Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Say No to the Covenant and You Are a Baptist!

Not that there is anything wrong with being a Baptist. Indeed there is a notable point about being a Baptist who calls oneself a Baptist, namely that all is as honest as the Baked Beans label on a can of ... baked beans. Whereas one trouble with Anglicans is that we can use the label when the contents on the tin are otherwise (Catholics, E. Orthodox, Baptists, Brethren, Presbyterian are all possible realities inside the can labelled 'Anglican').

John Watson writes a lovely, straightforward essay on the question of whether we are Anglicans or Baptists in respect of the Covenant. What do you think?

Thanks to Fulcrum for publishing it and H/T to Bryden Black for drawing my attention to it.

Incidentally other stuff is going on around the Communion. A little row brewing, for example, in the C of E, as Cranmer discusses. This row relates to the article above inasmuch as the deeper issue at stake is what Christian 'communion' means.

Do we Anglicans have a "needs lots of work" understanding of communion? What does 'Communion' refer to as the label on our can of beans?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why is it difficult to write about the resurrection as an historical event?

Thanks for several comments below to my previous post, at least one of which is hilarious! I did not point out that 'sensible' here was about the historicity of the resurrection rather than the pastoral or evangelistic implications of it.

I have no doubt that the resurrection occurred and no doubt that by that I do not mean the disciples suffered hysteria.

What is difficult is pinning Scripture down to what is historical about this event given that there are discrepancies in its accounts (e.g. no women and no empty tomb in 1 Corinthians 15), inconsistencies (think location: Mark is definite encounters will take place in Galilee; Matthew contradicts himself about this; Luke has every encounter occurring in and around Jerusalem; and John gives us both locations). Anyone care to tell us where the historical location of the disciples' encounters with Jesus took place?

My general hunch is that the consistencies in the accounts are clues to the historical bits of their narratives: the gospels agree on the tomb being empty, agree on the day, agree there were female witnesses to the empty tomb, and agree with Paul that there were multiple appearances to individuals and to groups.

But already a few remarks like that lead us into questions about what 'history' means in relation to an event such as the resurrection, so the questions multiply and, on the face of it, only a massive tome seems plausible to deal with them all! But I am trying to write a small article only ...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Multiplying questions

I am trying to write something sensible about the resurrection, three thousand words or so as an alternative to recent scholarly blockbusters.

It is really hard to do. The questions seem to multiply rather than answer themselves!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The single most damaging lie of the 'no covenant' argument

Many claims are made about the Covenant and what it will do and not do, most of which are hypothetical claims because, let's remember, the Covenant is a proposal, not a reality. But these claims fuel the fire of fears so they are particularly effective since emotions are strong arguments for agreeing or not agreeing to a course of action. One might even venture a little further and consider whether arguments for the Covenant are essentially theological (the unity of the churches in Communion is agreeable to Christ) and arguments against the Covenant are essentially emotional (it will be the cause of great upset, wailing and gnashing of teeth).

One of the most damaging claims about what the Covenant will do is the claim that it will usher in an Anglican papacy, curia and magisterium. This is a particularly damaging claim because it plays on the visceral fear at the heart of Anglicanism that we might one day again be subservient to Rome. In one of those quirks of life, fear of papacy is a uniting force for both Anglican liberals and conservatives, as well as all those in between. Not that the Covenant will make us subservient to Rome, but even the possibility of an Anglo-Papacy strikes terror in the Anglican heart!

But the Covenant will not usher in any kind of papacy, at least not any kind not already familiar to us. The Covenant is simply about the Communion enjoying what every member church already enjoys, a written constitution and code of canons constraining licensed clergy and officers of the church to live by that constitution. Are member churches run by popes? Do they have curia and magisteria? No! Nor will the Communion if it embraces the Covenant.

How about we stop lying about the Covenant by desisting from playing on fears of papacy?

