Monday, June 30, 2014

Dutiful death and the Politics of Jesus (Monday 30 June 2014)

It would be well worth reading the following article, "The Pitchforks are coming for us Plutocrats" alongside the post below ...

Death and taxes are the great certainties of life. Last week listening to someone - have forgotten whom - on the radio talking about taxes I heard mention of 'death duties' as a tax worth exploring. For overseas readers we do not have death duties or tax payable on estates. But, to coin a phrase, 'I've been thinking' and I wonder if we should discuss death duties as part of the politics of Jesus.

In my view some very mischievous talk takes place about taxes. Recently I read a report of an otherwise sound and sensible NZ journalist asking a party leader committed to tax cuts why, if part of government, he would 'give' more money to the wealthy. Er, when we work for money, the income is ours, the government takes some it as taxes, the only 'giving' in the transaction is from the earner to the Inland Revenue. A tax cut is taking less from the earner not performing a charitable act!

In the end, from the politics of Jesus perspective, summing up teaching in passages such as Romans 13, taxes are contributions made by citizens for the apparatus of the state, including defence of the realm, and for an efficient means of enabling shared societal goals to be reached concerning the welfare of all.

Taxes have nothing to do with, say, depriving the wealthy of wealth, or redistributing income in order to equalise incomes or to at least compress the differences between highest and lowest earners. The latter goals may be laudable according to socialist theory, desirable in terms of developing a harmonious society, and - most importantly - they may be agreeable in terms of a proposal to an electorate which is accepted through voting at an election, but they have nothing to do with the politics of Jesus. Those politics require the care of the weak and vulnerable but doing that via voluntary charity is as much an expression of Jesus' teaching as doing it via a tax funded welfare system.

My view on taxes as a means of creating an agreeable society is that I happily pay taxes in order to fund a welfare state as I prefer the dignity of people in need receiving benefits rather than sitting or lying outside every shop begging (literally) for their livelihood. Funding education (assisting people to be ready to take their place in the workforce) and health (ditto re avoiding begging for money to pay doctor's bills) is a logical extension of social contracting to be a welfare state rather than a non-welfare state. Elections, in such a society, in one perspective, are about the amount of tax required for that agreeable society.

Thinking in this way, responsible governments have a duty of care to the medium and long term future of the welfare state to ensure the economy is humming away: workers earn incomes from which taxes are taken. To take too much tax can be to drive down the number of workers (in NZ's case, people tend to avoid high taxes here by heading for overseas jobs) and/or to force away from NZ the entrepreneurial business people who start and develop new industries and businesses. If we really care for the poor we will want a rockstar economy! (Apparently we have one at the moment ... that is a better state to be in than a poorly performing one).

If all such talk means that we take care not to over tax incomes, nor to drive businesses away through unreasonable burdens of taxation, then the question arises, as it is around the world, are there nevertheless ways in which we can prevent the rate of growth of inequality as some wealthy people/families acquire more and more capital leaving less and less for the 99% (or even the 99.9%) to share in?

Death duties potentially are a means of constraining that growth. They have the advantage of not constraining business people through taxation while they are using their skills and acumen to grow and develop their wealth. Breaking up large estates is something NZ has form on: a long time ago large farms were forcibly broken into smaller parcels of land in order to allow more people to farm.

Of course in the politics of Jesus nothing is directly said about death duties. But quite a bit is said about the inability of wealth to be utilised after death! Our treasure should be built up in the Bank of Heavenly Credit, not stored in barns below.

Anglican Unity


I cannot resist posting this photo depicting united Anglicans (H/T Titus One Nine)

I think we could run a wee quiz:

1. Who are these bishops? (Obviously you can cheat on this one by heading to the source). But some readers here will recognise all three. Archbishop Peter Jensen (retired, Sydney), Bishop Mark Lawrence (Diocese of South Carolina), Archbishop Ben Kwashi (one of the archbishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria).

2. Which one is due to speak in Christchurch later this year? ++Peter Jensen, at a couple of events arranged by the Latimer Fellowship.

3. All three belong to member churches of the Anglican Communion. Discuss. Discussion should include reference to the Diocese of Sydney being part of the Anglican Church of Australia and, along with the Anglican Church of Nigeria a member church of the Anglican Communion, while the Diocese of South Carolina has remained outside of the Anglican Church of North America and other Anglican churches, including The Episcopal Church itself, nevertheless coming under the oversight of the Primates' Council of the Global South (a network of member churches of the Anglican Communion). You may like to write your essay with either an aspirin or a glass of whiskey handy.

4. Which two of the three belong to Anglican churches which are not in a formal relationship with ACNA? See above: Mark Lawrence and ++Peter Jensen. Nigeria, by contrast, is 'related' to ACNA via the involvement of CANA (i.e. North American branch of Nigeria's Anglican church) within it.

5. What recent event might have contributed to these three bishops being in the USA at the same time? ACNA had a recent meeting at which it elected a new archbishop. Perhaps that event drew ++Peter and ++Ben to the States? The photo was taken, however, in a different place, in the Charleston Airport, South Carolina, where +Mark resides.

Well done to Andrew and Bryden re answers.

I will post my answers here tomorrow morning. I will publish comments till then without responsive comment from me.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Inspiring courage

As we celebrate and commemorate the lives, teaching and examples of Peter and Paul, let's continue to pray for Meriam Ibrahim. She is an inspiring example of Christian courage in the tradition of Peter and Paul. Gabriel Said Reynolds tells us the story at First Things.

A Clear and Present Word

Bishop Tim Harris is in fine form as he continues to reflect exegetically on the matter of women, Scripture and roles. In a post specifically titled to connect with the Diocese of Sydney he tackles 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

"6. The most significant interpretive crux in understanding 1 Tim. 2:11-15 is located in the rationale contained in verse 14: ‘and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.’ This key verse is too often overlooked, and unless it refers to a female gullibility, it is most cogently understood with reference to women being targeted by the false teachers in Ephesus.
In brief, if the ‘creational order’ emperor is not entirely naked in 1 Tim. 2:11-15, he is certainly light on in the clothing department, especially if it reduces male-female relationships to gender hierarchy and male authority.
Beyond the catch-phrases
One of the frustrations is in the adopting of ‘catch-phrases’ that do little to clarify the distinctive features of various positions. I am very happy that women are ‘equal but different’. Egalitarians are just as ready to affirm that males and females complement one another in the created scheme of things. Where we differ is in perceptions of a gender related hierarchy of authority, and in role-delineated asymmetry of relationships."

I am with +Tim. There is a symmetry in the treatment of women in the Bible which is under appreciated by 'complementarian' approaches.

