Saturday, December 21, 2013

I am available for selection (and an Anglican schism) (and an honour)


... this blog will be on holiday until 20 January unless something drags me out of holiday mode.

Tuesday 31 December 2013 THIS ANNOUNCEMENT is worth noting. Congratulations Sir ++ David.

Also, for a review of 2013 with just a tiny lacing of humour, read this (Spoiler: do not drink your coffee at the same time).

By the way, for evidence that God is alive and well, read this.

And don't ignore A N Wilson.


Now to the title of this post ...

For once I think it fair to say that TEC may not be much included in this particular Anglican Communion event. A cricket match is proposed, to settle old scores and all that. Read about it here.

Naturally, I am available for selection. I can bat, bowl, field, umpire and carry drinks. Or simply be the team chaplain.

Happy Days at Lord's playing for the Lord.

Heaven on earth and earth meets heaven.

Of course in view of recent discussion of evolution on ADU, "I am available for selection" has a dark layer of nearly hidden meaning to the phrase :)


What is it with newspapers. David Cameron nominates Lawrence of Arabia as his favourite film (as a matter of fact one of my top three) and occasions a deep analytical look at what this tells us about the British PM. I suppose it is possible to like a film because, er, it is likeable. Anyway, apart from that odd bit, this Independent article has some good words to consider in this season of Jolly Self-Indulgence.

I am very proud of my children and what they have thus far achieved in life but I notice that somehow, and I am sure it is not deliberate, Christmas letters from others seem to involve much more successful children!! It's kind of, "It's great that your child is in the process of becoming Sir Isaac Newton but let me tell you about my future Albert Einstein." Nevertheless it is good to read good news and there are some amazing future leaders of NZ among my friends! For the record, none of my children are studying physics.

At year's end there is no doubt that the religious phenomenon of the year, the shining star of the Christmas season, is Pope Francis. I think it well worth all Christians who care for the progress of the gospel and the future of the churches to reflect carefully and intentionally-re-what-lessons-we-might-apply-to-our-local-situation on why Pope Francis has become this phenomenon. Many articles are being written at year's end about the Franciscan impact on the world (here is but one). Of course there is a grave danger, to which many seem to fall, of reading into the Pope's ministry what we want to read so that for some it is his liberalism that is being celebrated, for others his compassionate humanity, but there is also his intent to reform a sclerotic Curia, to refocus the church on Vatican 2 and its engagement with the modern world, his balancing act as liberal-on-social-justice and conservative-on-doctrine. But the simple challenge I suggest is that the Pope demonstrates what Christ-likeness might mean in a church leader in 2013 and onwards.

Has too much of what the public perceives recently in church leaders, whether this Archbishop of Canterbury or the previous one, or the city's leading Pentecostal pastor, or the local community around my vicarship been of some other qualities of church leadership? Even within the church we critique this leader for being 'too managerial' and that one for 'wishy-washiness on basic belief', and another on 'moulding his local church in his own image.' What might our leadership look like to the world and to ourselves within the church if we modelled Christ? The value of Francis is that he gives us a glimpse of what this might look like.

Uganda is in the news these days 'for all the wrong reasons.' This blog post gives a careful account of why and how this has become so, and the role fair-minded Christians might take in shaping the true narrative of what is undoubtedly a very difficult story for the West to get right. LATER THOUGHT: that is not to say that any Christian anywhere is justified before God in supporting ill-treatment of fellow human beings, nor of punishments which 'do not fit the crime'.

Anglican schism

Believe it or not, this schism is not over sex or power. Must be over money!

There is a bit of a contretemps in our church over our 'Anglican' approach to pokie (gambling) machines and accessing their profits, a portion of which are available to assist the 'community.' This article tells the world, well, NZ, about three key Anglican leaders in our church and their approaches to pokie machine profits.

Bishop (not Archbishop) Ross Bay of Auckland "refusing to resile from a strident anti-pokie stance" and "who reiterated the diocese's 2005 ban on applying for pokie funds because of the "detrimental impact on society and people's lives" and "the destructive and corrosive effects of gaming machines"."

Bishop Victoria Matthews of Christchurch (my boss! Also not Archbishop) "wrote letters of support [of cathedral applications for $250000/$500000] to chase funding for the new cathedral."

The Reverend Jolyon White: "Christchurch's Anglican diocese has subsequently voted to refuse pokie grants, driven by their Social Justice Enabler, Rev Jolyon White, a long-time anti-pokies campaigner. White, who runs a small social work unit [out of Theology House where I work!!], said the church was diverse and had "no central rulebook" but most within it realised the damage of poker machines.

"The church has had ethical investments, so it is not a new thing to be considering where our funding comes from. And to have funding from essentially the most vulnerable people in society . . . is a terrible way to run any society in, but it's particularly appalling for a social service agency or a church.""

The article calls this situation 'schism': "A schism was revealed in the Anglican Church recently when a pokie trust escaped censure for refusing to give $500,000 in grants to the Christchurch Cathedral rebuild."

One point we might remember when reflecting on these situations is that they can involve differences between friends and not just between colleagues. I count Jolyon as a good friend, as well as Dean Lynda Patterson of Christ Church cathedral. Bishop Victoria is boss and bishop to all three of us, including being Chair of the Board of Theology House from which Jolyon White's Social Justice Unit operates. Here then is genuine diversity of view across a closely allied team of people. If we can live with this 'schism', might we live with other divides?

Just to avoid appearances that I am sitting on the fence by not giving my own view, I agree with Bishop Ross Bay and the stances of the Dioceses of Auckland and Christchurch.

I am pretty sure I have the timing right if I say that my Diocese's stance was determined in September this year, after the earlier applications and their turning down. The article relates to a more recent review of the turning down decision by Internal Affairs.


Meanwhile my thoughts turn (helped by the book Catastrophe by Max Hastings) to the beginnings of the First World War (about which I have never known heaps). This article in the Independent recalls one hundred years ago, the last Christmas before the war, and reminds us of a time of hope and promise, so soon to be shattered.

In some ways the shattered world of 1914 is still shattered, especially if we turn our gaze away from the relatively successful European Union of the past fifty years and look at the Middle East, where conflicts have direct links back to the carve up after WWI. It might surprise you who is touted as the best current leader in the Middle East today.

ADDED: on a somewhat bleak but I fear realistic note re the significance of WW1, this insight is worth a gander into what faces the world, and how things might have turned out differently.

Gospel Joy

I think I have managed so far not to post anything on the Pope's recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Perhaps 2014 will give opportunity to reflect on this strategic (but long) document.

