Friday, September 30, 2011

How Not To Comment On This Site

To another post I have rejected the following comment:

"But it is open season on the TEC Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts-Schori because you have no admiration for her.

How about those prince bishop clowns from Africa? They live in Africa, but do not have the balls to confront what is happening in Zimbabwe, in their own backyard, but they can let wealthy Statesonian schismatics foot the bill for a luxurious trip taking them half way around the world to meddle, suck up to a ruthless regime and criticize other provinces, but hey, you likely admire them."

Let me give my reasons:

(1) A judgement is being made on whether or not I have any admiration for ++KJS without supporting evidence being given so that the effect of the judgement is to presumptuously offer insight into the state of my soul. As a matter of fact I admire some things I see ++KJS doing and saying and do not admire other things. As occasion arises here critical comment will be made on the statements or actions of leaders within the Communion who catch my eye, the critical comment matching the degree to which I assess that leader having influence over the future unity of the Communion.

(2) "clowns" is not an acceptable term to describe any fellow Anglicans in a general statement about them.

(3) "schismatics" is a publishable term but controvertible as it is a moot point on this site as to whether the "schismatics" are those who left or those who have driven their former church to the point where those who have left have felt they had no other choice but to leave.

(4) "to meddle, suck up to a ruthless regime" is an accusatory statement about the leadership of bishops which is so vague and general as to warrant not publishing. Yes, bishops have  criticized other provinces. 

(5) "but, hey, you likely admire them" again a judgement is being made without evidence as to what is going on in my soul. As a matter of fact I admire some things I see some African bishops doing and saying and do not admire other things.

I request commenters here to raise the standard of comments and to refrain from terms of abuse and presumptuous judgement about the attitudes and motives of myself and other commenters here. Let's stick to discussing issues, questions, known facts, and published opinions.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aftershock aftershock

Taonga this afternoon carries this bombshell re major church insurer in NZ refusing to insure for earthquakes in the future:

Church insurer stops quake cover
The impact of the Christchurch quakes on churches throughout New Zealand became more stark today – with the announcement that Ansvar New Zealand, the company which insures most churches here, will no longer provide them with earthquake cover.

Since last September, Ansvar New Zealand has had to handle $700million of earthquake-related claims – while over the same period it received just $35million in premiums.

As a consequence, the international credit-rating agency AM Best has downgraded its assessment of the niche insurer's financial strength from A- to B++.

On the back of this downgrade, Ansvar New Zealand has announced that it will write no new earthquake cover – with immediate effect – and will only renew earthquake insurance until December 1 this year.

In effect, says Don Baskerville, the Chair of the Anglican Insurance Board, this means Anglican churches throughout the country have been given six month’s notice, because their policies are renegotiated and renewed, en masse, by the AIB in April next year.

He describes Ansvar’s decision to pull out of the earthquake cover market as “disappointing – but not surprising.”

While Anglicans won’t have to deal immediately with insurance convulsions, other denominations will.

The Baptist churches, for example, must renew the insurance on their churches this December.

The impacts of the quake – and of Ansvar’s exposure to it – won’t just be felt by all Anglican churches in New Zealand. In some ways, the ripples are being felt throughout the Communion.

Because The Ecclesiastical Group, which brought the Ansvar business in New Zealand and Australia in 1998, was set up by the Church of England in 1896, and is the main insurer to this day of British churches.

According to Michael Tripp, the CEO of The Ecclesiastical Group, the Canterbury quakes “have produced the Group’s biggest ever series of losses.

“Although we are well protected by our reinsurance programmes, we have nevertheless experienced gross claims… of over 250 million pounds sterling.”

“We have therefore taken the decision to cease writing any new business from our Ansvar subsidiary in New Zealand…”

According to one observer, Ansvar’s decision to pull out of offering earthquake cover to the churches may set up “an arm wrestle” for the churches' insurance business.

Anglican churches are required by canon law to have cover not only for earthquake and fire damage, but also for “material damage” (anything from theft to being hit by a runaway truck) as well as personal indemnity.

Ansvar won’t want to lose its church material damage and indemnity business – and it has announced that it will set up a special team by January 1 to explore placing earthquake cover for clients in other markets, such as Lloyd’s of London.

On the other hand, the various denominational insurance boards may not want to fragment their business between two or more insurers.

According to our observer, the crippling losses suffered by Ansvar New Zealand are an illustration of the risks that face a small niche insurer. Ansvar specialised in providing insurance to churches, and to heritage buildings – both of which suffered disproportionate damage in the quakes.

The Ansvar decision is sure to be the focus of discussions at a seminar being hosted on Monday in Wellington by the Anglican Insurance Board.

Both the senior managers of Ansvar New Zealand and Ansvar Australia will be at that meeting.
The silver lining to this dark cloud may be lower premiums than expected (measured against some information about horrendous increases to premiums). The dark cloud will concern churches in other cities which experience an earthquake.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keeping watch on America

Faster than speeding neutrinos, news flashes out from the USA at a rate which is hard to keep up with. In the last day or so has come the announcement of Rob "Love Wins" Bell leaving his pastoral position at Mars Hill church, Michigan in order to circulate the world as a speaker and writer sharing God's love everywhere. But this is an Anglican blog so we pass reasonably quickly over a story involving a church of 7000 people and pause not to wonder if any Western Anglican church is or could be that large and what it would take for Anglicans to be so popular in the Western world. We do not, however, need to pass out of the USA to remain in Anglicanland.

This blog has kept an eye on the Diocese of South Carolina and its journey as a conservative-but-we-are-not-leaving-TEC diocese. For some time the official, canonical forces of TEC have been marshalling for a pre-emptive strike on the diocese and the progress of that opposition can be caught up with here.

The Diocese of South Carolina, should things get worse for it, should be prepared for anything to happen to it, including the bizarre and the unpredictable. Careful readers here will have noticed that I have often been taken to task for my support for Anglican churches in North America which have dared to leave TEC or ACCan, it being argued that these churches have been stealing the family silver as they have sought to retain the properties in which they are used to worship. Aside from the ugliness of the phrase, 'stealing the family silver', there is the modest question of how much those churches may have contributed to the purchase of the silver and its cleaning and polishing. But, be such arguments as they may, some churches have left TEC without any fuss, leaving their properties and taking nothing with them, not even the paper clips in the office.

