Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Er, John or er, David or er, me

John Key, our Prime Minister, seems like an excellent bloke to know. I have never met him. But potentially I might. A few years after I went to Cobham Intermediate (NZ schooling for years seven and eight, when aged 11ish-12ish), John Key went there. At Easter this year a 50 year jubilee of the school is being held with the promise of meeting special guests. Could that mean John Key? Or Hayley Westenra? I cannot think of any other especially famous ex-pupils. But then an old classmate of mine would be worth inviting to be a guest speaker: Barbara Chapman is head of one of our leading banks, ASB, having forged a very impressive career to become one of the few female CEOs in NZ. I digress. As Prime Minister, John Key leads our parliament and that parliament soon will consider a (private member's) bill on same sex marriage. While the reception of the bill and the voting on it will be along 'conscience' rather than 'party' lines nevertheless John Key could give a lead on this matter. Being a mostly astute politician he seems to be playing a cool hand on the matter. Whatever lead he might give, I don't think it would offer the substantive reasoning that is on offer in the UK where a roughly parallel legislative move is progressing, though there with the explicit support and driving forward of Prime Minister Cameron.

Thus today we can read what the UK Roman Catholic bishops have to say. Here, here or here with H/T to Thinking Anglicans. In suggesting that there is something substantive on offer through their words I am not suggesting there is nothing on offer from those supporting the bill. (Though David Cameron's reasoning seems to amount to 'I think supporting this ultimately is electorally advantageous'). Among things said by the bishops, here is a pithy expression of the heart of their opposition to the proposed UK bill:

"The fundamental problem with the Bill is that changing the legal understanding of marriage to accommodate same sex partnerships threatens subtly, but radically, to alter the meaning of marriage over time for everyone. This is the heart of our argument in principle against same sex marriage."

Slightly longer is this:

"Marriage has,over the centuries, been the enduring public recognition of this commitment to provide a stable institution for the care and protection of children, and it has rightly been recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection for this reason. Marriage furthers the common good of society because it promotes a unique relationship within which children are conceived, born and reared, an institution that we believe benefits children."

Naturally, underpinning this approach, is the deeply held connection within Christianity, strongly retained in modern Catholic theology, arguably weakened in liberal Protestant theology, between sexual intercourse and procreation. Any bill, in any country which strives to widen the meaning of marriage from a specific (i.e. exclusive, faithful, permanent) relationship between a man and a woman to a relationship between any two people can only do so at the cost of weakening, if not severing the connection between sexual intercourse and procreation.

Interestingly the bishops draw on the wisdom of famous atheist Bertrand Russell as they expound this connection:

"‘But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex …. It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.’"*

Speaking for myself, I find that some of my views about marriage are being challenged by the ongoing debate occurring in Western civilisation. Too easily, I find myself realising, I have viewed marriage in 'romantic' terms: having fallen in love with each other, two people cement their love and celebrate it publicly by marrying each other. On those terms (and note how I have worded the sentence), marriage is indifferent to which genders are involved. Falling in love is certainly a pleasant way to inaugurate a relationship which leads to marriage, accompanied as it is by a vast array of music and countless films and novels, but it is not the only way, as cultures in which marriages are arranged would remind me. But marriage as I have experienced it (the first twenty five years are nearly upon us!) is the establishment, extension and maintenance of family, both the joining of two families of origin and the extending of each of those families.

The blessing of children in a marriage is the fulfilment of the great purpose of sexuality (on this atheistic evolutionists, theistic evolutionists and creationists are agreed!), the driving power of which draws two people together. That two people in a sexual relationship find purpose and meaning in their sexual activity such as enhancing their emotive love for one another is always a lesser purpose: without the great purpose of sexuality being fulfilled, neither person would exist! Bertrand Russell makes a good point: without children to consider, would there be any need to regulate sexual relations? (I assume he means relations entered into mutually between equals).