Incidentally there is one slight amount of popery already in the Anglican system, but it will not change one whit with the Covenant in place: the Archbishop of Canterbury has discretion about to invite or not to invite to the Lambeth Conference.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yes or YES to the Covenant

My attention has been drawn to a video presentation re the Covenant produced by the Anglican Communion office and featuring my bishop, +Victoria Matthews.

Thanks to our friends at Thinking Anglicans I have learned of a new pro Covenant coalition. Cool, eh! Check out Yes to the Covenant. I like their byline, 'Serious about uniting Anglicans worldwide.'

That's the thing you see: opponents to the Covenant are not serious about uniting Anglicans worldwide. Some do not think that Anglican unity matters, others think it is unachievable, some think the Covenant is likely to increase disunity. But any which way, what you will never hear from an opponent to the Covenant is a serious exposition of an alternative route to worldwide Anglican unity.* GAFCON are not serious about it (for whatever the merits of the Jerusalem Document, it is Anglicanism 101 to know that the language in it appeals only to the conservative wing of global Anglicanism). TEC and its fellow travellers are not serious about it, otherwise they would not continue to act in ways which Anglicanism 101 teaches us will divide rather than unite.

Yes, the Covenant looks like it is being divisive (dioceses voting for/against it) but, in fact, it is exposing the lack of seriousness about Anglican worldwide unity. Yes, the Covenant alone will not unify us, but the Covenant is a challenge to us to get serious about unity. Saying 'no' to the Covenant is saying 'no' to worldwide unity because it is a refusal to take the first step (signing the Covenant) on the journey to global unity among Anglicans.

It is Lent. How about giving up opposition to the Covenant for Lent? Say 'Yes to the Covenant'.

[*I am not saying that those against the Covenant are not serious about Anglican unity in general terms, demonstrated, e.g., by praying faithfully for such unity.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

22 February

A year ago today our city, Christchurch, was changed for ever. Beginning last evening a series of services are being held through today to commemorate the deaths and devastation wrought by the 12.51 pm earthquake. For many Christians the remembrances will continue into Ash Wednesday services being held this evening. For the people of Christchurch the aftermath of the destructive forces of an earthquake whose vertical forces were nearly as strong as any ever recorded continues. Yesterday yet another set of shops were red-stickered and cordoned off. In the last few days several schools have had to set up marquees as temporary classrooms while buildings are brought up to 67% strength measured against the new building code.

In some ways for the Diocese of Christchurch the hardest work of the post-quakes era is just beginning. We know most of what is damaged, including finding out at the weekend that our largest stone church apart from the cathedral has to close, St Mary's Timaru, a city 160km south of Christchurch. What we do not yet know are all the financial implications of the damage, the changes we need to make to the way we are organised, and the best ways forward to respond to changing communities, especially those communities who are losing their most able people as they shift districts, and those communities just being developed as new housing springs up.

I know many readers here have been praying for our city, our bishop and our diocese. Don't stop!

Monday, February 20, 2012

No Second Thoughts Covenant Coalition

It would be easy this week to have second thoughts about the Anglican Covenant. Thinking Anglicans take us to GilesFraserian blasting against it and the announcement that Marilyn McCord Adams is the new patron of the No Covenant Coalition (see also here for NCC announcement). Cranmer has a thoughtful piece on the Covenant which cleverly offers an insight about Tory and Whiggish forces operating in the to-ing and fro-ing over the Covenant. The thoughtfulness leads to a conclusion that the Covenant is unnecessary (many in the NCC will agree) and the 39 Articles are sufficient 'covenant' for us (many in the NCC will not agree, neither about the sufficiency nor about any place for the 39A to define or determine 21st century Anglicanism). John Richardson highlights the breakdown of episcopal collegiality in the C of E (over precisely the issues interconnected with the journey of the Covenant). For counter-balance of a refreshing kind for those wondering if the Anglican church remains a place from which to engage in gospel ministry, Cranmer's Curate offers good thoughts.

Why, then, obtusely maintain an apologetic for the Covenant?