On the 'stealing the family silver' argumentation you might think that such churches, that is, such congregations of people leaving their buildings and their association with TEC, have moved themselves freely and decisively beyond the grasp of TEC. But you would be WRONG.

Read here about the extraordinary attempt of one diocese to request departing Anglican people, having left all property and claims to the property behind them, to nevertheless pay up their former obligations to the diocese.  Nuts!

Anyway, I am looking forward to TEC-supporting commenters here explaining the logic behind this diocese's letter to departing Anglicans.

Finally today, and still in the world of Anglicans who are not Episcopalians, my former colleague in the Diocese of Nelson, Julian Dobbs, has been consecrated a bishop to serve in North America. He has moved a long way in ministry experience since starting as a lay youth worker in Westport having graduated from our St John's College too young to be ordained! Now I wonder what will happen if he returns to minister in NZ and seeks a licence?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not the slightest bit of sympathy

We live in a world on the verge of economic collapse, in which people continue to starve in countries far away while nearby citizens of Christchurch live in despair of their personal futures. Yet other citizens of our fair city are bemoaning the loss of heritage buildings, gaining publicity from our irresponsible local newspaper for their views on saving stones and restoring crumbling buildings. Thus we have a headline in this morning's Press "Church's hasty demolition 'absolute sacrilege'" promoting the views of a critic of the demolition of Holy Trinity Avonside. +Victoria Matthews has defended the moves,

"Bishop Matthews, however, said the church had been a "very, very perilous building".

"It was a beautiful building, but my priority has to be humans and the safety of the community. It wasn't a time to take chances." "
+Victoria is absolutely right. So why not a headline such as "Bishop saves lives with courageous wisdom" or "Life more important than art, says bishop"?

The Press is working a bit of theme today as the front page lead article is headed, "Historic Places Trust is 'gutless' in the face of Cera [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority]"

Again, because some people feel buildings should be saved and because an overseas expert flew in and out of the city saying they could be saved, a local politician joins in with a refrain about gutlessness. The issues have nothing to do with courage and a lot to do with safety and with money. Of course any damaged building can be repaired (especially if internal walls are made of steel girders, and then stones are rebuilt with steel rods) but who is going to pay for it, and who is going to risk life and limb in deconstruction stone by stone? It is not courage to stand beneath a stone wall in a shaky city, it's foolishness.

Driving around Christchurch, seeing these damaged heritage buildings, one can see the complex nature of old stone construction. There is nothing simple and therefore nothing inexpensive about deconstruction, and any reconstruction is not going to be via the old techniques such as internal and external walls made of stone and filled with rubble. At best we will have rebuilt buildings that look like the old ones but in reality are modern buildings filled with steel.

Taxes and rates are going to be high enough contributing to the transitioning of people from red zoned land and rebuilding infrastructure and facilities, to say nothing of paying new high insurance premiums on government and council buildings, without paying for restoring hundreds of heritage buildings. It is reasonable to save a select few buildings with public money such as our Arts Centre and the Provincial Chambers, partly as a snapshot of our past and partly as tourist attractions, but beyond that I see no reason to save old hotels and shops on the taxpayers compulsory donations.

As for the likes of Holy Trinity Avonside, if we are fortunate as a diocese we may be able to save one or two of our lovely stone churches, but they will be the least damaged ones not the most damaged. The gospel does not demand the preservation of old buildings no matter how beautiful and historic they are. Our funds (such as we have) are best invested in the future of the kingdom, not in the past.

So, not the slightest bit of sympathy from me re our heritage as bemoaned in these articles. I am with +Victoria 100%.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Could 'catholic' mean accessible?

Tomorrow the first meeting of the Diocese of Christchurch's Strategic Working Group will take place. Our role, in broad terms, is to think about the 'big picture' for the Diocese in this new 'post quake era.' Concurrently the Diocese is holding three consultations concerning what the people of the Diocese want to say about important values in respect of the guidelines which will shape designs for new and restored buildings.

Speaking again in broad terms, I sense a strong aspect of the voices speaking up at this time is engagement with the community around us: we want buildings that can serve our communities and ministries within those buildings which are outward looking. Another way to say this could be to talk about new futures for Anglican churches which enhance accessibility of our churches. Our gospel mission is not solely about how we can get people into our churches, but the fact is that once some kind of building exists as a church building there is always a question of whether people feel drawn past its doors or inhibited from approaching the doors - no matter how many signs are erected saying "All welcome."

In my own reflecting on these things I am wondering whether the term 'catholic' which lies at the heart of being Anglican is related to accessibility. If 'catholic' is about the universality of the church - what we believe and practice and whether it is the belief and practice of all, some or just a few - then 'catholic' intrinsically relates to accessibility. Can all, some or just a few access what the church offers in its gatherings?

But this - my musings continue - is more than a question of whether the doors to a church building are open or not or whether all people are welcome to come in to participate, it is also a question of whether what we do within the church building is accessible to whomever might enter. Our liturgies in the 21st century also need to be accessible.

Well, I will stop there, just before poking a stick in a hornet's nest!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quite a good night really

Made it back from a lovely training session in Hokitika yesterday in time for NZ v France (39-17 [corrected: 37-17]) and learned later that the NZ Warriors beat the Melbourne Storm 20-12 to secure a place in the National Rugby League Grand Final - only the second time the Warriors have made it to the GF. The All Blacks were brilliant. Each of their five tries were spectacular. The whole game was exciting to watch. But pray that we do not have that referee again in any of our knock out games. And in breaking church news I am off soon to hear one of our trainees preach :)

On a more serious note re church news, George Conger reminds us of the ways in which all is not well in the Anglican Communion if we are thinking in terms of a bunch of happy campers with ++Rowan as the camp director.

Friday, September 23, 2011

We're all doomed, doomed I tell you

That Scottish guy on Dad's Army used to say something along the lines of this post's title. I think it's time for a round up today of eye-catching postings around the Anglinet, but right at the start let's acknowledge that some of the concerns of Anglicans pale into insignificance if the world is, indeed, on the verge of the second dip in a double dip recession. How many dips does a recession need before it becomes a depression?

Also no posting tomorrow so the links below will have to suffice for a day or two! I am off to Hokitika tomorrow - hoping there is no snow on Porter's Pass and Arthur's Pass when I cross early in the morning, nor on return late in the afternoon ... I would like to see the All Blacks play France at 8.30 pm. Priorities!