Why I think the early church was proto-Anglican

I am in the midst of an unusual period of 'apostolic' activity. No, I am not planting churches (the essence, in my view, of apostolicity) but I am engaging with the apostles and their associates.

Today I lead a seminar in Rangiora on the theology of Paul. By Wednesday I need to have completed a paper on Luke for a one day conference on Luke at Carey Baptist College - I may say more about Luke after that - the gist of my paper is that he has no reliability as an independent historian! Meantime work has begun on the next Lenten Studies book to be published by Theology House in time for 2015, based on John's Gospel. In early July I begin teaching a paper on the Book of Revelation (written by John the apostle? Another John?) for the University of Otago.

Such engagement is very fulfilling but it raises many questions. One question is the extent to which the New Testament is a collection of diverse theologies which have a degree of unity drawing them together but which, when all is said and done, do not quite fit with each other. (Prompted by a remark or two I have read in the past week) do John and Paul, for example, share the same approach to communicating the gospel to the Hellenistic world? Does John connect the gospel comfortably with that world while Paul offers a radical critique of it?

Of course such diversity in the early church brings the thought to mind that it was a prototype of the Anglican church we experience today: diversity with strained unity.

I must be off to Rangiora ...!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Spanky Moore to grace Ilam Fields

The Christchurch Diocesan Mission Team is in a happy(ish) state of transformation as changes take place. One of the team leaves soon for St John's College. Another has just had a baby. Today it has become public that Spanky Moore, sometimes known as Joshua Moore, Young Adults Co-ordinator for the Diocese of Christchurch will become Senior Chaplain to the University of Canterbury (aka Ilam Fields). (A half-time appointment so the Young Adults work will continue).

It is a 'happy(ish)' state of transformation as our happiness is for the individuals concerned and the 'ish' part is the challenge of taking the work done to date forward.

Back to Spanky's appointment ...

A promo article, sourced I believe from within the university itself, is worth reading on Taonga. I am sure an article written from within the church would have omitted the raw meat throwing and told us about the brilliance of the Salt and Light movement - a flourishing series of young adult events through the past few years.

Anyway, best person for the job and all that. Spanky is one of the best communicators I have ever come across in my life and I look forward to seeing him make gospel waves at my alma mater.

I originally posted this prematurely two days ago and then withdrew it. The post is slightly rewritten from then.

I think I agree. Why replace 'after Pentecost' with 'Ordinary'?

George Wiegel hits a nail (or two) on the head. Here is the money paragraph from this railing against the ordinary:

"There are many reasons to deplore the change in liturgical nomenclature for the weeks after the Easter Season, from Sundays “after Pentecost” to Sundays “in Ordinary Time.” As has been noted previously in this space (perhaps to be point of reader-tedium!), there is nothing “ordinary” about time after the Resurrection and Ascension. For, as that Colossians text suggests and Augustine makes explicit, human “time” has now been drawn into the divine life through the mystery of Christ’s return to the Father and his being seated “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3) as Lord of history. History, in that sense, is “inside” the Godhead."

That cynical and jaded feeling about 'unity' might be lifting

Very interesting article by Paul Vallely in the Independent (via AngCentRoma). Perhaps people such as myself need to lift our stooping frames and tired feet, weighed down by doom and gloom over prospects for unity between Canty and Rome. There are some very subtle thinkers inhabiting the bodies of the ABC and the Pontiff. Try these for the money paragraphs:

"Much of ARCIC’s work is safely banked. When Rome’s top ecumenist, Cardinal Walter Kasper, called a meeting of Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Reformed churches in 2010 it found, one insider said, “not one single area of theology in which we do not have some measure of agreement”.  This was not just a clever repackaging of old disputes. It is a real growth in understanding.

But until recently ARCIC had hit the buffers. When Rome took an extraordinary 10 years to respond to one key ARCIC agreement many Anglicans lost patience and went ahead with the ordination of women and more liberal attitudes to gays.

In response the Vatican pulled the plug on the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). Pope Benedict XVI’s unilateral decision in 2009 to set up an Anglican Ordinariate to poach dissident Anglicans to Rome caused further resentment.

Yet things have clearly begun to change. Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby have similar visions. Both are no-nonsense characters with a “sleeves rolled up” approach to making change happen. Yet both see theological union as crucial. They have no patience with the “let’s agree to disagree on theology and just open a food bank together” approach.

In Rome Archbishop Welby – who despite his evangelical background, has a Benedictine spiritual director and has invited a French Catholic religious community, Chemin Neuf, to live in his home in Lambeth Palace – said that Anglicans and Catholics had to “get away from being quite comfortable with the fact we live separately”.   Without theology, he said, the churches will become “just another NGO with a lot of old buildings”.

The renewed talk of unity is more than a pious aspiration. A third round of ARCIC talks has had meetings so far in Bose, Hong Kong, Rio and Durban. They have shifted the focus away from what divides the two churches to “receptive ecumenism” – what each side has to learn from the other.

At the heart of their discussions is how the two Communions go about making decisions. There are huge contrasts: Catholicism is heavily centralised whereas in Anglicanism authority is dispersed between many churches in many nations. Division is part of the Protestant DNA. And Anglicans are more divided among themselves now than ever before.

But Pope Francis clearly wants to change the governance of the Catholic Church so it is less like a mediaeval monarchy and more open to the wisdom and insights of all its members.
Given the practical difficulties posed by issues of gender and sexuality it is hard to see what unity between Catholics and Anglicans might look like – certainly not uniformity.  But if the intellectual difficulties are greater now than 50 years ago, emotionally the two churches are closer than at any time since the reign of Henry VIII."

PS Independently of me, Bosco Peters of Liturgy also has posted today about the recent meeting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What we may do

Recently I have been involved in several discussions and study sessions on liturgy in our church. One question which arises for some (though it should arise for all) is "What are the 'authorised' services of our church?" Another question is 'Why are there so many rules about liturgy?'

The first question is tackled in a paper I provide below, a paper first delivered to our Post Ordination Training group, tweaked for an archdeaconry meeting soon after, and touched up a little for presentation below.

The second question requires care. Liturgy is a technical subject in the sense that a service can be analysed into many parts, each part discussed in terms of the tradition lying behind it and the theology it seeks to give expression, with each and every such discussion invoking many terms, including references to items of vesture, some of which are known only to advanced liturgists or people with Wikipedia at their finger tips (try: anaphora, epiclesis, extraordinary form, ad orientem, melismata, wimple, burse). That there might be rules, formal and informal which govern what we do (and prohibit what we should not do) is no surprise, but the sheer number can overwhelm the person new to following the rules (say, a deacon or a priest or other licensed liturgical leader).

