Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good news and challenging news for our cathedrals?

Reflecting overnight on the just announced plan for our inner city here in Christchurch, I am wondering what is good news and what is challenging news for our cathedrals (permanent Anglican, transitional Anglican, Roman Catholic). Also a thought about some of our other inner city churches.

This is how it seems to me:

GOOD NEWS:  Cathedral Square remains the geographical heart of our inner city. That is good for our permanent cathedral site. It will be worth investing in the new cathedral. Lots of life around convention centre, performing arts auditoriums, hotels, and such will be surrounding the Square. Excellent missional potential.

POSSIBLY GOOD NEWS: The location of the transitional cathedral alongside a lovely new 'green space' and next door to the new covered stadium is possibly good news. 'Possibly' because we have no idea how long it will take us to build the new cathedral in the Square or the new sports stadium. The transitional cathedral could be a bit isolated where it is. It could be overshadowed by a massive building project taking place over its back fence. It could contribute a significant witness to the sporting public of Christchurch. It could ... We shall have to see. Definitely possibilities for good things to come, but some new challenges now exist.

CHALLENGING NEWS: For the site of the Roman Catholic cathedral it has always been a bit of a challenge that it has not been nearer the heart of the inner city. On this new plan, the current site is even further removed from the inner inner city. I expect some careful consideration will be given by the Catholic diocese to finding a different site for their cathedral.

Our other city churches:

I wonder if this is going to make life better or worse for St Michael's (our only operating inner city church)? It is a bit hard to tell, for instance, what new traffic layouts are going to do for access to St Michael's.

Very hard to tell what this means for the historic site of St John's Latimer Square, on a corner of the large stadium site. I can't help wondering if the Government wants that site once the transitional cathedral is finished with. On the plus side, vehicle access should be fine. If the site stays there, what a great opportunity to develop ministry to sportspeople, as well as to continue ministry to the polytech and to the enhanced technological and health precincts nearby.

St Luke's it seems might be neither enhanced or diminished in its location relative to the inner city.

What I think Anglicans and all Christians should do is give thanks for such a bold, innovative, and careful plan for our inner city. Governments occasionally get things right ...!

Other challenging news here as Bishop Victoria alerts to the needs of the poor in our city.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Somewhat Queerly, Conservative Prediction is Fulfilled

I honestly do not go out looking for these sorts of things, things that are a bit further up the thick end of the wedge. But tonight coming home from work I tuned into Radio New Zealand (our public broadcaster, pretty reliable on news and views) only to find an item citing a lobby group called Queer Avengers who both support the proposed gay 'marriage' bill and promise to push beyond that, including pressing for legal marriages involving multiple partners. 

The written up version of that RNZ item does not mention the name of the group, but we can find out more about the group through the Blogger's Friend (Google). Here is an excerpt from a Yahoo news item featuring QA:

"She adds that there are many family structures which marriage and adoption law does not cover, for example polyamory and whangai adoption. "This is not the final struggle," Sara concludes. "We're looking ahead to the struggles beyond marriage.""

Well whangai is a "customary Māori practice where a child is raised by someone other than their birth parents – usually a relative." Not much to disagree with there. But polyamory? Provided for by law to be able to adopt children with X Mums and Y Dads?

Now, ADU does not presume for a moment that all supporters of Louisa Wall's bill are also supporters of polyamory.

But what does interest ADU about this item is that it bears out a conservative prediction about Western society's liberal, progressive pressure for change to the laws on marriage: it comes without commitment to make this the last change.

It may be just the first!

It is fascinating that responsible news outlets such as Radio NZ and Yahoo are quite sanguine about publishing the views of an obscure group which surely must be whistling in the wind if they think they have any kind of significant (though minority) support.

But then it was an Anglican bishop who once pressed his fellow bishops to expand their horizons:

"Speaking in response to papers offered in March [2010] on Human Sexuality to the US House of Bishops meeting in Texas, Bishop Robinson stated the church should move beyond the stale categories of hetero- and homo-sexuality.  It was time to move beyond speaking of “GLBT” (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) orientations for there “are so many other letters in the alphabet,” and “there are so many other sexualities to be explored."

The conservative point here is to probe what the bigger picture of progressive vision is on sexuality.
We are on a hiding to nothing. In response to casting doubt as to whether we are being treated to an honest and comprehensive exposition of that vision, we are liable to be labelled as bigots, told we are protesting too much, or simply held up to ridicule as out of touch with both human society and divine spirit.

What is also fascinating from a conservative perspective is that it is actually harder than it looks to change the church's theology of marriage. At the recent TEC General Convention, it decided it was too hard to change its own canons in order to authorise a rite for blessing same sex partnerships. Some bishops approving that change have gone back to their diocese and promptly announced they are not going to permit such blessings to take place. In our own church my post below On Marriage is intended to pose a challenge to those pressing for change: what changes do you propose to the canon on marriage to give liturgical and theological effect to the blessing of same sex partnerships?

Perhaps that question could be answered before conservatives are denounced for resisting change.

LATER: I was in Auckland a few days ago and read this opinion piece in the NZ Herald.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Rugby Ball

As far as I can tell from the announcement made late this afternoon about the new government-backed plan for central Christchurch, our cardboard cathedral, on the corner of Hereford St and Montreal St, will be on one corner of the brand new covered sports stadium. Look here, in particular at the map at the bottom of the article. How wonderful, to have our two cathedrals side by side (until our permanent cathedral is built, in the Square itself.

For a full read go to this PDF. Interesting to follow carefully how the permanent and the transitional cathedrals fit into the changing scape of Christchurch.

On Religious Freedom and Why Western Christians (and Jews) May Reasonably Fear Its Curtailment

Ross Douthat is the go to guy on the oppression of Western states against freedom to exercise one's religion in reasonable ways.

It is hard to find examples in the West these days (save perhaps for France) where any freedom to exercise the Islamic religion is curtailed.

On Marriage

As we debate here, there, and elsewhere the nature of marriage, it may be worth refreshing our understanding of the canonical understanding of marriage in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia (from here): [updated to attempt to clarify the phrase below 'proposed Canon']

SCHEDULE II [editorial note: 'proposed Canon' in the first sentence below is anachronistic and represents an oversight on the part of the tidying up section of General Synod re the writing of legislation. It refers to a now legislated clause which I now append to the statement below] 
The following are the major relevant excerpted sections from the Formularies to be read in conjunction with the proposed Canon, clause 1.3. The teaching enshrined in the Formularies is further enlarged by considering the whole of the service to be used at any specific wedding.
Marriage is intended by God to be a creative relationship - God’s blessing enables husband and wife to love and support each other in good times and bad. For Christians, marriage is also an invitation to share life together in the spirit of Jesus Christ. It is based upon a solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman, made and celebrated in the presence of God and before a priest and congregation. (A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, p. 779)
Marriage is a gift of God our Creator, whose intention is that husband and wife should be united in heart, body and mind. In their union they fulfil their love for each other. Marriage is given to provide the stability necessary for family life, so that children may be cared for lovingly and grow to full maturity. Marriage is a way of life to be upheld and honoured. No one should enter into it lightly. It involves a serious and life-long commitment to each other’s good in a union of strength, sympathy and delight. (A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, p. 780)
Praying is an outlook, a sustained energy, which creates a marriage and makes love and forgiveness life-long. Eternal love never fails; our love needs to forgive and be forgiven. As we pray and forgive we minister reconciliation. Those who marry are God’s ministers to each other of reconciliation and change. As they grow together, wife and husband foster one another’s strengths, they provide each other with reassurance and love needed to overcome their weaknesses. From this beginning God draws them now to a completely new life. They become awake to each other, aware of each other, sensitive to each other’s needs. (A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, p. 785f.)
Marriage is the promise of hope between a man and a woman who love each other, who trust that love, and who wish to share the future together. It enables two separate people to share their desires, longings, dreams and memories, and to help each other through their uncertainties. It provides the encouragement to risk more and thus to gain more. In marriage, husband and wife belong together, providing mutual support and a stability in which their children may grow. (A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, p. 790)
Marriage involves caring and giving. It involves learning to share one’s life with another person, forgiving as Christ forgives; enjoying the love and meaning which can be found together. It involves facing together whatever adversity may arise. (A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, p. 790)
[Marriage is to be entered into in the fear of God], duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the increase of mankind according to the will of God, and that children might be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained in order that the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright; that those who are called by God to this holy estate, should continue therein in pureness of living.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and in adversity. (Book of Common Prayer, 1928)
The above Schedule should be read in conjunction with this Clause (1.3) from our Canon on Marriage:

The minister shall provide education to the parties seeking marriage on the Christian understanding of marriage, or see that such education is provided by some other competent person, in accordance with any Guidelines that General Synod may from time to time issue. In particular the minister shall ascertain that the parties understand that Christian marriage is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into in the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind and will, and with the intent that it be lifelong. The Church's teaching on Christian marriage is enshrined in the Formularies of the Church and is expressed in all the marriage services in the Formularies and in the introduction for the congregation to Christian marriage in A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, (See Schedule II of this Canon).

What is it that we have asked of ourselves as a church for our engagement with the theology of marriage over the next two years?

Are we being herded towards a change to the above which would see reference to 'man', 'woman', 'husband', 'wife' removed?

(At which point it would become nonsense to talk about '[Marriage] was ordained for the increase of mankind ...').

Or are we being softened up for an additional section which permits variation for the special circumstance of the marriage of two men or two women?

(At which point it would be a nonsense to talk about marriage equality ... wait, is there any way we could have a canon on marriage which equalised marriage with gay 'marriage' without de-gendering our teaching on marriage?)

We have much to lose when we start tampering with marriage as fundamentally founded on the biological fact of humanity being created male and female and depending for continuity on the joining of man and woman in one flesh according to the complementarity our Creator has provided through our reproductive organs.

I think it worth reproducing a comment made last night on my post Ships Passing in the Night? ,

"I can't help wondering if people have missed the point, marriage as defined by Genesis and for many centuries has consisted of male (husband)and female (wife). To suggest that this is somehow unfair to female/female and male/male relationships is to miss the point, such relationships don't qualify to be called marriage. The only way they can qualify is to redefine marriage. This to me is the essence of what is going on. Something that has been cherished over the centuries is now being redefined in the name of equality. I don't qualify as a medical doctor, or as Maori, I may argue that is unfair but it is an issue of qualification, nothing to do with equality."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

You should put your hat in the ring too

I'm definitely putting my hat in the ring to be the next ABC. Seated behind the Queen at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, how cool is that? OK, so the Olympics won't come back to London for a few years but there must be other sporting events the next ABC could grace. Wimbledon. Lord's. Twickenham. Wembley. And I am a sports nut. I wouldn't just be putting in an appearance.

As for opera and stuff, there is a deputy-ABC isn't there?

Anyway, some commenters here think I have a few flaws. So in case I don't get the nod from Dave (I as a bit rude about his ecclesiastical expertise in my previous post), why don't you put your hat in the ring too?

Just be sure you know more about sport than I do!

Ships passing in the night?

Arguments and counter-arguments are emerging in the local mediascape as gay 'marriage' has come out of the closet of possible legislation into the open lounge of actual legislation being considered by our Parliament. Already I see signs that these arguments are likely to be like ships passing in the night. Pro the bill, for example, are arguments about rights to equal treatment. Against the bill are concerns about the general health and strength of marriage in our society. There is a case, is there not, for both perspectives to be accorded fair consideration by our politicians?

For myself I am not quite sure why we should ask parliament to maintain the status quo. In the current climate engendered by Western culture, that would be to beat the pro gay 'marriage' movement back for a while, but not to derail it for long. The issue will not go away if defeated on this occasion. What we should do as churches is argue for the distinctiveness of Christian teaching on marriage to be protected appropriately in the new society which will follow change to legislation. Such protection can be argued on the grounds of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

For a new society will follow change to legislation. Despite the general emotional climate of support for Louisa Wall's bill being one of sympathy to the plight of the marginalised underdog (which always works well in Kiwi culture), the legislation will have consequences unseen while the focus lies on improving the equality of gay couples. Post the bill being passed the way society engages with marriage, through language, other legislation, and education will be affected. Political correctness will require equal treatment of gay and straight couples in ways which move the climate from gracious support of the underdog to unflinching tyranny over those who to their dying day believe a marriage is constituted through gender differentiation.

To an extent the UK is providing the clues as to how that tyranny will arise. A few days ago Prime Minister Dave I Know All About Church Cameron told the churches to fall into line with his policies on gay 'marriage.' Quite rightly Anglican Mainstream have taken him to task for misrepresentation of the churches of Britain. It would be naive to think their protestations will make any difference.

At least in NZ I don't think we will have John Key pretending he understands the churches in these islands.

In order for the arguments not to be like ships passing in the night, I hope our church leaders come at the issue differently to what I have so far seen on TV and in the written news. I think there should be less arguing against the legislation on grounds that do not relate to the grounds on which the legislation is founded. Instead there should be more arguing for the churches (and other faiths) to be free to propound teaching on marriage which is differentiated from the secular 'theology' of parliament and society in general.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wisdom and Authority

New Zealand is now poised to join other Western nations debating gay 'marriage' because a Private Members [Member of Parliament] bill proposing legalising gay 'marriage' has been drawn from the ballot and will be debated soon in our parliament. One of a number of possible news reports is here. How will Christians respond to the reality of this debate?

I suggest two important aspects to our response: wisdom and authority.

Wisdom is finding ways to affirm what is affirmable and to question what is questionable. At all times wisdom is the refusal to accept false alternatives, poor arguments, misconceptions and the like. Authority is engaging with the differing but connected authorities involved in questions concerning the dignity of human beings. Parliament has the authority to propose, consider, debate, revise and finally resolve legislation. Christians seek generally to abide by legitimate authority (and sometimes have an appalling track record of not opposing illegitimate authority) yet always live under the authority of God as Lord of all lords and King of all kings.

I guess this may not be the only post on this debate over the next weeks and months so the following few thoughts are not intended to constitute a comprehensive reflection on the matters at hand.

Affirming what is affirmable: whatever else is going on in the push for gay 'marriage', people in same sex partnership are asking for equality of treatment around matters such as property, inheritance, next of kin status which (as far as I can see) can be affirmed by Christians.

Questioning what is questionable: I suggest there are some hidden consequences in the push for gay 'marriage' in terms (as in the linked report above) of 'equality' which need bringing to the light for debate, for questioning because there are some questionable matters here.

One question concerns whether, post legalising gay 'marriage', any discrimination between marriages (i.e. straight/gay) will be possible? Discrimination is a loaded term here but let's not euphemise it away with other words such as 'distinctive/distinguishing'. In public debate no one (I suspect) wants to raise such questions as it is politically incorrect to talk of discrimination, but might (to give an obvious example here) churches wish to be able to discriminate? For instance to be able to ask of the person applying to be the minister of a church whether 'married' in their CV means married to a person of the opposite or same gender?