There has been a brouhaha in Ireland over the last week or so since news came out that a senior cleric has entered into a civil partnership with his male partner. Catholicity and Covenant offers a reflection on the Archbishop of Armagh's statement about this and the controversy stemming from it. Catching my eye here is an argument that the Covenant has influenced the statement of the Archbishop. There is also a very interesting point about the influence of 1.10 (1998).

There has been a little bit of discussion here at ADU re 'gay marriage.' I get the impression that quite a lot of discussion is going on in the UK these days, partly because, aside from intra-Anglican discussion, there are some political moves afoot to make changes to legislation. Cranmer's Curate offers a tale of his own role in the wider social and political discussion taking place there.

I am trying these days not to make critical comment from afar about TEC, especially if it is critical of things which are as much a problem for my own church as for that one. Nevertheless I keep an eye on developments in TEC, mainly through Preludium which I think is a blog to watch as it is written by Mark Harris who is not only an astute commentator in general but also has a particular Episcopalian insight being on TEC's Executive Council. Catching my eye this past week or so are some posts - the latest here - in which Mark gives us a window into rumblings within TEC which have nothing to do with Communion controversies, and everything to do with a church facing its present reality of lowering income and aging congregations. Potentially the rumblings could mean a large reconfiguration of the way TEC does its business.

Fr Jonathan at The Conciliar Anglican reflects on the question we might not ever think about, "What would Anglicanism look like without the Anglican Communion? Is it even possible?" That is one to think about. Would it be "Anglicanism" if it had no association with a global body?

Last night Andrew Reid challenged me to comment on a news item here in Kiwiland connected with the Rugby World Cup, namely an icon-like depiction of Jesus as an All Black which is on display at the Wellington Anglican Cathedral of St. Paul. Funnily enough, in the course of an evening spent at the Latimer Fellowship of NZ's AGM, during which the Rev. Wally Behan spoke on the Power of the Word, anchored to reflections on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the thought crossed my mind that the Jesus as an All Black illustration, and reporting of it, has been void of "Christ and him crucified." That is, the fun and games of wondering whether Jesus would be an All Black if he were incarnate in NZ right now, carries the considerable danger of bearing less than full witness to the Incarnate One as the Crucified One. Jesus did not come to be incarnate among us; he was incarnate among us in order to die as one of us for all of us.

Nevertheless I am reminded on occasions such as these that I once saw Jesus playing rugby ...

... it was at an inter-collegiate match at Oxford University!

And finally, in breaking news, disturbing to all conservatives, there are no absolutes. Why, you cannot even depend on the absolute truth that nothing goes faster than the speed of light! Einstein's Theory of Relativity is relative :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You could learn something from this Australian

It is not clear in NZ right now that we have much to learn about rugby from Australia (who famously lost last Saturday night to Ireland, and, in any case, are coached by a Kiwi), but we could learn something from a leading Anglican scholar Bruce Kaye who demonstrates a mastery of history and acute theological and ecclesiological insight in this article on Muriel Porter's recent book about Sydney Anglicanism. (H/T Andrew Reid). I am pleased to find that Bruce agrees with my note on the book a few weeks ago, that the influence of Sydney on global Anglicanism is minimal :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Updates and updates

Bosco Peters has a copy of the Dunedin 'same sex' motion in full here.

Taonga has links to  the summary of Auckland's synod and to a letter from Bishop Ross Bay following the Synod and lots of correspondence to him as a result.

Discuss here, there or anywhere!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Covenant Key to Civilization and Communion Future

Give a certain tendency in our church to oppose the Covenant, it is good to see signs of support wherever they occur. Wellington's recent "Yes" is most welcome. So is this article by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks entitled "How to Reverse the West's Decline" and published in Standpoint (H/T a correspondent who pointed me to Taonga's link to it).

First, Sacks has some excellent things to say about the decline of Western civilization, drawing on the writings of Ibn Khaldun and his conception of asabiyah or "social cohesion." I commend the article to you purely and simply on the grounds of my concern (also posted about below a few days ago) that the West is in decline, soon to end.

Secondly, the article has some very interesting things to say about Covenant! In the specific context of Sacks' thesis about reversing the decline in the West, his reflection on Covenant is the role it plays in social cohesion. But what he says seems to me to be very relevant to the future of the Communion as it engages with the possibility that its asabiyah will be enhanced by the proposed Covenant. Read on,

"It is a peculiarity of the Abrahamic monotheisms that they see, at the heart of society, the idea of covenant. Covenantal politics are politics with a purpose, driven by high ideals, among them the sanctity of life, the dignity of the individual, the rule of justice and compassion, and concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger. G.K. Chesterton called America a "nation with the soul of a church". Britain used to be like that too. In the 1950s there was no television at certain hours on Sunday so as not to deter churchgoing. Sundays helped keep families together, families helped keep communities together, and communities helped keep society together. I, a Jew growing up in a Christian nation, did not feel threatened by this. I felt supported by it — much more than I do now in an ostensibly more tolerant but actually far more abrasive, rude and aggressive society.

What is unique about covenant is its seemingly endless possibility of renewal. It happened in the Bible in the days of Joshua, Josiah and Ezra. It happened in America between 1820 and 1850 in the Second Great Awakening. It happened in Britain at the same time through the great Victorian social reformers and philanthropists. Covenant defeats the law of entropy that says that all systems lose energy over time. It creates renewable energy. It has the power to arrest, even reverse, the decline and fall of nations.

None of us should be in any doubt as to the seriousness of what is at stake. Europe today is pursuing the chimera of societies without a shared moral code, nations without a collective identity, cultures without a respect for tradition, groups without a concern for the common good, and politics without the slightest sense of history. Ibn Khaldun, were he alive, would tell them precisely where that leads."

Christchurch Consultations Commence

Last night the first of three consultations in the Diocese of Christchurch took place with a view to formulating design guidelines for our diocesan architects, Warren and Mahoney, as they work with us on rebuilds and new builds of churches and halls.

Around seventy people came during the course of the three hour event in which people were invited to stay for as short or as long a time as they wished.

Six tables of discussion were available for people to sit at. There one could talk with others (including, at each table, at least one representative of either the architectural firm or the project management firm also working with the diocese on these matters). And/or one could write, literally on the table itself which was covered in newsprint, or fill in responses to questionnaires. The six tables/questionnaires had these headings, "Biculturalism, 3 Tikanga, Multiculturalism," "Sustainability," "Visioning our Future,"  "Sacred Space," "Engaging the Community," and "Transcendance and Intimacy."