In my view we should step back from the minutiae of rules and ask what the purpose of any and every liturgical rule is. I suggest the purpose is simply this: to safeguard the gospel.

The gospel of Christ inspires our offering of thanksgiving to God. What we say in liturgy expresses what we believe the gospel announces, that Christ has saved us. If we do liturgy badly then we may distort the gospel. When we do liturgy well we proclaim the gospel in its fullness.

Now to the paper ...


I recommend reading the above in conjunction with a recent post by Bosco Peters on Authorised Worship.

Monday, June 23, 2014

For the 1%? Politics of Jesus (Monday 23 June 2014)

I am not long back from a lovely weekend in Auckland which included a conference/stay at a top hotel (disclaimer: not paid for with church funds!), a sortee on Friday evening and yesterday lunch time to middle of the road eating establishments, and general mixing with a wide range of people.

At certain points I felt I was touching the 1% rather than the 99% (re the current division of the world into the super rich and the rest of us). A Lamborghini parked outside the hotel at one point, by most stretches of the imagination, is not a car owned by the merely well off. At other points moving through Auckland's central city seemed to provide a flow of evidence of our prosperity in general terms: lots of people enjoying a Friday night out on the town - too many of them to imply that 1% were out and about buying an ice cream here or a hamburger there while the 99% were stuck at home or under a bridge longing enviously for a better life.

But there was evidence of a lack of participation in general prosperity: beggars on the streets.

Prompting the writing down of these observations was an article in yesterday's Sunday Star Times (I cannot find a link) about Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century and the ongoing global response to the book, in particular to his idea of a tax on capital which is then redistributed to the world's poor.

With our election looming ever closer, and descending ever more quickly into farce (as, for overseas readers, we are daily treated to stories drip fed to us about previous indiscretions about rich people donating clandestinely to parties), I see few signs of any serious debate about redistribution of the Piketty kind.

On the one hand we have some very rich people influencing the course of the election, on both the right and the left (Key, Craig, Dotcom). On the other hand we have the party best situated to lead a discussion on redistribution (Labour) in disarray.

Indeed, on Saturday night I heard Ginette Macdonald give a stand up comedy routine. Her best zinger of the evening was this:

I don't vote for any of the organised parties.

I vote Labour.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Forensic detection of well-intended Trinitarian error

St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai is a wonderful place to visit (present day security concerns satisfied). A spiritual oasis in a literal desert of rose red mountains with scarcely a shrub or tree to be seen. A long time ago, likely between 325 and 360 AD, scribal activity, perhaps in Caesarea or Rome, carefully produced one of the Bible codices commissioned by Constantine. How and when the codex made its way to St Catherine's, we do not know. Centuries later, partially ravaged by dereliction, the codex to be known as Codex Sinaiticus became the centre of one of the racier stories in the history of the Bible, involving allegations of theft, Stalin, and the British Museum (now British Library).

Recently I had occasion to preach on John 16:12-15. Opening up a commentary or two I noticed reference to a variant reading in verse 13. Jesus, speaking of the Spirit's role, says, according to the NRSV,

'... he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears ...'

The Greek text for the second phrase reads

'but whatever he will hear (akousei) he will speak.'

An alternative reading of the second phrase is

'but whatever he hears (akouei) he will speak.'

Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2002) says that the variant is 'a dogmatic improvement, introduced to suggest the eternal relationship of the Holy Spirit with the Father' (p. 210). That is, a scribe working on Codex Sinaiticus, perhaps in the heady Trinitarian days following the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, thought that the Spirit speaking what he is yet to hear diminished the notion of the eternal relationship of the Spirit with the Father. A slight change with the omission of one letter, changing future tense to present tense, would restore the Spirit to his rightful place. (I myself think that the NRSV (also NIV) using the present tense is stylistic rather than a siding with Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus's sister codex, Vaticanus, incidentally, does not have this change).

There is a strong irony in a scribe seeking to improve John's Gospel in this way. John's Gospel itself is an attempt to improve ('improve') on the Synoptic Gospels in the sense that it consistently presents Jesus from the perspective of a deeper understanding of the relationship between the Father and the Son than disclosed by those gospels. It is John's Gospel which reveals to us that the Father and the Son are one. From that revelation flows the deduction that the Holy Spirit is one with Father and Son. The ancient anonymous scribe has made a well-intended Trinitarian error as he copied John's Gospel into the new codex and done so according to a Johannine way of thinking.

But many centuries later we might ask whether John himself was in error when he used the future tense in 16:13. However I do not think so. The use of the future tense through passages such as this, in Jesus' last testament to his disciples, consistently looks ahead to the ultimate revelation of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, to the event of his exaltation through the cross-and-resurrection or beyond it ('the things that are to come', 16:13c).

On that day the fullness of God's revelation through Jesus Christ is disclosed, the future tenses anticipate 'all the truth' available on that day, into which the Spirit 'will guide' the disciples (16:13a). John's time here is the earthly chronology in which the resurrection is yet to occur rather than the heavenly chronology in which that day is eternally present to God.

Thus John underscores the importance of the cross-and-resurrection as the single definitive event for Jesus. (If you want to push that, yes, John treats four things we often separate as one event of exaltation, cross-resurrection-ascension-pentecost). In this event, at least in a form of embryo which grows develops and flourishes, all the truth is revealed. The Spirit will speak to us what he will hear on that day.

The Sinaiticus scribe understood too little, not too much!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Who is Wright about marriage?

Here is NT Wright on marriage courtesy of First Things publishing a transcript of an interview:

"Now, the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and
woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.

With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth—and the binaries in Genesis are so important—that heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.
If you say that marriage now means something which would allow other such configurations, what you’re saying is actually that when we marry a man and a woman we’re not actually doing any of that stuff. This is just a convenient social arrangement and sexual arrangement and there it is . . . get on with it. It isn’t that that is the downgrading of marriage, it’s something that clearly has gone on for some time which is now poking it’s head above the parapet. If that’s what you thought marriage meant, then clearly we haven’t done a very good job in society as a whole and in the church in particular in teaching about just what a wonderful mystery marriage is supposed to be. Simply at that level, I think it’s a nonsense. It’s like a government voting that black should be white. Sorry, you can vote that if you like, you can pass it by a total majority, but it isn’t actually going to change the reality."