Another question concerns adoption of children. Now I get it that a blanket ban on same sex couples adopting children doesn't work in various ways (e.g. it might deprive an unwanted-by-any-other-couple child of a loving home, it would forbid a reasonable proposal that a once married-now-widowed man who marries another man from having his own natural children adopted by his new partner). I also get it that married couples have the right to adopt. But is there not also a right of children to have the opportunity to be raised by a dad and a mum? To recognise this right is not necessarily to trump other rights, but should it be kept in sight rather than lost in rhetoric about gay parents being just as good as straight parents etc? All things being equal about a prospective adoption is it unreasonable to suggest that the right to be raised by a mum and a dad outweighs the rights of two men or two women to adopt?

What about authority? Last night I voted against legalising gay 'marriage'. I am not a politician but I am on Facebook! Why vote against? Because I am not convinced that God has authorised humanity to change the definition of marriage in respect of the genders involved. Parliament has authority but in Christian understanding it is an authority derived from God's authority. To that higher authority I look in vain for the disclosure or revelation of a new understanding of marriage.

For Anglicans this talk of authority may or may not wash. Already on Facebook I have seen one colleague make a comment which effectively translates as, the church needs to catch up with what Parliament is likely to decide. Fancy that! But what is unsurprising about such a comment is that it involves a muddled sense of what constitutes authority within a shared Anglican understanding and appreciation of authority. Appropriately we now have Michael Poon's latest Anglican essay available via Fulcrum. Entitled 'A Vision for the Fellowship of Anglican Churches', Michael touches on authority in these words,

"Most Anglican undertakings lack ecclesial consistency, especially those at international levels. Discussion and decision in international meetings do not carry any weight at local levels; ecclesiastical policies vary with change of leadership; Communion-level undertakings are mainly fund-dependent and therefore short-term by nature. The ecclesial deficit that the Windsor Continuation Group identifies in fact is endemic beyond the Communion structures, to the 'five marks of mission,' the rationale of qualification of Communion membership, and the 'autonomous province' concept. To Christopher Dawson (and John Henry Newman), this deficit goes to the heart of the Church of England: it lacks a proper authority structure. (See Adam Schwartz's discussion on Christopher Dawson in The Third Spring: G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, Christopher Dawson, and David Jones, 202-285.) 
Shorn of a coherent intellectual and theological account, global Anglicanism is therefore bound to collapse, and is at risk of splintering into tribalism. Remarkably, over the past decades the creative ecclesiological reflection in ecumenical conversation had not fed into the Communion-structure-building exercises." [my bold] 
But the fact that broadly speaking Anglicanism suffers from a malaise about authority does not mean, dear reader, that you and I need be afflicted by it. Anglicanism suffers that malaise where it refuses to engage with what authority has meant for Anglicanism, both in the sense of the distinctive birth of modern Anglicanism (i.e. the Reformation) and in the sense of 'what many Anglicans have subscribed to'. The authority of which I speak is precisely the authority of Scripture, informed by Tradition and influenced, but not negated by Reason.

Onwards and upwards to the sunny uplit lands of being Christian (and Anglican) in this strange new world of the 21st century!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shall we smooth the ruffles in dying liberal Christianity's pillow?

I think Tim Stanley makes a good argument here for the conclusion that, despite many protestations against a recent article by Ross Douthat, liberal or progressive Christianity is dying in the States, and no more glaringly so than in the ebbing life of the Episcopal Church.

Remembering that this is a journalist speaking and not a sophisticated theologian and ecclesiologist, Stanley puts the situation in this way:

"In fact, giving up your Sunday morning to sit in a cold temple listening to a kazoo band playing Nearer My God To Thee is, for most people, a perverse thing to choose to do. Ergo, it is not enough to get them into the pews by saying, “We've driven out the bigots!” – ministers now how to convince the public that church attendance is in their personal interest. And conservatives are better at doing this than liberals because the product they are selling makes a stronger claim for its value to the individual. 
Think of faith as operating within a highly competitive marketplace of ideas. Faith is no longer a product that people presume they need and are looking to buy (soap or shoes). Instead it has become a luxury item, or something that they have to be convinced that they might want (a sports car or a puppy). What kind of luxury is more likely to sell? Liberal Christianity is wracked with doubt, ducks strong conclusions and often seems to apologise for its own existence. Its liturgy is a confusing blend of styles and belief systems – just take a look at this colourful consecration of an Episcopalian bishop in Los Angeles. What do these people believe, and how is it relevant to me? 
By contrast, the conservative Christian product is a zinger. It screams loudly that it is the only way to Heaven, its Protestant services tend to be packed and charismatic, and its theology is straight-forward and uncompromising."

What about life in the Anglican church in these islands? I suggest it is pretty much the same situation. Liberal or progressive congregations are small, getting smaller, and on the way out. And that's a worry because we are talking about some pretty big swathes of parishes through our dioceses and hui amorangi. In part, the debate I have highlighted here at our General Synod re the 50:50 split in control of St John's College Trust Board funds is a consequence of a church with falling congregations and declining offertories. The real response of General Synod to tino rangatiratanga as a body of leadership in our church should be an examination of mission and evangelism strategy for the 21st century.

As with many matters touched on here, the biggest question before us as a church is the question, What is the gospel? If our 'gospel' is, in Stanley's terms, about a 'luxury' and not a 'necessity' of life, then we have no future in the post-modern world where many luxuries are available and few choices about necessities cannot be put off till another day. For all conservative Christianity's faults, it still conveys a conviction that the gospel is (pun intended) crucial to life. Ergo, in the two cities I have lived in over the last twelve and a half years, the largest churches have been conservative in theology (including healthy Catholic churches). I have said it before here but will keep saying it, the state of Anglicanism relative to Christianity in these islands is such that if all Anglicans disappeared tomorrow (in the rapture?) then Christianity would carry on strongly, healthily and mostly conservatively.

POSTSCRIPT: In connection with the above, Kendall Harmon is worth a watch-and-listen here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Apocalypse Soon?

Tomorrow I begin a class on Luke's Gospel at Laidlaw College Christchurch One of the issues in modern study of Luke's gospel is whether or not it remains as urgent in its sense of the end of the world as Mark and Matthew before it. That is, was the Gospel, along with the sequel Acts, written at a point when Christians were realising that Jesus was not returning tomorrow, and maybe had even turned from thinking about the end of the world to just the end of individuals' lives: death is eschatology, not final, cataclysmic global judgement.

Another issue is Luke's approach to riches. We could say that he was no Romney. Not even a John Key. But was he an Obama? Interestingly, I don't think Luke has a lot in common with Leo XIII, linked to via the Giles Fraser interview with Bishop Justin Welby (see yesterday's post). Leo's encyclical Rerum Novarum is much too keen on private ownership of property for Luke's taste. Some of what Luke has to say is, effectively, expressing a divine preferential disposition towards the poor. Some of what he says is sheer warning: riches cannot save you, indeed they may doom you, wake up, the end of your riches is nigh.

In that Lukan spirit, as a free service in economic advice, ADU draws your attention to these gloomy reports about the world's deepening recession: Greece at the end of the Euro road, and France not far behind. Yes, you read that right, France. But don't worry about the USA. What is at stake there is not whether Romney or Obama prevails in the election. It is whether Paul Krugman's advice will be followed: take the free money, he says, go deeper into debt, build some roads and bridges. All will be well.

Funnily enough, Luke might agree with Krugman. After all, if the end of the world is imminent, why not go deeper into debt!  But I don't advise the Greeks or the French to rely on the end of the world to save them.