The event had a good feel to it. I am glad I went to it as I cannot make it to the next two events, 5pm- 8pm, Thursday 22nd September at St John's, Highfield, Timaru and 5 pm - 8 pm, Wednesday 28th September at St Christopher's, Avonhead, Christchurch.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wellington YES to Covenant

Great news coming out of Wellington and its diocesan synod held over the weekend. As Taonga reports,

The Diocese of Wellington supports all four sections of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

After a lengthy debate at the weekend, the Wellington Synod voted on each of the sections.

There was unanimous support for sections 1 to 3, but a formal division was called for on section 4.

The voting on that section was:

Clergy : 63 for; 41 against.

Laity : 52 for; 44 against.

One synod member said he counted up to 25 abstentions.

The basic feeling of Synod was reportedly: "We must preserve unity, and the Covenant will help us do that. And we don't want to find ourselves no longer in full communion because we have not signed the Covenant".

Late in the debate Bishop Tom Brown shared his own views in support of the Covenant.

Wellington is the first episcopal unit in this church to formally support the Covenant.

The Dioceses of Auckland and Waiapu have decided the Covenant does not fit Anglican ecclesiology, while two hui amorangi – Te Manawa o Te Wheke and Te Tairawhiti – have also rejected it.

It now remains for the remaining three hui amorangi and four Pakeha dioceses to respond to a General Synod request for recommendations by the time it meets in Fiji next July.

The Diocese of Polynesia is expected to bring a recommendation next year.
That will be of great encouragement to Covenant supporters in the dioceses and hui amorangi who have yet to vote on the Covenant or not. Three other points to note:

First, the argument reported here which held sway: Wellington wants to be in communion with a Covenanted Communion, not out of communion with it. Our General Synod in 2012, notwithstanding the views put forward in synods such as Auckland, Waiapu (and now, Dunedin), will have to reckon with whether it wants to put our whole church in the position of being a member church of the Communion not in full communion with other member churches or not.

Secondly, Wellington has specifically faced the question of Section 4, a stumbling block to others and to our General Synod in 2010, looked it in the eye, and proceeded to vote for it.

Thirdly, Wellington's next synod will be an electoral synod to elect a new bishop. Effectively they have now limited the field of viable candidates to those who support the Covenant.


When I wrote the above the Taonga report only referred to the Wellington synod. The report has now been updated to report on the synod of the Diocese of Dunedin which has rejected the Covenant. The report also includes a note on a motion re homosexuality, though I am a little confused by what the final amended motion actually said.


Bishop Kelvin Wright (Bishop of Dunedin) himself offers some comment on his synod. Relevant to my confusion expressed in the previous paragraph, he writes,

We also discussed an issue that has been exercising us for many years now, the ordination of people in same sex relationships. Tony Fitchett introduced a motion asking us to accept that people in such relationships should not be denied ordination because of those relationships. The debate was lengthy, honest and at times illuminating. It was conducted in a spirit which was, for the most part deeply respectful; I had a real sense of people on both sides of the issue listening carefully to each other. In the end, an amendment was proposed which affirmed that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ordination, but which removed any reference to relationships. That is, the amended motion served to affirm the situation which has been the case in the Anglican Church for many years. The result was not unexpected, and while it was immediately disappointing for some, I think there was a lesson for me: namely that we have been going about this debate in entirely the wrong way. The argument over sexual orientation is in itself unresolvable, given its basis, on both sides of the issue, in deeply held attitudes to scriptural interpretation, human sexuality, the family, the origins of sexual orientation and a thousand other things besides. So, if the argument is unresolvable, let's stop trying to resolve it. Let's work instead on something that is achievable: learning to live with difference. We have, after all, been living, in real terms, with this particular difference for many many years now.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lacks moral framework. Could collapse.

Is Western civilization on its last legs? Maybe. Maybe not. How would one know ahead of future historians hindsight? So if Western civilization is not on its last legs, might we expect that some things were looking bright? Among those things we might expect a strong and secure economy. Whoops. We could also expect that the future leadership of the civilization would have a strong moral framework with which to engage in decision-making. Whoops. Before rushing to judgement on that one David Brooks, famous columnist at the New York Times, draws our attention to some interesting research. Here's an excerpt from his column entitled "If it feels right ..."

"The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”

Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”

Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”

Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.

Smith and company are stunned, for example, that the interviewees were so completely untroubled by rabid consumerism. (This was the summer of 2008, just before the crash)."
Could Western civilization be closer to collapse than many realise?

Can the Western church save the civilization it birthed?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Public Square - Kiwi style

Readers may be interested in the following notice which popped into my Inbox this morning:

The Public Square

Friday morning, 23 September, between 09:15 and 10:15

A public forum, organised by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, in which a panel responds to questions submitted in advance by members of the audience.
The panel will discuss current issues and the discussion will take place before a live audience and be live-streamed across the country (and the world!) via the Internet. It will also be broadcast live on Dunedin’s own Radio One and be available to download later from the University’s website.
Members of the panel for the first event will be:

National business commentator and writer, Rod Oram

Rt Rev Victoria Matthews, Anglican Bishop of Christchurch

Professor William Harris, Middle East expert and Head of Politics at Otago; and

Radio One presenter and 2010 Dunedin mayoral candidate, Aaron Hawkins

If you wish to view the programme live you can do this simply by logging onto:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sorry, would you mind giving your reasons for going to Fiji again

Here is a compelling case for no NZer to visit Fiji, courtesy Stuff.

So, tell me again why our General Synod is proposing to hold its next meeting in Fiji?

Should we be sorrowful that hell might be empty?

Ben Myers who teaches theology in Sydney (can you guess at which institution?) has a thought-provoking reflection on Rob Bell's Love Wins which was recently discussed here.

What do you think? If God's grace was so big that hell emptied out, should we be sorrowful? (Check first, would I be disappointed to find Hitler was not in hell?).

Is the whole of Western theology missing the orthodox mark, measured by Eastern Orthodox theology?

Could Barth be the one truly great, and greatly true Western theologian of all time?