As a nice postscript, Wright makes an astute observation about history and making changes:

"All the press is on-side, most of Parliament’s on-side, and people are saying—get this—that unless you support this, you’re on the wrong side of history. Excuse me. Did you see University Challenge last night? There was a nice question: Somebody said, who was it who said in 1956, “History is on our side and we will bury you”? One of the contestants got the answer right: It was Nikita Khrushchev. When people claim, “We’re going with the flow of history,” that’s just a rhetorical smokescreen."

Wright's essential point is that maleness and femaleness is an intentional-and-creational binary quality to human existence and marriage is the description of that binary difference being overcome through sexual intercourse making one flesh between man and woman become husband and wife through entering lifelong commitment. A traditional understanding of marriage which, might I remind readers, our church recently affirmed in Motion 30. Wright's consequential point is that parliaments changing this understanding of marriage may attempt to redefine marriage but they may as well define black as white.

On that consequential point I think I disagree with Tom Wright. Definitions of words come and go, chop and change. I am not sure that parliament or, for that matter, Oxford University Press's dictionary department cannot change the meaning of such a word. But whether a new meaning sticks is another matter. The interesting postscript about history and which side 'history' is on alerts as to not second guessing what the meaning of 'marriage' will be in fifty years time.

Nevertheless, where Wright may yet be proven right re definition of marriage is that as a bare word, 'marriage' seems to be understood as 'man-woman-legal bit' so that qualifiers seem to be dragged into association with the word when variations occur. Thus, 'de facto marriage' when the legal bit is missing, 'gay marriage' when sexual complementarity is not present. 'Second marriage' has some implications re 'marriage' being intrinsically understood as 'for life' so that a further marriage being contracted after divorce is commented on via the qualifier

Wright is always very assured about being right. But he is not alone in the Anglican Communion today. Another fellow with strong assurance of being correct is Tobias Haller. Writing in response to Wright on his blog In A Godward Direction he shreds Wright's argument to a thousand pieces. Or does he? What do you think? [I want comments here re "Wright v Haller" - who has the better argument, who wins the debate in your opinion - if you want to argue the details of Haller's argument, please go directly to his site to engage with him on those details].

They cannot both be Wright. One is not like the other!

Questions Haller's response raise for me are these:

- How far can we go in the imposition of a critique of Scripture from a modern perspective before we deny Scripture as a revelatory word from God?

For instance, to claim that almost all talk of marriage in Scripture is irredeemably biased in a patriarchal direction, including the very analogy of Christ and the church to husband and wife, relativises scriptural talk about marriage. Does it go too far, making Scripture an interesting but anachronistic document, an historical curio in the face of a new word from the Lord via modernity?

- (Relating to many things being said these days about sexuality and marriage, not just in Haller's post) Are we authorised by Scripture and tradition to negate all talk of the binary nature of sexuality in favour of the plurality of sexual and gender identities?

Presumed and articulated in Wright's comments is a binary approach to sexuality and gender. Exceptions to the binariness intrinsic to Genesis' creation narratives exist as a matter of experience, but the binary approach treats these as exceptions to the general rule.

Presumed in Haller's response is a non-binary approach - there are a variety of sexualities and genders which the biblical narrative simply does not acknowledge let alone cope with. Far from being exceptions to some predetermined rule, the varieties of human experience beg the question how we might frame our application of the narrative to acknowledge (and ultimately bless) them all.

Thus each scholar is right according to their presuppositions. But are the presuppositions correct?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The politics of Jesus (16 June 2014)

What would the politics of Jesus say to the crisis in Iraq over the ISIS advance through Nineveh?

I have already pointed out the relevance of the Book of Revelation (here). On further reflection I want to suggest a 'political hermeneutic' for reading the New Testament.

There are ordinary times when ordinary wisdom, instruction and principles apply. The obvious contrast to Revelation is Romans 13 where Paul takes a benign view of state power and instructs Christians to go along with it, submit to its authority and generally live sensible yet compassionate lives within civic society.

Then there are extraordinary times when the rules of Christian life go out the window. Even Jesus in the last moments of his life told his disciples to find swords! It is simply impossible to treat ISIS as it imposes its murderous thuggery on the people of Nineveh as a fledgling new state as an authority appointed by God. That is not to say that some licence is then given for those opposed to ISIS to take up arms themselves (I am not arguing for or against that here and now.) But the instruction of Jesus seems to be at least to flee (see the verse prior to this coming Sunday's gospel reading, Matthew 10:23).

In terms of Revelation such forces are expressions of the angel of death sweeping across the face of the earth and, to mix metaphors, the beast arising out of the sea.

Of course this hermeneutic is not without its problems. Who is to judge when we live in ordinary times and when we live in extraordinary times? Though we might at least recognise that if we can go to bed at night without fear of the police (or 'police') knocking on our doors in order to drag us out into the street to kill us then we might just be in an ordinary situation.

Further, there is an important analysis of Revelation which says that it is an extraordinary book for ordinary times in the sense that it is an unveiling of the dark malign reality of the apparently benign state. The Roman Empire both guaranteed peace on its roads and seaways even as it imposed idolatry on Jews and Christians. In our day, we could say, with Revelation in mind, capitalism both provides a means of income and imposes the idolatry of materialism on its citizens.

Yet the whole of Revelation goes beyond such analysis. Its visions go beyond the pressure of idolatrous Rome on Asia Minor congregations. It foresees days of terror, of death and destruction beyond the possibilities of Christians being squeezed out of participation in ordinary civic life. For such days it does not envisage the renewal of something like 'ordinary' life. It looks beyond death to new life, beyond pain to healing, and beyond evil to pure goodness.

It is a book for extraordinary times. Meanwhile I need to take a car to the garage to conform to state requirements for a Warrant of Fitness and make some effort to get this year's taxes sorted out!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rules and Integrities

Recently I had to have a look at our canons for the sake of a liturgical paper I wrote for our POT group. Doing so reminded me of what is at stake as our church moves towards ... whatever it is moving towards.

Every licensed clergyperson makes the following declarations in order to be licensed to operate (from here):

"I believe in the faith, which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds, as this Church has received it and explained it in its Formularies and its authorised worship.

I assent to the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
I affirm my allegiance to the doctrine to which clause 1 of the Fundamental Provisions and clauses 1 and 2 of Part B of that Constitution bear witness.
In public prayer and administration of the sacraments I will use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by lawful authority.
I will uphold the covenant and partnership expressed in the Constitution between Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa as a whole and through its constituent parts, and the Dioceses in New Zealand together and severally and through their constituent parts, and the Diocese of Polynesia as a whole and through its constituent parts.
I will pay true and canonical obedience, in all things lawful and honest, to Te Pīhopa  o Aotearoa
     Te Pīhopa  ki te                                     [name of Hui Amorangi]
     The Bishop of                                                [name of Diocese]

and to the successors to that Pīhopa / Bishop, and will be obedient to the ecclesiastical laws and regulations in force in the said                                                                                     
[Pīhopatanga ]
                                                                         [Hui Amorangi area]
                                                                            [name of Diocese]
The foregoing declaration was made and subscribed by the abovenamed
on the    day of     in the year of our Lord           thousand hundred and" [from Title A of Ministers, Canon 2 of Pastors].