In one way I recognise with a degree of sympathy (now!) why politicians are pushing for same sex 'marriage' even where legal provision for 'civil union' or 'civil partnership' exists. Their world, I imagine, is a world of rights and access to them. The simple right to a fair trial is the cue to a vast, complex apparatus (of laws and government funding) of police, courts, department of justice, provision of legal aid, regulations for lawyers and so forth. Marriage confers certain rights (e.g. re next of kin, property) and politically it is demanding to restrict access to those rights by denying them to one group of people and conferring them on another group. Politicians are not accountable to God but to people and thus we see them being indifferent to who accesses those rights in respect of people the majority of society sees in ordinary terms. (Thus politicians are not about to open marriage up to siblings or to multiple spouses as society views these matters, still, as extraordinary. Conservatives seeing a 'slippery slope' from same sex marriage to, say, polygamy are misunderstanding society). Even though the rights conferred by marriage may be similar to those conferred by civil unions, the latter withholds one right, the right to say one is married! The Catholic bishops in the UK, however, are challenging a different matter. Not rights in respect of marriage, but the purpose of marriage in relation to the ongoing existence of society. Their point is that changing the definition of marriage cements into society a notion that procreation of the next generation of society is of little importance. The irony of many Western societies at the moment is that their governments are making economic decisions which work from precisely the same notion: the next generation and the burdens of debt bequeathed to it are of little importance. As good existentialists we are asserting the right of the present generation to have everything it desires.

The thoughts above are not intended to be a 'last word' on the matter; and they do not deal with the questions which arise where marriages between men and women do not or cannot produce children. But it is good to keep thinking as I head off tomorrow to the fourth Hermeneutical Hui of our church. A superb preview of the hui is given on Taonga. Readers here might be relieved, from one side and another, to see that I am not a presenter :). I do go however, to represent my diocese ... which is a rather clever move as the costs of my getting there are borne by the wider church since I am also on the planning committee for the hui. I think that observation deserves two :) :)

Consequentially, blogging might be light if not lite over the next few days!

*The fuller quote, to put Russell's remark in context is:

"The existing approach to marriage in British law encourages a particular understanding of marriage and the obligations taken on by those who marry. British law currently provides, for example, that a marriage is between two, rather than several, individuals; that the commitment of husband and wife is meant to last for their lifetime; that there is a sexual aspect to the relationship (in the requirement of consummation for there to be a valid marriage); that the husband is presumed to be the father of the child carried by his wife; and that the partners to the marriage will remain loyal to the relationship to the exclusion of all other sexual partners.
Those elements of the law of marriage are not arbitrary, archaic, or reactionary; they serve to show that marriage has an important and unique function.
These provisions cannot be understood unless they are seen as intimately related to the conception and rearing of children. This view is one held particularly strongly by the Catholic Church, but it is not a uniquely religious view.2 As Bertrand Russell said: ‘But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex …. It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.’"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Er, Katharine

It has been very hard through the years of her presiding to praise ++Katharine Jefferts Schori. She has an ability to not quite get things right, or even to get things quite wrong. So, as the life of the Anglican church in South Carolina unfolds, we find her doing little to preside over a church which desires to include the Diocese of South Carolina in its polity. Now we find her mistaking the life of the Diocese of South Carolina for the projection of a single Mad, Murderous, Dictator. Despite that Diocese recently working out corporately and conventionally that its faithfulness to Anglican Christianity was best pursued through legal separation from The Episcopal Church, in remarks made at the weekend, ++KJS assesses the situation as being driven by one man (who can only be Bishop Mark Lawrence) whom she sees as not too far from being a mad dictatorial mass murderer ...

"I tell you that story because it’s indicative of attitudes we’ve seen here and in many other places.  Somebody decides he knows the law, and oversteps whatever authority he may have to dictate the fate of others who may in fact be obeying the law, and often a law for which this local tyrant is not the judge.  It’s not too far from that kind of attitude to citizens’ militias deciding to patrol their towns or the Mexican border for unwelcome visitors.  It’s not terribly far from the state of mind evidenced in school shootings, or in those who want to arm school children, or the terrorism that takes oil workers hostage.