Monday, September 12, 2011

We need a bass guitarist to lead the Anglican Communion

Yesterday was a good day in various ways. Some details about lunch need not detain us here :), but a morning service with Tallis and an evening service with Hillsong bookended the day, in the middle of which I had some discussion about the Telegraph's speculation re the retirement of ++Rowan (see post below). Some things were not so good about yesterday, including learning at the evening service that the brilliant young guitarist in the music group is moving out of the city. At the heart of future Anglicanism is great music and I am not talking only about music for which the key strategy is refurbishing organs. Last night I was reminded of a church once looking for a new minister which asked a candidate what was the first thing he would do if appointed, and both in wit and in earnest he replied that he would find a bass guitarist.

Future directions are at stake these days, both for the Communion and for member churches of the Communion. But is it possible, however, that in the fight for the soul of Anglicanism today many of us are lost in a time warp? When one of our synods here resolves that a clause in the proposed Anglican Covenant is 'contrary to Anglican ecclesiology' it seems we are fighting about our heritage and how it is to be correctly interpreted. That is a fight worth having - our past has been about seeking the truth. The Reformation was not a blip on an otherwise steady development of English catholicism: searching questions were asked of an accumulating body of teaching and practice which was found wanting in some places where foundations in Scripture were found not to exist. I keep being surprised by Anglicans who seem to think one can be Anglican and bypass the Reformation (cf. some comments about Mary to my post below, A Fine Tribute). Yet the future keeps crashing upon us. Are we ready for it?

In the debates over the Covenant I sense that one large debate is fixated on power and control (e.g. here). The Covenant in this debate is a tool of control, perhaps by named and known figures ('the Instruments' for example), or perhaps by shadowy figures really under the thumb of others ('We all know that X does what the financiers behind X tell  it/him/her what to do'). The debate I am more interested in, personally, is about future coherency of the Communion, not its future control. Do we want a global Anglicanism that has some commonality in doctrine and practice? If we do then we need a bit of control (i.e. a means of calling one another to account). To me that question of coherency is primary, not the question of control.

If we either do not want to ask that primary question, or if we wish to answer it negatively, then it matters little who the next ABC is. She or he will make no difference, beyond some pleasantries mouthed on the occasional visit to far flung places that still print A-n-g-l-i-c-a-n (or E-p-i-s-c-o-p-a-l-i-a-n) on their sign boards.

But should we want some kind of coherency, taking up the opportunity the Covenant provides for us to develop that coherency, then it matters to the Communion who the next ABC is. That person needs some skills both in articulating the coherency (request: please do so using less words than the current ABC) and in presiding over the process of accountability to one another. But as much as anything, the new ABC needs to be better versed in the future of Anglicanism than in its past.

Memo to David Cameron: please quiz possible candidates on their ability to play the bass guitar.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The bits of this speculation about ++Rowan which make sense

Jonathan Wynne-Jones in a Telegraph article says that ++Rowan will step down at the end of next year. Read here and think about it.

The bits which make sense to me are these:

1. ++Rowan has academic life left in his brain so why would he see through 20 years as ABC?

2. ++Rowan cares enough for his successor to step down well before the next Lambeth (2018). That means, surely, no later than 2015. So end 2012, beginning 2013 is not very early by that benchmark. Planning needs to get underway with the new ABC at the helm.

3. ++Rowan by end 2012 will have overseen the legislation on women bishops in the C of E synod either well though its legislative track, or (unlikely) so batted back for reconsideration that there would be no point hanging around for the revised proposal to be seen through to a conclusion.

4. The quagmire the Communion has become re same-sex partnerships, the Covenant and what have you, will not be resolved quickly, and certainly not by 2015. So why not go when it suits ++Rowan rather than wait for some kind of way out of the quagmire to be achieved.

5. ++Rowan is the pre-eminent theological master of the English academic theological scene. Given that he has already had a career at Oxford University, the logical next step is a career at Cambridge University, and the most eminent college there (and the wealthiest re creating professorships) is Trinity.

I am putting some (hypothetical) money on Wynne-Jones to be right.

I am not putting any money on who would be the next ABC but I would be looking for the candidate no one else has thought of!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Fine Tribute

Just today at Post Ordination Training mention was made of former days in the Diocese of Christchurch when two clergy made a great impact through their preaching of God's Word, Roger Thompson and Harry Thomson. Tonight I noticed on the Kiwifruit Blog an item about Roger and Reena Thompson (Roger died a few years back; Reena died just a few months ago). I am glad to link to this article which is written by an old family friend, Ian Nelson.

Personally I enjoyed the ministry of these two men in their later years, their enthusiasm for the gospel undimmed and their faithfulness in obedience to God ever deepening.

Roger was a very witty Bible teacher. I have never forgotten a line he produced in a study on Acts 1.

"The apostles were praying with Mary not to her!"

There has been an extraordinary chain of outstanding evangelical Bible teachers in Christchurch among the Anglican clergy, dating from Canon William Orange and his ministry at Sumner, working through Harry, Roger who were in his Bible Class at Spreydon, then through those in Roger's Bible Class, and on through others.

Rugby World Cup: Praying for Victory

I love rugby. I am less keen on hype around rugby, in particular spending time, energy and lots of words predicting what will happen in the next game. In the end the scribes and commentators have no idea what will happen. The game is where the action is and where the result gets decided.

I love my country and would like to see our team win the World Cup. But the widespread anxieties about this increasingly mean that we need to win the thing so we can stop talking about not winning the thing, rather than win the Cup for the sake of winning the Cup!

I imagine few overseas readers will understand the importance of rugby to our country since only New Zealand and Wales have rugby as their dominant national game. I sometimes think that the All Blacks are our Manchester United and our whole population (minus the few who say, "I can't stand rugby") are its fanatical club supporters.

Are there connections between the All Black squad and our Anglican church? Well, the connections that are there are not well advertised. I can think of one player regularly worshipping in an Anglican church. Another player is the nephew of one of our priests. A photo shot on the news last night showed another player when he played for his Anglican school 1st XV. Readers here may know of other connections!

The more important question theologically at this time is whether we may or should pray for victory for the All Blacks. Tonight, for example, on whose side will the Lord be? The All Blacks play Tonga, a nation with a very strong connection between church (largely Methodist) and society (I imagine at some point the Tongan players will gather on the pitch for a prayer). The cynic might say that whoever is praying for whom the Tongan team does not have a prayer (i.e. cannot win)!

On the whole I think we should pray for the All Blacks to win the Cup. Pastorally we have the most to gain in terms of healing of past memories and receiving of future peace. Why would the Lord not wish to grant such blessing to our benighted nation?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What would our liturgy look like if youth led it?