In the meantime, and also from the Independent, here is an article reflecting on the joint challenge facing both Roman and Anglican churches in the 21st century in the West.

UPDATE: a 'must read' is this Fulcrum celebration/reflection on Evangelii Gaudium.

Clerical Robes

I see via Twitter which via Google led me to this article that the C of E is going to have a debate in February about clerical robing rules. An account of current C of E rules is here. I think this is a debate we need to have in ACANZP also. On the one hand we should not be exploring Fresh Expressions of church or generally bewailing that fact that we are out of touch with the world around us and NOT also ask whether we have the right rules in place re robing. On the other hand we are de facto a church in which the rules are broken: if we are not going to discipline for breaking the rules then we should have rules which fit with the reality of church life today while also acknowledging the principles upon which robe rule breaking is based: the importance of dressing in a way which seeks to be an incarnational presence in the name of Jesus in a world which is no longer ancient/medieval/Victorian.

Believe it or not, some things are better in the world today

My first degree was in maths so over the years I have had more than a passing interest in the achievements of Alan Turing. Today we learn that he has been pardoned for a criminal offence that today is not a criminal offence. Whatever the rights and wrongs of homosexual sexual activity in God's eyes, it has been detrimental even deadly to many gay men, and notably Alan Turing, that such activity has until relatively recently been criminalized. I think that some things in the world today are better than previously.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The End is Nigh

While it is still Advent we might have a smile at a superb send up of various famous news outlets and their reporting of the Apocalypse as it happens. Thanks Buzzfeed.

Was the real Adam historical or a convenient fiction in a Mosaic fantasy?

There has been a fascinating debate a post or two below about Adam and Eve and creation v evolution (at time of writing there are 89 comments, so a bit to work through, and many are not about Adam). Some of it is beyond my pay grade as a scientist and as a theologian. But here in response and riposte is an excerpt from a book I am working on.

"I am given a beautiful woollen jersey for my birthday by my aunt. I am rapt with the gift – next winter will be easier to live through than this one! Initially I have no idea where the jersey came from. Perhaps she bought it at a shop and cut the label off – maybe too ashamed to admit it was bought from a cheap store or embarrassed to admit that it was bought from the most expensive store in town. Later my cousin tells me the story of the jersey. My aunt was staying with a farming friend at shearing time. At short notice she found herself needed to help out in the shearing shed. She worked hard for several days. Though she did not actually shear the sheep she more than earned the fleece of wool which was given to her when she left to return home. An old spinning wheel in the garage was brought into the lounge and the wool spun into a yarn. Then an idea entered her head. Knit a jersey for her beloved nephew. Out came the knitting needles and a pattern. What with this and that happening, it took a month or two to complete. But all her family were pleased when they saw the finished product, and they were glad that by giving it to me it would ‘stay in the family’.

My joy at the gift of the jersey, my appreciation of its usefulness is no different whether my aunt bought it at a shop or spent hours of patient toil on it. But the value I place on the jersey deepens when I learn of the time and effort which has gone into its production.

The point of the parable is obvious in relation to the ‘creation versus evolution’ debate. Creation is not less impressive, nor represents any less graciousness on God’s part for taking a longer and more complex developmental pathway than the seven day scheme implied by a literal reading of Genesis 1. 

A number of evangelical Christians seem to get stuck in a mode which cannot read Genesis 1 other than literally and have been drawn to a detailed account of the origins and primeval development of life which seeks to explain everything as having been worked out in a chronological scheme which fits both with the ‘six days of creation’ in Genesis 1, and with the deduction from the genealogies of the Old Testament that the earth is thousands rather than millions of years old. This explanatory approach is variously know as ‘creation science’ and ‘creationism’, and in recent years has been linked with a specific questioning of standard evolutionary theory through a notion called Intelligent Design.

In what follows it is important that we separate two questions which do not necessarily have a connection. First, the question of whether theories about the origins and development of the universe and life within it account for all evidence satisfactorily. If ‘creation science’ or ‘Intelligent Design’ have discovered evidence that theories of evolution, cosmology, geology and paleontology need revising one hopes that scientists will do so, without allowing bias against the theology of the creation scientists or Intelligent Design proponents to influence their scientific objectivity. As a matter of fact one does not need to be a theologian or even a believer in God to ask searching questions of science. That is good science methodology since scientific theories gain strength from answering questions and resolving problems.

Secondly, the question of whether the opening chapters of Genesis constitute evidence that science should consider. For example, if we had some certainty that God was directly telling us that in six measurable time periods (whether of, say, 24 hours each or 1000 years each) the world was created in a specific order, then we could have some evidence for science to assess.

In fact, the problem of whether or not we are to read Genesis 1 as ‘literal’ or ‘scientific’ truth is readily solved by reading Genesis 2 as well! In Genesis 1:1–2:3 we have an account of the creation of the world which is spread over seven days (strictly speaking six days, since God rests on the seventh day) and describes two stages of creation. In stage one, with the heavens and the earth and water already created, during the first three days, God creates light (and darkness), sky and rain clouds, sea and land and vegetation. In stage two, over the next three days, God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars, fish and birds, land based animals and human beings together, male and female. The creation of humanity is specifically described as being ‘in God’s image’.

In Genesis 2:4-25 we have another account of creation (that it is another account is made clear by 2:4-5).[1] In this account the emphasis falls on one single day of creation (‘in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens’). On that day, after the making of the earth and the heavens, and before either plants were made or rain fell, there was a mist which watered the land. The first living creature of any kind is man, made separately (and definitely not simultaneously) from woman. Then man is placed in a garden in which plants grow and a river flowed. After which the man is deemed to be in need of companionship and so land based animals, and birds (no mention of fish) are made for the man. When none of these proves a fit helper for the man, a woman is formed from the man and brought to him. The creation of humanity is specifically linked to marriage (2:24).

There is simply no question of both accounts being compatible and non-contradictory if read literally. One day does not equal six (or seven) days. Humanity cannot be created both before and after plants and animals. Thus Genesis 1 – 2 tells the story of creation in a non-literal manner via the medium of two accounts told sequentially. Common to both stories is the conviction that it is God who created the world and that humanity is the most important part of creation (being the culmination of the acts of creation in the first story and the first act of creation within the created world in the second story). Alternatively, we could say that in the first story humanity is the goal of creation and in the second story humanity is the centre of creation. That is, the messages of the accounts are compatible and non-contradictory. The first emphasizes that God deemed creation to be good, an emphasis lacking in the second. The second account emphasiszes that God gave the man the task of ‘working and keeping’ the garden, the first account tells us that God commanded humanity to ‘have dominion’ over the earth and the life on it.

