Wednesday, November 30, 2011


First week in Advent. Thinking again about the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus. Preparation for that coming includes the church being prepared as a bride for her husband. Just as a bride is thoroughly looked at on her wedding day - the dress, the hair, the flowers ... so we will be judged. What will the Lord find?

An aspiration we can have as that well prepared bride is to be pure and spotless. To be the church God wants us to be, without addition or subtraction. A few weeks ago a memorable phrase was posted on The Conciliar Anglican with respect to Anglican attempts to be and to model for all churches that pure prepared bride:

"Anglicanism offers the pure Gospel, without anything being added or taken away"

In the context of the post the possible "added" things was a reference to Romanism and the possible "taken away" things was a reference to Puritanism. But today we can think of other matters which might constitute additions or subtractions from an Anglicanism which offers pure Gospel. As time permits through Advent I will offer a few thoughts on these matters.

In conclusion today I simply offer this: when the controversies of today's Communion are peeled back to find the core, it is about the gospel: what it is, and whether the Anglican church (here, over there, and everywhere present on the globe) offers that gospel and only that gospel. Being Anglican is only important if it is Christian discipleship faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything we do is measurable according to that standard. Anything we do which fails that standard should be left behind, like the bride-to-be's everyday clothes when she steps down the aisle in her wedding gown.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reason Prevails In TEC's Display of Sanity

Readers here may recall a few weeks back that a series of posts spoke about charges being considered against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina. My personal opinion was that if these charges proceeded then TEC would be heading down a pathway that made it very difficult to maintain a good relationship with this church, because essentially they would be pursuing an Anglican bishop for being, well, Anglican.

Well, some good news all round, for Bishop Lawrence, for TEC, and for those who believe that TEC really does want to be an Anglican church in an Anglican Communion: the charges have been dropped!

Excellent news. Reason has prevailed as TEC has shown its sanity.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Vicar for Avonhead

For a long time now the growth and development of the Parish of St Christopher's Avonhead - the largest parish in the Diocese of Christchurch, also in the South Island, and among the largest three or four in all Aotearoa NZ - have been much noted in conversations around our church, perhaps especially in the South Island, and perhaps most particularly among evangelical/charismatic Anglicans. For some twenty years the vicar at the helm of that growth and development was Mike Hawke. About fourteen months ago Mike moved onto another position and the search process since then has had a hiccup (when an announced vicar-designate decided not to come to the position). Nevertheless the show (so to speak) has carried on wonderfully, especially facing the post-quake missional challenges in Christchurch, with Bryden Black (commenter here) as Helmsman in Charge. And many questions being asked through many months about when a new vicar would be found, could a new vicar be found, where would a new vicar be found, so many in fact that it seemed that this (obviously) lost vicar would never be found.

Well the good news is that the new vicar has been found. Sort of under the noses of the nominators. It was announced yesterday that the next Vicar of Avonhead, Christchurch will be Ian Smith, currently Vicar of Spreydon, Christchurch.

Ian is a very experienced minister who will be a superb leader for Avonhead. I am slightly, okay, quite a lot biased in favour of Ian: he and I were once colleagues in the Diocese of Nelson! Also, it is true that he often laughs at my jokes. Not everyone does.

NZ Aot Anglican church needs to reconnect with all Kiwis, not just the chosen minority

The election results at the weekend shout out to our leadership to connect with the reality of NZ politics rather than their perceptions of NZ politics. A few days ago I posted this provocation (or prophecy?) by one of our few Three Tikanga church officers,

"Christians can’t afford to vote National because if they do they will align themselves with the wealthy landowners of which the Bible speaks, and in doing so will alienate themselves from Christ’s love and presence."
You will not find any disavowal on the internet of this statement by any of our bishops, which is not to say any agree with it, but it is to say that they seem unwilling to check this kind of statement being made on one of our church's websites, as an expression of a viewpoint from one near the top of the administration of our church. I note on the original site of the posting that 159 people "Like" the posting, one of whom is another prominent leader in our church. I consider at least one of the commenters to the post who supported it to be another prominent leader of our church.

The statement above, being charitable, is simply an excessive expression of a viewpoint among our senior leadership over many years now in which the National Party and its approach to economic and social issues is always part of the problem not the solution.

In the citation above it is taken for granted that the National Party is solely and exclusively the vehicle of 'wealthy landowners'. But that is not how the people of Aotearoa New Zealand see the situation our country is in. I think John Armstrong of the NZ Herald is on the money about what happened on Saturday as he gives six reasons why National won the election. Reasons 2 and 6 are the important ones in this context: the economy, and concern about debt. (Incidentally, I suggest there is a seventh reason, which has turned out to be a bit surprising: appreciation for the way National has handled the quakes in Christchurch has led to a significant change in support for the National Party in this city - I wouldn't have picked that from the way the local media has constantly highlighted the negative aspects of the government's response to the earthquakes.)

In other words, to explain the fact that National increased its support in the election, gaining a stronger mandate, rather than lost support as many governments do in successive elections, we can only say that the people have determined that the best interests of our country have nothing to do with kowtowing to the wealthy landowners. The logical conclusion to draw is that the majority of voters believe our 'brighter future' lies in a continuance of the current approach to managing the economy.

Vague theories about the current approach lining the pockets of wealthy landowners and making impoverished peasants of the rest of us lack connection with the sense of the people.

We kind of pride ourselves as a church here on being the church of and for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand: all are welcome, we are inclusive. We sing that chorus again and again. Well, do we mean it? Are the 48% of voters, up from the 45% in 2008, who supported National, to say nothing of the 52.5% who voted National, Conservative, ACT or United Future welcome in our church? Or are we the church who really feel most comfortable with the 38% who voted Labour or Green? (I won't attempt to characterise where the 2.4% who voted for either the Maori or the Mana Parties, or the 6.81% who voted for New Zealand First fit in this reflection: do they increase the 'right, conservative' side of our political life or the 'left, progressive' side or sit otherwise in the political spectrum?)

But to read some comments from some of our clerical leaders over the weekend (e.g. on Facebook) the result is terrible! But what is 'terrible'? That the people have spoken? (Perhaps we prefer dictatorship?) That people have been duped? (One could scarcely call our media sycophantic to the right wing.) That the majority of voters do not understand what is at stake in the choices before them about economic policy? (An underlying presumption here seems to be that clergy know best about the economics of helping the poor, but what if the voters are saying that they believe a strong economy built on as little debt as possible is the best way to help the poor in the long-term? Will we listen?)

As a church which intends (rather than pretends) to be serious about being inclusive and welcoming to all, we may have a serious problem on our hands. To the extent to which we tolerate the kind of statement cited above we are cutting ourselves off from the majority of New Zealanders. If we are serious about inclusivity and welcome then we need to make peace with that majority, with a humble leadership which is willing to learn from the wisdom of the majority, and an open mind to engage in the reality of economics. The metanoia or repentance required may not be on the part of the people of NZ but on the part of the Anglican clergy of NZ!

The alternative is that our church presents itself to NZ society as the church for a chosen minority: what the gospel really means for social and economic life is an amalgam of Labour and Green ideas. Implicitly we actually think the minority of Kiwis - for the left-wing of NZ life on average through the decades constitutes a minority - are the ones really favoured by God. But a church satisfied with reaching out to a minority of a society is a sect not a church ...

Sect or church? For and of all the people or just the chosen few? Which way will our church go as it lives into the reality of life today?

For the record, on Saturday I did not vote for National on either the electorate or the party vote.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


"As long as we understand our primary mission as preserving buildings, maybe we ought to welcome being tossed out."

Breaking news: man rises from the dead

Controversy is already breaking out among theologians over claims that a man has risen from the dead. Even though the body of Winston Peters has scarcely warmed up, disputes are raging already over claims that a resurrection has taken place. +J. Spongebob in a speed draft of a new book tentatively entitled Peters Denial argues that Winnie never really died, just became very weak, until a cup of tea revived him.

