Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perhaps this, we should have predicted

As reported here, here and here, the CNC has failed to agree on a name to propose for the ABC. Perhaps this (initial) outcome of deliberations should have been predicted by those of us drawn to bookies and their speculations. After all, when the frontrunner keeps changing, and the latest frontrunner is a man of relatively little episcopal experience, it is more obvious in hindsight, that the actual deliberating body might struggle to anoint one person out of a (so it seems) less than very impressive pack.

However, ADU is nothing if not constructive, and I remind the CNC that I remain available, especially for attendance at major sporting events, seated in the Royal Box.

Otherwise, I suggest a look at this bloke. He must be one of the best educated archbishops around, and being born in Armagh, he is likely a British citizen.

Failing that, I suggest a rethink and a deeper think about +Durham.

If all else fails, the previous +Durham.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Facing a battle

My attention on Facebook (by one colleague) is drawn to a post on a local blog (posted by another colleague) which leads to this interview of Vaughan Roberts, one of the evangelical leaders in  the Church of England (and a speaker here in NZ a few years ago).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fair's fair (2)

Thoughtful comment here, on Fulcrum. The starting point for this reflection is one some conservative churches somewhere are going to face (at least in the West): it is not that difficult to insist when choosing a vicar that she or he be married or single; it is another thing to constrain all lay leadership in a parish.

Anyway, without commending or condemning what is said herein, prompted by a commenter, I offer the link. You can comment there, if you wish; or here.

Or not: you might want to give your sense of who is going to be the next ABC ... I remain slightly puzzled about where that will end up and wonder if a very surprising name is not going to emerge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reasonable Expectations

Taking a cue from some perceptive comments to the post below, here are some reasonable expectations about the next ABC, likely to be settled on re the internal process of appointment by the end of this week ...

A man. Wherever drawn from, the ABC will be a C of E bishop and thus must be a man.

A person with ability to speak in such a way that draws Anglicans together rather than divides or polarises us. This rules out an extremist, a known polariser, but could allow in a 'grey man' who never offends.

Probably an evangelical (in some sense of that term). An informal protocol is that ABCs alternate from different wings of the C of E. If that protocol is followed then the next ABC will be 'evangelical.'

Unquestionably an orthodox believer who will uphold the creedal faith of Anglican Christians. This is no time to appoint an ABC who from day one is dogged by questions as to whether he believes that Christ rose from the dead.

Someone versed in the ways of English culture and politics. The ABC is the C of E's senior bishop, sits in the House of Lords, and easy target for journalists looking for a headline. A bishop with a British passport somewhere in the former colonies is unlikely to be appointed.

A healthy, fit, robust person. Whether or not the demands of the post are too much, ought to be shared with another 'presidential' person, etc, the reality is that from day one the post will continue for the time being as it is: extremely demanding of time and energy. 

Does such a candidate exist? I think so. In my view there are two or three candidates. I also suggest we continue to reckon with the possibility of a surprise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Discounting a provisional ABC

Thinking Anglicans leads us to two interesting articles. George Pitcher offers an erudite picture of the challenges facing the next ABC, which concomitantly appreciates the excellent if misunderstood role ++Rowan has played as hotseat occupant amidst the strafing politics of state and church in the UK. The implicit pitch from George is for a successor with considerable deftness in thinking before speaking, which implies someone with a bit of experience of the upper stratosphere of English life. Although Pitcher doesn't discuss names, on this basis, York, London or Durham could do the job. But the question might be asked whether they would be stretching their respective competencies. Pitcher leaves room for the possibility there be someone somewhere we haven't quite spotted as having the intellectual heft required?

John Martin takes a different tack and names names and offers a variation on the Dark Horse, Welby will be winner, possibility canvassed here: Chartres of London will be appointed to do the job for a few years (he is the oldest of all being canvassed) so Welby can get more experience as a bishop.

From a long way a way I simply say in response to that direction, Nuts! Provisional episcopal solutions are often canvassed down under, but rarely followed through. The process of selecting a bishop, whether via election as here or running the gauntlet of press speculation a la England is so wearying that sensible appointees dismiss the short term solution and press to find the person who likely can do the job for a minimum of ten years. A point Martin misses is that if Chartres were appointed for a five year stint, Welby would be 61 by then. The obvious cry in 2017 would be, Is he too old? (As some are saying about ++Sentamu today). Then there is the small but important point of appointing someone to take the Communion through the next Lambeth Conference in 2018.

Let's discount appointment of a provisional ABC as nutty and press on for a "decader" in the office.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

There was no Mrs Jesus but there is a modern version of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas

Via Evangelical Textual Criticism via Mark Goodacre's blog, we can take you to Francis Watson's stunning, credible, immediate exposure of the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" as a fake in the tradition of the "Secret Gospel of Mark."


UPDATE: Read a slightly easier to digest version of Watson's article here, and an addendum there.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dark horse now favourite?

Faithful readers here may recall that I have put my metaphorical Lambeth wager on +Justin Welby of Durham as the dark horse candidate to succeed ++Rowan. Well, stick around and you may win some money. Or not.

Andrew Brown of the Guardian, prognosticating about the next ABC, discusses the merits of the now "former" frontrunners then writes,

"This leaves the dark horse, whom no one was discussing a year ago, yet now seems to lead the field: Justin Welby, the bishop of Durham."

Mind you, Andrew Brown then sets out the marks against JayDub. So, who knows whom the Crown Appointments Commission might look favourably upon.

But here is a thought. Why is discussion so intensely English?

Is there a Scottish bishop who could be brought south?

We might reasonably discount a Welsh bishop being brought across the border this time round (since ++Morgan has been appointed to the Commission for this appointment process).