The first account, as noted already, conveys a striking theological understanding of the relationship between God and humanity,
            ‘So God created man in his own image,
            In the image of God he created him;
            Male and female he created them.’ (1.27)

Of nothing else in creation is this said. The supreme value of human life, the equality of male and female are laid down forever in this statement.

By contrast the second account, describing the creation of woman as an act of creation derivative from the creation of the man, leads to a different message, a theology of marriage. In marriage a man and a woman become one flesh, a reunion so to speak of what they were in the one flesh of the original human being created by God. (Unfortunately this story has also led to the message being given that woman is inferior to man). Again, we should estimate this account’s importance correctly. Genesis 2 places marriage, with sexual intercourse as the primary means of enabling union between male and female,[2] as both a foundational and distinctive human relationship deriving from the creation itself. Combined with the command in Genesis 1:28, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, we may deduce that marriage is both a relationship of union between humanity differentiated into male and female and a relationship for reproduction of humanity.

What then of history and science in respect of creation and the two-story account given in Genesis 1-2? 

First, Genesis 1-2 was not written as history or science. To some this will be heresy. But look again (and, if necessary, again) at the two stories in these first two chapters of Scripture. On key matters relating to both history and science, namely, consistent chronology and coherent non-contradictory sequences of events, Genesis 1-2 are more parable than documentary. They are story rather than history or science. 

Of particular importance is the observation that two differing time spans, one week and one day are employed in each story. The time periods are symbolic. In particular the time period of seven days in Genesis 1:1-2:3 is confirmed as symbolic because the conclusion drawn emphasizes the establishment of the Sabbath day of rest (2:2-3). That a ‘day’ does not equal a twenty-four hour period becomes clear with reflection on the second story. If God creates Adam at the beginning of one day, and later creates plants and animals, it seems an extraordinarily busy day, what with the naming of livestock, birds, and ‘every beast of the field’, then the realisation that ‘a helper fit for him’ had not been discovered, and finally a ‘deep sleep’ falling on Adam in order for the female-creating operation to be accomplished. The ‘day’ is simply a symbolic period for the actual time in which the accomplishment of creation was achieved. Thus it is a complete waste of time trying to resolve whether one day equals twenty-four hours or a thousand years or some long primeval aeon.

It is tempting to treat Genesis 1-2 as a single undifferentiated account and explain the ‘day’ of the second account as an excerpt from the ‘week’ of the first story. But this will not do. Genesis 2:4 says ‘in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens’, 2:5 says ‘when no bush of the field was yet in the land (or earth) and 2:18 describes man as ‘alone’ prior to every beast and every bird being made (2:19). This is an alternative account of creation which sits alongside, indeed has been brought alongside the first account.[3] Presumably as a compliment to both beautiful and profound stories, restraint has been exercised over the possibility of rewriting both and merging them into one. Together the two accounts may be treated as one whole story of creation in the sense that (a) nothing in each account is theologically contradictory, (b) both accounts have been included in Genesis (and thus in the Old Testament and the whole canon of Scripture) as one coherent narrative, and (c) Jesus himself draws from both stories together when articulating his theology of marriage (see Mark 10:6-7 which cites both Genesis 1:27 and 2:24).

Yet, this does not mean the two stories have no historical or scientific traits, just as parables often convey sound information about geography, economics, and social history. Both evolutionary biology and common sense tell us that light was necessary before plants were formed, and plants were needed before there could be animals (and this sequence is found in Genesis 1). Chemists tell us that the human body is made up from a couple of dollars worth of chemicals and lots of water (and in Genesis 2:7 God ‘formed the man of dust from the ground’, ground which was being ‘watered’ by mist, 2:6).

History is about the people who inhabit the past. At some point in distant time there must have been ‘the first’ people – at least in the sense that as humans talked about their past they located the beginning of humanity with one specific man and one particular woman. (It couldn’t have been two men or two women!) Naturally the argument arises that since the New Testament treats Adam and Eve as two ‘historical’ people therefore Genesis 1-2 must be ‘history’. But this argument misses the subtlety inherent in the situation. If Genesis 1-2 is ‘history’ then it is internally contradictory in its description of the origin of the first man and the first woman.

As a unified story combining two stories or versions of the creation of humanity, the account in Genesis 1-2 leaves the actual process of creation as both a scientific and historical mystery. That is, we have no way of deciding from the text whether ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ of the story are created with or without evolutionary ancestry. Further, we have no means of deciding whether ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ of Genesis 1-2 are a particular couple or representative of unknown generations of human beings who inhabit the earth beyond the descriptive range of the genealogy of Israel exemplified in the genealogy of Jesus which concludes with ‘the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God’ (Luke 4:38). That is, the character of the account in Genesis 1-2 means that ‘Adam’ can be referred to as a specific human being, the father of Seth, the husband of Eve, the originator with her of human sinfulness (as we find in the New Testament) while also being referred to as the original or we might say originating ‘man’.[4]

Thus we can approach Genesis chapter 3 relaxed about its role in history! If Genesis 1-2 tells the story of the origin of ‘good’ creation, then this chapter tells the story of ‘wrongdoing’ and ‘suffering’ entering into and distorting the goodness of creation. Together these chapters tell the story of the origins of human life as we experience it in every generation, an experience of pleasure and pain, goodness and evil, and health and sickness. Again, it matters little whether the actual history of sin began a thousand generations before Seth or with his biological father and mother. Sin entered into the story of ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ from the beginning and became the great problem of humanity both in relation to God and to each other, the problem Jesus came to solve once and for all through his death on the cross.

Naturally, the question arises when this ‘story’ becomes ‘history’ since undoubtedly there is a point between Adam and Eve and Jesus when what Scripture tells us about the deeds of his ancestors is reliable history. For some biblical historians this point is around the time of David, others push further back to, say, Moses, and some go back to Abraham.[5] However we need to note that ‘story’ can incorporate ‘history’. There undoubtedly was a ‘first couple’ who were both fully human (defined as both ‘made in the image of God’ (1:27) and having ‘the breath of life’ (2:7)[6] and were the ancestors of Israel. Sin became a sad feature of human history from the very beginning. The story in Genesis 1-3 testifies to these historical facts. Rather than advance a thesis that the Old Testament is fabulous or mythological or legendary at the beginning and at some later point becomes history, it is truthful to speak of history and story intermingling in the Old Testament from Genesis 1:1 onwards. We have argued that on some matters Genesis 1-3 is clearly telling a story without historical factuality, for example, when it offers two differing descriptions of the act of creating man and woman, but on other matters it tells a story which incorporates historical factuality, for example, when it explains the creation of the world as an act of God or the fall of humankind as an event occurring at the beginning of humanity.