First, a simple point about understanding Anglicanism: there is more than one version around, more than the liberal, diversity, freedom of doctrinal and ethical conscience version, and it is a good Anglican thing to do to argue for Anglicanism with doctrine and discipline at its centre (the Anglicanism, incidentally, we must never tire of reminding ourselves, which is enshrined in the constitution and canons of every member church of the Communion - the Covenant's novelty only consists in raising to the Communion level what each member church enjoys already).

Secondly, a serious point about the future of global Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion: the anti-Covenant argument about the future of global Anglicanism expressed through a Communion with the Covenant is this, "It will be bad." By implication, the prognosis of a Covenant-less Communion is, "It will be good." I suggest there is a different prognosis to contemplate: without the Covenant there will not be a Communion: neither a good, bad nor indifferent Communion, no Communion. By contrast the argument for the Covenant and global Anglicanism represented through the Communion is not, "It will be good" but, "It might just survive."

So, Cranmer, Fraser and the NCC: do your darndest to rid the Communion of the Covenant. But be careful what you wish for!

Friday, February 17, 2012

If I had time

I would post more frequently and for longer than currently, but quite a few projects are on my plate at the moment, including some considerable work now for the Strategic Working Group of the Diocese. We meet weekly and generate work between meetings! But if I had time today I would speak my mind on ... heritage fanatics who write in the Press bewailing the loss of heritage buildings ...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

They shoot horses, don't they?

Our cathedral here in Christchurch is in very, very serious trouble. Our diocese this week is mounting an intense campaign to get the word out about how seriously and terminally ill the cathedral is after the shakes of September 2010, December 2010, February 2011, June 2011 and, finally to date, December 2011. Bishop Victoria Matthews has appeared on Campbell Live (TV3), one of two premier current news and views slots on free to air TV here. Today our Christchurch Press is carrying a half page advertisement which includes a letter from +Victoria and pictures of the damaged interior and exterior of the cathedral. An article based on the advertisement is here.

When a horse is dying, can scarcely walk let alone trot or gallop, serious consideration is given to shooting it, to put it out of its misery. Dead horses cannot be resurrected but deconstructed cathedrals can be rebuilt stone by stone. As I interpret what is being said in the advertisement and in Bishop Victoria's media interviews this week, the decision the relevant diocesan authorities have to make when the full engineering reports are made available next month is not whether the cathedral should be put out of its present misery. It is so dangerous it will need, at a minimum, significant deconstruction before anything can be done in order that every worker on and around the site is safe. The significant decision these authorities will need to make is what the future should hold by way of a stone-by-stone restorative rebuild (very unlikely as +Victoria indicated on a National Radio interview yesterday as the costs could be in the region of $100m above insurance) or a partial retention of the sturdier bits of the cathedral built into a new edifice or a new build in a complete manner (and could or should that be some kind of replica, say, in wood (as one local cleric is arguing) to overcome people's fear of re-entering the building, or another design altogether).

That is a lot of deciding to do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Diocese of Christchurch Covenant motion

A correspondent here reports that the Diocese of Canterbury in England has voted in favour of the Covenant (report is here), and raised the question what my diocese, of Christchurch (i.e. Canterbury and Westland, NZ) has decided re the Covenant. The answer is that we have a one day synod on Saturday 21 April and the draft motion in the synod papers reads thus:

"That this Synod, 1. Affirms the Covenant in principle; 2. Supports Parts 1 to 3; 3. Supports in principle the adoption of Part 4.

Naturally I disagree with this motion as currently worded. Can you work out why I disagree with it?

Incidentally, this is what ++Rowan, who will be visiting our fair city and see later this year, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, to whom ++Rowan delegates oversight of Canterbury Diocese had to say to his synod about the Covenant,

"The Anglican Covenant, which we are about to debate, takes us into the very heart of what we believe to be our church’s true vocation within God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It seeks to explain how we are called to grow more fully into the life of “mutual responsibility and interdependence”.