Most human communities, from churches to governments to families, function more effectively in response to shared decision-making.  Most of us don’t live in a world where one person is the ultimate Decider – because, over and over again, we’ve discovered that better decisions are made when they’re made in communities with appropriate checks and balances.  Power assumed by one authority figure alone is often a recipe for abuse, tyranny, and corruption.  That’s why Jesus challenges us to think about how the shepherd acts.  The authentic ones don’t sneak over the wall in the dead of night.  They operate transparently, and they work cooperatively with the gate-keeper himself."

The source for this transcript is impeccable so we can take it for granted that she did utter these words. There is a savage irony at work in her words because ++KJS herself has not been beyond deciding what the canons of TEC mean as she has denounced and renounced various of its clergy, including bishops over the years. If I were living in South Carolina I would be glad to be part of the Diocese rather than part of a church whose leadership can say things such as cited above. For a masterful outline of the South Carolingian/TEC situation and the absurdities within it, read A.S. Haley.

All this is not thousands of miles from the life of our own church. On Thursday I fly to Auckland to be part of the fourth and final Hermeneutical Hui on the Bible and human sexuality. This hui is part of the journey out church is on in respect of being an Anglican church in a modern Western liberal democracy. We will connect with another part of that journey, the Ma Whaea commission. One of the questions in the air for us as a church is whether and how we will conclude our journey on these matters together. 

It is fundamental to being Christian that we love one another even in strong disagreement. Thus the incumbent obligation on any church as an institution is to explore every avenue in disagreement for remaining together. On the matter of human sexuality it matters that we ensure that every element of God's justice and love through the order, rites and offices of the church is available to all its members.

It equally matters that where we disagree on how God's justice and love is expressed in the life of the church that we ensure that we remain together in our disagreement: after all, we are united in being a people who have received God's justice and love through Jesus Christ and we are united in being a people who earnestly desire to spread that justice and love in our faith community and into the world beyond us.

++KJS has perhaps served a useful purpose in our life Down Under by reminding us that a church can get it wrong (as I believe TEC has done by making itself unwelcome to the Diocese of South Carolina and other dioceses) and a leadership can descend to an inane level of analysis of the situation. A question for ACANZP then as we proceed on our journey, which now includes electing a new pakeha archbishop, is whether we are determined to remain together and be well-led by our bishops and archbishops.

While hopeful (as always!), I am not complacent about our future!

Monday, January 28, 2013

In local news

I am very pleased to hear that Archdeacon Andrew Starky, Vicar of Temuka and Te Ngawai, Archdeacon of South Canterbury, is going to be the next Vicar of St Michael's and All Angels here in Christchurch (as publicly announced yesterday). But my and others pleasure will be matched by the pain of South Canterbury Anglicans and Christians of many denominations losing a much loved and valued leader.

Until Friday I had thought (i.e. been led to believe) that the manner of appointing our next pakeha archbishop would be via the bishops making a nomination to the IDC Co-ordinating Group (sort of Standing Committee of the seven pakeha dioceses). On Friday I learned that our rules re the situation are not so affirming of that possibility (not least because the 'norm' is that changes occur at biennial meetings of the Inter Diocesan Conference - the next normal meeting would be July 2014). Yesterday Bishop Victoria's letter announcing Andrew's appointment mentioned a meeting of IDC on Saturday 23 March. Thus it would appear that a full meeting is going to take place - a slightly expensive exercise, but perhaps one or two other matters could be resolved when the meeting takes place.

Further on our cathedral. If the following article is correct (here) then the predicted costs for possible futures of our cathedral are:

Mayor Bob Parker's encasement of the ruins in glass: $45m

Four rebuild options being considered by the Diocese: $73.5m to $84.3m

Restoration of the cathedral: $95m to $109.2m

Finally, it is always good to see faithful ministries which continue in long service to God and God's people. But they come to an end. Taonga links to this article as Graham and Rose Langley retire after 23 years of ministry in their parish centred on Balclutha. I salute them. Graham and Rose together have been a beacon of gospel light in their diocese.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Glimmer of good news?

I am reviewing my life in 2013, having hurtled too busily and sleeplessly through 2012, so one vow to myself, which I will not promise not to break, is to blog less. Sundays will be a blogsabbath. Saturdays may be too, or, if something catches my eye, a link to another's news or views. Here goes for the first Saturday of the New Year's Resolution ...