For failing to live up to such standards Title D concerning discipline in our church may be invoked.

Thus every licensed clergyperson in respect of possibilities that blessings of same sex partnerships might be caught into our doctrine by way of being accepted into our formularies (i.e. authorised forms of worship through which we express our doctrine) should be keenly keeping an eye on our process going forward.

The implications of the following words are considerable:

"I believe in the faith, which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds, as this Church has received it and explained it in its Formularies and its authorised worship.

I assent to the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
I affirm my allegiance to the doctrine to which clause 1 of the Fundamental Provisions and clauses 1 and 2 of Part B of that Constitution bear witness."

If one does not believe that same sex partnerships may be blessed (even if one accepts the possibility that colleagues might (somehow) be canonically permitted to do so) then basic integrity requires that such blessing included in our Formularies leads to refusal to make the declaration on the basis of the first clause cited immediately above. Motion 30 signals an intention on the part of General Synod to avoid such a scenario.

If one does believe that blessings of same sex partnerships should be included in the formularies of our church then I suggest that basic integrity requires that the declaration (as it stands) should not be signed because 'allegiance to the doctrine to which clause 1 of the Fundamental Provisions' is inconsistent with such inclusion. (Such inclusion would be counted as part of Part B of the constitution). Motion 30 gives a hint that General Synod understands that the Fundamental Provisions are a significant legal impediment to change.

In other words, the way ahead for us as a church, in the light of our constitution, could follow one of three lines for the maximum-under-the-circumstances retention of existing licensed clergy:

1. No change at all because it is conceded that our Fundamental Provisions prohibit change.

2. Some kind of permission to conduct blessings of same sex partnerships which is agreed to (somehow) be consistent with our Fundamental Provisions but which does not lead to such blessings being part of our Formularies and, thus, the present wording of the Declaration remains.

3. (Somehow) change to our Fundamental Provisions and associated changes which make it possible for clergy to be licensed within our church whether they do believe or do not believe that blessing of same sex relationships is consistent with our doctrine.

Can you think of a fourth or fifth way?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Facing horror with the Book of Revelation

I'll make yesterday's indication of what my next post will be 'my next post but one'. The unfolding horror in Iraq as forces too hot for Al Qaeda to handle take over key cities causing hundreds of thousands to flee leads me to this post. Within these multitudes are Christians taking a sober estimate of what will befall them if they remain. There will be many Christians already dead on the streets of Ninevah as these forces impose their evil will on those who do not see life through their narrow Islamic lenses.

One post I read mentions Revelation 16:12-16. It is indeed apt as blood runs down the Euphrates.

At times like this I find it hard to know what to do. Even praying is difficult as, to be honest, it seems like nothing will save countless brothers and sisters in Christ from experiencing the outpouring of hatred against them.

But it has struck me that this is why Revelation is included in the canon of Scripture. It's unvarnished vision of the horror of evil bitterly imposing its deathly grip on the human population, as well as on the saints means that Scripture faces rather than runs away from the power of death. At such times the message is not to pray (though there is no message to cease praying) but to endure.

For no matter how vicious the assault of the satanic forces, Revelation also assures us that the power of the slain Lamb is greater than that of the beast. There is a new heaven and a new earth.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

It is more complex than sorting the constitution

Here is the thing. ACANZP is a church with a challenge, or three.

As posted two days ago, we have a constitutional challenge: how can we be faithful to God and the gospel as our constitution requires of us?

Yet we also have a pastoral challenge: how can we care for all people in our midst, to say nothing of many others we hope will join us as they discover God's love for them, when "all people" includes people with varying views on what the gospel is?

Over the last eighteen months or so I have become more aware than ever before that the question of our response as a church to gay and lesbian people is complex from a pastoral perspective. It involves gay and lesbian members of our church, gay and lesbian people not in our church to whom we wish to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, members of our church who are parents and other relatives of gay and lesbian sons and daughters. No doubt that is an incomplete summary.

Noting these groups of (especially) concerned people (in my estimation) multiplies the number of people whose hearts are burning on these matters well beyond the statistics of 'somewhere between 2 and 10% of the population are gay.' Would it be fair to say that 40% of members of our church are urgently concerned about where our present and future response to homosexuality is heading because it directly affects whether they feel their sons/daughters, nieces/nephews, best friends are welcome in our church and our church is not a church defined by negativity to gay and lesbian people?

In other words - here I offer a surmise from my conversations - we are a church of a wide variety of views and concerns which at least encompasses the following range of views (in no particular order of perceived allegiance or priority): some views are set out in an anticipatory way as what some might think several years hence, should change occur:

- Our church must be faithful to Scripture and tradition and that means no blessings of same sex partnerships and certainly no change to doctrine on marriage.
- Our church must be faithful to Scripture and tradition and that means blessings of same sex partnerships if not change to doctrine on marriage.
- Our church should be a place where we can get along with our range of views. I don't want to see anyone have to leave who is otherwise following their understanding of faithful discipleship. If that means some pastors will bless and others will not, that is fine by me.
- We (say, parents of a gay son or lesbian daughter) understand that our vicar in good conscience will not bless same sex partnerships but we do expect her to keep views on these matters out of the pulpit, not least because our familiar parish church should be a safe place for our son/daughter and partner to visit when home on holiday.
- We don't approve of blessing same sex partnerships but understand our vicar feels differently and has the bishop's permission to conduct such blessings. That's fine but we expect the vicar not to preach on these matters as we are not alone in our disapproval and there is no need to foster controversy in our parish.
- I know that orthodox ecclesiology would say otherwise but basically I am OK with our diocese following one way on these matters while the neighbouring diocese is doing the opposite.
- We are not at all happy with the relationship our son has formed with another bloke but now there is a baby in their family and talk of baptism. It would mean the world to us if our vicar could see his way to baptising the baby ... he has done it before, you know, for an unmarried couple, so why not for this relationship?
- We understand that support for same sex partnerships is widespread in our church but we long for a better understanding, celebration even, of those gay and lesbian Anglicans who quietly believe that they should be celibate in response to what they read in Scripture. If the Anglican church is a place for all, why isn't there a visible place for the celibate?