We miss entirely the fundamental point if we see the Covenant, as some do, merely as a product of disagreements over human sexuality, or as a way of excluding those churches which act unilaterally without the consent or understanding of the wider Communion. Instead the Covenant places God’s vision for God’s Church and God’s world centre stage and then invites us to live into this as our overriding calling.

Contrary to what some might argue, it does not, in my judgment, create new structures or new authorities. Nor does it seek to offer legal solutions to the failure of human relationships. But equally it challenges any understanding, again erroneous in my judgment, that our Anglican Communion is nothing more than a series of independent churches linked in some sort of federation. Instead it offers us ways of living faithfully and authentically, offering us processes of handling differences while at the same time allowing for the Spirit of God to breathe new life into our existing Communion framework. It enables Anglicans across the world and Christians of other denominations to understand who we are and how we seek to share in God’s work. In these times of anxiety, it surely demonstrates the stability of the standing cross. Personally I support the Covenant wholeheartedly and I hope that Synod will do the same when we come to vote."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You Are a Campsite on A Hill

The Festival of Salt and Light, previously noted here in December, took place last weekend. 330 young adults from around Christchurch camping on a farm at Gore Bay (about 90 minutes north-east of Christchurch). It was lovely to visit the Festival on Saturday, swinging around a bend in the road to see their campsite literally 'on a hill'. The organisers put a massive amount of time and energy into setting up the Festival so they may not thank me for hoping there will be another one.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dean sweeps election

Our Dean, Peter Beck has won the election to a seat on our City Council. His farewell function is Sunday 19th February. I am very pleased for him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why would God appoint Elizabeth to be queen and not to be bishop?

I encourage opponents of women being bishops to review their theology. Perhaps if I were in England I would more strongly use 'urge' rather than 'encourage' given the proximity of time to the likely decision re women bishops in the C of E.

In theology we are talking about God and trying to make sense of God, who God is, what God has said, why God might do some things and not other things, and consequentially this leads to talk about how we might live and organise life on earth. It is important that this talk of God in relation to our lives is responsible because it is not only about securing the truth, it is also about our witness to God in the world.

Part of our responsible talk about God is that we press for an ever deepening understanding of what God's Godness is. For instance, we can understand God to be less than God - a smaller god than the true bigness of God. Ancient Israel often had this deficiency in their theology, not recognising that God was God of all the world. The apostle Paul's great difficulty in his mission was banging heads with those who thought God was only the God of Israel and thus the people of God needed to be made Israelites.

So when we think of God ordering the world the whole counsel of God in Scripture challenges us to remember that God is the God of the whole world, not (as I fear we fall into thinking) God of the church alone. This God is consistent in being God across all dimensions of life and consistent in seeking his will to be done on earth as in heaven in all dimensions of life. In respect of leadership God appoints leaders in the world (Romans 13) as well as in the church. But it would seem odd of God to permit women or men to be leaders in government but only men in the church. To think that God has reason for preferring only men to lead the church is to raise the question what difference God makes in respect of his dominions if the church may not be led by either gender similar to nations.

Of course it could be argued (I imagine it might be, here in the comments) that God really prefers men only to lead in any of God's domains. But that still raises questions such as why God has destined the two great Elizabeths to be Queens of England and Supreme Governors of God's Church of England. We cannot say God has not destined them to their respective roles as events could easily have turned out otherwise (a healthy long living son for Henry VIII! Edward VIII to have fallen in love with an acceptable woman!). Nor can we say that these have not been godly women. In our day Elizabeth II has been an extraordinary witness to Jesus Christ (most recently in her Christmas 2011 message).

There remain questions about what texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12-15 mean within a theology which understands God to be gender neutral about leadership, but these texts can be understood within such a theological understanding (e.g. that the situation of the Ephesian church, hidden from our eyes, required such an apostolic ruling in order to bring godly order to an unruly congregation).