Bishop Kelvin Wright has a very interesting post on proposed new post-quake building regulations.

Read here.

The glimmer of good news? A very interesting titbit re rural churches.

Have a great weekend (from Aotearoa NZ where an atmospheric/climatic 'high' is of such proportions that we are forecast sunshine for days and days to come).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Is God speaking through Fairfax Media?

What seems ages ago I voiced a thought or two about the possibility of an 'ecumenical cathedral' for Christchurch (a large church for the use of all churches for big occasions such as ordinations). Last year we had a 'beat up' article on the possibility of a joint Anglican-Catholic cathedral - it was a 'beat up' in the sense that a remark here and a remark there by a couple of people with no direct say in the future of either cathedral in Christchurch was joined to make a headline. Nevertheless, beat up or not, there has always been a modicum of sense in pursuing the idea of a joint cathedral: when two churches each face massive costs in rebuilding treasured buildings, why not join forces and try to beat the odds of it not working. So to today when Christchurch readers of The Press find the idea of a joint cathedral once again being mooted (bottom front page). This article has its 'beat up' angle: the headline gives the impression of a discussion in the corridors of Vatican and Canterbury (UK) power when no such thing has happened. A discussion has taken place but a close reading of the article suggests only a sharing of information with Vatican officials. Even more important, the article actually says that nothing has changed in respect of the 'corridors of power' in either of the local Catholic and Anglican dioceses.

An intriguing question, nevertheless, is whether God is trying to say something to Christchurch Christians through Fairfax Media? Ut unim sint ...

I recognise, as Bishop Victoria points out, that there are legal matters to be sorted which remain in the courts and thus, in the end, theological desiderata may be trumped by legal judgements!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good and bad arguments

Something I have been keeping an eye on over the last few weeks are arguments being mounted by people (sometimes ostensibly Christian, sometimes not ostensibly Christian) in respect of hot button issues, particularly one issue, 'gay marriage.' So we have had an outpouring of angst/celebration in British Christianity because a leading evangelical, Steve Chalke has come out publicly in favour of blessing same sex partnerships. Here in NZ in recent days we have had a conservative citizen associated with 'sensible sentencing' re crime make the attempted case that gay marriage will lead to an increase in crime. (Just in case that seems totally irrational to overseas readers, his proposal rests on the logic, gay marriage is a further declension of moral standards here, the lowering of which increases the crime rate). One of the thing which interests me, partly as theologian, partly as one-time philosophy student, is the quality of the arguments being brought to the table of public discussion.

A quick read of Chalke, for instance, suggests his laudable sentiments (a better deal in churches for gay Christians) are not well under-pinned by his arguments (as, argue indeed he does, offering an assessment of the Bible on homosexuality). The connection sought here in NZ, between gay marriage and the crime rate is ludicrous: there is a connection between the general state of morality in a society and its crime rate, but it is hard to pin down to specific declensions, the crime rate can be improved by means other than improving morality (e.g. 'zero tolerance' policing), and, most importantly, it is just unjust to pick on gay marriage of all possible declensions in morality. Why not ban divorce, remarriage after divorce, sex before and outside of marriage, excess drinking, smoking anywhere (OK, we are heading towards that!?), breaking the speed limit (we could put 'governors' on car engines if serious about that!), and so forth.

On another matter altogether, I have been appalled at the argumentation brought forward to oppose President Obama's attempt to control the sale of guns in the USA. 'Let schools have armed guards rather than ban the sale of assault guns.' Really? Has the apex of Western civilization and learning come down to this?

Ergo, where are the good arguments? Perhaps a challenge for Christians, conservatives, and conservative Christians in 2013 is to think before speaking, review and revise before writing, discuss privately before proclaiming publicly. Paul once said 'Test the spirits.' Perhaps today he would advise 'Test the arguments.'

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paradise examined

After posting on Paradise yesterday I continued reflecting on the reality (in this life) of earthly paradise, and this morning a thoughtful comment came in from Andrew Reid pointing out that Christians need to love God more than this world and those who build paradise in this world could be reminded of the parable of the rich fool!