Oh, and Luke has a few things to say about fools, so he might have a word for Monsieur le President Hollande who took office and lowered the age for people to receive the pension.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wise words from a dark horse

A while ago we did a wee bit of speculating re the next ABC and I made a fairly easy to work out hint as to who my dark horse candidate is. Taonga today has posted a superb article written by Giles Fraser as he works up an interview with that person who is the Bishop of ... well, why don't you read it for yourself.

I think those African connections will not go amiss in the next ABC.

Global South speaks

Global South Primates have met in Bangkok and issued a communique (see, e.g. Thinking Anglicans).

I note 17 primates signing (out of 38 across the Communion).

I note a big tick for communion with the See of Canterbury.

I note a big tick for the 'faithful' in TEC, ACNA and ACCan.

I note a black mark against some recent decisions of TEC.

I suggest the re-alignment of the Communion continues.

The demise of the Covenant is not the demise of new arrangements for the Communion.

Opponents of the Covenant have effectively tried to institute a different 'covenant' in the life of the Communion. Working on our own GS' wording it is the Covenant of fuzzy Anglicanism.

I do not sense that the 17 Global South Primates are would be signees to the Covenant of fuzzy Anglicanism.

UPDATE: with H/T to Michael A, Bishop Dan Martins blogs about the GS event here.

UPDATE: I note this post at Episcopal Cafe which questions whether the communique was put together in a manner fitting the signatures being collected up with it, as though all signing all knew what to which their names were being put.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Has General Synod Shafted the Three Tikanga Character of our Church?

I am deeply perturbed by our General Synod agreeing to even explore the possibility of tino rangatiratanga being exercised by Tikanga Maori over the assets of the St John's College Trust Board. The story is here and the text of the motion is here. Is the cart breaking away from the horse because someone has rammed a shaft into its cartwheel and stopped it in its tracks?

My perturbation is not about the assets and/or funds involved. There is no particular reason why Maori should not have more funds available for their work. Pakeha dioceses keep increasing the funds available for their work (a bequest here, sale of a property there, it all adds up).

No, my restlessness is about whether we are a Three Tikanga Church or not. That is, are we a church bound constitutionally to doing certain kinds of business in a threefold tikanga way or not? The exercise of tino rangatiratanga, that is, the singular sovereignty of one tikanga, is appropriate within the life of each separate tikanga (and, thus, is already in play). But in matters which we have been working together on as three tikanga, tino rangatiratanga cuts across the very constitutional principle which binds us together.

It is quite extraordinary that General Synod itself has entertained the notion that tino rangatiratanga may find its way into the taonga (the treasure which is St John's College and its Trust) which is common to us all. Essentially General Synod has lost the plot of our common life. The purpose for which General Synod exists is to govern and safeguard that common life. How could our representatives shaft the Three Tikanga character of our church? It beggars belief that no one stood up to Professor Winiata and called him out for the pathway he is leading our church onwards to (whether intentionally or unintentionally): division between Tikanga Maori and the remainder of the Anglican Church in these islands.

Again, to be clear, leaving our church as a whole Tikanga, may be an option which needs to be exercised by Tikanga Maori in order for the current restlessness of Maori leaders to be given a chance to settle into contentment. But why would General Synod which is bound to uphold the constitution of our church assist in this process unless it was by way of a review of our constitution? General Synod should not be entertaining motions which surreptitiously undermine the constitutional life of our church.

Last week I had some good responses to some decisions GS made. On slower and longer reflection I think GS overall in its 2012 meeting has let this church down. If we cannot have a reasonable expectation that GS will act in accordance with our constitution, what hope do we have for the functional future of our church?

Note in the Taonga report these words about Archbishop David Moxon's response:

"And this morning Archbishop David Moxon, the senior bishop of the New Zealand dioceses, described the resolution as a “landmark decision in the history of this church”.

It was a resolution, he said, “which honours our partnership in terms of the treaty and the church,” and he predicted it would have “huge, long-term implications.”"

On the one hand no truer or more ironical words are spoken about this situation than when he talks 'landmark' and 'huge ... implications'. On the other hand there is no mention of our constitution. Has the Treaty of Waitangi trumped it?

I think our church is in for a big shake up in the next few years. But whether we shake ourselves into separation or into renewed communion is unknown. We need to get our heads around what our constitution says. For instance,

"AND WHEREAS (2) the Church
(a) is ONE because it is one body, under one head, Jesus Christ,
(b) is HOLY because the Holy Spirit dwells in its members and guides it in mission,
(c) is CATHOLIC because it seeks to proclaim the whole faith to all people to the end of time and
(d) is APOSTOLIC because it presents the faith of the apostles and is sent to carry Christ's mission to all the world;"

I fail to see how the adoption of tino rangatiratanga into the common life of our church is consistent with our constitution which offers a straightforward account of orthodox ecclesiology: one, holy, catholic, apostolic church (though see below re whether our constitution is fully coherent with that orthodoxy). The determining factors in our common life, in other words, are to be our unity under the one Lord Jesus Christ, bound together by one Holy Spirit dwelling in our midst, united in proclaiming one gospel to all in a continuation of the apostolic faith and mission.

The story of the beginning of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, as told in Luke-Acts, offers a clear paradigm for a church which is a unity-in-diversity of different peoples and cultures. Luke repeatedly offers instances of potential difference and division in the church being healed and held together through the work of the Holy Spirit guiding the apostles to make decisions as a united conciliar body (especially Acts 6 and 15) and to undertake work which joins together what is happening in (say) Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 11, 13) or between the missions to the Jews and to the Gentiles (Acts 15). The tino rangatiratanga of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church is the Lord Jesus Christ's sovereignty working through the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father.

If any General Synod members reading here would care to comment, it would be of great interest to know whether the debate about tino rangatiratanga included any theological reflection on the common life of our church under the Lord Jesus Christ or on the application of our constitution to that common life as the life of the one Holy Spirit dwelling in our midst.

Incidentally, for the rocket scientists reading here who are inclined to ask whether the Three Tikanga character of our church is itself completely coherent with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, I do not think our current constitution is completely coherent with orthodox ecclesiology. But I accept it is a necessary step in our historical development as a church in these islands embedded as it is in the greater historical narrative of migration, colonisation, loss of mana and whenua (land), and evolution of sovereignty in respect of the Crown - a provisional chapter in our history, if you like. The next chapter should be a new way of being one church instead of being three often separated tikanga bound by one constitution. A chapter which could include the separation of Polynesia to be its own church in its own islands, as well as a new way of being Maori and Pakeha partners in a single church with single regional synods and one General Synod (at each level incorporating houses of Maori and Pakeha), driven forward by the rangatiratanga of Christ.

However the next chapter may be the dissolution of our church within these islands of Aotearoa. It is not too late, General Synod has the next two years to reconsider whether it has acted in accordance with the constitution of our church or not.

Interesting news about our cathedral

Tricky to know what is happening with our (permanent) cathedral, from one week to another. Is it being brought down? Wait, there's a moratorium. Is the moratorium still happening? I hear that .... [insert various rumours]. But the latest news is this: a proposal to save the cathedral will be reviewed by an engineering firm and other relevant firms appointed by our Cathedral Project Group, as reported here.

Random addition to post: Bosco Peters needs some help re his site Liturgy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Will any actual discipline be applied?

Re the matter my last two posts have been on, our Archbishops resident in Aotearoa New Zealand have made comment:

"The following is a statement from this church’s two New Zealand-based Anglican Archbishops:

In the light of recent media comment, it is important to clarify and restate the Anglican Church’s commitment to Bible in Schools in this country.