But the more urgent question I put to opponents of women as bishops is the question of Why God would appoint Elizabeth to be queen and not to be bishop? Answers must responsibly address questions about God in relation to church and society, to the eternal kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. I look forward to your comments.

Incidentally, it is of great interest to me that Romans where we find a strong argument concerning God's appointing of governmental leaders (Romans 13) is also the Pauline book which most fulsomely talks about church life being led by a mixed gender array of leadership (Romans 16).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A little bit confused

Ok. Some of you think I am a lot confused!

Anyway, trying to make sense of the report in Thinking Anglicans re the C of E GS debate on women bishops. I think it means everything is on track to have women bishops, but the full and final legislation has not yet been passed ...

Sort of unrelated but I will note it here/today, an excellent post  at Catholicity and Covenant on what may seem to non-Americans a strange manner of disengagement from the public square.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It just ain't gonna happen

I am confident the General Synod of the Church of England will pass the legislation required to pave the way for women to be ordained as bishops. I am also confident there will not be a major exodus of people and pastors from the Church of England as a result. Aside from the numbers expressed in diocesan votes for the legislation, my reason for thinking there ain't gonna be a major exodus is the inherent conservatism of English Anglicans. Splutter, splutter. Inaction. No exodus. Besides there is history to consider. There once was a major exodus in the C of E, associated with the rise of Methodism. A few hundred years later the C of E is still around, and still the stronger church than its exited rival.

Intellectually I think there ain't gonna be a major exodus because there is no convincing reason for it. An illustrative paired argument, for and against is published in the Guardian. Here is the money quote from the against argument:

"I don't remember ever being in favour of the ordination of women, probably because it struck me that the church was accommodating itself to the ways of the world."

Women priests and women bishops is not an 'accommodation' to the world (with all that implies about declension of commitment to Christ, adherence to orthodoxy, and faithfulness to Scripture). It is an increased understanding of human dignity in the light of God's Word and Spirit - an enlarged understanding of whom God has created and redeemed in Christ: all human beings, male and female, blessed and gifted in the Holy Spirit. In particular it is a recognition that Christ's humanity is the key identification with us in the mystery of the incarnation and cruciformed salvation, not Christ's maleness.

Sure, some arguments for the ordination of women with sloganeering cries of 'Justice' and 'Equality' are an accommodation to the world's talk of progress. But not all arguments are an accommodation in this way. Some arguments work from our new appreciation of the full share in human life which women have with men - an appreciation which asks of Scripture what God affirms about our human dignity and receives from Scripture an affirmation that God created us male and female and redeemed us, women and men, to be one in Christ.

But my point here is not to rehearse arguments for the ordination of women, rather to observe that there are insufficient active members of the C of E who think that having women bishops represents an accommodation to the ways of the world. There will be no major exodus because few are convinced that the C of E is being unfaithful to God by having women bishops.

(For clarity's sake, I am not attempting implicitly or otherwise to mount an argument here that those who oppose women bishops are therefore unfaithful to God. Those like the person cited above who sincerely believe that (for instance) an accommodation to the ways of world is involved in the ordination of women are working from a different perspective on the relationship between human dignity under God and the development of human society in a secularised culture. The arguments that flow from this different perspective are not poor arguments, and the key debate is about the starting point for our understanding of our humanity as men and women.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Watching on women bishops

Watching the C of E General Synod debate (debacle?) unfold over next few days re women bishops.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Has Covenant energy expense been worth it?

A commenter to my previous post suggests that the Covenant has led to a lot of expenditure of energy, making among other observations this statement,

"The Anglican Covenant has been a huge distraction – taking time, money, and energy."

I want to argue a contrary view to this estimation which I am sure is shared by many Anglicans.

Let's think, for instance, about how a common view opposing the Covenant is expressed (in my words): "The first three sections are okay, we could sign to them, but section four is unacceptable." The Covenant as a circulating draft has had the interesting effect (I argue) of focusing Anglican minds on what we believe together in common (sections 1-3) and has led to a strong recommitment to affirming orthodox, creedal doctrine. Prior to the kerfuffles of the past decade would global Anglicanism have engaged in such an exercise in affirming orthodoxy? If it had would it have led to such agreement?