Or, here is a wild thought: is there an Irishman who would bring some Gaelic flair to the post? Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling ...

Talking to ourselves?

An irony of being a Communion in the throes of rejecting a Covenant is that we continue to act as a coherent Communion which can engage with other global churches. Thus the IASCUFO's* recent Dublin meeting's communique informs us of progress in dialogue with "Lutherans, Methodists, the Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholics." Part of this irony is that we have a need to conduct our internal 'ecumenical dialogue' with those Anglicans who differ from us. Admirers of Rome may proffer strong criticism of (say) the Reformist Archbishop of Sydney. Some supporters of the ordination of woman as bishops in England show little or no sympathy with Anglo-Catholic and Reform Anglicans who oppose such ordination.

At worst the irony here is somewhat savage: on one front (external relations with other churches) we give an impression of being one united body keen to converse with another but differentiated united body, while on another front (relations across our Communion) we can seem bitterly divided, indeed perception here can be reality.

At best the irony is sweet: we can engage in external dialogue about Christian unity with the advantage of our internal experience of Christian unity. Despite many divisions within our Communion, we remain a Communion in which many Anglicans talk to each other, share communion together, and work in harmony in a shared mission.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seems Australians know something about marriage as well as cricket

For once I think I will celebrate my Australian heritage (my mother was born there, which probably explains why I love following Australian cricket). In both its lower and upper houses of parliament, Australia has voted in a manner which suggests the Archbishop of Sydney is more in tune with Australian society than I am in tune with Kiwi society.

Bill Muehlenberg calls this a massive marriage win.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mrs Jesus

In a completely unpredictable development in the world of scholarship, a papyrus fragment has been discovered in which a Coptic speaking Jesus refers to 'my wife.' Fourth century? Could be a typo for Fourthirst century. Coptic? That's kinda Greek, isn't it? Hey, it's more or less proven that Jesus wasn't a bachelor, Christianity isn't what it says it is and Benedict XVI may as well ordain women priests. There, look, you have read most of the world's press coverage of this interesting announcement by a Harvard scholar at an otherwise unheralded academic conference. For a sober estimation of the situation, I suggest heading to eminent NT scholar and blogger, Mark Goodacre. Alternatively, if you do want to read the world's press, then you could try the Guardian.

UPDATE: Evangelical Textual Criticism is onto the case. It could be a forgery ...

An act of rebellion?

On Facebook a few hours ago it has been announced by Anthony Dancer, the Social Justice Commissioner for our church, that a new union has been formed for clergy and church workers to belong to:

"... the launch of a new union for Anglican clergy and church workers. It is called the Anglican Clergy and Church Workers Union. Membership is open to all clergy, and all those involved in church work, and that includes chaplains. 

The union is a body primarily focussed upon establishing, upholding and defending professional standards in all aspects of work for its members, and negotiating for the same with employing bodies. It is also focused upon getting a fair deal for its members. We have yet to determine whether and with whom we may affiliate. Subs are 100 a year, and concessions are available for those who are on low or no incomes. We have as yet not decided on whether we shall affiliate or remain independent, but all of these matters will be discussed at our first meeting.

We will be holding our first meeting for members in Auckland around the end of October / beginning of November, around the time of ACC.

We have a positive, rapidly growing and enthusiastic membership at this stage. If you would like to join then please get in touch - message me, comment here, or send an email. ..."

I have no problem with church workers being unionised - they often get a bad deal about pay and conditions. But I do have an ecclesiological difficulty with the unionization of clergy.

This is the response I have posted on Facebook:

"Our collectivity is unified by our relationships to our licensing bishops. I would see belonging to the union you have proposed as an act of rebellion against my bishop. Don't sign me up!"

What do you think?

Would it be an act of clerical rebellion for licensed clergy to be unionised in a group other than one led by their bishop?

How does Title D fit into the statement about 'professional standards'? (I understand Title D to provide for those standards regarding our ministry. I also understand our bishops to be the relevant authority for upholding and maintaining them. Am I wrong?)

Is there a serious problem in our church in respect of relationships between clergy and bishops? Again, perhaps I am naive and idealistic, but a healthy church is one in which clergy and bishops work together as a college of presbyters to lead the life of the body of Christ on earth. Feeling a need to form a union is suggestive that clergy and bishops are not  working together as we ought in the fellowship of Christ.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Missio Dei

Dunedin is getting pretty good at stealing marches. The city has stolen a march on Christchurch by getting a covered stadium first. Now the Diocese has stolen a march on my Diocese by publishing details of its future restructuring draft plan (here). Our Synod will receive a draft plan when it next meets, likely March 2013. ADU will not attempt to second guess what might be in that draft plan but some principles for any structuring of any diocese could be noted here.

To my mind, the first and supreme principle is to establish our understanding of the mission of God (missio dei for those who speak Systematic Theology). What is that mission? What is the Diocese's role in it? How might we contribute to that mission? In town X do we need a church, a school, a welfare centre, a travelling caravan, all of the above or one or more of these possibilities? In what way can we contribute to the mission via the internet and a 'virtual presence'? The year of prayer and study already called for by Bishop Victoria will be a vital discernment of our role in God's mission in Canterbury and Westland.

Secondly, the next principle to establish is our understanding of ecumenicity. The mission of God transcends all churches, and calls on all churches to engage in that mission. Nothing about the mission of God stops the Anglicans or Baptists or Catholics having a church in every suburb and town, but the transcendent nature of the mission begs the question whether we need a physical Anglican presence (i.e. church building or school etc) in every part of each diocese. With respect to Christchurch, a major new housing development, I hear, already has some land set aside for the Baptists to build a church in it. Only with a clear understanding of ecumenicity will we discern whether we should be also seeking a physical presence there as well.