Against this 'revivification' theory is an alternative 'construction' theory promoted by communications expert Prof. R. Mordurch who says there is plenty of evidence that an anaemic NZ media, dependent on toxic substances, had never given up an addiction to Wacky Tacky politics and constructed an election campaign designed to reconstitute the presence of Winston Peters in the structure of parliament. No one is quite sure what this means, with some saying that effectively a hologram has been voted into parliament. Others are saying that even if it is a hologram it has more substance than John Key's smile.

But some firm believers in the possibility of resurrection are going around NZ preaching that the resurrection really has happened. That it is more than revivification through a cup of tea, and certainly not a media construction. A miracle has happened. The real body of Winston Peters will take his seat in parliament, eat and drink in restaurants around central Wellington again, and seek ascension to higher office. Already reports are seeping out that many NZers, some former Labour supporters, other older folk cherishing their Gold Cards like talismans, are telling of encounters with pictures of Winston on in which their hearts are strangely warmed, even burning within them.

There have also been warnings that this phenomenon will hang around New Zealand for more than forty days ... indeed the gloomiest predictions are that we might be stuck with Winnie for ever.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Something for Saturday 26th November

Let us remember who is in charge.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

(Colossians 1:15-23 ESV)"

Anglican leader says vote for National will alienate voter from Christ's love

You would have to traverse the history of our church far and wide to find a more provocative statement from one of our leaders than this,

"Christians can’t afford to vote National because if they do they will align themselves with the wealthy landowners of which the Bible speaks, and in doing so will alienate themselves from Christ’s love and presence."
Well it has been said. By our Social Justice Commissioner, Anthony Dancer. Read his whole argument here.

I would not be surprised to see significant reaction to this provocation. It is one thing to critique politicians and their policies and by implication criticise those who vote for those politicians. It is another thing to assert that voting in one particular way will alienate voters from the loving presence of Christ in their lives.

The world really is going to the dogs

One aspect of my role is that I travel around by car. One joy when doing that travel is to enjoy the silence and solitude and think reflectively. Another joy is to play music. A third joy is to listen to Radio Sport where I particularly enjoy Brendan Telfer between 9 am and 12 noon, and Miles Davis between 1 pm and 3 pm. But Miles is going, unwilling to renew his contract as the management of Radio Sport 'changes direction'. Good grief, is nothing permanent in this transitory life!

Reasonable and Holy - online access

My recent post, It's not about the Covenant, has generated lots of comments, many involving Tobias Haller, author of Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same Sexuality. Those comments have included references to a significant review of the book by Ephraim Radner, counter-references to other favourable reviews, as well as urging to read the book itself.

The book can, in fact, be commented on, online at Haller's site called Reasonable and Holy. Head to the left hand side to click on each chapter to read. [This sentence has been corrected].

Ephraim Radner's review in Living Church is here. Responses from Tobias Haller are here, here and here.

Charles Hefling's (favourable) review in the Anglican Theological Review is here.

Depose +Lawrence and the problem of South Carolina will not go away

A brief update on the situation in the Diocese of South Carolina as +Mark Lawrence remains with a discipline case hanging over his head while moving adroitly to permit parishes to freely engage, or not with continuing life in TEC by issuing 'quitclaims' re titles belonging to parishes, this article makes the point clearly that, in the end, the issue is not +Mark's leadership, but the mood and mind of the diocese itself. Take +Mark out of his office and TEC faces the fact that it has a diocese on its books which may not accede to any style of episcopal leadership other than that which +Mark is giving. What is TEC going to do? Discipline a whole diocese? Sue parish after parish for the titles to return to its keeping?

Pakeha can vote for Maori

As we head into the election tomorrow there are good credentials being presented by all the major parties as reasons to vote for them. For 'undecideds' the final determinations likely will represent a calculation on which party has the least set of reasons for not voting for them. One calculation which may or may not enter Pakeha heads is that we can choose to vote for the Maori Party with our 'party vote'.* For Anglican Christians it is worth remembering some special reasons why we might consider this option: the way we govern our own church reflects a strong commitment to partnership based on the Treaty of Waitangi: a vote for the Maori Party is an expression of that commitment in order to be not only a church but a nation working out a Treaty-based partnership between Maori and Pakeha; it is an expression of a commitment to Maori working out solutions for Maori problems in the development of society; and it is a vote of confidence in Maori leadership better understanding Maori life than Pakeha leadership.

The last three years have proven that the Maori Party is committed to work for Maori whatever the nature of the majority governing party. In parliamentary terms, the Maori Party is a proven 'centre' party, willing to work with the majority vote of the people, while offering a constraint and an alternative influence on the policies of the majority governing party. It is not the only proven 'centre' party - there is also United Future. We might also note that the Green Party seems to be incrementally evolving to becoming a true 'centre' party. But the Green Party is not there yet, and United Future's future hangs by a thread as it depends absolutely on Peter Dunne winning his electorate seat once again. Arguably, the one centre party worth voting for if one wants one's vote to lead to actual representation in the house is the Maori Party.

*For readers unfamiliar with NZ's current voting system, we get two votes, one for a person to represent our electorate and one for the party of our choice. The latter votes, added up, yield the proportion of the whole membership of parliament which that party is entitled to. For the purposes of electorate voting a citizen may enrol on the General Roll or the Maori Roll. Non-Maori may enrol on the Maori Roll. No one may be enrolled on both rolls.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I have tried telling you but few seem to be listening

A few commenters here are picking up on my attempts to warn that the collapse of the world finance system may be imminent.  Admittedly I am not even a rank amateur in international finance and global economics. On the other hand you could try to buy some German bonds. Few seem to want them these days.

Of course I am kind of scaremongering, the more so if the sun does not darken and the moon keeps glistening, and the enemy does not arrive at the gates with tribulation never before experienced ... Yes, I am beginning to think about preaching this Sunday, Mark 13:24-37 and all that. Mind you, going back to my first paragraph, the great warning in that reading is "Be alert!"

And you won't hear anything on Sunday morning about Jesus being a scaremongerer.

BREAKING NEWS: Church insurance troubles for many NZ churches including most Anglican churches ... troubled insurer pulls out early from NZ market.

POSTSCRIPT: For a considered, longer, but troubling article on the world economy, read this review of Boomerang.

Choose well

Mark Harris at Preludium has a considered post on the 'lessons from the lands of ACNA and AMiA'. There is 'trouble at t'mill' in AMiA (as reported here and there in recent weeks). I think we need to distinguish between two different polities at work in the respective Anglican provinces, the former IMHO easier to work with for many Anglicans than the latter, not least because its Rwandan provenance has a rigidity to it which even conservative Anglicans do not desire. As far as I can tell AMiA could fail, fall or fade away and ACNA would remain the strong presence in North America which it is seeking to be. I note that my former Nelson colleague, Julian Dobbs, now a bishop of CANA within (alongside?) ACNA, is quoted by Mark Harris. Clearly Episcopalians leaving TEC for other Anglican pastures should choose well.

Putting all previous posts of mine re our forthcoming election to one side, I find that in these last days before the election I am getting weary of our leading politicians' behaviour, obscurantisms and (in)competencies. John Key seemed disdainful of Phil Goff in last night's debate: what is the true character of our Prime Minister? Phil Goff (our Leader of the Opposition) has made a very strong showing in this campaign, but why was that not there before the campaign started? And why has he not been able to summarise Labour's key financial figures with confidence and conviction? Russel Norman presents well as a leader of a rising Green Party and is making noises re economics which make him sound like a contender to be the next Governor of the Reserve Bank (i.e. responsible noises), but that is a smokescreen hiding aspects of Green policy which are highly objectionable (think drugs, abortion, and propensity to spend like there is no tomorrow). Which brings us to Winston Peters and NZ First who is all 'campaign charm' which acts like an opiate to make some among us forget his egomaniacal tendencies to hold this country to ransom: politically speaking I will never forgive him for what he did in 1996, making us wait for a government to be formed which turned out to be the one he had implied he would not support. Thankfully some fascist thugs turned up at a political rally in Christchurch the other night and have been outed as NZ First supporters. Great!?

