

Rowan Williams' fine study of Arius reminds us that the church in the case of christology and Trinitarian theology persisted in digging deeply into Scripture, sharpening their spades with the whetstone of reason. The Christ to whom Scripture witnessed, was he (say) adopted as God's Son (as some verses implied), or was he always God's Son? Influenced by or reacting to Hellenistic philosophy, gnosticism, Jewish philosophy (in its own reaction to Hellenism, cf. Philo of Alexandria), our fathers in the faith sought to understand the God of Jesus Christ and the Jesus Christ of God. The conclusion reached was as brilliant as it is paradoxical: God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Three-in-One, an eternal communion of love in which Father, Son and Spirit mutually indwell one another in perfect unity.

Ever since this theological conclusion has shaped Christian understanding of Scripture: all texts illuminating the person and work of Jesus Christ are read in the light of the Trinity. The rejoinder to the Jehovah's Witness sitting in your lounge banging on about Jesus only being 'a god' does not lie in a battle of Greek wits over the finer points of grammar and syntax in John 1:1 but in confession of the hermeneutical principle: Christians read Scripture in the light of the Trinity (to which Scripture's whole confession of the God of Jesus Christ leads). The question I want to take up soon is whether a Trinitarian reading of Scripture illuminates contemporary challenges in the Communion. But before doing so there is a further piece of groundwork to attend to.

A commenter on my previous post has raised the question of the leading of the Spirit in relation to revelation. That is, God continues to reveal truth to us through the Spirit, beyond the pages of Holy Scripture. This question however involves another question, How would we know the leading of the Spirit? There can be no question here of theological controversy being resolved by such an appeal. Who is to say that you have the Spirit and I do not? How could the Spirit be invoked by one party of Christians proposing one thing and also by another proposing the opposite? In particular, if Holy Scripture has been received by the church as the written down revelation of God, how could the Spirit be claimed as leading us into any truth claims opposed to Scripture?

In any case, the great claim of Jesus himself concerning the Spirit's work in revelation beyond the earthly ministry of Jesus is that this revelation is ... about Jesus: 'When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me' (John 15:26). The Spirit takes us deeper into the truth of and about Jesus. The fruition of this work is the outcome of the church's fullest exploration of the person and work of Jesus: orthodox christology and the doctrine of the Trinity.

If we want to work on issues such as contemporary issues in the life of the Anglican Communion we will waste time and energy seeking the Spirit's revelation of new truth beyond the pages of Scripture (unless we should find in a flash of illumination that we are all hearing the same truth). Rather we should work together on an enhanced understanding of what has been revealed to us (Scripture and tradition) with the aid of reason. In doing this we could heed the lessons of the early centuries: good Christians with sincere theological motivations can get things wrong (the Arians, who sought to glorify the transcendent God), God permits the church to engage in fierce and lengthy debate, and the truth on which we settle will be coherent with Scripture and better reasoned than its approximations voiced by heretics.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Revelation and Reason

Working on a talk this week for a Christology course, I am reading up on Arius, taking up the modern master, Professor Rowan Williams and his book Arius: Heresy and Tradition. A post or two will flow from this work. In the meantime, here is a thought: reason in Anglican terms does not stand alone or apart from Scripture and tradition. What are Scripture and tradition in relation to truth? They are revelation (God speaking to us) combined with accumulating reason in which the church clarifies what it is hearing from God, using minds created by God and renewed by the Spirit (Romans 12:1-2). In sum, the trifecta Scripture, tradition and reason are a duality, revelation and reason.

What was going on in the Arian controversy? The church was reasoning its way to the truth revealed to it. Arian took a line of reasoning which the church judged to be false, both in the light of reason (Arian's logic re the Logos was faulty) and in respect of revelation. The history of Nicea through to Chalcedon is a lesson in revelation and reason being held together, each informing the other, the conclusion reached being impossible without revelation. The key to knowing that the reasoning of the church led in the right direction is that revelation was coherent with the outcome.

You may or may not see where this is heading if we fast forward to our time and our troubles. More later.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The God of Jesus Christ or the God of Gandhi?