A third principle - I am sure there are more, but the day and its deeds beckon - is family well-being. Each of our congregations is a family within the great family of God. The way in which a congregation meets (time, venue, (in)ability to share fellowship over a cup of tea, etc) contributes to the well-being of the family. At one extreme, if this were the sole principle driving NZ dioceses forward, we should rebuild every damaged church or strengthen every quake-prone church in order to house each congregational family in the style to which they have been accustomed. At another extreme, if we decided to close down every church building (e.g. because of the folly of trying to maintain, insure, and develop buildings) an inevitable breakdown of Anglican 'family life' (as previously known) would occur. In a situation of many interacting factors re population shifts, costs of repairs and replacement, future insurance costs, and intention to have each church building at an agreed minimum strength re the building code, Kiwi Anglican decisions likely will be made which lie between the two extremes noted above.

One way of expressing the challenge for the Structural Review Group which our Standing Committee will appoint soon, is that the challenge will consist of balancing these three (and other) principles in determining our future structure.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cursing those made in the likeness of God

Timely reading today provided by the lectionary, James 3:1-12. In a world confusingly trying to work out whether the role of the President of the USA is to uphold freedom of speech or to make peace in the Middle East, James takes on speech as a topic of interest for disciples. Intriguingly James brilliantly illustrates the untameability of the tongue before telling us bluntly we ought to tame it! Unsurprisingly James does not debate whether we ought to have freedom of speech as a universal right or not. But he offers wisdom which is relevant to this week's conflict.

"With [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God" (3:9).

For James the freedom to say what we like is tempered by a fundamental human consideration. Speech can be directed against people made in the likeness of God. James does not spell out what this means, but we can fill in the dots. When we curse, we disrespect and diminish people. We do not love them as ourselves. We fail to treat people for what they are: made in the likeness of God. Conversely, to consider the true status of fellow human beings means a constraint on our speech we will not curse them.

That also means we will not ridicule them, even if they are a figure from the past whose name begins with M and inaugurated a great religion.

The part Christians could play in the current mess is to argue for people being treated respectfully. No videos disrespecting Mohammed. No missiles aimed at embassy staff. Not hard.

(Later) Tit for tat. No signs calling for people to be beheaded. Not nice. Peter FitzSimons makes a good point here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

We are going to do better

Yesterday brought a shattering and confusing announcement to many Cantabrians. After announcing closures of schools and mergers of schools to tearful principals, and as the news rippled across the city and through schoolyards, the Ministry of Education was busy backtracking on at least one part of the announcement. The Stuff story is here.

There is no doubt as to the need for change - some areas are being depleted of population, other areas are growing.

Inevitably there are dollars which can be saved through one set of changes (e.g. mergers) in order to fund other changes (e.g. new schools).

But schools have characters which are worth considering in terms other than dollars and cents. That consideration could lead to imagination about change other than closure or merger. Avonside Girls High School and Shirley Boys High School have history, tradition, and, as it happens, quite a few pupils. Merging them with other schools begs a question or three about other solutions. My one, for what it is worth, is to re-establish them on land in the central city: still in contact with the east of Christchurch but  more accessible to pupils seeking single-sex education via bus from other parts of the city.

Our Diocese is embarking on a 'structural review'. I hope we can do better than the Ministry of Education. While these three sentences also apply to our situation (There is no doubt as to the need for change - some areas are being depleted of population, other areas are growing. Inevitably there are dollars which can be saved through one set of changes (e.g. mergers) in order to fund other changes (e.g. new schools). But schools have characters which are worth considering in terms other than dollars and cents.) there are also important differences. When all the dust is settled on the changes to Canterbury education, children have to go to school, so the new schools will work. But people do not have to go to church, and certainly do not have to go to an Anglican church.

I want to write more shortly about our structural review, but for now, we can learn how to do things better re communication and consultation. We could also usefully take note of where the new schools are going to be built. That is a big clue as to where we might build new churches!

ADDENDUM: Dunedin Diocese Change here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crazy talk?

This is the American Embassy in Egypt responding to protests catalysed by an American film ridiculing Mohammed:

"Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

This is typical of the muddle we in the West are in when we try to balance the freedom of speech essential to the health of democracy with the need to accommodate the intolerance of religion, especially religion which does not value freedom of speech. The result is crazy talk because in the West, including in America, no one rejects the actions of those who 'hurt the religious beliefs of' Christians. Such statements as this one from the Egyptian embassy lack integrity because they are responding to the religious beliefs of one and only one religion, Islam under the fig leaf of concern for all religions. Within the last few days we have had no lesser figure than the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg, issue (then withdraw, claiming only a draft, etc) a speech in which opponents of gay 'marriage' in the UK are described as 'bigots.' Those opponents include many citizens of all faiths and none, including Muslims. But they definitely include many, many Christians. Otherwise we look round the last decades at films, artworks, cartoons, opinion columns and the like, as they cheerfully defame Christians, Christianity, and cherished figures within the Christian tradition, including Jesus and Mary. Never rejected by Western governments.

The crazy talk flows from a flaw in liberal thinking which focuses compassionately on the issue at hand and conveniently overlooks the bigger picture. By failing to see the bigger picture liberal thinking is liable to lead us into an illiberal world. In the United Kingdom, for example, a failure to incorporate British Islam into full participation in its social democracy will lead (as birthrates of Muslims rise and birthrates of non-Muslims decrease) to a Britain controlled by the most illiberal set of laws the world has ever known, Sharia.