The ecumenical Churches Education Commission offers the Bible in Schools programme, where a school’s board of trustees agrees to provide it.

The Anglican Church in this country has long supported the Churches Education Commission, both financially and in principle, and will continue to do so.

If a school’s boards of trustees, which is the parents’ elected representative body, wants to offer this spirituality and values approach to the Bible outside of the school day, it has always seemed to us to be desirable to do so – and a perfectly reasonable provision in a democracy and in terms of Tomorrows’ Schools.

There are, in fact, many boards who choose not to offer Bible in Schools – and many boards who do believe it is appropriate.

Furthermore, even where a school does host this programme, pupils do not have to attend this part of the day. 

This is long-standing agreement which honours the freedom of choice we enjoy in this country, as well as the right of parents to influence their children's spiritual and moral development. 

We honour the work of the hundreds of volunteers who continue, in a loving, sensitive and non-manipulative way, to offer access, when asked, to this heritage in our schools.

++ David Moxon, Archbishop of the New Zealand dioceses.

++ Brown Turei, Pihopa of Aotearoa."

It wasn't me who wrote to them!

Why not name the actual person responsible for the "media comment"? How is the average Anglican who missed the papers or the news show going to make sense of this without a name to Google up?

At this stage there is no reference to this on Taonga ...  An article with links is now up on Taonga

Nevertheless I am grateful that our Archbishops are onto the case.

UPDATE: As is Bishop Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland in this not-mentioning-any-errant-clerics-by-actual-name media release

As commenters are asking, will any actual discipline be applied by either the Bishop of Auckland or the Archbishops to Clay Nelson? This discipline need not be in terms of a "Title D action." It could be in a reprimand and an instruction not to engage with the media in terms which bring the good name of the Anglican church as a church with doctrine, gospel and mission in the name of Jesus Christ into disrepute.

Rightly some commenters are asking, how can we be a church which seemingly offers no discipline to clergy who mock and send up our faith, disparage the work of Christians, and generally give evidence in public to not agreeing with the classic creeds of Christian orthodoxy.

Does Anglicanism in NZ have any lines in the sand or is it just an endless beach of shifting sands?

Why should we trust those who promote change in our church?

Yesterday's post raises some significant questions about those who are pushing for change in our church about the theology of marriage. What is the long-term agenda of clerics such as Clay Nelson and Glynn Cardy? Why should we trust that they will stop at changing marriage if we permit them to have their way on this matter? What is the content of the 'Christianity' which informs their proposals about changing marriage?  Surely we should only change our understanding of marriage if we think this is the Christian thing to do on the basis of an understanding of God as revealed through Christian Scripture to the Christian church?

Watching this TV interview of Clay Nelson on TV yesterday morning, I am left with no idea what Christianity means to this minister of the "gospel". His talk is all about promoting every religion, about not teaching the Bible to young people growing up in a Christian or post-Christian country whose roots remain, however much he is embarrassed by it, in the Christian gospel. He seems more concerned to enforce the Bill of Rights than to support the sharing of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ.

What if one day this church woke up to the fact that it had embraced a secular theology (we will suppose there is such a thing for a moment) rather than Christian theology? We would be like Esau after he realised he had sold his birthright for a mess of potage.

In particular, as a conservative, I have no idea why we conservative Anglicans should have any truck with proposals for changing the theology of marriage on the basis of the prognostications of ministers in Auckland who, far from seeming to subscribe to 'another gospel' seem to subscribe to anything other than the gospel.

It is galling that in the name of Christ, Clay Nelson seems keener to fellowship with atheists plotting against Bible in Schools than with the Churches Education Commission.

In short, it seems incredible that a few days after Glynn Cardy moving a motion at General Synod seeking to propel our church into change on its understanding of marriage, the church of which he is Vicar is associated via a fellow staff member with the public undermining of the mission of fellow Christians. It raises significant questions about why we should have any trust in the agenda being pursued by (what I believe) is a well-organised lobby across the dioceses of Auckland, Waiapu and Dunedin to bring about change in our church because it is not now clear whether this agenda is being driven by a secularised theology or by a well-founded, biblically-based Christian theology.

Why should our church pursue change which would align us somewhat indistinguishably from secular society around us, when the secularization of society seems to be the strategic priority of those promoting change?

Perhaps those pushing for change who do not agree with Clay Nelson's attack on Bible-in-Schools could publicly dissociate themselves from his attack?

In a comment yesterday Glynn mentioned Title D action. Well, let me say to Glynn and to other readers here, I detect a wide questioning in our church about why the Bishop of Auckland continues to permit the ministers at St Matthews-in-the-City to have the freedom they exercise to mock, question and dispute the beliefs and actions of fellow Christians. I suggest the time is coming when Bishop Ross Bay is going to need to dry out the wet bus ticket, harden it up with some doctrinal cement, and tackle the running sore which St Matthews-in-the-City has become in the life of our church.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's change the Bible. No, let's silence it!

Glynn Cardy. Clay Nelson. Both licensed clergy of the Diocese of Auckland, both working with St. Matthew's-in-the-City. The former featured last week in General Synod promoting change to our theology of marriage. Now the latter has "joined a secular campaign against Bible lessons in schools." Is there no end to the mischief these two get up to in the name of Christ?

Frankly, it sounds like Clay's concern about imposing the Christian faith on others is one American concerned to impose American values about the separation of religion and state on Kiwiland. He should butt out of the Kiwi way of doing things. We do not need re-colonisation! For goodness sake, even the NZEI sees nothing to see here. Move along.

It is embarrassing to have to be collegial with colleagues who will not defend the Bible and its role in society, who seem to have no concept of public theology based on promoting the Bible rather than publicly mocking the Bible and God's living Word spoken through it.

But don't worry, fellow Kiwi Anglicans, the future of our church via General Synod is in the hands of such as these who would progress our faith forwards in ever liberalising freedom based on a new gospel of the Bill of Rights. I will save for another day the way in which the Treaty is an alternate gospel driving our theology forward into ever new territory.

Oh, and by the way, don't miss reading in the article the not so subtle elitism and clericalism of this particular form of progressive Christianity in its attitude to the ministries of lay people: ""New Zealand has changed a lot and frankly Christianity is too diverse for a volunteer in the community to come in and teach a class with really no vetting.""

Talk about the ironies of cultural Marxism: this is a new form of dictatorship of the proletariat!

Dear God, 
Save us from these High Priests of this new and somewhat foreign religion which has infiltrated our church with its precious ideas about what Christianity is and who may be entrusted to teach it. 
Thank you for the loving and generous ministry in schools from so many faithful Christian laity over many generations. 
Thank you for the training and support given to these ministers by the Churches Education Commission. 
May we never be ashamed of the gospel and may we ever hold to the fact that there is one and only one gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Resurrection: how good is it?

Alistair McGrath with a nod to C.S. Lewis.

The paradox of cultural Marxism

One of the commenters here often connects changes in modern Western societies, and in the churches of those societies (but maybe, especially, Anglican/Episcopalian churches) with 'cultural Marxism.' In this phenomenon, Marxist theory identifies the importance of changing cultures as part of fermenting revolution which overturns capitalism. One such theorist, Gramsci, introduced the concept of 'cultural hegemony' to describe the means by which the state maintains control in a capitalist society. The flip side of cultural hegemony is that it can be undermined by an attack on culture, particularly, in Gramscian thought, by undermining the institutions which support culture. By tackling these institutions one by one, bit by bit, revolution is introduced. Although the phrase was apparently coined by another thinker, Dutcshke, Gramsci's proposal for Marxist action against capitalism via culture can be described as "the long march through the institutions." Get the Maoist allusion?