God is Not a Christian is a provocative title for a book by an Anglican Archbishop - Desmond Tutu - which might be excused on financial grounds, the publisher wanting to sell books and the writer wanting to earn a crust, but begs a few questions on theological grounds. In an excerpt (from a talk originally given in Birmingham) ++Tutu writes this:

"Surely we can rejoice that the eternal word, the Logos of God, enlightens everyone -- not just Christians, but everyone who comes into the world; that what we call the Spirit of God is not a Christian preserve, for the Spirit of God existed long before there were Christians, inspiring and nurturing women and men in the ways of holiness, bringing them to fruition, bringing to fruition what was best in all. We do scant justice and honor to our God if we want, for instance, to deny that Mahatma Gandhi was a truly great soul, a holy man who walked closely with God. Our God would be too small if he was not also the God of Gandhi: if God is one, as we believe, then he is the only God of all his people, whether they acknowledge him as such or not. God does not need us to protect him. Many of us perhaps need to have our notion of God deepened and expanded. It is often said, half in jest, that God created man in his own image and man has returned the compliment, saddling God with his own narrow prejudices and exclusivity, foibles and temperamental quirks. God remains God, whether God has worshippers or not.

This mission in Birmingham to which I have been invited is a Christian celebration, and we will make our claims for Christ as unique and as the Savior of the world, hoping that we will live out our beliefs in such a way that they help to commend our faith effectively."

I find this to be a curious mixture theologically speaking. God is at work in the world through the ages fulfilling his plans, without reference to Christ ... but then there are claims to be made 'for Christ as unique and as Savior of the world.' No doubt a longer reading of ++Tutu's theological writings would connect the dots in one flowing theology of salvation. But here it is difficult to understand why God needs Christ to come into our world to save us. The difficulty is accentuated by reference to God as the 'God of Gandhi', not in the sense that God is the God of every human, but in the sense that God is the God of this very holy man. If Gandhi, without reference to Christ is holy, then what need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?

But was Gandhi holy? Does he match up to ++Tutu's description and injunction when he writes,

"We do scant justice and honor to our God if we want, for instance, to deny that Mahatma Gandhi was a truly great soul, a holy man who walked closely with God. Our God would be too small if he was not also the God of Gandhi".

The thing is this: there is reason to deny that Gandhi - the real Gandhi, not the Gandhi of myth and movie - was not a truly great soul, a holy man who walked closely with God. Reading this, for instance, we find a case being made for Gandhi being just another frail, fallible man, who made some disastrous and painful mistakes, through his own stubbornness and shortsightedness, and who did not in the end transcend his own culture and its structural injustices (especially with reference to the Untouchables). In sum: Gandhi needed Jesus Christ as saviour as much as anyone in this life.

God is greater than our ability to conceive God and God is at work in the world in ways we do not see. But God is simply the God of Jesus Christ. God is not the God of A.N. Other. There is no other God than the Christian God. The privilege of Christians is both to know this God (for God has graciously disclosed himself to us through Jesus Christ and provided Holy Scripture for us as witness to that disclosure) and to make this God known in the world.

The paradox of God is Not a Christian being written in South Africa is that it would not have been written at all if through the ages Christians had settled for the view that God was at work in the world making people holy without reference to Jesus Christ. On that basis the gospel would be the message of a tiny sect in Judea and Galilee, likely not surviving beyond the end of the second century A.D.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another year closer

Tomorrow (as I write), perhaps today (as you read) is the celebration of the Queen's Birthday, the first Monday in June being the designated day for Kiwis to drink to her good health and (for nearly all) to drown their sorrows in missing out, once again, on a knighthood. But increasingly this day can be viewed as involving another celebration: it is another year closer to NZ becoming a republic!

I think our ecclesial leaders could put their backs into supporting the change to being a republic. It would be a small but significant step in reducing the inequality between the rich and the poor, the Queen being one of our richest citizens, and a republic meaning that she would no longer be one of us.

However I would understand if they do not have time to support a republican campaign at this time. I imagine they may be busy contacting other Anglican churches around the Communion, enquiring diplomatically as to what is going on and raising graciously the possibility that the Communion is not best furthered as a coherent global entity when Desmond Tutu' latest book is called God is Not a Christian, the Diocese of Nova Scotia is authorising same sex blessings, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is not disinviting Canadians from Communion committees nor downgrading their status to that of 'consultant' rather than 'member'. (The same concern for justice motivating us to urge the reduction in inequality between rich and poor should drive us to seek fair treatment for all in the Communion. If TEC is being 'punished' for failure to abide by the Windsor Report, then so should the ACCan. Or, if you prefer, if mercy is shown to one church, why not to the other?)

It is hard being consistent on matters of justice. Is it more difficult for we Anglicans? I note that yet another Al-Qaeda leader has been assassinated (or is being killed by a drone an 'act of war'?). Is the ABC also discomforted by this?

Still, here is a comforting thought: if God is not a Christian, perhaps we Anglicans do not have to live up to as high a standard of consistency as we previously thought?

While reflecting on Anglican standards of behaviour, Cranmer has a withering critique here of an Anglican whose toying with destroying the privacy of certain individuals is alarming; yet also revealing of the dark side of liberalism, when its obsession with progress relies on trashing the freedom of people to choose.