We in NZ might not be quite as crazy as other parts of the West, but we have our own liberal hand-wringing going on here to. Actually, right in the Anglican church. Expectantly, +Richard Randerson has shared his liberal thoughts on gay 'marriage' in a sermon published by, unsurprisingly, St Matthew's in the City. Thus,

"I believe God is leading us all in a new journey of discovery, and strident claims of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are not appropriate to the debate."

Well that would be nice, wouldn't it? If I oppose gay 'marriage' and refuse to perform such ceremonies then I am not 'wrong' and therefore, I presume, cannot be discriminated against if, say, I applied to be the next vicar of St Matthew's in the City. Yeah, right! No, beneath the pleasant words of this sermon is an attempt to shift the thinking of our church along the 'journey' and the bigger picture of such shifts is always that 'right' and 'wrong' will be redefined.

But the pleasant words hide other difficulties. Here is +Richard talking about an forum at a high school some years ago in which questions were asked of him (as a visiting bishop) about sex:

"I said instead that there is a broad spectrum of types of sexual relationships, everything from promiscuous and abusive relationships at one end of the spectrum to a sexual relationship at the other end that arose from a deep love and ongoing commitment to another person. And that what mattered was not so much where we might currently be on the spectrum, but what we aspired to, viz. a committed relationship grounded in love."

What is not said is the basis for +Richard espousing the ultimate value of "a committed relationship grounded in love." Given that this is an unnatural state of affairs for the normal male, on what basis is this authoritative ethic handed down from the episcopal vantage point? Elsewhere in the sermon we are told that we should bless same sex partnerships because we now know that they are not an 'aberration.' The 'crazy talk' here is that we should bless a certain natural state with an unnatural ethic without any clear basis for pronouncing that ethic being given, noting that +Richard effectively rejects Scripture as a source for ethics since he subjects it to interpretation through 'deeper principles'. We might also observe, in respect of the citation above, that +Richard offers no guidance to someone 'on the spectrum' who is quite happy to remain there and not aspire to a committed relationship grounded in love!

Also hidden in this sermon is the arbitrary nature of its focus on change concerning gay 'marriage'. Randerson's ethic re marriages blessed by God boils down to this sentence, "The ethical criterion is to do with the quality of the relationship, not the orientation of the partners." Let us suppose this to be true. Necessarily this means that other kinds of relationships can and should be blessed: a quality relationship between a brother and a sister, or between three people, or more. The bigger picture here is whether we are going to be consistent in the application of a liberal ethic driven by reason rather than Scripture. It is simply arbitrary discrimination to press for gay 'marriage' to be permitted within our church and not for all other kinds of marriages.

A final point which I find deeply disturbing about this sermon. On the matter of parenting within marriage +Richard somewhat casually presses home a point about equality of care of children in respect of same sex couples and diverse sex couples,

"Can same-sex couples “provide the stability necessary for family life, so that children might be cared for lovingly and grow to full maturity”? The answer to both questions is Yes, based on the evidence of the number of same-sex couples in long-term committed relationships, and on the basis of research that shows children may be cared for equally well in same-sex families as in hetero-sexual ones."

Here we have a somewhat classic liberal waving the flag of 'research' to make an argument while missing the obvious point that what a same sex couple can never ever provide for a child is a mum and a dad. Parenting is more than 'care' (which in general terms can be provided by couples, same or mixed). It is about role modelling and about roles. A father is not a mother and a mother is not a father. We should never mistake research into the general ability of couples of different combinations of sexes to care for their children for a definitive argument against the importance of a child having a mum and a dad wherever possible.

No one disputes the importance of caring for those who find themselves marginalised in society and in church. From that perspective +Richard, St Matthews-in-the City, and others in our church are offering a distinctive challenge to the rest of us about how we include, welcome and support those who are different, whether that is in orientation, lifestyle, theology, churchmanship and the like. But the compassion being demonstrated does not face all the issues at stake, nor does it offer in its talk about these things a convincing theological underpinning to how we might act. If the strongest argument for gay 'marriage' is what is put forward here, then I suggest we are doing a disservice to ourselves, by which I mean every person belonging to our church.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

As yourself

Sunday's epistle reading, James 2:1-10, strikes an important note as we engage in various discussions around the Anglisphere. Picking up Leviticus 19:18, as Jesus himself did, and as Paul did (Galatians 6:16; Romans 13:8-9), James encourages us to do well by fulfilling the 'royal law', according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."

James contextualises this call, as Moses himself did in Leviticus 19, in social justice. Love your neighbour as yourself is not about the pyschology of love, reach out and give your neighbour a big hug, feeling warm feelings of goodwill towards your neighbour as you do to yourself (and if you do not feel good about yourself, get thee to a therapist). No, James and Moses point us in the direction of neighbourly love as acting justly and fairly towards your neighbour, just as we ourselves wish to be recipients of justice.

In all instances in the New Testament of the statement of this command, a proposal is being made that followers of Jesus will not have a large rulebook accompanying them through the journey. Rather, there will be a few rules, and the most important of all in respect of social relationships is 'love your neighbour as yourself.' How does a disciple respond to a new situation in life? By treating the other with the justice and fairness we would expect to receive ourselves. I wonder if this is why this summarising rule is called 'the royal law' by James: it is the rule King Jesus has given his followers for life in the kingdom of God.

But we could also go further and ask whether 'Love your neighbour as yourself' provides an interpretative help when engaging with other matters according to scripture. Thus, in the instance of the controversy over the Diocese of Sydney's wording of a proposed alternate marriage service (recently and presently being discussed in comments here), we might turn to Ephesians 5:21ff with James 2:8 (and Leviticus 19:18) in mind.