One of those institutions is marriage. It has been under particular attack since the 1960s. Aided and abetted, of course, by ordinary human failure and frailty, the breakdown of marriage as a bedrock institution of society, ironically, has been hastened by various economic moves made by both socialist and capitalist governments in the West.

But when we read this article by Jason deParle (published in one of the 'useful idiots' of cultural Marxism), our eyes are opened to the paradox of cultural Marxism in Western democracies (i.e. countries which have never quite abolished capitalism): those who marry and stay marry are generally materially better off. Except this article makes a further point about the amalgam of education, marriage and money: the gap between the 'marrieds' and the 'not/no longer marrieds' is getting bigger, not smaller, in America. Anecdotally, I would say the same is happening in NZ. (Nice Marxist touch, by the way, to use the word 'classes' in the title of the article!)

A further irony abounds here. Within Anglican and other churches, notions of 'traditional marriage' are under attack (for a variety of reasons, including the reason of seeking a new theology of marriage). One criticism of 'traditional marriage' is that it is associated with the exchange of livestock. That misses the point. Marriage has always been about property, including the just manner in which property may be exchanged through the generations. All the 20th and 21st century romanticism in the world about marriage does not change brute facts about inheritance (when the marriage stays together, together the couple receive whatever is passed on from one generation to another) and property (when the marriage falls apart, property is divided between parties). Jason deParle's article is a timely reminder that the relationship between marriage and property is a blessing: children benefit from the accumulation of the material benefits of traditional marriage.

Although I am not a Marxist, one thing I appreciate about Marxism is that it presses us to "follow the money" in understanding society. Marriage's benefits are not just about romance and eros. They are about property and money. The ultimate benefits of traditional marriage, to society in general, and to children in particular, are worth fostering. The Gramscian march through the institutions should be resisted. It will be interesting to see over the next two years what shape the debate in our church about marriage takes. I for one will be combining a Marxist alert to the material aspects of marriage with a Popperian resistance to Gramsci!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What now? (Part 2)

In part one of this mini-series I raised these questions as part of a reflection on some of the decisions made at the recent ACANZP synod in Fiji, held last week:

"What is the state of the society in which we seek to be the visible church of God?"


"What is our Luke-Acts [sociological legitimation] story for the Western church today, for ACANZP?"

My next question concerns the future of our church as it seeks to be a sociologically legitimated church in a 21st century Western society (in NZ) and in a 21st century Maori society (in Aotearoa) and in a 21st century Polynesian group of societies (in Polynesia, and, mostly, in Auckland in respect of NZ).

Before raising the question it might be worth a quick read of an interesting article by Ross Douthat in the New York Times, headed "Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?" In case you cannot access the full article, here are the key paragraphs:

"Traditional believers, both Protestant and Catholic, have not necessarily thrived in this environment [i.e. the 1960s social and moral revolution in the Western world]. The most successful Christian bodies have often been politically conservative but theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth rather than the full New Testament message.
But if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves.
Both religious and secular liberals have been loath to recognize this crisis. Leaders of liberal churches have alternated between a Monty Python-esque “it’s just a flesh wound!” bravado and a weird self-righteousness about their looming extinction. (In a 2005 interview, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop explained that her communion’s members valued “the stewardship of the earth” too highly to reproduce themselves.)
Liberal commentators, meanwhile, consistently hail these forms of Christianity as a model for the future without reckoning with their decline. Few of the outraged critiques of the Vatican’s investigation of progressive nuns mentioned the fact that Rome had intervened because otherwise the orders in question were likely to disappear in a generation. Fewer still noted the consequences of this eclipse: Because progressive Catholicism has failed to inspire a new generation of sisters, Catholic hospitals across the country are passing into the hands of more bottom-line-focused administrators, with inevitable consequences for how they serve the poor.
But if liberals need to come to terms with these failures, religious conservatives should not be smug about them. The defining idea of liberal Christianity — that faith should spur social reform as well as personal conversion — has been an immensely positive force in our national life. No one should wish for its extinction, or for a world where Christianity becomes the exclusive property of the political right.
What should be wished for, instead, is that liberal Christianity recovers a religious reason for its own existence."

My question for our church is this:

What kind of church do we want to be after 2014?

Acknowledging that the Anglican Church in Polynesia is a minority church, compared with the influence of the Methodist churches in Fiji and Tonga, to date the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand has been one of the largest churches, with (still) the largest comprehensive geographical reach into our cities, towns and countryside, embedded in the history of both Maori and Pakeha worlds in these islands, with some semblance of being the de facto established church (at least in respect of State funerals). The pre-eminence of the Anglican church in these ways in Aotearoa New Zealand can no doubt be explained in great detail by historians and sociologists, but here I suggest a significant explanation has been our comprehensiveness in theology and churchmanship.

We have catered for many different styles, and a wide range of theologies. We have incorporated a number of fashions and moods of the times: Ritualism in the 19th century, Modernism in the early 20th century, the Charismatic Movement in the late 20th century, shades of which, some stronger and some weaker in colour continue to drive forward the shape of our church today. Arguably we have been this comprehensive church precisely because of the tension in our beginnings as an evangelical, missionary church of the 1820s and 1830s swamped in the 1840s and 1850s by the influx of non-evangelical, not so missionary minded settlers: our origins were in comprehension and our development never quite lost any of the initial contributing elements.

But a two year period of re-examination of our theology of marriage could lead to a diminishment of our comprehension, specifically to a displacement of the conservative contribution to that comprehensiveness by a settlement of that re-examination which is determinedly liberal/progressive. If so, we would have taken a TEC-style turn for the future. Ross Douthat sets out clearly the dangers of settling for such a solution to our current encounters with the consequences of the 1960s.

Personally I would be deeply saddened to find that the comprehensiveness of the church to which I belong, through birth, baptism, conviction and license, is jettisoned. But worse, I see signs that it would be the beginning of the end of this church. As Anglicans used to being the largest and greatest church of the land, we can miss seeing the bigger picture of contemporary Christianity in these islands. In that bigger picture we are increasingly a smaller player. The growth areas in congregational life are in churches of other denominations and even of no denomination. Anglicanism could disappear tomorrow off the face of New Zealand's earth and Christianity would continue to thrive, grow, permutate and develop. In particular, Christianity of the non-Anglican variety is showing itself as particularly adept at winning young people to Christ. And, guess what, most are joining up to a discipleship programme which is not liberal/progressive.

I see a huge temptation in the GS of 2014 to determine that when most of the rest of Christianity in Aotearoa New Zealand is conservative, traditional, biblical in its orthodoxy and orthopraxy, ACANZP can become the liberal/progressive alternative. My prayer, wish, agenda and campaign here (for what it is feebly worth) is that our church does not take that turn, but determines, whatever re-examinations take place in the next two years, that we will both remain a comprehensive church and be part of the mainstream future of Christianity in these islands.

What kind of church do we want to be after 2014?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Does St John's College Have A Good Future?


Bishop Kelvin Wright gives a very helpful insight into the paths the last day and its major motions took. I comment there. My comment here is we should expect change - real change will take place upon the institution of tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) over 50% of the SJC Trust Board funds.

Original Post

The answer to the question is definitely "Yes" if we want it to be so. But what do we want as a whole church? What does Tikanga Pakeha want of the College?

I suggest that everyone in our church who cares for the future of St John's College read the following two Taonga reports very, very carefully. This article on the continuing suspension of the St John's College canon. Then this article (with text of motion) on the possibility of dividing the St John's College Trust Board assets in half in order that Maori may exercise tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) over them.