An article by me in our church's Anglican Taonga on common worship has been taken up by Bosco Peter's at Liturgy, with some good discussion emerging in comments there.

A key passage in the article is this:

"Here is a law of worship participation which, with a very few exceptions, I propose holds true throughout our church today: the closer a service adheres to our liturgical history, the older and the smaller will be the congregation; the converse being the younger and larger the congregation in an Anglican parish, the further will be the service from that liturgical history.

Our risk is that pressing for greater adherence to liturgical history as central to our identity could lead to the demise of our church. But there is a risk which runs in an opposite direction: if less and less holds new generations of Anglicans together liturgically in the 21st century, what will form the real content of the word Anglican? I do not deem it sufficient in the long run that by Anglican we mean that the bishop turns up once a year to wave the Anglican flag and once a year a few clerical and lay reps leave the parish to attend a mysterious gathering known as ‘synod’!"

Last night in a conversation about the bones of the discussion at Liturgy - why is my rule about liturgical life here true, what could be different so that my rule turned out not to be true in the future - I mused aloud about the following possibility:

What would our prayer book liturgies look like if we asked young people to prepare and to perform them with just one stipulation: the words of the service chosen must be followed as printed in the prayer book. That is, everything else about the service would be worked out by a generation that knew not the BCP, Hymns Ancient and Modern, and some (in my view) unhelpful settings of the sung Lord's Prayer. Setting out of the church, use of paper or not, projectors or not, music to be used, stylistic features (including whether any one wears robes or not): all that kind of thing would be handed down a generation. What would our liturgies be experienced as? I sense that we would have liturgies which were attracting to a different generation from the generation which is mostly gathering in most of our parishes for prayer book services.

Of course, heading in this way might have the effect of driving older folk away - I am sure drums would be involved in this new worship paradigm and they are not to the taste of all older folk. So a balanced approach to transforming our parishes to places of inter-generational congregations would be the way to go!

A further point that comes to my mind as I reflect on these matters concerns whether the issue in our church is a lack of training and formation in liturgy, or a poor training in liturgical formation. Perhaps it is - there is a danger that to defend the point over vigorously would be a defence of myself (now in the eleventh year of being a contributor to education and training in our church). But I wonder if instead or as well, the issue is also one of vision.

I can imagine a way of doing liturgy in our church which is better suited to inter-generational worship because I have seen it done ... it is just that mostly I have seen it done in Roman Catholic parishes here. Are many Anglican priests in these islands locked into a way of doing things in part because we have not seen another way? I say 'in part' because I think we are also locked into certain ways of doing things because of our English Anglican heritage which has bequeathed to us the glories of the choral tradition with their integrated formality in style so that, even in parishes which have long since lost the resources to maintain the choral tradition, the formality remains. Conversely, in parishes which (perhaps rebelling against the formality?) have moved away from prayer book liturgies, a different form of 'locking in' to a (more recent) tradition may have occurred. Heading back towards the liturgy is not envisioned because another way has not been experienced ...

Or, I could be quite wrong ... what do you think is going on here in ACANZP ... if you are overseas, what is happening in your patch re liturgy being embraced by all generations?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shaken but not stirred

A reflective report on our recent Diocese of Christchurch Synod, 2-3 September, 2011

In 2010 the September session of the Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch began with a service in Christ Church cathedral on Friday evening 3rd September. At 4.35 am the following morning the synod was effectively postponed by the 7.1 earthquake that shattered all illusions that Christchurch was a safe city in these shaky isles. Although the synod reconvened later that year, most of its time was taken up with post-quake issues and questions. Subsequently the quake on 22 February led to the postponement of a planned synod session in March to discuss the Anglican Covenant. Thus the session of synod just held was both an opportunity to further discuss post-quake (i.e. post-quakes plural) developments and to engage in some normative synodical discussions (apart from the Anglican Covenant which will be discussed in March, 2012).

The Diocese of Christchurch has been shaken by the events of the last year. Some felt that this synod we might have had some stirring going on - in many cases of damaged property, the process of restoration has been very slow, due to seemingly unending conversations between insurers, engineers, assessors, and parish and diocesan officers - the expression of stirred up frustrations would have been natural in the setting of synod. In fact, however, the session on post-quake responses was conducted in a good and gentle spirit. Key pieces of the process of restoration which were revealed were announcements that the diocese is engaging the architectural firm Warren and Mahoney to assist with design of new and rebuilt buildings and that there will be a Diocesan Strategic Working Group, chaired by Bishop Victoria Matthews, to work on the big picture of the post-quake future of the diocese.

Interspersed with the usual business of synods - accounts, reports, budget, and attempting to improve existing statutes, matters of interest ranged from Fiji to a General Synod commission, and from liturgical to housing concerns.

On Fiji we voted to recommend that General Synod not be held in Fiji in 2012 unless Commodore Bainimarama puts in writing that there will be no interference in the business of GS. In another resolution we noted the establishment of a General Synod commission of eminent persons to make recommendations to GS concerning same sex partnerships and the ordination of ministers in same sex partnerships and committed ourselves to praying for and engaging with the commission.

Concerned that we did not know precisely what status we were voting for 'Ashes to Fire' liturgical resources to have, we voted against confirming a GS statute authorising these services for use: our uncertainty concerned whether the specifics of the statute mean that these would become the only resources we might use during Lent, Holy Week and Easter. In another motion we also voted for requesting General Synod review existing canons concerning liturgies, believing that currently our church provides a confusing array of possibilities for different statuses of liturgical material.

Finally of note, we agreed with the Rev Mike Coleman, a resident in the Avonside 'red zone' that we want the government to review the deal it has offered Christchurch property owners in the red zones with a view to encouraging the government to challenge insurance companies to honour full replacement policies, allowing people an RV review, encouraging CERA to find affordable housing for people and to be open and transparent with the handling of Red Zone issues.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Our urgent need as a church in these islands

Beyond questions of catholic, evangelical, protestant, reformed character to our Anglican church in these islands, and certainly beyond whether we should be wearing these rather than those robes, or indeed any robes at all, the urgent question for Anglicans in these islands is whether we are willing to address the question of our continuing decline. Or not.

Tucked away in our Christchurch synod papers were statistics for our annual attendance, statistics which show continuing decline. Though we do not share these diocesan statistics with each other in our church, I would be surprised if any other episcopal unit was showing definitive signs of a trend in growth. (Even the Nelson Diocese, famous for growth in the 1990s, has been declining in the 2000s). Likely we share this decline with other denominations, at least the historic ones (save perhaps for the Roman Catholics). But I will let their bloggers speak for themselves. What might Anglicans think, say and do in order to be a church with a future?