Care should be taken in responding to the word ‘story’ used here, along with talk of ‘without historical factuality’. It would be unhelpful to then introduce the term ‘fiction’ into the discussion since this can be understood as a synonym for ‘untrue’. Thus the term has been avoided deliberately. For example, below we talk about the grace of God in the creation story. To characterise the story as ‘fiction’ could be to mislead readers into thinking that perhaps the grace of God is also a fiction, something which is not true, did not happen, just the wishful thinking of Moses! No, quite the opposite is the case. The story tells in an imaginative and poetic way how life was created, and includes some things which did happen ‘as told’ and some things which did not happen ‘as told’. But in every part the story truthfully tells us of God being creator and giver of life.

One advantage of supposing that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are created utterly new is that it provides an explanation of the equality of all human beings, no matter which tribe or race or nation we belong to. One disadvantage of evolutionary explanations for the origins of human life which conclude that human life arose in different parts of the world at different times is that, potentially, they can serve the cause of theories of tribal, racial and national superiority.[7] The kind of explanation advanced here implies that, if evolutionary development lies behind human life, and even if this development led to several different points in which human life came into being, at a certain point God deems that humanity is (a) distinct from the plants and the animals (b) of one single class of creature in which all are equally human, and (c) recognises humanity as made in the image of God. In terms of Genesis 1-2 this point is referred to in 2:7 when God breathes the breath of life into ‘man’, that is, ‘man’ is consciously distinct in spiritual, emotional, and mental characteristics from any other creature. A not insignificant point favouring the kind of explanation given above is that it readily copes with the origin of Cain’s wife (Genesis 4:17), and avoids the need to suppose that hitherto unmentioned sisters of Cain and Seth became their wives!

In other words, absolutely no questioning of the ‘truth’ of Genesis 1-3 is involved in concluding that these chapters are best categorised as theology rather than history or science, and best defined in terms of literary genre as story rather than historical description or scientific report. Indeed, to the extent that these three chapters tell us who created us, what value we have before God, the significance of marriage from the very beginning of human life, and the propensity of human beings to do wrong, we have more valuable truth here than in all the scientific and historical accounts of origins of life put together. ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation’ (Psalm 119:99).[8]

Sadly, a huge misunderstanding is bound up in the efforts of sincere Christians who seek to teach ‘creation science’ alongside or even in place of evolution in school science curricula. The misunderstanding concerns the kind of information conveyed in Genesis 1 (in particular).[9] According to the explanation given above there is no attempt in that chapter to convey anything other than a symbolic chronology for the creation of the world, nor is there any attempt to convey any specific information about the actual order of placement of natural phenomena in this world. That Genesis 1 gets the order of some things correct (e.g. water, light, land, plants then animals) is simply common sense (perhaps especially clever common sense given the antiquity of the story or entirely unsurprising insight if we emphasise the divine inspiration of the story). It is hardly the basis for a new scientific paradigm, especially given the way the account places the creation of the sun and the moon and the stars after vegetation and fruit trees began growing (1:11-19)!!

[1] Claus Westermann, Genesis: A Practical Commentary Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987, p. 16, ‘Scholars are virtually unanimous in regarding the second chapter [of Genesis] as the work of an earlier scholar and theologian than the first.’
[2] Thus the first specific reference to sexual intercourse in the Bible describes how Adam ‘knew Eve his wife’ (Genesis 4:1), ascribing to sexual intercourse an interpenetrative engagement of two people involving more than physical intimacy.
[3] Incidentally, maritime nations of the world (such as Aotearoa New Zealand where the author resides) see themselves accounted for in the first story but not the second which has no concept of ‘the sea’ and does not described the creation of fish. This is supportive of the conclusion drawn from other details in the second account (such as the rivers) that its ultimate geographical origins lie in Mesopotamia rather than Palestine. See, e.g. Clare Amos, The Book of Genesis Peterborough: Epworth, 2004, pp. 15-16.
[4] It is necessary to acknowledge that we have different knowledge at this point to Jesus and Paul. In their Jewish upbringing there was only one whole story of creation woven into the history of Israel (i.e. the Jewish Scripture we know as the Old Testament), thus this story was indistinguishable from ‘history’ in their conception of it, and consequently they naturally talked of Adam and Eve as historical figures. We recognise, particularly through scientific discovery, that the story of creation in Genesis 1-2 cannot be ‘history’ as we understand it, and thus we are forced to acknowledge the dual role of the human figures in these chapters, both as representative man and woman, and as Adam and Eve, parents of Seth. As a footnote to Genesis 1:26 for the English Standard Version carefully says, ‘The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam.’
[5] C.S. Lewis, for example, responding to a question about the fabulous elements in the Bible says, ‘Jonah and the Whale, Noah and his Ark, are fabulous; but the Court history of King David is probably reliable as the Court history of Louis XIV.’ (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970,  p. 58. An attempt to summarise the course of the debate in biblical scholarship about the reliability of the Old Testament as history is beyond the scope of the present work.
[6] Note the interesting description of the effect of God’s breathing the breath of life: ‘the man became a living creature’ (2:7). This is entirely consistent with the origin of humanity being an evolutionary process which yields a ‘living creature’ distinct from its predecessors which is recognisable biologically as ‘a human being’ and theologically as ‘man created in God’s image’.
[7] The word ‘potentially’ needs to be stressed. Patterns of ancient travel mean that humanity for countless generations have been thoroughly mixed and in no sense can we say of known human history that one part of humanity has been ‘more’ evolved than another.
[8] Here we barely scratch the surface of all the theology conveyed in these chapters. The reader is referred to solid commentaries on Genesis.
[9] Creation science surveying Genesis for explanations of phenomena of the ancient world goes beyond the first chapter and has a special interest in the story of Noah and the Great Flood (6:9-9:17) since this ‘shock’ to the earth may explain some features of geology and palaeontology."

Liberalism is killing the Western world, whimper by whimper

Melanie Philips makes a point:

"Liberalism is thus a utopian project. But, like all utopias, it is impossible to achieve. And so, having now realised this, the west is simply giving up on liberalism, resorting instead to deeply illiberal, pessimistic doctrines which are hostile to freedom, progress and humanity itself.