There is trouble in Paradise and other parts of Aotearoa NZ making claim to be paradisal. While it is hard in the January sun with blue water shimmering nearby to do some hard thinking, the reality of life in our fair land is that some have more than others. In terms of summer, not everyone can afford a lovely swimming pool in their backyard - I certainly cannot! In the city I called Paradise there has been an almost criminal laissez-faire attitude to "in fill" housing by the city council so that today some poorer citizens live in dreadful conditions - small houses with virtually no yards down a long shared driveway. Further, as the comment noted above, creation continues to groan, and thus wherever we live in these islands we are under threat of earthquake, floods and erosion. One irony of housing in Paradise is the most expensive houses sit on top of cliffs which are prone to erosion after 1 in 50 year storms.

In other words, as long as the sun shines here it is easy to be complacent. Part of the gospel is an attack on complacency, an urgent call to wake up to what lies below the surface of life which any moment can erupt as the judgement of God on how we live. But how is the church to shape its proclamation in word and deed so it disturbs complacency?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Paradise and yearning for heaven

I am writing this from a place in Aotearoa NZ which could be called Paradise. Many years ago, when living in England but destined to next live in Paradise, a visiting Australian academic told me that he had recently visited Paradise and thought it was the best city in the world. When I arrived here six days ago the weather was a little bleak and I struggled for a day or two without a light top to put over my shirt. But the last three to four days have been perfect, especially yesterday and today: cloudless sky and the sun shining with a brightness peculiar to this place (apply sun tan lotion copiously). So the joy of summer has been warm sun, bright sky, peace in my relaxed heart, and swimming. Lots of swims. To the point where I wonder if the Seer got it right in Revelation 15:2 when he saw a 'sea of glass' in heaven (an image sometimes explained as representing victory over ancient Jewish fear of the sea and its chaotic storms). Surely heaven will include a sparkling blue pool of water in which swimming and diving give endless pleasure!

Sitting in a cafe yesterday with a friend I received a wonderful insight into the obstacles our faith in Christ face in this fair land of ours. Having recently journeyed to a depressed and destitute country where he experienced proclamation of the gospel in the context of tragic death in terms of heaven being a 'better place' he made the observation to me that here on earth where life is experienced as 'paradise' no one wants to leave this life for the next. In a pleasant cafe on a perfect summer's day, the point was well made and easily absorbed.

Yes, we have a grizzle here and there (and lots more grizzles in Christchurch where I now live and work) but generally speaking, in the age of perfect coffees, brilliant technologies, cures for most diseases, abundantly stocked supermarkets and a benign climate, here in 'God's Own' country there is not a lot of pressure to yearn for heaven. There are many incentives to live as long as possible in order to experience paradise endlessly.

This year I am attempting to teach John's Gospel at Laidlaw College Christchurch (with a few preliminary thoughts here). To aid me I have been re-reading through the summer break one of the most brilliant books of theology I have ever encountered, John Ashton's Understanding the Fourth Gospel. Beyond the great debates about this gospel such as whether it is first-hand testimony of a genuine eye-witnessing disciple of Jesus or a veiled testimony to the history of the sectarian Johannine community as it separated from the local synagogue, all interpreters agree that the Fourth Gospel is a message of life, of the abundant life which Christ came to give (10:10). But what does the gospel of abundant life in Christ mean in a land abundant with life?

It is tempting to (attempt to) answer the question. But perhaps the question is better left as one for all Kiwi Christians to reflect on slowly and profoundly. Indeed, to do so would be to follow John as the Beloved Disciple who offers in his gospel a proclamation of the gospel after slowly and profoundly reflecting on the gospel tradition he received (which we know from the first Three Gospels) as well as his own experience as an eye-witness. In that reflection the 'kingdom of God' became 'eternal life'. In our reflection what is the translation of the gospel into the language of Paradise?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Scripture on Scripture, Scripture from Scripture

With a few minutes spare and access to a computer I can post within the ten days I thought posting might not be possible. Reading this morning in Hebrews this caught my eye:

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." (2:1)

The writer to the Hebrews is self-consciously referencing what he writes to the then familiar Scripture of the church. It needs to be paid attention to, and in what I am writing to you, I am both paying attention myself and seeking to assist you, dear readers, in paying attention to it.