I am prompted to do this by a specific note in my (recently acquired and much appreciated) New Oxford Annotated Bible which offers "See Leviticus 19:18" in respect of 5:33, 'Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.' If Paul is consciously mirroring his instruction to husbands on the royal law then he is appropriating the guiding principle for the conduct of all social relations: treat one another fairly and justly as you yourself wish to be treated. Of course in Ephesians 5:21-33 Paul pushes husbands to love their wives deeply, with the sacrificial love Christ has already shown the church. From that perspective we could say that 5:33 means that while a husband's love for his wife should be of the deepest kind, ready to make the greatest sacrifice for his beloved, he should also act at all times with justice and fairness.

In turn that means that talk of 'subordination', 'submittedness' and 'respect' on the part of the wife (5:22, 24, 33) cannot be about a power imbalance in the spousal relationship, because that would be less than justice. The difficulty we have today, in a world not only acutely sensitive to what justice means, but also horrified at the many ways in which relationships become abusive, is that we cannot 'hear' promises to 'submit' to another person as coherent with that relationship being justly conducted. The lack of appreciation of the Sydney proposal by the wider city, and by others in the church reflects, I suggest, this inability to hear these promises as (I am sure) the Diocese intends them to be heard. Thus, unwittingly, the Diocese has set up a blockage to the gospel being heard as a gospel of (just) love. For such reasons I suggest the proposed service is quietly let go.

How then do we understand  Ephesians 5:22, 'Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the lord'? In the light of James 2:8, You do well to fulfil the royal law, this command must mean that wives are not being asked to submit, or be subject to their husbands in a manner which imbalances the power in the relationship. How so? One possibility to consider is that wives who are tempted to lord it over their husbands (an entirely theoretical possibility to consider, I know!!) are being asked here to engage justly with their husbands, by respecting and living under the authority of their husbands. How could wives who are tempted to lord it over their husbands contemplate a way to do this? By remembering that they willingly live under the authority of Christ and obey his commands (principally, of course, the royal law). So also they might treat their husbands.

In turn, husbands cannot misuse or abuse their wives and their willingness to accept their husbands' authority, because they are bound by the same requirement re just relationships. This requirement is reinforced by 5:21, 'Be subject to one another out of your reverence for Christ' and underlined in 5.33, 'love his wife as himself.' Incidentally, this approach to understanding Ephesians 5:21-33 makes good sense of verses such as 1 Corinthians 7:4 (mutual authority over each other's body) and 11:11-12 (neither man nor woman is independent from the other).

If we wished to vary our marriage vows in a new service anywhere in the Communion, in the light of Ephesians 5:21-33, we might consider vows which ask one of the other, Will you treat X with justice?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beat up?

As if there is not enough happening this weekend re Anglican news Down Under, many Anglicans throughout NZ will have bought the Sunday Star-Times today which has a banner front page headline, "Historic super-cathedral plan." The article underneath it quotes Bishop Victoria re some discussion in Anglican circles of a joint Catholic-Anglican cathedral being built to replace the two damaged cathedrals in our city. The internet version of the article is here. Now I can confirm that a Sunday Star-Times was present when Professor Paul Murray was here in Christchurch recently. I can imagine a clergyperson has had thoughts about a joint cathedral (I have had a few myself). I can imagine that person's bishop may have raised such an idea with Bishop Victoria. I can also believe that Bishop Barry Jones for understandable reasons of Catholic polity wishes to pour cold water on such an idea. But I cannot comment on what Bishop Victoria may or may not have said; or whether there have been such discussions here (say, within the Cathedral Project Group), as I know nothing and our Synod heard nothing about such an idea. So I very much hope that we have a Diocesan press statement soon to clarify what the actual situation is from our point of view.

UPDATE: A new report on Stuff (and in our Press) denies high-level discussions have been taking place.

Thank goodness we do not have to collude with half-truth any longer

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a story in one of our papers concerning one of our bishops separating from his wife (here). For reasons of delicacy, and possible litigation, what I couldn't say then was what I and a significant number of people in the Diocese of Wellington and, seemingly, a large number of my clerical colleagues up and down the land knew. We knew, and not just on the basis of tittle-tattle, but reliably, that the story was worse than that, involving a "third person" and another broken marriage. Whatever our thoughts are about such things, it was not pleasant to find that the story as revealed previously meant the bishop had placed many people in the position of reluctantly going along with a half-truth being told as though it were the full truth. 

Fortunately with the publication of the fuller story (here) the process by which many people were forced to act and speak as though the whole story had been told ends. People can choose, if they wish, to talk about the whole unfortunate mess rather than the half-version. Protestations about giving the poor bishop space to work out his own stuff, and congratulations on his integrity about handing in his licence in and the like can now be made on the basis of the full facts. But you won't find me making those protestations or congratulations.

Incidentally, there is an observation made in the story about when the relationship began. Any pastoral minister worth half a grain of salt knows something about transference, about our capacity to begin relational bonding long before some external sign of "beginning" occurs. So when a close friend of the family begins a sentence in the article with "unequivocably" the second half of Tui beer ads springs to mind. 

While it is not pleasant for our church to face this story, at least we now face the whole story and not the half-true version.

Insuring the future of the Christchurch Diocese

Another good day at Synod yesterday. Briefly (and these highlights are according to my reckoning, as one member's account):

Resolved to engage with flexibility about insuring or not for earthquakes.

Resolved to pay two-thirds of this year's premiums out of insurance proceeds AND a freewill offering to be sought from all parishes.

Agreed to raise our missions' target from $245K to $255K.