Doctrines such as environmentalism, which holds that the planet would be hunky-dory if it wasn’t for scientific progress and the human race itself; moral and cultural relativism, which elevates the self-centred individual into an unchallengeable authority and to hell with everyone else; child-centred education, which confirms children in their own ignorance and traps them in permanent disadvantage by insisting that adults take a back seat while children learn merely what is ‘relevant’ to their own lives.
And drug abuse, too, falls squarely into this category. The Peter Hitchens view, that drug abuse is an absolute evil which must be eradicated, is scorned in favour of ‘harm reduction’ which accepts that harm from drugs will always be done. But here’s the thing. The former view, vilified as reactionary and bonkers, is actually based on the progressive belief that the world can be made a better place. It is the latter view, the orthodoxy amongst ‘liberals’, which is in fact deeply reactionary because it institutionalises harm to the most vulnerable.
The supposedly ‘progressive’ view on drug abuse is thus nothing less than a repudiation of liberalism. And since liberalism is based on reason, that is why so-called ‘liberals’ have substituted vilification for rational argument, not just on drug abuse but on a host of other issues where ideology and wishful thinking now trump evidence.
In other words, the west has quite simply lost its own rational and progressive plot. Which is why, from beyond its shores, the world of true obscurantism is now so terrifyingly moving in for the kill."

Her whole post is here.

Part of ADU's crusade is to ask Western Anglicans whether we can afford our dalliance with the Western liberal project. If that project is destroying the world we know, the church cannot escape the consequences for its own future.

ACTUALLY HERE is the original vid exchange

Monday, December 16, 2013

Told You So!

UPDATE: Of course, one would never say 'Told You So' about the contents of a post like this ... would one? But one might say, "Full marks for consistent logic."


One of the observations made here (not necessarily by me, this is not a credit claiming exercise) is that there is a connection between changing marriage laws for one thing and for another.

In particular, there is a likelihood that once marriage laws have changed to remove the constraint that the contract is between a man and a woman, it will not be long before other constraints will be removed. The most likely such removal is the constraint that marriage be between only two people.

Such a move is being made in Utah. (OK, no great surprise there!) Kiwis may have seen a report about this on Stuff a few days ago. Jonathan S. Tobin offers his reflections here. I want to offer some of his work on the connections between same sex marriage and polygamous marriage.
"Once you blow up a societal consensus it cannot be easily reconstructed to protect only those practices or beliefs you like while still banning those you think ought to be kept beyond the pale. That’s the upshot of a case decided late on Friday in a Federal District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah that essentially decriminalized polygamy."
"While gay marriage advocates have sought to distance themselves from anything that smacked of approval for polygamy, Waddoups’s ruling merely illustrates what follows from a legal trend in which longstanding definitions are thrown out. The inexorable logic of the end of traditional marriage laws leads us to legalized polygamy. Noting this doesn’t mean that the political and cultural avalanche that has marginalized opposition to gay marriage is wrong. But it should obligate those who have helped orchestrate this sea change and sought to denigrate their opponents as bigots to acknowledge that the end of prohibitions of other non-traditional forms of marriage follows inevitably from their triumph." 
"But liberals like Turley still refuse to acknowledge that Justice Antonin Scalia was right when he predicted in his dissent in Lawrence that the demise of sodomy laws would lead to the legalization of some things that advocates of gay rights wanted no part of. If we have “evolved” to the point where marriage by any two consenting adults of either sex should be recognized by the state, then there isn’t any logical or legal rationale for prohibiting the same privilege for any number of citizens cohabiting to claim the same right.
All that is needed is a little candor on this issue on the part of critics of the dwindling band of opponents of gay marriage. The floodgates have been opened, and if that makes some of us uncomfortable, especially those who understandably view polygamy as synonymous with the exploitation of women, then we should be honest enough to acknowledge that it is merely part of the price that had to be paid to give gays the same right to marry afforded to other citizens."

"Oh," you might say, living Down Under, "We are not in Utah." True. But we are part of the Western world which seems very desirable to people who come from countries which tolerate polygamy. It is just a matter of time and the pressure will come.

Now it strikes me that there are two directions response in liberal social democracies could go. One is to seek to revoke the changes we have made, on the grounds that we didn't know what we were unleashing. Well, good luck with that! There were folk who tried to make the point and were dismissed as worry warts.

Another direction is a bit of frankness and honesty: yes, we have made changes, we didn't know what we were unleashing, but that is okay because we believe in same sex marriage with such commitment that if consequentially there is legalization of polygamy then so be it. The price of exploitation of women is a price worth paying.

Or is Jonathan Tobin just another worry wart?

Those inclined to think he is over anxious, if you are prepared to comment here, could you please articulate for ADU readers on what rational grounds a Western state would approve same sex marriage but not approve polygamy. Thank you!

Supplementary question: When Jesus said there were many things he had to teach us which we could not yet bear, did he have polygamy in mind? (H/T MCJ)

Aside: great article here re Scripture, reason, tradition

Best Archbishop's Advent Statement Ever?

What do poor NZ religious census figures call for from church leadership? Mea culpa? Try harder, folks! Best we smooth the pillow of a dying church?


At least not in the case of our Archbishop Philip Richardson who has issued a statement this Advent which I think is the best I have ever read from our archbishops over the years. Punchy. Pointed. Purposeful.

The whole is at Taonga.

Here are the money sentences (with words which especially warm my heart emboldened):

"The 2013  census on religious affiliation contains few surprises. Not even the decline in Anglican affiliation should catch us unawares.
These trends liberate us from notions of self-importance and turn us back to our fundamental calling.
They also situate our Church more on the margins of our society, where we really belong.
My immediate response, then, is thankfulness to God that we are being refined, called to repentance and to a refocusing of our mission. It’s an exciting and challenging time to be in Christian leadership.
Following Jesus has always been fundamentally counter-cultural. And the Church has always been most authentically the Body of Christ when it is salt and leaven rather than the ‘religious’ dimension of modern society
Wherever I go in the Church I see signs of renewed and re-invigorated Christian discipleship
An Advent challenge for all who profess Christian faith is to critique our ministry and to try harder to live out our discipleship of Christ.
Our Church may be smaller numerically, but we may also be more authentically Christ’s Church as we recover our saltiness and become real leaven.
Odd as it may sound, then, the census elicits in me both excitement and possibility. It calls me back to the fact that we are first and foremost the Body of Christ, not an institution, and that ultimately we are called to “give ourselves away”.
As agents  of God’s unchanging love, we are challenged to engage wholeheartedly in the world, proclaiming  God’s justice, peace and love. This life is no waiting room; this is the time and place where we are a foretaste of a whole new way of being.
Happy Advent!"