But what does the writer write in Hebrews? All he does is write what the familiar Scripture now means in the light of Jesus Christ. Thus his writing is also Scripture - not a new scriptural writing (as such) but an extension of the already existing Scripture, a drawing out (i.e. exegesis) of what had been hidden within Scripture: Jesus Christ, God coming into the world to speak to us in these last days (1:1-2). In this sense also Hebrews is Scripture: it is a writing down of what God has spoken 'by his Son' (1:2).

As Anglicans we read Scripture and hear it read, through the daily office/eucharist and weekly services. But a searching question for us, most especially at the time of the English Reformation, has been how much attention we pay to Scripture.

For evangelical Anglicans, our claim has been that we do pay attention to Scripture. But the question always before us is, Do we?

Monday, January 14, 2013

I can see clearly now!

A few weeks' break from blogging has done me a world of good. Whether readers think so is, of course, another matter. Here goes for 2013.

Bit by bit life is changing around us. Here in Christchurch/Canterbury, Aotearoa New Zealand we are experiencing a scorcher of a summer, with many days in the high 20s Celsius and a few days in the 30s. This is nothing compared to our neighbours across the Ditch (Tasman Sea) where temperatures have been in the high 40s in some places with deadly consequences. There have been heat waves before but the graphs are telling us that the world is unusually warm these days and for those with eyes to see, there is a human element contributing to the spike in temperatures and in rising sea levels.

The heat is rising in the Anglican Whatsit these days too. While I have self-imposed my blogging break, other Anglicans have been restless. Rumbles continue over the C of E GS non-approval of women bishops (see now an erudite case for why the Chair of the House of Laity must go - the initial case was, IMHO, poorly thought through. nevertheless it involves a form of posturing: the issue is women bishops, not who the chair of this or that house is).

Simultaneously the Anglican Whatsit has been rumbling over another development in the C of E, the ground-breaking news that celibate priests who intend to remain celibate can be bishops. Scan through Thinking Anglicans and other sites to get the gist of the rumblings, the latest of which is a Global South Primates letter.

Frankly, I think, even as a conservative, that conservative Anglican Primates could do better than what they offer. Seeking a global Anglican consultation/consensus on decisions such as the C of E has made would have integrity if all decisions about homosexuality had consensus. But I don't see the Church in Uganda consulting with the wider Whatsit or asking for a consensus about their support for draconian civil legislation against gays and lesbians ... a consensus I could not be part of. Could you?

I wouldn't want to be part of the C of E these days. Let's face it, I could be in a diocese where (1) a bishop is imposed on me (there not being synodical elections of bishops), (2) that bishop is in a civil partnership with a same sex partner (I may or may not think, without prejudice, that is a propitious circumstance), (3) thus I am asked to accept the prospective bishop's word that he is celibate, placing me in the invidious position of accepting that word on trust (which, as a priest, I should be inclined to do) while (almost certainly) having a host of parishioners and colleagues around me questioning whether that word can be accepted. Not least that questioning would arise because that silly man Giles Fraser has publicly argued that about-to-be-bishops-in-a-civil-partnership should lie under these circumstances  thus setting up the perfect argument for mistrusting people who are in partnerships and say they are celibate (the famous example being Jeffrey John).

If that last paragraph is a bit long, let me say more succinctly: I am glad to be in the church I am in Down Under! (For what it is worth, I do take Jeffrey John at his word, thus his being turned down for a bishopric was always about whether he adhered to the C of E's teaching or not. I personally do not have a problem with celibate clergy in a same sex civil partnership (some have protested about this as it 'looks like marriage'). My point is that celibacy is not a confinement to singleness in the sense of living alone: celibate monasticism has always been about people living together in a mutually supportive society. Why should celibate clergy be also required to have no companionship in life?)

What do I see clearly now?