Further dampening my enthusiasm for this election is the referendum on our electoral system. I am determined to vote against MMP (because it yields too many list MPs who are not responsible to local voters) but cannot make my mind up re a better system. FPP is not for me - I recall how Labour lost elections under FPP in 1978 and 1981 even though more voters in total wanted a Labour government. But which alternative proportionality system is better?

Back to specifically Christian matters in politics. Cranmer has a thoughtful post on an irony in the United Kingdom re Christianity and politics: as contributors to 'big society', Christianity and its network of ministries anchored into the parish system is eagerly and earnestly desired by the UK government; as holders of distinctive values which may clash with secular values and values held by other faiths, Christianity is getting a hard time from the same government. The post points to a conference addressing these matters which has some 'heavy hitters' like John Milbank on the rostrum. Worth going to! For Christian voters in the UK elections must be even more depressing than this one Down Under is turning out to be :(

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Defining the church?

No time to post today, but if you have time, check out this post on "When the church is no longer the church" at Conciliar Anglican. I like a phrase in the essay which (lifted out of context) is this:

"because Anglicanism offers the pure Gospel, without anything being added or taken away".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unless someone finds the kryptonite by Saturday, we could be doomed

As nicked off F/B

For overseas readers: NZ has a controversial politician who is like a cat with nine lives, could be re-elected to parliament this Saturday ... and cause much consternation :(

Too much information

I am very saddened to read this morning's Press with its front-page headline "Bitter row over cathedral plan." You can read the article online here. The "bitter row" concerns the shutting out of the City Council from a process of descision making regarding the partial demolition of the cathedral to make it safe (i.e. leaving the decision making to the cathedral authorities and CERA, the government mandated super-authority over the post-quake Christchurch situation). It would appear the shut out is precisely because the City Council's documents can be requested under our Official Information Act, so removing the Council from the exchange of letters and documents would appear to stymie attempts to make a sensitive discussion a public discussion.

We do not need "bitter rowing" about the cathedral. We need peace, light and wisdom. I am sure that we will have that if we entrust relevant authorities to have their discussion in private. Inevitably there will be disagreements, to-ing and fro-ing on the best course of action to take place. Headlining mid-discussion where the conversation has got to has all the potential in the world to derail the emerging plan. So part of my sadness is that Brendon Burns, a local MP (Labour), has pursued his right under the OIA to secure the information he has. Brendon is a decent bloke but he has made a number of comments in recent months about Christchurch's heritage which, in my view, are at odds with reality - the reality that most of our old buildings are unaffordable to save. Also at odds with Labour Party policy which these days is stressing the needs of solo mothers and their children. Not sure how we help the poor in our country while pouring millions into saving old buildings!

Meantime, let's pray that the future of the cathedral can be worked out in a timely manner without the intrusive voices of media, local politicians and assorted pundits getting in on the act, fuelled by too much information.

Monday, November 21, 2011

AnglicanVote in AotNZ 2011: YouGov

As Anglican voters we have an opportunity to compare spokespeople, prophets, and leaders as they guide us about the state of the world, the issues which burn, and the prospects which face us.
Take, for instance, today and two announcements.

Paul Krugman tells us that the whole world economy could be destroyed, fairly soon. (Handy interactive graph on BBC here).

Meanwhile, also today, our Archbishops and Social Justice Commisioner have made a statement about our forthcoming election in Aotearoa NZ which is, summarised, Do not vote First Past the Post back into the electoral picture of how we decide governments.

These statements will guide us as to how to vote in the election booths this Saturday. One statement handily informs us of the need to be extra-wise about which government we choose. The other helps us to vote wisely in the accompanying referendum.

Here is what I think will happen as Anglicans vote on Saturday re government:

Most of our Pakeha clergy will not vote for National. I have scarcely ever heard an Anglican cleric openly admit to supporting National.

Most of our Pakeha laity will vote for National, especially in our country parishes.

Most of our Maori clergy and laity will vote for the Maori Party.

It happens that for the last three years National and Maori have been a fairly effective coalition. It also happens that Labour (the only alternative leading party to National re a different government) is showing itself to be confused by its own figures about how it would run the economy.

In the light of Prof. Krugman's wisdom, it is a no brainer that we should be voting for National or any party which will support them in government.* At least on the basis that National is less confused than Labour about what to do in the storm we are sailing into.

As you can see from the link above the fact of this no brainer decision is without supporting comment from our Archbishops.

Given that nearly every household in the land will be bitterly affected if the whole world economy turns to custard, it is surprising that the Archbishops have stuck their necks out on the voting systems we will vote on in the referendum, and not on the imminent human travail which we may experience if we miscast our votes in the election itself. They could speak to the dire prospects facing us without going so far as me here saying it is a no brainer to support a National-led government.

Incidentally, for a sermon I preached yesterday re the election, go to my other site.

Of course if Paul Krugman is wrong then you may as well vote as you like!! But what if he is right?

*In my view that means one could vote for National, ACT, United Future, Maori, Conservative, Green with a view to voting directly or indirectly for a National-led government (with only a remote chance of Conservatives gaining any seats, a slight chance of ACT gaining a seat or two, and a possibility that United Future will retain one electorate seat).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flying the Anglican eucharistic airliner on an even trim

Excellent letter on the eucharistic ministry of the Anglican church by Richard Chartres, Bishop of London. His aim is mostly at some silly clerics in his diocese who, ignoring swimming the Tiber and camping beside it (the Ordinariate), nevertheless want to use the latest Roman rite, including its declaration of being in communion with the Pope which is, let's face it, somewhat economical with the truth if you will neither a swimmer nor a camper be. Anyway along the way there is a special mention for us evangelicals, so he clearly wants London flying along eucharistically like an airliner in even trim, both wings in balance with the fuselage. But the whole letter is cool, so read it here. (H/T Thinking Anglicans). I may come back to other parts of its excellency.

Here is a word to evangelicals:

"Our liturgy is one which arises from the command of Jesus Christ, “Do this in remembrance of me” not in order to build a temple made with hands but to build his body which the gospel writers say has replaced the physical temple.

It follows from all this that obeying his command is an integral part of Christian discipleship. In this context there are a number of aspects of our own church life which deserve urgent consideration at the present time.

In some parts of our church it can appear that the service of Holy Communion is an appendix to services of the Word and not accorded the central significance which the express command of Jesus would seem to warrant. The reformers of our own church, Cranmer and Ridley [as Bishop of London] desired more frequent communion than was the practice in the late mediaeval Western church. Calvin also commends weekly eucharistic practice in his Institutes [IV: xvii. 46], “At least once in every week the table of the Lord ought to have been spread before each congregation of Christians.”Despite the teaching of the early Reformers their intention was overtaken later in the 16th century by a near exclusive focus in some parts of the church on the ministry of the Word."
Here is the word to Romanophiles:

"Our part of the Church is not alone in having spent a great deal of effort on liturgical reform. At Advent, our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church will be required to use new liturgical texts. We can always learn from the example of other members of the Christian community and indeed our own liturgy has been reformed by reference to the testimony and practices of the Church of the first centuries.

In former times before the liturgies of our Church had fully recovered these early forms, some of our priests adopted the Roman rite as a sign of fidelity to the ancient common tradition and an expression of our unity in Christ. At best their intention was to contribute to the recovery of a tradition which is both Catholic and Reformed, while pointing the way to the liturgical convergence we now enjoy, not least through the work of the international English Language Liturgical Consultation. They also recognised the proper place in the liturgy of prayer for leaders in the world wide church in addition to our own Archbishop. This is especially true of the Pope, who is undeniably the Patriarch of the West and as head of the Roman Catholic Church is charged with awesome pastoral and missionary responsibilities.

Much has been achieved and the debates of previous generations have influenced the Church’s liturgical practice and contributed to a convergence of eucharistic doctrine and rites. So it is with some dismay that I have learned of the intentions of some clergy in the Diocese to follow instructions which have been addressed to the Roman Catholic Church and to adopt the new Roman eucharistic rites at Advent.