Now I happen to think, continuing in the vein of thinking here, that we have a long way to go in repentance, refinement and refocusing. But this is a great start.

A few of my own thoughts (in no particular order of importance or self-importance).

(1) If we are to cease being an 'institution' and become what in Christ we are meant to be, 'the Body of Christ,' then I think we need to do some work on our clobber. Last night I was at a splendid, rich and rousing installation service* for our new Dean, Lynda Patterson. Naturally this brought out quite a few persons in robes beyond the basic clerical attire of alb-and-stole. And what a varied and hard-to-decipher collection of additional robes they were (e.g. for the proverbial visiting Martian, what would she have made of the variety?). When we dress up with these additional robes for such an occasion, it strikes me (at least, anyone else?) that we are expressing ourselves as though we heartily believe we are an 'institution' and a rather 'self-important' one in the centre of society rather than the 'Body of Christ' living on the margins. If ++Philip is right then we should do some work on what that means for how we dress for the splendid and important symbolic occasions in our life together. Is he right?

(2) To be refined, to repent, and to refocus our mission, are great biblical actions - frequent themes in the prophets, for example. But, in the spirit of the phrase 'critique our ministry,' what is being refined and/or needs to be refined? Of what and from what is God calling us to repent? On what is the refocusing of our mission to be? I suspect we could all agree on these questions. But, arguably, the decline in our statistics is a warning that we have little time to secure agreement on the answers!

(3) ++Philip picks up a new resolve in our church to think of ourselves as disciples. He makes an excellent (and New Testament) point that being disciples is about living out 'a foretaste of a whole new way of being.' There lies a singular challenge for us in an age of many new ways of being. How can we live as disciples a way of being which engages people as the first disciples did according to the Acts of the Apostles? In those days the key to the burgeoning life of the not-yet-an-institution was the Holy Spirit. As we renew and reinvigorate discipleship, do we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to come in a new Pentecost?

- - - - -
*I regret not thinking faster after the service last night. We could have had a photo of the bloggers responsible for Liturgy, Available Light, Broken Moments, Anglo-Catholic Liberality,  and ADU!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Anglicans need Francis Effect on sad stats

Scientists have announced the discovery of the Francis Effect. Unexpectedly, while focusing on phenomena concerning Snowden Illuminations, Assad Acidity and Cruz Verbosity, a nearly accidental shift of perception occurred in a Roman laboratory this year resulting in a paper to the prestigious journal Nature Time announcing the effect on religion when a largely forgotten mixture of Spanish DNA, Jesuitical spirituality, cheerful countenance, humility and authentic discipleship are thrown together to make a catalyst for transformation. It has been named the Francis Effect after the latest member of the research team to join the laboratory.

However, in early responses to this scientific announcement, a vigorous debate has broken out concerning whether one of the contributions to the mixture is more important than the others. Professor Ignatius Loyola says that he cannot separate Spanish DNA from Jesuitical spirituality as the key factor in the mix. Dr Hans Kung, however, dismisses the role of Spanish DNA. He made the point that German DNA had no bearing on a recent experiment in the same laboratory which he himself thought had an unfortunate effect. From his own perspective, in keeping with his own personal life discoveries, he suggested humility was the most important part of the mixture.

In England Prime Minister David Cameron announced that, in keeping with his own approach to challenging issues (e.g. here and then in response to outrage, here), British scientists had assured him that the most important contribution to the Francis Effect was a cheerful countenance. This announcement, however, has been greeted with derision from a group of scientists known as the 'Anglican bloc'. A spokesperson for the bloc pointed out that cheerful countenance was potentially dangerous to emphasise. "What kind of disaster would befall us if we greeted, say, the Pilling Report or news that women could become bishops, with a cheerful countenance? The proper scientific method for reception of such matters is (a) Very Serious Furrowed Brows (b) Intense Debate." They did acknowledge, however, that humility played no part at all in English life, except in certain spheres such as the southern hemisphere whenever the English cricket team was visiting there.

Speaking of the southern hemisphere, a  little known scientific blogger, working in the ADU laboratory, has suggested exploration of the Francis Effect on Anglican statistics (also known as 'sad stats') could be fruitful. In particular he has proposed intense and urgent (but cheerful) investigation into the following hypotheses:

(1) the Francis Effect is primarily due to the contribution of 'authentic discipleship.'

(2) Popular reception of the Francis Effect is explained as people being really, really pleased that a church leader has Jesus-like qualities.

(3) When people experience church leaders (indeed any Christian) having Jesus-like qualities they enter a zone of thinking in which they are bombarded by ideas such as 'Maybe Christianity is true after all.'

(4) The scientific problem of Anglican 'sad stats' has a complex solution (involving a string of factors we won't bore you with here) but one part of the solution can be implemented immediately: capturing and then multiplying the Francis Effect through engagement in authentic discipleship.

CODA: The really scientifically thoughtful among us will want to know the Kantian angle on the matter of the Francis Effect, helpfully brought to you here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Every picture tells a story (extended) (a bit more)

Update: America likes NZ and is following our trends (sorta)!

NZ stat graph


With thanks to colleagues on the staff for supply of links, read also these reflections:

a. For some hard work on the stats and perceptive comments, read and digest what Geoff Robson (a ministerial colleague here in Chch) has to say. One great comment is this:

"And remember, while there are plenty of nominals among the ‘Christian’ respondents, there is no such thing as a nominal when it comes to No Religion. When you tick that box, you mean it."

b. Mike Crudge (also a ministerial colleague in Chch) makes an excellent point in this analysis, that actual church attendance is a critical statistic as 'census' religiosity is measured. He gives a graph which implies that the peak of church attendance in NZ was in (a) 1980s (b) 1960s (c) 1880s (d) 1930s. Actually, when we allow for the decline in that stat as a percentage measure and for rise in population, we have the curious possibility that actual 'bums on pews' in NZ is pretty constant! (That, at least, could explain the complacency of those of us in leadership ... 'Well, when I went to church on Sunday, the church was full.' Maybe it was, but how many were at the beach!?)

c. From the Dim-Post blog, a graph re the 'oddities' here.

Friday 13 December: new reflections from Bosco Peters here.