Here is one scenario about how the future might work out:

at the 2014 General Synod,  it is agreed that Maori exercise that sovereignty signalled in the report/motion linked to above;

that leaves 50% of the resources of the Trust Board for Pakeha and Polynesia to utilise towards their own educational needs, but

from that 50%, St John's College will need to be funded, 

and logically (tino rangatiratanga winning over the concept of the college led by a single principal) Maori will have walked away from the College (it no longer being a key element in their educational planning).

Such a scenario would raise some significant and likely very urgent questions:

what shape and size of College would be wanted? 
what would the cost of the revised College be, and what would the effect of that cost be after it is set aside from the 50%?

It could be that dioceses (i.e. the seven New Zealand dioceses and the Diocese of Polynesia) relinquish some of their sovereignty as regards local education through ministry educators and diocesan programmes of training and commit to utilising the resources of St John's College and send more students there than is currently the case. That would be a good future for the College.

But the questions I ask at the beginning of the post remain. What do we want as a church?

In the meantime, once again as a church, we have made the College something of a political football.

I realise now that while the GS has done some good thinking this past week about various matters, it has been good thinking in terms of the matters immediately before it. Has it done good thinking about the big picture and the long-term future of our life together? Or, has the GS taken further steps towards the dissolution of our life together, both as a three tikanga church and as a comprehensive church?

What now? (Possibly part 1 of a series)

I notice this morning on Facebook a strong post about the future of our church re the possibility of our theology on marriage changing the character of our church (and 70 comments to date in the exchange following!). What now for our church as we engage over the next two years in re-examining our theology of marriage?

Here is one question I think we should be thinking about (and there are many more to consider, some of which may be considered in future posts):

What is the state of the society in which we seek to be the visible church of God?

Historically, the church has always made some adaptation towards the way society is, even as it has also sought, variously, to prophetically critique society, as well as to convert people to Jesus Christ.

Just yesterday I had the fortunate and privileged experience of being part of a small group of local academics in an informal session with visiting New Testament scholar Darrell Bock, a specialist in Luke-Acts studies. One of the points Darrell made about Luke-Acts is that it functioned as 'sociological legitimation' of the early Christian movement. On the one hand showing that it had ancient and respectable roots in Judaism. On the other hand showing that through no particular fault of its own it had become separated from Judaism while seeking to be a responsible religious movement within the Roman Empire.

In Western society (at least), the church also stands in need of 'sociological legitimation'. That is, we need to be seen to be respectable, responsible, and reasonable. Not least, because the progress of the gospel depends on people making some sense of it: the gospel is different, but it is no virtue if it is deemed to be weird; belonging to the church has to make some kind of sense (e.g. because it is a friendly, supportive, caring community) and have a certain transparency (witness, by contrast, the alarm which cults and sects create in our society); and the church has to make some kind of contribution to the common good (not least to be a legitimated body, the contrast being Islamic societies where churches are more or less illegal, precisely because they threaten the common good of those societies as 'total' Islamic communities).

From this perspective, liberal/progressive tendencies in Western churches lean over backwards to be respectable, responsible and reasonable, while conservative tendencies in the same churches lean over backwards not to be unfaithful to what was once respectable, responsible and reasonable. One question for the latter being whether some shift is required because society has changed - a question which simply has to be asked for the sake of conservative integrity because examples abound of conservatives making some shifts to adapt to a changing world.

A question for the former, however, is whether leaning over backwards for the sake of sociological legitimation is precisely at the expense of the existence of the church itself.

That's enough for now, save to make one further observation out of some remarks Darrell Bock made: Luke took great pains in the telling of the story of the early church to tell us that this church held together across many tensions. It was the church of Hebrew speaking Jews and Greek speaking Jews, of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, of Jerusalem and Rome, of Peter and Paul. I loved Darrell's observation that when the crucial Jerusalem council was held over the tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians, it is the doyen of Jewish Christianity, James the brother of Jesus (and writer of the Letter of James) to whom Luke gives the lead role in proposing the compromise which will hold the two factions together.

What is our Luke-Acts story for the Western church today, for ACANZP?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wow. This Synod is thinking well!

Deep in my heart I remain disappointed about those words in the Covenant motion, "a useful starting point" re Sections 1-3, but I am wowed by the wisdom our GS is showing on other matters. Also impressed by the way Taonga is keeping us up to date with decisions made. (We need to understand that Taonga is not going to waste its or our time by reporting on the decisions not yet made, held over from one day to another and so forth. But I would harbour the hope that we might know more about the motions and bills which have simply gotten lost!)

Two great decisions reported in the last few hours.

Flexibility for trustees regarding insurance of buildings in the post quake phase of our life, including being able to not insure at all. Cool!

Unhurried decision-making re significant change at St John's College. That is, GS has gone for a breather: two further years of the current canon being suspended, asking for Te Kotahitanga to do more work on the significant change being proposed (i.e. merging the current three colleges more tightly into one coherent college). Interesting! Very interesting that GS should agree that a single principal could be appointed for the next two years, on a contract. Not quite sure who would want to take on such a role on such terms but there must be some senior person running up to retirement, or just retired who might take it up. ++Rowan? I bet Magdalene is not all high teas and roses!

In due course I will report (or link to Bosco Peters if he so reports) on the full state of the play re the liturgical motions and bills before the Synod. This might be more of a "curates egg" valuation, i.e. good in parts.

A Father's Heart and God's Heart

UPDATE FROM TEC GC: South Carolina has left the building. There is only so much of Machievalli even the most patient of Christians can endure!


Having congratulated GS yesterday on how it responded to Glynn Cardy's motion on the theology of marriage, there still remained to see what would come of Waiapu's two motions re same sex partnerships. In the end one was set aside and the other was also amended. The amended motion had started with the intention of confirming the autonomy of a bishop to ordained whom they chose. The stated explanation for the motion made it clear that this motion if resolved as it stood would lead to the Bishop of Waiapu (at least) ordaining whom he chose. Sanity prevailed, as you can read in Lloyd Ashton's report in Taonga. I suggest that conservatives in ACANZP, in particular, should reflect carefully and prayerfully on this part of the report of the debate:

"And then one of the best-known, best-loved veterans of the Anglican evangelical scene – we won’t be naming him – got to his feet to speak.
This man has always believed, and still does, that the Scriptures teach that marriage is, and can only ever be, the faithful union of a man and woman before God.
And here he was, telling synod that his beloved daughter has come out.
What’s more, she has entered a civil union with her partner.
But there’s a twist. Because here’s the plea that his daughter, and her partner, insisted he make to synod:
“Please Dad”, he shouted to the synod. “Don’t let them do anything that would hurt the church!”
Coming out, he said, had cost his daughter and her partner.
They’d been worship leaders in their local church, and they had voluntarily resigned before they came out, and before their civil union.
If their union was going to hurt that much-loved church – well, they’d rather carry the pain themselves and resign.
But still, they were begging this man to keep his integrity.
Please  don’t change, Dad,” they told him, “unless you’re personally convinced that this is what the Scriptures say.”
Dad still doesn’t agree with his daughter and her partner’s lifestyle.
But there’s no question about the steadfastness of his love for his daughter and her partner.
“I love them passionately ,” he said.
He’d been to his daughter’s civil union ceremony.
He’d spoken there, too – just as the father of the bride usually does at a wedding.
“There is nothing that you can do,” he told her that day, “that will make me love you more.
“And nothing you can do that will make me love you less.”"