Simultaneously through this past decade I suggest we have seen less willingness on the part of dioceses to vote for or to accede to bishops better known for how little they believe than for how much they believe. (For evidence recall the bloke in the US whose theology was quasi-Buddhist whose election as a bishop was not confirmed; think also of where the John Spongs and John A.T. Robinsons (Honest to God version) are working as active bishops in today's church ... hardly anywhere, maybe nowhere).

If global Anglicanism is reaffirming that it is a Christian movement which adheres to doctrinal orthodoxy rather than celebrates ever increasing diversity of theology and/or believing as little as possible, then Covenant time x energy x money has been worth it.

This does not mean that all is well or going to be well with global Anglicanism. The rejection of section 4 of the Covenant is diversity asserting its dominance in Anglican thinking. Worse it represents a strange hesitancy, perhaps even a loss of courage. When we live in our member churches with canons and constitutions which permit (reasonable) diversity unexpectedly we seem to be scared that a form of canons-cum-constitution (which is what the Covenant is for the Communion a global Anglican organisation) will not permit (reasonable) diversity. If we do not support the Covenant with a sufficient majority for the Covenant to be a working document in our global life then at the very least the Covenant is an idea whose time has not yet come.

There is a certain negativity in finding out that we are not ready to be what we could have been (a genuine branch of the universal church), but that result (if confirmed by the rejection of the Covenant) will be worth knowing ('Whatever Anglicans are, globally they are not and do not want to be a church'). The time, energy and money spent on the Covenant will have yielded a sure result which will influence our ecclesiology for decades if not centuries to come.

Not the ecclesiology this writer wants to pursue, but never mind, it could be time to explore the Protestant character of Anglicanism with greater appreciation!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Covenantal thoughts

Some thoughts about the Anglican Covenant

Someone has raised some questions with me about the Anglican Covenant in the context of our church, ACANZP, moving towards its General Synod in July and of our diocese moving towards a synodical consideration of the Covenant on 21 April. My responses are in italics.
If the intention is to provide a framework for dispute resolution and a covenanted description of our commitment to each other rather than behaviours... the big picture is about the possibility for reconciliation and restoration. Yes, the big picture and the long-term goal is reconciliation and restoration. Critics of the Covenant argue that the Covenant will achieve no such thing and likely will exacerbate differences in the Anglican Communion. Supporters of the Covenant argue that we got into the situation we are in without the Covenant whereas the Covenant will help clarify in the future both what Anglicans believe (hold in common as a global communion) and how we should resolve disputes between member churches of the Communion.

Since many groups (including the Dioceses of Dunedin, Auckland and Waiapu, and Tikanga Maori) have already said ‘no’ to the covenant, why should Christchurch continue to consider the matter and vote on it? Christchurch Anglicans should have the opportunity to have their synodical say about the Covenant. As a matter of fact Christchurch’s vote would signal what the majority vote of Tikanga Pakeha was, 4-3 in favour or 4-3 against the Covenant. It could be that our church (via General Synod) would like to say to the Communion that one Tikanga is in favour, one is not (and, am not sure what Polynesia is going to say). We should be careful not to presume what General Synod will do when it meets together and hears all arguments from all sides. It will make a difference to the debate knowing what each and every diocese has said in its own synod. Finally, a Christchurch vote will guide the Christchurch representatives at General Synod.

Would the signing of the Covenant by 60% of the Communion have the effect of more starkly defining those 'in' and those 'out,' Covenanters and non Covenanters? That could depend on whether the Communion deemed that the Covenant was a ‘working document’ for Communion life with that amount of support. Arguably a document that binds its members to a way of mutual accountability should be signed by over 80% for it to have effect. Either way there is an understanding that non-signers are not bound by the Covenant and there is a hypothetical possibility that on some issues non-Covenanting member churches would not have a say on those issues. (An example of such an issue could be a revision to the Covenant!)