(Incidentally, I do understand that Archbishop Tutu's publisher can expect to sell way more books when they are entitled God is Not a Christian than if they were entitled God is a Christian. I have been known to come up with a few provocative titles myself. Let's face it, would anyone buy a book with the latter title?)

Friday, June 3, 2011

When will Benedict XVI excommunicate Mugabe?

Now, here would be a real fruit of ARCIC III, Rome excommunicating Mugabe, Dictator of Zimbabwe, Autocrat of the Zimbabwean Anglican church. Mugabe, recall, was recently in Rome for the beatification of John Paul II. A more exemplary Catholic one cannot find than those undertaking the toil and trouble of a pilgrimage to Rome. Yet Catholicism's great theme under Benedict XVI is ecumenicism: drawing all Christians together under one vicar of Christ. In this context, ARCIC III is an act of love, in which Rome reaches out to Canterbury, in hospitality around the table of discussion.

Well, we need some love in action in Zimbabwe where Mugabe is bearing down on the Anglican church like a wolf on the fold of innocent, vulnerable lambs. Cranmer describes the problem here. Not all readers here will care for Cranmer's general conservatism in politics and Anglican faith, but perhaps on this matter of deep concern, we will agree together with him ... Were Benedict XVI to excommunicate Mugabe, ARCIC III might be seen as talk being walked. As Cranmer points out, excommunication is wielded these days by Rome for various moral crimes.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Occasionally, I have been known to be wrong

One of the great experiences of my life, and a very privileged one at that, was to live in Durham, England for three and a half years (1990-93). Among other things I soaked in the experience of belonging to the Church of England, the one true mother church of all Anglican churches, and imbibed its sometimes heady atmosphere. David Jenkins was the Bishop of Durham in those days. He had already reached the apex or nadir of his controversial remarks about the resurrection, so it was an education for me to hear him speak on a couple of occasions and find that he made perfectly good sense. A sermon he preached in St Nicholas' Church was among the half dozen or so best sermons I have ever heard. Since those days I have had a special interest in who the Bishop of Durham is. Until recently the office was held by a man as luminous in intelligence as David Jenkins and, arguably, as controversial in public life as he was, one Tom Wright!

Thinking Anglicans carries the announcement that Bishop Tom's successor has been announced and I have been very pleasantly surprised to see that it is Justin Welby, currently Dean of Liverpool. My surprise involves me admitting that I have been wrong about an aspect of life in the C of E: I had formulated a theory that deans never become bishops there. Tom Wright was Dean of Lichfield, so that was strike one against the theory. Now strike two (to my limited knowledge) has taken place. My theory is in tatters - I was wrong. The pleasant part of the surprise is that Justin was an ordinand at Cranmer Hall when I was in Durham. He was impressively looking like a future bishop then, and now he will be one.

Postscript: How well connected in English society can a man be ... the future +Durham is described thus in a comment on Thinking Anglicans: "Interesting choice. Probably a smoother operator and a "safer pair of hands" than N T Wright although without his academic distinction.

Educated Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. A strong interest in the ethics of the financial and business world, about which he has published a number of books. A former oil company executive.

Grandson of Rab Butler's daughter, son of Winston Churchill's private secretary (Welby's mother) and also son of an old flame of Vanessa Redgrave (his father), step-son of a Labour life peer.

Before he was ordained he was very active at Holy Trinity Brompton, a fierce evangelical church much favoured by the upper middle classes.

My impression is that he is something of a centrist.". The next ABC?

Receiving truth

Woven through comments to recent posts are some important themes for Anglican theology: incarnation, trinity, biblical theology (especially the glorious subtleties of Paul's theology of body in 1 Corinthians). These things are worth bothering about because when we understand them rightly in a theological commitment which is biblically sound, orthodoxy, we have a sure foundation for worship and mission which honours the God of Jesus Christ and which God will honour with the power of the Spirit of Jesus.

In our bothering about them, we Anglicans face sharp challenges. Others (in relation to us, particularly Romans, Easterns on the 'catholic' side, and Presbyterians, Baptists on the 'reformed' side) claim to have a better understanding. Within our own ranks, we cannot agree on a mechanism (the Covenant) to enable us to walk together in orthodoxy, and we have now watched over a process of serious disengagement from each other, in some cases involving actual schism. A cynic can be excused for wondering if we Anglicans are seriously bothered at all with orthodoxy: if we were, wouldn't we view with more alarm our internal difficulties, and wouldn't we have placed ARCIC III on hold, humbly acknowledging that we are not worthy to have a discussion under the table, let alone around the table, while we are in the state we are in?