The Pope has recently issued an invitation to Anglicans to move into full communion with the See of Rome in the Ordinariate where it is possible to enjoy the “Anglican patrimony” as full members of the Roman Catholic Church. Three priests in the Diocese have taken this step. They have followed their consciences.

For those who remain there can be no logic in the claim to be offering the Eucharist in communion with the Roman Church which the adoption of the new rites would imply. In these rites there is not only a prayer for the Pope but the expression of a communion with him; a communion Pope Benedict XVI would certainly repudiate.

At the same time rather than building on the hard won convergence of liturgical texts, the new Roman rite varies considerably from its predecessor and thus from Common Worship as well. The rationale for the changes is that the revised texts represent a more faithful translation of the Latin originals and are a return to more traditional language.

Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well. This is a pastoral unkindness to the laity and a serious canonical matter. The clergy involved have sworn oaths of canonical obedience as well as making their Declaration of Assent. I urge them not to create further disunity by adopting the new rites.

There will be no persecution and no creation of ritual martyrs but at the same time there will be no opportunity to claim that the Bishop’s directions have been unclear."
Loving that last sentence, especially the words I have italicised.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Predictable, personal, pressure, praying

The predictable has now happened. The Electoral Commission has referred the matter of the stickers on National Party billboards to the police.

This is very personal with Jolyon's name being specified in the statement issued by the Commission. (Let us remember that he is allegedly but one of fifty complicit in the matter of this organised protest).

I can only imagine the pressure this places on him, and the other forty-nine.

I am praying for my brother in Christ. Will you join me?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Saying grace before our election

For these and all your many mercies, we give you thanks, O Lord.

I cannot recall an election quite like this one before, that is, an election with so many non-issues being dressed up as issues (teacups, storm in; billboards, stickers over*) while a major world economic catastrophe bears down on us like the wolf on the fold or the 10 metre tsunami on the beach. What is not devoured will be swept away if Europe falls, takes the US with it and exposes China's growth as a bubble. Actually, I suspect that the NZ public has some instinct for the crisis in the world and that is why the National Party is polling so highly - not, perhaps, as a lovefest for National but as a trustfest for stable, continuing government. What is far from clear is whether our news media have any sense of a vision for the future of New Zealand. If they did we would expect to see a media scrum around the potential prime ministers and ministers of finance, rigorously and ruthlessly scrutinising their capabilities to lead us through the global crisis. Instead it is blah, blah, blather about nothing at all.

There are, nevertheless, many things we can be thankful for as we run up to the election. Here are three.

(1) That we are having an election at all. Recently governments in Italy and Greece, ostensibly civilised democracies, indeed one is the birthplace of democracy, changed at the behest of the Franco-German alliance controlling Europe. As Damian Thompson wittily asks, How many elected politicians are in the Italian cabinet? Check the link for the answer!

(2) That our election involves genuine choice (a plethora of parties), real prospect of minority voices being represented (porportional representation), and even a chance to change the system of voting (a referendum on MMP).

(3) That, actually, despite the blather of the media and the (mis)leading advertising of our politicians, our country is a great place to live in. That thought struck me recently when I had occasion to visit one of our all night emergency health centres: the variety of people and the range of health situations, at 11 pm at night, including a cough so excruciatingly painful to listen that I feared for my life if I caught the bug, was a salutary reminder that we live in a wonderful place with access to services second to none. The owners of Smiths City might also be thankful, caught out yesterday as they re-opened their quake struck Colombo St store by thousands more shoppers than they had bargained for.

Speaking personally I am still unsure of whom (in the electorate) and what (in the party vote) to vote for. I thought I would have a go at a quiz on the Conservative Party's website designed to tell the participant how conservative they are. I scored 10. The CP want people with a 10+ score to join them in their endeavours. I scarcely qualify in that direction so I remain both "undecided" and uncertain where my values lead me in terms of my two votes!

I imagine most Kiwi readers here would not mind me offering a certain statement about one party I will not vote for: New Zealand First. Even if they were the last party standing I would not vote for them.

*The wittiest interpretation of Jolyon's coordinated campaign I have seen is the description, "Jolyon White ... corrects misleading National Party advertising."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It is not about the Covenant

Tobias Haller might have a claim to be the most learned anti-Covenanter in TEC (if he is not, then I haven't come across the writings of the better claimant)! He has published a major talk (lecture?) given in the Diocese of Albany, entitled. Savi Hensman, writing at Ekklesia, as far as I can tell not a member of TEC, so this is not about her claims v. Tobias', tackles the Covenant from a different angle, pointing to the possibility of a different Covenant which would be 'clearer' and 'less divisive.'

I commend both their offerings for consideration. I find each unpersuasive.

Savi Hensman does make a good point that in the middle of a situation of division, diversity and difference, a new form of the Covenant which is more agreeable would be good. But she does not persuade me that what she cites is that new form. It would be most agreeable to those who do not want the Covenant to have any teeth. Some of us do want a Covenant with teeth, though not to devour people with, but to engage with one another in a manner of life which effects change when change is required.

Tobias' Haller offers various excurses which are tempting to digress upon. I shall resist that temptation, not least because if I do not, Tobias will undoubtedly come to comment and to point out that I have not focused on his main fare. Catholicity and Covenant succumbs. Tobias comments! (For what it is worth, my sympathies are with the former, and if the latter reads this, Yes, I have started reviewing your book and the project is currently in abeyance).

I think Tobias' core idea in developing his thesis that the Covenant is not necessary is this sentence (H/T Titus One Nine),

"In short, the process of organic development is afoot, it is not going to stop, and reception is or isn’t happening as I speak."

Anglicanism, in other words, is this Christian phenomenon which evolves ("organic development"). Nothing can stop the evolution, nothing ought to constrain the evolution. Some receive the gradual changes as they happen, some do not. But eventually all fall in line with the developmental line the Communion takes. In Covenantal terms, this development neither requires the Covenant nor needs constraint by the Covenant.

But right at the heart of the sentence, as Ad Orientem notes in comment at T19, is a sleight of theological hand: 'organic development' can mean two things. For Tobias it means the development of the Anglican Communion in any and every possible way, even in contradictory ways. For others, perhaps especially those with a keen eye on catholicity within our Anglican tradition, it means development of the Anglican Communion in a manner which is coherent and contiguous with what has gone before. If the former view of organic development is accepted then no Covenant is needed and none ought to be applied to Anglican life. If the latter view is held to, then a Covenant is needed and ought to be applied to our life, precisely to guide us as to what is organic development and what is not.

In the end much as I am tempted by Tobias' excurses (which are connected to his overall theme of Anglican Disunion), and by the steps in his exposition that I disagree with, I suggest the most important thing is not to deconstruct his argument and adjunct arguments, but to ask what kind of Anglicanism do we Anglicans want? What Tobias wants is incompatible with the Covenant. What I want is compatible with the Covenant. For Tobias the Covenant is quite scary but not, I suggest, because it might punish this church or discipline that, but because it represents a quite different vision for global Anglicanism. For me it is quite scary not having a Covenant! Not, I hasten to add, because this church might go unpunished or that one might escape discipline. No. Scary because it would mean a different vision for global Anglicanism was prevailing, a vision in which bit by bit 'global Anglicanism' loses its significance. And with each bit, for catholic Anglicans the temptation must grow to belong to Rome or Constantinople. Or the torture must increase for those who believe in Anglicanism as an alternative to the misconceptions of those other branches.

It is not about the Covenant, in the end. The great issue beyond all issues for Anglicans with a world vision is what kind of Anglican world do we want.

Catching Up

The other day I bewailed the fact that among a plethora of commentators on Zac Guildford's public difficulties with alcohol no one seemed to be stepping up to the mark to say 'the solution is: stop drinking.' But now the Man Himself has stepped up. Graham Henry, All Black World Cup winning coach says (my bold),

"I like the young man and I think he has real potential to be a top international rugby player, but the reality is he has a problem with alcohol," Henry said yesterday.