This picture tells an alarming story for the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand (but not Polynesia). With graph supplied by leading religious researcher in our country, Dr Peter Lineham, we see a sorry story via census figures of Anglican decline continuing  without sign of leveling out. Worse, Anglicanism is aging here (as reported here). As Bosco Peters says, according to the graph, in two decades Anglicanism ceases to exist here!

The story for Protestant Christianity is also alarming as every indicator here shows decline for non-Catholic Christianity and continuing growth for the religion of None or No Religious Commitment.

As we head to our bicentenary year for celebrating the first preaching of the gospel on these shores, should we spend a year in sackcloth and ashes rather than in celebration?

Credit where credit is due: as this news seeps out today (e.g. here and here) all Christians should acknowledge the success of the Catholic Church as it becomes the largest denomination here.

Nevertheless, the NZ Catholic report notes that the Catholic figures above show a decline in the number of 'census Catholics'. 491,421 in 2013 is less than the number in the 2006 census, 508,812.

Further, the relative strength of the Catholic church does not much mitigate the continuing decline of Christian allegiance in this country. We were once 90% a Christian country, now we are a country which is less than 50% Christian. We are sliding further and further into some kind of secular and/or spiritual-but-not-religiously-committed country

To return to the Anglican tragedy unfolding before our eyes: get past no longer being the largest denomination and focus on simple numbers. In 2006 there were 554,925 census Anglicans. In 2013 there are only 459,771 census Anglicans. That by my maths is a decline of 17%.

As a correspondent has said to me this afternoon, the whole of our next General Synod should be devoted to asking ourselves how we arrest and turn around the decline in our church?

But it would not be worth asking ourselves that question if we do not take a long and careful look at why the Catholic situation is currently relatively stronger than the Anglican situation.

FURTHER REFLECTIONS or 'on further (slower) reflection, after writing the above in haste (and correcting some initial incorrect reading of the graph' about an hour after first publishing the post)!

(1) Anglicans certainly need to ask two related questions:

Q1: why is our rate of decline as steep as it is? (Wrong answer: that we are shedding our aged members (see here). That may be true as far as it goes, but it does not answer the question why we have not been drawing in new members, and why the aged members do not have more Anglican children and grandchildren willing to name themselves as Anglican in census returns)

Q2: when we have many similarities to the Catholic church, why are their numbers (looking at the whole line) fairly steady compared to our decline? A comment below is worth noting, "As Stark and Finke have shown, churches that stand for something thrive, while those that equivocate tend to decline."

(2) All churches in these islands could do well to continue the reflections already begun with previous censuses on why Christianity as a whole is in decline. That question should be asked, in my view, alongside the question of why No Religion is on the rise. In one sense, if only our decline was matched by a corresponding rise in (say) Islam. Then we could more valiantly fight for Trinitarian doctrine (which we are quite good at). No. Our challenge (likely) is twofold:

(2.1) how do we communicate the relevance if not the eschatological urgency of faith to those comfortable with no faith?

(2.2) to those who understand themselves to be spiritual but indifferent to 'organised religion'(see, again, here), how do we communicate the blessings of fellowship and the advantages of corporate worship?

(3) Anecdotally (as mentioned in reports such as here) the decline in all churches is sharpest among second and higher generation Kiwis. That is, if we were to exclude (say) recently arrived Asian Catholics or South African Anglicans or Korean Presbyterians from the census figures, we could be in 'last one out turn off the light bulb' territory re active church participation. What specifically draws established Kiwis into dissociation with the churches of their forbears? (Possible answer, seriously: life is too good here. Who needs God when we have a working health service, long life expectancy, and heaven on earth at the beach, in the bush and on the mountains?)

(4) What can non-Catholic churches learn from the Catholic education system in our country? (In my view one of the significant reasons for the comparative strength of the Catholic church in this period of decline of Christian allegiance is the association between 'school and parish', forged via requirement for baptism in order to gain enrolment in a Catholic school. But that is only the start of the learning points ... Bosco Peters recently published pertinent reflections here.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent grinches?

We could spend Advent anticipating the coming of Christ to be born our Saviour and the second coming of Christ to be our judge. Or we could ditch that and read the Gospel of St Marcus as true light enlightening the world. Or maybe not. Borg seems to have stolen the Advent spirit and hidden it in a pile of progressive platitudes.

This week we could spend the period of mourning for Nelson Mandela celebrating his Christ-likeness, or we could do a slash-and-burn-his-legacy grizzle about how he was a dupe of global capitalism. Thanks John Pilger for worrying about the role of capitalism in improving life in South Africa. I had never realised that socialism was a well proven alternative. With a sterling record of socialistic success on the African continent, how could I have missed that obvious fact!

Advent is a potentially a time for quiet reflection (e.g. for people who do not send Christmas cards, buy Christmas presents and attend break ups, prize givings and carol services). We could do better than the above pieces by reading this thoughtful (but long) piece on Jesus the Theological Educator. A nice thought, says this theological educator :)

Since penning the above paragraph in draft, I note a superb evaluation of the Pilling Report by Andrew Goddard at ACI: sobering! His title, Divisions Deepen in Pilling, reminds us that this attempt to hold the C of E together may actually hasten its separation into two or more churches.

I also note a lovely summary and friendly promotion by Joel Willitts of a new IVP book by no less than Andrew Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology.

If nevertheless you are lost for something to read about Christianity there are always the words of Jesus himself! In preparation for a soon to come post on the importance of the Bible for Anglican authority, take a few moments to read John 12:44-50 [NIV (2011)]:

"44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”"

Friday, December 6, 2013

Through Lent 2014 With Matthew

Lynda Patterson and I have completed the second Lenten study booklet in our planned series of four books.* The contents and pics are with the designer now and we hope we might have copies hot of a local printing press before Christmas.

You can order copies for yourself or your Lenten study group now. Go here for details and a link to a pre-publication sample of the text.

From Taonga:

Discipleship has never been an easy option. Neither is it the preserve of ministry professionals.
It’s a lifelong vocation for all the baptised, and we all need regular encouragement in order to stay the course.  
A new resource drawing many spiritual and intellectual insights from Matthew’s Gospel is coming together for Lent next year.
Called Being Disciples: Through Lent with Matthew , it’s a six-part study series written by Peter Carrell (Director of Theology House in Christchurch) and Lynda Patterson (Dean of ChristChurch Cathedral).
The six illustrated studies are:
• The joy and terror of being called (Matthew 4:18-22)
• Disciples in crisis (Matthew 8:23-27)
• Disciples in mission (Matthew 10:37-42)
• When the going gets tough (Matthew 11:28-30)
• Disciples in community (Matthew 18:10-22)
• Disciples in the making (Matthew 28:16-20)
This booklet contains useful questions for discussion and is ideal for both group and individual study.