Agreed to support Bishop Victoria's call to a year of prayer and study, to progress on the future restructuring of the Diocese, including the establishment of a Structural Review Group to bring a draft proposal back to the next Synod and continuation of current conversations between parishes.

I think we also made some good calls in our elections, in particular electing two new members to our Church Property Trustees.

All in all, I think we did good work in (bad pun coming up) insuring the future of the Christchurch Diocese.

We finished in time for the rugby on the late free showing on Prime. Not a bad day! (ABs 21 - 5).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The physics of Ephesians 1:10

"as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

Nailed it

I reckon we had a very good day in our Christchurch Synod yesterday. With a background of some feeling about how little we know in answer to many questions about the present and future of our rebuilding and reshaping, of buildings, of parish life, and of diocesan life, yesterday was a very good day for learning stuff. What follows is my anecdotal account of things I thought important, relying on my memory in some instances and on a few notes. That is, this is not an 'official' reporting of the day (and certainly not intended as a comprehensive report).

One swirling question has been the status of insurance payouts for damaged buildings. Do these payouts belong to the diocese (via the Church Property Trustees) or to the parishes (while being held in CPT accounts)?

From the notes I made when our Chancellor responded to a question about these things:

The legislation governing the Church Property Trustees is not clear (and does not seem to be clear for other diocesan trust boards).

A legal opinion has been sought, obtained  and can be made available to the parishes. But further opinion is being sought, and the emerging opinions being sought by other dioceses shows some interesting diversity.

Payouts received are being held for the parishes, with each claim being numbered and the money paid out to CPT against that numbered claim being recorded.

Nevertheless the spending of funds remains a matter for approval by CPT and Standing Committee.

Further, in some cases the question of what belongs to the parish may be subject to historical investigation as to the history of endowment of the parish. (I am not quite sure what this aspect of the answer applies to ... could it be to the situation in which a parish ultimately is merged with another and the question arises how much of the insurance payout moves from one parish into the newly created parish?)

Another question has been about the reshaping of our mission via our parishes. What is going to happen? Who is going to be making decisions? How will we participate in the decision-making?

Here Bishop Victoria's presidential charge was outstanding, setting out the following process as we move forward from this Synod: a 'Structural Working Group' will be formed, via election at this synod, tasked with formulating a new plan for the parish map of the diocese, to be brought back to another synod in six months time, for synod to approve (or not). This is an outstanding proposal: offering a process, a timeline, and a participation by all parishes in the decision-making.

Incidentally, this will be part of a year of 'prayer and study' which Bishop Victoria has asked that we all engage in as we move forward.

I cannot recall for you all the language of the charge, but it was wonderful, visionary and inspiring. I imagine it will be available soon and I will link to it.

A third question, concerning insurance premiums (high cost thereof) received an interesting answer yesterday. Let me first explain that two searching questions have troubled parishes in recent months. One, the question of this years "530% increased" premiums. The answer to that will be discussed today. Two, the question of next year and the years beyond: will high premiums still be charged to the parishes, or will their be an option to not insure for quakes?

Well, I was amazed, and very pleased with what I heard. You see I have a motion today concerning the principle of not paying for quake insurance. I have received not one encouragement from CPT that this motion is along lines they support (or, for that matter, a sign that they do not support it). Yesterday in a great presentation re various financial matters concerning the post quake issues for buildings we were told that CPT is "going to the market" for insurance next year, seeking "affordable" insurance, with each parish having the option of not insuring for quakes. Excellent!

I think that yesterday both Bishop Victoria in her charge, and the synod as a whole 'nailed it' re a number of nagging questions which have troubled our minds.


Fair's fair

The tide running here re gay 'marriage' is to argue that it is not a conception Christians should agree to, not least because it is not at all clear that God blesses such relationships.

But ADU is not averse to noting the good argumentation of other sides of important debates. (And this is an important debate in the sense that it is not going to go away from the Anglican churches any time soon).

On Thinking Anglicans today Jeffrey John offers as good an argument as I have ever seen in favour of gay 'marriage'.

As I am between sessions of our Synod, I have not time to process the argument. So I am genuinely interested in your analysis of it. What works, and what doesn't? What is true and what is not?

LATER: Also of interest here is an article about one of our long serving and much respected clerics, Val Riches, and her supportive attitude to gay 'marriage.'

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Which C of E is the ABC representing when he comes to NZ?

Apparently there is a Church of England which is as bonkers as ... well, apparently, Jesus was. Read it here in the Daily Express. Now this has got to worry us Kiwi Anglicans as today we are also told by Taonga (and it must be Very Important because Julanne Clark-Morris took time to tell us on Facebook about it) that the forthcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting is a "once in a lifetime event." Partly it is a once in a lifetime event because it is "the first and last chance to see and hear this Archbishop of Canterbury in our part of the world". But who is this ABC? Just the Primate of All England. And that's the worry, isn't it? ++Rowan Williams may be coming to these shores to represent the balmiest, most bonkers church of them all.

Can we cope with the flood of eccentricity about to swoop down on us?

Of course, there is another C of E which is perfectly sane, most at ease with itself in the common rooms of Oxbridge and in the drawing rooms of Tory grandees, capable of expressing the deepest theology with the greatest of charm. With a bit of luck ++Rowan will not be reading the Daily Express but confining his intellectual curiosity to the Telegraph or, at an extreme pinch, to the Guardian.

But what will he say to us?

We have had ten years or so of ++Rowan confining his true beliefs about this and that (well, ok, about homsoexuality) to his inner theologian while allowing his outer archepiscopal self to steer a line so fine that we can measure the success of his tight rope walking by the pillorying of him from both sides of the line. Now, with freedom upon him from that outer self imminent, might he in the relaxed atmosphere of Down Under let his inner self out on parade for all the world to see.