I simply say, again, re the challenge for conservatives, we must engage, as this brother in Christ is doing, with the pastoral challenge of the situation of same sex couples seeking to live their lives in faithful partnerships. One way to imagine ourselves into this challenge is to constantly ask ourselves what, if anything, would be different about what we say, do, think and pray about these matters if it were our own flesh-and-blood who come to us and say their lives are not 'straight'forward in the way we might wish them to be so. 

What, in the end, is our heavenly Father's heart attitude to those who love another person with a love which is as great as the love of a husband for a wife or a wife for a husband?*

The amended motion which was approved, reads thus (and changes nothing about the current situation of our church:

"This General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui affirms the long tradition and practice of Episcopal autonomy, within canonical limits, in the discernment of a person’s call to ordination."

In other news from GS, a motion which Bosco Peters and others in the Diocese of Christchurch worked hard to formulate was passed, undergirding a resolve to be a Trinitarian liturgical church. Taonga report here.

However our normal warmth towards Bishop Kelvin Wright's blogging from GS is chilled slightly by his lack of enthusiasm for proper collects for our church!

Not all bishops in TEC are happy, as this statement of dissent makes clear. Perhaps critics here of my criticism of TEC could take note that TEC's own internal critics make pretty much the same criticism I make.

For something completely different, nothing to do with synodising or conventioning, J. Louis Martyn has something incisive to say about Galatians.

*PS: the question is about 'love', not about 'sex'. Framed in that way, we can scarcely dismiss it with appeals to the Bible's teaching on sex. Please refrain from doing so in comments on this post and, if you wish to comment, comment on the question!

PPS: Maybe I am being too strict with my strictures in the PS above! I find it hard to say what I think I want to say, but I am concerned that we can pastor those who are in dispute with what our doctrine is ... including pastoring those who consciously (and conscientiously) disagree with our doctrine. I think of a partnered gay friend who knows "all the arguments" and is unlikely to be persuaded by anything further I have to say, but would prefer me not to push for that which might lead to expulsion from the church and, vice versa, would not want to push for that which might lead to my expulsion from the church. If I were his vicar, what would my pastoral engagement with him involve (and not involve)? I can quickly state what the doctrine of marriage is (and why it should remain what it is). I find myself less able to state what the pastoral engagement of the pastor is to those who by word or deed or word-and-deed live out a different understanding of the doctrine of marriage. Is the question answered by saying, tout simple, that they must repent?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some praise is due our General Synod

Am still disappointed with the wording of our Covenant motion, but I am glad to find that our General Synod has some shared sanity re motions regarding same sex partnerships (making an assumption that two Waiapu motions have not been resolved - update: not yet, being discussed this morning, Wednesday) by agreeing to an amended motion from Glynn Cardy. The text of which, drawn from here, is:

"Moved:  Rev’d Glynn Cardy / Seconded:  Mr Peter Bargh

Nature of Marriage
That this General Synod/ te Hinota Whanui resolves:

That given the long-held mission of our Church to challenge and support couples to publicly commit themselves to each other,

Asks Episcopal Units to hold conversations in our Church and with the wider community about the nature of marriage,

And to explore how the Church might theologically and liturgically respond to gay and lesbian Anglican couples who request this rite.

Further,  it asks General Synod Standing Committee to support and resource the Episcopal Units in this endeavour ;

And for Episcopal Units to demonstrate progress to General Synod Standing Committee and, where appropriate, the Commission ‘Ma Whea’,  in advance of the next General Synod / te Hinota Whanui in 2014."

The report on the debate is here.

Speaking as a conservative evangelical to all conservative Anglicans in our church who should chance to read this and the report on Taonga, I suggest we have a significant challenge before us over the next two years.

The first part of this challenge is to take seriously the pastoral matters of how we (individuals, congregations, networks of congregations) and our church as a whole relates to and engages with those who wish to live out their sexual orientation in faithful, loving, permanent partnerships. We cannot duck this issue by leaving the church, because we will not be leaving the Christianity of the 21st century in these islands and elsewhere in the world which is relating to and engaged with these matters. Including, as the report makes mention, our very own sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbours and friends.

The second part of this challenge is to take seriously Scripture and tradition, the very lifeblood of our church as bequeathed to us in Christ through the Spirit that we might have access to the Father and draw all people to him. Further, to do so in such a manner that we are as faithful to Scripture and tradition as we seek to be to our spouses, while acknowledging and engaging with Christian brothers and sisters with diverse views on these matters.

On this and other matters at General Synod, read, as always, Kelvin Wright. Personally, reading his latest post, I am intrigued that the St John's College motion has not gone through straightforwardly. Heavy waters?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Communion, go to:

Preludium for the text of the two motions re Covenant and Communion which will go to TEC (recalling that some seven or so different motions had been proposed prior to the GC); update: now passed in both houses.

Titus One Nine for a heap of links to a heap of matters before TEC;

this particular post on T19 for something weird and worrying;

Bishop Dan Martins reflecting on a decision of the House of Bishops re a sneaky, move past the canons approach to same sex blessings (and to other posts of his re other matters);

Archbishop Mouneer Anis taking it to the old colonials network that is the process for appointing the ABC for the 21st century;

the Ugley Vicar who makes a telling point re WATCH and the messy machinations of the English GS;

and, finally, to the Anglican Curmudgeon on liturgical anarchy ... and, no, he is not talking about liturgy in ACANZP!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Anglican Condescension of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia

What is our church made of? It would appear that missing from our make up is 'memory'. Two years ago at GS we thought that Sections 1-3 of the Anglican Covenant were fine. Now, according to the Taonga report of the amended motion which passed includes this clause,

"Is unable to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant due to concerns about aspects of Section 4, but subscribes to Sections 1, 2, and 3 as currently drafted as a useful starting point for consideration of our Anglican understanding of the church."
So, now we have rethought what we once thought about Sections 1-3 and offer the view that they are 'a useful starting point for consideration of our Anglican understanding of the church.'

A useful starting point? Blood, sweat and tears have been spent by fine Anglican minds on those Sections. They have been commended to us by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
But, don't worry, the greatness of the theological acumen of our General Synod has been expressed in the phrase 'a useful starting point'. With such condescension, are we being led by people with more understanding about Anglicanism than the ABC himself?


But reading the Tweets on the #THW12 thread (which I am inclined not to go back to now that someone calling themselves f**k something has entered the dialogue), I am less than thrilled to find some of our younger leaders misunderstanding the parlous state theological education at St John's College had gotten itself into.

What is going on in Fiji?

To balance the books, clearly some wonderful experiences of life in Christ are taking place, as reported by +Kelvin Wright.

Back to the Covenant: I am pleased that ++David Moxon (according to the Taonga report) took an initiative to improve on the original motion brought against the Covenant. Yeah, we've rejected the Covenant and what great comfort that is bringing to the Covenant naysayers around the world, but we've managed some words which express our commitment to the Communion. But have we undone the good in the motion by refusing to endorse anything substantive about what it actually means to be an Anglican church?

Not, of course, that the state of the Anglican churches elsewhere conventioning and synodising is much improved on our machinations. In England the bishops have led a charge to postpone the motion on women bishops so they can remove the amendments they had introduced to the motion. One can just about imagine the Monty Python skit which would send up this state of affairs in which in the classic English way, sanity prevails at the expense of sensible people first acting like idiots. In America the bishops have found a neat mechanism for avoiding submitting a blessing of same sex unions to the usual kind of vote in case it got lost.

How sweetly Rome will be sleeping tonight!

The full text of the Covenant motion is here.