There are at least two other groups to acknowledge at this point:
- those who have left, are leaving or will leave if nothing changes (i.e. status quo remains)
- those who have left, are leaving or will leave because something changed with Motion 30 and it is a safe bet - arguably - that more change is coming.

When we think about the concerns in our families, both natural families and parish families or communities, worrying less about the constitution and more about how we offer love and support to one another, our challenge is to work on how we accommodate such a range of differences which do not categorise neatly into "this group will be happy if we make changes X, Y and Z" and "this group will be happy if we make no changes at all."

This last observation is especially pertinent when we acknowledge that many parishes experience a range of differences within themselves. We can no more divide such parishes into two parts than we can divide most episcopal units in our church.

There is no counsel of despair in my mind as we acknowledge the reality of our 'messy church'. Inevitably we are human communities, which always have a range of differences within them and which are always seeking ways to maintain common ground within diversity. Life is complex and the church is not an exception to this rule!

In my next post, nevertheless, I want to make some observations about some of the rules office holders are bound by in our church, and what changes might be required if we are to be a church which holds together rather than falls apart.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our troubles are very small by comparison

Whatever is going on here in NZ re Anglican troubles, they pale into insignificance besides Chaldean or Assyrian church troubles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anglican chickens coming home to roost?

Glen Young writing a comment on my Church of England Empowering Act says,

"If the aspirations of the proponents of blessing same-gendered relationships ,cannot be legitimately accommodated within the Doctrine of Clause 1 then it does not fit into the ACANZP - period. 

I feel, if such is the case, those who have been advocating and promulgating doctrine which is inconsistent with the Doctrine of Clause 1 have never been under genuine adherence and submission to the authority of General Synod.

The Church cannot be split into a lawful and a unlawful factions. In actuality, we could finish up with 9 tikanga."

Let's unpack this a bit.

As an Anglican church within the Communion (i.e. since the Anglo-Catholic and Modernist controversies of the mid nineteenth century) we have lived our life as a broad church which has given considerable latitude to its preachers to enunciate from the pulpits interpretations of the 'doctrine of Christ' which, strictly speaking, if ever tested before a doctrinal tribune, might not be consistent with our constitution's definition of the doctrine of Christ as that expressed through the BCP, the 39A and the Ordinal.

But, and here is the thing, none of our latitudinal, broad minded preachers have ever succeeded in the synodical process of our church in (say) changing the creeds or removing the BCP as part of our fundamentals. Put another way, all the St Matthew's-in-the-City billboards, and all the times our newspapers have printed an interview with clergy about not taking the Bible literally, Mary may not have been a Virgin and did Jesus really rise from the dead? amount to diddly squat in terms of our constitution. Those statements whistle in the wind doctrinally because they change nothing about what our church formally believes. (Pastorally they likely have mattered in a different way: how many people have been misled by such statements as to what the Anglican church stands for, what Christians believe and what the Bible teaches?)

The difficulty with where we have evolved to as a broad church is that we have lulled ourselves into thinking that we can accommodate any reasonable change proposed by sincere members of our church. That is true only to the extent that a reasonable change is a canonical or constitutional change to church order and belief consistent with the constitution or is a change which does not touch the canons and constitution.

Potentially where our church is going in the light of Motion 30 is towards a place where we cannot accommodate the change we seek. Glen Young's comment highlights this possibility because he is properly focused on what our constitutional understanding of doctrine is and raises the questions whether

(1) a change to incorporate blessings of same sex partnerships (let alone same sex marriages) is consistent with that doctrine; and

(2) any attempt to get around an agreed inconsistency by promulgating some other structure would effectively be a structure consisting of a 'lawful' and an 'unlawful' church (or set of churches).

There is a kicker in the comment above because Glen is highlighting the possibility that for decades 'liberal' or 'progressive' members of our church have actually been tacitly rebelling against the lawful authority of the General Synod. If so, then our lax discipline has fostered a situation in which we have high hopes that will be constitutionally dashed. Such hopes would not have arisen if we had taken a firmer hand on discipline concerning the authority of General Synod and the true submission required of licensed ministers (lay and ordained) in our church.

Are Anglican chickens coming home to roost at this time in our history?

Is God challenging this church to wake up out of its theological slumbers to address the question of belief?

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Politics of Jesus (9 June 2014)


Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes; equality of opportunity; and fairness across generations. Different societies will place different weights on these elements but few would omit any of them.

Societies aspire to this trinity of distributive justice, social equity and intergenerational equity for at least three reasons.

First, there is growing evidence that relative equality is good for growth. At a minimum, few would disagree that a society that provides opportunity to all of its citizens is more likely to thrive than one which favours an elite, however defined.

Second, research suggests that inequality is one of the most important determinants of relative happiness and that a sense of community – itself a form of inclusion – is a critical determinant of well-being.

Third, they appeal to a fundamental sense of justice. Who behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance – not knowing their future talents and circumstances – wouldn’t want to maximise the welfare of the least well off?

The problem: the growing exclusivity of capitalism

This gathering and similar ones in recent years have been prompted by a sense that this basic social contract is breaking down. That unease is backed up by hard data. At a global level, there has been convergence of opportunities and outcomes, but this is only because the gap between advanced and emerging economies has narrowed. Within societies, virtually without exception, inequality of outcomes both within and across generations has demonstrably increased.

The big drivers of globalisation and technology are magnifying market distributions. Moreover, returns in a globalised world are amplifying the rewards of the superstar and, though few of them would be inclined to admit it, the lucky."

These are the words of Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, delivered at a conference titled "Inclusive Capitalism: creating a sense of systemic", London (27 May 2014). The whole speech is here. (Note that I have removed footnotes from citations above and below).

Critical to what Carney is arguing is a phrase not quite used in this introduction. We find it in the conclusion. The phrase is 'social capital':

"By encouraging enterprise and rewarding individual initiative, market-based economies provide the essential conditions for economic progress. But social capital must be maintained for that progress to be consistently delivered.

The combination of unbridled faith in financial markets prior to the crisis and the recent demonstrations of corruption in some of these markets has eroded social capital. When combined with the longer-term pressures of globalisation and technology on the basic social contract, an unstable dynamic of declining trust in the financial system and growing exclusivity of capitalism threatens.

To counter this, rebuilding social capital is paramount."

This raises the question of what is meant by 'social capital'. Carney addresses this on p.3:

"To maintain the balance of an inclusive social contract, it is necessary to recognise the importance of values and beliefs in economic life. Economic and political philosophers from Adam Smith (1759) to Hayek (1960) have long recognised that beliefs are part of inherited social capital, which provides the social framework for the free market.