The urgency of this question, we might begin by noting, is not only about regional or national statistics. Supposing we had all those stats at our finger tips, the graph of decline would see us existing as a church for at least a century to come, both regionally and nationally. (Our Christchurch annual attendance, for instance, is in the 400,000s, so it would take a while to whittle that down to zero). No, the urgency is that at the level of parishes and rohe, some will not exist in twenty years (or less) time. Further, closing parishes and rohe down could exacerbate regional decline (i.e. when down to the last twenty at worship and the decision to close, say, via amalgamation is taken, all twenty may not simply transfer to another church - there will be statistical bleeding in the process). Readers here may recall me posting about 18 months ago my shock at the number of Methodists churches for sale or recently sold in Christchurch. Their fate could be our future unless we address the situation with boldness and preparedness for change.

The urgency of the question posed above, we might also usefully note, is not the same as the urgency of the question of the general future of church-going Christianity in NZ: there are plenty of large churches in a city such as Christchurch, filled with young people (meaning, children, teens, young adults, young married couples) carrying within themselves the hope of the future of Christianity in these islands.

No, we Anglicans face the questions of whether or not we have a future beyond the end of this century, and what character to our life will best take us forward into that future.

The decisions of the synods of the Dioceses of Auckland and Waiapu at the weekend raise for me several questions about our future if they are joined by other dioceses in rejecting the Covenant and in pushing for quick action on the blessing of same sex partnerships.

(1) Could we become the church characterised in public perception as 'the gay church'? Would that be good for our future existence beyond this century?

(2) Does an unwillingness to embrace the Covenant represent a deep seated antipathy to doing anything substantial together in respect of joining in a combined strategy for evangelism and outreach, and for training and education together towards a coherent national mission and ministry?

Even if these questions are way off beam - I am confident commenters will tell me one way or another - the urgent need of our church to address the matter of decline remains. It is simply a fact that we have a significant number of parishes over-represented by elderly people in their Sunday congregations. These congregations have no future unless there is change. Whether the change is to the style or the substance (or both) of the service, in my judgement some radical change is required in these congregations or they will cease to exist. In a number of parishes these congregations are the only congregations, so the future of the parish as a parish is under threat.

A lurking question is then whether we can make the necessary changes in an Anglican way or not. If we make change in (say) a Pentecostal way, that will as surely lead to the end of Anglicanism here as if we make no change at all.

In my view change in an Anglican way will require us to hold our catholic and reformed heritage together very tightly, judiciously employing our protestant character (i.e. willingness to do things differently) along with an evangelical passion (i.e. urgency to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ).

Time is running out.

All is not lost. I remind readers here that there are many examples of vibrant Anglican congregations in these islands, peopled in a balanced manner with young and old. But in every case I can think of some kind of radical change  has taken place to the way things were once done in these ministry units.

Radical change is only painful when it is resisted!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Waiapu and Auckland: Predictably Protestant Anglicans

If you had asked me last week which diocesan synods in our church in these islands were most likely to approve resolutions against the Covenant and for the blessing of same sex relationships and/or ordinations of partnered gay or lesbian ministers, then I would have said that Waiapu and Auckland would be high on the list, along with Dunedin.

So it has come to pass at the Auckland and Waiapu synods that predictable motions have become resolutions of these dioceses, as you can read in Taonga here, here and here (with a general Covenant round up here).

Is the writing on the wall concerning the Covenant and our church? With two (of five) hui amorangi of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa and two (of seven) dioceses of the NZ Dioceses voting against the Covenant, even if all other episcopal units vote for the Covenant, we are a church divided on the Covenant at a synodical level (i.e. not just at the level of bloggers and commenters exchanging opinions). Since the Covenant is a document expressing the catholic longings of global Anglicanism to be coherent in theology, consistent in praxis and united in fellowship it is a-catholic of our church to think that a divided General Synod can sign the Covenant. If we are not united about the Covenant then we should refrain from signing.*

It seems that the substance of the anti-Covenanters' theology is protestant in the sense of exercising the right to protest against an attempt to develop the substantive catholicism of our church as a body with coherent doctrine measured against the doctrine of global Anglicanism. In terms of style, ironically, many of those voting against the Covenant will have been catholic (or should that be 'catholic') - our church is an odd beast these days, trending in some places towards greater catholic style in liturgical worship which often obscures an increasing liberalism in theology.

Our church is a confused church in many ways, but most importantly I raise the question whether we are confused about the nature of the church. As simply as I can put it the confusion concerns the church as the body of Christ, a unified body with diverse members. In our church we often seem to wish to preserve diversity at any cost and look suspiciously on all attempts to enhance our unity. This is a deeply unbiblical theology (cf. Ephesians 1). I wonder if the Auckland and Waiapu synods reflected on the implications of their protestantism? Were chasubles left hanging in the vestries as an expression of renewed protestant fervour?

*Astute readers may wish to ask whether I think it worth my own local diocese, Christchurch, pursuing its discussion of the Covenant in its next Synod in March 2012. I think it is worth pursuing on the following grounds:

(1) The Covenant is a great idea and Christchurch Anglicans should not be deprived of the opportunity to say so.

(2) It is early days yet for seeing where the global trend of reception or rejection of the Covenant is heading. Suppose by our General Synod in July 2012 we learned that 30+ churches in the Communion were accepting the Covenant, we might go into that GS wondering whether the GS decision itself ought to reflect diocesan and hui amorangi resolutions against the Covenant or those for the Covenant. Representatives of the anti-Covenant episcopal units are not bound to vote one way or another at GS.  The members of GS must vote in the interests of the whole church, viewing the Covenant from a different vantage point to episcopal units. On this matter they may need to consider whether going against a tide of catholicism sweeping the Communion is in the interests of our church.

Support for the Covenant by the Diocese of Christchurch (possibly Nelson, Wellington, Waikato and Taranaki, and Polynesia too) would be a sign to our GS that our whole church voting for the Covenant had some support at the level of episcopal units.