"He is probably an alcoholic and, once he starts drinking, he finds it hard to stop. The obvious answer is he can't go there: he has to keep the cap on the bottle.

"I think his mates have to help him do that too and I think he will have the strength of character to get there in the finish.

"The ball is in Zac's court. He can't drink, simple as that. He has to make that decision and get the support to do that."
I also mentioned the saga about a secretly taped conversation between John Key and John Banks. What a sorry saga that is turning out to be, only we do not know who will be most sorrowful at the end of it, if it ever ends.

Then the matter of the billboard campaign organised by my friend and colleague. That is running out of puff a bit (though some lively correspondence continues on Facebook), partly, changing images, through the sagas above eclipsing it re public interest. But another friend and colleague has alerted me to a well written editorial on the matter in the Dominion Post. Get some perspective, folks, is the gist of it.

If you are looking for other matters to catch up on, then Thinking Anglicans has a round up on Covenant articles (one of which I would like to post on soon, also referring to this response), and VirtueOnline has an interesting interview with Richard Turnbull, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to help the poor

It is fascinating following the way the media take up a story when one knows some of the things going on and/or some of the personalities involved. The story noted in the post below I see today (i) does not make the frontpage of the Christchurch Press (even though a Christchurch man is involved) (ii) fails - as I read across several publications - to make any particular significance of the connection with the Anglican church (iii) in at least one instance makes the bystanding, uninvolved girlfriend the lead 'angle' on the introduction to the story (obviously working the angle of her employment relationship with the Green Party co-leader). Whereas, speaking personally, the interest in the story centres on Jolyon. I would never make a good journalist!

At the heart of the story, including some elements of the offered justification for adding stickers to National Party billboards around the country, is the question of what a 'brighter future' for NZ is, and how that brighter future is reached.

That brighter future, if it is to be a 'national' brighter future and not merely a 'National' brighter future, must be as far as possible a brighter future for all New Zealanders. A brighter future for the wealthy and a hope that some of that wealth will 'trickle down' to the poor and vulnerable is not a brighter future for all. As far as I can tell, that is not the brighter future being envisioned by the National Party. The brighter future for NZ being promised by the National Party includes, for instance, attention to improving education for all so all may have a good starting point for participating in society as adults educated to a basic standard of literacy and numeracy. No party disputes the goodness of this aim but there is plenty of debate about the means of getting there which includes 'national standards' which are much protested about.

In general, if I may stick my political neck out a bit, all our parties in NZ are responsibly committed to a better and brighter future for NZ. All want to put New Zealand First, to advance the National well-being, to commit to a better future for Maori, to ACT now in the best interests of consumers and taxpayers, to seek a United Future, with active concern about Green aspects for a sustainable future, while recognising that Labouring earns that future, not slacking around. The real debate is how we are going to get there, whether as many NZers can be assisted towards that brighter future by this policy rather than that one, and whether we can sustain the ways and means we choose to follow.

I believe as Christians belonging to the kingdom of one who said 'Blessed are the poor' we have a special responsibility to think, plan and work for helping the poor. When we vote in our elections we should be voting for the policies which will do most for the poor. In the wisdom of my now advanced years I think a bit differently about this than when I first voted (in the 1978 election) :). For me the key issue in helping the poor is the economic situation of our nation which, since we are small, involves the economic situation of the world. If we fail to master the best way to manage the economic situation as a whole (to the extent that we are able) then we do our poor no service at all. If we fail to manage the economic situation in the long-term we may do a special disservice to the future poor (e.g. to the elderly in our community in fifteen to twenty years time ... to me, when I am retired!!!!). To give one specific example: if we want great education for all we need a great economy which generates fiscal income which pays for our schooling system and opportunities for our educated youth to work meaningful jobs in the pursuit of good incomes. We cannot have a bad economy and achieve great things for society.

Where I part company with Jolyon in 'political perspective' (as mentioned yesterday) is not over our shared commitment in Christ to bettering the lot of the poor, but in respect of which pathway to doing that is best.

PS Is any reader noticing what I notice as I drive around Canterbury: the National Party is putting a lot of funds into its billboards? I reckon I see about 10 National Party billboards to every 1 Labour billboard, and 50 National Party billboards to every Green Party billboards!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The truth may imprison you in a media vortex

My friend and colleague Jolyon White is revealed today as a direct action taker in political action. Mainstream media have not connected him to the church (to this point), but the blogosphere has.

I fear a media vortex and pray it will not damage Jolyon who is a great bloke. I disagree with his political perspective while admiring his courage in pursuing better deals for the poor. He has tried to tell the truth, but the way it has been done may drag him into a media vortex.

The truth will set you free

This is slightly off [Anglican] topic but en route to a training session on Home Communion/Extended Communion in the Parish of Cheviot last night I listened to a fair chunk of news on the radio. Two news matters were given extensive coverage and both annoyed me greatly.

Recently one of our rugby stars, Zac Guildford, has been in the news for well documented difficulties with alcohol, the latest matter occurring in the Cook Islands a few days ago when he turned up at a bar naked, bleeding, drunk and proceeded to fight some of the patrons. Last night I listened to various worthies on our sporting scene comment on the problem this young man had with alcohol. Everyone spoken to was supportive, wanted to help this young man with his problem, to ensure that no further troubles entered his life (like sacking him from his employment by the NZRFU), and, in repeated refrain, he needs "help". All good. Except I strained and strained to hear the one obvious piece of advice, the clear and present solution to this man's crisis in respect of public life and personal problems: "He needs to give up alcohol. That is the key to moving forward here. There is no solution which involves helping him to handle alcohol better. Abstaining is the help he can help himself with."

It just didn't happen. Despite a series of incidents, one of which led to a public declaration of a problem with alcohol in the middle of the World Cup, nothing seemed to trigger in the minds of the wise and loving people in his life talking extensively on the radio last night the truth that would set him free: no more alcohol!

The other matter was the tape recording of a private conversation between our Prime Minister John Key and a noted politician from a rival-yet-possible-coalition-partner party, John Banks. The conversation was taped by a recording device left in a bag on the table in the cafe where the two men had their conversation. The device belonged to a freelance cameraman who was extensively (and sharply) interviewed on National Radio. He explained that the device was in a bag because he had to act hastily in the midst of a media scrum to get a microphone near the two politicians during a photo op before the private conversation took place; the same scrum forcing him away from the table so that when the media were ordered out of the cafe he was not in a position to retrieve the bag. Benefit of the doubt and all that, we assume the truth is being told here. But what would you and I do afterwards, dear readers? Knowing that it is illegal to tape such conversations secretly (as happened when the microphone kept working unbeknown to John and John) we would delete the conversation and conform ourselves to the law of the land. But that is not what the freelance cameraman did.

He handed the tape of the conversation to one of our newspapers, The Herald on Sunday. At that point I am afraid that I found it difficult to agree with the cameraman's plaintive plea in the interview that it was all very innocent what had happened. No, once that decision was taken, the cameraman entered a world in which the reliability of any truth about the actions and motivations of the cameraman was put at risk. The truth will set you free is normally true. In this case the cameraman's disclosures are better described as 'the truth will imprison you in a jail called 'Conjecture'". He may never escape from it!

I often find that the search for the truth by the media gets very close to it but falls annoyingly short of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Our news via the media is often just news, not good news. The gospel is the good news, the truth that sets us free. Free, not least, to be truthful.

Monday, November 14, 2011


With H/T the Ugley Vicar, something to smile about as we think at different ends of the world about the viccisitudes of being the church in the world, matching the message of the gospel against the economics which massage the gospel to fit the demands of Mammon. Alex is a droll, perceptive cartoonist and this series beginning here (keep clicking on 'next') should bring a smile to readers familiar with our ABC and the dilemmas he lives within.