Social capital refers to the links, shared values and beliefs in a society which encourage individuals not only to take responsibility for themselves and their families but also to trust each other and work collaboratively to support each other.

So what values and beliefs are the foundations of inclusive capitalism? Clearly to succeed in the global economy, dynamism is essential. To align incentives across generations, a long-term perspective is required. For markets to sustain their legitimacy, they need to be not only effective but also fair. Nowhere is that need more acute than in financial markets; finance has to be trusted. And to value others demands engaged citizens who recognise their obligations to each other. In short, there needs to be a sense of society."

Carney's presupposition and perspective concerns the role of banking in capitalism and he rightly recognises that  decisions critical to the advancement of inclusive capitalism in relation to rebuilding social capital are political decisions.

What does this have to do with the politics of Jesus in an election year for Aotearoa New Zealand?

First, the concept of 'inclusive capitalism' is suggestive of a way forward in an era which is arguably confused between the unworkability of socialism and of (exclusive) capitalism, with rising anxiety about increased inequality and lack of clear thinking about the alternatives to unbridled free markets. Not least because 'free markets' have been found to be rigged in certain ways, mostly to do with maximising short term gains at the expense of long term goals for society.

Secondly, the Bible seems to support both capitalist and socialist goals, while always offering a vision for the inclusivity of all humanity in the pursuit of blessed life. Inclusive capitalism appears to be a happy combination of biblical concerns.

But our election is about our votes. Every participant - democracy is a contribution to 'inclusive' economic systems - contributes to determining ways forward for society. If we were agreed that inclusive capitalism is the overall shape of the economy we would like our political leaders to advance, who will do that best?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Usurping Authority

A very interesting debate is emerging among Australian Anglicans over women teaching men. No, I am not now talking about the 'breaking ranks' Michael Paget, but the debate over John Dickson's book, now in two editions, Hearing Her Voice which has provoked a responsive book featuring lead teachers on the staff of Moore College, Women, Sermons and the Bible.

From Adelaide, Bishop Tim Harris (who was at Moore College himself with some of the writers of the latter book) takes on Women, Sermons and the Bible in a series of posts on his New Anglicanism blog - three parts so far, more to come. Below I cite one part of one post which demonstrates the exegetical carefulness of +Harris.

My interest in the debate is this. Sydney Anglicanism exerts considerable influence across the Communion, including among Anglicans who do not agree with the predominant Sydney Anglican view (i.e. that women ought not to teach men which, in turn, seems to be an expression of a theology of headship of household and church which belongs exclusively to men - hence women in Sydney may be ordained as deacons but not as presbyters or bishops). In this influence Sydney Anglicanism seems to be offering a prevailing approach to engagement in Western culture that makes no accommodation to changes over the past few hundred years, including changes to roles of women in family and society.

+Tim's critique, Michael Paget's "breaking ranks" could be signs that the theological underpinnings to this prevailing approach are now being pressed hard and weighed in the balance. Many evangelicals around the Communion are simply not in agreement with the prevailing approach of Sydney Anglicans and would be pleased to find some shifts going on over the next few decades.

A question I have as an observer across the Ditch, and as someone who thinks Sydney is an amazing city, is this: should the mission to a large city such as Sydney be propelled by a theology which is both Scriptural and geared to make better bridges into contemporary society - the bridges which were hallmarks of Jesus' and Paul's own missions?

Here is +Tim Harris at the end of Part 3 of his emerging critique:

"My final focus will be on Bolt’s treatment of 1 Timothy 2:12, where he resorts to sweeping statements that are surprising, to say the least. To quote Bolt:
It is a common strategy to suggest that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not clear. However, the only possible element that is unclear is the presence of the word authenteō, since it does not appear elsewhere in the Bible—even though, thankfully, it occurs frequently enough outside the Bible to remove any real doubt as to its meaning (‘to have authority’). In this verse, Paul prohibits a woman from teaching or exercising authority over a man, and from the context, this relates to what is going on in the public assembly. There is no need to go digging below the text here to understand what is forbidden, for the teaching that is being forbidden is that done by a woman towards a man.’ (288-289)
Where to start with such a sweeping summary? Let me list some of the interpretative issues that Bolt’s summary overlooks, and eclipses from view from the general reader:
1. The verb ‘I am not allowing’ is in the present tense – the interpreter or translator must decide if it refers to a specific circumstance (as it does usually for Paul), or is of universal ‘all times and places’ significance. Grammatically it can be either.
2. Despite Bolt’s (astonishing!) assurance that authenteō occurs ‘frequently enough’ (well, only if you tally up about a thousand years of later usage), the verb appears to have been very rare at the time of 1 Timothy 2:12 – why such a rare verb, and does it have any distinctive nuances when considered alongside more common terms for authority? It has a wider range of established meanings than ‘to have authority’ (to limit it to this is a form of the ‘root fallacy’).
3. Does the verse refer to ‘woman’ and ‘man’, or more specifically ‘wife’ and ‘husband’? The Greek terms can refer to either.
4. Dickson has raised the valid question as to what activity ‘to teach’ refers to.
5. 1 Timothy 2:12 may only be considered essentially ‘clear’ from an interpretative point of view (notwithstanding the above), but only if you detach it from its immediate unit. Once we ask how this verse relates to the explanatory verses that follow (note the ‘for’ that links verses 13 and 14 to v.12), things are far from ‘clear’. When verse 15 is included (and not conveniently detached), understanding verse 12 within the full unit in which it is immediately located is even less clear.
6. What are we to make of ‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve’? And why does Paul mention that Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and became a transgressor? How do these explain the injunctions in verse 12? I would be genuinely interested to hear how Bolt understands verse 14.
In brief, to suggest that all this is really ‘quite clear’ is misleading. Is this ‘digging below the text’? No, it is taking a close look at the text in front of us, and exploring it in context.
One of continually repeated statements regarding authenteō is to quote a 1984 NTS article by George W. Knight, who concluded that the term essentially means ‘to have authority’ in a neutral sense (a conclusion supposedly confirmed in a couple of subsequent studies).
Köstenberger is frequently cited in this regard, who in turn quotes Baldwin, who quotes Knight, who quotes linguistic specialist J. R. Werner’s conclusion: authentein essentially means ‘to have authority’ in a neutral sense. Except that Werner didn’t conclude this. Werner subsequently made it clear he has been misquoted, and that Knight substituted his own conclusion and for some reason attributed it to Werner as an independent authority (see Philip B Payne, Man and Woman: One In Christ. Baker, 2009, pages 365-369 for details and documentation).
Does all this matter? I would suggest it is highly significant, and all-too-often repeated as a ‘given’, an assured result of research. Yet this overlooks key questions. Why did Paul use an extremely rare verb when he had far more common terms to use if he simply meant ‘authority’ in a straightforward sense. To repeat my quote from Claire Smith on such matters: ‘it is at the very points where the meanings of words do not overlap that we find the distinctive contribution that a chosen word makes to the meaning of a sentence. It helps tell us why the author chose this word and not that word’ (121; emphasis original).
Bolt’s approach ends up placing enormous emphasis on the notion of ‘authority’’, and I argue that this rare verb cannot bear the weight of this as an interpretive crux. One thing that emerges from lexical research into the usage of authenteōis that it does reflect distinctive elements (perhaps influenced by the noun), including the capacity to prevail or to dominate – ‘to have one’s way’.
What would be my rendering of this passage? It is something like this [with my contextual reading in square brackets]:
A woman is to learn in peace and in all obedience [in contrast to those women stirred up by the false teachers]. I am not allowing [in these circumstances] a woman to instruct or dominate over a man, rather she is to be in peace."