*The first in the series was The Praying Life: Through Lent with Luke. The remaining volumes in the series will be based on the gospels of Mark and John.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Pilling Report must be on the right path ... look at its critics

Additional Addition

Am a bit pressed for time at moment re December madness.

Part of that madness is no time to read the whole of Pilling. But thanks be to God for others having time. Here is a great focus on pastoral accommodation via Oliver O'Donovan.

Might I commend a searching post from Steve Bell on grace in the face of evil madness, here.

A different kind of madness, good madness, is cricket joy. NZ doing well against the West Indies. Adelaide Ashes test about to start. Here is a pic, courtesy of Jonathan Agnew (here) of the pitch.

What a belter! Even I could score runs on that :)


Head to Living Out for a great site, much longed for in the conservative evangelical wing of the Anglican church, of people speaking out about their same-sex attraction.

The Bishop of Birkenhead's dissenting statement is worth reading. Here is the first paragraph (i.e. para 415 of the whole document).

"A Dissenting Statement by the Bishop of Birkenhead

415. It is with much regret that I have concluded that I cannot sign
the report of the House of Bishops’ Working Group on Human
Sexuality (‘the Report’). I offer this dissenting statement to set out
another vision and explain why. Those who have been part of the
Working Group on Human Sexuality have gone out of their way to
listen to my views. They have sought to produce a report that, in their
view, goes as far as possible to meet those concerns. I am supportive of
many of the Report’s recommendations and share many of the concerns
driving the Report as we wrestle with being faithful to Christ in our
changing culture. For the sake of the peace and unity of the Church
I would have loved to have put my name to a unanimous report. I
have no desire to see issues of human sexuality distracting us from
proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. However,
after much prayer and soul searching, I have concluded I cannot sign."

The remainder of his statement can be accessed here (look for paragraph 416 on page 119 and keep reading until paragraph 489). Further, a paper of Bishop Sinclair is included as Appendix 3.

In my own quick read I note this:

"459. On theology the Report summarizes the presentations to the
Group made by Fr Timothy Radcliffe and Professor Oliver O’Donovan
(Paragraphs 254–278 and 313–315). It emphasizes that they warn us to
take seriously the things that we do not know and to avoid closing
down the debate about sexual ethics prematurely. But remaining open
to debate is not the same thing as claiming that the Church no longer
has a basis for what it has taught until now. " Precisely!

Original Post

I am thrilled that the Pilling Report, which apparently bears imprints of a Down Under invisible hand, has generated a very good conversation in the comments below the previous post.

One of the issues highlighted by the process of reception of the report is what is the right path a divided church takes on a difficult issue.

For example, picking up from one comment, should the weight of content for such a matter be on the side of doctrine  rather than practice (including the action of holding the church together)?

To take another matter, does the Pilling Report represent the beginning of the end of the Church of England? That is, when the various 'hedging your bets' and 'buying a bit more time' bits of the report are taken away, is the long-term impact of the report a compass steer to some kind of pure liberalism, of the kind which essentially finishes a church off because it is indistinguishable from 21st century Western secular social democracy?

Then there is the endlessly interesting historical perspective on such a report: if only in 19XX (or even 17XX or if Bloody Mary had never ascended to the throne halting the inexorable destination of the reforms) the church [or, Evangelicals] had not decided to take [a certain progressive and/or compromising step] then we would never be in this confounded situation.

But we are in this confounded situation. And we are in it for a very good reason: our predecessors were neither more nor less gifted in decision-making than we are. In their lights they made the best of their confounded situation. As for historical circumstances beyond influence of decision-making, e.g. Queen Mary. There is no point in 'if only'. No one knows what a confounded mess an alternative situation would have produced! If Edward VI had lived he might have turned on his Protestant advisors ... or turned out to be a playboy like some of his namesake successors :)

Now one interesting aspect of the present moment is that it is difficult to find a 'liberal' chorus for the Pilling Report singing a congratulatory anthem. If we go to Changing Attitude we find a very disappointed lament for the Report being chanted. Here is a summary of the lament from this CA 'initial response':

"This report does not herald radical change and does not therefore fulfil the expectations of Changing Attitude. There are no practical proposals which will begin to dismantle the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the maintenance of unhealthy attitudes. The group has met people and listened and the unhealthy attitudes remain unchanged as the report demonstrates."

Is the C of E going to a liberal hell down a slippery slope on a handcart without brakes? Not according to Changing Attitude!

For me the Pilling Report ticks two important boxes in terms of an Anglican church responding to the present situation which (arguably) is without precedent in the history of the church.

Box One: No change to doctrine of marriage expressed through marriage liturgies.

Box Two: offering pastoral accommodation in a context where opposition to traditional doctrine is not going away, steadfastly remains open and vocal, and continues to tug on the heart strings of the undecided middle (and, taking up a comment below the freshly minted minds of younger generations).

I suggest a question to ask of the Report is whether it is both reasonable and responsible in the context of a divided church in a changing society?

The opposition of Changing Attitude to the report alerts me (at least) to the possibility that the report answers that question with more than a pass mark.

From a Down Under perspective the more work done well by others in the Communion the less we have to do here!

Coda: There is something I feel strongly about re some comments to the previous post. Evangelicalism is itself divided on such matters. But where does responsibility for that division lie? One implication in the comments is that the responsibility lies with open/moderate evangelicals such as organisations like Fulcrum and individuals such as, well, myself. When we could have been united, certain people/groups stepped out of line! But is this a fair analysis of the situation? Isn't there a question of why Fulcrum was formed and why evangelicals such as myself cannot go all the way down a certain conservative line (or set of lines)?

To give one answer, I suggest some conservative evangelical thinking is 'too conservative' to simply go along with it and not vocalise reservations. To give one example, and intentionally steering away from certain 'hot button' issues, there is a line of conservative evangelical theology which is deeply suspicious, if not downright antagonistic to charismatic theology and experience which supports exercising of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and giving words of knowledge. I cannot go along with that and if I were travelling close to that path I could not be silent if suspicion/let alone antagonism was being preached from the pulpit and taught from the conference platform.

In other words, could we who happily wear the label (libel?) 'evangelical' be kind to one another? Within our community of faith, we have differences, some of which give rise to named groupings. Is there much to be gained from lamenting genuine differences among us, or from one group blaming another group for a currently difficult 'fissiparous' situation?