He is, after all, an Anglican bish and not a Roman cardinal. He shouldn't have to wait till he is dead to resume telling us what he really thinks.

Speaking of which, of baring one's inner theologian only after death, and of sane and sound talk by the episcopoi, the late Cardinal Martini's posthumously published interview is now available in English.

Here are his money paragraphs:

"The first is conversion: the church must recognize its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals compel us to take up a path of conversion. Questions about sexuality, and all the themes involving the body, are an example. These are important to everyone, sometimes perhaps too important. We have to ask ourselves if people still listen to the advice of the church on sexual matters. Is the church still an authoritative reference in this field, or simply a caricature in the media?
The second is the Word of God. Vatican II gave the Bible back to Catholics. Only those who perceive this Word in their heart can be part of those who will help achieve renewal of the church, and who will know how to respond to personal questions with the right choice. The Word of God is simple, and seeks out as its companion a heart that listens. ... Neither the clergy nor ecclesiastical law can substitute for the inner life of the human person. All the external rules, the laws, the dogmas, are there to clarify this internal voice and for the discernment of spirits.
Who are the sacraments for? These are the third tool of healing. The sacraments are not an instrument of discipline, but a help for people in their journey and in the weaknesses of their life. Are we carrying the sacraments to the people who need new strength? I think of all the divorced and remarried couples, to extended families. They need special protection. The church upholds the indissolubility of matrimony. It's a grace when a marriage and a family succeed ...
The attitude we hold towards extended families determines the ability of the church to be close to their children. A woman, for instance, is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion, who takes care of her and her three children. This second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not only is the mother cut out [from the church] but also her children. If the parents feel like they're outside the church, and don't feel its support, the church will lose the future generation.
Before communion, we pray: "Lord, I am not worthy ...' We know we're not worthy ... Love is a grace. Love is a gift. The question of whether the divorced can receive communion ought to be turned around. How can the church reach people who have complicated family situations, bringing them help with the power of the sacraments?"

I have this funny feeling that he has more in common with ++Rowan than one might think looking at the width of the Tiber flowing between them.

For the record: ADU has not given the evangelical plot away with its admiration of Martini. I find the paragraph above about the Word of God to be confusing!

We won't be talking about marriage

Lightish posting this week as we run up to our next Diocese of Christchurch synod (Friday afternoon to Saturday evening). This synod is urgently focused on post quake matters. It has taken a few synods since the initial quake (two years ago, 4 September 2010) but finally I sense that synod members are engaging with the possibility that we can use our democratic powers (i.e. to move motions, to make amendments) to take up a shared responsibility for the way our future will unfold.

Motions have already been published re the mechanism by which we might share the costs of ultra high insurance premiums payable this year and the possibility that we might not require our parishes to pay for quake insurance in 2013. What is intriguing is the flurry of amendments emerging.

This week a late publication to synod members showed that Standing Committee has take the bull by the horns re the payment of premiums and amended the motion we will discuss so that it includes the raising of money for the premiums through donations from parishes. That is, non damaged parishes will have the opportunity to take up their share of the overall premium ahead of the possibility of it being paid for out of insurance payouts which should go to the parishes with damaged buildings.

I have proposed a motion about parishes not having to pay for quake insurance from next year onwards, but that motion is going to have amendments proposed in a couple of ways (at least), partly to broaden the scope beyond 'parishes', partly to see whether we might be able to cancel the insurance for the remainder of this year.

As a result of a meeting of the clergy of the Selwyn-Tawera Archdeaconry earlier this week, there could be a significant amendment proposed to the motion on the books about 'rolling over' our current strategic plan, the effect of which could be to see a new focus re diocesan staff working on the facilitation of conversations between parishes regarding our mission and the resourcing of it.

In my nearly three years and six synods of the diocese since I arrived here, I have never known such intense pre-synod work. All good, and I am looking forward to moving forward as a diocese through these next few days. The one thing we won't be moving forward on is our theology of marriage. That General Synod mandated discussion will await another synodical day!

Your prayers, as always, much appreciated.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When did Tutu announce his retirement had ended?

I am mystified by the life Archbishop Desmond Tutu now leads. I had read a while ago that he had retired from public life (i.e. retired from the life he has been living since he retired as an 'active/licensing' archbishop). But at the moment a bizarre story is emerging of the formerly retired from public life archbishop engaging with the possibility of appearing at a conference only to turn it down because Tony Blair would also be at the conference. Bizarrely we are now treated to the spectacle of Tutu, by way of self-justification for boycotting the conference, denouncing Blair (and Bush) as war criminals (and sort of treating President Obama as one by implication).

Moral: go out at the top, reputation intact, and stay out.

PS I fully expect a comment or two attacking this post because Tutu is a living saint etc etc :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A more generous attitude

UPDATE: Catholicity and Covenant makes a nice point here re generosity in the Milanese tradition.

ORIGINAL POST: There is nothing like an interview published posthumously to rattle the cages of an organisation which inhibits its own leaders from speaking their minds. So we have the very recently deceased Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini giving an interview from the bier, as reported by the BBBBBBBBBBC (see also a note in The Tablet). These words are worth reflecting on,

"Unless the Church adopted a more generous attitude towards divorced persons, it will lose the allegiance of future generations, the cardinal added. The question, he said, is not whether divorced couples can receive holy communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

And the advice he leaves behind to conquer the tiredness of the Church was a "radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops"."