What would the result of a 60% - 40% or any other signing mix be? A split? Possibly. It would depend on what practical outcome re the Covenant followed on from a 60/40 split.

Theologically the two ‘sides’ of the Communion are not going to agree with each other. Ever. So what mechanism allows us to stay together? Two thoughts. (1) This is unduly pessimistic. Our lifetimes are short, history is long. Dare we judge that disagreements profoundly felt will never be overcome? (Incidentally, on the shortness of one lifetime, see this lovely post). (2) Is any mechanism going to hold together in any meaningful way two sides with significant disagreement? Could the Covenant be as good a mechanism for holding Anglican diversity together as any other? Might it even be the best mechanism, even if imperfect?

It seems the Covenant cannot be that mechanism, so is it back to the drawing board? It is unlikely that the Covenant would be that mechanism if the vote is 51:49 or 60: 40. Even 70:30 may not work. Would we accept 80:20? (Incidentally, that is 31/38 member churches voting in favour). What would the ‘drawing board’ mean in the event of failure to agree to the Covenant by an adequate majority? The ‘drawing board’ could be quite radical: the end of the Communion as anything which is meaningfully a ‘communion’ and something more honestly described as an ‘association.’

Or are the issues of sexuality and authority worth another split in Western Christianity? (The Reformation should be the great embarrassment of the universal church, but since we now have upwards of 8000 denominations what is one more?). A split in the Anglican Communion would be more significant than making 8000 into 8001. The Anglican Communion’s gift to Christianity has been a mixture of the bridge it forms between Catholic and Protestant Christianity, and the promise it holds out of a reformed Catholicism being embraced by all Christians as a church most faithful to Christ. To split would destroy both the bridge and the promise. Are the issues of sexuality and authority worth splitting over? That is a key question which lies in the centre of our anguish over these matters: how are we to live as Christians, and how do we know what God’s will is for our lives are not light questions and both are touched on by the question of ‘sexuality’ and ‘authority.’

Is each diocese voting so we can see if we have consensus, or will ACANZP go with majority, or will we have the signed up and the non-signed up which just shifts the disputes and animosity onto a different playing field? We are voting so that episcopal units have opportunity to share (albeit in a guiding rather than binding manner) in the decision-making of our church in an important matter. It is unknown what General Synod meeting in July would consider a sufficient basis for committing our church to the Covenant. Given a general motivation evidenced through many General Synod sessions to maintain unity in our church, it is likely that our representatives will not vote for an outcome which will lead to animosity. Alongside that we might also consider whether we think it likely that our representatives would vote for the Covenant if signs were that would make us part of a minority or that they would vote against the Covenant if that would place in a minority in the Communion.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are New Zealanders racist or xenophobic or both?

Every so often a country should look in on itself and ask tough questions. We have had a long running saga about the selling of a group of dairy farms to some Chinese investors (e.g. here). While some concerns have been about economic issues (are we losing control of one of our major industries?) one has to wonder if the concerns have been driven by the fact that it is 'Chinese' who are involved, that is, whether motivating forces for criticism and carping have been fear of foreigners and/or dislike of people of another colour and culture. Such a wondering is underlined when we learn yesterday that a famous American film director, James Cameron, is buying a dairy farm here. There will not be a peep of protest about that from the Crafar farms' protestors, who include some of our politicians.

Do we need to grow up faster as a nation among the nations, accepting that our future is in the embrace of Asia and not of the North American-European continents?

An Anglican angle here? We could segue from thinking about aspects of our country which are less than satisfactory to thinking about our mission to those who are new immigrants in our islands. With some modest exceptions I suggest our missional strategy to Asian immigrants in our islands is under-developed. Those modest exceptions are pointing to the way to an exciting challenge for Aotearoa New Zealand in the 21st century.

As a member of a global communion of churches, our church has excellent resources to draw on to build congregations among people from all nations who gather in our nation.