Perhaps the most pointed challenge of all, however, is working out the circumstances in which orthodoxy may be enlarged, as Anglicans understand it, in a manner which is agreeable to Anglicans. Part of being Anglican is - obviously - that we are in disagreement with other Christians: we are Anglican and not (say) Eastern or Presbyterian, because we disagree on some matters. To be Anglican is to be free to disagree with other Christians, but does being Anglican require agreement among ourselves? Is there a level of internal disagreement which destabilizes what it means to be Anglican?

Cutting to the chase for this particular post - no time to write the tome required to engage with the questions above - a remark from a valued colleague the other day has gotten me thinking about the idea of 'reception' in respect of orthodoxy. We Anglicans commit to an engagement with claims to theological truth in which Scripture, tradition and reason figure prominently in our method. But how do we know when we have arrived at truth, especially if it is truth which enlarges our understanding of orthodoxy? My colleague's point in invoking the idea of reception is that, in the end, we will be united over change when we have received the case for change together. Unilateral actions by bishops, decisions by narrow majorities in synods, doing things 'our way' by individual parishes do not constitute 'reception.'

A case in point in respect of the life of my own church is highlighted in a sermon Fr. Ron Smith draws attention to on his blog, a sermon preached at St Matthew's-in-the-City (Auckland) and published here on their site. The sermon is entitled 'The Anglican Empire and the Oppressive Myth of Unity.' A case is made that individual gay candidates should not have their ministry aspirations slam-dunked by the alleged needs of the 'Anglican Empire' to be unified. Unity or 'unity' in this framing of Anglican disputes is an oppressive myth. But is that all there is to say? I count both Glynn Cardy, the Vicar of St. Matthew's-in-the-City (who did not preach the sermon, but presumably approved it being preached) and Ross Bay, the Bishop of Auckland as valued colleagues, but on the basis of this sermon, one is acting badly, a conclusion which does not sit well with me. In fact, I think there is something more to say, and when we say it, both the vicar and the bishop are acting well.

If we frame such matters in respect of 'reception' our question is whether our church (ACANZP) has yet received the proposal that orthodoxy may be enlarged to include the theology which affirms an orthopraxy in which partnered gay persons may pursue their ministry aspirations to the fullest extent. We have not yet made that reception. The Bishop of Auckland is right to resist changing the theology of this church by unilateral action. At risk of appearing to act unjustly, even oppressively, +Ross is acting with the proper integrity of a bishop, as one who has sworn to uphold the faith we have received. Conversely, the faith we have received may be stretched and deepened, in a 'new reception' (so to speak), and that will only happen if possibilities for such stretching and deepening are voiced: Glynn Cardy has also acted well in giving space for that voice to be heard.

One dilemma as a church contemplating receiving an enlargement of orthodoxy is this: to what extent in a globally connected age, in which we are not and cannot be innocent about the impact of our decisions on others in the global Anglican family, does reception for us take account of reception by others? A little pointedly, given our own Archbishop David Moxon is a co-chair of ARCIC III, if we (the Communion) are engaged in a global conversation with the Roman Catholic church on matters of ethics, why we would we (ACANZP) not be engaged in a global conversation with our brother and sister churches in the Anglican family on one such matter? Another dilemma is whether we are willing to engage with Scripture to the depth which such reception requires, and in a manner which takes very seriously the sweeping arguments, as well as the details, in a book such as 1 Corinthians (as noted by Bryden Black in a recent comment). Our series of Hermeneutical Hui have been a beginning in that engagement, but (arguably) only a beginning.

In the 1970s our church found a way to receive the truth that women might be ordained as priests and bishops as part of an orthopraxy which was in harmony with orthodoxy (that is, we had no significant, schism-inducing division when that decision was made). At the time we walked in harmony with some members of the Communion and not with others, but the Communion as a whole received the possibility that we might be a 'both-and' Communion in respect of this matter. Things are a little different today. In what way would reception take place in our church if there is to be change? If reception does not work out for our church, can we continue without change with a glad heart, free of charges that we have sided with oppression?

ADDENDUM: A friend and colleague has drawn my attention to these links worth reading in association with the above post, and comments below: here and here. It interests me that St Matthew's-in-the-City highlights offence (not giving it), and moving away from offending the Anglican Communion (i.e. to being willing to offend it) as keys to resolving the debate. On the one hand there is an interesting contradiction there (how do we know what the gospel is while the rest of the Communion does not). On the other hand, focusing on our Kiwi context, my stick in the fire of the debate is, 'Do we want to split our church wide open?'