Of course by July 2012 it might be crystal clear that a tide of protestantism is sweeping the Communion ...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Frankly, Clearly and Eminently

Not much time on this Father's Day to pen a few words re our Synod which finished late last night. Highlights for me re decisions were these moves of the Diocese of Christchurch:

Frankly, we are cheesed about General Synod going to the Land of No Free Speech, so we recommend our General Synod Standing Committee seeks assurances in writing from Commodore Frank that there will be free speech at GS 2012. Might be whistling in the wind, but worth a go.

Clarity is what we seek from General Synod re the services agreed to by our General Synod according to a variety of canonical rules: so much seems unclear we think it is time for review with a view to a new clarity about what is compulsory, what is not, and what is forbidden. Bosco Peters at Liturgy has the details.

Eminently suitable persons are going to be found to form a commission to helicopter over our church with a view to forming recommendations for GS (likely 2014) re same sex ordinations and the status quo status quoing or not: we noted this, will pray for the Commission, and will engage with the Commission's work. (Again, see Liturgy for a report of a related motion from the Auckland Synod - read further down from the report on our Synod).

What we did not do is discuss the Covenant (we will do that in March, 2012). Again the Auckland Synod has come to a view (a little confusing?) and Liturgy has the report.

Finally, Bishop Victoria has announced the names of her Strategic Working Group to work on the 'big picture' of post-quake diocesan development. I am going to be a non-voting member of the group. The small price to pay re that role is that I will need to be fairly silent on this blog about questions and issues arising in Chch re the quake and restoration of our ministry and mission in damaged areas.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Forgive me for I have Synod

No long post today as our annual Synod, which began yesterday, begins today at 8.30 am and there is much to do before then.

I have no private life ... yesterday a member of Synod asked me if I enjoyed my meal the night before in Auckland (which I did) ... Facebook strikes again :)

Actually I had another enjoyable meal last night in Christchurch at a posh hotel, having first, I need to assure readers concerned for order in the church, obtained leave from Synod from the Bishop.

I shall be there for every minute of today to make up for lost time.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Having Read Rob Bell's Love Wins

I am slightly intrigued by the fuss over this book. What has he said which is controversial?

What Rob Bell has written is a wonderful challenge to all Christians, but perhaps especially to fellow evangelicals: believe in a big God with a heart of love beyond our imagining.

Constantly referring to Scripture, Bell draws our attention to the passages which tell is of the love and mercy of God which is available to all, which seeks to save all, which is restless at the thought of anyone being left out of the new heaven and new earth in which all nations will find a new home. Doing this is a great service to God's church which so often, advertantly and inadvertantly is exclusive in ways which reflect our frail humanity rather than (say) the crisis of decision for or against God.

Has Rob Bell written the perfectly comprehensive book on the love of God?

No. I do not think so.

I find him curiously vague, if not vacant around some key questions/(non)answers in respect of God and humanity and the possible relationship between the divine and humans.

(1) We are not told what happens to those who choose not to trust in God. What does happen?

(2)  Consistent with the bigness of God's love, beyond our imagining, Bell writes, "every single one of us is endlessly being invited to trust, accept, believe, embrace, and experience [the indestructible love of God]" (p. 194). If we assume this means that God has set up the world in such a manner that even beyond the grave there are infinite opportunities to respond to the endless invitation to trust the love of God, where is the basis for Bell's confidence in Scripture?

(3) Being alert and alive to the urgency with which various Scriptures, including some parables present us with the challenge to decide for or against God, Bell writes about 'This invitation to trust' that it is 'infinitely urgent' (p. 196). But how can an invitation which is endlessly repeated be also infinitely urgent?

At best Bell's God, according to this book, challenges all conceptions of God which fall short of presenting the fullness of the big, generous love of God. At worst Bell's God is a con-artist who uses Scripture to make us think we have one life in which to choose to trust God when in reality we have many more opportunities and can forever put off the day when we die to self in order to live for God.

I would buy the book and read it for what is great about the book.

I wonder if there will be a sequel in which Bell tackles the hard questions he does not adequately answer?

It could be called Choose Now: It Really Does Matter.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Liberal Catholicism: do you understand it?

John Richardson writes about Muriel Porter's critique of the Sydney Diocese (cf. my post below). His emphasis is interesting as he offers a counter-critique of Porter's liberal catholicism:

"From an English perspective, however, the threat of Sydney Anglicanism lies not in any political 'machinations', as Dr Porter alleges (I may be wrong, but her account of the 1998 Lambeth Conference seems decidedly far-fetched). Rather, it lies in the challenge Sydney presents to the prevailing liberal-catholic ethos.

In the words of the late Donald McKinnon, a man who had a great impact on Rowan Williams, theological liberals often combine "a nearly complete scepticism" with "an ecclesiological fundamentalism". In other words, they will cheerfully abandon traditional beliefs, but are fiercely defensive of the outward paraphernalia of church life.

Go into a theologically liberal church and you will typically find not radical contemporary worship (as you might expect) but candles, robes, sacraments, rites and rituals - that, and an almost fanatical devotion to the 'special' nature of the ordained 'priesthood'.

Muriel Porter accuses Sydney Anglicans of being 'fearful' when it comes to women's ordination. But in truth, the opposition to Sydney - at least on these shores in organs like the Church Times - is driven by a desperate fear that it undermines the one thing liberal Anglicanism has left to hold on to.

I recall one famously liberal English bishop (now retired) once saying he often doubted, but "never at the altar". Is it surprising that the fiercest reaction comes from liberals regarding Sydney's 'break with catholic order'?

It is Sydney's own 'principled radicalism' in this regard that is the real 'threat'. And sadly this colours Porter's own views, such that she (like others) takes an unfortunate delight in Sydney's financial difficulties or the limited progress of the diocesan mission - as if a wealthy and effective church would be a bad thing. Surely, though, it is the outward forms of nineteenth century Anglicanism which are "scarcely relevant to modern ... life"?"

John Richardson puts his finger on an aspect of modern Anglicanism that I do not profess to understand, namely that form of liberal catholicism in which abandonment of traditional belief is cherished and the outward paraphernalia of ritual is fiercely upheld to the letter of law, lore and custom.

Just before you, dear reader, get all defensive about your version of 'liberla catholicism' please understand that I recognise there is more than one form of liberal catholicism, that is, there are liberal catholic Anglicans willing to abandon tradition both in respect of ritual form and theological content, as well as catholic Anglicans who are mostly traditional in all ways, but tinged with a bit of liberalism (like some evangelical Anglicans :) ).

Or am I misunderstanding liberal catholicism and its varied hues?