When we dismiss to the sidelines the silly posturing and stupid 'Fraserian' propositions circling the Anglican globe, we are left with an Anglican Whatsit in which the following are, I suggest indisputable propositions:

(1) Given the options to leave global Anglicanism (e.g. the Ordinariate), the lack of interest in leaving combined with the interest in belonging (e.g. ACNA) amounts to a lot of Anglicans wishing to belong together in a framework of some kind (currently mis-known as 'the Anglican Communion.')

(2) Within the vast throng of Anglicans wishing to belong together we clearly see (i.e. beyond the posturing and silliness) a set of polarities, specifically, those in favour of ordaining women as priests and bishops and those not [WO] and those in favour of same sex partnerships as a blessed possibility and those not [SSM].

(3) There is no time soon, no foreseeable tomorrow in which we are going to resolve these issues.

(4) There is a reason for the lack of foreseeable resolution: there are (I suggest, trying my darndest to rid myself of all pre-judging of and lack of charity towards the arguments of others) plausible arguments for/against WO and SSM (on the latter, see a nicely judged essay here).

Yes, here at ADU and elsewhere we have had some good ding-dong arguments about these matters, and amongst us some think very poorly of the arguments of others. But there is a certain plausibility on each side of the debate: after all, against WO, there is the plausibility of the vast host of Romans and Eastern Orthodox arguing so; in favour of SSM, there is the plausibility of the vast host of Westerners, in country after country pushing for it to be so (which is, acknowledging that sheer numbers do not affect 'the truth' per se, the plausibility of seeking legal and social support for couples expressing deep love for each other, again, see the essay referred to above). Etc, for other sides of the matters. (With these few remarks, I am not trying in any way shape or form to settle anything in the ongoing debates, nor am I arguing for 'equal' plausibility on each side. Further, I am oversimplifying, causa brevitatis, the way these matters are debated. On SSM, for instance, I detect among friends and colleagues at least three approaches: same sex marriage is cool; same sex partnerships are okay but do not make them marriages, neither same sex partnerships or same sex marriages are okay).

So, what I am seeing clearly now is this: what has been known as the Anglican Communion, a circle of love in Christ symbolised by the Compass Rose, should be renamed the Anglican Ellipse. An ellipse, we may recall, is a continuous squashed circle with two foci (contrasting with the one foci of a circle). Thus,

That is, we Anglicans who cannot dislodge ourselves from the prospect of belonging together could make 2013 the year in which we acknowledge the polarities among us are what they are. If we are not going to divide into two (or more) circles/Communions then we need to have the decency to identify what we have become, a squashed circle (yes, think squashed hopes and dreams) that is, an ellipse.

The usefulness of thinking in this way is that we could welcome the leadership both of the new ABC and of (say) the Global South Primates. We could acknowledge we are an ellipse of love in Christ in which some celebrate the ordination of women as bishops and some do not, some celebrate the marriage of people of the same gender and some think this is a theological impossibility as the core requirement for marriage is a man and a woman being coupled together.

Three final thoughts (at least for today).

First, all said here is taking a global view of being Anglican and what our life looks like and how we might remain a global organisation with significant differences. I do not (never have, really) see clearly how we can work out (say) what it means to be an Anglican church in which pro-SSM and anti-SSM exists (as we will be exploring in ACANZP in 2013 and 2014 with a degree of urgency).

Secondly, I think it well worth continuing to work on being the Anglican Ellipse: Anglican schism would never change the fact that the global church of God presents to the world a divided Christianity on various matters. An Anglican Ellipse always has before it the possibility of demonstrating, albeit painfully and slowly, how Christians lives with huge difference.

Thirdly, I remain of the view that God is one and God's truth is one. That is, while humanly we are stuck in our divides between plausible views, and we argue furiously over which is correct because on one side of the debate we think we have more plausibility etc, it is not - cannot - be the case that God is divided on the truth. God is not both in favour of WO and against it, ditto SSM. The quest to seek the single mind of God on these matters should be pursued. An Anglican Ellipse is a provisional way of being while the quest is pursued.

I will not be posting regularly here at ADU for a while. This post likely will be the only post for the next ten days or so. I will try to publish comments as able.

There is a theme song for this post!