Handy Flowchart

Richard Dawkins has been making waves again, this time attacking fairytales, or not. The following flowchart, by Dean Burnett, may prove handy:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Church of England Empowering Act 1928

May be useful to read this Act sometime.

Here are the thoughts of an eminent bush lawyer and QC (Quite Capable)!

1. The Act defines the powers of the General Synod, on the one hand affirming by civil law a presumption of a church no longer an established church of England and Ireland that it may make decisions about Formularies and about versions of the Bible which are authorised for use and on the other hand limiting those powers which may not be exercised in contradiction of clause 1 of the constitution. Thus we read:

Power to alter Formularies for use in any part of the Province
  • It shall be lawful for the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Church, in General Synod assembled, from time to time in such way and to such extent as may to them seem expedient, but subject to the provisions in this Act contained, to alter, add to, or diminish the Formularies, or any one or more of them, or any part or parts thereof, or to frame or to adopt for use in the Church or in any part of the Province or in any Associated Missionary Diocese new Formularies in lieu thereof or as alternative thereto or of or to any part or parts thereof and to order or permit the use in public worship of a version or versions other than the Authorised Version of the Bible or of any part or parts thereof:
    provided that the provisions of this section shall not empower or be deemed to empower the General Synod to depart from the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ as defined in clause one of the Constitution.
    Section 3 was repealed and substituted, as from 28 September 1966, pursuant to section 3 Church of England Empowering Amendment Act 1966 (1966 No 1 (P)).

2. The Act sets out in a Schedule what is also in the constitution, the key determination of what constitute the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, clause 1:

"The fundamental provisions of the Constitution of the Church
  • 1This Branch of the United Church of England and Ireland in New Zealand doth hold and maintain the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in His Holy Word, and as the United Church of England and Ireland hath received and explained the same in the Book of Common Prayer, in the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and in the 39 Articles of Religion. And the General Synod hereinafter constituted for the government of this Branch of the said Church shall also hold and maintain the said Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, and shall have no power to make any alteration in the authorized version of the Holy Scriptures, or in the above-named Formularies of the Church.
  • 2Provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent the General Synod from accepting any alteration of the above-mentioned Formularies and Version of the Bible as may from time to time be adopted by the United Church of England and Ireland, with the consent of the Crown and Convocation.
  • 3Provided also that in case a license be granted by the Crown to this Branch of the Church of England to frame new and modify existing rules (not affecting doctrine) with the view of meeting the peculiar circumstances of this colony and native people, it shall be lawful for this Branch of the said Church to avail itself of that liberty.
  • 4And whereas opinions have been expressed by eminent legal authorities in England that the property of the Church in New Zealand might be placed in jeopardy unless provision were made for the contingency of a separation of New Zealand from the Mother-country, and for that of an alteration in the existing relations between Church and State: It is hereby further declared that, in the event of a separation of the Colony of New Zealand from the Mother-country, or of a separation of the Church from the State in England and Ireland, the General Synod shall have full power to make such alterations in the articles, services, and ceremonies of this Branch of the United Church of England and Ireland in New Zealand as its altered circumstances may require, or to make such alterations as it may think fit in the Authorized Version of the Bible.
  • 5There shall be a representative governing body for the management of the affairs of the Church, to be called the General Synod of the Branch of the United Church of England and Ireland in the Colony of New Zealand, which shall consist of 3 distinct orders—viz, the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity, the consent of all of which orders shall be necessary to all acts binding upon the Synod, and upon all persons recognizing its authority.
  • (6)The above provisions shall be deemed fundamental, and it shall not be within the power of the General Synod, or of any Diocesan Synod, to alter, revoke, add to, or diminish any of the same.

3. The Act does not state a modification post the 1989 publication of A New Zealand Prayer Book conveyed within the revised constitution of 1990/1992 which reads:

Subject to the provisions of the Church of England Empowering Act, 1928 and to the Fundamental Provisions-

1. This Church holds and maintains the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ as the Lord has commanded in Holy Scripture and as explained in
The Book of Common Prayer 1662
Te Rawiri
The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishops, Priests and Deacons
The Thirty Nine Articles of Religion
A New Zealand Prayer Book - He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa."

Here the church has added A New Zealand Prayer Book as an additional aid in understanding the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ, albeit subject to the Fundamental Provisions. However, because the publication of this prayer book as agreed via General Synod's proper and legal process failed to generate a legal challenge (i.e. failed to generate a successful challenge to its status as a formulary in respect of the Fundamental Provisions) it effectively has the status of the Book of Common Prayer etc.

4. Thus for our church to proceed with blessings of same sex partnerships it will need to make some decisions, according to recommendations of the working group set up by our recent General Synod. Here are probable decisions to be made:

A. To promulgate a formulary or not as the vehicle for such blessings

B. (Depending on A) To promulgate a formulary which is in accord with the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as this church understands them. The standard here is very high (cf. some comments being made on this blog by Ron and Gail Young re application of the Thirty Nine Articles, including the Homilies approved by the Articles). Essentially such a formulary would need to not contradict Holy Scripture nor to make change to our doctrine of marriage.

C. (Depending on B and any assessment of whether a proposed formulary could meet the standards of the current constitution) To restructure our church into two parts, one whose constitution maintains the Fundamental Provisions (because they are unalterable, according to our constitution) and one which has a different constitution. But here is the kicker ...

The part which operated according to a new constitution could not have access to the funds entrusted to the part sticking with the current constitution.

Or, is this opinion wrong?

In which case I want my money back ... that bush lawyer's fees are QH (Quite High).