The first is this:

But if you prefer a smile by watching something with movement, then Rev is the sitcom to watch. Tragically not likely to be shown here on mainstream, free-to-air TV - a sign of the lack of impact church has on our society? With H/T to Revise Reform, here are two beautiful clips. The first offering a clue as to what would get more people into church, the second sending up sweetly the age old post modernist question of whether the church should live on its instincts or its paperwork.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bill is the man, this is no time to take risks

It has been a real privilege this last semester to teach a course on Revelation for the University of Otago. Yesterday I completed marking the last set of essays for the course, which were on the eschatology of Revelation, including work on imperial ideology then and now. Collectively the essays reminded me that the Book of Revelation is a very special book. On the surface it is quite weird - very difficult to understand and to make sense of, especially if one tries to understand individual verses in the midst of visions of strange creatures doing bizarre things. But a reading of Revelation which keeps in mind the whole tenor of the book offers a fairly straightforward message: the world as we experience it has a deeper life in which evil lurks, fostering injustice everywhere and ever looking to strangle God's people, either through the allure of assimilation to idolatry or in straight out violent opposition to those aligned with Jesus Christ. When life seems ordinary, the economy predictable, and wars are faraway, the more obviously relevant reading for Christians seeking guidance about civic life is Romans 13. But in extraordinary circumstances, Revelation is the text to go to.

There we find analysis which acknowledges the tragic realities of human history, that from the ashes of the Weimar Republic the beast of Nazism can arise, or from the utopian ideals of Marxism, the murderous dragon of Stalinism can erupt. More prosaically, perhaps, we also find in chapters 17 and 18 a lurid vision that reveals the simple act of shopping can be the tip of an iceberg made up of corrupt, price-gouging, exploitative commercial practices. Economic injustice fuelled the imperialism of Rome, threatening to destroy the churches of Asia Minor through temptations to fall in with the association of idolatry with business life, refusal of which opened the chilling prospect of assault on the congregations which might snuff out their life in Christ.

As Europe shudders collectively at the invoice for its profligate children's antics, and the rest of the world squirms at the thought of loans not being repaid and goods sent across the sea not being purchased, are we in an extraordinary time? In terms of Revelation 17-18, is the judgement of God falling on the world economy, an overdue reckoning with injustice in the terms of trade between first and third worlds? Indeed, in a secularized Europe, increasingly antagonistic towards Christianity, is divine judgement making its inevitable visit on those who have worshipped at the euroshrine?

Here in NZ we head towards an election in fourteen days time. Is this an ordinary time in which we make our ordinary decisions about whom to vote for? I think not. I think we are on the verge of a precipice, down which no one knows how far we could fall. Sure, we are not as close to the precipice as Europe, but like climbers on a mountain, in today's global economy we are roped together with other nations, in danger of eventually following them as they fall.

So, in this extraordinary time I suggest we worry less about who our Prime Minister will be and more who our Minister of Finance will be. On that logic I am thinking we need to go with the present incumbent, Bill English, and not take the risk of the likely Labour alternate whose grasp of economics includes borrowing in order to invest in sharemarkets. In the vagaries of MMP voting this does not mean I or you would need to vote for the National Party ... even the Greens are making sympathetic noises about working with National. But we would need to take a very careful look at whether this is a time to vote for Labour. As a matter of fact, current polling of the electorate seems to be saying that as a nation we are inclined both to trust the present incumbent's handling of the economy and are not impressed with the alternative.

Of course if we are inclined to think this is an ordinary time, then all bets are off as to whom is better to deal with the ordinary realities of the Minister of Finance's role.

As always, I could be wrong!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Frank said it, I didn't

It's always interesting to read the internal commentary on an Anglican phenomenon such as TEC. I harbour suspicions that all is not well with TEC, but have been taken to task here so many times for raising them that I tend to keep quiet. But former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold cannot be kept quiet (does he keep in touch with Lord Carey?). Here he is ruminating about TEC:

"Take the Washington Cathedral.

It’s the icon of a certain self-assurance in an earlier time, when many people in government were Episcopalians, and Episcopalians were at the top of the main banks, and J.P. Morgan was building the St. Paul’s School chapel. Here’s this great monument to Episcopal ego, you might say, though it is a church for all, and now here it is suffering $25 million worth of damage in an earthquake.

What might be the symbolic significance of this in terms of mainline ego being shattered and dislodged by events? I’m not happy that the Washington Cathedral is damaged, but is it a bad thing to be in some way forced into exile and becoming a remnant?

To use an image from the Old Testament, maybe this is the desert time.

The desert was a period of purification and self-knowledge in order that they were prepared to enter the promised land. All the things that happened in the wilderness, the struggle and the suffering, were part of being shaped and formed and being made ready to enter the promised land, especially where they could receive it as gift rather than acquisition."
Maybe this is the desert time. For TEC. Certainly this assessment makes sense when in recent days both pro and anti TEC sites have published comment on declining statistics (e.g., from the pro side, at The Lead).

++Frank's assessment is quite telling in several ways. Let me count them.

First, the opening up of TEC's theological agenda to broaden the understanding of the gospel in respect of inclusiveness has shown no signs yet of actually including more people as regular attenders at church.

Secondly, for church's such as my own, which has its own problems with decline (though harder to quantify as we do not keep statistics about our overall worship attendances), the way forward is challenging. In broad terms our leadership is sympathetic to the direction TEC is evolving in, that is, to co-operation with changes in Western society rather than to resistance, but dare we follow more fully where TEC is going. Into the desert?

Thirdly, while the desert may be a warm place, it is a chilling thought to think that the evolution of Communion life could mean that ACANZP's closest global fellowship companion will be TEC. Some commenters here joyfully espouse that prospect. I do not.

If ACANZP is heading towards the desert I would like to keep in touch with those for whom the grass is green, the garden is flourishing, the fruit is growing on the vine. Our Communion needs those places. ACANZP needs to be in vital links with growing Anglican churches even as it should not jettison those going through hard times.

That means, uncomfortable though the journey may be at times, that relationships with Australia (definitely including Sydney), with Uganda, with Nigeria, with Singapore, and the like need to be nurtured and not neutered.

We do not all need to be in the desert. There are benefits to be gained from living in fertile land.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New appointment to key role

So when I said I was visiting St John's College on Tuesday two days ago what I was actually doing was going for a job interview there. As interviewer (one of a group of five), not interviewee. At the end of the interviews we reached a decision which I felt very good about. Today, wheels turning quickly, the appointment of the new Dean of the College of the Southern Cross (or Tikanga Pakeha part of St John's College) has been announced. The Dean will be Helen-Ann Hartley. Her bio has a few details which I might get wrong if I work from memory, so head to Taonga to read it all, to say nothing of reading about her in the New Yorker.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sentence of transformation for cathedral

At the heart of this morning's service of deconsecration of Christ Church Cathedral was the 'sentence' of deconsecration, in which the consecrated building was returned to secular use. I know some are reflecting theologically about the use of the word 'secular' in this context, for instance, because its usage outside of church technospeak has an air of 'ungodly space or use' and that is not what we were doing this morning. So think of it as a sentence of transformation in which the cathedral building as an extraordinary space for meeting God within became an ordinary space for meeting God within (or close by, which would be safer). For a full, and proper report, please go to Taonga here. For theological reflection via raising of important questions, go to Bosco Peters' post here.
Here are a few pics from this morning.

All was done decently and in order. +Victoria preached beautifully. The choir sang very sweetly. Dean Peter Beck led us well.

Oh, and here is a thing to ponder re changes to church services: when you bus people to church you can start the service early as you know everyone has arrived!

It was good to give my colleague and friend Hilary Barlow a hug afterwards. Twenty-five years ago less one month we were ordained deacons in the cathedral.

Onwards and upwards, the church is the people and I must away to meet with some of them.

Who would you prefer to spend Holy Saturday with?

Lovely lecture last night with Hugh Bowron speaking on Barth and Von Balthasar re Descent into Hell, under the general lecture series heading of 'Intimacy with God.' Personally I appreciate lectures like this from experts whose knowledge goes well beyond mine and in the process of sharing that knowledge challenge me about what I really believe, in this case about the atonement.