Believe it or not, despite anything you read here, ADU concurs with the need for the church(es) to adopt a 'more generous attitude' towards those whose lives do not neatly fit within the customary way of life of Christians. Indeed, we must ask ourselves 'how the Church can help complex family situations'. Though quite why the most progressive cardinal of recent times etc could not simply say that divorced persons receiving communion is a question needing an urgent answer, I do not know.

That more generous attitude needs to be worked out in such a way that we affirm the teaching of the church while working out how we can help, effectively, complex family situations.

Such an approach is, of course, not novel to the late Cardinal, but simply the way of Jesus.

Incidentally we need to follow that way, whether or not we gain the allegiance of future generations.

A coupla points

Gentlemen (and it is the men) commenting here. You are all welcome, but a bit less use of 'liberal' and 'conservative' and arguments about which is right and best for the church could be good for discussion, which is always better when on the specific issue du jour. Of course, if I post on lib v con, or whether the Egalicomplementarians are destroying the church with their hetereodoxies, then the gloves are off ...

I have taken off the requirement to work out the two words-to-prevent- robots-commenting for a few days and the predictable has happened: robotic comments offering far too much viagra, and silly compliments about how flippin' marvellous this blog is and would I like to visit theirs, have rained down on the blog. So, back on with the requirement ... it is too much work deleting the robots!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Whoops, money doesn't grow on trees after all

Following the narrative of American politics and of the unfolding life and times of The Episcopalian Church I have never noticed the leading bloggers of the latter showing even scant appreciation of anything good coming out of he Republican Party. To the right of Genghis Khan doesn't even begin to describe the general evaluation of Republican politicians. But apparently a good number of Episcopalian priests (retired) are living off the fat of Bain Capital. As revealed by an impeccable source, Mitt Romney himself, as reported on another impeccable news digest, The Lead. That's the thing about the world, dear readers, it is the easiest place to subject to left-wing critique and the hardest place to live in without some capitalists earning some money!

Speaking of worldly realities, I see our bishops and other church leaders have once again taken to the air waves to pronounce about the iniquities of the world. This time it is child poverty, which features somewhat too highly on world rankings for comfort. There is also a mention of this issue in another Taonga article here, in which my colleague Jolyon White says, "The story often told in our society is that it is your own fault if you are poor. The game is to show we are all in this together and inequality can be just as much due to the way society is structured." Fair enough: poverty is a complex problem. But, in respect of child poverty, I wonder how deep our leaders are going to push the discussion they seek. First, money doesn't grow on trees, so what kind of economic growth are we going to support as churches in order to enable new levels of support for poor families? Secondly, are we going to talk about targeted support or a universal child benefit? Our prime minister this week made the excellent point that a universal benefit being touted by parts of our parliamentary opposition also benefits the already-rich kids. Thirdly, as observed somewhere in my reading this week, it is not a general statistic about child poverty which is the problem in NZ society, but a particular manifestation in which some families are choosing to have more children than can reasonably be predicted to be able to be supported by those families. The children who do not feature in child poverty statistics are precisely the children brought up in families which have made careful decisions about how many children can be reasonably supported (by which I do not just mean financially). Jolyon is right: children should not be blamed for being poor. But does something need to change about adults making decisions about how many children to bring into the world?

I recognise that question is part of a long-term path towards a solution and in the meantime we need to address the present problem. But if that is about providing more dollars, where are they going to come from? Let's face it, we could send a lot more money to the younger generations if we did not spend so much on the burgeoning population of older people! Jolyon, again, is spot on in observing that 'we are all in this together and inequality can be just as much due to the way society is structured'. But will we really engage in the complexity of equality, justice, welfare and access to wealth, or just focus on one issue at a time with pleasant soundbites and hand-wringing? To take one galling issue about child poverty: the poorest children in NZ live in the worst houses re dampness and cold, with inevitably flow on effects on health. But what do we see being rapidly built around NZ to the highest standards of insulation and warmth? Vast complexes of buildings to house our elderly. What transfer of government funding from one generation to another would yield a solution to the inadequate housing stock of the nation? Dare we even ask that question?!

This week has seen much discussion about marriage in our nation. (Quite a bit is appearing on Facebook for those who link to controversialists such as Glynn Cardy and Clay Nelson - Yes, as an inclusive Facebooker, they are my friends!!) On gay 'marriage' we now have a Stuff headline, 'Churches say they will snub gay weddings.' Well, of course. There is a distinctive understanding within Christianity and other religions ['church' is quite a broad term for Stuff, which includes mosques and temples] about marriage relative to popular secular understanding. Anyway, here is my thought at the end of a long week on these matters:

What if we stopped performing weddings in church? Without changing one canon or statute, all ministers could voluntarily agree to refuse to conduct weddings, send couples to registry offices, while offering to subsequently pray for and ask God to bless those relationships which fall within the teaching of the church. No one would be 'snubbed' re weddings, per se!

Speaking of marriage and the rumbling debate re marriage, Christian v secular, there is a stirring and robust commentary here in relation to the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen's stout defence of his diocese proferring a 'submit to husband' alternate marriage service. I think it worth reading as a great contribution to reflection on the nature of marriage. It challenges glib Christian dismissal of secular society's embrace of marriage. It is particularly poignant one week after one of our leading Christian leaders was announced to have left his marriage after being married for nearly fifty years. One week later, incidentally, I think this link is the only statement you will find about this situation on any official site connected to the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. What an enigmatic remark is made at the beginning of the sermon published in that link!

Finally, what are the Irish among us to make of a Press headline this morning, "Irish getting a bit of stick over stereotype"? Isn't it a good thing when people assume we are happy people who love a chat over a pint of beer, with plenty of good humour lacing our conversation, and not much care for tomorrow or whether if we want to go to Kilkenny, this wouldn't be the place we would start from?