Just to give one instance I was intrigued to learn that Von Balthasar considers the Descent of Christ into Hell on Holy Saturday to be a separate event from the crucifixion and the resurrection. Barth, expectedly for a Reformed theologian, has nothing to do with such thinking, the crucifixion being the decisive salvific event.

Oh, dear, to report those few thoughts is to raise more questions for readers here than answers about what Hugh said for he said much much more than my few words can express. Suffice to say that when we think with luminous theological minds beginning with B (Barth, Balthasar and Bowron) we are forced to think about 'what was really going on' in the event of the cross. For myself I am left wondering if Barth and Balthasar mishandle the mystery of Holy Saturday, the former not exploring it enough as an 'event', and the latter making too much of it. Would our understanding of salvation be radically altered if Scripture made no mention at all of the Descent into Hell? Admittedly that possibility would suit Barth's position on the matter.

Either way, Holy Saturday is a quiet day and it would be enlivened by a metaphorical cup of coffee with Barth and von Balthasar, to say nothing of a real cup with other theologians whose surnames begin with B - not only Bowron but also Black and Brown who were present last night, and Burgess who was mentioned in dispatches (Andrew Burgess, Principal-elect of Bishopdale Theological College, who speciality is the theology of Barth).

A 'Descent' of a different kind is on the agenda today: off to the deconsecration of the Cathedral this morning. I think black suit and clergy suit will be de rigeur for this momentous day in the history of this building.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

From college to college

Quick trip to Nelson yesterday for Bishopdale Theological College's farewell to Tim Harris who leaves today for Adelaide and his new episcopal future there. The College seemed in very good heart, and Nelson's sun was very hot - one forgets these things when absent for a while. If there was a piece of gloom in the air as I talked with old colleagues it concerned something looming as a dark cloud over all NZ churches: future costs of insurance. By the way, as here in Christchurch, a number of parishes are vacant ... life in the South Island has its advantages ... any takers among clergy readers here?

Today's college visit is to St John's College Auckland. No visit there is uninteresting and I am expecting not to be disappointed today. :)

Then it is back to a lecture on Barth and Von Balthasar given by my colleague, Hugh Bowron. His theme is Intimacy with God.

Speaking of intimacy and Barth, I have been looking into his relationship with his secretary, Lollo van Kirschbaum. Views go back and forth on this, but I find it very hard to look at this photo and not think that an intimacy existed between them which amounted to more than shared theological interests in the pursuit of Barth's longwinding theological prose.

Do not ever say that the study of theology is less interesting than a tabloid newspaper :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Do we want to be a catholic Communion or a basket of fragments left over from the feast?

"[The Covenant] preserves provincial autonomy but allows the clear articulation of the catholic consensus within the Communion and an ordered - rather than the recent chaotic - response within Anglicanism when provinces believe they need to act contrary to this." Good stuff on the Covenant at Fulcrum.

But do not worry fellow Kiwi Anglicans, this possibility is likely denied us now that we have had the news in the post below. Instead of participating in a catholic Communion shaped by evangelical reform (i.e. the Covenanting Anglican Communion), we likely will be a fragment in the basket of leftovers after the feast. And, moreover, a fragment which may itself be torn and divided as we fight a tikanga fight among ourselves.

Say it ain't so! Say we value communion, fellowship and union together in Christ in ever widening circles and deepening spirals.

But it seems we do not ... persuade me I am wrong.

What are Tikanga Maori rejecting?

The runanganui (synod) of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, also known as Tikanga Maori, have voted to 'reject' the Covenant. In all likelihood this means that our General Synod in July next year will not adopt the Covenant as that would require none of our three cultural houses of the GS to veto it, let alone a majority of the traditional houses of bishops, clergy and laity to approve in a majority (if not, to cover all the bases here, further voting by synods and the next GS, depending on what level of canonical embeddedness the Covenant was given). I could be accused of not facing reality by using the phrase 'in all likelihood', but as I read the report on the rejection at Taonga, I see the wording of the resolution acknowledges the possibility that GS may not agree with the runanganui. I imagine that the Maori representatives, as a for instance of change between now and then, would not want to vote against the Covenant in July 2012 if it turned out that doing so then would mean our church was the only one rejecting the Covenant!

Quite a bit of comment could be made here about the implications of this move, including an analysis which explained this move in terms of history and its unkindness to Anglican Maori, with specific reference to agreements poorly honoured.

Instead I want to note that the 'Covenant' being rejected by the speakers as their speeches are reported in the Taonga article is an interpretation of the Covenant and not the Covenant itself: for instance, the Covenant will not lead to any member church being ejected from the Communion, it is not about 'compliance and control' and it is about relationships (not against relationships). Also being rejected is the possibility of advancing Anglican ecclesiology in respect of communion in favour of advancing rangatiratanga as the cornerstone doctrine of ecclesiology.

Taonga carries other reports of resolutions of the runanganui, including one which seeks greater control of the St John's College Trust Board funds. Here further rejection of agreements is implied, namely our constitution itself as a Maori 50% share of those funds implies that the remaining two tikanga will share the other 50%. In my view, noting some previous conversations in our church, this is a very strong signal that Tikanga Maori, deep in its heart, harbours doubts that we should be a three tikanga church and wishes Tikanga Pasefika to be subsumed within Tikanga Pakeha. Arguments for a revision of our arrangements in this way are worth airing, for we should be a happy church at peace with itself rather than a three tikanga church. Would it be more fruitful to tackle our tikanga arrangements before attempting to work out our funding arrangements?

Paradoxically, in making such a move re SJC Trust Board funds with its significant implications for our future, the basis for Tikanga Maori doing so is the covenant between Maori and Pakeha known as the Treaty of Waitangi. Covenants have their uses, and covenants are indeed pregnant with possibilities for application which reject a part of the church that we do not think should be included in it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More questions than answers?

No I am not talking about St Paul's Cathedral, London, centre of the world's cathedralic attention this week. Rather, a bold headline on the front page of the Christchurch Press today says, 'Cera [earthquake authority] gives cathedral ultimatum.' Just hours after Bishop Victoria and Dean Peter told the world in a press conference last Friday that the cathedral would be partially demolished, Cera issued a full demolition order.

So the questions include whether the engineers are advising Dean and Chapter and Cera well or poorly,* why this seems a surprise, given that the partial demolition announcement was a response to Cera concerns, and whether the collective of city council, Cera, government, and diocese are reading the mood of the city well?

Are we a city which will not be at peace till we are told the cathedral will be rebuilt stone by stone to achieve its former iconic glory? Would a bold new design, however much of the old it incorporates, be the will and desire of the people? How would we know what we want without public discussion? Is it a matter for public discussion?

At root, the cathedral is a diocesan property on diocesan land for which repairs, maintenance and insurance have been the responsibility of the church and not the civic authorities (although the civic authorities in recent years have contributed generously to those costs): but who is in charge of its future? Church (legally) or people (effectively)?

The drama has gone up some notches!

*Some of us are experiencing engineering advice in Christchurch as varying from day to day. Until recently I worked in a building deemed 'safe' by engineers. Then, out of the blue, the engineers said the building was unsafe, recalculations on their part telling them the building fell below the line of safety according to the (often changing) building code.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Golden guilds: Milbank challenges Williams

For the really sharp thinking in the stratosphere of Anglican theology, listen out for John Milbank. Wait, what do I hear? The voice has spoken. This is the finish,

"However, it is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, so far uncontaminated by muddle and fluster over this issue, who alone can still seize a golden opportunity to put his church centre-stage in the debate we now need about the long-term implications of the English and London polity, not to mention the place of the English established Church in the current toils of extreme capitalism."
How he gets to there, you had better read here (H/T Episcopal Cafe).

You will notice in the space of a few lines a whopping criticism of a host of cathedrals (just around England or around the globe?), and a very neat piece of marketing of a new Dean for St Paul's:

"The failing cathedrals are the ones stuck in an outdated liberalism or anti-ritualistic evangelicalism. And, indeed, one can assume that the more successful cathedrals - like St Albans, led by the highly creative (and otherwise famous) Jeffrey John - would have responded much more successfully to the unprecedented events now unfolding on the steps of St Paul's."
What a clever man Milbank is!

Can the Communion sustain two gospels?

In the end I think we can make some simple observations about the possibility that two gospels are at work in the Communion (as I think there are)*:

(1) If two gospels remain in our midst the Communion must break up decisively.

(2) There is always the possibility that a false gospel withers away in favour of the true gospel: God may favour the Communion with evangelical renewal before a decisive break up.

*To take just one situation within the Communion, it is difficult for me to explain to myself (at least) why division among Anglicans/Episcopalians in North America has been taking place over the last decade or so if one and only one gospel is common to them all. I suggest that is a reasonable analysis of the situation, whatever view we may hold about who on that continent subscribes to the true gospel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who decides what the gospel is?

There are further questions to consider when thinking about how many gospels are at work in the Communion today, but first some words about what the gospel is (as I understand it).

I like what Ron Smith, commenting here last week, says the gospel is, "there is only one Gospel. At the heart of it is this declaration: "Jesus Christ came into this world to SAVE SINNERS" - that's all of us - not just the good!"

I think we could go a wee bit further, taking a cue from Bishop Tom Wright who makes much of the gospel as the announcement of the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus as the alternate and greater Lord to Caesar, and say the gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord and Saviour. In rough terms "Jesus is Lord" sums up the four gospels in which Jesus acts and speaks as Lord of the world and King of the Kingdom of God, and "Jesus is Saviour" sums up the epistles in which Paul and others set out the case that the death of cross resolves all problems of sin, provides the one and only needed solution of righteousness being provided for all sinners, and ends the former sacrificial cult based in the Jerusalem temple.

Having, I hope, made a fair attempt at stating the gospel in terms both founded on Scripture, consistent with the teaching I have received as an evangelical Christian, and in terms coherent with what a leading catholic Anglican commenter here has said, I return to the question of 'two gospels' in the Anglican Communion!

Something I do not think we Anglicans are very good at seeing as a fault within ourselves is that when we engage with a theological issue like the question of what the gospel is and whether there is more than one gospel at work in the Communion we rarely talk about the related issue of authority: who decides what the gospel is, who decides what the gospel is not? We tend to act, and, to be blunt, I see signs of it here in our discussions, as though our own personal grasp of the gospel is the criterion by which to judge whether (say) TEC is faithful to the gospel, or whether two gospels are driving the deliberations of one of the Instruments of Communion. This is not to say that my grasp or your grasp of the gospel is wrong, but to note that even if 1000 of us agree on the gospel, we have a problem if another 1000 disagree with us. Who decides? That is a major problem which the Church of England derived Communion is grappling with to a degree not previously experienced (I would argue).

By 'Church of England derived' I mean that at the root of the Communion is, on the one hand, the rejection at the Reformation of a Magisterium based in Rome, and on the other hand, the installation at the Reformation of the 'magistrate' (i.e. civic authority via parliament) to be an (or 'the'?) authority in determining matters of doctrine and practice, specifically via approval of prayer books. Problem: 'civic authority' over the church does not translate well to other nations in which the planted version of the C of E is not a 'national church'. In practice member churches make their own decisions via a supra-diocesan authority bound by constitution such as General Synod or General Convention. For the Communion a problem potentially arises when one General Synod/Convention disputes the decision of another such body, and a complex problem arises when the body being disputed thinks its authority is indisputable!

So, in talking about the possibility that two gospels are at work in the Communion today, it is insufficient for me or you or even both of us together, dear reader, to make the claim. We need a means of determining whether the claim has merit or not, and if it does, what is to be done about it. Cue arguments for the Covenant. You did expect me to say that, didn't you?!

There is a further problem I think needs a mention. In Communion talk we worry about 'member churches' more than  individual parishes or dioceses. We are tempted to say things like 'TEC follows another gospel'. But what is the basis for saying such things? How do we determine that a whole member church is oriented towards another gospel? And, who determines that such an orientation exists?

It is insufficient, in my view, to conclude from a few pronouncements of a few bishops, or the observable tendencies of some flagship institutions (cathedrals, theological colleges), that X is following another gospel. Yet that is what we observers from afar seem to do (yes, me in the first rank of culpability here). Even when the observers are within the member church, there are still questions about how knowledgeable the observer is. I notice, for instance, in my own church, that sometimes things are said about parts of our church which I find at variance with my own observations. When the variation exists between one who is not involved in those other parts and one who is, there is a real question of who is speaking authoritatively about the situation. Nevertheless potentially a clear situation could arise when a General Synod/Convention offers a belief by resolution which is open for scrutiny by other bodies. So far, however, I know of no Anglican General Synod/Convention that has acted as clearly as, say, denying one of the great creeds, or adding devotion to Buddha to its constitution.

Neither of the two concerns being advanced here means that there are not two gospels at work in the Communion, nor that there is an intrinsic problem in determining whether that is the case or not. But I am flagging that we should be suitably cautious about how we might proceed in a manner which involves proper authority, both authority in making judgement and authority which is universally recognised in our Communion.

POSTSCRIPT Interesting post from Cranmer which highlights that 'habemus papem' (we have a pope) does not necessarily solve the 'problem of authority' in the church.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Have aliens Occupied the C of E?

POSTSCRIPT INTRODUCTION Putting the Occupy/city/church finangle into theological perspective, read Luke Bretherton @ Fulcrum. Here is an excerpt:

"It is to be hoped and prayed that the same Spirit that seized John of Patmos to condemn the imperial system of Rome in the book of Revelation may yet still seize the canons and clerics of the Cathedral (and the Church of England more broadly) to condemn the system of domination in which the City of London plays such a catalytic role. This would surely be the basis of common ground with the Occupationistas. The differences between them should rest not in what they are against, but in how much they are willing to invest in human efforts alone. The Occupationistas largely look to a project of salvation achieved through political changes, whereas the Cathedral is meant to represent a vision of salvation that raises a question mark above all schemes which depend upon human effort alone. However, like the members of my church, most of the protesters I met were pilgrims on a quest for truth, justice and bit more love in the world. The church should welcome them as fellow travellers on a road it has travelled for a long time.

So rather than a face off between clerics and campers, the real battle is with the denizens of the Square Mile and Wall Street and their vision of the future. The bankers like to position themselves as the hard-headed realists facing down the fantasists and utopians encamped around them. Yet as well as spreadsheets and data sets there is an equally utopian and anarchistic vision guiding many in the financial services industry on both sides of the Atlantic." END POSTSCRIPT
We interrupt this series on the Gospel in the Communion to draw attention to the extraordinary and somewhat baffling sequence of events going on in the Church of England because some tents in which, apparently, few actually sleep at night, have been pitched in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

First, Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser resigned (seemingly because he didn't approve of legal action by the Cathedral being used to evict the campers), now the Dean himself, Graeme Knowles has resigned (seemingly because he did approve of legal action etc). Finally, ++Rowan himself has said something about the debacle, though it scarcely goes beyond cliches. The Man Who Tackled Mugabe: could we expect more of him on this matter of global protest over financial inequalities? Incidentally, ++Rowan's statement shows the value of fame (Fraser) and importance (Knowles) in the C of E. There has been a third "minor canon" who resigned, but he does not figure in the archepiscopal statement!

Is Susan Howatch writing the script of this narrative which has all the ingredients of her Starbridge novels (cathedral, dean, chapter, money)? Is the ghost of Anthony Trollope meddling in the thickening plot?

A simpler explanation, one Giles Fraser, an expert in philosophy would appreciate (see Occam's Razor), is that aliens themselves have pitched tents inside key Anglican leaders in a strategy called Occupy the C of E.

Of course the amazing thing about this saga re the C of E hitting the headlines is that it has absolutely nothing to do with that usual headline creating suspect s-e-x! :)

It would seem that the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres will need more deft footwork over the next few days than Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney if he is to survive this unexpected turn of ecclesial events.